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LOST

Summary:
Edward never came back. Seven years later, Bella is a tough, heartless corporate girl in New York City. She has taken down many businesses and never lost. Now, she is about to take down C-CORP. Who is the mysterious owner? Who is "C"? She will find out, and she will destroy him. Who is the monster now? Can she be saved? The story is done. I will update everyday! THIS IS IT GUYS! THE LAST CHAPTER AND EPILOGUE! (SNIFF)


Notes:


9. BLOOD

Rating 5/5   Word Count 7684   Review this Chapter

(Bella's POV)

It was the middle of November and the weather had turned very cold. My lungs burned from breathing in the chilly air. I was running in heavier clothes now, but it usually took about a mile before I warmed up. Every morning I tried to concentrate on the steady rock beat, but I was so caught up in everything with Edward, that it was impossible.

Things with the buy-out had stayed on schedule. I had been meeting regularly with Edward, Jasper, and their lawyers for three weeks. It was the only time I saw him. I made sure of that. Not since that one day had he ever attempted to talk to me outside of the office. I kept trying to tell myself that it was getting easier. It wasn't. On the days I knew I would see him, my heart would start reacting long before our meeting. On the days I didn't see him, I was restless and gloomy.

This morning, I would see him at 9:00 a.m.. I could feel the crunch of the leaves under me as I ran. My legs were weakening and my chest burned, but I couldn't stop running. No matter how far I ran, it still didn't feel like enough.

- - -

As I walked down to the conference room, I gave myself another pep talk. Everyday had been a battle. No matter what Edward does, do not get angry. Do not let him see you react. Be calm, Bella.

It wasn't that Edward was actually doing anything in the meetings. Aside from his little stunt in our first meeting, he had remained distressingly silent in the conference room.

Silent didn't mean he wasn't active. He spent all his time watching and listening. That brilliant, perfect mind of his was always extremely alert. If I had just met him, I would be impressed and amazed. I would probably also spend all my time staring at him like the female assistants that kept finding excuses to come into the meetings. Each time I found one flirting or staring too long, I removed them immediately. A few had found pink slips in their cubicles at the end of the day. I was taking no chances. I had trained my team as well as could be expected without actually telling them there were two vampires in the room. But, it had been a battle every time we met.

Just as I turned the corner to the conference room, I got a text message. I rarely used them. I preferred to yell at people in person. I looked down at the screen and the tension momentarily melted away.

"Hey Bells. Just wanted to say Hi. Miss you. J"

It was from Jake. I hadn't talked to him since he called on my birthday. I walked into the room and I was still smiling. I looked up to see Edward first look at my face, and then he began staring intently at my phone. Don't tell me you can read phones too, I thought. I pushed my phone down into the pocket of my briefcase and wiped the smile off my face. I laid everything down on the table and greeted the group. I glanced at Harry Banks and his face was red. The vein in his head was bulging and he was in a fury. Apparently, something I had done had pushed him over the top. I had that affect on people.

"Ms. Swan, what is the meaning of calling the head of production in C- CORP'S Belgian branch and offering him a higher position if he stays on after the takeover?"

Ah, a particularly clever move if you ask me.

"Does that upset you, Mr. Banks?" I asked innocently.

"It amounts to bribery, Ms. Swan." he said accusingly.

I laughed condescendingly. "Bribery? I am sorry, but I believe you have the word bribery confused with strategy. He is an able employee and I want to see the business continue to succeed after we acquire it."

"Moving a little fast, aren't we, Ms. Swan?" A velvet voice spoke softly. I froze for a moment. That voice made all others sound weak and coarse by comparison. I clenched my teeth and mentally shook myself.

Remember our little pep talk out in the hall, Bella! I tried to calm myself. It didn't work.

I enunciated every word as I stared at him and said, "Well, I don't have the luxury of moving slowly. Life is short. We all only get one lifetime so I intend on making the most of mine. It isn't like we are going to live forever now, is it Mr. Cullen?"

Jasper let out an exasperated sigh and hunched down in his seat. Edward's response was unexpected. He didn't say or do anything, he just swallowed hard and held my gaze. His eyes held me riveted to my spot. The electric current passing between us refused to fade. We both stared at each other unrelentingly. I had to open my mouth to get more air into my lungs.

At that moment, there was a knock at the conference room door. I had made arrangements for breakfast to be brought in. Sort of a goodwill gesture on my part. The cart was wheeled in with danishes, muffins and juice.

The assistants were laying everything on the buffet table in the corner when one of the assistants backed up and hit the cart. It tipped over onto an assistant standing on the other side of the cart, and all the glasses slid off with one breaking on her leg and cutting her badly.

As I saw the blood begin to run down her leg, and I stood up anxiously. All I could think was that Jasper was in the room. I knew what happened at a paper cut. This was much worse. My head swung wildly to Jasper, I saw him take one look at Edward and excuse himself as he calmly, but swiftly walked out of the room. I turned to Edward with my eyes anxious and I saw that he had stopped breathing. He just looked at me and nodded reassuringly. I breathed a sigh of relief and then I looked back at the door staring wide-eyed. Jasper had calmly walked out of the room. He had obviously been working very hard. I was proud of him.

I relaxed back into my seat thinking the worst was over until two men from my team helped the assistant sit down in a chair right behind me. They were grabbing napkins and pressing them against her leg. I could smell the salt and rust permeate my nostrils and it headed straight for my stomach.

I swallowed hard and put my cold water bottle up to my forehead but nothing seemed to help. I was breathing out of my mouth, but I felt green clear to my toes. The room seemed to get blurry around the edges and everything started to sound far away. The room went sideways and then, I felt two cold marble arms catch me and lift me as he carried me out of the room.

Right next door was an empty conference room and he held me with one arm as he glided through the opened door and locked it behind us. He found a chair and sat down gently as he held me tight to him. I knew I should pull away, but I moved in and relaxed against his chest. I took deep gulps of the clear air to stop the nausea, but it also had another result. I could smell him. I had been trying so hard not to get close enough to him that I could smell him.

I knew if I opened my eyes that this little dream would have to end. So, I closed my eyes and made a memory that even when I was 92 I would remember.

I felt his strong arms holding me. The strongest the world ever knew. I always felt so safe in his arms. I would get lost in his touch every time he held me. I had no idea how many times I had fallen asleep in the arms of this angel, but his were the only arms I would ever want to hold me through the night.

I thought of how when I was nestled this close to his chest that I could never hear his heartbeat, but my heart, just like now, had always pounded hard enough for both of us.

This would never happen for me again.

There was a time that I was lost in him. Now, I was lost in a much different way.

I couldn't do this to myself any longer.

My eyes slowly fluttered open and he was staring at me with his dark ocher eyes that seemed to be asking a question to which he desperately wanted to know the answer.

"Thank you, I feel better," I whispered roughly.

He swallowed hard and brought his hand up to brush my hair off my cheek, and his fingers lightly brushed my face. His eyes were still boring hard into mine. This was all such a dream to me that I forgot that the last seven years had happened. I was right back there. I was the girl that desperately longed for his touch. That sighed with delight when his fingertips even brushed across my face and made my cheek burn. That blushed when he just looked at me.

Why did he have to leave me?

He brought his forehead down to touch my own and I heard myself moan slightly. Oh Edward, I love you so. I wanted to wrap my arms as tightly as I could around his neck and pull him to me and make him admit that it was a mistake. I wanted him to tell me that he really loved me all along and then I wanted him to promise he would never leave me again.

When I went for a fantasy, I really went the distance.

I had to get away from him. This kind of memory I could not have. It would do the kind of damage to my wall that I wasn't sure I could fix. I held on one second longer, and then I did what I had to. I had to save myself.

I pulled away and I felt him sigh. I stood up and he said warmly, "Are you feeling better?"

"Aside from the fact that a vampire handled the scent of blood better than I did, then yes, I am just fine," I said it as lightly as I could manage.

He smiled his crooked smile and I literally felt a stab in my middle. I backed up from him and stumbled to the door. I reached to unlock it when Edward placed his cold hand on mine to stop me.

"Bella wait." His face was warm and fervent and he seemed to take a breath for courage. "Please, can I see you tonight? Can we go somewhere just the two of us and talk?"

"No, Edward." I couldn't believe I was saying this.

"Why won't you see me? Why won't you be alone with me?" He pleaded. "There are some things I need to tell you, Bella. I promise everything will be allright."

I started backing up from him. He watched me, then he took a step toward me. I put out my hands to stop him.

I made my voice forceful. "You have to stay away from me, Edward." My hands were shaking as I held them out in front of me. I was madly searching for an argument that would keep him from getting any closer to me.

"Look," I breathed unevenly. "I'll make you a deal. I won't pull any more stunts like making you eat the world's largest steak, but only if you promise that you won't talk to me anymore, that you'll just ignore me in these meetings and then leave as soon as all our negotiations have ended."

His face froze in shock. His eyes tightened with pain. "Bella, come with me tonight. I don't care where, anywhere you want and I promise that I won't even bring up C - CORP once. I just want to talk to you . . ."

"No." I interrupted him. I shook my head emphatically.

He took another step towards me and I panicked.

"Please," I looked at him with pleading in my face, "Please, you have to quit trying to talk to me." I swallowed hard and whispered, "Just let it go, please."

He gently took my hand and pulled me to him, but as he started to say something, there was a hard knock at the door. It felt like the door was being rattled off its hinges. That cold hand in mine felt so good. It seemed it was where my hand belonged. The knock came again, even louder. I jumped and slowly pulled away from Edward, then I walked to the door and tentatively opened it. My eyes opened wide.

"Bella!" A voice boomed at me and I was suddenly caught in a massive bear hug. I was lifted off the floor and held tight to a monster of a man with a boyish grin and curly dark hair.

"Emmett!" I managed, "It's so good to see you!" I was so surprised to see him.

He released me and I filled my lungs greedily with air as I said, "I can't believe it's you." I got tears in my eyes and threw my arms around his thick neck. He swung me around and I laughed harder than I'd laughed in seven years.

"Emmett," Edward said flatly. "I thought you weren't coming until tomorrow."

He looked brightly at Edward and said, "I found an earlier flight. It's good to see you, brother."

A few men were out in the hall watching the scene with surprised faces. Simmons came out of the conference room and when he saw Emmett swinging me, he stumbled to a stop. He looked up and down Emmett's trunk of a body and his mouth dropped open as he began to speak.

"Holy Sh . ."

"Simmons!" I said interrupting him. "This is Emmett. Another member of C- CORP."

Simmons stood warily in front of him and looked up and down with wide eyes. Emmett put me down and stuck his hand out to him. Simmons held out his hand while staring at his rippling chest. He winced as his hand met with Emmett's in an apparent vice grip.

"Nice to meet you," Emmett boomed.

"Same here," Simmons said while massaging his hand.

Emmett turned back to me and grabbed me by the shoulders. "Bella, you're hot!" He said this while holding me out from him to get a better look. "Edward, doesn't she look amazing?"

Edward opened his mouth to answer, but I interrupted him.

"Emmett, we are right in the middle of a meeting. Come back in with us," I said quickly.

I tried to regain my composure. My face felt clammy and I was dizzy and weak, but not from the smell of blood. We began walking back into the conference room and I was acutely aware of Edward walking only mere inches behind me.

Simmons turned to me, "Bella, are you okay?"

I shook my head and said, "Yes, I get a little sick when I smell blood."

Emmett turned to me. "You get sick when you smell blood?" His booming laughter filled the hallway. "Oh, Bella. I forgot how funny you were." He turned back to Edward. "Why did you ever let this one go, bro?"

I didn't turn my head to see Edward's reaction, instead I cleared my throat and shakily said, "Emmett, can you stay?"

"Hell, yeah!" I think everyone on the 42nd floor heard him.

I grabbed his arm with both of my hands, and I still couldn't get all the way around his bicep. I gave him a squeeze and said, "I've missed you."

He gave me a huge smile, and pulled me to him as we walked back into the conference room.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

After the meeting, Emmett was at my side in less than a second. "Bella, come to a club with me tonight." His face was so luminous.

How could I say no to that face? Still, a club?

"I . . . what I mean is . . . I don't really go to clubs, Emmett."

He put his trunk of an arm around my shoulder and said, "That's because I wasn't here to invite you. Come on, it will be so fun!"

"I don't think . . "

"He put his face next to my ear and said, "Please? I promise I won't let you do anything human, like fall down."

Not even my big strong wall could keep out Emmett. I smiled. "Okay, if you promise it's just you."

He looked at me puzzled. Then recognition ran across his face. "Oh, you mean not bring Edward." He twisted his face as he said, "Trust me, I went to a club with Edward once. I'm never doing that again. He's no fun at all, he wouldn't even let me drink."

All of the sudden, I heard a deep snarl from around the corner. Emmett let out an exasperated sigh. "Fine, I won't drink, Geez!" He had turned his head to Edward, who was apparently listening around the corner. He turned back to me and said, "We are going to have so much fun, Bella. I can't wait to take a hot girl like you out on the town."

I laughed and rolled my eyes. "What time, are you going to pick me up?"

"How about 9:00?" He said with a huge smile on his face.

"See you then," I gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "I have to get back to my office," I said with a sigh.

"Okay," he said while backing up. "See ya tonight!"

I went into my office with a smile on my face, until I shut the door. I slammed my briefcase on my desk. That conniving little vampire. Edward was trying a new tactic. He knew I had a soft spot for Emmett. Did he think that if I spent time with Emmett that I would unwittingly divulge secrets about my strategy? Did he think that Emmett could dazzle me into giving up my designs on C- CORP? Wherever Emmett and I went tonight, I knew that Edward would not be far behind. My eyes narrowed as a plan began to form in my head.

Slowly, a wicked smile began to form on my face.

"Edward, watch and learn," I muttered. "Watch and learn."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The lobby bell rang at exactly 9:00. I grabbed the phone and said, "Come on up Emmett." This vampire would always be welcome in my place. I looked in the mirror again for one last appraising look.

I had left work a little early and stopped at one of those shops I always walked past without looking in. I had labeled them "fun girl stores". I had never planned on going into one. I bought a pair of the tightest jeans I could find. I had to admit they made my behind look pretty darn good! I found a blood red satin halter top that came to just the top of my jeans, and the coolest pair of black boots that ended just below my knees and had a really high heel. The salesgirl told me it was the perfect outfit for a New York nightclub. I supposed I would have to take her word on that.

I heard the doorbell and ran, cautiously in my fun-girl boots, to let Emmett in. When I opened the door, he whistled. He looked me up and down very slowly. "Damn, Bella. We are going to have so much fun tonight."

I grabbed my jacket and my small handbag as Emmett impatiently pulled me out the door. While we were in the elevator, I had a chance to look at him. He was wearing a pair of black slacks that were obviously tailored exclusively for him and they fit him perfectly. He had on a thin black sweater that fit him snugly across his chest. It was a v-neck, and it showed his beautiful smooth pale skin that was pulled tight over his muscled neck and collarbone.

"You don't look too bad yourself there, Mister," I said while elbowing him in the side. He laughed playfully and grabbed me and started gracefully dancing me around the elevator. "We are going to Northsix," he said in his low velvet voice.

I raised my eyebrows in admiration. Northsix was a very exclusive club for only the very elite social scene of New York society. It was usually where the paparazzi got all their pictures of celebrities at night. I should have known that only a Cullen could figure out how to get into such a place.

"You are going to love it!" He said very enthusiastically. "Jet is playing there tonight. You don't even want to know how I got my tickets."

I tried to sound impressed. The only time I listened to music was running with my i-pod. I had no idea who Jet was. Sometimes I heard music in the elevator, but I doubted Jet's songs were playing in there.

His rented black Ferrari pulled up in front of Northsix and a valet met us at the curb. Emmett came around to help me out and we walked into a very dark and loud nightclub. I knew there wasn't a chance that Emmett and I were here unchaperoned. I instantly began scanning the room for a breathtakingly beautiful, bronze haired god of a vampire, but I figured that he was probably not out in plain sight. If anyone could hide silently and undetected, it was Edward.

Emmett took my hand as we went to the coat check where we left my purse and jacket and then he led me out on the floor. The band all had dark shoulder length hair. The lead singer had on big dark glasses. It was a fast song and he pulled me to him and began moving to the beat.

I put my arms around his neck and tried hard to follow his moves and not pay attention to the voice screaming in my head that I didn't dance, and that the last time I tried I was in a heavy cast at the prom with a very different vampire.

We danced a few fast songs and I could feel the heat of the club. A slow song blared out next and Emmett pulled me closer to him and he smiled a huge smile as he ran his cold hands down the skin on my back.

"Emmett, you are very naughty," I teased while shaking my head. "What would Rosalie say if she saw you dancing with me this way."

"Your skin is very warm, did you know that?" He bent down and muttered into my ear.

"I think I recall hearing that before," I said dryly.

He smiled and held me while we danced the rest of the song in silence and then I told him I needed to sit out a few songs and get a drink. We walked around until he picked out a very private booth. He sat me down and came back with a sparkling water and a Coke.

"Two drinks?" I questioned.

He looked at me sheepishly and said, "Well, I don't know how much humans drink and I thought maybe it should look like I needed one too."

I smiled and moved over so he could slide in. He slid in far enough that there was not one inch of space between us. I wondered if this was really part of Edward's plan, for Emmett to be me this close to me.

Our arms were rubbing against each other as I turned my head and said, "So what have you been doing for the last seven years?"

"Well," he began, "We all moved to New Jersey and attended Princeton. Carlisle works at Johns Hopkins and recently began teaching there. He is doing lectures in Europe at the moment."

"Did you all go to school?" I was trying to show my interest in all the family and not just a particular member.

He nodded his head. "We all received new degrees, Rosalie in Biology, Alice and Jasper in Economics, and I got my Masters in International Law." He didn't mention one certain brother.

I asked as nonchalantly as possible. "So, what was Edward's major?"

He looked around nervously as he said, "Oh, he didn't really attend school with us." A fast song began playing. He smiled brightly and slid out of the booth, then he put out his hand and said, "This is "Are You Gonna Be My Girl! It is my favorite Jet song, we have to dance."

I took a big drink and smiled as he grabbed my hand and a blaring beat began pounding through the room.

"1,2,3, take your hand and come with me,

Because you look so fine,

That I really wanna make you mine."

The words were vibrating through my ears as Emmett pulled me to him and rested his large hands on my hips. I put my hands on his shoulders and we moved to the heavy beat. The chorus began,

Big black boots,

Long brown hair,

She's so sweet with her,

Get back stare.

He ran his hands through my hair and down my back. The song began going faster and faster and then the music stopped as the song yelled out, "Are you Gonna Be My Girl?"

Suddenly he grabbed my hand and rolled me out from him and then pulled me back hard and close. I was amazed at what a good dancer he was. Besides being very graceful, he had the moves. He had his hands on my hips guiding me through all his steps as the words screamed in our heads. As soon as the song ended, another began. It was a slow song and Emmett took my arms and placed them around his neck and began moving slowly on the dance floor.

His cold, very large, rock hard chest was right at my eye level and I rested my cheek there . The club was very warm, and his cold chest felt so good. I closed my eyes and then realized that a love song was playing. This was going to be very hard to concentrate on dancing to the beat, and not listening to the music all at the same time.

Emmett felt me tense up and he pulled me back to look at me. "You okay, Bella?"

"I'm fine." Even a dumb human wouldn't have believed me. I didn't stand a chance against a smart vampire.

He ran his hand over my cheek. "He was an idiot to leave you," he said softly.

I felt a sob escape my lips and I blinked furiously. "Actually, it was probably the smartest thing he ever did." I said flatly.

He just held my cheek in his hand and shook his head. Could this be part of Edward's plan? I narrowed my eyes slightly. I definitely needed to get my head back in the game.

I pulled myself closer and began playing with the curls at the base of his neck. "You know, there is one part of my fairy tale that can still come true," I whispered into his ear.

"Oh yeah? What part is that?" He genuinely seemed interested.

"I can still become a vampire," I purred right into his ear.

He stopped dancing and pulled back slowly and stared at me. He seemed to be trying to read if I was serious or not. Finally, the corner of his mouth turned up and there was a smile in his eye.

"You are still diabolical, Bella. You had me going for a minute there."

I began playing with the hair on the back of his neck again. I pulled myself as close as I could to him and whispered, "I was being completely serious."

His eyes widened and for once, Emmett was speechless. I put my mouth up to his ear and blew out warm air as I brushed my lips lightly along his neck and said, "Please, Emmett."

His body became completely tense. His arms were circled tight around my waist. I couldn't move. I took his face in both of my hands and brought his mouth down to my neck as I moved my head slightly to the side. "Just one little bite," I begged.

I heard a growl in his bulging chest, then there was a sound of two boulders slamming hard into each other - and he was gone.

My eyes blinked hard and I found him lying on the floor. "Geez bro, it took you long enough," he said sarcastically.

"Don't you touch her!" It was Edward. He was crouched down in front of me with his lip curled up and his razor sharp teeth clacking. It was exactly how he had stood when he protected me in that field when James saw me for the first time. I could see his muscles tense as he prepared to spring on Emmett again. His eyes were bright with rage and his eerily beautiful face was focused on Emmett.

The song was just ending as Jasper joined us, and I was suddenly aware that a circle had formed around us. Every time Emmett made the smallest move, Edward answered it by adjusting his position in front of me. He growled as Emmett tried to stand up and I knew I had to do something. As much as I wanted Edward this close to me, I realized I needed to put a stop to this before the Cullen boys exposed themselves to the New York night club scene.

I slowly reached around Edward and put my hand out to Emmett. "Sorry about that Emmett," I gestured my head towards Edward. "I was just trying to get our chaperone out of the shadows." Edward straightened as shocked recognition spread across his face.

Emmett started laughing. He was still laughing as he stood up holding tight to my hand.

"Nice one, Bella." Emmett laughed admiringly.

The crowd began to thin and lose interest as Emmett picked me up around the legs and lifted me up high and howled, "I knew we would have fun tonight, Bella!"

Edward got right in his face and I leaned down to hear what he was saying. "You're having a little too much fun, Emmett." He said angrily.

Emmett put me down gently and scoffed at him and said, "You've been around her for a month and you haven't tried anything, why can't I play around with her a little bit?"

Edward turned towards me and his eyes were dark and enraged. He swallowed hard and his face calmed down slightly as he said, "Excuse us Bella, I need to speak to Emmett alone."

Before I could answer, he was pushing Emmett off the dance floor. As they were moving away from me and into the shadows, Edward grabbed his sweater and I heard him say, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

I suddenly felt extreme calm warm my body. I turned my head to Jasper and said, "It isn't me you should be worried about, maybe you should go work your magic on your brothers."

Jasper chuckled and said, "I am not going anywhere near them right now."

I laughed as I nodded my head and gestured for him to follow me.

As we moved off the dance floor, I put my head down, walking with a red face to the booth where Emmett and I had been sitting. I supposed the reason everyone's eyes were on me was because they were trying to figure out why two breathtakingly beautiful men were fighting over me, and another was following me to a dark and private table.

"We haven't had much chance to talk have we?" I offered in a friendly voice.

Jasper grinned as he said, "Well, I don't think Edward or I wanted to spend the night in jail."

I looked at him unapologetically. "Well, I'll let it slide this once. Besides, in a few minutes Emmett and I will be gone and you and Edward can stay here all night if you want." I put my face closer to his and narrowed my eyes. "Just as long as you don't follow us anymore."

Jasper's mouth twitched as he said, "Well, I will pass the message on, but I can assure you we won't be staying here. Edward hates these kind of places, and the girls here in New York are extremely aggressive." He laughed and said, "They aren't taking no for an answer."

"Would Alice be mad if she knew you were here?" I asked.

He shook his head. "I am not the one they are foaming at the mouth for, it's Edward."

I swallowed hard and took a deep breath. I could hardly blame the New York girls for taking a chance. I would never have the guts to try, I was painfully aware that our spheres were still nowhere close to touching. I turned my head away from Jasper and let my eyes rest on Edward for a moment. I could never look at him while we were in the conference room. I spent all my time trying to look anywhere but at him.

They were clear across the room, but it was easy to see that Edward was angry. He was gesturing wildly and sticking his finger in Emmett's face. He had to know that Emmett wouldn't change me on the dance floor. Why would he even care what happened, or if I did become a vampire? He was dead set against it before, but that was when we were together. This was all my fault, not Emmett's. I tried to squelch it, but my anger got the best of me. My eyes narrowed and I got up and began stomping over to the two Greek gods. I ignored the one behind me trying to get me to come back and sit down.

As I got closer, I could hear them talking. Through clenched teeth Edward hissed, "You were just supposed to cheer her up, not seduce her!"

Emmett smiled mischievously. "She seemed pretty cheered up to me, bro."

Edward pushed him hard in the chest. The blow would have knocked a hole in a brick wall, but Emmett didn't even flinch.

"I'm taking her home, Emmett," he said through clenched teeth.

"No way," Emmett said with a twisted laugh.

Edward's arms were flexing with fury. "I want you to keep your hands off Bella."

Emmett raised his eyebrows and said, "Hey, I will try but, what am I supposed to do about her hands being all over me."

Edward's eyes grew murderous and he opened his mouth to tell Emmett off once more when I stepped in.

I put my hand on Edward's marble arm and felt my sharp intake of air. My heart rate accelerated immediately. Edward's face turned to me instantly, his eyes warm and gentle.

"First of all," I began, "Emmett and I are big kids and we don't need you watching over us, and secondly, as much as I love seeing Emmett, I don't need you to send any more of your family to try and cheer me up. I don't need cheering up, I'm just fine, thank you very much."

Emmett looked around Edward's shoulder and said, "It's cool, Bella. My brother here is still a little high strung. Seven years of solitude haven't seemed to relax him in the slightest. He's just a little freaked out because he thought I was about to make you a vampire."

Emmett's face showed mock fear as he looked at Edward.

I shot a look at Edward. Seven years of solitude? Why had Edward been alone ever since he left me? Did it mess him up that badly to be with a human? Was he tired of his family? Was he mad because Alice and possibly Emmett were mad at him for the way he left me? Hot tears were finding their way to the surface. My eyes were full of embarrassment and frustration as I looked at Edward and whispered, "Of course Edward . . . I haven't forgotten how the idea of me becoming a vampire always repulsed you."

Edward froze. He took his hands off Emmett and turned fully towards me. His eyes were rich and golden and they held a look of complete sincerity. He grabbed me firmly by the shoulders and pulled me closer to him so that I could hear him over the blaring music, then his velvet voice swam in my ear.

"Bella, you have to know that I was never repulsed by anything where you were concerned. It was me Bella. I was the one that . . ."

Suddenly, behind me, a high pitched nasal voice cut through the music.

"Eddie, I've been looking all over for you."

Edward looked over my head and winced. I turned to look behind me and saw a beautiful tall blond in tighter jeans than mine and a hot pink sequin tube top twirling a piece of hair and gesturing with her finger for Edward to come over to her.

I slowly turned away as a pang of jealousy cut through me. She was definitely closer to his sphere than I was. My eyes lingered on Edward's face and he looked away from the blond and back down at me. His face was so close that if I stood on my tiptoes our lips would have been touching. I realized that he was still holding on to my shoulders. I pulled out of his grasp and stepped back slightly.

Emmett came and took my hand and looked at Edward as he said, "Have fun, Eddie. See ya back at the hotel, don't wait up for me." He pulled me towards the entrance then, and as I looked back I saw the tall blond taking my spot right in front of Edward.

- - - - - - - - -

Emmett helped me on with my jacket as we waited on the sidewalk for the car. "Don't worry about the blond," he said assuredly.

I blinked in surprise and looked up at him.

"What?" I asked.

"Edward has already told her to get lost and he and Jasper will be back at the hotel within the hour."

I felt a thrill of relief run through me, and I did my best to squelch it.

"Edward can do whatever he wants, that was all a long time ago," I cleared my throat and shrugged down further into my coat.

The car came around the corner and Emmett helped me in. When he got around to his side he accelerated out into traffic and said, "Now, what do you want to do?"

I smiled and said, "You're not mad at me for tricking you in there and getting you in trouble with Edward?"

He snorted in derision and said, "First of all, you didn't trick me. And second of all, Edward is not the boss of me. Besides, I could take him."

I twisted so that I was facing him in the seat. "I didn't trick you?" I asked surprisingly.

He looked at me and grinned. When his dimples showed like that, he looked just like a little boy. A mischievous little boy. "I was on to you, Bella. I knew you were aware that Edward would follow us, and I knew you would have a plan." He chuckled. "Besides, I was implementing my own little plan."

My eyebrows furrowed. "Your own plan, what was your plan?"

Emmett watched the road thoughtfully. "Let's just say, that I was trying to force his hand."

"Force his hand? Why?" I was completely confused.

Emmett ran his hand through his hair. "It didn't work as well as I'd hoped." He looked at me and grinned. "New topic of conversation, please."

I stared at him thoughtfully. "Emmett . . . I . . ." I bit my lip as I decided whether or not it was wise to ask him a certain question.

"Spit it out, Bella. You can say anything." His face was completely open, and it encouraged me.

I took a deep breath and plunged in. "Why hasn't Edward been with all of you for the last seven years?"

I saw him cringe slightly. His face fell a little, and he said, "I guess you can talk to me about almost anything."

My heart fell. My mind hit on a hundred things Edward could have been doing the last seven years, all of them causing pain through my middle.

I looked forward at the road and said softly, "He fell in love with another vampire, didn't he." It was a statement not a question. I felt my middle splitting open. It was better that I finally knew the truth so that I could salvage some sort of life for myself.

Emmett started laughing. His laugh was musical and all silver, like a wind chime. He looked at me and said, "Hell no!" He saw something in my eyes that forced him to be serious. He cleared his throat and said softly, "Bella, I can't talk to you about this. It is Edward's place to talk to you about it, if he ever gets up the courage." He said the last part under his breath in a disgusted tone.

He looked at me again and said, "He should definitely be talking to you instead of spending all his days on that stupid piano writing that song."

"What song?" I used to love to watch Edward play the piano. It was one of the few times his face seemed free and at peace.

He just blew out a disgusted blast of air and rolled his eyes. "Never mind," he groaned.

He looked back at me again and said, "I will say this." We were weaving in and out of traffic and he had the same terrifying habit as Edward of not ever watching the road. He looked right in my eyes as he said, "Things are not as they seem. Don't be too hard on the guy."

I looked at him for a moment longer and then sunk down into my seat. I stared straight ahead completely confused and nowhere nearer to an answer than before we had spoken.

"You're not going to tell me anything else?" I tried to make my voice sound pathetic, might as well play on his sympathies.

"You forget," he teased, "I am married to Rosalie. There is not one female trick you can try that she has not perfected over the last 70 years."

I had to laugh. He was right. I looked at the clock on the dashboard. It was only 10:30 on a Friday night in Manhattan.

"Emmett, we are in the city that never sleeps! This is the perfect city for you! What do you want to do?" I again turned my whole body towards him and leaned in closer to show my enthusiasm.

His face looked like a child trying to choose candy at the candy store. He pursed his lips as he was deep in thought, and then suddenly his eyes brightened.

"Hey! I know, let's go check out the Empire State Building!"

I laughed. That was a total Emmett thing. I nodded my head and he turned around and headed East.

When we got there, we saw a big line that formed half way down the block to get in. My shoulders fell. "We may not get in Emmett. They close the line at 11:00 and we will be too far back to get in the doors."

He raised his eyebrow at me and said quietly, "Clearly, you haven't spent much time around vampires lately." He looked around and then whispered, "Climb on my back."

I climbed on as I laughed quietly. He casually backed up against the wall next to the entrance, and then suddenly, he was running. Everything was a massive blur and then we stopped. I blinked my eyes to get my bearings and I saw that we were in a stairwell. I looked up and as far as I could see, there were just more and more flights of stairs.

"We are going to climb the stairs of the Empire State Building?" I asked in wonder.

He laughed heartily making his dimples deepen in his face. "What's this ‘we' stuff? You want to walk up by yourself?" he joked.

I looked up through the staircase again. I shook my head mightily. "No way!"

"Hold on," he breathed. And then we were off. As I laid my head on his back, I thought of all the times I had done this with Edward. From the first time in the meadow, to that perfect rainy summer when he would take me deep into the woods with him. It would seem that we were the only two people in the world. Thankfully, I didn't have long to reminisce. In less than a minute, we were at the top.

We blended into the crowd and made our way outside. As Emmett and I looked out over the view, he said, "This looks a lot different than when I was here 60 years ago." I just took his arm and laid my head on his shoulder and laughed.

Whatever Edward's ulterior motives actually were, I was very happy I got to spend the evening with this particular vampire.