A riding crop and a blindfold doesn't make it BDSM. There is a big difference between being kinky and being in the scene. It's not a sexual thing to me, it's a very spiritual thing. ~ DominaBlue


Chapter 112


I wasn't actually worried about Charlie shooting me. For one thing - although I couldn't be one hundred percent positive - I was fairly sure, Chief Swan wasn't packing. Plus, I knew without a doubt, the man was intelligent enough not commit a murder in front of so many witnesses. However the most reassuring comfort I had was the slight laughter coming from Bella.

“Dad! Knock it off, your scaring Edward!”

“That's the point” The gruff scowl in my direction causing me to swallow the lump in my throat while he asked “And just when did this little revelation get decided?”

“It makes sense Dad...” the diplomatic explanation was rudely interrupted by my sister “Bella already stays here all the time”

Turning the full force of my stare at Alice – she wasn't fucking helping – all I saw was a slight grin of satisfaction on her face while Bella squared her jaw and agreed “That's right I do.”

Shifting her eyes Bella's glare at my sister turned softer as she spoke to her father in a steady voice.

“There were reasons why Edward opened his home to me and I will admit it was only intended to be a temporary basis. But that was before, things are different now our relationship has grown and frankly when Edward brought up the possibility of me staying indefinitely, it never really dawned on me to that I would have leave and return home.”

Hearing Bella use the word 'home,' in reference to anyplace else but where she was living, was an exercise in restraint. I had to literally bite my tongue to keep from saying 'you're already home' and forced myself to focus not only on her words but also the person she was talking to – her father.

“Edward pointed out that it wasn't a good idea to leave my house unoccupied and I don't feel completely comfortable with selling it...” Bella shrugged “...you never know though, in another six months I might change my mind. In the mean time he suggested the possibility of renting it out for student housing.”

“And just how does that work? Cause you don't know anything about being a landlord.” Bella sighed heavily at Charlie's remark making me smirk at her with a raised eyebrow.

The little tease knew exactly what I meant and stuck her tongue out at me before giggling.

Oh she was totally going to pay for that shit.

I had been keeping a running tally of all the transgressions she was going to have to answer for along with spilling her guts about what Pappy found so damn amusing. All he asked was what she liked about me and whatever it was had him rolling with laughter. Neither of them would enlighten me, in fact Bella practically challenged me to make her tell. Then lets not forget the finger gesture she made in front of everyone while telling me to 'Snap to It.'

Now she's sticking her tongue out

Nodding my head I gave her an evil grin and kept the running tally fresh in my mind while Bella composed herself to say “I know dad, that's why I need to talk to the college.”

Mom interjected “If UW handles it the same way as Dartmouth then whole transaction is handled through the Housing Office. They become the liaison between the renter and homeowner, Think of it like a situation where the college is signing the lease and then subletting to the students. The maintenance department takes care of basic repairs and the grounds crew sees to mowing the lawn or shoveling snow. Their blanket insurance covers against damages, break ins or accidents to the property or residents.”

“How do you know so much about this Esme?” Billy asked while reaching for the jar of Laub

It was dad who answered “Since Emmett and Edward returned from Dartmouth, the housing market slumped. Esme and I decided to wait out the recession, yet as Bella said, leaving a home unoccupied isn't a very good idea. Since the house is on the other side of the country, we couldn't very well have a traditional leasing agreement. A friend of ours suggested this arrangement and so far...” giving a Bella a small smile, he added “...it's been working out fine.”

“Uh...” Charlie huffed while Bella wondered “I thought... I mean...I guess I just figured from what Edward said, that you rented a house for them...”

I hadn't truly clarified, only saying while attending Dartmouth I lived in a private home with Emmett, then again, Bella never really asked either.

“No...” dad shook his head “...that wouldn't have been financially sound. Leasing would have been nothing more then throwing money away. Purchasing a home was a more lucrative venture, in the end if and when we decide to sell, then we'll see a return in the form of a healthy profit”

“You just bought a house?” the idea seemed foreign to Seth.

Giving a nod my father also gave the young man a bit of advise “Real Estate, is always a sound investment”

“Huh...” Charlie's disgruntled huff had me wondering what the man was thinking and a moment later he voiced it by asking my mother “And you'd be okay with Bella moving in here with your son?”

It was hard to tell if his motives for asking was due to doubt or hopefulness.
Mom gave him a distant smile that made me believe she was going to answer in the affirmative, however once again it was my father who answered “Edward is a grown man, who makes his own living and has his own home. Who he chooses to have in it, for whatever reason or however long is not for his mother or I to say”

Charlie's eyes narrowed and once again that uncertain 'humf' made itself known. “I guess that's the difference between having a son and a daughter.” Giving Bella his full attention the man spoke his mind “Didn't raise you to be shacking up...”

“Dad!” Bella's annoyance coming out loud and clear while Sue simultaneously hissed out a warning “Charles”

Not one to be admonished, he addressed his wife “Well I didn't. Maybe I might not have put as much effort into churching Bella as my mother did me, but that doesn't mean I can overlook everything she brought me up to believe.”

“What are you talking about Charlie? You didn't say anything when Leah moved in with Jake for two years”

Leaning back in his chair, the man stubbornly crossed his arms over his chest “That was different.”


Shock crossed his features as he seemed to think about his daughters question, then shifted his eyes between Bella and I before settling his gaze on our still entwined hands resting on the table. “Well, for one, I knew Jake since he was a baby, and knew damn well he wasn't just taking the milk with no intentions of buying the cow”

“Are you calling me a cow Charlie?”

Keeping her eyes on her father Bella answered Leah's question “No I think he's calling me one”

“You know Charlie...” the causal tone of Billy's voice breaking up some of the tension “...this isn't the nineteenth century anymore.”

Cutting off Billy's rebuttal, Charlie tried to make a point “My mother...” Only to be interrupted once again by his friend.

“Your mother was born in a time when everything was right and wrong and raised by devout Christians who thought unless it was biblical it was demonic. Now Mrs Swan was a nice lady, who had you at an older age and was set in her ways. Everything with her was black and white with no gray allowed. She could quote the bible in her sleep and yet she had not an ounce of Christian love for her own daughter-in-law.” Pointing a finger Billy accused “And you know it to be true, she treated Renee like a leaper.”

“Now hold on there...”

Holding up his hand Billy said “No...you hold on there and think about what your doing and then stop before you make the same mistakes as your mother by being so hypocritical”

Not giving Charlie a chance to respond to his oldest friend, Bella crossed her arms over her chest in stubborn retaliation “Yeah, hypocritical”

“Charles Swan, you can't very well say it was alright for one of the girls and then pitch a fit over the other. Especially considering Bella is almost six years older then Leah was and is a grown woman...a divorced grown woman at that.” Shaking her head Sue concluded “Who need I remind you, doesn't need your permission.”

“So you keep telling me.”

Charlie's exasperated tone did nothing to deter his wife. “Bella didn't even have to inform you. So maybe instead of acting all pious...”

“Hypocritical” Bella threw the word out there again with all the ire of a pouty child while Sue went on “...you should count yourself lucky to have heard it from Bella, before the fact”

Bella and her father had a stare down and I could see it in his eyes – the understanding. Sue's words had hit a soft spot. Years ago, his daughter had shut him out, kept him at arms length, and completely devoid of any information. Due to the goals I had her set, she had made the decision to change that situation and was incorporating her father back into her life.

With a resigned sigh Charlie's eyes shifted to my grandmother. Maybe he just wanted to break the tension, or maybe he assumed because of her age, he'd have an ally. Either way he gave an almost wounded expression when he said “Do you see how they gang up on me? Always spoiling her”

Before gran could reply I finally got my voice, releasing her hand I wrapped my arm over Bella's shoulder, tucking her close to me “Well, now, I get to do that”

“Yeah I know what you wanna do”

Charlie's low grumble brought about another exasperated 'Dad' from Bella and loud snickering guffaw from Emmett. Sue admonished her husband but truly, I had been quiet long enough. I didn't need others to fight my battles and it seemed to me Charlie's main point of contention was his lack of not knowing the depth of the respect I had for not only his daughter but him as well. I figured it was time to set the man's mind at ease.

“Charlie, I'm guessing by your reaction, we went about this the wrong way. Perhaps instead of springing our intentions on you as a passing comment, it might have been more prudent for us to have privately included you in our plans. It's just that at times I find it difficult to associate the woman I love with the same person you see as your little girl. When you say you know what I want to do with her, I figure it might be good thing for you know exactly what that is.”

I didn't just want – as Charlie so wittingly suggested – free milk from the cow. My desire was much more imposing. My intentions, though noble, tended to lean in a more thorough objective – I wasn't just after the cow, I endeavored to take dominion over the whole damn farm. Of course it wasn't the time or the place to inform him of the diamond engagement ring on order, and I certainly wasn't going to spout out words of ownership or possession.

Shifting my gaze to look down into Bella's wide browns eyes, I saw everything I could ever ask for. Holding her attention, I spoke my words for all to hear

“What I want to do, the only thing that matters to me, is to be here, for Bella, however long and in whatever capacity, she will have me.”

Bella's nose wrinkled and her eyes glassed over as she said “I love you Edward Cullen”

I didn't answer, instead offered a wink and glanced across the table to catch the smiling faces on my parent's, Billy and Sue, however it was Charlie's expectant gaze that had my full attention

“I love your daughter. If it was up to me, Bella would have already put her house on the market. But that's not my decision to make. And believe it or not, I respect her for being diligent about protecting her assets. I've lived alone for a long time and once someone...” Shaking my head I corrected

“...No, not just anyone. Once Bella came into my life, I realized, there was no way I could let her go. And miraculously, she feels the same way. For now, we're going to leave it at that” then I offered him a promise “I will assure you though, in the future, you will have first hand knowledge of any prospective plans.”

Giving Charlie a curt nod I hoped he was perceptive enough to read between the lines.

“See Charlie, they love each other”

“Yeah...Yeah, everybody loves each other”

The halfhearted grumbling at Billy's comment was cut off by my mothers happy voice “ I have to say, that Edward isn't the only one who is taken with Bella. Carlisle and I just adore her, in fact she fits in so perfectly, we already consider her part of the family”

Sensing movement in my peripheral my eyes shifted to watch Alice whisper in Jasper's ear but I was more concerned with Charlie's reply “Well that's nice to know Esme...but what happens if this little arrangement...” alternating a pointed finger between Bella and I “...doesn't work out so well?”

“There's no guarantees in life Charlie”

Nodding her head at my words, Bella tried a different tactic “That's why I'm not selling my house dad.”

A loud exaggerated sigh came from the lower end of the table however I couldn't focus on Alice once Charlie said in accusation “So I guess you got it all figured out then”

“Not completely” it was true, we didn't. We hadn't even discussed what to do with all her belongs and I could only assume a storage unit rental would be happening sometime in the immediate future. But rubbing my hand over the smooth skin of Bella's upper arm I told him the one thing I believed with all my heart “we'll face it as it comes...together”

My words seemed to nullify his worries, yet I couldn't help but to wonder if the man was truly angry. There was no way in hell I would willingly give up my Bella, however having my future father-in-law thinking me to be a man of low moral perpetuate wasn't exactly the best prospect either. The worst part was I didn't know Charlie well enough to come up with a solution, so I was glad Bella did

“Edward, he's not really upset”

“How do you know?”

Laughing at her father's disgruntled tone, Bella spoke to me “When he's truly mad, he has this vein in his forehead...” tapping a finger above her right eye “...that kind of pulsates. Remember when I told you how I thought he was going to have an aneurism, when he caught Leah and me riding the motorcycles”

Vaguely recollecting the story, I nodded and Leah groaned “Ohhh...why'd you have to bring that up?”

“I think that was most angry I ever seen him” Bella laughed at the memory.

“Well who could blame me?” Charlie taking on a defensive tone as he reminisced.

“There I am, on my way to Susie's, driving along minding my own business and through the rain...” transferring his full attention to me Charlie's face became more animated and he used his hands to emphasize “...I don't mean the regular kind everyday rain we get...I mean, pouring down sheets of rain so hard that you couldn't make hide-nor-hare out of anything. And through the swishing of the windshield wipers I can barely make out this motorcycle sailing through the muddy grass. I thought what kind of a dumbass is stupid enough to be riding a bike in that kind of weather?”

“Charles...” Sue reprimanded, while nodding her head down towards the end of the table“...little ears”

Looking rather ashamed Charlie corrected himself “Sorry bout that but my dander was up.”

“Don't worry about it Charlie, they hear much worse from their uncle Emmett” Dad assured him then prompted “So you seen Bella riding a bike...”

“No...” Charlie shook his head “...it wasn't Bella, it was Leah.”

The two sisters shared a quiet giggle while the man went on with his story “I get out of my truck to put the bike into the back and was just ready to start telling her how confounded stupid she was...when all of a sudden along comes another nitwit. This one was even worse. Speeding around the bend so fast, I thought for sure they were going to roll it in the mud. Only to find out...” his whole face got red and Bella was right, that vein started pulsating “...that nitwit...was my daughter.”

Beside me, Bella was in near hysterics, hiding her face behind her hands and shaking in a fit of laughter.

“Oh my word...” Leah was unable to form a coherent sentence around her own fit of giggles “...he was so mad...I thought...his head...was going to pop off”

Laughing so hard I could barely understand her, Bella agreed with her sister “I swear...I saw...smoke...coming out ...of his ears”

This time everyone was laughing except Charlie, who glared at his daughter “Darn straight I was mad!”
As if needing reinforcements Charlie shifted his attention to my parents and explained his reaction “The two of em, fifteen years old...soaking wet...full of mud...riding through the storm on these old beat up bikes...with bald tires...neither of them with any safety gear on...and not even a permit to operate a vehicle between em...Mad?” He questioned with a pause “UH! I nearly blew a gasket...they were just lucky all they got was grounded!”

As he growled out the last word my mother shook her head in disapproval while dad nodded in understanding but for the most part the rest of the table were all snickering at the story. Wiping her eyes with the back of one hand Bella used the other to point at her father and spoke though the fit of giggles “See what I mean about the vein?”

“Who's bikes were they?”

Wiping the tears from her eyes Leah answered my mother “Bella's”

“Didn't you know she had them?”

Charlie's face wrinkled in disgust at Gran”s question “Heck no! I had no idea. They...” sweeping a pointed finger at the members of his family “...kept it a big secret because they knew I would have taken a sledgehammer to those darn things and burned every last piece.”

Leaning forward so she could see past Emmett and I, Rose wondered “How did you get them Bella?”

However it was Charlie who answered with a high pitched bewildered tone “She found them in the garbage!”

Nodding her head Bella laughed and kept repeating “I did...I did...in … the garbage.” Composing herself she explained “They were just thrown in the junk pile...John helped me bring them home...”

“John Who?”

Bella answered her father as if it should be obvious “John Schwartz”

“You mean to tell me you roped that little pervert into helping you...”

“I didn't rope him into anything Dad. I was standing there in front of the Mark's house wondering how I was going to push both bikes and John came around the corner ...”

“Yeah I bet he just happened to come around the corner...the peeping tom was probably following you”

Bella laughed him off “He was not following me and he wasn't a peeping tom”

“The heck he wasn't. I caught him several times trying to peer up into your window”

“Well maybe he was trying to get a peek at Leah”

“Hey!” her sister yelled “I wasn't even living there yet”

Emmett asked the question I wanted to “Who's John Schwartz”

“A kid who lived two houses down, he was a year or two older then Bella and always staring.”

Charlie's explanation didn't do much for me. Other then the people from LaPush, there were only a hand full of Forks residents who I actually spoke to. Trying to remember if we had been introduced, I was even more confounded when Jacob assured me “Edward you met John.”

Turning my head in his direction he elaborated “When we were at Casey's...”


That would explain my lack of memory, that day at the bar was one fiasco after another. Starting with meeting the illustrious Jared, the emergence of an ex-husband and calumniating into Bella's hand meeting said ex-husbands face. All of which lead Bella and I to the motel where we spent a few hours on some maintenance.

“He was the one who had Bells trapped by the bathroom...you had to go rescue her”

“Ah...yeah” I nodded “I remember now. He seemed harmless”

“He is. John's a nice guy”

“Bells listen to your old man and believe me when I say...That boy had a thing for you. And if he helped you with moving those bikes he more then likely had a reason for doing it.”

“Dad...” Bella's protest was cut off by my sister “So after Bella used this kid...”

My glare in Alice's direction was was interrupted by Bella's harsh voice “I didn't use him.”

However she just continued talking as if it was of little matter “...how did the bikes get fixed?”

Switching her head to the other direction Bella smiled fondly “Jake's a miracle worker...” giggling she added “He's like the bike whisperer”

“You know I always wondered who took them out to the rez? None of you kids drove, and I know no matter how much you...” still glaring at his daughter “... smiled and con Johnny Schwartz. That boy wouldn't have been dumb enough to push them all that way. So how did they get to Billy's house?”

“Ummm....” trying to look at anybody else except her father Bella avoided the question “...yeah...somebody must have done that...”

Bella's attempt at a poker face was too comical and her mock innocence was just to fucking cute I couldn't help but to place my lips against her head.

Charlie was another matter all together, the man was either immune to Bella's charms or he really wanted an answer because his eyes narrowed as he stared down his daughter “Is that somebody here at the table?”

After putting the question out there, Charlie cast a glance at Billy who shook his head in denial “It wasn't me”

“Well it had to be somebody, because I know darn well my daughter didn't carry them fifteen miles on her back”

The glare didn't let up until Sue admitted “Alright... I did it”

“Susie!” Charlie exclaimed in surprise.

“Well how was I suppose to know Jake was actually going to get them running. I figured he'd start working on them, find out it was harder then he thought and give up”

“Sue? You doubted my abilities”

Telling her son-in-law in all sincerity “As a matter of fact, Yes, I did...” Sue shrugged “..but I figured it best to at least let you try. Believe me...” Grasping her hand to her chest “...No one was more shocked then me to find out they actually worked.” She once again turned to her husband “So what was I suppose to do?”

“What were you suppose to do?”

“Yeah...I mean...what would you have had me do?”

“Anything...anything would have been better then letting the two of them on those death traps.”

“But...” Sue sighed in defeat “Jake put so much work into them, and all those trips we made to the junk yard for parts. Scouring the place looking for this kind of ignition and that kind muffler...” imploring her husband to understand “...I had to let the kids ride em.”
While one drama was occurring across the table from me, Leah stated another by pointing an accusatory finger at Bella.

“You know it was all your fault Charlie caught us that day Bella...if you would have listened to me when I said we had to leave. But noooo...somebody was too busy getting felt up.”

OK, that got my attention, along with every one else at the table.

“Wh..wh..wh” was all poor Charlie could get out while Emmett practically salivated “Now this is getting good, come on Leah, tell us some more”

Yeah, I wanted to hear this part of the story myself.

Avoiding my face Bella leaned forward to confront her sister “I was not!”

“Oh yes you were. I was there...I remember”

“Well you remember wrong”

“No I don't, we were all up by the cliff and it started raining really hard. I told you we had to go because Charlie was going to be coming soon and you and Jared were sucking face...”

Seth chimed in from the other end of the table “Bella you dated Jared too?”

“No!” the one word answer from Bella was over shadowed by Jacob's question “What do you mean too?”

“I heard he went out with Kim for a while and I know he hooked up with Claire”

“How do you know that?”

Shrugging at Jacob's question, Seth answered plainly “I went to Sam's one afternoon and walked in on them”

My brothers boisterous laughter rang out as he said “This is better then a soap opera”

That seemed to put a new perspective on things at least in Charlie's mind as he glared at Bella “I thought you never dated Jared”

“We didn't date...” her eyes shifted from me “...and I wasn't getting felt up” then settled on Leah as she declared “...we were talking

“Yeah right...talking...his right hand was holding a conversation with your chest and his other one was communicating with your butt”

“That's not true...we were just talking”

“Well that's one heck of a trick since you were swallowing his tongue”

Bella gasped “I was not”

True to form, my girl was going to stick to her story until the bitter end, however the blush warming her face was not exactly conveying truthfulness. Which gave me something else to get out of her...later, when we were alone...hopefully in the playroom.

“You let that happen?” This time Charlie's accusing tone was turned on Jacob who held his hands up in surrender “I wasn't there that day”

“No you weren't” Leah assured him “Which is probably why Jared was brave enough to make his move and take Bella for a walk into the caverns.”

“What did yous do in the caverns...alone?

Agitation clouded Bella's tone “We were walking and talking and looking at the cave drawings”

“Cave drawings? Good one little Bells”

The glare at Emmett didn't exactly gain the response Bella might have hoped for, instead of remaining quiet he only stirred the pot “You know Charlie I bet there are lots of things little Bella did, that you never knew about.”

“I'm beginning to wonder...” tilting his head he drew in a deep breath and spoke through a tight jaw “...like earlier today. I was on my way to the store when two motorcycles went past with someone on the back of one of them that bore a striking resemblance to my daughter. But that couldn't be the case because I was assured that she would never drive one of them again. So imagine my surprise when I pulled your car into the garage and there's the very same bike as the one I saw that girl on.” Seating back he folded his arms across his chest “Now isn't that a strange coincidence”

“Yeah... strange” glancing at me, her lips twitched in an effort not to laugh “I wonder who that could have been?”

She really is a horrible lair

I couldn't hold back the chuckle, however her father didn't find it funny “Isabella...you promised”

“I told you I'd never drive one, and technically I didn't...drive it... I was merely hanging on for the ride”

Ah...that's my queen of linguistics.

“Yeah you should have seen her earlier when she was hanging on the back while Mr Dare Devil here...” Emmett thumbed over his shoulder in my direction “...was popping wheelies”

Inclining himself over the table Charlie took on a stern expression “Do you know how many people I have personally scraped off the highway after they crashed one of those things”

Not sure if I was being asked or told, mom added her opinion “I know how you feel Charlie, Oh...” dramatically covering her heart “...it scares me to death, and Rosie is still riding...”

“In your condition?” Charlie questioned her sanity then Emmett's “What's the matter with you boy? Putting your pregnant wife on the back of one those death traps. You come see the pictures I have from accident scenes and you'll never get on one again”

“I'm not a fan of motorcycles either Charlie. Being an ER and Trauma doctor, I've seen my fair share of accident victims.”

As morbid as it was, the two of them started swapping stories until it turned into a lecture about the dangers of riding. It might have been my twenty eighth birthday yet there was still no choice but to listen to the ghastly lecture about road rash and splattered brain matter. The detailed description of a guy being decapitated was a bit graphic for casual table conversation. Wanting to get our fathers over their grisly bonding experience I gave the Chief something else to consider

“You know Charlie, as dangerous as a motorcycle could be, I would think you'd be more upset about Bella''s cliff diving expedition”

I could feel the heat of my girls stare burning into my face however it was her father's reaction I found the most fascinating. His eyes grew three times bigger while his mouth open and closed several time before any sound actually came out and when it did, damn that man was loud.

“When did you go Cliff Diving! Do you have some kind of a death wish? Or are you just trying to kill me?”

“Oh Charlie...” the nonchalance in Billy's voice had a calming effect on his friend “...every kid jumps off that cliff, its a right of passage” Winking at my girl “And I'd be willing to bet, at the time, Bella had a whole lot more clothes on then you did”

“Hey now!” Charlie's rebuttal was over shadowed by Bella's “Chief Swan! I'm shocked!”

The man's face was still beet red, however it was no longer anger and it just got redder when Bella laid on the mock indigence “You went naked cliff diving?”

Beside me my brother laughed “Now there's a T-shirt I'd like to have”

Jacob told him they sell them in the store on the Reservation while Bella wasn't finished with her father. Laying it on thick by grasping her forehead “Oh the shame...what would grandma Helen have said?” making me chuckle when she cross herself.

“Don't you be worrying about me, young lady”

It wasn't worry, it was humor at her fathers expense that kept Bella going, shaking her head and clicking her tongue until Charlie admitted “It was your mother's fault”

“You took my mother...Your brand new wife...”

“We weren't married yet”

Charlie's words confused Bella and as she sat up straighter the hold I had on her shoulder was released. Placing my hand on the small of her back, my thumb rubbed absently against her exposed bare skin while she wondered “But you and mom got married...like...right away...when would the two of you been able to...unless...”

Her father's eyes grew three times their normal size and I could tell by the anxiety radiating off him exactly where Bella got her inability to lie from. “It doesn't matter”

“When did you...”

“It was the night they met”

“Susan!” the man practically growled “Woman, I swear...”

While others chuckled at his reaction, Sue flipped her hand in his direction “Oh Charlie what does it matter. It was a long time ago and you were both so young...”

Beside me my brother chuckled “Did you take her to see the cave drawings too Charlie?”

“As a matter of fact...I did” there wasn't a hint of embarrassment on the mans face, in fact Charlie looked rather...smug. Bella on the other hand seemed a bit shocked as she questioned “my mother?”

“Well, how do you think you got here dear?” Grans tone was silky sweet as she patted Bella's hand.

“Renee...” Sue interjected reverently “...was like a breath of spring air. She just...had a way of making everyone feel...warm and happy. That day her and her friends arrived...” smiling fondly at the memory, Sue shook her head and went on. “The three of them made quite an impression...but Charlie only had eyes for Renee.”

“Love at first sight?” Rose commented however Billy had a more pliable answer “It was more like Lust

“Hey now” Charlie's rebuttal was interrupted by his friends laugh “Just telling it like it is Mr Church Boy”

Avoiding Bella's face, Charlie zeroed in on the person sitting next to her – my grandmother

“My mother was older when she had me. In fact, after over thirty years of marriage without never having a child, she had given up hope when the change of life set in. Little did she know, that change was me. She often likened her situation to Sarah...”

“From the bible” Gran surmised

“Yes. And she made it her life ambition to raise me in the fear and admiration of the Lord. She made sure everything I did was within a proper frame work. There were church camps, church meetings, church socials...well you get the idea. As I grew she thought it her duty to make sure I married a good Christian girl and was always setting me up with the same one”

“Who?” Bella asked as if she had never heard this story before. Then again she probably hadn't. However Sue must have, because she answered. “Katherine Williams”

Smiling she told Bella “You would know her as Kathy Kohn”

Both our heads turned to look into each others eyes as we simultaneously stated our thoughts - Mine was questioning “Karen Kohn?”

While Bella's “Victoria's mother” was more analytical and even though we said a different name we were still talking about the same person.

Our moment of clarity was broken by Charlie's infallible “Yes. I didn't want to disobey my mother and she wouldn't listen when I said how Kathy wasn't right for me.”

“You didn't get along?”

Shaking his head Charlie clarified “No...that wasn't exactly it Carlisle...” wrinkling his brow “There was something about her...I mean even as a young girl...I just knew there were...” tapping his forehead “...a few bubbles not popping right”

“So instead of fighting with grandma Helen, you decided to run away and marry mom?”

Eying his daughter as if her words offended him “No...of course not. Marriage is a big step, I might have been impulsive but that doesn't mean it wasn't real.”

“Billy said it was lust...so you married mom so you could...bed her”

“Huh!” he huffed “I didn't need to marry her for that”

I could literally hear Bella's mouth pop open and the anger exuding through her tone “Are you saying my mother was a...”

“No...of course not. Sue said it best...Renee was like a breath of spring air. Something new, different, and sweet. And well...she was a city girl” saying the last part as if his words should explain everything.

Unfortunately he was the only one who understood because Bella wondered “City Girl? What is that suppose to mean?”

Wrinkling his face, Charlie seemed to think of the best way to explain before finally saying “City girls have more...experiences”

I was too busy listening to Charlie's brilliant explanation to see what Bella was doing, however it must not have been anything good because the man raised his hands “Now hold on there, before you go getting yourself in an uproar”

Glancing at Bella it was clear uproar wasn't exactly what I would call it, my girl was fuming mad “Uproar! You just insinuated that my mother was some sort of...” searching for the right word she came up with a PG version “...easy lay.”

“Watch yourself! I never said that. It's just that...well, you know yourself, when your from a small town, everyone knows everyone else. From the time I started high school my mother set her mind on one day me and Kathy getting hitched. I knew that wasn't going to happen, but we were still always thrown together I certainly wasn't about to do anything that would give her the wrong idea. So although I wouldn't say I was a country bumkin, I still wasn't prepared for meeting Renee. And well...that girl...knew things...” Charlie's face turned bright red “...things I had never...up to that point I was.”

Oh my god

I knew where this was going and so did Bella as she begged under her breath “Dad please...please don't say...”

To late – he said it “...pure.”

There were several different reactions to Charlie's statement. My grandmother nodded in understanding, my mother actually blushed while my father said something about it being understandable, and while Bella dropped her head into her hands my brother chuckled “She rocked your world uh chief?”

Oh good god” Bella groaned.

“So how did you end up married? I mean, just because you...” I could hear the smile in Emmett's tone “...got the milk...”

As Emmett trailed off Charlie said “I'm an honorable man, besides, I wasn't ready for Renee to leave.”

So basically what Charlie meant was he busted a nut for the first time, saw fucking stars and wanted to keep getting his dick wet. He wasn't willing to be with Kathy just for purpose of getting off and had he started actively dating someone else, his mother would have been very upset. Which left him with two choices. go back to no pussy at all or keep the girl who 'rocked his world'. And suffice to say, when push comes to shove, a young, inexperience guy, will always think with his dick. I just didn't see why they were in such a hurry to marry, at least not until Charlie explained.

“So when her friends went on their way, they took all their camping equipment them and Renee had no place to stay. We came up with the idea that if we got married, then we'd me able to live together. That night she stayed with Harry and Sue, the next day, we got n the car and headed to Vegas. Had a few day there, came home married and everyone was happy”

“Not everyone” Billy put in while handing the jar of Lahb to Bella who silently thanked him before taking a big gulp and Charlie agreed “No, not everyone”

“Your mother?” Mom guessed and while Charlie nodded in agreement Sue added “Kathy wasn't exactly thrilled either”

“No...she wasn't. While Kathy wasn't exactly friendly to Renee, she at least was easy to avoid. Mother on the other hand” looking grim “...she was a different story. My mother was not only rude she was done right cruel to Renee. Always harping about how she couldn't do anything right. Accused her of seducing me with her sinfulness to lure me into marriage so Renee could have a legitimate family.”

by how she tricked me into marring her, and how she wasn't good enough. Mom actually went so far as to accuse her of casting some kind of spell over me. She had the minster come over to bless and purify the house in an attempt to ward off the evilness. The whole town ostracized Renee, and because of some things from her past she felt even more alone and self-esteem started slipping. I asked mother to back off, but like Billy said earlier, she really did treat Renee terribly. Part of that might have been her disappointment, but most of it had to do with the dementia setting in. Then once Bella was born, instead of being happy to be a grandma, she just found more fault. I wondered if maybe mom was jealous of my attentions to my wife. And unlike mom, Renee had no problems conceiving. Since I was a new officer, the lowest man on the totem pole, that meant long work hours with the worst shifts. So Renee was home alone with mom.”

“Where was your father?”

Looking to gran Charlie answered “He had passed from a heart attack when I was sixteen”

“So your mother lived with you?”

“Yes. She sold my childhood home, and moved in with us. It seemed the perfect arrangement. Mom could no longer be on her own and since Renee was there, she would be able to help out. But it didn't work out. Having two women in the same house is not an easy feat. Especially when one thinks she has the right to undermine everything the other does. Renee was young and it didn't matter if she was scrubbing the floor or painting the cabinets, everything was criticized. If it wasn't a comment about using a mop instead of getting down on her hands and knees it was nagging about how bad the color choice was, or Renee's terrible cooking skills, always one thing after another. I'd come home tired from long twelve hour night shifts and have to deal with a judgmental mother and a crying wife, It was all very stressful.”

“I can imagine” Gran sympathized “Marriage is hard enough and since you barely knew each other you had even more obstetrical to overcome. Add into the picture a meddling parent...” shaking her head gran tisked “...the first thing you learn in mother-in-law one-o-one is, unless someone is getting hurt, you keep your mouth shut. Sometimes, even when you're asked for an opinion, you don't say anything. You're daughter-in-law wants to paint the bathroom black. You smile and say 'what an interesting idea' and figure as long as your son can live with it, then its none of your business”

“That's right” mom agreed “As long as my son is happy, nothing else matters.”

“I was fortunate in that regard” Sue added “Harry's mother was wonderful, helpful when needed, and butted out when not. And of course Mrs Swan was already gone...”

“Renee practically begged me put mom in a home...I just...I made a promise to my father and was going to stick to it. In hind sight, I should have put my wife first, and that's a mistake I will never make again.”

“Kathy was glad Renee left”

“OH My Lord...” Sue rolled her eyes at Billy's statement “...that woman is something else.”

“She married Alfred?” Bella's words sounded more like a question which she clarified “I mean Victoria is a few months older then me sooooo...”

“So what.” Sue wasn't asking “It certainly didn't concern Kathy that her and Alfred married that fall, and she didn't care one iota about Vickie being born...” giving my mother a conspiratorial smile “seven months later. Oh...” Sue's eyes rose in mock understanding “Kathy swore she was born early.” Clasping her hand to her chest, the cynicism was clear “Now I'm not no doctor ...and stranger things have happened ...but I never heard of a six week premee weighing nearly eight pounds”

The woman shared a knowing giggle and Billy added “When Renee left, Kathy was at Charlie's door.”

“What did she want?”

Billy smiled at Seth “She was warm for his form”

That brought out a round of chuckles from everyone except Charlie who smugly leaned back in his chair “Yeah...I'm a real ladies man.”

“It must be the uniform dad”

“You do look handsome all dressed up” my sister commented from where she stood wiping down Mia's face.

“Why thank you Alice. But how would know? Did I ever arrest you for something?”

“No...” Alice giggled then stammered “well...ummm...”

While Alice was uncommonly stuck for words Rose blurted “We checked you out on the internet.”

“It was really my fault Charlie” Mom sounded apologetic “The first time I met Bella, it was so clear to me how taken Edward was with her...” glancing at my girl, mom smiled “...so naturally as his mother I wanted to know more about her. Alice told me Bella grew up in Forks and that you were the police chief.” shrugging nonchalantly “on a whim, I had Rose look it up on the internet and ,..there you were”

“What my wife is so graciously trying to say is...” dad's arm tighten across moms back “... she and the girls were being a bunch nosy women”

His comment earned a swift jab in the ribs from mom's elbow while she smiled warmly at Charlie “OK, I'm willing to admit that maybe...” stretching out the word “...we were just a tiny bit curious. But I must say, the Forks Municipal Page has a rather flattering picture of you. All dressed up, with your official hat on. No wonder that Kathy woman was so intent on ...remaining your friend”
The words coming out more like question rather then an actual statement, however as disconcerted as mom sounded, Sue was all the more composed “OH...she wanted to remain his friend alright.”

“She was also very married”

Addressing Bella's observation Sue assured her “I told you...Kathy didn't care. The day after Renee left with you for Phoenix...” stressing the point by repeating “The Very Next Day...she shows up at your father's front door”

“What did she want?”

Sue's raised eyes brows should have been enough to tell Bella the answer yet Charlie vocalized “Kathy thought she could help me with my....grief. She brought Victoria with her and sat next to my mother talking about how the house needed a true woman's touch. The tow of them started making plans for repainting, new curtains and all kinds of ridiculous things that at the time just didn't concern me. I mean really...my wife had just left me and taken my daughter away. Besides I didn't see what business it was of Kathy's. It wasn't her house...she had her own place, with a husband, a child and another baby on the way. I wasn't interested in having her come around...”

“What did you say to her?”

Charlie narrowed his eyes at his daughter “What do you think I said?”

While Bella remained quiet, Charlie told her “I told her in no uncertain terms yet as gently as possible that she needed to return to her own home and leave mine to me. She wasn't too happy about my saying that it was my hope for my wife to return. Kathy had a few unsavory comments about Renee that unfortunately my mother only fed into. Well I wasn't going to stand for any of that and asked her to leave. The next time Kathy showed up...”

“Next time?”

At Bella's indignant tone, Sue commented “Kathy was like a dog on the trail, always sniffing around, looking for scraps”

“Yeah, it seemed like, there for a while, every time I turned around, there she was. The next year when mom passed, I'd come home to fine casseroles waiting for me on the porch with little notes attached to them. Then she'd stop by a day or two later in order to retreeve the dish. Whenever I'd stop by the grocery store, there Kathy would be...wanting to help me. When new packages of briefs showed up on the front seat of my car...well...that was enough of that. I had a talk with Alfred and...those kinds of things stopped for a while.” Charlie paused yet it was clear the story hadn't reach it's conclusion, with a sigh he went on “The next time she came around was after Renee's accident. She was at my door real early...she offered to keep you after school and on weekends while I worked. But she had three of her own little ones and was expecting the forth. Besides I knew what kinds of craziness went on in that house. So I told her as nicely as I could, 'thanks but no thanks' I had already made arrangements with Sue and Sarah. Kathy wasn't none to happy about that either.” Saying the last part as if it were a piece of vital information. “She huffed away, stomping her way down the steps and towards the car, slamming the door...” shaking his head “...I could see her yelling at the three little girls in the car and glaring at me through the window...”

“Maybe that's why Vickie hates you Bella”

It was truly the first words Tracy had said during the whole meal. Yet for some reason it seemed to be the most significant thing I heard all day.

“Vickie doesn't hate me...at least I don't think she does” as Bella questioned her own words, she turned to her sister “...does she?”

Leah shrugged “What do you care? Besides even if she does, she still did you the biggest favor in the world”

“What's that?”

“She was boinking your husband for you” Leah's laughter did nothing to alleviate the tension her words caused in me.

I hated the thought of James being with Bella in any capacity, especially one where he was anywhere near or inside of her body. He had no right to it and it pissed me off just knowing that he had the ability to recall the glory of her charms. The jealousy was irrationally sanctimonious on my part, especially since my own past hadn't exactly been subdued. Let's face it, there were enough women out there who have known the feel of my intimate touch to fill a large classroom. That doesn't mean I want to be reminded of Bella's previous liaisons. It was bad enough to hear about innocent exploration with Jared, making out, and getting felt up. The kind of activities Bella would deny having occurred until her dying breath. Which made me all the more curious as to the truth. I could even take mentioning James by name, it was expected to happen. After all, for several years he was an intricate part of their lives and because Forks is such a small town, no matter how much I may want it to happen, his falling away into oblivion is an absurd notion.

In fact, maybe that could be my birthday wish.

Yeah, right before blowing out the candles I would wish for James to be a non-entity.

Perhaps it will work out in my favor and I'll never again have to hear Leah or anyone else use a sentence that contains the nouns Bella and James as the subjects centered around the verb 'boinking,' ever again. My automatic response was to say something, yet even though my mouth opened, I just couldn't come up with a reply. Which irritated the crap out of me as I felt the need to defend my girls honor along with my claim on her.

Bella's hand touching my own had a calming effect which was made stronger when her fingers entwined with mine and she gave a small squeeze while candidly saying “Someone had to. Better her then me”

“He was unfaithful to you Bella?” Dad's voice sounded as if it was a personal insult to him and while Bella shrugged in response, Leah had a more tangible answer.

“Rumor has it, between the wedding and the reception, Vickie Domed him in the bathroom”

“What!” Emmett was outraged and even Jasper had an opinion “You got to be kidding me?” while gran questioned “What's Domed?”

“I was wondering that myself” mom muttered with a crinkled brow and Rose informed her “It's a hummer Esme”

“Ah...that's what I thought” then without missing a beat she cup her hand to the side of her mouth as if to block the view from the kids at the end of the table, leaned as far across the table towards my grandmother as possible and with the most serious expression I had ever seen on my mother, whispered “it's a blow job”

“Ohhhhh....” gran nodded in understanding “...see, you learn something new everyday”


Chapter 111


How the hell did you get a baseball scholarship?”

It wasn't so much what Emmett said that bothered me, it was the tone of voice he utilized to enunciate the words used in making his point.

A point that I took personal offense to.

As if to say there wasn't a snowballs chance in hell that I, could have gotten a scholarship. In the deep recesses of my mind, I understood he wasn't exactly questioning my intellect but rather my athletic abilities. After all if what Seth had read on the internet was correct, then the SANZ scholarship I received, was awarded to baseball players – male baseball players – of which I was neither.

Still, my good friend, Rose, blinking her eyes at me in disbelief while shaking her head and muttering 'that's unbelievable' was insulting.

So yeah - I took offense

Agitated by the implication of the impossibility I snapped back “Why is that so unbelievable?”

I had lived most of my formidable years with a single father who took great pleasure in three things – Beer, Fishing and Sports, and not necessarily in that particular order. Usually Charlie's relaxation consisted of a combination of the three pastimes occurring simultaneously. I also was indoctrinated into the world of sports by spending so much time hanging around a group of adolescent LaPush boys. Plus lets not forget my football playing ex-husband whose family owned a sporting goods store, and when he decided to grace our home with his presence, watched nothing but ESPN.

So the basic concepts of each game weren't lost on me. I knew football was played by quarters, points were made by touchdowns and a first-down was achieved by moving the ball ten yards. I knew there were four periods in a basketball game, points consisted of one for free throws, two for a regular basket and three when the ball was thrown from outside the paint -whatever the hell that meant.

However baseball, was not only the American pastime, it also happened to be Charlie's favorite not to mention how Phil made his living, so I was well versed in the game. The field was a diamond, there were nine players on each team and a full game consisted of nine innings. Each batter got three strikes before being called out and after four balls they got a walk and took a base.

Heck! I even knew what a balk was.

So who the hell were any of them to tell me I didn't deserve a scholarship?

Pointing a finger at my chest I tapped it forcefully while justifying “I did get the SANZ!”

Then because they had all gotten my temper up by suggesting my inability to have received it I went on to tell them just how much the selection committee thought of my abilities.

And just to be clear...” pointing at my chest “I didn't get a measly ten thousand a year. Heck No!” Getting caught up in the moment I swept my arms out dramatically and reminded them “...I got everything paid for. The whole nine yards. Tuition, lab fees, books, room, board...” ticking off each award on my fingers and feeling proud of myself I went on “...they even provided me with a brand new Mac laptop. So either the website Seth read was wrong, or I guess somebody thought I worthy enough to receive it...Didn't They?”

Cocky, I was down right cocky saying the last words with a whole
'in your face' attitude

“Bella no one thinks you weren't worthy..."

Of course Edward would pick up on my use of that particular word

“It's just..." imploring me with his eyes "...well, babe..." beseeching me with his tone "...you got to admit...”

Where Edward was attempting a tactful rebuttal, his brother-in-law had no problem saying what he thought “Darling the thing is...”

I turned my head towards the opposite end of the table just in time for Jasper to finish saying “I've seen you play.”

Having my full attention – along with everyone else – he held up his hands while giving me a patronizing grin as he said "Grant it, we were only using a wiffle ball and plastic bats...” the man's amusement growing as he tried to fight a snicker “...I mean maybe your true skills lie with with more ... professional equipment.”

“No ..." my head jerked back towards Jake's voice as he assured "there's no skill”

I responded to the insult with a knee jerk reaction "I'm not
that bad”

“You run like a girl”

am a girl”

Edward's hand rubbed my knee while he agreed “Yes you are”

“Yeah, that's the point...” That disbelieving tone was back in Emmett's voice “Even if you were able to catch fly balls with your toes while doing a back flip and threw at the speed of sound....
You Are Still A Chick.” Again emphasizing each word with a belligerent tone before he pointed a finger in my brothers direction.

That scholarship is specifically given to males...” raising an eyebrow he kind of grinned “Now besides seeing you play, we've seen you in your underwear."

My eyes narrowed at the memory of all the Cullen men -unbeknownst to me - being in our hotel room when I walked out to say good morning to Edward wearing nothing but a skimpy t-shirt and panties.

Not paying any attention to my reaction Emmett cast a grin in Edward's direction saying. Unlike some people...” Pausing he dramatically tapped his chest “....I've never had any experience with drag queens but I'm pretty damn sure...” waving his hands in front of me for effect he sneered while saying “...the goods are real.”

Then with a twinkle in his eye he looked down to the end of the table seeking a second opinion “Plastic Man? You were there that morning little Bella came traipsing out in those tiny little green things...did that look real to you or what?”

Three comments were made at the same time, the two from behind me I completely ignored. Alice's wondering “What morning?” Was overshadowed by Jasper's agreement with his smart-ass brother-in-law “Looked authentic to me”

And the one I paid any credence to was from across the table where Charlie huffed out “What are you doing parading around in only your underwear?”

Carlisle was quick to come to my defense “That's not exactly what happened Charlie”

While I was looking at my father Jasper reminded his wife and informed all who was listening of the unintentional free show I provided.

The explanation must not have been good enough for my father as he wondered “Why would you come out of the bedroom without being fully dressed?”

My mouth dropped open in shock as I reminded him “You walk around the house in your shorts all the time”

It's my damn house!” he reasoned with certainty and I replied by slamming my hand down on the table “It was my damn hotel room!”

“Easy baby” Edward's voice was low and demanding as his hand squeezed my knee. Feeling bad for losing my temper I explained to my father in a softer tone “I didn't know anyone was there”

Well maybe next time, you should check”

Charlie's matter of fact tone irradiated me more then his previous accusatory one, even with the increasing pressure on my knee my ire came back. Rather then losing my temper I decided it best to reminded my father that he had no freaking say in how I walked around in a hotel room, or any other damn place

Do I need to remind you Dad, that I am a grown woman...”

Before I could finish putting my father in his place, Emmett shouted “Exactly! That's what I'm saying, and it brings me back to my original question...How the heck did you ...Is-a-bell-a...” carefully pronouncing each syllable “....Swan get selected to receive a baseball scholarship?”

Since I had absolutely no idea how to reply and I was still reeling from having to defend not only my intelligence but also my honor, I chose to correct Emmett of his inaccuracy.

Leaning forward so I could see him better I spoke very deliberately “Cummings”

Narrowing his eyes Emmett questioned “Excuse me?”

“You said Swan. At the time, my name was Isabella
Cummings” Beside me Edward stiffened as did the hand on my knee while he spoke under his breath “Excuse me a minute.”

I watched Edward get up and my eyes followed his back as he walked into the house. It wasn't hard to guess what made him leave. My marriage to James had never been his favorite subject, it seldom came up in discussion except when I spoke of how bad it was. He asked me once if there had ever been a time when James was kind to me. For the most part, from the moment we were pronounced husband and wife, my life became a living hell. However there were occasions when we shared moments of normalcy. It wasn't often but over the course of the time we lived under the same roof, there were a few shared breakfast and civil conversations during an evening meal.

“Does it matter?” with Edward's seat vacant my eyes stared directly into Emmett's
You bet your sweet ass it did.

That's what I wanted to say, instead, remembering there were children present I told him confidently “Yes...it mattered.”


How do you explain to someone who never had a financial care in his life, what it is like to constantly have the worry on your mind?

Emmett wouldn't begin to comprehend the need to pinch pennies every month, wondering how you were going to keep a roof over your head. He never needed to work a part-time job at 'Walmart' just to afford basic necessities like food and gasoline. More central to the discussion was the fact Emmett certainly didn't have to worry how he was going to pay for college. His parents rented a private home for their sons to live in while they attended Dartmouth – because heaven forbid they had to live in a crappy dorm.

If Carlisle and Esme went to those lengths it also seemed safe to say they probably just wrote out a check for the full tuition bill. I on the other hand, didn't have that luxury. Charlie – justifiably - refused to release any of my funds. Which meant, Federal Student Aid was the only way Isabella Cummings was ever going to be able to attend any college, never the less one as costly as Dartmouth.

And believe you me, even with the generous scholarship, she needed every penny she could get.

“Because being married provided me with more grant money then I would have gotten had I not been.”

that why you didn't divorce him?”

The snide comment came from behind me, however my eyes shifted in the completely opposite direction - towards the still closed patio door.
Where the hell was Edward?

He didn't want me to concern myself with his sister's spitefulness, yet in this particular situation how was I suppose to respond. Would it be best to ignore the accusation or should I reply? If I did, would my words be turned around and used against me? Would my reply just give Alice more ammunition to continue with her already seemingly low opinion of me?

I just didn't know and was at a loss of why I felt the need to tread lightly around her. The situation made me extremely uncomfortable. The last thing I wanted to do was get into an in-depth discussion about my marriage to James. It was bad enough Charlie had innocently brought him up by making a passing comment that was easily moved away from.

Alice's accusatory tone was a different matter.

Throughout my life I'd come across many 'toxic' people and I've had lots of practice eluding them. For the most part I completely avoided being in their presence. When that wasn't possible, I ignored them. It had always been my contention that spiteful people had no bearing on my life and I refused to give them any leeway into thinking they did.

But the problem was, the person making snide comments wasn't just anyone. She was Edward's sister. Someone who was a strong presence in his life which meant therefore, mine too. How were Edward and I going to actively build a life together while still interacting with someone who has been making it abundantly clear she holds animosity against me?

I love Edward with every fiber of my being. I want to be with him, to share our lives together, building a relationship of mutual respect and affection. Agreeing to permanently move in with him has given me hope that maybe finally I can have what everyone else seems to take for granted – Happiness.

Was that too much to ask for?

The hostility radiating from Alice had me questioning the validity of it.

Edward could say his sister's flippant attitude was inconsequential. He could spout out bullshit about how it didn't matter what she said or thought and act as if her attitude didn't bother him in the least. But I knew different. Alice's open antagonism was hurting him.

I also came to the conclusion that ignoring her wasn't making it any better. Alice's earlier actions made it fairly clear that she would fake enthusiasm for my presence but we were no longer friends. In fact judging from the way she acted at meeting my family I was beginning to wonder if we ever were.

Oh, she smiled while pouring on the Cullen charm as she shook Charlie's hand. She was sweet and engaging, asking him how long he was staying in town. Then - unlike me - Sue received a hug, along with a compliment on the cute sun dress she was wearing. Alice introduced her children with a smile, accepting the praise of their overall general adorableness with grace. However, by the time she had moved on to Seth and Tracy, the genteel facade had worn off.

The first thing she said was a snide comment about my brother not getting up from his chair to shake her hand. It wasn't so much the words 'oh, don't bother getting up' It was the pompous voice, which I wasn't the only one who noticed because Seth shot me a quick 'what the fuck' look.

Shrugging I listened to the questions about his new computer, where he got it, how many mega bites it had, simple polite conversation until Alice commented “I see you bought a WiFi card”

“No...” Seth shook his head “...this is running off the house...”

Alice sounded shocked at first “Oh...I would think Edward had it secured”

“It is” Seth said in confusion “He gave me the code”

That was very nice of him” Alice's tone made it sound like Edward had given him a kidney or something.

It was the fucking internet.

What the hell did Alice care if my brother had the password to get onto the server? It didn't cost anything extra, Seth wasn't using up minutes and it wasn't like Edward had to go out of his way to hook anything up. He didn't mind when my brother asked for the code, in fact he spouted it right out, telling him to save in on the system. So why did Alice make it sound like my brother was bestowed with some great benevolence?

Seth must have felt the same way as he looked at her mystified then blew it off with a shrug “It's just to get on the net”

“I know, but he didn't
have to give you the code”
Why wouldn't he?

I wanted to ask her what the problem was however Alice went back to small talk, asking them what they did all weekend. Listening to Tracy talk about the shower and Seth's take on the baseball outing with the men. When my brother told her about all the teens going out to an under twenty-one club, he laughed while commenting “Trace and me had a one o'clock curfew...” smirking my way he added “...which we could have totally blown off since the
adults...” making air quotes around the word “didn't come home until after two”

He was right and I laughed at the memory then became baffled when Alice asked “If no one was here, how did you get into the house?”

And with that question I knew exactly what Alice's problem was.

Emmett had made mention of it and Edward said his sister was upset she didn't have access to the house. So for her to find out that my little brother was awarded concessions that she herself was denied, well, frankly, it pissed her off.
Was she really that damn superficial?

The answer to my mental question came in response to Seth's obvious answer. “I used the codes for the door and the security system and we came in and went to bed. We didn't get to sleep long because they were all so loud it woke us up...”

I grinned at him, because that night after taking Quil and Claire to New Moon, there was a little bit of yelling going on, and it wasn't from fighting.

“Wait...” Alice's eyes scrunched up as if she was looking into the sun “...Edward let the two of you sleep in the same room?”

YUP! Alice was really that superficial.

... and rather self righteous along with being hypocritical which was embarrassing the hell out of Tracy. The poor girl wasn't even blushing she just looked so damn uncomfortable I thought she was going to run from the room.

“Alice, they're eighteen” well almost, I added mentally before asking “What were you doing at eighteen?”

“I wasn't having sleepovers with my boyfriend at someone's house”

No she was just taking it up the ass every night and calling herself a virgin.

Again, I was being the bigger person by keeping that thought to myself, yet I wasn't going to let her get away with insulting two good kids nor was I going to allow her to defame Edward's good sense

“There were four responsible adults here with them Alice. So don't worry, they weren't left alone to just be sleeping together at someone's house. They were here, my brother, Was Here. Spending the weekend with his girlfriend, who had permission from her mother to stay here...with me...at my house”

It was the first time I ever claimed ownership to the house with any kind of conviction and I was feeling pretty content with the statement. That is until Alice took the wind out of my sail with two words “Edward's house”

Turning her full attention to me, she went on “Which is why I said it surprised me. We weren't brought up like that so because my brother allowed them, at their age, to share a room in his house...”glaring at me she added “all I'm saying Bella is that...” forming each word carefully for emphasis she added “It Surprised Me”

I was a little surprised myself – who the fuck did she think she was?

Fortunately - or maybe it was unfortunate because I was perturbed enough to have had it out right then and there – Esme called her over. When she walked away it was Tracy who wondered what I had done to make Alice mad at me.

“Nothing...at least nothing I know about”

Seth scoffed “uh...guess she's just a bitch...” grinning he reminded me “...there's one in every family”

I didn't even bother admonishing him for calling Alice a bitch, because he was right - she was - and her new statement 'is that why you didn't divorce him' only proved Seth's point.

She didn't have a freaking clue of how hard I tried to get James to sign those papers. The physical and emotional turmoil I endured because of it. Not to mention everything Jake went through to finally have it accomplished, putting his own safety and freedom at risk so I could have mine.

“Bella did get divorced” Jake said as he glared down the table like a wolf on the prowl and by the time I could turn to the person on the receiving end of his stare, Alice was already responding “Yes, but not until after she graduated from Dartmouth”

“Not from lack of trying” Billy – always a constant source of support – put in while my father also came to my defense “It can take some time for the paperwork to be finalized, took me and Renee nearly three years”

“My sister's divorce dragged on nearly a decade” Edward's grandmother stated with a level glare at her grand-daughter “It's not as easy as it sounds Alice. Amelia's husband treated her terribly. Controlled her every move, wouldn't allow her access to bank accounts. He'd threw a fit if she even so much as opened the mail and the whole time he was off keeping time with one little hussy after another.”

Boy did that last part sound familiar.

Although I had always assumed James was only ever fucking Victoria, after recent revelations I was beginning to wonder. Intrigued by the story, I listen intently while she shared.

She finally filed for divorce but he knew where his bread was butter and resisted.”

That wasn't the word for what James did, he flat out refused. Telling me in a fit of rage there was 'no fucking way' he was signing papers until he got what he deserved.

I guess he must have felt entitled to having Jake beat the crap beat out of him, because that was the catalyst to my freedom. Alice wasn't aware of all the circumstances that led to my divorce being finalized. So she could sit there, making rude comments, and I could again be the bigger person by not responding. I just hoped for her sake, she'd never experience the powerlessness of not being able to stop someone from making your life miserable.

The tension at the table was relieved by Edward's return and his saying from behind me “Seth what was the name of that Professor who established the scholarship?”

“Ummm...” my brother mused while Edward sat down next to me holding a manilla folder with a few papers on top for easy viewing, yet the way it was tilted I couldn't see what they were.

When I lifted my eyes I had full intentions of asking however coming face to face with his scrutinizing gaze I was the one being questioned “You alright babe?”

God he knew me so well
Was I alright?

At that moment I wasn't exactly sure, however blurting out at the table that his sister was being a malicious witch, wasn't exactly the best thing to do. Instead smiling I gave the one word answer that always drove me crazy “Fine”

Cocking his head ever so slightly, Edward stared me down as if he was trying to decide how completely honest I was being when Carlisle interrupted him “What do you have son?”

“Oh...” Snapping back into the moment Edward took one last glance at me before answering his father “...At Aro's suggestion we hired a ….” Seth cut him off by saying “Victor Salvatore”

Damn...” Edward hissed under his breath “I was afraid you'd say that”

Looking down, my eyes landed on Edward's finger pointing at that very name printed on the paper. Still unsure what I was reading my focus went to the letterhead. It was the background report Mr Weiss - the private detective – had given us on Caius. The realization that Professor Victor Salvatore was his father caused me to gasp.

“What is it?” both Leah and Jake asked, leaning forward and craning their necks as if trying to read it for themselves while Edward looked to Seth with his own question or rather a demand “Google him”

I was still staring at the paper when it suddenly was ripped from Edward's grasp by his brother who was as stunned as I was “You have got to be shitting me”
“Emmett” his mother's reproach for cursing was being drowned out by Charlie's constant muttering “Salvatore...Salvatore...Salvatore...” and completely avoiding Esme's glower, Emmett questioned Edward “Caius is his son?”

“If it's the same Victor Salvatore...sure looks that way” Edward stated and Charlie must have remembered where he had heard the name “That's the palooka with those two twenty year old girls that's been bothering Bella?”

Dad was with us the day Mr. Weiss gave his report, and had a lot to say about Caius spending time with not one, but two, young girls.

“That's him Charlie”

The wrinkles in my fathers forehead became more pronounced as he leveled me with a glare “What does his father have anything to do with you?”

“How do I know” hating how Charlie always made me defend myself I got a little agitated “I don't know any Professor Salvatore”

“Well it seems he certainly knows you and now his son is up to all kinds of shananagons over it”

“Wait...” Jake interjected “Is that the antiques guy you asked me about?” Realizing Jake was speaking to Edward, I became confused.
When did Edward ask him about Caius?

I still hadn't completely grasped the connection when Seth keeping his eyes on the computer screen said “What do you want to know?”

“Everything” both dad and Edward said in unison, Edward's tone sounding inquisitive while my father was leading more towards impertinent.

“Well...lets see...He was a Professor of Philosophy...actually I guess he was the...”

Growing impatient Edward ordered “Just read the whole thing from the beginning”

Taking a deep breath my brother pursed his lips then started “Professor Victor P Salvatore died in his home on ...”

“You're reading his O-

Discounting his daughter's repugnance Carlisle noted “If you want to know about someone, their obituary is the best place to start...” turning to Seth he swept his hand “Carry on”

Giving Alice a disgusted face that did nothing to disguise his dislike for her my brother restarted.

“Professor Victor P Salvatore died in his home on March eighteenth, two thousand and ten at the age of eighty-two. Professor Salvatore was well known throughout academia for his research in the philosophy of language and the ethics of metaphysics. His students and colleagues best remember Professor 'Sal' as being an inspirational mentor.”

Born in the Tuscany region of Lucca Italy he migrated with his family to the United States, settling in Boston Massachusetts. Later graduating with a Master's degree in Philosophy from Dartmouth College and going on to receive a PhD as a Professor in the Humanities. He then spent forty-one years as an educator with the last thirty-one as Head of the Philosophy department until retiring in June of two-thousand and four. Professor Salvatore was a distinguished educator and respected adviser to both students and his fellow facility members.

When Professor 'Sal' was not encouraging the free thinking of his students he would often be found sitting in the 'Salvatore' club house cheering on his beloved Big Green Baseball team. Professor Salvatore was living proof of a serious philosopher maintaining the high standards of a compassionate person.

He will be greatly missed by his sons, Caius and Dante, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. His devotion to Dartmouth College along with his pursuit of knowledge will live on through the trust set in place to maintain the SANZ – Salvatore/Nunez – scholarship fund, he and his late wife of fifty-two years, Evelyn Lenore Nunez Salvatore established. Even in death his legacy will live on.”

Looking up Seth said “That's it”

There was a quiet hush, almost like a moment of silence given out of respect for the man who's life had just been immortalized and then dad broke it by saying “Well I guess we know now what SANZ stands for, it was their names. Fifty plus years of marriage, that's something and I guess he must have really loved baseball.”

Looking to his son Carlisle asked “If he was a baseball fan, perhaps you knew him Edward”

Thinking for a moment Edward answered with an uncertain tone “I wasn't in any of his classes...but I'm fairly sure he was the one who presented me with the plagues at the athletic awards...” turning towards his brother he asked “Did you have him?”

“I don't think so...” shaking his head as he leaned backed into the chair “... I only took the basic Philosophy class like every other sophomore. I highly doubt the chair of the department would lower himself to teach an intro course”

Something was bothering me, it was like a piece of information was being overlooked yet it was really unsettling as if was right there, just begging me to grasp it. With that unease building I asked Seth to read the last paragraph again. Once he repeated the first several words 'When Professor 'Sal' was not encouraging the free thinking of his students...' I tuned everything else out.

I felt my body rock as if I'd been struck by a force so strong it nearly crippled me as my mind went to Saturday morning discussions with an older, wiser, gentleman. I had met 'Sal' my first week at Dartmouth in Professor Bluee's office, who was not only head of the Psychology Department, he was also my adviser. I had made an appointment for a simple introduction and for him to discuss my academic progress, so he was expecting my arrival. It was there that I walked into a rather heated debate between the two men over the philosophical inclination toward positivism verses determinism.

Professor Bluee introduced me to 'Sal', the elderly man shook my hand and flatteringly asked my opinion on the subject. Not sure how to answer and not wanting to appear ignorant in front of the man who had the power to shape my academic future - I answered.

“I could be wrong but it was my understanding that positivism has been proven a false model because there was no way to measure it for scientific accuracy. I mean how can you base any findings on the theory of the psychosocial idea, 'imposed on the mind by experience'. Even if ten people are exposed to the same experience their individuality would create ten different reactions, therefore the analysis is flawed.”

“That's true Ms Cummings” Sal said with a nod before asking “However under the laws of scientific method, wouldn't it be fair to to make allowances for those differences in the variable portion of the experiment?”

“But there's no way to accurately measure that.” I found myself being drawn into the debate “Even if you have two twenty year old women...twins” the word sounding more like a question then a clarification.“...raised in the same home, with the same parents, under the same rules. The existentialism of the individual alone would cause the findings to be flawed”

Smiling at me I could tell Sal was pleased with the way he pulled me into his web “So what you are saying Ms Cummings is that the experiences of the individual is the greater impact on a persons psyche”

“Yes...free will.”

“And would you agree that with free will comes free thinking?”

It took a moment for me to answer and when I gave my simple 'yes' a knowing grin formed on the sharp minded older gentleman's “I believe you are going to do very well here Ms Cummings”

So began many discussions with Sal, who seemed to be a semi-permanent fixture in Professor Bluee's office. Showing up just about every Saturday to keep the man half his age – as Sal said – 'at the top of his game.' There were also chance meetings with Sal while doing research in the library, reading a book on the quad or taking a coffee break in the cafeteria. Other then a passing remark for basic inquires, we never spoke of anything personal. Our discussions were always kept at a purely academic level. Philosophies, theories and concepts would be debated until both of us were laughing at how far the other would reach to stress their point. Whether we agreed with one another or not, Sal's favorite saying was 'the free thinking of ideas is what sets the individual apart'
“What baby?”

Realizing I said those words out loud, I looked to Edward and repeated “The free thinking of ideas is what sets the individual apart...” adding in a reverent voice “It was Sal's standard saying”

“You knew him?" He asked with wide eyes, before jumping to the wrong conclusion "He was your Professor”

Shaking my head I answered “No...” then changed my mind because if it was the same man I did know him “I mean...yes”

“Bella, which is it? Yes or No?”

“No...I wasn't in his class...Seth said he retired before I even got there”

“Then how...” holding up my hand I stopped Edward before he could finish “I didn't know him as a Professor....but if he's Sal?...I had lots of contact with him.”

“Do you mean debatable Sal?”

Of course I had told my sister about the older intelligent man who engaged me in so many discussions that she teasingly dubbed him 'Debatable Sal'

Leah's use of his nickname sparked another memory of a cold dreary November afternoon during my senior year. The harsh New England wind blowing so fiercely that the rain drops felt like pebbles pelting against my skin. Ducking into the coffee shop to get out of the weather, I ordered my normal extra large latte, then moved to the seating area intent on warming up. Spotting Sal in the corner, he smiled, motioning for me to join him.

After the initial small talk and a few sips to help speed up the defrosting process in my bones our conversation turned to a discussion on ethics. Essentially concentrating on the fundamental principles of one generation passing their beliefs onto another and how society dictates respectability. It was Sal's contention that society had the greater impact on the morality of the people, while I had my own thoughts

“Don't you think that the morals and ethics of the people within the society set the pace for what is acceptable behavior? Take the Puritans for example, they held stringent beliefs on what was proper. The parents passed those values down to their children and rather than diminishing in fervor their convictions expanded. To this day those same views are still very much a part of our modern day culture”

“Such as?”

Not wanting to state specifics I gave general examples “Codes of conduct that still govern families, marriage, child rearing and sex.”

“There has been a sexual revolution Ms Cummings” The little grin on his face wasn't meant to be lecherous, I took it for what it was - a prompt.

“Yes, in some ways we are a more open society. Women are free to enjoy and express their sexuality, homosexuals are no longer considered mentally ill and we've come to the point where we teach there is nothing abnormal about having sexual desires. So in that regard we've come a long way in just the past thirty or forty years. Yet you have to admit even in our enlighten world, there are things that still are, and probably will always be socially unacceptable...”

Knowing he'd be expecting a definitive answer I said “like infidelity. And even though children born to single mothers are no longer refereed to as 'bastards,' the illegitimate children who are a product of an extramarital affair are still …"

I was going to finish by saying 'a blemish' when Sal's face turned solemn as he added his own thought "A dirty little secret"

The memory of his words caused a tremor to rock through me as I had just heard that very phrase only a few hours earlier.

"Oh My God.....Edward..." The urgency in my voice put him on edge and he grasped my wrist when I tried to snatch the papers from him "What is it!"

He wasn't asking, Edward was demanding to be told however I was already grabbing the files from him and in one fell swoop jumping to my feet so fast my chair tipped over. Pushing my plate out of the way I had the folder open on the table and was hurriedly shuffling through the papers.

“Bella what are you looking for?”

“A paper”

“What paper?” He asked while trying to re-stack the pages I was tossing around “Which one?”

When I didn't answer right away Edward asked “Bella...Who's Sal?”

I didn't get to answer because my hands were holding the copy of the email Eleazar had given us. It was a conversation between Caius and Tanya. As I was re-reading his answer to why Caius was so determined to get information on me, my mind registered Edward's frantic plea “Bella what is it?”

It was like any other time I had been involved in a research project, in order to get the pieces together, I needed to put all my focus on the task at hand and my words came out slightly harsher then intended “Give me a second....”

Realizing the biting tone I used, my eyes shifted from the paper to his concerned face, I wanted to apologize for being so short, I wanted to take away the worry he was feeling and I wanted him to allow me the few minutes I needed to sort it out. My mind was in a whirl and in the mass confusion going on in my head the
Quileute words spilled from my mouth.

“Asgaya hoto'vta HAY nihi ageyutsa usdi tsitsaduliha.... asgaya”

Sir Please, your girl needs a moment and she will do as you ask ….please

It was the last pleading
'please' that got to me and even though I was going out of my mind with worry and curiosity, I had to give Bella what she asked for. She was on a mission, her mind working in it's normal one directional train of thought, focused on the task at hand and she needed to get it straight.

Jacob had gotten up to stand behind her, looking over Bella's shoulder at the three papers she was frantically reading. He too was curious as to what she was thinking yet like me, Jacob knew to remain quiet. Charlie however was a different story, he was on his feet leaning across the table and demanding “Just who is this Sal person to you?”

“Oh my lord...” Bella groaned “...for two years...” she seemed lost in her own little world “...why didn't he ever tell me?”

At her own question, Bella's eyes shifted from the papers and I have to admit I was more then pleased that even with Charlie pressing for information, and Jacob hovering at her back, she ignored them to speak to me.

“Edward...I think...Sal..” shaking her head Bella corrected herself “Professor Salvatore...Cauis' father is...was... Phil's father.”

I was so shocked, she could have knocked me over with a feather...

Phil's father?

Bella's step-father, the only man who she considered to be her daddy, the man who shaped her life, was the son of...and that would make him the brother of...

Shaking my head to clear away the wayward thoughts I had to know her reasoning.“What makes you think so?”

Charlie had his own question “How could he be Phil's father, Seth said that professor guy was married fifty some years...”

Turning on her father she addressed his comment with a derisive tone “Oh come on dad...he certainly wouldn't be the first person to ...” stopping herself Bella seemed to think of something as she cup her hand over her mouth and gasped “OH MY GOD...it was him...” her eyes shifted behind me as she spoke in a quiet whisper “...it was all Sal...he did it all...”

I was too focused on Bella to see who she was talking to and still unsure as to how she knew Professor Salvatore. I needed her to get it together and start explaining however all she did was ramble on to whoever she was looking at “...the scholarship...the room...the computer...Professor Bluee as my adviser..all of it...it was because of him...not because ”

Don't You Dare Say It!” the venom in Leah's voice was shocking and when I turned to look at her I was taken aback by her stance. She was on her feet, poised as if readying herself for a fight “I mean it Bella, Don't You Dare...”

Unsure what Leah's warning was about my mind was spinning with the possibilities when I heard my Alice say “So not only were you an easier acceptance because of your transfer status, you also had someone on the inside pulling strings so you'd be sure to get in”

I saw the look of desolation come over Bella's face and I glared down at my sister ready to chew her out.

“That was uncalled for Alice” Dad's tone made it clear he was not happy with his youngest child but his words held no weight with Leah who seethed “What the hell is that suppose to mean! You been making comments all day, why don't you just say what you mean!”

all day?

I know Alice had said dome disparaging thing when they first arrived, however I assumed in the company of our parents she would have remembered the manners our mother drilled into us.

I was just making an observation about how Bella got into Dartmouth, that's all”

The words coming from my sisters mouth were saccharine sweet, yet there was an underlying dig in there that bothered the shit out of me. It was as if she was saying Bella couldn't have gotten accept without someone intervening. I wanted to inquire as to Alice's motives yet there was no time Leah had taken up the defense of her sister.

What do you think because she comes from a small town that she's not good enough? Not smart enough?”

I didn't say anything about that. I was just wondering...like everyone else... how she got accepted so easily...and it makes sense now.”

I suppose her perfect grades in high school had nothing to do with it. Or how about the four-point-o GPA she kept at PACC along with the shinning letters of recommendation from not only her instructors but the Dean himself. And know for a fact Dartmouth would never have taken into account her SAT score of fourteen-seventy.

There was a collective gasp from several people at hearing the outrageously high score along with my father repeating under his breath in astonishment 'fourteen-seventy' and behind me Emmett mutter 'damn dude, she did better then you'

Pride surged through me, instinctive and strong – my girl was a fucking genius.

Hearing the reaction Bella tried to appeal to her sister by saying her name, however Leah was on a roll and was not to be deterred.

“She didn't have the luxury of most college kids who have nothing to do but school work! No...” becoming animated Leah pointed at herself “My sister...had to cook and clean, do the shopping and the yard work and still keep a part time job. OH...” she scoffed “...and don't even get me started on the jerk of a husband who treated her like sh...”

“Leah!” Bella yelled at her sister who finally seemed to catch on to the fact she was revealing more then she should.

“No Bella! That's bull! I'm not going to just sit back while somebody...anybody questions your accomplishments”

“I wasn't questioning Bella's accomplishments, all I said was...” cutting off my sister Leah again sounded angry “Oh, I heard what you said...several times, and I'm telling you and everybody else here, until you know what your talking about, keep your mouth shut!

With that little announcement my father gt to his feet “Alright, lets just settle down. Alice that remark was rude and you should apologize”

“ Yeah apologize princess...”

“Leah...” Bella implored her sister “...Alice is right”

I was as shocked by that comment as Leah seemed to be “Are you kidding me! She's not right! She's not even partially right! She's so far from right she's Completely Left!”

Throughout this exchange I noticed my sister remained quiet and did not offer an apology but I was too busy watching Bella shaking her head while staring down her sister “If it was Sal...then maybe he did pull strings...and I did get preferential treatment.”

“That's all I was saying” my sister interjected “I'm sorry if it came out wrong”

“Oh it was way wrong”

“ Leah” Bella pleaded again before looking up to the person standing behind her “Jake do something...please...”


Hearing her husband call her sweetheart Leah took up her fight with him “Jake”

Inclining his head ever so slightly his face became stern as he held up one hand to stop her from talking “wuhs. Ah-th-lah-CHID. Háo'omó'e”

The only word I was certain of was the first one 'no' the rest I was unsure of however whatever he said had their desired effect on Leah. Taking a deep breath she seemed to get herself under control before she replied with a bit of sarcasm “I'm calm”

Her penatrating gaze once again came back to her sister “I just have one question for you Bella. What does it matter?”

“What do you mean?”

“Even if Sal did give you the scholarship, it's his money. He can do what he wants with it. Maybe he did see your application was moved to the top, so what. It's not like you didn't have the credentials or the grades to get in. They didn't pass over someone who was more worthy just to make room for you. So if that man pulled some strings just so you could get the education from the school you always dreamed of going to...I say Thank You God! It was a blessing from the Great One himself.”

No truer a statement could have been made – Bella getting away from Forks was a blessing.

“And ask yourself this...was Sal the one sitting in all those classes? Was Sal the one who lived on Campus for two years without ever going home? Was Sal the one who received high honors and was accepted into the senior research group? Did Sal take any of those test or write one stupid paper that had you graduating with a staggering four-point-three?”

Holy crap ” Ignoring my brothers astonished mutterings, Leah pointed at Bella “You did that Bella...you...against all odds...you...so what does it matter how you got there? ”

Breaking the silence my father said firmly “Leah's right Bella. I tried everything I could think of to help Emmett. Connected every person I knew who could have possibly intervened on his behalf. If one of them would have been able to come through for him, we would have jumped at the chance. As it was... it just didn't work out”

“See...” Leah was sure of herself as she said “That's my point Bella. Regardless of how much effort you put into something...sometimes its not what you know, its who you know.”

“But I didn't know. Don't you think I should have known?”

“Why? Would it have made a difference?”

I suppose that was the question that would never be answered because Bella didn't know about all the details that went on behind the scene. It must be hard for her to say what she would have done had she known and so maybe it was better she didn't. Because that way the choice was simply to go or not, there was no moral or ethical choice behind the decision. The full ride scholarship was her chance to get away from the hell she was living in and she took it with gratitude. Ultimately her leaving for Dartmouth was a catalyst to bringing her to me. I suppose in a way Sal deserves my gratitude too.

Except I was still clueless as to who I should be thanking “Baby could you please tell me how you know 'Sal', before I go insane”

She looked at me a little bewildered “Didn't I tell you?”

“ No” several voices sounded at once. Mine – believe it or not – slightly amused, Emmett's more or less exacerbated, Charlie's a bit irradiated and Jacob just stating a simple fact as he reached across the table for a jar of Laub “Here, take a seat, have a drink and...tell us who the heck 'Sal is”

That's exactly what Bella did, clinking the jar against the one Billy was holding – because apparently no one should drink alone – she along with everyone else sat down and we were regaled with the story of Sal. Starting with how she first met him in her advisers office, their debates, chats and occasional meetings around campus. Bella recalled some of their encounters and how she came to the conclusion that the Sal she knew was more then likely Phil's father. I had to hand it to her, once Bella's intuition gets peaked she becomes like a super sleuth. Piecing all the fragments of information together until it makes perfect sense and I'm left wondering why it took so long to see it.

Throughout the whole explanation our hands remained entwined on the table and I rubbed my thumb soothingly over her skin. When she finished her eyes met mine for a moment before saying “I only knew him as Sal. I didn't even know his last name. But we...it was...” swallowing hard, she narrowed her eyes in deep thought before wondering “...if he was Phil's father, why didn't he say something...or at the very least, mention him?”

I didn't know what to say, because frankly anyone who knows my girl would be honored to have a closer relationship with her. It seemed odd that the man could have been so close- a grandfather of sorts- yet still keep his distance.

My grandmother however must have understood where he was coming from as she said “That would have brought up a lot of questions, with answers he might not have been prepared to give.”

Releasing my hand Bella shifted in her chair to give my grandmother her full attention as she continued “Think about it dear, if he was Phil's father, then he was carrying around a forty year old secret. Which must have been a heavy burden to bare.”

“Then why go through the trouble to give me the scholarship in the first place?”
Gran had the answer to that question too “Well there are several reasons I suppose. Perhaps it was his chance to get to know you. Maybe while his son was at the school, he got to finally have some sort of relationship with a child he never knew. Then only a sort time later, that son was forever taken from him. But it would stand to reason that since you were named his heir...” Gran smiled gently “...Phil must have loved you, like a daughter”

I saw Bella's head nod ever so slightly while Gran added “It would seem logical for him to bestow on you what he couldn't give his child. Like you were an extension of a life that was lost.

While Bella thought on those words my grandmother gave another plausible reason “Then there is always the basic reason...plain, simple, guilt.”

“Guilt” Bella wasn't questioning it was more or less reconciliation

“Guilt can eat away at a persons soul, until they are so racked with shame that they have no choice except to right the wrong they have committed...anyway they can”

I had heard those same words earlier in the day come straight from Bella's mouth. She was trying to express the need to inform Eleazar of the possible -as she called it – 'shit storm' that might be coming his way. Thanks to Tanya, who contacted James, his whole household was now in jeopardy. Bella had said she made no excuses for her own willingness at turning a blinds eye, because she did what was necessary to survive, 'anyway she could.'

“Your right” Bella admitted “Guilt has a way of eating you alive”

Gran had no idea exactly what my girl was talking about or how it effected her own life, but I sure did. Squeezing her shoulder I pulled Bella back towards me and kissed her head whispering quietly against her ear “I love you nâhtötse”
Tilting her head she lightly kissed my hand and murmured “I know”

Where was Phil's mother?”

Mom's question broke our little bubble and Charlie corrected his daughter's assumption that the twenty year old Marilyn died accidentally. Bringing a whole new round of sympathy for the young woman who decided to take her own life in a motel room.

Gran expanded on her thoughts “I'm sure that would have added to the man's guilt. Maybe the affair was an on going thing, maybe he really did care about the girl. But if I had to guess, with the obvious age difference, she was a gullible young woman that made him feel good about himself. However he certainly wasn't willing to risk losing his family or his career over some...” looking to me gran wondered “...what do you call it? Piece of Tail?”

“Yeah.. that works Gran” leave it to my grandmother to make me blush.

Proud of herself my Gran went on “I'm going to assume that she was one of his students and I'm sure the college has rules about those kind of things...” again looking to me she questioned “Am I correct?”

This time it was Bella who answered “They tend to frown on fraternizing with your students”

“Well I'm sure they would have really been unhappy with making one of them pregnant, not to mention the reaction from his wife. So instead he walked away. I can't be sure why the girl would be compelled to take her own life...in a motel room no less. One can only surmise why she was there. Maybe they were going to meet and he never showed up. Maybe that was were they got together to be intimate...we just don't know. For whatever reasons whether to get attention or a complete loss of hope, that young girl took her own life and left behind his child. A son, he couldn't recognize. That's something that through the years was probably eating away at him”

“Maybe that's why you were named in his will Bella”

Rose's comment brought to mind the other mystery and Charlie was quick to wonder “You were named in his will? Is that estate you were talking about yesterday Edward?”

“I don't know...” picking up the papers containing the numerous emails I told him truthfully “Caius made an illusion to Bella having received a rather large inheritance.”

“How large?” that was my father asking

“Again we don't know...” finding the correct paper I handed over to Bella's father “...he says something about seven hundred and fifty thousand”

“DOLLARS!” Seth shouted excitedly while Charlie read the email and Bella mumbled under her breath “I don't want his money”

“Well can I have it?”

Her head whipped in Seth's direction and I could only imagine the look of revulsion on her face as she said “NO!”

“Come on...if your just going to throw it away...”

“You and I already have a deal”

What deal?

I wondered while Sue made the inquiry out loud and Bella explained that the previous year Seth was thinking about joining the army to take advantage of the education bill. Finishing she got to the heart of their bargain “So I told him to take a student loan on anything not covered by the Native American act. The deal is as long as he graduates ...” stressing the word with a head nod in Seth's direction “...with at minimum of at least a two-point-seven GPA...I would pay off his loans”

“That was very generous of you”

Shrugging off Sue's assessment she said “I wasn't going to let my brother go get himself shot in Afghanistan just so he could become a crime scene expert”

“Yeah...but if my wonderful, generous, beautiful sister...” Cutting off her brother Leah moaned “Oh My Lord...shut up already...” and Bella laughed “Flattery will get you no where”

“It was worth a shot”

The three of them laughed for a moment before Bella pointed a finger towards her brother “You stick to your end...go to school”

“And then we'll talk” the hopefulness in his voice making me moan right along with Bella who told him “It sounds like a lot of money, but it's really not”

“Says the one who's loaded”

“Ugh...I'm not loaded...”

“You got more then me”

Bella seemed to be finished with this conversation as she said “Vinny's got more then you...Go To School.” Shaking her head she turned her attention back across the table to our fathers who were reading through the emails “Besides...I have no idea what Caius is talking about. No one has contacted me...”

Dad interrupted “Judging from what is said here, I think they are going to Bella.”

“Why do you say that?”

Giving me a pointed look dad shrugged “I don't know very much about estate law...however”

Our two fathers began a tutorial into the world of wills, probate law and estates that had my head spinning. The police officer in Charlie came to the conclusion that since Professor Salvatore – Sal – passed away in March, the time table seems to be right. It would take six to eight weeks for all the legalities to take place, which would have put us at the approximate point where Caius put Bella on his radar.

My father went on to explain that if the good Professor named his three sons, the two legitimate and the one he called his 'dirty little secrete'...as the beneficiaries. Most wills stipulate that in the event of one of them being deceased, their share would revert to the person or persons, they named as heir. In this case, with Phil being dead, his share would ultimately go to Bella.

“Of course...” Dad went on “...after actually getting to meet you Bella. It's possible that he might have amended his will to name you directly. I'm sure when his other two sons found out that little stipulation, they took action to put a hold on the estate. It would give them a sixty or ninety day extension, enough time to investigate and find grounds in which to contest the will.”

Charlie once again picked up “Which means, you should probably contact a lawyer to see what your rights are”

“What if I decline?”

“Give it to me” Seth's whining was getting on my nerves and apparently on Bella's also as she hissed “Would you please shut up”

Dad however found the kid amusing and chuckled before telling her “If you are named and the will stands as it's written. The distribution will be made with your share remaining in the trusties of the bank where the funds are being held. They will stay there until you or the person you appoint, claims them.”

“So the money won't just get reabsorbed into the rest and given to the others?”

“No, I'm afraid not”

After a moment dad agreed with Charlie about legal representation and I had a brilliant idea “Baby when we met with the financial planner Tuesday, this might be something for you to bring up.”

I also had a thought to contact the investigator, perhaps Weiss will be able to look into the whole situation and see if Bella really was in Professor Salvatore's will. Perhaps he could even work quick enough to have information before our meeting.

“What time Tuesday?” Charlie asked his daughter while handing me back the stack of emails

At hearing the answer three o'clock he smiled “ Billy is leaving to go home in the morning with Loretta. Sue is taking Leah to see about getting a job with that Douglas character...”

Hearing that Bella turned to her sister excitedly “Already?”

“I know...right?” Leah sounding just as pleased “Which reminds me I have some releases for you to sign”

“For what?”

“Dougie said I needed a few candid shots so I put in some of you...”

“ What!” Bella nearly screeched while her sister offered some reassurance “Don't worry it wasn't any of those

“You all know Douglas?” mom chimed in and Sue answered “Yes, I met him at the Shower yesterday...oh, he was simply wonderful...”

While the women simultaneously carried on several different conversations, Charlie just kind of sat back biding his time while Leah told about her 'chance of a lifetime' to work as a photographer with Riley. By the time she had gotten to the point where she explaining what photos were in the portfolio Charlie had taken two drinks of Laub.

After two more he could no longer wait and leaned across the table to get his daughter's attention. “So anyway since I was going to be alone most of the day, I thought we'd go out for some lunch”

Taken aback Bella wondered “When?”

“Tuesday.” He said as if it should be obvious “If your appointment isn't until later in the day...we can go earlier so you'll be back in plenty of time”

“Ummmm...” Bella hummed while looking to me for direction. “Edward and I sort of have plans...”

While Bella waited for me to say something Charlie came to the wrong conclusion “If you'd rather not...”

“No it's not that dad...it's just...” again looking to me.

There was nothing in our original plans that couldn't be altered, my only reservation was Bella's safety. Something I was sure her badge carrying, gun toting father was more then capable of securing. With that in mind I quickly came up with an alternative “You should spend some time with your dad babe, we can drop take Seth to the vet as planned. Then I can drop you off with your father before meeting up with Emmett at the club. You go do your thing and I'll pick you back up in time to meet up with the financial guy.”

“What about stopping by the college?”

Shit! How could I forget about that?

Charlie seemed confused “What do you need to do there?”

“I just have to fill out some papers”

That answer peaked his interest “Did you get a new contract?”

“Ummm...no...” Bella hesitated and I wondered if maybe she was having second thoughts but then she just stated matter-of-factly “I'm going to let the housing office rent out the house”

“What house?”

The answer to Charlie's question should have been fairly evident yet he still looked confused when Bella answered “Mine of course”

“And where are you going to live?” He wondered darting his eyes between me and Bella

“Here, with Edward”

Charlie stared me down as his face went through a multitude of emotions before finally settling on what I could only assume to be disdain “You're going to shack up with my daughter?”

Beside me Emmett laughed but I didn't find one damn thing funny about the situation. In fact I was scared shitless because I swear the mans hand started moving towards his gun belt.