Authors note; as always, beta'd by Frannie, remaining mistakes mine.
Edward grimaced to himself as Bella's question hung in the air between them. His eyes remained fixed on the road although he could see Bella's face out of the corner of his eye. Josh was speaking to his Elly in the backseat happily telling the toy that they were going away with Edward and that they'd be safe now. Edward's heart squeezed tightly as the little boy's words of trust and happiness filled the silence. He believed that Edward was the answer to their problems.
"Edward, answer me," Bella said, her voice hushed but firm. "Who are you that someone would want to take a picture of you like that? Are you a movie star or something?" She said jokingly, her tone sarcastic.
Edward swallowed angrily, as his hand agitatedly rubbing his jaw covered in two-day stubble. How fucking ironic that Bella should guess right the first time.
But still he remained silent, not knowing how to tell her.
"Edward! Talk to me, please. I think I have a right to know who you are if I'm going to trust you to help us." Bella said reminding him of just how hard it must have been for her to say yes to his spur of the moment suggestion, her words reminding Edward that she must have been really desperate to agree like she had.
"I'm sorry Bella. I just don't know how to tell you I guess...it's complicated."
"I don't get out much," Bella said her head dropping in embarrassment. "I...I don't watch TV or anything so I wouldn't know who you are, even if you were a celebrity or something. Aro never allowed me to do anything like that."
Edward watched the road flick by as they sped down the motorway, his jaw clenched tightly. Never had his fame been more of a burden than now, when he just wanted to be Edward for this girl and her son, just a regular guy. But he'd fucked up; he had been so focused on going to see Bella again that he'd forgotten to check for the paparazzi like he usually did. In fact, he'd forgotten everything in his effort to rescue them, which was an unforgivable offence in his line of business, one he was about to pay for with his privacy and hers.
It was best just to say it.
"My name is Edward Cullen, and yes, I'm an actor." He blurted out suddenly if he were confessing to murder instead of being famous.
"I see," Bella said staring at him. "So does that mean you're just a little famous or very famous?"
Edward's long fingers found their way into his messy hair, raking through the copper strands in agitation. "I can't normally go shopping unless I sneak around, and I usually have a bodyguard for functions and premieres."
Silence greeted his admission and Edward frowned as he concentrated on leaving the motorway and making sure the paparazzi werent following them.
"I can't let you do this Edward," Bella said at last, her voice hard. " I won't be trouble for you. You've been very kind, but I think this was a bad idea."
"Nothing has changed, I'm still the same man I was an hour ago. I'm going to help you Bella, and I won't allow you to change your mind. It is not right how your uncle treats you; you need a new life and a fresh start. I want to give that to you."
Bella nodded after a few moments. "You're right. Which shelter are you taking us to?"
Shock made Edward's head whip around to face her, even though he was still driving. "Shelter? You think I'm taking you to a shelter for homeless people?"
"Yes. Isn't that what you're doing?"
"I was taking you home," Edward admitted, his voice low and unsure. Was he doing the right thing? The truth was, he never even considered taking this girl to a shelter; his first instinct had been to take her to his home.
"Home? Like to your home?" Bella sounded stunned. "Why would you do that?"
Even he wasn't sure why he was doing this anymore.
"I want to give you a fresh start, and I don't think a shelter can do what I can."
"You mean because you're rich," Bella said bluntly, and Edward winced.
"Yes. I guess that's why I am doing this, I can help you in ways a shelter can't and won't. I want to know you're safe and taken care of. After all, I hit you to begin with, and I'd still like to make up for that."
"Just take us to a shelter, Mister, and forget we existed. I don't want your guilt or your charity, got it?"
Edward smiled at her tone, which sounded a lot like an angry child. "No, I don't actually. I'm going to help you, Bella, and there is nothing you can say or do to change my mind." He kept a vigilant eye on the road trying to see if anyone was following them. It seemed to be all clear. "And my name's still Edward, not mister."
Taking a slip road towards the hills where his house lay, Edward glanced at Bella and smiled. "We're nearly there."
"Where is 'there', Edward?" Josh piped up from behind him, sitting forward on the seat to see where they were going.
Edward realised he would have to buy a car seat for the child; it just wasn't safe leaving him free in the backseat this way.
"Home," Edward said to the boy. "To my house."
Josh grinned at him, a beautiful smile making his dark eyes twinkle. "Do you have a pet?"
Edward shook his head in mock solemnity, "Sorry, I don't. I have an awesome pool for you to pay in."
Josh looked puzzled. "What's a pool?"
A suffocating pain began in his chest as he realised that the small boy had never had any fun things in his short life.
"I'll show you, Josh," Edward said as he swung the car around in his driveway and parked easily.
Bella stared open-mouthed at the house, her face blank. "It's so big." She whispered in awe.
It was a Tudor manor house, circa 1484, fully refurbished and restored before Edward had bought the property.
Edward had lived here for a few years now; it had captured his attention mainly because it was homey and hidden from view. It had stood out among the other modern homes he'd been shown while house hunting and it had appealed to his love of the past and his interest in all things historical.
It was surrounded by several acres of forest on one side and a lake on the other. It felt as though you couldn't possibly be as close to London as you actually were. It was a sanctuary, a place to absorb every minute spent there.
Edward climbed out of the car and walked slowly towards Bella's side as if he half expected her to bolt if he moved too fast.
He pulled open the door and stood there for a moment watching her eyes scan the entire house hungrily, her pale face sporting two becoming spots of colour on each cheek.
"Is this yours?" She asked as she slid out of the car and stood beside Edward. "All of it?" Bella's tone was incredulous as if she couldn't imagine such wealth.
Josh had already pushed his own door open and ran past them as he made for the house with none of the hesitancy or awe his mother showed.
"Come, Bella, let me show you around," Edward said softly, gently, as he touched her shoulder to get her attention. Bella jumped visibly, obviously not used to being touched, even casually. Edward lifted his hand at once, holding it up in supplication. "I'm sorry!" He said. "I didn't mean to frighten you. Let me show you my home. Come with me."
"Is it yours?" She asked again, eyes drinking in the beauty of the trees and the setting sun, which was almost entirely dipped behind a hill, its last strands of light illuminating Edward's copper hair bringing his startlingly handsome face into sharp focus.
Bella had difficulty breathing, and it had nothing to do with the house.
Edward nodded as he walked beside Bella, looking somewhat shamefaced. "Yes, I own it, it's my home. I travel a lot, cities change, the people are always different, none of it is ever the same, but this place –its always my home."
Bella smiled at him, a tiny one, hardly worth mentioning except that it transformed her entire face, making her eyes shine with a luminosity that was stunning to behold.
"So even rich men have their weaknesses?"
Edward laughed and led the way inside, his gaze lingering on Bella's face.
"I'm still not sure that this is the right thing to do, Edward," Bella said softly. "We'll be a burden. Will there be pictures of us now?"
Edward glanced at her as he opened the massive front door and ushered them inside. "Yes, probably in the morning paper."
"Really? Do people find that interesting?" She asked, curiously, fascinated.
It had Edward wondering just how secluded Bella had been kept and for how long.
"I'll have the housekeeper show you to a room, and I'll ask someone to find you clothes," Edward said as he showed them into a huge living room with a vaulted ceiling and period furniture scattered throughout its confines.
Bella looked ready to bolt as she scanned the room and lifted her eyes back up to Edwards' face. "Housekeeper?" She said it as a question.
Edward nodded. "I have three people who help run the house. Mrs. Knotts is my housekeeper, and she had been with me for many years now, she's from home, actually. She used to work for my parents."
Edward pushed a discreet button on the wall and moments later a kind looking woman appeared. Her face brightened at the sight of Edward. "Master Edward! It's good to see you home so early, weren't expecting you for another few hours."
"It's a long story, Mrs. Knotts. But I'll require a double room made up at once for my guests. This is Bella and her brother, Josh." Edward deliberately hid the truth about his true relationship with Bella.
Mrs. Knotts smiled at Bella, ignoring her messy state and the dirty clothes she wore. "Just give me a few moments, Master Edward, and I'll have a room ready for Miss Bella and Master Josh."
"Thanks, Mrs. Knotts," Edward said, glancing at a speechless Bella.
Soon afterward, Edward watched them leave with his housekeeper, feeling a deep sense of satisfaction at having brought them away from the ugliness of their old life.
However, deep down inside he knew that the pictures of them would only lead to more questions and digging into his life. Something told him that the backlash would be huge, simply because he had deliberately, never been photographed with any female before today.
Bella was the first.