Chapter Seventeen

There Goes My Life

Bella looked at Angela as she stirred her coffee absentmindedly. "What's up with you," Angela finally exclaimed, waving a hand in front of her best friend's face. She put the stack of clothes she was folding on the coffee table.

Bella startled and gave her friend a weak grin, "Edward."

Angela rolled her eyes in amusement as she pulled another tiny T-shirt from the pile at her feet.

Bella shook her head softly and explained quietly, "he kissed me."

She laughed as Angela blinked at her, "wait, what? Hold up, back up," she put her hand up and looked her friend up and down, "why the hell are you acting like it's a bad thing?"

"Because he told me it shouldn't have happened." She groaned quietly, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment as her gaze cut away from Angel to the window and the street below.

Angela snorted and blew out a frustrated breath for her friend, "that man is an idiot."

Bella couldn't help but laugh softly at her friend's harsh words. It warmed her soul that her best friend would always have her back. It was comforting.

"Have you two talked about it?" She asked once the flush from Bella's cheek faded.

She shook her head. "No, he was gone by the time I woke. When he returned yesterday, I avoided him. He tried this morning, but I shut it down. I'm not ready to swallow another fucking apology." She bit out bitterly.

Angela nodded, and she was quiet for a moment as she studied her friend, "don't be a coward, Bella. That's unlike you."

Bella stiffened at Angela's words, as she sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Let him know how you feel. Nothing will change unless you do." Angela tutted, giving her a soft encouraging smile. "It's scary, but it just might be worth it in the end."

Bella blew out a breath that razzed her lips together. "True. I'll talk with him later today." She promised.


Bella turned from Holden's crib and looked over at Braxton, who was still sleeping peacefully in his crib.

"Hush now, my boy," she said as she scooped up Holden and carried him over to the chair, rocking him slowly to sleep for his afternoon nap. It wasn't her place; Sylvia should be doing it. It was what Edward paid her the big bucks for. But her motherly instinct couldn't help but take over.

She placed a lazy kiss on top of his forehead as he closed his eyes, drifting off to the sound of her heartbeat. "Goodnight, alligator," she murmured as she placed him in his bed.

"Bella," Edward looked surprised to see her in the nursery, "shouldn't you be writing a term paper."

"Yes, but he was fussing, and I needed a break anyway," she shrugged, following him out into the hall so as not to wake the twins. "About last night ..."

Edward shifted uncomfortably, messing with the cuff of his dress shirt, "last night was,"

Bella groaned and stepped into his personal space. He swallowed as she placed her pointer finger over his heart, "if you say a mistake or shouldn't have happened - so help me," she warned him.

"Was intense," he admitted. "And unexpected."

The frown that had been on Bella's face melted away into a soft smile, "it was," she agreed quietly.

"But I don't know where that leaves us. I know how I feel about you; I love you; you are without a doubt, my best friend. But we are in two different places in life; what I want might not be what's best for you and your future … for our future." He added quietly, giving her a sheepish look.

She blinked at him, stunned. It wasn't often Edward shared his thoughts; especially his thoughts so entwined with his emotions. She tried to process his thinking before reacting to his words.

"We can talk more when I get back from the airport," Edward said, giving her wrist a slight squeeze. "I'll drop off Ash and Mae with my parents for the night. This discussion isn't over, but I promised I'd drive Sylvia to the airport and take the kids to see Santa this afternoon."

"Okay," she murmured with a slow nod of agreement, "let's table this until tonight."

She moved down to her room and heard him ushering Asher and Mae out the door with their nanny.

"Safe travels and have a wonderful holiday, Sylvia," Edward stated as he unloaded her luggage from the back of his Escalade and placed it on a cart in front of the airport.

Asher hugged her tight, "yeah, travel safe and have a Merry Christmas," he thrust out a clumsily wrapped gift into her soft wrinkled hands with a large grin. "I picked it myself."

Edward smiled as he gave Asher's shoulder a proud squeeze. "Well done, Ash, I almost forgot," Edward chuckled as he clicked his car fob and opened the back of the SUV. He pulled out another gift, this one more carefully covered in beautiful snowflake wrapping.

He handed it to Mia and winked at Sylvia, who warmly chuckled as Mia rushed forward and pressed the gift into her hand before tossing her arms around her middle. "Come back, please," she begged, giving Sylvia her best puppy dog eyes.

"Of course, my sweet girlie. I'll be back in twenty-five days," Sylvia assured her with a soft bop on the nose, earning herself a wide smile. She then turned to her boss. "Thank you, Mr. Cullen; I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with Miss Bella," she beamed. "And children, I tucked your gifts under the tree," she winked at Asher and Mia. Her wrinkled round face was bright with happiness as she headed into the airport after a few more goodbyes.

"Have fun with your family," Asher hollered after Edward steered them back into the SUV.

Edward chuckled and clicked Mia's buckles into place.

"Edward, hurry up," Asher said as he finished buckling himself up, "we've got to go get Bella's presents and see Santa, you promised."

Edward held back a groan and nodded, "right, right, you're absolutely right." Bella wasn't easy; he wanted to give her everything. Something personal, unique, not at all like the gifts they had presented to Sylvia; a bracelet from the kids and an envelope filled with cash and gift cards so she could fully enjoy her vacation and indulge.

He rubbed a hand over his face. The proper thing to do was to give her the same treatment he had given Sylvia, but he constantly found himself bending the lines he had drawn with himself regarding her. He was sure he had blown the line to smithereens with the kiss and their earlier discussion.

"Gifts and Santa, and then dropping you off for a sleepover at Yaya and Pops."

The upscale mall hadn't been the horrible experience he had anticipated. The wait to see Santa had been as long as he dreaded, but it hadn't been boring. It had been pleasant, filled with activities, cookies, and games. Shopping for Bella had been a breeze. He was sure he'd get an earful on Christmas night after the kids were in bed. The thought only made him smile wider.

The twins, obviously, he had picked for them and chosen teething jewelry, a chunky navy necklace for the boys to stuff in their mouths.

Asher had waltzed into the Apple store with a swagger. Thinking about it made him wince. Oh yes, Bella would have a fit when she saw Asher's gifts.

Mia, his sweet girl, had dragged him through multiple jewelry stores, where he had found himself pausing more than once in front of ring displays, his gut twisting in longing. At Asher's pleading to be done, she had taken pity on her bored big brother and settled on a small, heart-shaped pendant necklace. He had matched it with a sleek and simple diamond tennis bracelet.

Getting into the car, he clicked Mia's buckles into place, passed her favorite red sippy cup, and whispered, "rest, little one," before gently kissing her forehead.


"Mom." Edward groaned. He turned over the small box he had just finished wrapping for Bella.

Esme chuckled, opening Mia's butterfly backpack to get out her play clothes, "just – be careful, love." She advised, cutting her son a concerned look.

"I will." He nodded, "and thank you for watching them."

She simply gave him an indulgent look, "anytime." She passed him Asher's wrapped gifts for Bella, along with the gift she and Carlisle had picked up for the girl. "Now that this is done, who wants to learn how to make Yaya's famous banana chocolate ice cream?"

"Me…" Came the chorused shrieks. Esme winked at him, "go, we'll talk more tomorrow over coffee, bring muffins."

Asher took Esme's hand, "bye Eddie."

Edward ruffled his hair, "bye, alligators," he said with a grin as he headed for his car.

"After while, crocodile," Mia called from her stepstool in his mother's kitchen as he shut the door behind him, a smile on his lips.

Edward pulled into the driveway. He popped a peppermint and pinched the bridge of his nose as he sucked in a few deep breaths until his heart stopped slamming itself against his ribcage.

As he walked to the door, he watched Bella dance with the twins in her arms. He could hear the boys giggle as he opened the front door and stepped inside. "I'm home." He called as he carried her gifts into the living room to put under the tree.

"I wasn't sure what you wanted, so I haven't ordered dinner yet," Bella said as she put the twins into their large playpen.

Edward nodded.

Marry Me.

The words set heavy in the back of his throat.

He felt himself go cold as his heart rate spiked. "I think I'm having a heart attack." He muttered, his fingers going for his collar.

Bella's eyes widened, taking in Edward's pale complexion. "Edward," she cried out in a panic as she gently urged him onto the sofa.

Author Note...

Thank you, Sunflower Fran, for beta'ing.

Sorry about the long wait, it has taken me a long time to be okay with opening these documents and continuing on with these stories without my Mama to act as my backboard for all ideas.

Thank you for reading and please leave a Review!

Hugs and love,

- Emily