Protecting His Heart
Years of training and the fact he had weeks to prepare mentally for this assignment, this moment, had made it possible for him to look so reserved to see her, even though on the inside, he was a wreck. How was he going to be able to keep his emotions in check? Had it really been ten years since the last time he had been in the same room with her?
They had been friends since grade school, but it wasn’t until the end of August before their sophomore year that Edward came to realize that he just didn’t want Bella as a friend, but also a girlfriend. Bella had gone to Europe to participate in a summer abroad program, studying the inner workings of different governments. Edward had come with her parents to meet her plane when she returned. They were standing at the gate, watching for her to exit customs. The doors opened and out walked not the awkward bookworm that left three months before, but a stunning young woman. She had grown a few inches, and her body had blossomed into amazing curves. Instead of her standard, jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes, she was wearing a dress that hugged all her new curves, with a pair of high heeled shoes.
Edward gasped, while his heart began to race. He couldn’t believe his eyes. As soon as Bella saw him, he was blessed with a brilliant smile, and she started running towards him. He opened his arms as she propelled herself into them, placing her arms around his neck. Wrapping her up tightly, he buried his face in her fragrant brunette locks and took a deep breath, drinking in her sweet scent. Having her in his arms caused his teenage body to react.
“Edward,” she sighed and pulled back, looking into the emerald green eyes that she had missed so much. She had loved him for so long, hoping and praying that he would see her more than as just a friend. It had been two summers ago that her feelings for him had evolved. Their families were vacationing together at his parent’s beach house in Nags Head, North Carolina. They had gone down to the beach the first morning of the trip, and while Bella laid out in the sun, Edward had gone swimming in the ocean. She had just finished reading her current book and looked towards the water. He was walking towards her; water beads were trickling down his chest to the waistband of his swim shorts. He looked like one of the Greek Gods in her books. Her heart began to race, and at that moment, she knew that she was in love with him.
Edward would have been content to hold her forever, although he had to let her go so that she could greet her parents. When he placed her down on her feet, he turned to Charlie Swan, the man who was like a second father to him and saw his mustache twitch. Looking into Charlie’s brown eyes, he saw a glint of mischievousness, and he gave him a wink. Edward didn’t know what to make of that, though he knew that later Charlie would clue him in. That was just the type of relationship that they had, and that was precisely what he did. After they arrived back to the Swan’s home, Charlie and Edward took Bella’s multiple suitcases up to her room. Renee shooed them out of the room so that she could spend some quality time with Bella. Charlie gave Bella a kiss on the cheek and placed a kiss on Renee’s lips, which lasted a little longer than just a small peck. It was a kiss of passion and love.
“Come on, Edward, let’s let the women catch up,” Charlie said, placing his hand on Edward’s shoulder and squeezing it.
“Will you be staying for a while, Edward?” Bella asked, hoping that he would. She was going to lay all her feelings for him on the table. Praying that he wouldn’t laugh at her, but would embrace them also.
“Yeah, I’ll be hanging out with Charlie. Come find me when you’re done,” he smirked, then gave her a wink.
“Okay,” she said, her voice cracking as her cheeks bloomed in a pink hue.
Edward followed Charlie down the stairs and into his den. Turning on the Washington A’s baseball game, Charlie went over to the little refrigerator, grabbed two bottles of water, and walked back to the couch where Edward had sat. Handing him one of the bottles, Charlie sat down in his recliner. They sat there for a few minutes, watching the game.
“Edward, I have something I want to tell you,” Charlie said.
Edward turned towards Charlie and looked in his concerned brown eyes. “What is it?”
“You are an intelligent young man, and I am sure you are aware that the country has some major problems,” Charlie began, running his fingers absentmindedly across his mustache. Charles Swan had been a Senator for the last thirteen years and was regaled for his efforts in ensuring a better way of life for the country’s citizens.
“I have decided to run for President,” Charlie disclosed.
Edward gasped. That was something that he had not suspected that would come out of Charlie’s mouth. President. Wow! “What can I do to help?”
“I haven’t told Bella yet, and to be honest, this is going to be hard on her. The campaign will be long and demanding for her. I need you to keep an eye on her and,” Charlie began with a smile, placing his hand on Edward’s knee. “And you need to tell her that you love her.”
“What? No, I don’t. She is just a friend. I…” Edward stammered his heart racing. How had Charlie known, hell, he had just figured it out himself. Raking his fingers through his hair, he tried to calm down before he spoke.
“Edward, Renee and I have watched the two of you for years. Even at the very beginning, we could see how close you were together. Over the years, your close friendship grew into this beautiful love that seems to flow between the two of you. We that is Renee and I, are happy that Bella has found someone like you. I can see that you are going to do some great things in the future, and one of those will be to protect my daughter’s heart,” Charlie begged.
“I will, Sir,” Edward confirmed confidently. “When are you announcing your candidacy?”
“Tomorrow. I would like for you and your parents to be there, needing all the support I can get,” Charlie advised.
“I am sure Mom and Dad will be backing you all the way,” Edward said.
They began watching the game, yelling at the tv when the refs made bad calls. Thirty minutes later, Renee and Bella walked into the room. Edward heard them come in and immediately turned toward them. Bella had changed into a pair of shorts and a pink top that she had tied, showing off her midriff. God, she was beautiful, and he just hoped that she felt the same way for him as he did for her.
Bella ran over and jumped on Charlie’s lap, causing him to groan. She giggled as she bent down and placed a kiss on his cheek. “Did you miss me, Daddy?”
“Of course I did, Noodle,” he chuckled, knowing how much she hated her nickname. When she was younger, the only food that they could get her to eat was butter noodles.
“Daddy! Don’t call me that,” Bella growled. “You know that I have grown out of that name. I eat more than just noodles now.”
Charlie wrapped his arms around her and gave her a hug. “You will always be my Noodle,” he sighed deeply. “Bella, Sweetie, I have something I need to tell you.”
Renee walked over and placed her hand on the back of the recliner where they were sitting. She and Charlie had talked at length about this decision to run. Going through both the pros and cons; however, in the end, she knew that Charlie needed to run.
“What is it?” Bella asked as a line of worry materialized between her eyebrows.
Charlie took his finger and rubbed across the frown line on her brow. “Nothing is wrong. I have decided to run for President.”
A sudden look of pride passed across her face. She had heard the concerns as she had traveled through Europe. During her studies, she had been able to sit in on many meetings of diplomatic heads, as they discussed the rising crisis in America. With the increasing unemployment, banks on the verge of collapsing, and the stock market on a steady decline, it was evident to everyone, except the current administration that the United States was heading toward another depression. Bella knew her father was a problem solver. During his time as a U.S. Senator, he would work around the clock, trying to bring the country back to its glory. “Daddy, I think you would be great as President, and I will do anything I can to make it happen.”
Charlie slowly shook his head and smiled. “This is going to be hard and as much as I hate to admit it, dangerous. There are a lot of crazy people in the country, and many are loyal to the current administration. I have hired private security and have made an application with the DHS Secretary. The application is now in the Congressional Advisory Committee and waiting for them to approve it. Bella, you must always follow what the security team tells you. Promise me that you won’t do anything crazy, even though I know you will feel the constraints of the limitations you may have to submit to during the campaign?”
“I promise,” Bella agreed. “When are you going to make the announcement?”
“Tomorrow. I have contacted a friend of mine at ABC, and he is coming to the house tomorrow morning,” Charlie explained.
Bella looked over to where Edward was standing. “Do you want to go for a long walk on my last day of freedom?”
“I think that is a grand idea,” he said with a smile.
Charlie leaned up and kissed her cheek once again. “Go, have some fun.”
Bella hugged him again. “We won’t be too late.” She got off his lap and held out her hand to Edward, who took it, giving it a little squeeze. Walking hand and hand, they left the house, then headed towards the metro station.
Edward knew the perfect place to go. It was a favorite of both of theirs, and if this was going to be the last free day without security surrounding her, then this would be the perfect location. They walked down the street, hand in hand, as Bella told him about her adventures in Europe.
He had not just been sitting around doing nothing this summer, he had taken two college prep classes. When he graduated in three years, he would have enough credits to be a Junior in college instead of a freshman. This would allow him to concentrate on his major in cybersecurity. His dream would be that one day he would work for the Homeland Security Cyber Division. He knew Bella was also going to be able to be a Junior in college as well when she graduates, but she was going to be pre-law, just like her father and grandfather.
They got on the Metro and after finding two seats together, they sat down. After they were on their way, Bella noticed that they had not stopped holding hands. Looking down at his large hand wrapped around her tiny one, a smile burst across her face.
“Edward, I need to tell you something,” Bella began, as her heart began to beat wildly in her chest.
Edward looked down into her soulful eyes. “Can it wait until we get to the mall? I, too have something to tell you and I don’t want to do it on a train full of strangers.”
Hearing that he had something to tell her, made her scared. Had he found someone else while she was gone? How was she going to survive if he had? There would be no way she could see another girl with him.
“Bella, are you okay?” Edward asked as he saw that her face had turned whiter than the wall behind her.
“Yeah. The jet lag must have hit me,” she responded, trying to get the lump from the back of her throat.
Edward could tell that something was off. Then a thought hit him like a brick wall. Had she found someone in Europe? Had he been so stupid not to realize his feelings too late? Then he felt her hand squeeze his when she laid her head on his shoulder. He let out the breath that he had been holding and leaned his head against hers. They sat in silence until they arrived at Foggy Bottom station and began walking down 23rd NW. The blistering August sun broke through the city’s highrises, blades of light striking the sidewalk. Fifteen minutes later, they were buying their gelato from Mario.
“Isabella and Eduardo, what a pleasure,” Mario exclaimed, then began scooping two cups of salted caramel.
Edward reached into his pocket and handed Mario a twenty. When Mario tried to hand back the change, Edward waved him off. This was the least he could do for Mario and his wife, who had lost her leg in an accident five years before. The Swans and the Cullens had been taking care of their medical expenses that were not covered by insurance secretly.
“Thanks,” Mario murmured. They thought he didn’t know about the payments, but he wasn’t born yesterday. At first, his pride was injured, but seeing his love healthy and happy convinced him to keep his mouth shut. “Go enjoy your day.”
“We will, Mario,” Bella chirped happily.
They took their bowls of gelato and sat down on the steps, overlooking the reflecting pool toward the majestic Washington Monument. It was their favorite place to sit. When they had finished, Edward took Bella’s bowl and threw it in the trash can. As he began to walk back up the steps towards Bella, he stopped and admired her beauty. With his heart full of love for her, he took the remaining steps, sitting on one below where she sat. Taking her hand once again into his, he looked up into her eyes.
“Edward, I need to tell you something,” Bella implored.
“Please let me say what I have to say first,” he pleaded.
“I have been a dense idiot,” he began.
“What do you mean?” Bella asked.
“I have wasted so much time, not telling you that I love you,” he said in a deep voice that seemed to vibrate deep into her heart.
“You love me?” She said, blinking back tears; however, one escaped a trickled down her cheek.
He reached up and wiped the tear away with his thumb and brought it up to his lips, sucking off the salty wetness. Even though it was breaking his heart, he needed her to know that if she didn’t feel the same way, he would always be her friend. “But Bella, if you found someone while you were gone, I don’t want you to be afraid that I won’t stay your friend.”
Bella reached out and placed her hand on his cheek. “I love you so much Edward, and I have for so long.”
Bella giggled and lowered her forehead onto his. “I Love you.”
After that glorious day on the steps of Lincoln Memorial, Edward and Bella were inseparable. Charlie won the election and moved into the White House. Just as he promised, he worked day and night to put the country back on the right track for all Americans. Edward and Bella graduated with honors, going to George Washington University. Secret Service thought it would be too challenging to keep Bella safe in the dormitories, so a townhome was found just outside the campus for her to live.
After graduation, Edward was applying for jobs with several government agencies, while Bella attended law school. He was sitting in his apartment one morning when the news about a bombing in Baghdad, killing over eighty-five people in two days was being covered. His heart stopped when he saw a small boy lying in the street dead. He knew that he had to do something. It was on that day that he joined the Marines.
Edward had just finished signing all the documents necessary for his commitment to join the Corp. His innate desire that he needed to fight to protect the girl he loved, his family, and countrymen from the terrorist threats and actions of Osama Bin Laden, was paramount. Arriving at the townhouse on the west side of DC, he was met by the ever-vigilant Secret Service officers, here to protect Bookworm. He was on their list of people who were allowed into the home once he produced his photo ID. It was for her protection, and he was glad they were looking out for the love of his life.
He walked up the steps of her townhome, showing ID to the security and then walking in.
“Bella,” he called out.
“In here,” she yelled.
Edward walked into the living room to find her on the couch with her laptop. Walking over to her, he bent down and placed a kiss on her lips, then sat down.
Bella put her laptop down. “Did you hear anything from Homeland Security?”
Taking a deep breath, he tried to calm his nerves, knowing that she was going to be upset by his news. “Bella, Sweetie, I need to talk to you about a decision I have made. I have decided to join the Marines.”
“I can’t continue to sit by allowing innocent children to be killed in the streets. I cannot continue not to take action as the terrorists continue to make and carry out threats of violence. So I joined the Marines,” Edward confessed.
“Well, unjoin,” Bella huffed.
“Babe, you know it doesn’t work like that. Please understand,” he pleaded.
Tears were running down her face as she looked into his eyes. It was at that moment that she knew he was serious. “No, you can’t do this to us. You are supposed to be with me. Don’t you love me anymore?”
“You know I do, but I need to do this,” Edward said, reaching out for her hand; however, she moved further back from him.
“If you loved me, you wouldn’t do this,” Bella cried.
“Bella, love,” Edward begged.
“Just go,” Bella murmured with her face in her hands.
Edward left that day, but he tried many times to call or text her, though she never responded. He went through basic training and then was stationed in Baghdad. One night he was lying in his bunk watching mindless shows on his computer when suddenly Bella’s face appeared with a hulk of a man whose arm was wrapped around her waist.
“The first daughter was seen out last night with a mystery man. They looked happy together, laughing and dancing. Could this be her Mr. Right?”
Edward’s heart broke into a million pieces. She had moved on. He served four years in the Marines and once out, he came back to D.C. and applied to the Secret Service. After completing the thirty-four-page application, along with a written test, physical endurance test, the drug test, the vision test, the hearing test, the initial interview, the panel interview, the home interview, and the worst experience of his life, the polygraph, which elicited every foible and shame, he passed all the tests. With a glowing recommendation by Charlie Swan, and his high scores, he was hired.
He knew which part of the service he was most interested in being assigned and worked tirelessly to be assigned as an Agent who protected the President and first family. For three years, he protected President Volturi even though he hated everything he stood for and did to the country. Edward never let anyone know his feelings because that was something that you just didn’t do as an Agent. Your loyalty was to the country and the office.
Then his worst nightmare happened, Senator Isabella M. Swan had declared her candidacy against President Volturi in the next election. Over the years, he had kept up on what she was doing and who she was with. It had surprised him that he had seen very few pictures of her with men and he knew most of them were her security detail.
After Bella won by a landslide, Edward was called to the Office of the Director of Secret Service, Eva Cope.
“Mr. Cullen, I know you are wondering why you are here today?” Ms. Cope asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied.
“I have been watching you over the last few years and I believe you are the best Agent to take over when Miss Swan takes office,” she informed.
“SAIC?” Edward questioned.
Edward couldn’t believe this. He had worked hard and trained hard for this opportunity, though his mind began to doubt himself as to whether he could be that close to her, day in and day out. Even though it had been nearly ten years, his love for her had not faded, nor would it ever.
“Mr. Cullen, is there a problem. Do you not want this assignment and promotion?” Ms. Cope inquired.
Edward knew that the best place for him to protect Bella was to be her Special Agent In Charge and that was what he was going to do. He would lay his life and his heart on the line for her. “I would be honored to accept the position.”