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The Dorothy Factor

Summary:
An unusual storm descends upon Forks, and Bella and Edward are caught in the middle. When the dust settles, nothing is the same …
Chapter Twelve: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
(the last chapter)
The only thing that had changed was Edward himself. He had returned a different man – with a new understanding about the constant ache in his chest and the vacancy he’d always sensed there in the periphery of his life.


Notes:
Inspired by actual events; (see chapter one end notes). An incredibly huge, warm thank you to vnfan – an amazing author and an indispensable asset to me while writing this story. Not only did she help fix all my typos and “dumb blonde” moments (even though I’m a redhead, I still have dumb blonde moments) – but she also helped me get through a couple rough spots. Her response, as well, was encouragement to keep me going. To vnfan – thanks for being my first and most amazing beta ever; I don’t know how I ever lived without you and your help! I had so much fun writing this story. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


6. Chapter Six -- The Man Behind the Curtain

Rating 5/5   Word Count 1845   Review this Chapter



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They argued just before reaching the first border crossing.



“Put your shoes back on,” Edward commanded Bella, motioning to the red pumps she’d kicked off earlier in exchange for her ratty old sneakers. Begrudgingly, she toed off the sneakers and slipped her feet back into the uncomfortable, treacherous crimson heels. “And have Alice fix your makeup. And your hair.”



Bella made no motion to turn in her seat. She just stared at Edward, annoyed, as Alice began running her fingers through Bella’s hair, uncoiling tangles and smoothing the loose curls. “Am I really that awful to look at?” she said, finally, leaning away from Alice’s reach as she came towards her with a mascara wand and a makeup compact. She glared at Edward, angry and hurt.



“Just let Alice fix you up,” he said, staring purposely toward the road; avoiding her direct gaze. “We need to get through Customs again without passports.”



“What’s so wrong about the way I look?” she demanded.



Edward sighed heavily, still not turning to face her. His eyes flicked towards her swiftly, then focused back on the road ahead. “Nothing,” he whispered. “You’re perfect.”



Bella recoiled at the soft whisper of his words. She was stung by their authenticity. He meant it; each word was honest and genuine. He thought she was perfect. Edward Cullen – flawless in every way – thought she was perfect. She knew how much her Edward at home adored her – but she’d always felt that his image of her was tainted by his love. She’d believed that he saw her differently because he loved her. This Edward had not declared his love for her; had not given over his life to her. He was helping her to get rid of her. And he thought she was perfect.



“We just need to get through Customs,” he said finally.



Bella sat back heavily in her seat. She remained compliant while Alice reapplied her makeup and finished straightening her hair.



The border crossing went smoothly both times – from Alaska into Canada and again back into Washington. Once back in the United States, Edward hit the freeway and sped quickly down the I-5 corridor – zipping past bottlenecks and congestion with ease. The entire state of Washington flashed past the window in a blur, trees and mountains blending into each other. With Edward’s driving, they made good time. They crossed the Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River into Oregon within an hour.



Edward slowed down as they followed the freeway over the Willamette River and into downtown Portland. He took the exit for “NW/Industrial Area” and maneuvered his Volvo through the various streets with ease; he had a sense of familiarity. His siblings took notice.



“Edward?” Jasper asked from the back seat. He didn’t have to elaborate – Edward had already heard the questions in his and Alice’s heads.



“Carlisle and I meet up every couple months,” Edward said. “He likes to check on me. And I like to be left alone. So we meet here – partway between my home in Forks and Carlisle’s corporate empire in San Francisco.”



Jasper and Alice sat back, satisfied by his answer. But Bella stared at him from her seat, too surprised to glower. “I thought no one sees Carlisle.”



Edward sighed heavily. “That’s right, no one sees Carlisle.”



“But you –.”



“That’s right,” he repeated. “No one.”



Edward pulled the car up to the curb outside of an industrial, brick building with sleek new stainless steel paneling. It looked like an old factory that had been converted into condos. Edward led them inside, up to the top floor and to the unit in the eastern-most corner. Inside, the apartment was sparsely filled – just a couple chairs and a sofa. The room was bright, filled with daylight from the cloud-covered sky outside – pouring in through large, arched windows that lined the two outermost walls. Bella walked across and pressed her fingers to the glass – looking out at the view. Beyond the window, the entire city of Portland bustled with life. Boats moved along the river, an eclectic mix of industrial ships, private speed boats and small wooden crafts with crisp white sails. On the street below, cars competed with an electric streetcar and bicyclists – while crowds of pedestrians moved past on the sidewalk, crossing at each intersection with no regard for the traffic around them. Despite the steady drizzle, no one carried an umbrella.



A voice from the doorway drew Bella’s attention away from the window. “This must be the place,” the voice said. “I could smell you leeches downstairs.”



“Jake!” she gasped with pleasure. Without thinking, she ran across the room to embrace him. She didn’t quite make it. After just two steps, she stumbled in her red pumps and tumbled forward. She yelped and threw her hands out to break her fall, closing her eyes in anticipation of the impact. But it never came. When she opened her eyes again, she was cradled gently against Edward’s chest. “Er … thanks,” she said, entirely too conscious of their close proximity and the rapidity with which her heart was now beating. Her breath had gotten entirely caught in her throat and she coughed, struggling to regain her composure.



Edward nodded kindly in response and set her gently back down on her feet. He did not release her right away, however. Instead, he reached down – one hand firmly gripping her by the hip, while the other slipped off her red shoes one at a time. He stood again, grasping her other hip with his free hand, looking down at her appraisingly. “All steady?” he asked. He glanced down at her bare feet.



Bella nodded mutely. She was tingling where Edward’s hands gripped her hips.



“Careful now,” he said, finally releasing her.



She nodded again, reminding herself to breathe. The air hitched in her throat and she forced herself, finally, to turn away. That’s when she saw Jake – and remembered his presence. She moved to him more carefully this time. “You came,” she said, smiling up at him.



He shrugged. “It’s probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done,” he said self-deprecatingly. “But I had to help.”



“I’m glad you came,” she said, touching his arm gently and taking a step away. In a way, Bella was grateful she’d tripped and nearly fallen down. It gave her just enough time to realize that hugging Jake would have been a bad idea. She’d already blurred the lines of friendship with the Jake in her world – she didn’t need to repeat those mistakes again.



“Edward?” a new voice called from the doorway. Bella gasped upon seeing him.



Carlisle Cullen was more incredibly beautiful than she remembered. This man lived alone in a cutthroat world of business. He wasn’t trying to disguise himself as the father of five teenagers; as a small-town doctor in the middle of nowhere. He could be young and beautiful and dazzling; it was probably good for business. For the bottom line. His blond hair was longer, soft waves that fell just above his collar – a few stubborn locks falling across his pale, smooth forehead. His eyes – a deep brown – sparkled when he looked at her. His eyes didn’t linger, though, as he searched the room for another face.



“Thank you for meeting us,” Edward said, stepping forward.



“Who are all these people?” Carlisle said, looking around.



Edward began making the introductions. “I’m sure you remember Jasper and Alice,” he said, motioning towards his siblings. Carlisle nodded in recognition. “And this is Bella, the girl I told you about.” Carlisle’s eyes glittered again when he looked at her. “And that’s Jake,” Edward said, almost an afterthought. “One of the dogs.”



“Okay,” Carlisle said, nodding swiftly. He set down his attaché and wrapped an arm around Bella’s shoulder. She looked over at Edward, who was watching with strained eyes. Carlisle led her to the sofa, where she sat. He pulled a chair up to face her and sat, their heads just inches apart. “Now,” he said. “Tell me everything.”



“I thought Edward explained –.”



“Edward told me,” Carlisle said, waving his hand, dismissing her protest. “I want to hear it … from you.”



Bella glanced over at Edward. He stood nearby, his arms crossed and his features taut. Whatever he was thinking or hearing, he did not reveal. He just nodded gently in encouragement.



“Okay,” Bella said, sighing. Once again, she told her story. About her life in her world and how she’d come to this other reality during the storm and everything since then, right up to their escape from James and Victoria and the drive down to Portland.



“So you want me to help you fight these trackers,” Carlisle said, leaning back in his chair. Bella felt relieved when he moved away from her; for some reason, his presence made her uneasy. Which she thought was strange, because in her world, Carlisle always made her feel so at ease. This Carlisle did not provide the same sense of comfort.



“No,” Bella said. “I want you to help me get home.”



“Well, I’m not sure I can do that,” he said off-handedly. “I mean, I can’t just whip up another tornado.” He chuckled, but stopped quickly when no one else joined in. He focused his attention back on Bella, who tried very hard not to fidget under his gaze. “What exactly is it you expected me to do for you?”



“I …” Bella struggled for words. She wasn’t sure how to answer his question. She’d just felt so sure all along that Carlisle would have the answer; that Carlisle would know what to do. In her experience, he always did know what to do – how to fix whatever was wrong. If she were honest with herself, Bella really didn’t know how to get back home. She still wasn’t sure how she’d ended up in this other world, anyhow. “I just know that I have to get home,” she said. “I have a life … people … people are expecting me. I’m supposed to …”



“That’s right,” Carlisle said, plucking Bella’s left hand from her lap. His fingers danced across the engagement ring. “You’re supposed to be getting married.”



“I have to get home,” she breathed.



Carlisle dropped his eyes. “I’m sorry.”



Bella felt a new sense of desperation settling over her. If Carlisle couldn’t help – if she couldn’t get home – then she was stuck here. Stuck with a heartless, angry Edward and a lecherous, unhelpful Carlisle. And a brainless Jake. And the spineless Cullens. “I can’t stay here,” she said, only it came out as a whisper and the words were directed more to herself than to anyone else in the room. She felt tears once again welling up in the corners of her eyes and she fought very hard to control them. “I can’t stay here.”



The others, not knowing what to say or how to help, remained silent.



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