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Complications

Summary:
Complications What if telling Charlie about their engagement was much more dangerous than Bella and Edward could ever have anticipated? A sudden reaction may place the Cullens’ innermost secrets in peril. It only takes a fraction of a second for everything to go horribly wrong. Updated with Chapter 2: Telling Renee.


Notes:


1. Telling Charlie

Rating 5/5   Word Count 6449   Review this Chapter

Complications

by Cendrillon

Disclaimer: The Twilight characters belong to the creative mind of Stephenie Meyer. I am not benefitting monetarily from this story, my only rewards are your reviews.

Author's Note: This story takes place just after the meadow scene in Chapter 27 of Eclipse, when Bella and Edward decide to break the news of their engagement to Charlie. Although I don't think this story realistically depicts what will happen in Breaking Dawn, I thought it was a curious "What if" situation and it developed into a plot bunny that I just couldn't ignore. I think it's rather amusing and I tried to keep it as realistic as possible to Meyer's characters. If you like the outcome, please review!

Chapter 1: Telling Charlie

The drive home was excruciatingly long despite the fact that Edward was driving. For once, I didn't protest his speeding. I just wanted to get this over with. Maybe once we told Charlie about our engagement this horrible lead feeling in the pit of my stomach would fade.

I wondered if it would be easier if we brought Jasper along as a calming influence. But that would be rather awkward. I could just picture it now. Dad, Edward and I have something to tell you, and by the way, we brought Jasper along to calm you down - he has an uncanny ability to control people's emotions. I dismissed that idea immediately.

As we pulled up to the house, I noted with an odd mixture of relief and disappointment that Charlie's cruiser was missing. On the one hand, I wanted to tell him while I still had the nerve, but on the other hand, I wanted to push this off indefinitely.

Edward helped me into the house and protected me from the driving rain. If not for him, I probably wouldn't have gotten out of the car. We sat on the couch and he comforted me and tried to calm my raging nerves as we waited for Charlie to return. It didn't take long. Within a few minutes, I heard the cruiser pull up into the driveway.

"Bella, it's going to be fine. Don't worry," Edward reassured me.

I took a deep breath and the front door opened.

"Hi, Dad!" I called out. My voice was unnaturally bright. I had to control it better.

"Hey, Bells." Charlie looked up as he walked in. His eyes narrowed slightly as he saw Edward sitting next to me with one arm around my shoulders. "Hello, Edward." There was little warmth left in his voice for Edward. "Why am I not surprised to find you here?" he muttered, making his feelings perfectly clear.

This might be even more difficult than I thought. Ignoring Charlie's unwelcome comment, I asked him the first thing that came to my mind. "I thought you didn't have to work today, Dad?"

"They called me in to respond to a domestic disturbance," Charlie explained. "There was some screaming back and forth, but no violence fortunately. But it makes you question why some of these people ever thought it was a good idea to get married in the first place."

Edward and I shared a glance.

Well, this certainly wasn't the best way to start off a discussion of our impending wedding. "That's…interesting. I'm glad no one was hurt." I wasn't quite sure how to proceed. Edward nodded encouragingly at me. "Um, Dad, Edward and I would like to talk to you."

"Okay," Charlie said hesitantly, looking with concern at the two of us. He hung up his drenched jacket, but didn't bother to hang up his holster before he approached us.

Part of me wanted to say the classic 'You might want to sit down for this,' but I refrained. Saying that would probably only make it worse.

"Well?" Charlie inquired when I didn't say anything right away.

"Uh…well…uh…" My hand started shaking uncontrollably. It would be more visible if Edward wasn't holding it firmly. He gently squeezed my hand and spoke up in his most gracious and soothing voice.

"Charlie, I think what Bella means to say is that I proposed to her and she accepted."

I stared at Edward. He was smiling broadly, glowing with the confidence that I lacked. He held up my hand - the one with the ring that felt like a vice. He kissed it. I felt sick.

I smiled weakly at Charlie who looked terribly unhappy. The blood had drained from his face.

"You're engaged. I knew something like this would happen, I just knew it," he muttered. "Bella, you're too young for this."

I took umbrage at this. "You should talk, Dad. You were barely older than me when you married Mom."

"And look how that turned out, Bella." He was getting angry. "At least you won't actually be marrying that young. You're going to wait until after college at least, right?"

I winced. "Actually…the wedding will be in August."

"WHAT?!?"

The blood was rushing rapidly back into his face. He was turning purple.

"YOU CAN'T GET MARRIED THIS SUMMER! I FORBID IT!"

I cowered away from the rage in his voice. "Dad, it's already set. We can't move it."

"WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN'T MOVE IT? OF COURSE, YOU CAN."

His eyes grew wide as some unknown epiphany struck him. Edward squeezed my hand and looked desperately at me, no doubt trying to communicate something he couldn't say aloud.

"Bella," Charlie began, sounding dangerous, "You're not…you can't be…Bella, are you pregnant?"

"DAD!" I yelled, shocked.

He whirled on Edward. "HOW DARE YOU! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!"

"Charlie," Edward said softly, "Please calm down. You don't understand. Let us explain."

"I UNDERSTAND PERFECTLY. YOU KNOCKED UP MY DAUGHTER! YOU…YOU…"

I watched horrified as Charlie pulled out one of his guns and aimed it at Edward. Charlie looked angrier than I'd ever seen him. All I knew was that between him and the gun and my own temper, something in that room was going to explode.

"Charlie, put down the gun," Edward said slowly, nervously. "You have to listen to us. I swear I didn't -"

"IT'S TOO LATE FOR APOLOGIES AND EXCUSES!" Charlie shouted. The look in his eyes was terrifying.

Panic seized me. "NO, DAD, DON'T!"

Suddenly, in a fraction of a second, everything went terribly wrong. And in that second, I became of aware of so many things going on at once. Charlie's finger pressed down on the trigger, whether accidentally or deliberately I didn't know. The shot was the loudest sound I'd ever heard. Edward, the fool who should have been using his inhuman speed and senses to avoid the shot, shifted only to cover and protect me. He flinched ever so slightly as the bullet hit his shoulder and ricocheted off to shatter a ceramic lamp before lodging itself in the wall.

Edward let out a vicious snarl. Fortunately, Charlie seemed to interpret it as a cry of pain. Charlie dropped the gun instantly, letting it clatter to the floor. We both stared openmouthed at Edward as he placed a hand over his unbleeding wound. Did Charlie notice the bullet hole in his shirt and the lack of blood?

"Oh, God, what have I done?" Charlie intoned.

"You could have killed him, Dad," I spat angrily. "What the hell were you thinking?" I didn't really want to hear his answer. Edward was the only one that mattered now. I turned to him.

"Edward, are you ok?" I knew logically that he was, but I still wanted to hear him say the words. His body was rigid and I could tell that he was still seething with anger. His eyes had turned very dark.

He closed his eyes and breathed in heavily. "I'll…be all right," he said slowly. He looked like he was in pain, but I knew him well enough by now to know that this was an act. He was more angry than hurt. "I think it's just a flesh wound, but I need to bandage it and get to Carlisle."

He stood up quickly, almost too quickly for human eyes, still clutching his left shoulder. He stared angrily at Charlie and moved toward the kitchen. I followed right behind him. Charlie turned to follow, but I quickly turned on him.

"Don't even come near us," I hissed. Charlie stepped back at my words and hung his head in his hands.

Edward stood at the sink and was tearing a towel into strips. As soon as Charlie was out of earshot, he started whispering instructions to me.

"Find some red food dye quick."

"Are you hurt at all?" I asked anxiously.

"Yes, but it's nothing."

"Let me see," I insisted.

"Get the food dye first and syrup if you have it. I need to fake the blood."

I raced to the cupboards to find the supplies. Fortunately, I had bought some food dye to make a cake for Charlie's birthday, otherwise we would have been out of luck. I rooted around for the syrup and found it at last.

"Not maple syrup, Bella," Edward said scathingly as he ripped his left shirt sleeve off. "The scent's too strong. Do you have corn syrup?"

I traded one bottle for another and returned to him.

He held out his palm. "We can't use dishes to mix. It would take too long and leave evidence. Pour the syrup into my hand and add a few drops of the red dye."

After I followed his instructions, he released his grip on his shoulder so that he could mix the syrup and dye. This left me with a perfect view of his injury. There was a shallow groove in his shoulder that seemed to diminish even as I watched it. There was no discoloration, and obviously no blood. He was like a marble statue that had been chipped. But I still hated to see any part of him that was less than perfect.

He smeared the red goo across the groove and pressed the rest of it into the towel, so that it looked stained. Then he pressed the stained towel onto the wound.

"Tie this around to hold the bandage in place," he requested, handing me one of the strips of towel. I quickly followed his instructions.

"Show's on," he muttered as he placed his hand over the bandage and assumed a look of intense pain before walking back into the living room and out the front door. Charlie followed us.

Edward started walking to the driver's side of his Volvo.

"Edward, you can't drive," I reminded him. He cursed silently and handed me the keys.

"Wait!" Charlie called. He looked upset and conflicted. "You need to go to the hospital, Edward. Let me call an ambulance."

Edward turned and glared at Charlie. "The wound isn't that deep. Carlisle can handle it. If we go to the hospital, I'll have to tell them how I was injured. Is that what you really want, Charlie? As angry as I am with you right now, I know that Bella would rather have you at the wedding than in a jail cell."

"Don't count on that," I snapped.

Charlie winced. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen. Honestly!"

I was the one who glared at Charlie this time. His words came back to me - "it's too late for apologies and excuses."

"Come on, Edward. Let's get you to Carlisle," I said, climbing in the driver's seat.

"Wait," Charlie called again, desperately, "at least let me take you in the cruiser. It will be much faster."

It was difficult to argue his point. It would look foolish and unreasonable not to accept the offer, and yet I knew that I needed to keep Edward as far as possible from Charlie right now. I settled on a compromise.

"Dad, being in a car with you right now is the last thing he wants. But if you can give us a police escort, at least we'll get there faster."

Charlie nodded, his face awash with guilt and disappointment. I couldn't feel sorry for him though.

"And it will be up to you to explain to Carlisle and Esme what happened once we get there," I added as I slammed the door shut and revved the engine.

Edward pulled out his phone the second we started driving. He was talking to Alice, speaking so quickly I couldn't understand everything he was saying. I concentrated on following Charlie's quick pace. It felt like we were in a car chase as we rushed through red lights and stop signs, impeding all other traffic with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Edward snapped the phone shut and I glanced at him. He looked more annoyed than angry now.

"Alice is preparing the others," he explained.

"Preparing?" I asked.

"Since Charlie's coming, they'll have to be prepared with the right reactions. Can you imagine if I told Emmett that your father shot me? He'd start laughing."

I could imagine it. I wouldn't count on Emmett acting appropriately even if he was told in advance. "I didn't think of that."

"And Carlisle will have to act angry, which isn't an emotion he's entirely comfortable with."

"Did Alice see this happening?"

"Yes, but only the second before it happened, because it was a sudden decision for Charlie to pull out the gun. She had no time to warn us."

"I'm so sorry this happened, Edward. Even though I know you're unbreakable, I was so frightened."

Edward closed his eyes and shook his head. "And I was so terrified for you. If that bullet had strayed and hit you, I'm afraid I would have had to kill your father."

I swallowed deeply. I didn't want to imagine that scenario. "It's just so surreal. Charlie wasn't himself - I saw it in his eyes."

Edward sighed. "He was telling the truth, Bella. He didn't mean to shoot me. He wanted to scare me. He wanted me to leave more than anything. But what's done is done, and now we have to deal with the consequences. He can't learn our secret."

"No, he can't," I said instantly, thinking of the Volturi. "Did he suspect anything?"

"Only briefly at first. He's seen other shooting accidents before and there was a lot more blood, but he attributed what he saw to shock. And the fake blood seemed to help. I don't think it will be hard for Carlisle to come up with a reasonable explanation. But we still have another issue, Bella."

I looked at him questioningly.

"He still thinks you're expecting."

My hands clenched on the wheel. How my own father could assume something like that about me was positively insulting.

"I'll take care of that," I ground out between clenched teeth.

We turned onto the avenue of trees leading up to his house.

"You know, Edward, there is one good thing that came out of this," I said contemplatively.

He looked at me in surprise. "What?"

"I'm not going to feel nearly as bad about leaving Charlie."

~*~*~*~

The scene at the Cullens played out just as well as Edward had hoped. Carlisle and Esme were brilliant as the outraged parents. After displaying very realistic shock and horror at seeing Edward's injury, they rushed him into the office adjacent to the living room where Carlisle could 'treat' Edward. After Carlisle had supposedly cleaned, stitched, and bandaged the wound, Edward emerged and joined me and they called in Charlie.

Charlie hung his head down in shame and looked as though he was walking to his execution. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.

That was when the shouting started. I could never have believed that the sounds coming from that room were the voices of gentle Carlisle and sweet Esme. They were playing their roles to perfection. Although I quickly began to wonder if Esme was acting at all, her feelings seemed so genuine.

Alice joined Edward and I on the white couch in the living room as we all listened mesmerized to the shouting matches in the adjoining room.

"What in the world could have possessed you to shoot our son?!" Esme yelled.

"It was an accident," Charlie exclaimed.

"That's what Edward said," interrupted Carlisle. I could imagine the look of surprise on Charlie's face upon learning that Edward had protected him. "But you haven't explained why you would even think of putting a live gun anywhere near our children."

Alice, sitting next to me, leaned closer. "Ooh, this is about to get exciting," she said gleefully.

"Things just got out of hand," Charlie explained. "I had just come home from work and the kids told me about the wedding."

There was silence for a moment. Clearly, Charlie thought that explanation was more than sufficient.

"And?" Esme demanded.

"And…well…don't you think it's a bit rushed? Charlie asked. "They're only 18 - barely out of high school. And when I asked Bella to wait and move the date, she said she couldn't. And, well, you know kids these days, they only get married in a rush like that if there's a really good reason, if you catch my drift." His voice was laden with the unspoken implications. I suddenly became aware of the sound of my own teeth grinding together.

"They're getting married because they love each other," Esme exclaimed angrily.

"So what you're saying," Carlisle interjected, his voice sounding colder than I'd ever heard it, "is that you think Edward impregnated Bella and that's why they're getting married now. Am I getting that right?"

"Um," Charlie stammered, "basically…yes."

"Edward is a better man than that, Charlie. I know my son and I know that he would never put Bella in that position. Edward feels quite strongly about waiting until marriage. I trust Edward and I trust Bella. And so should you."

"It's not that I don't trust them-"

"Ha!" I turned around to see Emmett standing behind me with Rosalie and Jasper, all listening enthusiastically as if they were watching a sitcom of my life.

"Shut up, Emmett," Edward growled. I had the feeling Edward's response had more to do with Emmett's thoughts than his loud guffaw. "Can't Bella and I have some privacy here?"

"No way, brother," Emmett said jovially, "this is far too amusing." Emmett flopped into a large overstuffed armchair and looked entirely too comfortable and entertained at my misery.

We all listened closely as Charlie's voice rose.

"I know they're good kids, Carlisle, but they're so…infatuated with each other. For Bella, he's like an obsession. I don't think she would say no."

My mouth dropped open. I would have to commit patricide before the day was over.

Emmett and Jasper exchanged a look and snorted in amusement as Edward and I shot them identical glares.

"I'm sure you can remember what it was like at that age," Charlie implored.

Suddenly I was surrounded by a symphony of otherworldly ringing laughter. They were all laughing and cracking jokes about Carlisle's age, except for Edward who looked absolutely livid.

The laughter stopped instantly when the office door shot open, rocking on its hinges. Carlisle stepped out looking far more frightening than I could ever imagine him to be.

"All of you, upstairs now!" he ordered, pointing up the massive staircase. His tone was firm and compelling, though his voice was controlled and only slightly raised.

They all looked just as shocked as I was at Carlisle's anger. I expected them to protest, but they rose quickly and disappeared quietly up the stairs, leaving Edward and I alone. I knew it would make little difference to them, since they could easily hear what was going on with their acute hearing. Perhaps that was why they left so willingly.

Carlisle stared at Edward and then Edward nodded almost imperceptibly before taking my hand.

"Come on, Bella," he urged in a hushed voice, leading me also towards the stairs.

I resisted his pull. "Why? This involves us. I want to hear what's going on."

"I'll explain upstairs." Then he whispered, "We're not going to miss anything. Remember?" He tapped the side of his head.

With some hesitation, I followed him to his bedroom.

"So?" I said, crossing my arms and staring at him as he closed the door behind us.

Edward rolled his eyes. "You are so impatient sometimes. Carlisle simply wanted to demonstrate his authority over the household in front of Charlie. And he thought it might make more sense if I was ostensibly resting from my injury."

I could tell that he wasn't quite revealing the whole truth. "There's something else though, isn't there? Is there something he doesn't want me to hear?"

Edward sighed. "Nothing specifically. Carlisle is afraid that some of the things that might come out may hurt you. He wanted to protect you from that."

"But you are going to tell me what's going on?" I insisted.

"Yes, but there's something I need to do first."

Before he'd even finished speaking, the door opened and Alice walked in.

"Jasper's on his way," she announced.

Edward nodded. "Thanks, Alice."

I stared between the two of them trying to understand what unspoken conversation was taking place. Alice smiled at me and walked out.

"What was that about?"

Edward looked at me warily. "Jasper's gone to retrieve the bullet from your house. If Charlie became suspicious and tried to have it tested, they wouldn't find any blood traces."

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that. But won't it seem suspicious when he finds the bullet missing?"

"Jasper will take care of that. He'll make it look like it went straight through the drywall. Charlie's not going to tear apart the house to find it."

I sat down on the black leather couch and put my head in my hands. "This is such a mess."

Edward was at my side instantly, wrapping one comforting arm around me. "It's going to be all right, Bella. Everything will work out."

"My father shot you. How can I even look at him again, much less live with him? What if you were human?"

"Fortunately, in this one case, I'm not. Now do you want to know what's going on or not?"

"Yes," I admitted. "Are they still discussing whether or not you and I…" The blood rushed to my cheeks. I couldn't continue.

"No. I think Esme and Carlisle have nearly convinced Charlie. Of course, it helps that Carlisle's a doctor. But Charlie still wants to hear the truth from you. Esme is asking what Charlie has against me. He insists that he doesn't have anything against me, but he's thinking about when I left you. You know he thinks about that every time he sees me."

His voice sounded pained and I yearned to comfort him. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pressed my face against his chest.

"Esme guessed correctly that it's about when we left and Charlie admits that it still bothers him. Now, both Esme and Carlisle are explaining, without going into too much detail, how I was affected by our separation and how my proposal demonstrates my commitment to never leave you again. It's working," he said, sounding pleased. "Charlie's starting to think that maybe he was wrong about me."

As he said this, I could picture my father slowly coming to the understanding that perhaps I wasn't the only one that suffered.

Edward smiled. "I wish you could hear this part. Esme is explaining how much you mean to me and to our family. She says that she thinks of you as her daughter already. Carlisle agrees."

I felt my eyes misting. I loved them too. I had not only fallen in love with Edward, I had fallen in love with his family. Knowing that I would have the Cullens made the thought of leaving my mortal friends and family behind so much more bearable.

"Charlie admits that he was wrong and regrets what happened. He's begging for their forgiveness. They're telling him that he should be asking for our forgiveness, not theirs. And that if we forgive him, they won't press charges."

Of course, I knew that was all part of the act. The Cullens would never think of pressing charges even if it had been a stranger that shot Edward. That would draw too much attention to them and raise too many questions they could never answer.

Edward stiffened beside me. I looked up at him. He was staring blankly at the wall in front of us and looked more alert.

"Charlie's asking about the injury. He did notice that the bullet ricocheted and he doesn't understand it." He waited a moment and relaxed, smiling appreciatively.

"What?" I demanded impatiently.

"Carlisle's come up with a brilliant excuse. He told Charlie that I'd had surgery on my shoulder socket and had metal pins inserted. He said that the bullet must have glanced off the metal pin. Charlie bought it and he thinks that might explain why there was little blood at first too. It's fortunate that your father knows very little about medicine or human anatomy."

He stood up and pulled me to my feet. "They're coming," he explained.

"Who?" I asked, confused.

There was a gentle knock on the door a moment later.

"Come in," Edward called.

Esme entered and walked over to me.

"Bella," she said softly, "your father would like to talk to you. He feels very sorry about what happened and doesn't want it to affect his relationship with you." She glanced at Edward, "And afterwards, Charlie would like to speak to you, Edward."

"Thank you, Esme," I said gratefully. "I'm sorry you had to become involved in this."

"Bella dear, I would do anything for my children and I count you among them."

No one could doubt the sincerity of her words. I hugged her and repeated my thanks. Edward took my hand in his and we walked back down to the living room.

Edward squeezed my hand encouragingly before I opened the door to the office.

My father looked up anxiously at me, but I remained silent. I still hadn't forgiven him. I looked around the room. I had never been in this particular room before. It was a brightly lit office with expensive looking furnishings - a large desk and a high-backed chair behind it, some bookshelves, a brown leather sofa, and two elegant Victorian style armchairs. On the desk, there was a computer and Carlisle's open medical bag. Charlie looked entirely out of place sitting in one of the armchairs. If the situation wasn't quite so serious, it would almost be amusing.

I folded my arms and stared out the paned window facing the enormous backyard. My eyes traced the path of the river and the peaks of the mountains, but never once did I want to turn around and face my father. After what seemed like an interminably long period of silence, Charlie cleared his throat.

"So…Carlisle says that Edward's injury should heal quickly."

Anger boiled up in me. Did he think that excused his actions?

"Yes," I snapped. "It could have been much worse."

Charlie winced at the implication. "I'm sorry, Bella. It was an accident. I really didn't mean to hurt him."

I whirled around and stared at him incredulously. "How am I supposed to believe that?"

He sighed. "Because, I don't like to admit it, but I know how much he means to you. I know that you would never forgive me if something I did separated the two of you. And because I would never want you to look at me the way you are right now."

I felt myself reluctantly softening.

I turned to face the window again. There was a deer grazing at the edge of the forest. So trusting. I wondered if it knew that it had encroached on the land of its predators.

"What did Esme and Carlisle say?" I inquired, looking desperately for something to say, even though I knew very well what had been said.

"They were very forgiving. More so than I could ever expect. Much more forgiving than I would have been in their position."

"The Cullens are good people," I confirmed.

"And you want to become one of them." It wasn't a question.

"Yes." In more ways than one, I thought.

"But why so soon, Bella?" There was a sense of urgency in his voice. "It's too fast. I know what Esme and Carlisle said, but I need to know why you want this wedding so early. Bella, whatever it is, I'm not going to get mad now. Just tell me…honestly."

"Jeez, Dad. I'm only going to say this once and if you make me repeat it, I'm going to have to find a different target for your gun." I took a deep breath and annunciated slowly and clearly. "I. Am. Not. Pregnant. That…would be kind of impossible given that I…well, we haven't…you know. And it's not like Edward and I are planning on having children anywhere in the near future either." Or ever for that matter.

Charlie looked both relieved and frustrated. "But if it's not that, then why can't you wait? This isn't you, Bella. You wouldn't choose to marry, not at this age."

I laughed sharply. Perhaps Charlie understood me better than I ever gave him credit for.

"I didn't think I would either. When Edward first proposed, I turned him down. Not because I didn't love him, but because I had always been taught, by Mom especially, that marriage at a young age was a mistake. It took me some time to come to this decision, and I was the one to choose the date when I finally decided it was the right choice.

"Edward and I are not you and Renee. Dad, I've had some tough choices already, much tougher than you can imagine and I chose Edward. We belong together and nothing is ever going to change that, and we both know that now. This wedding was going to happen at some point and the choice of when was up to me. I could have waited four years until we were done with college and our families were spread around the country. Or I could choose now, when we could have our friends and family, the people that watched our love blossom, attend our wedding. When I could have my father walk me down the aisle in the place that I am now proud to call home. I chose now. It wasn't a hard decision in the end."

Of course, this was only half the story, but I found I was even convincing myself. I could feel small beads of moisture cascading down my cheeks and Charlie's eyes looked uncomfortably red for the Chief of Police. He blinked them furiously and then gave up. He stood up and hugged me and our tears intermingled on his shoulder.

"Please forgive me, Bella. Don't let a moment of panic destroy our relationship forever." He stood back and furiously wiped at the moisture on his cheeks with his sleeve.

I brushed away my own tears. "We'll work it out, Dad. But it's going to take time. And I can't go back with you tonight. I'm staying here. I can't leave Edward right now. And you have to start trusting me."

He nodded, although I could tell he wasn't happy about my decision.

"Could you send in Edward?" he asked. "I'd like to talk to him."

"Be nice," I warned him.

"My best behavior," he promised me. He smiled half-heartedly. "I already shot the boy, what more could I do?"

I could think of a few choice things he could do, but now was not the time to bring them up. Charlie would keep his word for now. He knew that I would not take it well if he treated Edward badly.

I shot him one last warning glance as I opened the door. "I'll see if Edward feels like getting up. He had nearly passed out from the pain when I left him."

Charlie paled noticeably. Even though I was going to forgive him, it didn't mean that he shouldn't suffer a bit.

Edward was waiting in the living room. His eyebrows raised questioningly.

"Passed out?" he mouthed silently. I shrugged.

He was instantly at my side. "You're becoming a better liar all the time, Bella. Your acting skills are improving," he whispered appreciatively in my ear.

"Keep it short," I whispered back. "And don't forget to wince every once in a while."

He winked at me and grimaced before entering the office.

Unlike the previous conversations, Edward made sure this one was spoken at aggravatingly low volumes. I could barely hear a word they said. Was he trying to protect me? Honestly, shouldn't we be over that by now?

Esme and Carlisle sat with me in the living room trying to distract me. Esme offered me food. Carlisle turned on the giant plasma TV. Of course, I knew they could probably hear every word of Edward and Charlie's conversation, but it seemed wrong to ask them about it considering that we had blatantly listened in to their previous conversation. I consoled myself with the fact that I would have all night to torture Edward.

Edward and Charlie emerged about ten minutes later. Both were grinning which seemed terribly suspicious.

Edward walked Charlie to the door and shook his hand before ushering him out. We both waved goodbye and as soon as he closed the door, I pounced.

"What happened?"

He chuckled. "Patience, Bella!" He glanced at Carlisle and Esme's retreating figures. We were alone now.

"This isn't remotely fair. I know you listened to every single word of my conversation with Charlie. Why am I not allowed to know about yours?" I asked suspiciously.

He looked wary now. "If I tell you, I'm afraid you won't be too happy with me."

"And you think I'd want to know any less after you say something like that?"

He didn't respond, but he led me to the white loveseat and we sat down side by side.

"So?" I demanded.

"It's not so bad really. Charlie apologized and then… I offered my own apologies."

"Why?" I asked perplexed. "He's the one that shot you."

"I apologized for not handling this more formally," he said, glancing at me warily. "I asked him for your hand."

The words sounded so antiquated, like something out of a tawdry Victorian novel. It took me a long moment to digest them.

"You asked Charlie for his permission to marry me?! Edward, if you weren't already dead, I would have to kill you! This isn't the nineteenth century."

"Bella, I'm sorry you're upset, but I don't regret it. Charlie appreciated the gesture. It impressed him and now he's much more content with the prospect of our marriage. Wouldn't you prefer Charlie to be happy for you? For us?"

"Yes, but -" I couldn't find the words. He'd won as usual.

"Bella," he turned the full dazzle on me. He leaned in closer until his forehead brushed against mine and I could feel his cold breath on my face. "Let it go," he whispered, his lips mere inches from mine.

I sighed in longing as he closed the gap. I could barely think, much less protest, when he was kissing me. For a few minutes, or perhaps half an hour, we enjoyed the silence and comfort of each other's company. It had been a very long and overwhelming day. Surrendering to Edward when it meant we could be together like this was quite bearable.

"We were very fortunate," he commented as he held me in his arms. "The day wasn't a total disaster."

I looked at him perplexed. "It was a nightmare!"

"Nightmares don't usually end this way," he said, smiling as he kissed me briefly once more. "Look at it this way, we averted the crisis. Charlie doesn't know our secret - he doesn't even suspect. And now he feels so guilty, he's actually warming up to me. And on top of that, he gave us his blessing. Considering he loathed me only a few hours ago, I'd say that's a substantial improvement."

"But he shot you and, however mild, I know it hurt you," I argued.

He shook his head. "It's all healed. The tingling stopped about an hour ago."

My curiosity overwhelmed me. "Let me see."

He tore off the bandage Carlisle had carefully wrapped around his shoulder. The marble white skin looked perfect and unscathed. I felt a crazy desire to touch it and reached my hand out. The skin was unrelenting and as soft and smooth as soapstone.

"See?" he said. "All healed. Everything worked out for the best."

I smiled at him. My anger was slowly ebbing more and more, especially when I remembered what I could look forward to - an eternity with Edward.

"There is one other good thing about today," I admitted as I stared up into his eyes. "I get to spend the entire night with you and I didn't even have to lie to Charlie about it."

"Mmm, a very good day indeed," he murmured as his lips trailed along my throat.

Perhaps he was right. I did feel some relief knowing that Charlie now accepted our engagement. But something wasn't right. The relief wasn't complete. I felt a gnawing pain as though I'd forgotten something - the feeling that you get when you're on the way to the airport and then suddenly remember that you forgot to pack your toothbrush.

"Edward, stop," I whispered, too distracted to remember what was bothering me. And then, all of a sudden, it hit me. I groaned. "It's not over yet, Edward. We still have to tell Renee."

He laughed. "I'm sure that telling Renee won't be nearly as difficult."

"Well, I'm not so sure," I growled. "I told you she has very distinct opinions about marriage."

"Relax, Bella, everything will be fine," he said encouragingly. He held me closely and began humming my lullaby as he rubbed my back soothingly. I was so tired that I began drifting off in his arms.

Just before I lost consciousness completely, I heard him whisper a question. "Renee doesn't have a shotgun, does she?"

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