Behind Closed Doors – C27

DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.

-BCD-

Chapter 27: The Reunion Part 1

I’m overwhelmed with a world of possibilities as my brain tries to focus and process the spectacle of our table in the Low Library Rotunda at Columbia University. It’s been a whirlwind ever since Rose and I landed in New York City. But nothing surprises me more than the man sitting next to me, intent on holding my hand whenever it’s available.

It’s an ambush of sorts, and I’m having a difficult time believing Emmett would take part in something like this. I never mentioned my relationship with Edward, which means Edward must have told him. Emmett also knows I can never stay mad at him, which is probably why he’s the only one who could get away with this stunt.

My father’s gruff mood is back in full force, as I would guess he didn’t know about Edward’s attendance either. It seems Emmett and Edward have some sort of friendship. I wonder how long that’s been going on and why Emmett has failed to say anything in our conversations since I’ve been living in Berlin.

I’m not only surprised by Edward’s presence, but also his attentiveness. He didn’t waste any time. The first words out of his mouth when we came face to face were that he loves me—not past tense, but very present tense. It’s a sentiment I can return easily, because I do love him and probably always will. He said so many things earlier about starting over and second chances that it’s a lot to comprehend in such a short time.

The reality, though, of Edward professing his love publicly and wanting some version of living together leaves me stunned. I can’t decide if he’s joking or not, but I suspect he’s serious about moving my stuff out of storage. It seems like he’s ready to right all wrongs between us in a matter of a few hours. Unfortunately, I know firsthand that it’s nearly impossible to pick up where a relationship left off after time apart.

I’m curious to understand how he’s come to these conclusions over the past year, because the last time we spoke, I broke up with him. We went for months with radio silence between us. I never returned any of his calls, texts, or emails because I was trying to move on, doing what I thought best for me. Now, I wish I had at least read them before deleting.

At the ceremony’s conclusion, we move to an informal reception for the winners and their guests hosted by Columbia University’s Alumni Club. It’s a solid two hours of informal congratulations, introductions, and networking while rubbing elbows with some of the most renowned journalists in the world. Carlisle is in his element and ready to pull me into most conversations when I’m standing nearby. I’m exhausted and ready to change out of my heels once Rose and I spend an acceptable amount of time mingling with everyone, which can’t end soon enough for me.

“Bella.” Rose waves me over, getting my attention.

“Hey.”

She lowers her voice. “Emmett and I are heading back to the hotel so I can change clothes.”

We’re staying at the Library Hotel, and I love everything about it as there are books tucked into shelved areas throughout the entire building. I never have enough time to read for pleasure these days and her mention of our hotel makes me want to abandon this reception, opting to hide away in my room with a good book for the rest of the night.

I perk up at the idea. “Oh, yeah?”

“I don’t know what we will do, but this is New York. I’m positive we will find something—an art gallery or show, because I’m not ready to end my time with him. The conversation between us is great and I can’t believe you’ve failed to mention him to me in any capacity other than your former boss. Even if we only went to a coffee shop and talked, I would be happy.”

“You and Emmett?” A slow smile threatens to take over my face at the match.

I would have never put them together. Rosalie comes from a well-to-do New York family while Emmett doesn’t necessarily come from humble beginnings, but hasn’t lived the life of privilege Rose has. He’s carried the legacy of service for his family, making sacrifices in the process and working hard to get where he is today.

“Yes, but he’s flying back to D.C. in the morning, and we’re heading out to my parents’ home in the afternoon after your lunch with Carlisle.”

“Okay. Thanks for giving me the heads-up. I should say my goodbyes and leave soon too.”

“Do you have any plans?”

“Soak in the tub and order room service? Maybe do a little reading. My feet are killing me. These heels were a bad idea.”

“No, I’m talking about with Edward.”

“Edward?” I glance in his direction and see him whispering with Emmett.

Rose guides me away to a more private spot. “Bella, he came all this way and told you he loves you. He obviously wants to spend more time together because he’s still here, ready to be at your beck and call. I’m sure if you asked, he would be game for anything.”

“I don’t know. It isn’t as if I knew he would be here. He’s my ex and wasn’t part of my plans for this celebration.”

“Maybe he should be.” She raises a challenging eyebrow. “This could be your opportunity to clear the air and get to the bottom of his attendance today—maybe there’s a chance for reconciliation in your future. He hasn’t shied away from a single photo opportunity with you, and I would bet anything the two of you will be plastered across websites and gossip pages over the next twenty-four hours.”

“Oh, God. You’re probably right, and a conversation is definitely overdue, at least something more than the words we’ve exchanged here today. Where could we go? My hotel room will give him the wrong idea, and I’m nervous about being alone together. We haven’t seen each other in a year, and I’m not up for repeating any mistakes with him by falling into a physical relationship again. I know myself and I will have a hard time resisting when he turns on the charm.”

“Then pick some place where you won’t be alone.”

“But I don’t want anyone to overhear our conversation then have to read some skewed version tomorrow. If I’ve learned one thing over the past two years, it’s that there are eyes and ears everywhere.”

“I hate to say this, but it sounds like your hotel room may be the only place for privacy. You should put down some ground rules and maintain a safe distance. Don’t sit on the bed together—that will only lead to trouble. Good luck. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

I exchange hugs with Rose and Emmett, watching them leave as Edward moves to my side.

“Hey.” My eyes meet his, giving him a brief smile.

“Hey.”

“I think I’m going to head back to my hotel. My feet are killing me.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Did you have any plans this evening?” I ask.

“No. I was waiting to see what you were doing. Did you want to grab a drink somewhere? We could have dinner and see a show, if you are interested,” he offers.

“Hmmm, that may be more than what I had planned.”

“Oh.”

“I’m tired and still on Berlin time, plus I haven’t recovered from the flight.”

“Maybe I could go with you?”

“Back to my hotel?”

“Yes.” He holds his hands up in surrender. “I have no expectations, Bella, but I would like the chance to talk and catch up.”

“I don’t know if we should be—”

“Alone?”

“Yeah.”

“Bella, I promise you. I’ll be on my best behavior.”

“I was thinking about soaking in the tub and ordering room service.”

“I’m willing to wait until you’re through, then I would love to share room service with you.”

I eye him carefully, thinking over his words. “Okay, let’s go.”

-BCD-

There’s a knock on the bathroom door.

“Yes?”

I can hear Edward’s muffled voice. “Would you like a glass of wine?”

“Yes please.”

“Would it be okay if I opened the door?”

“Sure.” I chuckle, wondering how else he would get the glass through the door, if I said “hell no.”

“Here you go.” He sets a filled wine glass on the edge of the tub but continues to look everywhere except in my direction. “Can I get you anything else?”

Rose was right about the whole beck and call thing. Maybe we should get started with the catching up he wants to do.

“Why don’t you have a seat and we can talk?”

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” His eyes glance toward the mounds of bubbles, floating in the tub. “Maybe I should wait out in the room or downstairs at the bar.”

“It’s only talking, Edward.”

“I don’t want to anger you.”

“Why do you think I will be angry?”

“I have no clue how our conversation will go now that we’re finally alone. The last time we spoke in-person, it ended with you breaking up with me and leaving the country for a year. I’m not interested in repeating that part of our past.” He waves his hand toward the tub. “This is supposed to help you relax and unwind.”

I watch as he runs his hand through his hair nervously.

“I think we should talk now. I may fall asleep once I eat, and it seems like a waste of time for you to be out in the room or downstairs waiting when we could be talking.”

“As you wish.” He gives in, sitting stiffly on the tiled ledge at the far end of the tub. “Why don’t you go first? Where would you like to begin?”

So many things come to mind, but I start with something that should be easy.

“Okay. You and Emmett are friends?” I ask.

“Yes.” Edward looks away from my narrowing eyes.

I wait for more, but he doesn’t elaborate.

“That’s it? That’s all I get? I never told him about us, and he didn’t mention a word about you.”

“What would you like for me to say?” He rubs the palms of his hands against his pants.

“The truth. If we can’t be honest at this point, then I have to wonder what are we even doing here?”

“I went to him for help after your father suggested taking out a restraining order against me.”

“My father did what? Oh, never mind.” Shaking my head, but not really surprised he would threaten something like that, I prompt for Edward to continue. “So you’ve been friends…”

“Since a couple of months after you broke up with me. I made some uh… errors in judgment when you left. Emmett got me back on the right track, giving me hope that someday I could have a second chance with you, and I needed to be ready for that day.”

Errors in judgment?

I’m not sure I want to know about those, but I have a more pressing question.

“Are you still being represented by Shelly Cope?”

“Yes, why wouldn’t I be?”

He still has no clue about her.

“You want us to try again?”

“Yes.”

“Edward, I can’t do what we had before—”

He cuts me off before I have a chance to finish. “I agree completely. I can’t either. I want everything out in the open. Dating—the works. I don’t care who knows. Your baggage is my baggage. I can handle it.”

“But it’s not just my baggage, Edward. I live in Berlin now. How would that work with you in D.C.? We couldn’t keep a relationship going while in the same city; we’re doomed with four thousand miles between us.”

“I’ll move.”

I’m shocked at his impulsive declaration. “You’ll move? Just like that?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t you have a contract with This Week?”

“I won’t renew when it expires.”

“And when does it expire?”

“In three years, but there are clauses that if the ratings go down, the network can take the option to break the agreement and hire a new host.”

“You’re going to tank your own show and your career?”

He shrugs. “It’s one of the easiest ways out. I can rebuild my career somewhere else.”

“And all of this because you want to date?” I raise my eyebrows skeptically.

“I want more than to date, Bella, but if you’re willing, then it seems like a good starting point.”

“Shelly won’t be happy with that plan.”

“Then she will be unhappy.”

“She—” I’m not sure how much to reveal of her initial involvement in our relationship, but I guess at this point it doesn’t matter.

“She, what?”

“Shelly warned me against dating you. No, warned probably isn’t the right word. Maybe, threatened? She said I would be the reason for you not being successful and I would harm your career. It looks like she’s still right, if you’re looking for ways to dump your show after this brief visit by me.”

“When? When did you talk with her?”

“The first time was at the White House for the Women’s Luncheon. She somehow knew we met and were talking.”

“Two years ago? And she said we shouldn’t date?”

“Correct.”

“But we dated anyway.”

“Edward, it wasn’t really dating. We were secretly carrying on an affair for almost a year. Outside of sex, there wasn’t much to our relationship. I’m sorry, but I can’t consider anything with you, if she’s in the picture. Shelly hates me, and I’m through with letting her have the upper hand.”

“Then she’s out.”

Edward surprises me once again. “Just like that?”

“Yes.”

“You know you can’t do that. I’m sure she has a contract.”

“The hell I can’t. I’ll make the necessary calls and end our professional relationship once I’m back in D.C. Bella, do you understand how serious I am? This isn’t some knee-jerk reaction. That morning… the morning of you doing my show?”

“Yes?”

He stands, leans against the countertop of the sink, and takes extra time in choosing his next words. “I was thinking of ways to ask you to marry me. I want you to be my wife.”

Holy smokes.

His wife.

We have such horrible timing, and I had absolutely no clue what he was thinking.

“But you never said a thing, or that you loved me in the entire year we were together or-or even stopped me from leaving the studio that day.”

“And if I had, would you have still left? Moved to Berlin?”

“I don’t know.”

“Would it have been fair to you or your career to ask you to stay?”

When I fail to reply, Edward kneels next to the tub, staring into my eyes.

“The truth, Bella.”

“I would have left. I needed more and not only from you.”

“You know I was only following your lead, and looking back on our time together, I should have done so many things differently—especially when I knew my feelings were changing into something more.”

“Angela warned me when I confided in her that I was being foolish to let past insecurities about my failed relationships sabotage whatever feelings I had that were growing for you.”

“Angela knows about us?”

“Yes, and Demetri. And my co-workers in Berlin.”

“I don’t feel so bad about Emmett now. Jasper figured it out too.” He sighs, shaking his head. “I tried to show you how much I cared by taking you away for your birthday, the week at the cabin in the mountains, and surprising you here on Valentine’s Day. Even if my words of love weren’t ready then, how could you doubt my actions when we were together?”

Looking back, I know I shouldn’t have let any doubts cloud my judgment about him, but hindsight is twenty-twenty.

“Angela… Angela thinks when I realized you weren’t trying to use me for my connections that I started looking for reasons to doubt what we had. She said it’s a pattern with me, and in order to prevent myself from becoming more emotionally attached, I waited until I found enough reasons to bail completely.”

“And what do you think?”

“I think she may be right.”

“Do you pay her by the hour or have a standing appointment? Because I’m thinking I need to call and schedule some time with her.” Edward teases me with a small smile. “When did your feelings start changing?”

“After our trip to the cabin.”

He reaches out and takes my soapy hand in his. “You have no idea how much willpower it’s taken for me not to show up in Berlin at your doorstep. This past year has been a lesson in patience for me at every turn with Emmett advising me not to push. I’m sorry, Bella. I should have told you about my feelings long before today. I called, texted, and emailed, but you never responded. Why?”

“I didn’t know what to say. I’m not the same person you knew,” I explain, pulling my hand away. “I’m really struggling right now with a lot of things. My emotions are all over the map. Some days are better than others, but you may conclude I’m not who you want or even close to the woman you remember.”

It’s time for me to share some truth of my own. “I know we never spoke of these kinds of things, but I think you should know that I don’t want to get married or have kids.”

I wait for any type of reaction to my bombshells, but he only blinks while listening to what I say. So I continue.

“Those are big issues and deal breakers for some people.”

When he fails to respond, I take that as my cue, knowing those may be too big of obstacles for a second chance at anything between us.

“I’m sorry, Edward.”

My apology finally snaps him from his daze and he focuses on my last words.

“What?”

I wave my hand toward what few clumps of bubbles are floating on the surface and shiver at the cooling water. “I’m sorry. I should finish my bath and get dressed.”

He stands, preparing to depart, not looking at me. “Oh, right. I-I’ll wait outside for you to finish.”

A/N: Huge thank yous to LizziePaige, Honeymoon Edward, purpleC305, and Midnight Cougar for their help with this story. xx

Bella is back in New York and finally having a much needed conversation with Edward.