DISCLAIMER: All recognizable characters belong to Stephanie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended.
You got the world, but baby, at what price? Something so strange, hard to define. It isn’t that hard, boy, to like you or love you. I’d follow you down, down, down; you’re unbelievable. If you’re going crazy, just grab me and take me. I’d follow you down, down, down; anywhere. One for the money, two for the show. I love you, honey; I’m ready, I’m ready to go. ~ Lana Del Rey, Million Dollar Man
Sitting on the counter, I kept my eyes away from the steamed glass shower door. Instead, I focused on the bowl of oatmeal in my hands, and actively avoided picturing my very naked husband as he washed himself. Yes, definitely not thinking about that.
As had become our tradition the last couple months, I woke up a few minutes after he got out of bed, scrounged around the house for something to eat, and met him back in the ensuite as he got ready. Morning Edward was one of my favorite Edwards. He was gruff and sleepy and usually half naked.
Every morning I sat on the counter and we shared whatever breakfast I had. Edward shaved and I ogled him. He got dressed in his typical suit and I thought about how much fun I would have taking it off of him later.
It had been about three months since I had been back in Chicago for good. Three blissful, stress free months after what would undoubtedly be the most stressful year I had ever had. Planning and executing a Super Bowl halftime show alone was one thing, doing it on top of a high-profile award season was completely insane. Somehow, I pulled it off. All while winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards. On top of a handful of others. That still felt like a dream, despite the statues I had downstairs.
Needless to say, I was exhausted by the time I got back home with Edward. Edward, who calmed me down after every breakdown, who convinced me I could do it all in the first place. Finally, we had some peace and quiet again.
Edward sauntered out of the shower, taking his time wrapping a towel around his waist. I was fairly certain he did it on purpose, just to taunt me. “Good morning,” he said, giving me a quick kiss before he started covering his chin in shaving cream. Before he started, I held out a spoon full of oatmeal for him.
“What are you going to do today?” he asked me as I watched his hands skillfully run the razor along his chin.
“I’m going to grocery shop,” I said confidently.
“Yes. People go to stores and buy food to cook. Grocery shop.”
“When was the last time you went grocery shopping?” Edward asked as politely as he could. It wasn’t an insult as most people would probably take it. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I personally went grocery shopping and didn’t have the food delivered to me.
“I don’t know. Maybe when I was eighteen or nineteen?” Growing up, I did a lot of the grocery shopping for Renee and Charlie. Things had to still work the same, right?
“You can just order it like we usually do, Bella,” he told me with a smirk that told me all I needed to.
“I think I can handle grocery shopping. It’s very… domestic. That’s what I’m all about these days, you know.” Once my life calmed down and I had time to recuperate from everything, I realized I had never really stayed in one place too long. Never got fully settled, or in a daily routine. The longest I stayed in one place was the island with Edward, but even then, after about a year I started working again.
I wanted some normalcy and domestication. A normal day for a stay at home wife probably consisted of going to the grocery. “So… do you know where the nearest grocery store is?”
Edward shook his head at me but didn’t say anything about my inexperience with the grocery stores in the area. “My mother goes to one about ten minutes away. Ben will take you there.”
We were quiet for a while after that. Edward focused on shaving and I watched every movement he made, fascinated by the way I could see the muscles in his arms move with every twitch of his wrist.
The aging process has been very kind to Edward. He was still young, of course, but I had known him for nearly seven years and he had gotten more attractive as time went on. It wasn’t fair in the slightest, but it was true.
Edward pulled me out of my haze, shoving the spoonful of oatmeal that I had hovering in front of my mouth into his. “It’s not polite to stare.”
“It’s not polite to tease, either.”
Edward rinsed his face, freshly shaven and too handsome to bear. He came to stand between my legs, spreading them just far enough for his hips to slide in place between them. Strong hands pulled me to the edge of the counter, pressing us chest to chest. My bowl of oatmeal clattered to the counter.
“You know I’d do anything you asked me to. I’m the farthest thing from a tease,” Edward growled against my neck, his lips feasting upon my skin. The warmth of his breath, the smooth wetness of his tongue, and the silky smoothness of his neck all had me gripping his back, pulling him as close as possible.
Before I could say anything, Edward’s phone started ringing from the bedroom. We let out matching groans of frustration. Edward ignored the ringing and instead quickly finished getting ready.
I followed him out of the bedroom, retying the belt on my robe from where Edward had nearly undone it.
“I’ll have to meet you at the benefit, is that okay?” Edward asked, coming out of the closet in a crisp, grey suit. Fuck, that man in a suit…
Benefit. Focus. “Yes, that’s fine,” I sighed. I would rather cut off my own hand than go to this benefit, but it was fine.
“You don’t have to go, Bella.”
“Well I can’t let them know I don’t want to go. It’s fine. I’ll meet you there,” I said with more confidence. “You’re going to be late, and I have grocery shopping to do.”
My shopping cart was full of everything that caught my eye in the store. There were just so many things. Apples, always delicious. Bagels, why not? There were seven different kinds of flavored water in the cart, and two different kinds of rice because I had no idea what the difference between them was.
As I was standing in front of what seemed like a million spices, I heard my name being called. Looking over toward the sound I saw Esme walking over, rather begrudgingly, with a blond woman I had never seen before.
Fan-fucking-tastic. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Ben tense up as they approached.
“Esme,” I said with a smile. Esme wrapped her arms around me in an awkward hug that I knew was only for appearance’s sake.
“Bella, this is Maria Sanders, we’ve been friends since grade school,” Esme said, a fake smile on her face.
I looked over at the blond woman, surprised to see a pleasant, kind smile on her face. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you too, Isabella. Esme has told me wonderful things about you.” It took a lot of willpower not to scoff at that. “I even caught your Super Bowl performance this year, it was wonderful.”
“Thank you, I appreciate it,” I responded, pleased that this woman already seemed to like me more than Esme.
“Esme and I were just talking about how we were about $20,000 short for our Children’s Hospital fundraiser this year. Such a pity.”
Mob wife small talk. I could handle that. “Oh? I’d be happy to donate and make up for it, if there’s still time?”
“Edward already made a very generous donation, dear. About a month ago at a Sunday dinner.”
Ah, a subtle dig at the fact that I hadn’t been to Sunday dinner in months. Edward went sometimes, but usually only once a month. Esme knew why we stopped going, everyone knew. Edward hated the way she treated me, and I hated it too. It was understandable if she just didn’t like me, but that didn’t mean she had to be outright rude.
“Oh, well I haven’t,” I said, giving Maria my best smile and ignoring the glare from Esme. “All of my charitable donations go through my foundation. I’ll have them get in contact with you.”
Maria pulled out a card from her purse and handed it to me. “Oh, how wonderful! Thank you, Isabella. It was lovely to run into you.”
“It was nice to meet you, too, Maria,” I replied honestly. It was. She seemed more genuine than Esme. She was still friends with Esme, someone I knew I couldn’t really trust, so I had to keep my distance from her. But, the run in could have been much worse.
“I’ll see you tonight, Bella,” Esme said as she retreated. It sounded more like a threat than a friendly parting.
Leaning against the cart, still in front of the spices, I pulled my phone out to text Edward.
I hate grocery shopping.
My day may have turned to shit, but at least Edward would get a laugh out of it.
Ditch the grocery and come have lunch with me at the office.
There was no shame in admitting defeat to a grocery store. Plenty of people simply ordered their groceries probably. Plus, lunch in his office usually meant Edward was too busy to leave, but still wanted some company.
Ben and I left my cart by the spices and got out of the store as quickly as possible. I stopped at home and grabbed a few things, including my laptop. It was still early. I figured after lunch I could work in Edward’s office for a little while before I had to get ready for tonight.
I stopped and got us a couple of sub sandwiches on the way to his office. I carried the sandwiches and Ben had my other box in his arms. Bypassing Edward’s secretary with nothing more than a smile, I let myself in his office. He was on the phone, so I had Ben put the box on the small coffee table in the corner and sat, waiting for him to be done.
Watching Edward do basically anything was a bit of a turn on but hearing him all authoritative on the phone was especially so. He was gruff and commanding. Too sexy for his own good.
“What’s in the box?” Edward asked before he even set the phone back on the receiver.
Standing, I pulled out the Oscar reputation won for Best Picture, and the Grammy it won for Album of the Year. As always, just seeing my name engraved on the plaques gave me butterflies in my stomach.
The Grammys had been delivered a few weeks ago. At the Oscars, they added your name plate to the statue right in front of you and you left with it. The Grammys took a while longer to actually get delivered.
“I was thinking maybe you should keep these here,” I shrugged. Standing in front of the shelves he had in the corner, most filled with books or other random trinkets. It was obvious he didn’t care about them, I could see Esme or Alice coming in and decorating it for him.
“Bella, those are yours. Keep them in your room at home.”
Shaking my head, I put some of the random trinkets in the box and made a spot for the two statues. “None of that would have happened without you. I like them here,” I said, standing back and looking at them amongst Edward’s things.
Edward gave me everything. He never let me use any of my own money anymore. He pieced me back together after my incarceration, and so long ago after the shooting. It always seemed like he did more for me than I did for him. Whenever I brought it up, he said I took care of him more than I thought, just by being there for him, but I always felt like it wasn’t enough.
The awards were my small way of saying he was everything to me; that I would do anything for him and give him anything he wanted.
Strong arms wrapped around my waist from behind, and Edward’s chin rested on my shoulder. “Have I mentioned how much I love you today?”
“Maybe once this morning.”
“Hmm. Terrible oversight on my part. I really fucking love you.”
After we ate I settled myself on the couch in Edward’s office while he worked and did some work of my own. Mostly, I just had to clean up my inbox and refuse Heidi when she said she had a script she knew I would love. I wasn’t ready to put myself out there again just yet. Skimming her email, I started paying more attention to it when she said there were a few people wanting a writing session with me.
I loved writing songs, but I usually did it alone. I would have a good outline of what I wanted, and then take it to producers and other writers and we would fill it in. I had never really sat down with anyone else and written anything from start to finish. It could be fun, I supposed. I would think about it.
The afternoon was peaceful, sitting in Edward’s office with him while we both worked. I would have to make it a more common thing. He was in a meeting when I had to leave to get ready, so I left him a simple note on his desk, telling him I would meet him at the benefit.
Much too soon, I was walking into the ballroom alone. It was an all too familiar scene before me. Decorations covered the large space, tables fanned across the marble floor. It was a nearly identical scene to the event where I met Edward so long ago.
This time, though, I was his wife and the entire Chicago Police Department had it out for me. I had dreaded the event the first time I came alone, but it was nothing compared to how much I didn’t want to be here now.
There were too many familiar faces surrounding me. Faces I saw during a time in my life I had tried my hardest to forget. Too many uncomfortable memories flooded my mind. To make matters worse, I was the only Cullen here so far.
Sitting at the table, I grabbed a flute of champagne from the first person I saw and quickly downed it. The drink did nothing to take the edge off, so I didn’t hesitate to order something stronger when a waiter came by.
I carefully sipped my drink and traced the pattern on my skirt. I tried to dress as simply as possible. The black strapless top ended at my waist and the golden skirt was pressed with intricate flowing patterns. Simple, but not too simple. A Cullen should never be described as simple, that was what Alice told me once.
Unfortunately, my dress left the tattoo on my back visible, something I should have thought about before getting here.
A warm hand rested on my shoulder as I downed my first drink and I jumped. When I saw Edward sitting next to me I finally relaxed a little.
“You’re entirely too punctual.”
“I don’t like being late to things, no matter how much I don’t want to go to them.”
Edward sighed and looked around the room. He had told me time and time again that I didn’t have to come to this, but I thought it made me seem weak. The last thing I wanted was for the CPD to know how much they got to me.
“We won’t stay too long.”
I nodded, knowing I couldn’t stay for more than a few hours without risking some kind of meltdown. Another drink was placed in front of me and I smiled at the waiter as he left.
Edward pulled the glass from me as I downed half of it in one sip. “Perhaps drinking isn’t the best idea.”
I frowned, but he was probably right. It was just a few hours. I wouldn’t mess with any of them, and they wouldn’t mess with me. Kind of like spiders. Maybe they were more scared of me than I was of them. Yes, that’s how I would look at it from now on.
Edward’s hands covered mine as I tapped my fingers incessantly on the table. The rest of the family started showing up, but I tuned them out. “Bella, it’s okay. They can’t do anything to you. No one is going to mess with you while I’m here.”
“Oh, I got to mess with her quite a bit, Cullen.” A voice that I would recognize anywhere came from behind us. My blood ran cold and my entire body froze. A cold, calloused hand landed on my bare shoulder and made me sick to my stomach. “Got to feel that silky hair between my fingers as I slammed her pretty face down – “
Riley got up and started walking in a circle around the table like a shark circling its prey. “You’re a great match for Cullen. Both cold blooded murderers, willing to do whatever it takes to get what you want.” He stopped right behind me and I could feel his hands resting on the back of my chair. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. “So, tell me, why did you want Volturi dead?”
“I’d like my lawyer,” I repeated. I didn’t see it coming, I couldn’t have with him standing behind me. He gripped the back of my head and slammed it into the table.
“Jesus Christ!” I shouted. I could feel the blood begin to drip from my nose.
When my senses returned and I was no longer trapped in the memory in my mind, Riley was gone and Edward was whispering in my ear. It was hard to understand what he was saying, but I knew they were words meant to comfort me.
“I thought he was…” I had a vague memory of Carlisle telling me he had been fired.
“He was put on probation for a few years, but he’s weaseled his way back up to being a detective,” Edward grunted out, obviously upset he couldn’t get him off of the force for good. “I should have warned you, I’m sorry.”
“I’m going to, uh, splash some water on my face. I’ll be right back.” I made my way as calmly as possible toward the restroom, thankful that it was empty when I walked in.
Wetting one of the hand towels, I pressed it lightly into the skin of my chest and neck, hoping it would help calm my heart. It had been so long since I had a flashback like that. I had done a good job at repressing most of my memories from the trial and the whole situation but seeing so many people who were part of it was messing with my mind.
My head was spinning so much I started to get nauseous, so I leaned over the counter and tried to control my breathing. The door swung open and I immediately straightened myself, but then I saw Edward walk in. “This is the women’s restroom.”
He ignored my statement. “Are you okay?”
I nodded, embarrassed at the whole thing. “Yeah. It’s stupid. I shouldn’t still have these kinds of reactions.”
“You were attacked and harassed for a year by a majority of the people out there. It’s not stupid. I should have never let you come.”
It was cute that he thought he could have forced me to stay home. Edward knew better than to try and force me to do anything. “I should be over it by now.”
“You’ll never completely get over it. It’ll always be in the back of your mind. But, we can move on and fill your mind with a lot more pleasant memories.”
I sighed and leaned into him, wrapping my arms around his back. Edward was here. I wasn’t in handcuffs. Everything would be fine.
“Okay. I’m good,” I said, grabbing his hand and leading us out of the restroom. As we sat down I noticed an odd smile on Emmett’s face, but ignored it. There was a plate of food in front of each of us now, so I used that to distract myself.
A few minutes into the meal, the soft classical music that had been playing in the background turned into an all too familiar tune. Fuck, no. My head perked up and Emmett started laughing from across the table.
“Take that Biers!” he shouted across the room.
I’ve got a list of names and yours is in red, underlined. I check it once, then I check it twice, oh!
My own voice filled the ballroom. “Jesus, what did you do, Emmett?” I hissed at him. This wasn’t going to help with my plan to lay low tonight.
“These fuckers need to remember who they’re dealing with. I paid off the DJ to play the album on repeat all night.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“What? Why is that bad?” He looked like he truly thought he was doing something I would have enjoyed, but that made it much worse. “Besides, people need to hear my line.”
“Uh, yeah. He was running after us, I was screaming ‘Go, go, go!’ I’m the he, obviously. It’s my crowning moment!” Sure enough, the next song that played had ‘Emmett’s line’ in it.
I slunk back into my seat, but then realized something that had never really occurred to me before. “Were you going to turn me in?”
“That night. We’re you going to turn me in?”
“You little fucker. I got you out of jail and you were just going to hand me over?” It really wasn’t that big of a deal now, what’s done is done. I just wanted to mess with him now. Let’s see how you like it, Em. “Jasper wasn’t chasing us to turn me in.”
“Anyone who tried to get between Edward and you would have been asking to get shot. No way was I going there,” Jasper said, his hands up like he was surrendering.
Our dinner plates were cleared and I began my mental countdown. There couldn’t be much more left to the night. Maybe an hour tops, hopefully.
“Dance with me?” Edward whispered to me, already standing and pulling me to do the same. Before I could protest I heard the song that was playing and decided not to fight him on this one dance.
Edward and I swayed peacefully together as the song I wrote about our wedding played over the speakers. Every once in a while, I could feel Edward’s lips at my ear as he mouthed the words.
“Thanks for not running away this time,” Edward said, looking down at me as the song came to an end.