There Goes My Life

Chapter Eighteen

Bella knelt in front of Edward, gently pulling his hands away from his collar, "What are three things you can see?

Edward frowned, confusion wrinkling his forehead, and his words came out tight, "What… why aren't you calling 9-1-1?"

She shook her head, using her index finger to turn his face back to hers. "What are three things you can see?" She repeated, her voice taking on a firmer edge. She guided his hand down to his Apple watch to run a quick ECG.

"Your breast," his gaze lingered on the V-cut of her gray blouse, his lips quirked before glancing around. His eyes settled on the living room window, "your Santa mug on the ledge, the rain tapping against the glass."

The worry melted from her face as the coil of fear around her heart loosened, "And now, what can you hear, and not just your heartbeat?"

Edward tilted his head, listening as the frown on his face softened, "the beeping of the dishwasher. The boys, they're giggling, and that god-awful cat piano toy."

She squeezed his knee, a gentle chuckle escaping her in relief before she instructed him quietly, "Good - now smell. Close your eyes and tell me three things you can smell."

His eyes fell shut; he leaned forward, his nose brushing against her collarbone. Bella's heart fluttered as the warmth of his breath rushed over her skin. "Lavendar, lilies, honey." The words spilled from his lips as they curled upwards into a soft grin. "You smell amazing," he murmured, letting his forehead rest on her shoulder as his heartbeat slowed in his chest.

Bella's hand squeezed his knee once more, "you've got to stop thinking you're having a heart attack, or you're going to manifest that shit." She chided when he lifted his head to look at her.

A rough laugh choked him as his ears burned, "sorry."

"Should I call Branson?" she asked, her brown eyes watching him carefully, gauging his state of mind.

He shook his head, "No. I don't need him for this." He took one of her hands into his and squeezed. Their eyes locked as they shared a comforting look, but a fussy cry soon pulled them apart.

"I'm going to put the boys to bed." She licked her lips and hesitated in the doorway. They were on the edge of something important, worry coiled in her belly, afraid to break the moment and change what they had.

Edward smoothed down his shirt, giving her half a grin, "I'll get their bottles ready and start the kettle; lemon balm or passionflower?"

She chuckled, "You and your teas. Lemon sounds about right, right?"

He nodded a soft curve to his lips, "it does."

Bella zipped up Holden's sleep sack, smiling at the little bear print as she tickled his belly. "Don't you be stinking up this clean diaper while I'm getting Braxton ready to go night-night," she warned, playfully narrowing her eyes as the eleven-month-old babbled up at her.

Edward laughed, stepping into the nursery, "Wow, Bella, threatening a baby. I should fire you," he teased, lifting Holden up from the changing table. "I'll feed this little crocodile while you wrangle Brax; he always goes down easy for you."

She nodded, tossing the diaper into the trash. She smiled at Braxton as she rubbed lotion onto his skin before buttoning up his pajamas and zipping him into his sleep sack. "I've got you, my sleepy little guy," she murmured, placing the bottle to his lips as she settled into the rocker.

She started singing a soft lullaby as Edward dimmed the lights to the lowest setting and turned on the twin's noise machine. The room was filled with the quiet sounds of a babbling brook and birds chirping. She glanced up from Braxton's sleeping face to find Edward watching her with an expression she couldn't quite place.

Her heart skipped a beat.

She waited for him to place Holden into his crib, shushing him back to sleep before rising to put Braxton in his. They both stood frozen for nearly thirty seconds before she took Edward's hand in hers and pulled him out of the nursery.

Edward chuckled when they finally reached the bottom of the staircase, "why does this moment, this quiet, always seem like such a victory?" he asked softly, leading Bella into the kitchen.

"Because it is," Bella murmured; their fingers stayed tightly together until they entered the room. Edward headed for his tea station while Bella put their phones into the charging docks.

The quiet settled around them nicely as they both took a few long sips of their tea, which was blended with herbs and spices to promote good sleep and ease stress.

Bella broke the silence as she put her mug on the counter, "how are you feeling?"

"Fucking ridiculous," Edward admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. "I – the stress of the last few days." He let out a heavy sigh.

Bella felt herself nod as she took him in. The messy hair, the untrimmed beard, the dark circles under his eyes. The peace offering, the olive branch, was on the tip of her tongue. She forced herself to wrangle it back, to not give in to the urge to hand him an out.

Her own heart twisted up in fear, but she forced the question out, putting it between them, "About our kiss the other night?"

"Bella." Edward sighed slowly.

She shook her head and stepped around the kitchen island towards him, "Don't. Just be brave for a few minutes and picture what this could be." She took a deep breath and moved closer, "Not the fucking dumpster fire your imagining – but what it could truly be."

Edward swallowed hard, "And what could it be?"

"It could be us." She said, motioning between them. "We could be us without the blurred lines. Our late-night chats could happen in the comforts of our bed. We could tell each other about our daily plans around toothbrushes in the morning. We could enjoy real dates. We could be so much more, and it could be good."

"You think so?"

Bella nodded, putting her hand on his chest. She could feel the pounding of his heart. She smiled softly; warmth filled her bones, making her bolder. "I know so. We could be really fucking good."

Edward blew out a deep breath, the muscles in his chest loosening under her fingertips, "but what if…"

"We're not doing what-ifs, Edward. I can't guarantee what's ahead of us—that there won't be moments of bitterness or regret. But I know that I have been exactly where I wanted to be every moment in the last year. And I want to be here, in this, with you. But I need to know what you want."

Her brown eyes searched his imploringly, and with a sigh, he pressed his forehead against hers. "It's just you're so young, Bella."

Bella's stomach hardened at his words; her eyes narrowed as she drew back a half step. His green eyes are pained, flickering away from her watering ones.

She followed his gaze.

It hits her with clarity, and all the anger fizzles from her muscles, leaving her weak and lighter. She almost laughed as understanding took over the space bitterness had tried to fill.

She turned his chin away from the collage she had made for him and his siblings of their mother. "I'm not her, Edward. Yes, I am young, but I am not so young that I don't understand what I want for my future. If you let me in, I will never abandon you. This I can vow to you. But you have to want it too. Do you?"

"I do." The words fell from his lips, rough and raw. "Ever since the kiss, I can see it all so clearly. I want you as my wife. I want to stand before a judge, adopt my siblings, and bind us together under the same name. That is what I will want."

The way her eyes widened had his lips curving upwards. A full smile spread across his face as she stepped closer and leaned into him. Their lips meet with equal pressure, molding together as if trying to speak all the unspoken words of love they weren't yet brave enough to voice.

Their lips parted, and she tucked herself against him, her forehead nuzzled into his neck. Satisfaction filled him as she breathed him in. She was soft against him as he curled his arms around her and held her to him.

He pulled back with a smile as he laced their fingers together, "Let's go to bed."

Author Note...

It was never supposed to take me this long to get this chapter out. But then again, I never write well - or at all when my personal life is unstable. I really believed last year when I hesitantly took writing back up, that I would get back in the groove of it, especially with Oliver (my youngest) now in school. But one bad doctor appointment sent my muse hiding and me into full mom mode, channeling my inner mob boss as I fought insurance companies and red tape to figure out what was causing Peyton's episodes and illnesses. Followed by going back to work and all the life adjustments the world has thrown at me the last few years.

There were a few months in the past year that I thought I was going to have to put away my dreams of writing for good. Luckily for all of us that doesn't seem to be the case. I've made it my goal to finish up There Goes My Life, so I can focus on my original works.

Thank you to all of you that have stuck with me, the biggest of thank you goes to Fran for beta'ing these words for me.

All my love.