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Being Mrs. Black

Summary:
BMBEdward/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


Notes:


16. Rose Garden Grudge Match

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3079   Review this Chapter

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: Rose Garden Grudge Match

Edward POV

I can't say for certain how long we stayed there, just talking. The awkwardness gave way to an intimate familial warmth within the first few minutes, and Bella very naturally became a part of that dynamic. She asked polite questions and attentively listened to each answer, never wavering even when the answers became stories. Not even Jasper could resist her for long, his thoughts fixating less and less on her scent as time wore on.

At first we sat together on the sofa, formality abandoned as she slipped her sandals off to tuck her feet beneath her. We kept a friendly distance, an appropriate and casual reserve, but as the time passed that distance began to lessen. In tiny increments and by mutual accord we shifted closer to one another, drawn as though by some irresistible force. The phenomenon was never addressed directly, but every so often I would catch her lovely, dark eyes flickering my way, her lashes casting long shadows on her fair cheeks as she played at being demure. My family was fully aware of our behavior; Alice was flatly smug, and my mother simply observed with gentle, approving thoughts. Some part of me knew that I should be less encouraged by their implicit permission, but it was impossible to think that way with Bella so close, my body equally on edge both as a predator and as a man.

The conversation continued, drifting as it often will among people with a deep familiarity to one another. We discussed the highlights of my father's day at the hospital and heard Alice's opinions on a new color scheme for the parlor. No one excluded her, but Bella lapsed into a comfortable, observant quiet, content to be present without intruding, her gaze missing very little. Jasper and I were discussing the prospects of a automotive auction in Seattle when I felt a light weight against my arm. I looked down to find Bella's dark head resting against me, her eyes closed. Still not free of exhaustion's clutches, she had fallen asleep there, completely relaxed against my cool, hard body.

This close, I could hear her heartbeat clearly, and for the space of several beats I simply gazed at her. Her body was a sinuous curve against the couch cushions, slender and lovely in her long, blue dress. The inner light that was with her always was shining even in repose; she was breathtaking, and she stole away my every desire to resist. With the greatest care, I slid over a fraction more so that her head was pillowed on my chest, her body tucked securely beneath my arm. She sighed but never opened her eyes, and I dared the trespass of stroking my hand down the silken length of her hair.

I don't know that I've ever seen that expression on your face. Esme's thoughts reached me clearly, and I looked up to meet her loving eyes. It's a beautiful thing, my darling. A smile curved my lips of its own volition, the warmth of Bella's body against mine a particularly sweet pleasure. Any darker thoughts were kept ruthlessly at bay; I refused to let them spoil the moment.

The talk moved on without me and then transitioned into a weighty silence, their thoughts and eyes turned my way. "We should probably put Bella in bed, Edward." My mother rose, crossing the room to look down into Bella's peaceful face. "She's had a very hard time of it, she needs as much rest as she can get." The reluctance to let her go was powerful, but I had no argument against Esme's sensible words. With a sigh, I stood and cradled Bella in my arms, moving toward the stairs with my mother gliding along in our wake. The room that Esme shared with Carlisle was by far the safest place for Bella to sleep. Neither Carlisle nor Esme posed a danger, and their bed was both comfortable and seldom used.

Upstairs, I lay Bella down and sat on the bed beside her, fully intending to stay while she slept. My mother appeared at my shoulder and discreetly cleared her throat. "I have a nightgown here for her. Something a little more comfortable to sleep in, I'm sure." Anyone else could have feigned ignorance of what Esme wanted. Anyone but me, who could see from her thoughts that I was expected to leave while she saw to Bella's comfort. I frowned, tempted to protest that I was no schoolboy, and fully capable of assisting her. Then I realized that seeing a naked woman and seeing Bella naked were two entirely different things.

If I were human, I suspect I might have blushed. Instead, I nodded and made as graceful an exit as could be managed under the circumstances. Judging by the soft laughter that rippled through my mother's thoughts, I was fooling no one. Sighing, I took up a place outside the door, back against the wall. The day had been surreal, at moments balanced on a knife's edge, and at others so incredibly sweet that it defied words. I wanted to linger in that sweetness, to carry it with me for those times when I was forced to let her go, but that simple desire was denied me, broken up by the unmistakable pull of my brother's thoughts.

Edward. Emmett's mind was uncharacteristically sober, his thoughts unusually focused. Immediately it had me on edge. Could you come downstairs? We need to speak with you. If there had been any way for him to hold back the truth from me, I suspect he might have. But I was not easily thwarted, and I filtered quickly through the foremost issues on his mind. Straightforward as always, the root of my brother's concern snapped clearly into view--his lovely viper of a wife.

The idea of denying his request was tempting; I had no love for indulging Rosalie in her fits of temper. She was my sister, the wife and beloved of my favorite brother, but I'd learned long ago that Rosalie and I related best at a distance. She resented and disliked me for that very reason; one of the keys to her self-worth was her status as a veritable Helen of Troy among the Greeks. That I'd resisted being cast as Paris in her drama was something she would never forgive. Still, if I poked the queen bee in her nest, it would inevitably cause Emmett grief.

With a sigh, I relented, thinking dark thoughts as my body carried me down the stairs only a fraction slower than the speed of thought. Emmett alone waited for me in the great room. Oh, of course, Rosalie had staged her scene elsewhere. No mere interior would do for a pair with our shared penchant for drama. Emmett's thoughts were chagrined by the lengths she went to and with which he complied; when the choice was his to make, the path taken was always the most direct one. It was in such times as these that my brother considered us the simple, childish ones, and he the adult with no taste for our games. Secretly, I had always suspected he was right.

"She's waiting for you," Emmett's voice was quiet, disapproving. There was no need to tell me where she waited, I was already aware, my mind moving past him to where she stood ready for her cue. The rose garden? Nicely done. I nodded to him, but said nothing more. Tonight he was no more than a signpost, a living post-it note. Of course she saw him as more, some days it was the only reason I could still tolerate her, but for now the description was apt.

I stepped out into the cool darkness, my eyes drawn unerringly toward my mother's roses. Night was no barrier for my kind; I could see her clearly as I approached, contemplating a coral rose with an artful gravitas. It was all affectation; I wouldn't doubt that she had practiced in the mirror beforehand. Even with access to her thoughts, I couldn't quite fathom why she bothered, unless she was too accustomed to the role to put it aside solely for my benefit.

"You wanted to speak with me?" My refusal to play the game annoyed her, and her sable eyes cut sharply my way. Too bad. I was not about to pretend I was there for the pleasure of her company.

"Someone needs to." She did not turn, her cool demeanor in direct conflict with her seething thoughts. "Carlisle and Esme are in no hurry to rein you in, and Jasper is Alice's lapdog." My jaw clenched, she was in fine form tonight.

"Get to the point, Rosalie." I could be with Bella right now instead of playing this game. That thought did not improve my mood.

At last she faced me, drawing herself up to her full height, a goddess in her righteous fury. Although her charms had never been to my taste, I could appreciate what drew men to her, she was magnificent in her way. "You don't know what you're doing. Not to us, or to her, not even to yourself."

I went very still, my eyes boring into hers. To her credit, she didn't so much as flinch. "I know exactly what I'm doing."

"No. You don't." Her voice was flat, not at all the dulcet tones of a goddess. "She's human, married and she's pregnant. As if that were not reason enough to stop your insanity, she belongs to the dogs. Any one thing would be insurmountable; all of them together are proof that you've finally lost your mind."

"I am aware of the challenges." The words were taut, clipped, as I struggled to keep my composure.

"Of course you are." Folding her arms across her chest, her eyes bored into mine. "You've lost all sense of judgment, brother. You think you are just the man to perform this miracle." She shook her head. "God does not grant miracles to demons, Edward." I flinched, her artfully crafted barb hitting just as she'd intended. "If you manage not to kill her, then will you start a war for her?" My hands tightened into fists. "You've brought Helen back to Troy, Paris, but you're a fool if you think the Greeks aren't already debating how best to bring the walls down."

"Shut up, Rosalie."

"You've given them the moral victory already. The righteous husband against the spoiled, adulterous prince-"

"Keep your forked tongue in your poisonous mouth!" I lunged at her, but she slipped away from my grasp. The air became heavy with the menacing thoughts directed my way from Emmett. He was still at the back door of the house, listening in as unobtrusively as possible, but he made it clear he would intervene if I didn't calm myself and quickly. I took a deep breath and fought back the anger, smoothing my lips over my bared teeth.

So Paris was to be my role, then? Fine. So be it. The pale and jealous creature before me was no match for my Helen. I would fight for my queen, to the last breath.

"You're sinking, Edward. And the family is going down with you." Rosalie's voice was soft, urgent. "You'll break the treaty and inflict your miserable insanity on the rest of us, and for what? A fragile human girl you could crush with a heavy sigh. Listen to yourself, she's poisoned you, Edward."

"God, do you ever shut up?" My rage was on the rise again. "If anyone is poisoned, it's you; with bitterness. Bella is far more than you could ever be and that eats you alive!"

If it were possible, she paled. "Do you think I don't know that?" Pain trembled in her every word. "I envy what she has, what she can give to her husband that I can't." Her fists clenched, and in her thoughts she struggled to collect herself, pulling on her mantle of self-righteousness. "But that gift does belong to her husband; it's her husband's child that she carries. She's not yours, Edward. She never will be."

I'd finally had enough. "This conversation is over, Rose." Forcing myself to dismiss her, I turned on my heel. "Don't trouble yourself to try again."

"I just want what's best for the family." She took a step to follow me and I growled, very softly, stopping her in her tracks. Taking a deep breath, she tried one last time. "That includes you."

I turned my head just enough for her to see the cold glint of my eye. "I will thank you not to trouble yourself with my affairs again, madam." The succinct frigidity of my words caused her to recoil, visibly shaken.

Satisfied, I accepted that as my cue to exit, striding off into the night.

POV Shift- Bella

Sixteen hours; two-thirds of one twenty-four hour day. A lot when you look at it one way, not very much at all when you look at it another. Sixteen hours is an increment that often passes by with relatively little notice, filled with the various and sundries of life. I can't put my finger on what exactly, but something about spending sixteen hours squeezing a watermelon through a drinking straw makes you sit up and count the seconds. Every second, counted out one after the other, he was with me.

Sometimes he held my hand, his face in my sight, speaking quiet words of encouragement. At other moments, he sat behind me and cradled my body against his, holding and supporting me as each contraction came. I felt his lips at my temple and his hand on my brow, felt him sponge away the sweat before it could blind my eyes. Even when I snapped at him, lashing out from pain, or sobbed that I would not, could not be ready, he never became angry. His soft reassurances were my strength, carrying me through one of the most difficult experiences of my life.

Then in one last rush of pain, as he held me, strained with me; his voice commanded me to push, to not give up, and at last the awful pressure found its relief. A shrill cry filled the air.

"Bella," Edward said softly, my name a song on his lips. "Bella... you did it."

"We did it." Breathless and spent, I could not help a upwelling of joy in my heart as I looked up into his gorgeous green eyes.

"Yeah we did... mom." Smiling with the loving radiance of a sunrise, he stroked my hair back from my face.

I sighed, resting my head back against the pillows. "I'm never going to get used to that."

"Well dad," the doctor's amused voice came from the foot of the bed. "Come and cut the umbilical cord." I grinned at his excitement as he left my side and joined the doctor, allowing me a moment to prepare myself before I met my offspring.

"Is it a boy or a girl?"

"A girl." Edward's voice was reverent. "She's beautiful."

"Can I see her?"

"Here we come!" Opening my eyes, I watched him all but dance toward me with a squirming, blanket-wrapped bundle in his arms. It was only when he came closer that I gasped, my eyes widening in horror as his last few steps to my side were taken in slow motion. What Edward held, what he cradled with such a look of joy, was not a human baby... but a wolf cub that turned to look at me with intelligent eyes as black as night.

I woke up with a muffled cry and sat bolt upright in bed. My heart was racing, and I was breathing like I'd just finished a race. My hand went automatically to my stomach, but nothing seemed amiss. There was no baby, inhuman or otherwise, no green-eyed Edward to greet me when I woke. Just a dark quiet and a sense of being in a strange place. I realized after a moment that I was no longer wearing the blue dress, and I blushed as I contemplated who might have put me in a nightgown. Esme, I'm sure it was Esme. But my questionable certainty didn't stop me from blushing.

Scooting to the edge of the bed, I sat there for a long moment and made an executive decision that a bathroom run was in order. The room was still vast, but it was easy to find my way across with bright moonlight flooding in through the windows. I made it there, accomplished my mission and was heading back when I heard it. Insistent but faint, it took me several heartbeats to realize exactly what I was hearing. My cellphone.

Startled into action, I made two circuits around the bed before realizing the sound was coming from the nightstand drawer... and then it stopped. Yanking the drawer open, I pulled the phone out and flipped it open. There on the screen were the words I'd longed and dreaded to see-- 'Jake-Iraq.' Transfixed, I was frozen by the meaning of those words. Jake was calling me. My husband. My husband was calling me, or trying to. So why couldn't I bring myself to immediately call him back? Why was I staring instead of dialing? It wasn't because I didn't want to talk to him... was it?

The choice was taken from me as the phone came to life again. Startled again, I squeaked and almost dropped it before taking a moment more to stare, frozen with indecision. What should I do? Jake was calling me. What the hell should I do? Answer it, stupid.

Pressing the button, I hastily brought it to my ear. "Hello?"

"Hey, beautiful." And just like that, there he was. My handsome, loving husband and best friend was on the other end of the line-- and I couldn't find the words to talk to him.

Running my hand through my hair, I said the only thing I could, my voice hoarse with unshed tears. "Hey Sunshine..." If there's someone out there, listening to desperate prayers, I prayed that they would hear me then. Because I was a horrible, horrible person in need of some divine intervention... because I had no idea what I was going to do.