I know that we’ve been sending all of you on an emotional roller coaster. We’re grateful for all of the support of our readers. Thank you! Also, we’re not Stephenie Meyer … sigh …
And onto it …
After his phone conversation with his mom, Edward called Uncle Eleazar and informed him that he needed to resign. It was the only option. He had to go home, which meant that he’d have to quit his job. He hated that he had to leave a job he loved, but family always came first.
“What’s going on, Edward?” Eleazar asked, concerned that something had caused Edward to relive the tragedy that forced him to give up firefighting. His nephew was one of the best fire investigators in the department. It seemed unlike him to just throw it all away. Not without a valid reason.
“It’s Mom,” Edward whispered, his voice cracking and tears threatening to fall.
Eleazar was immediately alarmed. What was wrong with his sister? “What is it, Edward?”
Edward steadied himself, willing himself not to break down and cry. “Cancer,” he choked out.
Eleazar gasped. Cancer, my baby sister had cancer, Eleazar thought sadly. “What kind and how bad?” he asked.
“Ovarian cancer, stage two. She’s already started treatment and she said that she has the best oncology doctor in Seattle. However, I want to be there and not just for a few days or a couple of weeks. I need to be beside her through it all and it’s time for me to face my fears. Home is where I need to be,” Edward declared.
“I’ll make some calls, but it could take up to a few weeks before you could go,” Eleazar explained, knowing he would do everything possible to get Edward freed up and on his way to Seattle. “Have you thought of what you are going to do when you get to Seattle, work-wise that is?”
Edward had not really thought a lot about it, but he knew that he enjoyed being in the fire investigation department, but the crux of the matter was Charlie Swan. Charlie Swan was the fire investigation unit in Seattle. Could he work with Charlie without being overwhelmed with the guilt? What would Charlie say when he found out that he was the one that killed his daughter? Could he face Charlie? Yes, I can. I don’t want to give up on my dreams. “I’m going to apply with the Fire Investigation Unit in Seattle.”
“Are you sure? I mean, are you prepared to work side by side with Charlie Swan?” Eleazar asked. “The man’s a legend and you can learn a lot from him, but you left Seattle because of him.”
“I need to grow up, Uncle El. I can’t hide here. I need to be home. Mom needs me,” Edward shrugged. “Look, I understand that I have to work, finish out my obligations to the department, but it would mean a lot to me if you could help expedite the process. I’m going to call Felix, too. He needs to be aware of my plans. I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. Your offer helped me heal and I feel like I can go back without completely falling apart when I see Charlie. I respect him, Uncle El and the way I acted … that didn’t demonstrate respect. I was a fucking coward.”
“Okay, Edward. I’ll do what I can, and as soon as I can, I’m coming out to visit Esme. It’s been too long,” Eleazar said, his heart stammering against his ribs and his mind was reeling at the prospect of his baby sister being so sick with cancer. “And you’re not a coward. You’re the farthest thing from a coward. You’re an honorable man.”
“I appreciate it, Uncle El. I’m going to talk to Felix and see if I can use my vacation time too, at least, get out there as soon as I can,” Edward said. “Love you, Uncle El.”
“You, too, kid,” Eleazar responded and ended the call.
Edward’s next call was to Felix, explaining what was happening and thanking him for teaching him so much. Felix understood the reason why Edward was quitting and returning to Seattle. He quickly looked to find that Edward had a little over three weeks of vacation time saved up and he felt sure he could speed up Edward’s time off and resignation.
“Edward, you are an exceptional investigator and I am sure that the fire investigation unit in Seattle will gladly have you as part of their team. I will write you a glowing letter of recommendation and have all your training, testing, and qualifications sent out there as soon as you let me know,” Felix said.
“Thanks, Felix. I am going to send my resume after I get settled. I need to help my mom with her treatments. I’m using up my vacation time before crossing that bridge.”
“Just let me know and I’ll send everything they’ll need. Please keep me up to date with your mom’s condition and if you need anything, I mean, anything, you call me no matter what time it is,” Felix implored.
“I appreciate it, Felix,” Edward murmured. They said their goodbyes. After he got off the phone, Edward began closing up his life in Boston. He spoke to his landlord, explaining that he needed to return to Seattle. With a little convincing, he was able to sublet his apartment for the rest of his lease. He was going to leave his second-hand furniture, only taking his clothes and personal mementos.
With Eleazar’s persuasion and Felix’s brilliant idea to use his vacation time, Edward had to work one more shift before he began his cross-country trek back to Seattle. He spent most of his time looking over the samples from the apartment fire. After revisiting the site, it was determined that it was an overloaded outlet that had a short circuit, causing a fire in the walls. The building was older, with a wooden infrastructure that was dry. The fire spread fast, enveloping the entire building. However, it was not intentional. Edward typed up his report, sending it to the battalion chief and the police, who were concerned about arson.
“We’re going to miss you, Cullen,” Felix said, leaning against Edward’s office door.
“Yeah?” Edward chuckled. “I’ll miss you, too. I wish I didn’t have to go, but I need to be there with my mom.”
Felix pushed off the door frame, handing Edward an envelope. “This is from the guys. It’s some cash for your trip back to the land of mountains and rain. El told us you’re leaving early tomorrow morning, as soon as you pack up your shit into your Bronco. We’d rather take you out to get drunk off your ass.”
“I can’t, Felix,” Edward said, shaking his head and giving him a smile. “I love going out with the guys, but I want to get to at least Ohio by the end of the day tomorrow. That’s a ten-hour drive. I can’t do that if I’m hungover.” He looked at the envelope, that was filled with over a thousand dollars. “Man, this is too much.”
“We’d easily spend that tonight,” Felix laughed but sobered quickly. “We will miss you. You’re one of the best investigators we have. I’ll pray for your mom.”
“Thank you, Felix,” Edward smiled, tucking the envelope into the back pocket of his cargo pants.
“And whatever you decide, if you stay or whatever, you’ll always have a spot here,” Felix said, walking over to him and holding out his hand. “Prayers, man. Lots of prayers.” Edward shook it and Felix pulled him in for a hug. They smacked each other’s shoulders. With a nod, Felix left.
Edward picked up the few photos from his desk, along with his books that he had purchased on different types of fires and accelerants. He knew he could get the information on the web, but he loved researching fires in the printed text. He was ‘old school’ that way. Digital copies were convenient, but it made it difficult to write down notes of his findings in the margins. Making sure he had his National Fire Protection Association 921 Guide, the handbook for fire investigators, describing various types of fires and explosions, placing it in the box and putting the lid on top. Looking around his office once again, he thought of the time when he first arrived and how broken he was. However, after five years he still felt responsible for Angela’s death, but he knew that he needed to be strong for his mom and to face the demons that had kept him away from home.
When he got back to the apartment, he loaded up his Bronco with his luggage, boxes and such. Using some of the cash, he picked up some fast food and went to bed early. Waking up with the sun, he passed off his keys to his cranky landlord, who was pissed to be woken up so early. Ignoring the cuss words, he turned on his heel and climbed into his car, driving away from Boston.
Unlike the drive to Boston, he took a more direct route to Seattle only stopping for food, bathroom breaks, gas, and sleep. Not needing all the amenities of large hotels, just a clean bed and shower, he found small mom and pops motels along the way. Finally, after over three thousand miles, he was driving through the “Welcome to Seattle” sign and thirty minutes later he was pulling in the driveway of his childhood home.
Edward climbed out of his Bronco, raising his arms above his head and stretched out the miles from his bones and joints. Deciding he would unload later, he walked up the sidewalk and used his key to open the front door.
“Mom, I’m home,” Edward called out, wanting to find his mom as quickly as possible. “Hello?”
“Edward, I’m in the den,” Esme said in a frail, weak voice.
Edward walked through the house, finding his mother wrapped up in blankets. She was so tiny, looking like skin and bones. Her long caramel hair was gone, covered with a scarf.
Edward rushed over to her side and dropped to his knees. Taking her delicate hand gently into his large one and he looked into her dull, bleary eyes. “Mom, I’m here now and I’m not leaving your side until we fight and beat this cancer.”
Esme smiled a weak smile, brushing her fingers over his scruffy cheek. “Oh, my sweet boy.”
Edward took a closer look at her through his tear-filled eyes. She had to lost at least thirty pounds. Her skin was a sickly yellow color, stretched over her tiny frame. Her once bright green eyes now looked more grey than green. It was clearly apparent that this disease had ravaged her body. “How long have you know about the cancer?”
“A few months, but I wanted to get ahead of it before worrying you,” Esme said, her voice cracking. “As soon as we found out, the doctor at Fred Hutchinson wanted to start an aggressive treatment to prevent the cancer from advancing to stage three.”
“What do you mean? Aggressive?” Edward asked, staring into his mother’s weary eyes.
“The doctor, after running tests, felt that a complete hysterectomy would be the first step. I was scheduled at the end of the week. I spent the weekend in the hospital. After a couple of weeks, I began chemotherapy. So far, the doctor said that the preliminary results look positive. I’m tired from chemo. I don’t eat a lot and what little I eat tends to make a reappearance,” Esme quipped, giving him a sardonic grin.
“Mom,” Edward sighed, glowering at her. “This isn’t funny.”
“It’s not, but I spent enough time crying, Edward,” she murmured, taking Edward’s hands, rubbing her thumbs over his knuckles.
At that moment, Carlisle walked in the room with a tray with some herbal tea and gingersnap cookies. After some trial and error, they found that this combination was one of the few things that Esme could keep down. Dr. Swan also recommended a vegan powder for replacement meals, custard for sores in the mouth, and orange juice to prevent dry mouth. In small portions, she was able to keep that down, but they learned not to overdo it, no matter how hungry she might be.
Carlisle was surprised to see Edward so soon after Esme had called. However, he knew that Edward would move mountains to get home as quickly as he could and it was apparent he did. “Glad to see you home, son.”
“Hey, Dad,” Edward said, not moving from his spot.
Carlisle placed the tray on the table and poured some warm tea in her cup, handing it to Edward, who took it and brought it towards Esme. Not knowing if she was strong enough to hold the cup. “Mom, do you need help with this?”
“No, I think I can handle it,” Esme whispered, taking the cup from Edward and bringing it up to her dry, chapped lips. Sipping the liquid, she moaned at the relief of the warmth as it traveled down her sore, dry throat. Pulling the cup from her lips, she handed it back to Edward to hold. “Can I have one of the cookies?”
Edward picked up on the cookies and carefully placed it in Esme’s hand. Bringing it up to her lips she took a small nibble, allowing it to melt in her mouth before trying to swallow. As the ginger spicy goodness slid down her throat and to her empty stomach, she waited to see if it would make a reappearance, but after a few moments, it seems to stay put. After she had finished the whole cookie, Edward handed the cup back to her and she finished it as well, drinking it in tiny sips.
“Thank you,” she said.
“No need to thank me, Mom. Now, what else can I do for you?” Edward asked.
“Nothing at the moment. Seeing you is more than enough,” Esme smiled, a shaky hand caressing Edward’s cheek.
Carlisle knew that having Edward here was going to help Esme’s spirit tremendously. “Son, how long are you here for?”
Edward looked at Esme, taking her hands into his and giving her a crooked grin. “I’m home for good. I’m not leaving, Dad.”
“How?” Esme asked, surprised by his admission. “You were settled in Boston, Edward.”
“Settled is a point of view, Mom. I think I was still living out of boxes in my apartment from when I moved out there five years ago. Anyhow, I resigned and with my family leave, vacation time, Uncle Eleazar and Felix’s help, I was able to pack up and move back home,” Edward explained, his heart settling now that he’d laid eyes on his mother.
“But, what are you going to do for a job? I mean, we know you don’t have to work. We know how much you love the fire department and the camaraderie of working with them,” Carlisle said, his brows shooting to his hairline.
Edward had a large inheritance from his paternal grandparents and would never have to work a day for the rest of his life while living comfortably. However, he was raised to work hard and make a difference in the world. All their boys worked. They donated their time and money to worthy causes locally, as well as around the world.
“Dad, it’s more than that. You know that,” Edward murmured, getting up and sitting down on a nearby chair. “I’m planning on speaking to the chief, working in the same department that I worked in Boston.”
“Charlie Swan is the head of the fire investigation department,” Esme said, blinking up to Carlisle. “He was promoted shortly after you left.”
“I need to face him, Mom,” Edward replied. “But, not any time soon. I want to spend some time with you. I’ll call him after I get settled and know more about your condition. I hope you don’t mind your mid-thirties son moving back home.” He gave Esme a charming wink.
“You’re always welcome, Edward,” Esme said. “You may be moving back home, but you’re still my baby boy.”
“No, that’s Jasper,” Carlisle snickered, taking Esme’s empty teacup.
“All of my boys are my babies,” Esme argued, her eyes drooping and smacking at her husband weakly.
“Get some rest, Es,” Carlisle said. She nodded and snuggled into the blankets. Almost immediately, she dropped off, her quiet snores filling the room. “Come with me, Edward. She sleeps on and off throughout the day.”
“She looks so small, Dad,” Edward whispered as they left Esme in the den. “How bad is it?”
“The doctor is positive. After the surgery, it was biopsied and the cancerous cells were focused in her ovaries and uterus. They never left, um, there,” Carlisle explained and gesturing to his lower belly. “She’s on a rigorous course of chemo and radiation therapy, meeting with the doctor at the end of next week.”
“Why not earlier?” Edward asked.
“Despite being sick, Mom is determined to still do her job as the first lady of Seattle,” Carlisle quipped sadly. “Renee Swan has stepped up.”
“Swan?” Edward whispered.
“Charlie’s wife. We’ve become close to the family after Angela’s death,” Carlisle explained. “Renee and Esme are thick as thieves and Charlie, he shares my love of a good scotch and fishing.”
Edward wrinkled his nose. He preferred beer to scotch and fishing was just boring. He’d rather spend his time at a sports bar, watching the game and flirting with the girls at the bars. However, hearing that his parents were friendly with the Swans shocked him, especially after his involvement in his daughter’s death.
“Edward, I can see your mind twisting. Charlie and Renee are very friendly. They struggled with Angela’s death. Not as much as their other daughter, though. From what I’ve heard, she’s … she’s a robot, completely detached from her emotions. Reminds me of someone I know,” Carlisle whispered, giving Edward a concerned look.
“Angela,” Edward said, frowning deeply.
“No, Angela’s sister, Bella,” Carlisle replied, shaking his head sadly. “I’m so happy you’re home, Edward. I know that your mother is over-the-moon thrilled that you’re back.” He stared at Edward, seeing how tired his middle son was. “Why don’t you go to sleep?”
“Dad, I’m fine,” Edward argued.
“How long did you drive today, son?” Carlisle smirked. Edward pursed his lips. “Come on. I’ll help you unload your bags and get settled. Then, take a nap, Edward.”
They went out to Edward’s Bronco and gathered up the first batch of luggage, deciding to leave the boxes until he had time to figure out what and where he wanted his things. They trudged up the stairs and to the room that had been Edward’s as a child. Carlisle hugged his middle son. “I’m so glad you’re home, Edward.”
“I’m glad to be home, too, Dad,” Edward said as he opened the door. He rubbed his eyes, expecting to see his teenaged incarnation of his room with wrestling posters, half-naked women and light-colored furniture. His room, now, was completely different. “What happened to my bedroom?”
“Your mom was on a renovation kick. Almost every room was touched by Renee Swan,” Carlisle laughed. “This was done just prior to her diagnosis. Do you like it?”
Edward stepped inside, looking around the room and smiling softly. The room was painted a soft beige with a wooden accent wall behind the king-sized bed which was covered with a white duvet cover and golden pillows. The windows that had been in the room had been replaced with some new sliders and a gorgeous balcony. “Wow, Dad. This is beautiful.”
“We had to get rid of the teenage boy mess,” Carlisle laughed. “So, you got an updated and elegant new bedroom. If there’s something you don’t like, we can change it.”
“Dad, it’s great. For now, I want to curl up in that very inviting bed,” Edward chuckled.
“Well, I’ll let you get settled. When you’re ready, we’ll get the rest of your stuff from the car.”
“Thanks, Dad. Wake me if Mom needs anything,” he said, yawning from the sheer exhaustion from the long drive, along with not sleeping well at night. That was due to the nightmares that still haunted him from that tragic night. It would be a long time before those nightmares would disappear completely, if ever.
Carlisle was worried by how Edward looked and hoped that a good night’s sleep would help with the dark circles under his eyes. “Sleep well, son. Your mom and I are happy to have you home.” Carlisle hugged Edward and left the room.
Edward looked around the room once more, before walking into the bathroom. He was welcomed by the site of a luxurious walk-in shower, with multiple shower heads coming from every direction.
Fuck that looks inviting.
Stripping off his clothes, he stepped into the shower and turned on the water. It felt so good to wash away the miles and allow the pulsating shower heads to massage his tired muscles. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw the body wash and shampoo was the type that he liked to use. That was so his mom, always hoping that he would return home. Over the years, he could tell in her voice, even though she was supportive of him living in Boston, she wanted him to come back.
Using the body wash, he began smoothing the liquid over his firm chest and abs. Working out was something that he did to take his mind off the fire. With each mile on the treadmill, he felt he was that further away from the memory. With each weight he lifted, it released the heavy feeling of guilt from his chest. There was no ounce of fat on his body, only rock-hard muscle.
The guys at the station were jealous of him and women that he picked up at the local bar loved it while they were in his bed. However, the women he picked up were just used for sex. It wasn’t about their bodies, but just a biological and physiological function. He loved the feeling of women but refused to even address the idea of having a relationship. He liked to fuck.
And, he was fucking horny. Placing some more body wash into his hand, he wrapped it around his shaft and began to pump. He closed his eyes, and flashes of women’s bodies sped through his brain – the soft curve of their hips, perky, supple breasts, and the sweet taste of a woman’s pussy. The images played out in his mind as he continued to pump, increasing in speed and in the amount of pressure on his grip. Placing one hand on the wall, he felt his orgasm build and finally, it came with an explosion of long strings of cum all over the wall of the shower.
FUCK THAT WAS INTENSE!
After he came, he finished up his shower, making sure he washed off the cum off the walls. He didn’t want either of his parents coming in and seeing that. Stepping out, he took one of thick, fluffy towels and dried off. He looked at the semi-steamed mirror. He saw the black circles under his eyes and his brown-bronze hair was sticking out in every direction. He had given up on trying to tame it a long time ago, but he did need a trim before his mom got on to him about it.
Going back into the bedroom, he looked at the pile of suitcases and bags, wondering which one held the only pair of sleep pants he owned. Giving up hope that he would find them, he dragged his naked ass into the soft comfortable bed and as soon as he head hit the pillow he drifted off to sleep.
The nightmares didn’t attack him as soon as he fell into slumber. He had a few erotic dreams, with moments of hot fucking with a nameless, faceless woman. However, the woman’s body was everything Edward ever enjoyed in a female. As he thrust into her, she turned around and he was shocked to see deep brown eyes and a heart-shaped face. He jumped back. The room was surrounded by flames. Edward was in his turnout gear and the woman was wearing her sleep clothes.
“This isn’t real,” Edward whispered, shaking his head in disbelief.
“No, it’s not,” she answered. “But, you live here, in this moment, Edward.”
“You know my name,” Edward breathed. “How do you know my name?”
“Again, you live here in this moment and I’ve been living here with you for five years,” she said, her voice soft and calming. “Do you know who I am?”
“Angela,” Edward replied. “I’m sorry about what happened to you. It’s my fault.”
She moved through the flames, which were licking at her skin, but not causing damage. She sat Edward down on a burning couch. It was hot, but the flames didn’t hurt them. “It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t my fault. It happened, Edward. Why do you blame yourself?”
“I wasn’t strong enough, Angela. I couldn’t hold onto you. I hated that I couldn’t save you,” Edward whispered, unable to look her in the eyes. “What makes it worse is that … Your father …”
“My dad was angry at you, Edward. He blamed you, too, but after reading the report he knew it wasn’t your fault. The explosion … not even Superman could hold on, Edward.” Angela took his hands, removing his gloves. “This limbo you’re living in … you need to move forward. Your family needs you. My family needs you, too.”
“I don’t understand,” Edward muttered. “What does that mean?”
“I forgive you, Edward. Do you forgive yourself?” Angela asked, brushing her fingers down his cheek.
“Do or do not, there is no try,” Angela quipped. Edward snorted, a crooked grin ghosting on his face. “You do have one of those … ”
“What?” Edward asked.
“A smile,” Angela smirked. “It looks good on you. So, don’t wait so long to use it again. Changes are coming your way, Edward, and you need to open your heart and forgive yourself.” She stood up and the flames died away. She kissed his forehead, tracing her fingers along his jaw. “Be happy. Smile and open yourself up to new possibilities.” She drifted away, disappearing like smoke.
Edward’s eyes fluttered open. It was barely dawn. The bedroom was cast in a cool lavender light. He got up, sliding on his jeans. Padding out of the bedroom, he opened the doors to the balcony. It was raining, but what else was new. This was Seattle. He sat down at the table, overlooking the backyard and out to the Emerald City with Mount Hood barely seen through the misty, gray morning. He put his feet up on the opposite chair.
The nightmare, or dream, or vision, or whatever he had about Angela had left him unsettled. He had lived with that guilt for five years. He changed his career because of what happened. He missed fighting alongside his brothers and sisters in the fire department, trying to contain the demon that consumed everything that it touched. However, the fire investigation unit was where his heart was and couldn’t see himself doing anything else in the department. He was able to be a part of the brotherhood, even if he couldn’t actively fight fires anymore.
Looking out at the trees in the misty morning, the beginning of a new day, he thought of his mom, how strong she was and how she embraced life. Even now as she was battling cancer, she didn’t let it get her down. He thought of Charlie Swan and how the death of his daughter impacted his family. Charlie found a way to move on. It was time for him to stop dwelling on the past and face the facts that things in life happen. Sometimes those things are good and other times, things are bad. No matter the amount of training or how skilled you are, you couldn’t stop them. He needed to start living again, and not in the shell of existence that he had been subsisting in over the last five years.
Walking back into his room, he searched his bags for some clothes, wanting to see how his mom was doing today. Finding one of his BIU t-shirts and a pair of jeans, he got ready and headed out the door. As he got halfway down the steps, he could smell bacon coming from the kitchen. A home cooked breakfast sounded perfect. His dad was already spoiling him.
It’s good to be home.
Walking into the kitchen, he was shocked to see his mom at the stove and not his father. “Fuck, Mom, you need to rest. Let Dad or me do that for you. Please, sit down.”
Esme turned from the stove and looked at Edward, then motioned for him to come closer. Edward stepped closer and when he was close enough, Esme whacked him with the spatula. “Watch your mouth,” she quipped. “I didn’t raise you to speak like that, Edward Anthony.”
“I’m sorry, Ma,” he muttered, guiding her away from the stove. “But, you need to sit down. Where’s Dad?”
“He had a budget meeting. He left an hour ago,” Esme said, sitting down and sipping some of the special herbal blend. “I wanted to make breakfast for you, but I was feeling a little queasy with the smell of the bacon.”
Edward removed the bacon from the heat and drained the fat. “Mom, you need to focus on you. I’m here to help you. And I’ve been living on my own since college. I’ve been cooking for firehouses, as well. I can cook my own meal, though bacon and eggs are a bit heavy. Cereal would have been just fine.”
“I just wanted to do something special for you,” Esme smiled. “You’re home and here to stay.”
“Mom, I appreciate it, but let me take care of you,” Edward said, making some scrambled eggs and plating them. He leaned against the kitchen counter, staring at his mother. “What’s on tap for today? Do you have a chemo treatment or anything planned?”
“I had a treatment a couple of days ago. Renee is coming over today to help plan a charity benefit for underprivileged children,” Esme said. “We need to finalize seating charts, floral scapes, decorations and calling for donations for the silent auction. Oh, and you’re going, Edward. Do you have a tuxedo?”
“I do not have a tuxedo, Mom. I’m also not going,” Edward snorted. Esme arched a brow. “Mom, really?” Esme smiled wryly. “Fine, I’ll go. Only if you’re my date.”
“I knew you’d crumble,” Esme snickered, patting his arm.
A little while later, Renee and Alice pulled up at Esme’s home. They tried to convince her they should wait for the benefit or they could handle it themselves. However, Esme wouldn’t hear of it, explaining she needed something to do to keep her mind off her chemo treatments. Collecting the information, charts, and samples from the trunk, they walked up the walkway and rang the bell. Thinking that Carlisle would be answering the door, they were shocked to be face to face with a tall, young, good-looking man, wearing a tight t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
“Hello. We’re here to see Esme,” Renee said. “I think I’ve met you before, but I’m Renee and this is my assistant, Alice.”
“Hey, I’m Edward. Nice to meet you. My mom is in the den,” Edward replied, opening the door for the two women. “I just got here yesterday to surprise Mom. Come in,” he said, but he saw that their hands were full of bags and supplies. “Please, let me get those for you.”
“No, that’s fine,” Alice chirped.
“Please, I really don’t want to be on the wrong side of Esme Cullen,” Edward joked. She had raised him and his brothers to be perfect gentlemen at all times. Taking their belongings, he led them to the den and announced their arrival. After that, he smiled at them. “Do you need anything, Mom? Mrs. Swan? Alice?”
“No, we’re good,” Esme smiled.
“Okay. While you’re planning world domination, I’m going to unload my truck,” Edward snickered. “If you need me, just holler.” Esme waved him off and he ducked out of the den.
“He’s gotten more handsome since I’ve last seen him, Esme,” Renee smiled. “And muscular.”
“All of my boys are handsome,” Esme nodded, smiling coyly. “Now, let’s talk about this charity event, shall we?”
“To the left, Dad,” Bella said, her eyes narrowing. “No, the other left, Dad.”
“Smart ass,” Charlie snorted. “We good?”
“Yeah,” Bella snickered. “That’s the last one for now. Mom and I are going to an art fair next month in Portland to get some more paintings. I think it’s perfect as it is.”
“It’s very sterile, Bells,” Charlie laughed. “You’ve got two pictures up and that glass thing.” He gestured to Alice’s installation. “But, I think we need to get these smoke detectors connected before we put up more paintings.”
“Dad, I have smoke detectors in every single freaking room,” Bella deadpanned.
“You do, but are the batteries working? Are they connected to the security system? Do you have a clear escape route?” Charlie pressed.
“You’re obsessed, Dad,” Bella snickered, rolling her eyes.
“I have to be, sweet girl,” Charlie murmured. “I’ve lost one daughter. I’ll be goddamned if I lose another. Let me be all protective. It’s a father’s prerogative. Do you have those batteries?”
“In the linen closet,” Bella replied.
“Can you go get them?” Charlie asked, smiling at his daughter. She nodded, disappearing down the hall. He stood on a ladder, checking on the first smoke detector in the main living area. They worked together, changing the batteries in the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detector in the kitchen. After speaking with the head of security, they verified that they were all connected to the main security office.
“Dad, this is overkill,” Bella snickered.
“It might be overkill, but necessary, sweet girl. We’re good, though,” Charlie chuckled. “I think it’s time for a beer. You have beer or do you drink that fancy frog water?”
“Frog water?” Bella laughed. “Dad, no one says that anymore.”
“Do you have a beer or not, Isabella Marie?” Charlie snorted.
“Nothing but the best for my old man,” Bella said, opening up her fridge and grabbing a can of Vitamin R, putting it onto the quartz countertop. She pulled out her own can, popping the tab. “Let’s go outside, Dad. It’s not raining and I’d like to use the fire pit. I know that with a firefighter, I’ll be safe.”
They went outside and Charlie showed Bella how to start the fire pit. They settled down onto the chairs, watching as the flames danced over the wood. “I was always fascinated by fire,” Charlie murmured.
“That would be fitting since you’re a firefighter,” Bella said, sipping her beer.
“A fire investigator, smart ass,” Charlie sighed.
“Why are you fascinated with fire, Dad?” Bella asked.
“It’s beautiful. Destructive, but beautiful,” Charlie said quietly. “You have to respect that beauty and its ability to destroy.”
“I do, Dad. You taught me that,” Bella said, her voice quiet and contemplative. “What’s going on?”
“I can’t believe that you drink Vitamin R,” Charlie said.
“Do you know how hard it was to find it in New York?” Bella asked, taking another slug of beer. “I had to order it online. I like it better fresh. It reminded me of home. Angela and I got drunk in the treehouse on this stuff. She hated it. I loved it. Angela preferred the ‘frog water.’”
“I thought you said that no one said ‘frog water’ anymore,” Charlie quipped. Bella just snorted, taking another pull from her beer. “Bells, I know that things between us have been distant since Angela died.”
“We’ve been distant because I lived three thousand miles away, Dad,” Bella quipped.
Charlie didn’t smile because the distance was more than the physical issue. “Bella, you’re a lot like me when it comes to emotions. You compartmentalize. It’s how you’re a great doctor. You’re able to shut off those emotions to help your patients,” Charlie whispered. “I’m so proud of you, Bells.”
“Dad …” Bella breathed.
“No, I need to say this. I’m proud of you and proud of the person you’ve become. I’ve always been proud of you. I’m so sorry that I pushed you away after the fire. I blamed a lot of people for that damned fire, including myself. Your mom, however, made me see that the only one who’s to blame is the asshole who started it,” Charlie growled. “And I still haven’t found him, either. Not that I’ve stopped looking, damn it.”
“Dad …” Bella whispered.
He continued, “We’ll never forget Angela, but it’s time we started living without her and embracing life, along with those we love. I love you both so much and I always have.”
“Dad, you’re not the only one who pushed away,” Bella said. “I left after Angela’s funeral because being here without her was too much. So, I went back to New York. I threw myself into work, trying to forget the pain.”
“What made you come back?” Charlie asked.
“I needed my family. I missed you. I missed Mom and I missed Angela. Even if she’s gone, I needed to be closer to her,” Bella whispered, idly playing with the tab of her beer.
Bella and Charlie were sitting in the silence of the evening, watching the flickering of the flames, while taking an occasional drink of their beer. “So, I guess since you love Vitamin R, the next thing will be you wanting to go fishing,” Charlie joked. “You want to go to the lake house?”
Bella just shivered at the thought of picking up a slimy, wiggly, worm and placing it on the hook. She liked catching fish, the serenity of the water, but not baiting the hook.
“You tell me that you’re a doctor, but afraid of a little worm,” Charlie laughed.
“They are so icky,” Bella grimaced at the thought of them. “Slimy and gross, Dad.”
Charlie wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close. “Daddy will bait the hook for you, sweet girl.”
Bella laid her head on his shoulder, soaking in the warmth and smell that only came from her daddy, her hero, her protector.
The weeks that followed, Edward saw a vast improvement in his mom. Her doctor had been so impressed with her last round of blood tests, that she wanted to cut back on the chemo treatments. At today’s appointment, Esme would be seeing her doctor so they could plan the next steps in her treatment.
Edward put on a pair of his best jeans and a button down shirt, even though he would have loved to be wearing a long sleeve t-shirt and his well worn jeans, with the holes in the knees. Edward was a man of comfort, not fashion. His mother, however, insisted he look his best. Slipping on his shoes, he headed down the stairs, where Esme was waiting, wearing a black and yellow floral skirt, a mustard yellow sweater, with a pair of black heels. Her head was covered in her new brown wig and she wore black onyx earrings and ring set, that Carlisle had giving her on her last birthday.
Edward walked over and put his arms around her, gently gave her a squeeze. “You look great, Mom.”
“Well, I feel great and I don’t want to run into any of your dad’s adversaries that would make some fucking comment that the Mayor’s wife was letting herself go.”
“Mom, you said fuck,” Edward laughed.
“So? Come on, I don’t want to be late,” she smirked. Edward rolled his eyes, helping his mom into the car. He backed out, driving to The Hutch and using the valet to park the car. Helping out of the vehicle and handing the keys to the valet, they walked into the lobby, then over to the elevators.
“My doctor is on the third floor,” Esme instructed.
Edward pushed the third floor button, while Esme held onto his arm for support. She might be feeling better, but still didn’t have the stamina that she once had prior to the cancer. They arrived on the floor and walked down the hall to the double glass doors that led into the office.
As Edward walked inside, he was shocked to see the office decor. Instead of the normal cold, sterile waiting room, this one had several comfortable high back, cloth chairs, other larger chairs that were recliners, a stone fireplace and a butter colored hardwood floors, covered my matching rugs. It more like a den in your home than a doctor’s office. Esme led them to the solid oak counter, where they were met by a smiling face woman with dark hair.
“Miss Esme! My, don’t you look great,” Maggie said, then gaped at the extremely handsome man that Esme was holding on to. He was so handsome, with chiseled features, hair the color of a penny and deep evergreen eyes.
“I am feeling better, Maggie,” Esme chirped, then realized that Maggie was staring at Edward. “This is my son, Edward. He just moved back to Seattle from Boston”
“Hello, Edward,” Maggie giggled, with her cheeks blooming in a warm shade of pink. After a few moments, she came out of her trance and realized that she needed to do her job. “I will let the doctor know you’re here.”
“Thank you, Maggie,” Esme said with a smile.
Maggie picked up the phone, murmuring into the receiver. Edward and Esme walked over to the empty seats next to the fireplace and sat down. Edward was once again amazed on how comfortable they were and how the room seemed to have a wonderful calming effect. “I can’t get over how nice this waiting room is, Mom. It’s almost like a resort or a spa.”
“Oh, Bella had Renee come in and redesign the entire office. I think it turned out very nice.”
“Renee Swan?” Edward questioned.
“Yes,” Esme answered.
“Miss Esme, you can come on back now,” Charlotte said, a petite nurse with an adorable pixie cut.
Edward stood up and offered his arm to his mom. They followed the nurse down the hall and she opened to the door to the exam room. Once again Edward was shocked. The room had two dark leather chairs, dark cherry woodwork, and the exam table looked more like a leather recliner than a table.
Esme sat down in one of the leather chairs, while Edward sat in the other. A few minutes later, the door began to open and Edward looked up. The doctor was wearing a long white lab coat, but her face was covered by her dark, chocolate brown curls as she had her head down as she was reading the chart. She looked up and Edward’s world collapsed around him. The woman of his nightmares had just walked into the room.
His mouth fell opened and he felt as if someone had ripped his heart out of his chest. Looking over at his mom, who was smiling at the woman and saying something, but he couldn’t hear what she was saying. The only sound he heard was the roar of the fire that was playing in his mind. He was thrown back to that tragic moment when he lost Angela.
He needed to get out of here, before he lost it completely. Standing up, he rushed past the ghost and out the door. He didn’t hear his mom call out to him. The only thing he heard the beating of his racing heart.
A/N: So, they met. Or rather, according to Edward, he met a ghost. Leave us some loving! Reviews are love! Pictures from this chapter are on our blogs. We’re also on Facebook, too – HeartForTwilight and Tufano79. Come find us!
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