Being Mrs. Black
Edward/Bella, Implied Jacob/Bella. Imagine that the Cullens were late in returning to Forks. Bella arrived on schedule, but her life proceeded normally. She and Jacob become the best of friends and with no vampires to awaken them, the wolves don't mature. When he turns 18, Jake and his friends enlist, going to look for adventure in Iraq. He proposes, and Bella can't imagine ever loving someone more than she does her best friend. They quickly marry and he leaves for war. Two months later she gets some news that will turn her life upside down. And on that same day, a beautiful, dangerous stranger appears. From the moment their eyes meet, Bella begins to question those solemn vows she made. Will Bella Black do the right thing? Banner art and banner by Seisei
15. Bedrock of the Soul
Rating 5/5 Word Count 2758 Review this Chapter
PART FIFTEEN: Bedrock of the Soul
Too late. Perhaps it had been too late the day I was born. The connection between us lay that deep, beneath the foundations of what we were, extending into the bedrock of soul and self. They say that the truth shall set you free, but it's a bold-faced lie. The truth is simply its own form of shackle, while it may change the way the mind thinks, it seldom changes anything else. The circumstances remain the same.
Heart and soul might protest that they belonged to Edward Cullen, but my body was still bound to Jacob Black. His ring was still on my finger and his child slept in my belly. My heart still loved him, I swear it did... but not like this. Never like this.
So I stood in a garden, surrounded by roses, and confessed my sin to a vampire. A fallen angel that watched me with tortured golden eyes that mirrored the beautiful complexity of his soul. Those eyes gazed intently at me now, searching for something they couldn't seem to find. An unhappy smile quirked his lips, and he looked down at our joined hands. "I'm not used to feeling this helpless," he whispered. "Of being unable to look ahead and anticipate what's coming." He hesitated, and the corners of his mouth pulled downward into a frown. "Part of my... gift," his voice twisted on the word, "is the ability to read the thoughts of others."
I went still, eyes widening as a flush burned along my skin like wildfire. "Oh god..."
"Actually, you have nothing to worry about." Amusement warred with frustration in his eyes as he tentatively reached out and brushed a lock of hair from my face. "You seem to be the sole exception to that ability."
Exception? "Do you mean you can't hear my thoughts?"
"No." He slid his cool fingers through my hair, gently cupping my face in his hand. "And that's never happened before."
"So..." My lips twitched. "Does that mean there's something wrong with my brain?"
He tucked my hair behind my ear, his fingertips tracing a sinuous line from my temple to my jaw. "I'd considered that possibility." A wry smile returned to his lips. "And I have to admit it seems more likely now that you've refused to run away screaming like any normal human should."
"I see." Funny that it was the fact that he couldn't hear my thoughts that disturbed me the most. That was probably because I didn't have a ready explanation for why. "As for the whole running thing? I just found out I was pregnant a few weeks ago. As revelations go, vampires are nothing." I grinned, but I could already tell he didn't think much of my comparison.
"The miracle of life trumps bloodthirsty monsters?" His eyebrows climbed toward his hairline. "You're right, I was clearly mistaken, there's definitely something wrong with your brain." Sarcasm wasn't very dashing, I'd have to make him aware of that. Later.
"When you get pregnant, then I'll let you make that decision," I said agreeably. He actually stared at that, and I laughed, feeling very comfortable and very safe. Better than I'd felt in longer than I could remember, in fact.
"How that could even cross your mind is... unfathomable. The physical impossibilities are just for starters." He shook his head, but he was smiling again. My heart beat faster, and I lifted a hand to cover his cool one where it cupped my cheek. On impulse, I slowly turned my head just enough to press a soft kiss against his palm. The look in his eyes as they met mine made me shiver. "Sweet lips make promises they cannot keep," he whispered.
"Why wouldn't I keep my promises?" There was a certain irony to that question, when asked by a married woman to a man not her husband. "Or maybe there are no promises at all. No certainties. Maybe we'll just have to live for this moment and forget about the ones after." Was that a twinge of desperation in my voice? I didn't know what to say, or what to think. The world was spinning too fast, and I was tired of it. I was tired of all the demands and the drama. This felt right, it felt real. Why were the women expected to fight the lonely fight and hold the kingdom together when the men went off to fight their wars? Why was Guinevere to blame for finding love when her existence had become the absence of love? Was her choice so wrong when Arthur had been the one to leave her?
"There are a lot of moments in forever; it's difficult for me to forget all of them at once." Edward's wry voice pulled me away from my inner struggle. "An infinite number to live without you, if I were to lose you." His thumb caressed my cheek over and over. "If you were mine to lose."
"I'm here now." The words didn't hold the comfort I would have liked, and we both knew it.
"You are." The way he said it held a certain finality, as though he were trying to make himself content with it. For a long moment, he was silent, then he lightly stroked my hair, his eyes caressing as he looked at me with undisguised appreciation. "I don't think I told you," he said quietly. "But you look beautiful." Again that smile curved his lips, the one that was both knowing and sad. "It's easy to believe this garden was put here so that you could stand in it this evening."
"Like something out of a fairytale."
"Exactly like that." Leaning down, he pressed his lips to my forehead. He remained there, his cool cheek against my temple as I quietly breathed in the scent of him, just trying to be. "Esme would like very much to introduce you to the rest of our family," he said finally. "Do you think you'd be alright with that?" Pulling back, he captured my eyes. "Knowing what we are."
"I know you think that I should be afraid of you, Edward..." I reached up and lightly held his face in my hands. "I'm not. I'm not afraid of you. I'm not afraid of Esme or Alice, I'm certainly not afraid of Dr. Cullen."
My insistence troubled him, I could tell that immediately. He frowned and shook his head. "There's nothing wrong with a little self-preservation now and then. I think it would make me feel better if you possessed some."
"Sure, there's nothing wrong with it." I nodded, I even smiled. "But I'm not going to run screaming, and if we've already established that, then I might as well be sociable. If worst comes to worst, there's not going to be much I can do about it anyway, so I don't see why I should waste time worrying about it." Okay, perhaps I wasn't quite so zen about things, but it sounded good.
He arched an eyebrow, and the sentiment was eloquent. "I put a higher value on your life than that, and I would thank you to remember it." Those golden eyes bored down into mine, making absolutely certain that he was understood. Then he smoothly turned and offered me his arm. "If worst comes to worst... well, I won't let it come to that."
"It's my life," I replied tartly, but I reached out and slid my arm through his as we began walking back toward the house. "Remember that, please."
"What about your child's life?" The question caught me off-guard, and instinctively my hand flew to my stomach. I was ashamed to admit that it hadn't really crossed my mind. I still wasn't used to the idea of being a mother, of shielding another life inside of me... but I couldn't just dismiss his question. It literally had me speechless. "That has to be sobering," Edward said quietly, his tone apologetic. "I didn't intend to use it against you... but I think you need to seriously consider it."
"You're right." I took a deep breath, my hand still protectively splayed across my belly. "You're absolutely right. It's not my life... and I completely forgot that." My expression took a bleak turn as I gazed unseeing at the windows of the house that lay beyond us. "What kind of a mother am I?"
He stopped, turning to take my face in his hands again. "You will be a good one." The gentle reassurance in his tone buoyed me up. "For now, you're young and frightened, and alone. Anyone that's gone through what you have in the past few days would be overwhelmed. It's to be expected and completely forgivable." I hadn't realized that I was crying until he gently wiped away the tears from my cheeks. "Bella... it's going to be alright."
I closed my eyes, the gentle comfort like a balm to my bruised and battered soul. It was pathetic how badly I needed even that small encouragement, how wearily needful I was of a pair of strong hands to hold me up when I stumbled. The ease with which he slipped into that role wasn't lost on either of us. I took a deep breath, steadying myself. Seized by the desire to lighten the mood, a slightly mischievous grin curving my lips, and I lightly poked him."So... what happened to my needing to be more fearful of your carnivorous family?"
He sighed and swore softly, I'd caught him off-guard this time. "It's still a valid point," he said firmly. "And it will remain a valid point regardless of you determination to ignore it." Letting me go, he tucked my arm through his again and resumed our walk toward the house.
"So... how many members of your family are there?" I glanced up at him, curious.
"There are seven of us, total." Golden eyes met mine and he seemed to be contemplating something. "I need to apologize. The story we're portraying right now is that I am Esme's brother. The truth is, she and Carlisle are more my adoptive parents than anything."
I nodded. "So none of you are actually related." Again I had to fight the urge to giggle as he lifted his eyebrows, impressed.
"You are perceptive."
"No..." I grinned. "I'm just a good guesser."
He smiled. "Alright, a good guesser, then." Pausing, he looked thoughtful. "Alice and Emmett... I definitely couldn't ask for a better sister or brother. The ties between us are stronger than blood. Jasper is no less my brother, really, but our relationship is a bit more... subtle? And my relationship with Rosalie is... lovingly adversarial." Pleased with his description, he chuckled, then paused to look down at me with shining eyes. "I'm anxious for you to meet them all."
"I'm anxious about that, too." Now that I thought about it, I really was. I'd met Carlisle, Esme and Alice already, of course. But not under these circumstances... Although, what were the circumstances, really? I looked up at him again, and wondered. Uncannily it felt like a man taking his chosen lady home to meet the family. Wasn't that exactly what it was? Did that bother me?
No. It didn't. And I was left to ponder that as he led me through the back door. Four pairs of eyes were on us as soon as we stepped into the room. Edward made a soft sound of annoyance, but I had no way of knowing why and he wasn't telling. Instead he smoothed over his expression immediately and guided me forward.
Esme watched me intently from where she sat on the couch, an anxious look in her golden eyes. Carlisle stood close beside her, his expression more neutral, but as I met his gaze, he smiled and inclined his head in a welcoming nod. Alice was by far the most relaxed of the four, curled up like a contented cat on the lap of a lean, blonde-haired man, the only one of the four I hadn't met. His expression was even more neutral than Carlisle's had been, not forbidding precisely, just cautious. A reserve that the dark-haired pixie in his arms had little patience for. "I told you," she declared with satisfaction, her words meant for them all. "I told you that she'd be just fine."
Patting her companion on the knee, she vaulted off his lap and was at my side in an eyeblink. With an incandescent smile, she took my other hand, squeezing it gently in her cold fingers. Edward looked down at her with a grin that was pure affection, and I had a feeling that if I hadn't stood between them that he would have ruffled his sister's short, spiky hair.
"Bella, this is my family," he said quietly. "Most of it, anyway." The annoyance was back. "These are my parents, Carlisle and Esme." Esme rose gracefully to her feet, her anxious expression given way to a beautiful smile. "You know Alice." Alice bumped my shoulder with a conspiratorial giggle. "This is Jasper." He nodded toward the man whom Alice had been cuddling moments before. Jasper had shifted so that he was leaning forward in the chair, elbows resting on his knees.
"It's nice to meet you, Bella," he said, his voice polite, expression still neutral.
"Don't mind him," Alice said quietly, "he'll warm up as he gets to know you."
"I have to apologize for Rosalie." Esme frowned, glancing toward the wide windows at the back of the room. "She's being somewhat difficult about this."
"Emmett's trying to reason with her," Alice added. "But it's not going to help much."
"Rosalie's always difficult." Snorting softly, Edward shifted so that he could slide his arm around my waist. It was a subtle gesture, but it pleased me far more than it should. "Being difficult is what she does."
"Edward, please be nice." Esme scolded him as she glided gracefully forward. "I'm so glad that you wanted to stay." Edward loosened his grip just enough to let her pull me into a careful hug. Leaning back, she held my face in her cool hands. "I wouldn't have blamed you for leaving, but..."
"It's hard to let go of someone when you're already attached." I covered one of her hands with my own, and I could feel Edward's delighted approval shining on me like sunlight.
Carlisle had quietly joined his wife as we spoke. I glanced at him, and then impulsively pulled away from Edward and Esme, hesitating briefly before I stepped close enough to give him a tentative hug. I could sense his surprise, but his arms went around me as gently and carefully as Esme's. "Thank you," I said quietly.
"For what, my dear?" He looked slightly puzzled as I pulled back to look into his face.
"A little of everything, I think." It was hard to describe exactly what had led me hug him, I'd just... wanted to. "For taking care of me. For taking care of my baby. For inviting me into your home." And perhaps most importantly, allowing me to meet your son. I had a lot to thank this man for. In that respect, the hug was just a down payment.
Without knowing precisely how, I sensed Edward was behind me. He slid his arms around my waist again, tugging me back against him as though he were done sharing. It made me smile, but my smile was nothing compared to the look on Esme's face as she watched us; a look of quiet joy.
"Thank you," Edward murmured in my ear as the others relaxed and dispersed, leading the way back toward the furniture where we could more comfortably talk.
"For what?" I laughed softly, realizing I was echoing Carlisle.
"For being your stubborn, infuriating, amazing self."
I laughed again, leaning into the cold solidity of his body. "You're welcome... and I'll remind you of that the next time you complain."
He pressed his cool lips to my bare shoulder. "You do that."
"I will. Count on it."
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