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Paved With Good Intentions

Summary:
created by jace If you loved someone, how much would you be willing to sacrifice? Bella makes the most difficult decision of her life; now she has to live with the consequences. A Bella/Edward story.


Notes:


12. Forks

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4934   Review this Chapter

Edward took the phone even as I felt the blood drain from my face. Things moved very quickly after that. He spoke with Carlisle and made several other phone calls, writing notes in his PDA as he talked. In less than ten minutes he had my suitcase packed and was walking me out to the car. I tried to protest, knowing that there was no way I could get a flight to Seattle this late at night, but he told me that he had taken care of everything.

He pulled up in front of his house and escorted me inside. “I apologize for the delay, but I have to pack a few things. I’ll only be a minute.”

Gradually it began to sink in that he meant to accompany me. “Edward,” I began, but he was already heading up to his room.

Elizabeth was waiting for him at the top of the stairs, her face concerned. They spoke quietly, but I could still hear some of what was said.

“…arrangements made at the airport, and there’ll be a car waiting for you when you get there. Are you sure….what about school?”

“…going, Liz. What do you want....let her go by herself? You know what she might be facing...”

When he returned a few minutes later, I said, “Edward, maybe you shouldn’t come with me. You have school, and I don’t want you to get in trouble.” I didn’t want to go by myself, but I was feeling guilty about causing problems with his family.

He wrapped his arms around me and pressed a kiss to my forehead. “I’m going. We’ll deal with the details when we get back.” Gazing into my eyes, he said, “You’re everything to me, Bella, and I’m not letting you go through this alone.”

As I looked at him, captivated by the love and intensity I saw in his eyes, I thought about the promise he had made to never leave me again. He had meant it, I realized. Even when I’d tried to set him free for his own good, even when he no longer remembered our life together, he had found his way back to me. In the midst of my worry and concern, I was filled with a wave of gratitude so overwhelming that it almost brought me to my knees. Lifting my face to his, I kissed him with a depth that tore through both our souls. “Thank you,” I whispered.

He held me in his arms, and for a moment there was peace. Finally he stepped away and brushed a tear from my cheek. “Don’t cry, Bella,” he murmured.

Elizabeth entered the room, carrying a bag and a small cooler like they were a peace offering. “I packed some food and a bag for the hospital. It’s the basic survival kit – blankets, pillows, books, cash for the vending machines – you know the drill.”

“That I do,” he murmured. I took the bags as he wrapped his sister in a tight hug. “Thanks, Liz,” he said gratefully.

“Take care, baby brother.” She smiled up at him before surprising me with a hug as well. “I hope everything goes well with your father, Bella.”

“Thank you,” I replied, wishing there was some way I could tell her how much I appreciated her support.

I followed Edward out to the car, wondering what he had planned. “We really can’t get a flight to Seattle this late,” I warned him.

He lifted my hand and brushed it with a kiss. “Trust me?” he asked.

After everything that had happened, how could I not? “Yes,” I answered, and I let him lead the way.

There was a private plane waiting for us at the airport. Edward introduced the pilot as a friend of the family and helped me into the cabin as our suitcases were stowed. “We’re flying into Port Angeles, and we’ll take a car from there.”

It boggled the mind. Once the plane was in the air, I asked, “Edward, how did you manage all of this?”

He shrugged uncomfortably. “My family has money. My father’s been on the phone ever since I called him from your apartment.”

I looked at him, staggered at what his parents would do for a girl they’d never even met – a girl who was flying all the way to the coast with their seventeen-year-old son. “I’ll pay them back,” I promised. Even if it took several years, I would repay every penny.

His eyes flashed. “No, you won’t. This is a gift, Bella, because you shouldn’t have to worry about trivial things like plane tickets while your father’s having surgery.” Sighing, he ran his hand through his hair as he studied my mutinous face. “Look…my parents’ money couldn’t save Edmund. What it could do was enable them to give him a proper funeral with no concern about expense. It let my mother pick out a beautiful cemetery plot so she has a nice place to visit her eldest son. And it gave them the resources to make sure that their youngest child had the rehabilitation he needed to recover from a horrific accident.” He glared at me, trying to drive his point home. “Money doesn’t mean anything unless you can use it to help the ones you love, Bella. Without that, it’s just a bunch of worthless paper.”

I flinched from the weight of his anger, feeling deeply, sorrowfully ashamed. Every time that Edward had tried to do something nice for me, he had been expressing his love for me. I had thrown that all back in his face, refusing the gesture and negating the emotion behind it. Edward had tried to explain it to me before, but I’d never really grasped it until this moment. Now part of Edward – the part who would know what a discovery this was for me – was gone, and I would never get the chance to tell him that I finally understood. “I’m sorry,” I whispered, tears filling my eyes. “Edward, I’m so very sorry.”

He studied me, and his face relaxed. “No, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be speaking of such things now, while you’re worried about your father.”

Charlie. For a moment, I’d forgotten. How much more guilt could one person carry? I closed my eyes, filled with self-loathing, fear, remorse…the emotions were flying at me so fast that I was drowning.

As always, Edward was my anchor. “Bella…” He wrapped his arm around me and pulled me close to his chest. “Please don’t worry. I spoke to my mom about your father’s injuries, and she said there’s a good chance he’ll make a full recovery. If Dr. Cullen is a good surgeon–”

“He’s the best,” I said staunchly. “Amazing.”

His eyes met mine. “Good,” he said slowly. “Okay, then things look good. Try not to worry, Bella. We’ll know more when we arrive, but for now we should get some sleep.”

I shook my head. “I don’t know if I can,” I admitted.

“Just try,” he said. He pressed a button on the panel above us and spoke with the pilot, and a moment later the lights in the cabin dimmed. Reaching into the bag Elizabeth had packed, he took out a blanket and spread it over us. “Close your eyes, love. Rest against me.”

Surrounded by his warmth and scent, I drifted off faster than I would have thought possible, stirring only once when the plane landed for refueling. We reached Port Angeles a few hours later, and a car was waiting for us as promised. I couldn’t begin to imagine how Edward’s parents had arranged for a rental car for two people under the age of twenty-one in the middle of the night. We loaded our bags and headed to the highway, toward the town where I had met my destiny. I looked at that destiny, currently sitting in the seat beside me, and I wondered what we would find at the other end of the road.

Even human, Edward still retained so much of his own unique nature. His personality, the way he phrased things, the passion with which he approached every aspect of life – all those things were still intact. Subconsciously he seemed to remember me; his body and heart responded to mine as if we had never parted. I wondered whether our return to Forks would uncover more similarities, whether he would recognize or be recognized by someone. I panicked at the thought. The truth would have to be revealed at some point, but I was terrified he’d leave once he knew what I’d done.

We were nearing Forks, and my thoughts turned to Charlie. I couldn’t lose him. It sounds crazy, because just a few weeks ago I was ready to walk away from him forever, but this was different. If I’d left, at least I would have known that Charlie was alive. It was another thing altogether for him to die. I had always been a little too grown up in my relationship with my parents, but that hadn’t changed the fact that I was still their daughter. Deep inside, I was still Daddy’s little girl. If he died now, then it truly meant that it was time for me to be the adult. I wasn’t ready for that. I wouldn’t ever be ready, not even if he lived another fifty years. Even if he made it through the surgery, I was going to have to see him sick and broken in a hospital bed – this man who had always seemed larger than life to me. I didn’t know where I was going to find the strength to do that.

Then we were there, and there was no more time to worry. It was time to do. So I took a deep breath and opened the car door, reminding myself that life really was just the act of continuing to put one foot in front of the other until you’d reached the goal. I remembered a teacher I’d once had who’d told us a joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I laughed quietly, gripped Edward’s hand so hard it made my arm hurt, and walked into the hospital.

The emergency room staff knew me; I’d helped pay their salaries for the better part of the last two years. One of the nurses asked for Dr. Cullen to be paged and led us into a waiting room. “Chief Swan made it through the surgery just fine. From what I hear, Dr. Cullen did a beautiful job.”

I nodded, my eyes searching her face anxiously for more answers. “May I see him?”

“As soon as you speak to the doctor. They’ve moved your dad up to the ICU.” When she saw my startled look, she patted my hand. “Please don’t worry about that. The main reason we placed him there is because we had an available bed, and he can get more individual nursing care. He’ll probably be moved to a regular room after a few days.”

I nodded again to show that I understood, but my mind still rejected her words. Intensive Care. God, he must be really sick. It wasn’t fair – none of it was fair. He shouldn’t have gotten shot, and he shouldn’t be in the hospital, and I shouldn’t have left him, and why did it all have to be so hard? Just like that, the panic that had been building in me for weeks broke loose. I could feel myself hyperventilating; my skin grew hot and then clammy as the room started to whirl around me dizzyingly.

Edward’s strong arms encircled me as he pulled me tightly to his chest. “It’s okay, Bella,” he said firmly. “Everything’s going to be all right. Just breathe. Come on, love. One breath after another, you can do it. Slow and easy…” Over and over his voice coached me, his hands stroking my back until I felt the madness start to recede.

Finally I leaned my head into his shoulder and relaxed. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.

“Nothing to be sorry for,” he whispered in reply. “Okay now?”

I nodded against his neck. “Thanks for sticking with me.”

He kissed the top of my head. “Anytime.”

I heard Carlisle enter the room, but of course that was only because he made noise so he wouldn’t startle the humans. “Is everything all right?” he asked, looking at me with concern as I trembled in Edward’s arms.

Gently I pushed away from Edward and turned to face the man who would have been my father-in-law. “I’m fine now; it all just caught up with me at once. The nurse said my father is doing well?”

He smiled, and the beauty of it calmed me. “Very well. He came through the surgery just as I’d hoped. I can give you more details later if you’d like, but for now just know that he should make a full recovery.”

I reached out to take his hand, loving the feel of his cold skin against mine. I’d missed him – all of them – so very much. “Thank you, Carlisle,” I said quietly.

If my physical closeness or the use of his first name startled him, he didn’t show it. “It was my pleasure, Bella.

“What happened?” I asked.

He grimaced. “Your father and another officer were responding to a domestic disturbance call. The husband had been drinking, and he fired through the window when your father walked to the door.”

I shook my head, angry. “I never imagined that something like that could happen here.” Werewolves and newborn vampire armies, sure. Domestic violence? Not so much.

“It can happen anywhere, I’m afraid.” He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand. “If you don’t mind, I’ll have the nurse take you upstairs to see him while I make a quick trip home. I was waiting until you got here, although I must say you arrived earlier than I expected. You made excellent time.”

“I had help,” I admitted. “Carlisle, I’d like you to meet my friend, Edward Masen. His family arranged for transportation to get me to Forks as quickly as possible.” I held my breath, studying the faces of the two men I dearly loved as I wondered what this reunion would bring.

Carlisle nodded at Edward but continued to hold my hand in his. I knew he tried to avoid shaking hands when possible because he was so cold. “Edward,” he said politely.

Edward studied him, and there was a hint of aggression in his eyes as he slightly returned the nod. “Dr. Cullen,” he replied. “Thank you for taking care of Bella’s father. My mother is an anesthesiologist with the University of Michigan. If it’s all right with Bella, would you mind discussing the case with her?”

Carlisle looked at me. “Bella?” At my nod, he said, “Certainly. Please give your mother’s information to the nursing staff, and I’ll be happy to speak with her.”

“Thank you,” Edward replied tightly, his eyes never leaving Carlisle’s face.

It was surreal. They were both being unfailingly polite, but there was the unmistakable air of hostility between them. I had been worried that meeting Carlisle would trigger all of Edward’s memories, and yet the two men didn’t even seem to like each other. At least, Edward seemed determined to dislike Carlisle; Carlisle on the other hand was too well-bred to express much of anything. “It’s no problem,” he assured us, his voice as calm as ever. “I’ll be back in a few hours, but feel free to have the nurse contact me if you have any concerns.” Squeezing my hand gently, he left.

I turned to look at Edward. “What was that about?” I asked him.

“Nothing,” Edward replied, but his voice was distracted and he continued to stare after Carlisle. Finally he shook his head and turned back to look at me. “I know you’re ready to see your father.”

I desperately wanted to know what he was thinking, but the stubborn look on his face warned me that answers would not be forthcoming. Sighing, I resolved not to pursue it – at least not for now. “Charlie,” I agreed, standing to my feet.

It was as difficult as I’d feared. Charlie lay, pale and still, against white sheets in a darkened hospital room. Monitors and wires were everywhere, and the muted voices and sounds around us underlined that this was a place for people who were severely ill. No matter what Carlisle said, I would feel much better once Charlie woke up and could be moved into another room. I took his hand in mine, wondering how he could look so much smaller than I remembered. There were so many things I wanted to say to him, but one of them was the most important. Leaning down, I pressed a gentle kiss against his cheek. “I love you, Dad,” I whispered. Then I closed my eyes and cried.

After awhile, Edward left to give me some time alone with my dad. There are certain parts of one’s life that should remain private, I think. I talked to Charlie, telling him things that I’d never had the courage to say before. Some of the things I needed to say were so personal that I couldn’t even voice them, and so my heart whispered them instead. What was shared in that half hour was between Charlie and me. When it was over, I dried my tears and walked out of the room.

Edward was sitting in the waiting area. As soon as he saw me, he stood and opened his arms. It was so nice to step into his embrace, to be covered with the strength and reassurance of his love. My cheek was turned to his chest, and his chin rested on top of my head. “Okay?” he asked.

“I will be.” I tightened my arms around him for another wonderful moment before stepping back. “I need to call Renee.” When I’d turned eighteen, Charlie had changed all of his emergency information to list me as next of kin. From what I could tell, nobody had contacted Renee after the shooting. Dreading the next few minutes, I took out my cell phone and dialed Jacksonville.

The call went about as well as could be expected. Renee predictably freaked out upon hearing the news, and I spent most of the phone call calming her down. After finally convincing her that Charlie was fine and that she didn’t have to get on the next flight to Forks, I promised to call her with frequent updates and hung up. Sighing, I turned to face Edward. “I’m glad that’s over.”

He was frowning. “Did she even ask if you were okay?”

I smiled ruefully. “Yes, of course she did. Not right away, but it was in there somewhere.”

“Is that what life with your mother was like?” His eyes were concerned.

“Yes, but it’s fine,” I replied. “She’s always been like that, and I love her.”

“You said that you used to cook for your dad when you lived with him, right?” When I nodded, he put his arm around me. “You take care of people, Bella, but nobody takes care of you, do they?”

I thought about it. My dad put tires on my truck and tried to watch out for me, but he tended to step back if things got too messy. Edward used to protect me, of course, but that was before everything changed. “I guess I’ve been on my own,” I admitted.

His arm tightened. “Not anymore,” he said gruffly.

I leaned against him and closed my eyes. In all honesty, this was one of the reasons I had fallen in love with Edward in the first place: he made me feel safe. It might not sound very romantic, and I’m sure it wasn’t considered acceptable by modern standards, but I didn’t care. When you’ve spent your whole life trying to take care of everyone around you…knowing that if it was going to get done, you had to do it yourself…then it was so nice to finally have someone you could trust to catch you when you fell. If I hurt, Edward would heal me. If I shattered, he would pick up every piece and put it back where it belonged. The best part about it was my complete assurance that the man I’d chosen to give this trust to was worthy of the gift. His heart was pure, and he would love and protect me to the best of his ability. I rested in his arms, and it was so comfortable. “I’m glad you’re here,” I murmured, and I meant it with all of my heart.

He kissed my forehead. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else,” he replied.

Eventually I stretched out on the couch and went to sleep with my head in his lap. When I woke a couple of hours later, we shared some of the food that Elizabeth had made while we talked about nothing in particular.

Carlisle walked into the waiting room as we were finishing our snack. Was it my imagination, or did he study my face a little too carefully as he approached? I couldn’t tell from his voice, which was as smooth as ever as he told me that Charlie continued to do well. “He’ll start waking up more as the day progresses, and we might be able to move him into a regular room as early as tomorrow.”

“That’s great, Carlisle. Thank you so much.” I took his hand again, almost as an experiment this time, and there it was – a subtle shift of the eyes that told me he had noticed, and he was thinking.

Edward had shifted into defensive mode the moment Carlisle walked through the door, and he interrupted the moment to ask if his mother had been contacted.

Carlisle turned to look at him. “I called Dr. Masen a few minutes ago. She’s an admirable woman and quite knowledgeable; it was a pleasure speaking with her.” When Edward nodded curtly, I could swear that I saw Carlisle smile just a little bit. He quickly covered his mouth and pretended to cough before saying, “I have some paperwork to handle, but I’ll be available if you have questions.”

I thanked him again and managed to control myself until he left. Then I looked at Edward. “Okay, that’s enough. What is going on with you and Carlisle?”

“Don’t you mean Dr. Cullen?” he asked, scowling.

I rolled my eyes. “Edward.”

He crossed his arms in front of his chest. “Why don’t you tell me, Bella?”

My heart skipped a beat. Did he remember? “I don’t know what you mean,” I whispered.

His eyes pinned mine. “It’s him, isn’t it? Cullen is the man you loved.”

It shocked me so much that I couldn’t think for a moment. Then I choked out a laugh. “Carlisle? It’s not Carlisle.” You’re getting warmer, though.

“You can tell me the truth, Bella. He’s young and very attractive. It would be understandable.” He tried to take my hand.

I pulled away, irritated. “He’s married, Edward.”

He shrugged. “That doesn’t stop a lot of people.”

“It stops me!” I protested, my heart stinging at his implication.

Immediately he realized his mistake. “I didn’t mean it like that. I swear, Bella – I would never think that of you. I just wondered if maybe Cullen had lied to you, and you left once you found out.”

His clarification helped a bit, but not enough. “Carlisle wouldn’t do that,” I insisted.

He sighed. “Okay. I apologize. It’s just that I can’t help but think he’s involved somehow in what’s going on with you. I don’t trust him, Bella. There’s something about him that sets me on edge, something that just isn’t right about him. Can’t you sense it?”

“I don’t sense anything,” I said stubbornly. My heart was breaking as I looked at Edward’s chiseled jaw. I wasn’t sure what I had expected from Edward traveling with me to Forks, but this wasn’t it. “Carlisle is a good person, Edward. You should give him a chance.”

If anything, his jaw clenched even tighter. “That’s another thing,” he bit out. “How is it that you know him well enough to call him by his first name? Carlisle,” he spat, and it sounded like a curse.

I threw my arms up in the air. “This is me we’re talking about, Edward! How many times do you think I’ve been treated in this hospital, anyway? Besides, his daughter, Alice, was my best friend during high school.” That was as close to the truth as I dared go.

He laughed mockingly. “Tell me another one, Bella. The good doctor’s not old enough to have a daughter your age.”

“She’s adopted!” I cried, my voice definitely too loud for a hospital waiting room. “Dr. Cullen and his wife have adopted kids, because that’s what kind of people they are…good people. The best.” I’d reached my limit. Not wanting him to see my tears, I moved to a couch on the opposite side of the room and covered my face with my hands.

I felt him come to kneel in front of me, his hands gently pulling mine away from my tear-stained cheeks. “Ah, Bella. Please don’t cry. I didn’t mean to make you unhappy.” His voice was tortured as he said, “I’m being such a monster to you.”

My head snapped up, and I glared at him with more fury than I’d felt in a very long time. “You are not a monster!” I whispered fiercely. “Don’t you ever say that again.”

I could tell I’d startled him. “Okay, okay. Shh…” He gathered me in his arms. “I’m sorry, love.” He sighed. “It’s no excuse, but hospitals are…difficult…for me. They bring up a lot of bad memories. I’m sorry for taking that out on you.”

I was still hurting, but I couldn’t stay angry when I saw the pain in his eyes. “Oh, Edward,” I sighed. Leaning forward, I pressed my forehead to his. “I didn’t even think about that. Do you want to get out of here?”

“Will you come with me?” he asked. “I don’t want to leave you, but I think I need to get out for awhile.”

As much as it pained me to admit it, maybe it would be better if we spent some time apart. “Why don’t you go to the house?” I suggested. “I want to see Charlie again, but I’ll get someone to give me a ride in awhile.”

He pulled back to look at me, his eyes scanning my face anxiously. “Are you sure? I can stay.”

I kissed him gently. “No. Go to my dad’s house; I’ll give you directions. Maybe you can plan some kind of dinner? I don’t care what it is, so long as I don’t have to cook it.”

Something in my face must have convinced him, because he nodded and stood. “Okay.” He pulled me into his embrace. “I really do love you, Bella.”

I smiled. “I know.” I watched him leave, my mind filled with so many confusing questions that I didn’t even know where to start looking for answers.

“Bella?” To my surprise, Carlisle was standing in the doorway. “Could I speak with you a moment?”

I looked at him, and something in his face told me that the time had finally come. Taking a deep breath, I replied, “Of course.”

Calm eyes studied me. “Perhaps my office?”

I nodded and followed him, wondering what I was going to say. How did someone even begin to explain a lie of this magnitude?

Ever the perfect gentleman, he escorted me into his office and closed the door behind us. Gesturing for me to take a seat by his desk, he moved to sit beside me. “I apologize, but I couldn’t help overhearing some of your conversation just now. I’ve been wondering about some things since you came into the emergency room a few weeks ago, and your return to Forks has only raised more questions for me. And…as much as I appreciate your rousing endorsement of my family, I have to admit that in all of her time at Forks High School, Alice never mentioned you.”

I bowed my head. “Stupid perceptive vampires,” I muttered, and then I closed my eyes when I heard him stop breathing.

When I finally found the courage to look up at him, it was to find golden eyes staring at me as if their owner hoped to see straight through to my soul. “I’m not sure what you mean,” he said stiffly.

I laughed and ran a shaky hand through my hair. “You don’t have to pretend, Carlisle. I know what you are.” Looking at him pleadingly, I continued, “I want you to know that I mean absolutely no harm to you or your family. I would never say anything that might get you into trouble. But I know everything – I know that you’re vampires, and that you live together as a family instead of a coven, and that you hunt animals instead of drinking human blood.” I spoke quietly, concerned that someone might overhear. “I know that Esme is the sweetest woman I’ve ever met and that she loves being a mother to your children. Emmett is happy and makes people laugh, and Rosalie struggles with anger because of a life that she never wanted. Jasper still isn’t very good at maintaining your family’s chosen diet, and Alice…” Finally my voice began to break. “Alice is light and joy and every good thing that ever existed, wrapped up in a little bundle of energy with a serious shopping problem.” Ever so slowly, I reached out to place my hand on his. “And you…you are the wisest, kindest person I’ve ever known. I know you.”

Still he had not moved. Finally he opened his mouth to speak, and he only asked one thing. “How?

I gathered courage from the cold eternity of his hand. Taking a deep breath, I said, “Because two months ago, I was supposed to become your daughter-in-law.”