Chapter 22 ~ The Unknown
I felt dizzy. My breath rasped through my chest, which couldn't seem to expand enough to allow sufficient airflow. My vision clouded and I only vaguely registered the sound of Edward's voice in my ear, repeatedly saying my name. I felt his arm moving around my waist as he pulled me close to him and from the corner of my eye I saw a cell phone in his hand. I felt more than heard him speak into it but a moment later.
Then his arms lifted me. I turned my head into his chest and listened to the cadence of his rapidly beating heart. I closed my eyes and felt his bare shoulder against my forehead, aware that we were moving but not caring where or why. In a moment, he was settling me into the passenger seat of his Volvo. I leaned my head back against the seat, my eyes closed, afraid to do anything but concentrate on breathing.
Inhale to a count of four. Hold for a count of two. Exhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of two. Repeat.
Humming. In my head I hummed. The Pony Man. Gordon Lightfoot. Charlie and his love affair with Gordon Lightfoot. At nights, he would sing the song to me, off-key in the extreme. That was part of the magic. I would curl into his lap and he would read to me about White Fang and then he would sing The Pony Man off-key and my eyes would drift closed. I was seven and I had scraped knees and I knew that nothing bad could ever happen again, that nothing would ever harm me so long as I had a home on this lap and he sang The Pony Man off-key while I slept.
Inhale to a count of four. Hold for a count of two. Exhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of two. Repeat.
Reds and blues swirled in a haze beyond my eyelids. The sound of heavy footfalls assaulted my ears. My breath hitched and I lost my count. I shook my head, trying to get me back to the pony man.
Inhale to a count of four. Hold for a count of two. Exhale for a count of four. Hold for a count of two. Repeat.
The heat from a hand was on my thigh, a whisper against my face; a whispered, "Bella," in a voice so familiar, yet so far away as to bring tears to my eyes.
"Bella, love, the police are here."
His hand squeezed my knee, and I became aware of other voices.
The police seemed to be at my house for hours, though I found it difficult to gauge the true passage of time. They took statements from me and from Edward and it was only upon later reflection that I realized they seemed to be questioning him intently, almost suspiciously, to the point where he began to cop a defensive attitude. They sent officers back to Alice and Jasper's place, to take a look at my truck and gather any evidence that might be available there. Eventually, I went inside my house through the side door and into my office, where I sat in a chair in front of my desk, a female officer next to me. We discussed James at length. We talked also about a variety of people in my life, from Jacob and men I'd dated in the past, to Truman to Jack Berber. She even asked about friends—Carlisle, Jasper, Emmett. And Edward. She seemed especially interested in Edward.
"You don't understand, officer. It's James Legion. James is the one doing all this."
She smiled at me, sympathetically. "I know you suspect him, ma'am, and believe me, we will investigate him thoroughly. But at this point, we need to look at all possibilities."
Sometime during our conversation, Edward brought me a bottle of water. I looked up at him from my seat, thankfully, and he squeezed my shoulder.
"We're almost done here," the officer said to him. Her intent that he should leave us alone was perfectly clear in the tone of her voice and the look on her face and Edward retreated back to the sun room.
She asked me a few more questions, taking notes on a little pad she held in her hand as I answered. She stood when she was finished and handed me her card.
"If you think of anything else we should know or if you have any problems at all, call me as soon as you can."
"I will. Thank you." I looked at her card, not really seeing it.
She bent to put a hand on my knee. "We're going to be here for just a little while longer. You should try to get some rest. We'll let you know when we're done."
"Thanks." I tried to smile at her.
She left through the office door and I lay my head back against the chair. I could vaguely hear the muffled voices of the police outside my house, presumably hunting for evidence.
"Bella?" Edward's voice was soft, as was the expression on his face when I opened my eyes to look up at him as he stood beside my chair. He crouched down in front of me and I noticed he was in definite need of a shave. He took my hand in his.
"The police are winding things down," he said.
"I can't stay here." My voice was hoarse from tears and fatigue.
"Come stay with me," he said. "You can stay with me as long as you need to, Bella."
Tears sprang to my eyes yet again as I looked into the kind face before me and his hand squeezed mine.
"What is this, Edward? Why is this happening?"
The hand not holding mine cradled my cheek in its palm. "I don't know, sweetie. But the cops will figure it out. They'll catch this guy. In the meantime, you'll stay with me."
I shook my head slightly. "I'm scared, Edward. I'm really scared."
"I know. Come with me. You'll be safe with me." He brushed his hand through my hair before it came to rest at the back of my neck. "I would never let anything happen to you, Bella. I will never let anyone hurt you."
My heart melted as I looked into his bright green eyes, so filled with compassion and concern. I felt like a little girl and I wanted so to curl up in his protective arms and take up residence, allowing him to handle the police and protect me from all evil. And in that moment, I thoroughly believed he could do so. I bent to kiss his lips softly before we both rose.
I held him close to me by the hand, with my head on his arm, while we walked to my bedroom, where I silently packed a small overnight bag while he watched from his seat on the foot of my bed. When I had it packed, I set it down on the bed beside him and stood between his legs. I wrapped my arms around his neck and he rested his cheek against my chest as I cradled him to me, his arms wrapped around me. The warmth of his breath drifted through my shirt as I ran a hand through his hair.
I chuckled, tiredly. "I guess I really should change my clothes, huh?"
He shifted to look up at me, but his arms remained wrapped around my waist. "Well, don't feel the need to do so on my account. I'm rather fond of this outfit." He drifted a hand down my backside and up again and he winked, teasing me, before becoming serious again. "Whatever makes you comfortable, Bella."
I gave him a sarcastic smirk. "Ha-ha. I'm surprised the cops took us seriously in these get-ups."
As if on cue, there was a small knock on the open door and a uniformed police officer stuck his head in.
"We're all done here, ma'am," he said.
Edward stood while I walked toward the officer.
"Sorry it took us so long," he said. "We were trying to get prints off the box before we moved it."
"Any luck?" Edward asked from right behind me. I felt his hand at my back.
"It doesn't look like it, no. I don't know yet if we found anything at the truck, though." I couldn't help but notice the gruff way in which the officer spoke to Edward before he turned his full attention toward me.
"Remember, if you get any more phone calls or flowers or — anything — call us right away." He handed me his card. "I know you have Officer Clearwater's information already, but you can call me, as well. I'm her partner. Embry Call." He shot me a toothy grin as I took the card from his hand.
"Okay. Thank you, Officer," I said. "I really appreciate all your help tonight. I mean, all of you."
He nodded and shook my hand. "No problem, ma'am. That's what we're here for. Officer Clearwater or I will call you this week to let you know how we're coming along with our investigation."
Edward dropped his hand from my back. "Here," he said, moving toward the door. "Let me walk you out."
I sat on the bed while Edward left to see the officer out. My head was reeling. There were, seemingly, millions of scattered thoughts running a marathon through my mind, but I couldn't think anymore. I couldn't concentrate on much of anything and I certainly couldn't focus on the matter at hand without feeling I was about to hyperventilate. Laying back on the bed, I closed my eyes and waited for Edward to return so we could go stay at his place. I'd spent many nights by myself in that house, of course, but I had never really felt alone until that moment. The silence that surrounded me as the police left my property was deafening.
I started at the feel of Edward’s hand at my knee. I'd actually dozed off.
"Hey," he said, softly. "You wanna just stay here for now? We can get some sleep. Stay at my place tomorrow. It's late." He lay down on the bed next to me, his hand resting lightly on my tummy.
"What time is it?"
He shifted on the bed to look at the clock on my nightstand. "After four."
I sighed heavily and turned on my side to face him. "I'm sorry. You must be exhausted."
He huffed, softly. "Don't apologize to me, Bella. I'm so glad I was here—that you didn't come home alone."
I put a hand to his face, tracing from his sideburn and down his jaw with my fingers. "I'm glad you were here, too." I lifted myself to him, kissing him lightly. "Thank you," I whispered against his lips, my eyes closed.
I started to pull away, but his hand was at the back of my neck, holding me to him. His lips came to mine in a soft, but deep kiss. "Bella." His breath drifted lightly across my lips as he spoke. "I want to always be here for you." He kissed me again. I could practically taste his desperation as he clutched at my hair.
"The thought of somebody–" Th soft noise that came from him matched the desperation of his kiss.
"Ssh. Let's not talk about it, okay?"
He kissed me again, his tongue slipping between my lips. I sighed into his mouth as he moved over me, pushing me onto my back. His hand moved to the buttons of my shirt and I felt his fingers gliding between my breasts.
"Edward," I whispered as his lips trailed across my throat. His hair was soft between my fingers, his lips hot against my skin.
My shirt was open, Edward's hand at my breast as he whispered in my ear. "I love you, Bella."
I moaned softly as he squeezed my breast gently, his mouth again covering mine. I gasped for breath as his lips moved down my chest.
"Edward." I pushed slightly at his shoulder and he brought his head up, looking down at me.
"I know, Bella. I know it's too soon. But let me do this for you. Let me make it all go away."
I practically whimpered as his lips returned to my skin, leaving hot trails over my chest. He pulled the sheer lace of my bra down over the fullness of my breast and his mouth found purchase there.
I found my full voice then as I pushed again at his shoulder. "Edward, please. Stop."
I pulled my shirt to cover my breast as he pulled up to gaze down into my eyes.
"Bella, please," he said. "Let me make you feel good."
"You do make me feel good, Edward." I traced the angles of his face with my fingers.
"Let me make you feel better."
I took his hand in mine and wrapped it around me as I turned over, my back to him. I scooted up the bed, bringing him with me, and I sighed as I settled into the pillow and into Edward as he curled behind me.
He held me for several moments before speaking again. "I love you so much, Bella."
I shifted slightly, until I was looking into his face. "I love you, too, Edward."
A smile slowly covered his face and his eyes brightened, in spite of the exhaustion evident there. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." I reached across myself to run a hand through his hair. "Can you just hold me? Please? I just want to feel your arms around me."
He kissed my temple and motioned for me to lay back down as I had been. "Of course, baby. I'll do whatever you need."
We lay next to each other like spoons, his arms enveloping me in warmth, his hands briefly rubbing my arm, his lips occasionally brushing against my ear in light kisses. I felt so content and comforted and was assaulted by the knowledge of how much I'd missed feeling his arms around me. My body slowly relaxed, bit by bit, my mind doing the same as I tried to let the events of the night go.
"What was it, Edward? I mean ... was it–?"
"The cops weren't totally sure, but they think it was a pig's heart."
I shuddered and his arms gripped me tighter to him, one slipping under my neck. Within minutes, though I thought it would not happen, I was asleep.
I woke before Edward and felt his soft snores whispering across my back. We had not moved and my neck was stiff from having slept across his arm all night. I glanced at the clock on the table and saw that it was not quite eight o'clock, but I knew I wouldn't be going back to sleep.
I gingerly lifted his arm from around my waist and he groaned before turning onto his back, falling immediately back to sleep. I looked over at him as I rose from the bed and had to stifle the giggles that wanted to escape at the sight of him, still in his caveman costume. It was a bit chilly in the room, so I covered him with the extra blanket I kept at the foot of my bed.
I made my way to the bathroom and shut the door. The mirror was a kind and oddly comforting friend. I looked tired, which I was, but though I felt incredibly violated after the events of the prior night, you wouldn't have known it to look at me. The makeup I'd worn the night before was still on my face and as I'd hardly moved while I slept, my hair was still in reasonably good shape. Inside, though, I felt worn and cold and scared. And in spite of the lovely man lying in my bed in the next room, I felt very much alone.
I turned on the faucet in the shower, letting the hot water fill the room with steam as I stripped the ridiculous Halloween costume from my body. I'd always loved extremely hot showers and I stepped beneath the flow of water, letting it wash over me and relieve my tired muscles. As the water pelted my neck and shoulders, I tried not to think about James, about the many mistakes I'd made with him. I tried not to blame myself for my predicament, but it proved impossible.
I tried to think about Edward, about how caring and sweet he'd been all night, but instead I found myself dwelling on the suspicious way the police had treated him. I didn't really understand their attitude toward him and it almost angered me. I washed my hair and got myself cleaned up slowly, taking my time and letting the hot water work its magic on my stiff neck.
I wrapped my hair in a towel and myself in a robe after I'd stepped out of the shower, and quietly made my way to the kitchen. Edward was still fast asleep on his back, his mouth wide open, as I tiptoed through my bedroom and closed the door softly. Once in the kitchen, I started a pot of coffee and checked my phone. The battery on my cell was drained, to no surprise, so I plugged it in and picked up my house phone, dialing my friend’s number.
"You'd better have a goddamn good reason for calling me this early on a Sunday."
"And good morning to you, too, Rose."
"Again I ask why in the world you would call me before nine on a Sunday, especially when you know I have a hunky piece of man-meat laying here next to me."
"Okay, if I apologize, will you never use the phrase 'man-meat' in conversation with me again?"
And so I told her. I tried to give her the Reader's Digest condensed version of events, but between her questions and peppered "get the fuck out"s, by the time I looked at the clock again, half an hour had passed.
"Wow, Bella. This is scary."
"Yeah, but honestly? I don't know which was worse. The pig's heart on my doorstep or young cops calling me 'ma'am' all night."
"You're sure it's James doing this?"
"Who else would it be, Rose? Truman?"
She laughed again. "Sorry, but I really can't see that."
I chuckled, as well. "Me, neither. The only other person I can think of would be Jack, at work. He's a cretin. But, I've worked with him for years. Why would he do this now?"
"Maybe because you're dating Edward now?"
"Maybe...” I sighed. “But honestly, I don't see it. I mean, he's gross and he's a shithead, but he hates me. Plus, I think he's too afraid of me to try any of this stuff."
She chuckled while I took a sip of coffee and grimaced. I didn't care much for it and didn't drink it often, but felt the need for caffeine.
"Listen, Bella..." she began, but she didn't finish.
"What is it, Rose?"
"Well ... I don't really want to say this, but what about Edward?"
"He stayed with me last night. He's been really sweet and protective. I think he's as upset about all of this as I am. I'm gonna stay at his place until this all gets resolved."
There was silence for a moment and I took another sip of my coffee.
"Well ... you don't think that's all a little convenient?"
I clutched my coffee mug in my hands tightly as what she was saying fully sunk in.
"What are you saying, Rose?"
"Listen, Bell, I don't know anything. But here you were going to go slow for a while, right? No sex, let's see how this relationship pans out? Now all of a sudden, he's spent the night at your house and you're basically gonna move in with him?"
The coffee churned in my stomach and I wasn't at all sure it wasn't going to come up again.
"You think Edward is doing all of this?"
She was quick to respond. "I don't know, Bella. Obviously, I have no idea. I just ... I'm worried and I want you to be safe. And–" I could hear her take a deep breath. "I mean, I like Edward. But I don't know him very well. And he's kind of a hard guy to trust."
I dropped my head to my arms, crossed in front of me. I felt nauseous and on the verge of tears yet again. "Jesus."
"I'm sorry, Bella. You know, it probably is James. We already know he's a loose nut."
I didn't know what to think. I didn't really suspect Edward, but she was right—parts of the events of Halloween seemed awfully convenient, in retrospect. And Edward had tried to push me into sexual activity—activity I wasn't ready for. But he'd been so sweet and loving and once I told him that I just needed him with me, he'd stopped pushing. He'd only been trying to take my pain away.
I wanted nothing more in that moment than to run away. I needed to go someplace where I could clear my head; where I could think about everything without the influence of Edward's sweet face and warm arms or the opinions of anyone else. But I knew that wasn't possible. I was too afraid to be alone anywhere, even miles away from James. Or whoever it was doing this to me.
"Rosie? I have a favor to ask..."
I brought a cup of coffee — two sugars — into the bedroom. Edward was just waking, running a hand over his face.
"Hey." He smiled as I came in. "Sorry. How long have you been up?"
"A while," I said, setting his coffee on the nightstand. "Don't apologize. I woke up too early."
I sat down on the edge of the bed, facing him. He put a hand on my thigh and rubbed it gently.
"I see," he said. "You already took a shower."
"Yeah." I shrugged.
He smiled, brightly, and sat up in the bed. "Why don't I take a quick one and then I'll take you out to breakfast?"
He leaned toward me and kissed me softly on the lips. As he pulled away, he looked at me curiously.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm okay.” I shrugged again. “Better than last night, anyway."
He ran his fingers down my cheek. "Okay. Let me jump in the shower."
"'Kay. Do you mind if I come in and hang out while you shower?"
He raised his eyebrows and a delightful twinkle came to his eye. I grinned and rolled my eyes, raising a hand before he could speak.
"I just want to fix my hair. You'll be showering on your own."
"Oh." He shrugged and threw the blanket aside. "Yeah, that's okay, too. You don't want to go out with your hair in a towel?" He winked at me as he scooted off the bed.
I followed behind him as he walked toward the bathroom.
"You know, when I was a little kid and I had short hair, I used to put a towel around it and let it fall over my shoulders and I'd pretend it was my hair."
"That's adorable." He chuckled.
I pulled on some jeans and a T-shirt and brought out Jake's old sweats again for Edward to wear and by the time I met up with him in the bathroom, he was already in the shower.
"So where do you want to go to breakfast?" he asked from behind the shower doors as I ran a brush through my damp hair.
I shrugged. "Do you want to swing by your place to change, first? We could go some place by you."
I heard him chuckle. "Guess that's a good idea, yeah. We can drop your bag there, too."
I swallowed hard as I looked at myself in the mirror, deciding not to bother with makeup.
"By the way, Bella, I'm supposed to be out of town Wednesday and Thursday, but I'm gonna see about canceling the trip."
The water shut off and I turned to see him opening the shower door and reaching for a towel. My breath caught at the sight. My memory had not done justice to just how beautiful a man he was.
He caught me looking and grinned. "Sure you don't want to change your mind and come in here with me?"
I blushed and looked to the floor. "Sorry, I just ... it's been a while."
He chuckled, ruffling his hair with the towel and came toward me, bending to kiss my cheek.
"It's been too long."
I looked up into his smiling, beautiful face, his hair a mess, and I did want to push him back into the shower and forget everything that had happened—not just the previous night, but the past several weeks.
"Do I still have a toothbrush here?" he asked as he wrapped the towel around his waist.
I turned to retrieve it from the medicine cabinet and handed it to him. "Of course."
I left the room while he brushed his teeth and dressed. I didn't think I could handle the temptation any longer. I sat on the bed and waited and a few minutes later he joined me.
"You ready?" he asked. He bent to kiss my cheek again.
"Yes, but..." I swallowed again, nervous about what I had to say. I decided to just forge ahead and the words spilled rapidly from my lips.
"I don't think you should cancel your trip, Edward."
He looked at me, curiously, for a moment before speaking. "It's not that I don't want you in my apartment without me, Bella. I just thought you wouldn't want to be alone. Plus, I'll worry about you."
"Well, yeah, but ... it's your job. I mean, you're going to have to leave town sometime."
He ran a hand through his damp hair. "Well, sure, but Bella–"
"I'm gonna stay with Rose." I blurted the words out, interrupting him.
He stared at me with his mouth hanging open for several moments as I sat, wringing my hands in my lap.
"You're what?" His face had lost all expression by the time he spoke. The tone of his voice was cold.
I stood, nervous energy making it impossible for me to sit still.
"Edward, I do appreciate all you've done for me, really." I swallowed. I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I didn't want to push him away. But I was so confused, so afraid and angry. I wanted to trust him, but I honestly didn't know if I could. I didn't know who I could.
"I just need some time, Edward. I need some time alone. To think this through."
He sighed heavily, the look in his eyes now one of defeat. "But you won't even be alone. You'll be at Rosalie's."
I shuffled my feet and looked at the floor. "That's ... It's different."
"Is this about last night? Bella, I'm sorry if I pushed too hard. I just–"
I cut him off, shaking my head. "That's not it, Edward. You were wonderful last night, really."
I felt his hands on my arms before I noticed he'd walked toward me. The pain I saw in his eyes when I looked into them almost made me change my mind and go with him, regardless of what I needed.
"Bella ... I want you to do what you need to do, but ... I want to be here for you. I want you to trust me."
I reached up to touch his face and he kissed my forehead. I shut my eyes tightly and swallowed the tears which threatened, knowing I had to be honest, yet not wanting to hurt him.
"I want to trust you, Edward."
He pulled away, looking down at my face, the hurt more than evident in his eyes. I left my hand at his cheek, the other now joining it, trying to sooth the pain of my words with my touch.
"I know how you feel and believe me, I want this. I want you. I want us to go back to that place where we were. I want to start all over and just laugh and have fun and just ... be together." I ran my hand through his hair and put a finger to his lips before he spoke. "But now it's all ... I don't have any idea what's going on anymore. Like, just a few weeks ago, I felt like I had it all figured out. Everything was under control. And now it's all just–"
My faced crumpled in on itself as the tears I'd been fighting came, full force, and I completely fell apart. My shoulders shook with the strength of my sobs and Edward pulled me into his arms, his hand running along my back as I cried into his naked chest.
"Shh..." His hand soothed my hair as he whispered and occasionally kissed my head, my cheek, my eyes, while I cried. "I'm sorry Bella ... I'm so sorry, baby. I know."
"I'm not saying I don't want to be with you or that we can't talk or see each other. I just ... I just don't think it would be wise for us to live together yet, you know?"
I continued to sob, nearing hysterics, and he pulled me tightly to him. His hands continued their comforting travels through my hair and down my back.
"I'm sorry, sweetie," he said.
He shifted and reached to grab a few tissues from the box I kept on top of the dresser. I wiped my face and blew my nose, trying to get hold of myself while he watched me. When I'd finally calmed down, I took a deep breath as his hand again smoothed down my back.
"I'm sorry, baby," he said again. "We'll do whatever you need to do. I just want to make everything better."
I sighed and looked up into his eyes before stepping up on my toes to kiss him, lightly.
"I do love you, Edward. I'm sorry everything is so fucked up right now."
His hands held my face as he kissed me. "Don't apologize, Bella. None of this is your fault ... Besides, didn't you say once that if we can make it through this bullshit then the rest of our relationship should be a piece of cake?"
"Yeah, well, I'm ready for the cake part," I said.
He wrapped his arm around my shoulder and kissed the top of my head. "Will pancakes do, baby?"
I chuckled, taking a deep breath. "Sounds great, actually."
We slowly gathered our things and made our way to the front door. I grabbed the newspaper from the rose bush out front and threw it on the dining table before locking up. Edward carried my bag in one hand and held my hand in the other as we made our way down the walk to his car.
"By the way," I said. "Don't you ever find it amusing that you call me 'baby' all the time when I'm more than ten years older than you?"