The Road Not Taken
Epilogue: “She didn’t really seem like that sort of girl,” Tanya commented, her tone just a tad sour, and Demetri quirked a smile.
“I get the feeling there’s a lot more to her than we’ve suspected.” Sequel to The Road Less Traveled by Daintress of tm_switzerland.
21. Chapter 21
Rating 5/5 Word Count 2166 Review this Chapter
“Demetri? Where’s Heidi?” Bella felt stupid. She’d spent so long analyzing what was behind her eyes, she’d probably offended her only ally in this whole place.
“Fishing. The question is, where’ve you been?”
Bella sighed. She couldn’t exactly talk about where she’d been, but she didn’t want to talk about Heidi’s fishing either. She wondered just how long she’d been out of it, but she knew better than to ask. That would just make Demetri think she was far worse off than she was. She wondered suddenly why Edward hadn’t heard one or the other of them thinking about her strange behavior and come looking for her. Perhaps he was busy? She cringed at the thought. Surely not. Not after they’d just decided to be married. Not after all they’d shared in the last few days. And yet, she couldn’t help but wonder if it was all just too little, too late. Years apart followed by years together when they’d hardly connected at all....she cringed again.
Demetri dropped his hand from her shoulder and she looked up at him, realizing she’d been staring off into space again. “I’ve been...soul-searching,” she said with a chuckle. That was the literal truth, but also an excellent lie.
“Because of this girl Heidi mentioned who was waiting for Edward in his room?” Demetri asked, surprised. Bella had never struck him as insecure, any more than she had Heidi. Aloof, certainly, but not insecure.
Bella decided to play it up, since he seemed to be assuming something far easier to explain than viewing her own soul in a mirror. “She was fantastically pretty. Like Heidi. Except Heidi doesn’t go letting herself into Edward’s rooms.”
“Heidi has a strong sense of self-preservation,” Demetri agreed, grinning for the first time. Bella smiled too. “I doubt you’ve got anything to worry about,” Demetri added, glancing down at her figure and back up into her face. She looked away and he smirked. “No wonder your Edward hates me so much,” he commented after a moment, pleased that Edward wasn’t present to have heard his thoughts on Bella’s figure. “Why don’t we go for broke and I’ll walk you back to your rooms?” He knew where they were, after all. The rooms across the hall had once been HIS. And he’d really rather enjoyed having that floor to himself. Felix, thankfully, preferred the more medieval rooms beneath the office.
Bella nodded, realizing that she probably shouldn’t just hang out in Heidi’s bathroom while Heidi herself was out. Also, in spite of her less than charitable thoughts earlier about Alice, she really was looking forward to seeing her. Surely she would have arrived by now. They took the elevator in silence.
He walked her to her door, and both of them could hear low conversation coming from Edward’s room. Bella studiously ignored it. Demetri smirked to himself and rested his hand on the small of her back as she opened her door. She stepped away from him very quickly, but not quickly enough. Their passage had alerted Edward, who’d opened his own door to see who was in the hallway, obviously hoping it was Bella from the pleased expression on his face. Demetri smirked as Edward’s smile disappeared, but wiped his own expression blank before Bella had time to turn around. Busted, Demetri thought, not just to himself. Unfortunately, he knew all his other thoughts would give away his relative innocence. He watched Edward’s eyes narrow and then clear, before turning to Bella worriedly.
Demetri excused himself politely and Bella smiled at him again, meeting his eyes only briefly. As he got back into the elevator he wondered just what sort of game Edward was playing. He was, himself, a fairly well known player. But if he had a steady girl as good looking, and as pleasant as Bella, he figured he could last at least ten years without looking elsewhere. And Edward didn’t exactly have a reputation for womanizing. Melodrama? Yes. Depression? Yes. But not being a cad. He put it out of his head, and turned his thoughts to Heidi instead. He wondered if there was any chance she’d be willing to repay him for the favor of babysitting Bella for her this afternoon. He smirked to himself at the thought and decided he’d be wiser not to ask.
Demetri’s last thought before Edward stopped keeping tabs on him made Edward cringe. He put his head back through his own door and excused himself from Tanya and Alice’s company to talk to Bella, who simply left her door open when she heard what he was saying. He followed her, and closed it behind him. “Are you alright? Demetri seemed to think you’d spent all afternoon in a trance.”
Bella turned toward him and opened her mouth to speak, but had to close it again and swallow. Then she whispered, in the low tone she reserved for discussions with Marcus, “I went to visit Heidi. I looked into her mirror. It was ... hard.”
Edward pulled her against him tenderly, surprised. “You were so sure you didn’t want to do that. What changed your mind?”
Bella didn’t answer. She was more than a little embarrassed about her reaction to the beautiful woman who’d made herself at home in Edward’s rooms. When his arms were around her like this, her insecurities seemed ridiculous. Still, neither Heidi nor Rosalie had ever made her feel quite so insignificant just by being in the same room with her. She wondered again if Tanya had intended to upset her, or if it was all just her own insecurity being dredged up from when she was human and had looked pathetic standing next to Edward.
Edward felt the familiar frustration of being blocked from her mind. He could hear everyone else’s thoughts so clearly. Demetri was one floor down, lusting after Heidi. Edward was thankful he had the sense not to make up those fantasies about Bella, though he’d obviously been baiting him a moment before, touching her the way he had. He was troubled by the assumptions Demetri had been making about Tanya and Alice’s visit. Obviously they hadn’t told everyone yet that they were here for a wedding, but it seemed an odd assumption to make. He hadn’t been able to catch how Demetri had heard that they were visiting already anyway, but he supposed Gianna had seen them up to his room.
He could hear Alice’s thoughts, centered on the wedding. He’d noticed at once that she wasn’t going overboard at all. A tasteful garden wedding. She’d been picturing the grounds for him before he’d heard footsteps in the hall. And Tanya was, as usual, contemplating the potential availability of every male she’d encountered since she arrived. Every male except him, thankfully. He’d fought that battle long ago and won. It hadn’t even crossed her mind, though he’d been more than a little concerned about a renewed statement of interest from her when Alice had first invited her along.
The only thoughts he couldn’t hear were the ones that interested him most. “What did Marcus say when you asked him?” he tried again to get a response out of Bella. This time he succeeded. She pulled out of his arms.
“He said he would. And he congratulated me, which was a surprise. Not warmly, mind you. But he did say, ‘Congratulations.’” She grinned.
“Alice tells me Carlisle will be disappointed, but he’ll get over it, as long as we promise to get married again someday and let him do it.” They both chuckled. Edward wanted very badly to ask about what she’d seen in the mirror, but he didn’t. Instead, he put his arm around her shoulders and led her back out into the hallway. “Come on, Alice can hardly wait to see you. If we don’t go now, she’ll be bounding over here in a few seconds.”
He opened the door for her and she preceded him back into his sitting room. Alice all but tackled her, and had already launched into a detailed description of the gardens at the Villa Gamberaia by the time Edward closed the door again, rolling his eyes. He waited patiently as they embraced, Bella laughing too loudly to catch anything Alice was saying. Finally, Alice let her go. Edward stepped between them before either of them could start talking again. “Bella, I want you to meet Tanya,” he said quickly, gesturing to the woman Bella had met earlier, who stood from her perch on the arm of the couch gracefully.
Tanya was counting on Bella’s discretion. From what she’d heard, back in the beginning of Edward and Bella’s romance when her family and the Cullens had still been friendly, she recalled that the girl was easily intimidated. Unfortunately, Bella had grown up rather a lot since then. “We’ve met. Hello again, Tanya. I hope your wait was comfortable.” Bella offered Tanya her hand to shake again, which gave her a chance to recover. She couldn’t help but think that perhaps Bella would be a more worthy adversary than she’d originally anticipated. She forced herself not to cringe as Edward frowned at her, obviously having caught the stray thought. She forced her mind onto more charitable thoughts, such as what a pretty bride Bella would make.
Alice noticed the tension, though she didn’t understand it. Her mind had been much too wrapped up with planning, and Tanya had been much too careful with her decision making to have afforded her any visions on this situation thus far. “Bella, I’ve got to know what you think of this,” she said quickly, pulling pictures out of a knapsack she’d left on the floor by the couch. “I’ve only booked it tentatively, because I wanted to make sure you liked it.”
Bella flipped through them at speed, remembering from previous wedding planning attempts that Alice meant ‘immediately,’ when she gave her something like this to look at. She stepped around the couch to where Alice was standing and sat, noticing in spite of herself that Edward took Tanya’s perch on the arm of the couch beside her and Alice plopped down gracefully on her other side. She didn’t look up to see where Tanya chose to position herself. She could guess. When she’d seen all the pictures, she grinned over at Alice. “It’s perfect, of course.”
“I know,” Alice crowed. “And the flowers. I was thinking about freesia, hyacinth and grape leaves. Purples, you know?” she modulated her voice to sound as though she was asking, but Bella only chuckled.
“Sounds great.” Whatever Alice wanted was fine with her. Invitations were paraded passed her eyes as well. She pointed to the sample that Alice had already purchased fifty of, naturally, and wrote the names of each member of the Volturi, each member of the guard, and each member of the Cullen and Denali households on the envelopes. Thankfully, Edward knew any the names she did not. She left off Gianna for safety reasons, and if her hand paused briefly and her jaw locked before she could make herself write Felix’s name, no one blamed her.
Alice had already made Edward fill in the date and time on the actual invitations in his perfect calligraphy handwriting, so as Bella finished each envelope, she sealed an invitation inside. When she reached for the last one, however, Bella snatched it away before she could pick it up. “I would like to see exactly when I’m getting married, if you don’t mind,” Bella joked, opening the card as Alice laughed.
“Oh, well, I suppose you’re allowed to know,” Alice teased back. Bella noted the date, only a week away, and smiled even wider. She glanced up at Edward, pleased that Alice was able to work so fast. But he was looking at Tanya. She stifled the urge to growl at the girl for taking even this small amount of Edward’s attention away from her. She’d had very little experience with actual anger since her change. It wasn’t easy, but she managed to restrain herself.
She looked down again quickly, not taking in his expression. Her only thought as she handed the last invitation to Alice was, So, this is what it feels like.
“I’m going to take these down to Gianna to distribute right away,” she said, standing. She didn’t look at Tanya at all. Edward stood as well and wrapped his arms around her waist.
“Come right back. Alice’s brain might very well explode with questions while you’re gone.” He kissed the top of her head, and she smiled in spite of herself, but didn’t answer. An instant later she was out the door, far faster than she usually moved, even in safe company. Edward watched her go with narrowed eyes.
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