DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
Chapter 30: The Doubts
Mistakes. I’ve made my fair share, and I have no doubt I will make more in the future. I know I’m not always going to please everyone with my choices in life, but they’re mine to make no matter what anyone thinks, especially my father. I’m not being purposely defiant of his wishes, but there is a part of me that has completely enjoyed the freedoms I’ve found in Berlin, away from the watchful eyes of D.C.
I’ve been second-guessing myself a lot lately. When I think back on the timeline of my relationship with Hilda, I probably jumped into her bed too soon after arriving in Germany. There was an immediate attraction, and even though I was the inexperienced of the two of us, it was easy and fun, and openly freeing. Some things I hadn’t felt in a long time.
The mistakes I made with George were my fault not his. I warned myself over and over not to go there with him, but I did it anyway, knowing I would hurt him in the process no matter what he said. I know George still wants me, but the only problem with that is I don’t want him. He deserves someone who returns that desire, and I’m just not that person.
After all this time apart, I’m amazed to learn Edward’s ready to start again and plan a future together. With or without Shelly’s involvement, I should have been more open and honest with him rather than waiting for it to all blow up in my face. I’m hopeful that I can do better this time.
I’m filled with a nervous energy at his pending departure, not knowing when will be the next time we’ll see each other again. And now, here we are in my hotel room, I’m trying not to repeat my past mistakes, but I know I want to make the most of this reunion. I can’t hold back any longer when he returns inside the room, leaping into his arms.
“Oof.” He grunts as he catches me.
My arms wrap around his shoulders while he easily lifts me, holding me against him as my legs encircle his waist.
My lips cut off his protest and soon his are following my lead as a chorus of moans fills my room.
“I missed you.” I groan as his stubbled cheek scrapes deliciously along my neck while his lips trail kisses everywhere they can reach.
“Bella, I missed you so fucking much.” He pushes his tongue past my lips as our mouths make up for lost time over languid kisses, building a growing need into something much more demanding until he pulls away panting. “But—”
My chest heaves as I catch my breath. “But, what?”
“We should take our time. I know we’ve talked about a lot of things over the past twenty-four plus hours, as I was trying to understand what you’re looking for in a relationship, especially one with me. I’ve been patient for over a year, I can wait until we’re sure that we’re both ready.”
“We aren’t ready? You feel ready.” I rub against the growing bulge of his jeans.
“You know what I mean, and I can’t control my body’s reaction to yours. You are entirely too tempting. This part has always been easy for us, but this time I want it all or at least everything you’re willing to give.”
I’m a little taken aback by his caution at moving too quickly. So, I concede, trying not to let any disappointment or hurt at his words dampen our reconnection. “You’re right. I know you’re right. We should do this differently, but you can’t blame me when you’re leaving for D.C. and I’m going back to Berlin with no idea of when we will see each other again.”
I unlock my legs and slide down his body as his hands remain on my waist. When I fail to make eye contact, his finger gently tilts my chin, holding it in place until my eyes lock with his.
“Hey, don’t think for even a minute that I don’t want to be with you. I do, but you said we both deserved better, and I haven’t forgotten. I want to be clear and make sure we have no misunderstandings. Have we agreed to date exclusively?”
“My vote is yes.”
“Then it’s unanimous, and to celebrate, I have something for you.” He pulls a Tiffany blue box with a white bow from his jeans pocket, holding it out for me to take.
“Just open it.”
I loosen the bow and open the hinged lid. I must stare at it for too long, because there’s a nervousness from Edward that I don’t remember, which bubbles to the surface.
“It’s a necklace,” he explains hesitantly.
“With a key?” I wonder at the pendant.
“Let me help you put it on.”
“Sure.” I hand him the box and gather my hair in one hand, giving him easy access to my neck.
“Keys are good luck charms. They represent new opportunities or the opening of new doors.”
“Like a new beginning?” I watch his reflection as he struggles with the clasp.
“Yes, exactly.” He smiles when he gets it. “Some say, if you wear it to bed, it can ward off nightmares, giving you a good night’s sleep.”
I let my hair fall and gently touch the key while my eyes find his in the mirror. “Considering all things, that sounds perfect for me.”
“Others believe the gift of a key means you’ll be lucky in love.” He smirks, turning me around to face him.
“I think my luck may be changing.”
“Mine too.” He leans down, kissing my lips softly.
“You know, this key doesn’t look very ordinary with the intricate design or diamonds along the edges. It actually looks like it could be the key to someone’s heart.”
He chuckles, pulling me against him for a hug. “You’re too smart.”
“Am I?” I wrap my arms around his waist, not wanting to let go.
“And beautiful. It’s a dangerous combination.”
He ends our hug, laces our hands together, and tugs me toward the bed as he sits on the edge while I stand between his legs.
“Bella, I know dating will be challenging for us while we’re living in distant countries, but I’m committed to doing things differently this time. I may need a guidebook for navigating this new relationship with you or at the very least advice from Emmett, since he hasn’t been wrong yet.”
I snicker. “There’s a scary thought.”
His hands trace along the back of my thighs, causing goose bumps on my arms and legs at his delicate touch.
“The bottom line is you have my trust and respect, but most of all my love and support. We have all the time in the world to build something great, and no matter what storms we face, we’ll have each other.”
What an incredible second chance at friendship, but most of all, love. God, I’ve missed having him in my life.
“This is surreal. I didn’t think we would ever be in this spot again—talking and friendship. Let alone dating with the possibility of more. I thought you would be the love that I never got over. There were so many times when I would daydream while I was…” My voice shakes as I fight off the emotions always lurking just below the surface when I try to talk about those days. “I thought about you and wondered if I ever crossed your mind. If you were part of those searching for us or if you had moved on with—”
“Every day, Bella. I thought about you every day. Ask Emmett. It drove me mad not knowing where you were and if you were safe. I would badger him constantly, and we had no news for what felt like forever. I know we weren’t together technically, but I never stopped loving you.”
“Edward.” I gasp, cupping his face as my eyes search his. “Are we really doing this?”
“Yes. I’m not holding back anything this time. I should have told you so many things when I had the chance. I’ve learned from my mistakes and have no intention of repeating those.”
I nod, crashing my lips to his with an overwhelming confidence I’ve never felt before. My heart soars as I realize I’m finally free to love him without secrets or lies as we take the steps necessary to leave those behind us.
Edward pulls away first, catching his breath, but plants a few more pecks on my lips, then guides me backward as he stands with his hands resting at my hips.
“I should go.”
“I wish you would stay.”
I reach higher, wrapping my arms around his shoulders and clinging to him as he squeezes me tightly, lifting me in a hug that leaves my feet dangling.
He sways us back and forth. “You’re making my departure extremely difficult.”
“Good.” My hands weave through his hair, tilting his lips toward my insistent kisses, as I can’t get enough of him.
“Bella,” he warns, breaking away from my lips and setting me back on the floor.
“Will you stay, please?” I plead. “Who knows when we will see each other again and I don’t want to wait. I thought you didn’t want to hold back this time. Let’s seize this opportunity. We may not get another one for months.”
“Fuck.” He leans his forehead against mine as his ragged breathing spreads across my face. “I want us to wait until I can take you out on a date—not breakfast in your room—a real date.”
“I know, I know. You’re right. I should be listening to my brain rather than my heart or other areas that need you.”
“Bella, I love every part of you, especially those other areas. This is as difficult for me as it is for you. Any chance you can travel to D.C. before you return to Berlin?”
“I’m spending the next week with Rose at her family’s home somewhere on Long Island.”
“Well, the invitation is open, if you change your mind.”
If he’s putting the brakes on a physical relationship, then maybe we should be more hesitant about the other areas of our lives he’s hoping to merge together, like our careers. “Do you think we’re moving too fast? I know we don’t want to repeat our past mistakes, but sometimes that’s not as easy as you think. I’m scared I’ll mess this up at some point in the future.” And I know I’m not great at balancing my professional and private lives. I can never figure out how to be in a good spot with both of them at the same time.
“No. Us being back together is a year overdue, in my opinion, and we’ll do this however we think is right. Fuck everyone else.”
“But here we are hiding away in my hotel room.”
He grins linking our hands together. “There’s nothing wrong with protecting our privacy. We’ve had a wonderful reconnection with a conversation full of new possibilities not meant for public eyes or ears.”
“I know, but—”
“Do you want to go with me to the airport? I’ll buy you a ticket and we can wait at the gate for my flight together. I’ll be as public as you want me to be. Trust me. If I had a T-shirt that said ‘I’m dating Isabella Swan,’ I would fucking wear it. How do you feel about skywriting?”
“Bella, it will be different this time. I promise you.”
“I hope so. I’m going to hold you to that promise.”
“You better, and I expect the same from you. We need to be open with our feelings. No letting anything fester and feed our insecurities.”
“You know that’s a tall order for me, but I’ll try to be more forthcoming in that department.”
“And I want to be abundantly clear that more than anything—especially the gossip that will undoubtedly circle us or any other people in either of our lives—the only two opinions that matter are yours and mine on how we proceed.”
“Oh, God, how I love you.” I release his hands, wrapping my arms tightly around his waist and resting my head on his chest. “I’ve missed you so much. You have no idea.”
One of his hands slides lower along my back while the other gently rests at the back of my head. Edward pulls away from our embrace slightly and presses a kiss to my forehead. “I love you too. We’re going to be okay, but more importantly—together. It’s all that matters.”
It’s a short walk to the Grand Central Terminal where I’m meeting Carlisle for lunch at one of his favorite restaurants, Agern. He knows the owner, so despite the full dining room, he has little trouble getting a table whenever he’s in town.
Carlisle loves Scandinavian cuisine, but especially aquavit. He claims it keeps him young and wards off disease, but I think he’s channeling his inner Viking with an excuse to drink it at all hours. The host leads me to his table where he already has a glass in hand of his favorite “medication.”
“Bella.” He stands smiling when he notices my arrival.
“Hello, Carlisle.” I lean into his warm embrace.
“Here, allow me.” He guides me to the chair opposite of his.
He takes his seat and waves toward the table as a server approaches. “Can I have them get you a glass?”
“You’re not going to leave me drinking alone, are you?”
“It’s barely past noon.” I grin, fiddling with the edge of my menu.
“But evening in Berlin,” he counters, tilting his head in question. “And what else are you doing today?”
“Good points.” I flip to the correct page and scan the massive list of wines and other libations before settling on a cocktail, which is probably strong enough to remove paint. “I’ll have the Hudson Harvest.”
“Very good.” The server nods, leaving to retrieve my drink.
“It’s been too long since we’ve been able to sit down, just the two of us, but I can’t think of a better reason to celebrate. Congratulations, I had no doubt that you would get here. It was only a matter of when.”
“Thank you. I suppose with time, I will find it easier to believe I’m part of your exclusive Pulitzer club,” I tease.
He chuckles. “What’s next on your agenda?”
I know I need to bring up Edward’s television show idea, but I’m hesitant as to how Carlisle will react, so I share my plans prior to our visit to New York. “Returning to Greece.”
“Yes, but I’m worried about… anything and everything. It’s almost paralyzing.”
“That’s absolutely understandable after all the two of you went through.”
We’re interrupted by the arrival of my drink, but Carlisle lifts his glass ready to toast.
“To Pulitzer Prize winners. Skoal.” He smiles, clinking his glass with mine.
“Skoal.” A careful sip has me relieved that I picked wisely with a combination of whiskey, schnapps, and ginger. There’s also a bit of sweetness that’s probably coming from the honeynut squash I remember seeing listed in the description.
I’m interested in returning our conversation to some of my other concerns, now that we’re face to face and know he’ll understand. “Carlisle, what if… what if it happens again?”
He takes another drink from his glass before resting his elbows on the table and leaning closer. “I’m not going to give you any false hope here, Bella, because it’s always a possibility with every issue or conflict we tackle. After your experience, you are now more attuned to the dark realities that lie beyond the protection of our Constitution. We know as journalists that the risks are out there. There’s a price for our freedoms, whether it be speech or the press, and you’ve witnessed it firsthand.”
Lowering my voice, I try to keep it steady. “There were times when I thought there could be only one end in sight. It scared the shit out of me—thinking we were going to die.”
“But you continued and kept your focus. Perseverance will always be rewarded, and you did the absolute best thing possible in your situation—passive cooperation. It bought you time, which increased your chances to be rescued or released alive.”
Our server returns, and we place our orders for lunch, selecting two courses from the menu before I share another more pressing worry.
“The trial will be in less than three weeks. I’m nervous about the possibility of facing them again. We don’t have to attend, but Rose wants to be there and show they didn’t break us. She thinks that watching them be held accountable for their actions will help us heal and move on.”
He nods. “I’m familiar with R2P and other groups like theirs. No matter how noble they claim their cause to be, they made mistakes by detaining the two of you and your treatment. They used you and Rosalie with no care or remorse. I’m sure it didn’t end how they expected, and it cost them their own freedom as well as the life of their sister.”
“But Carlisle, no matter what the court decides or any prison time they may serve, how do I move past this? How do I not live in fear every day? I’m so angry that it happened in the first place, but absolutely helpless of what I can do differently. Is this my new normal? There are days when I want to withdraw from everything—family, friends… my job.”
“Oh, Bella. You know what I’m going to say. What I’ve been saying ever since you returned to Berlin.”
An uneasy feeling settles in my stomach as my thumb rubs against the tiny beads of condensation forming on the outside of my glass. When I don’t reply, he continues.
“You haven’t taken any time off since you were rescued, continuing with work and pushing forward with no regard for your mental health. You know I believe that’s a mistake. You can’t keep pushing yourself like this, and I don’t know how to get through to you.”
My eyes shift to his. “Traveling to New York for the ceremony is sort of a break. Rose and I have plans to sit around her pool this afternoon. That should count.”
He releases a heavy sigh, and I can feel his disappointment infecting me from across the table.
“It’s not enough, and had you not been on the receiving end of an award, you would have never made the trip. You would be in Greece right now fighting against triggers and demons around every corner.”
He’s right. I know he’s right, and I’m hesitant to share more.
I take a deep breath and no longer hold eye contact, focusing on my fingers as I fiddle with my glass. “I think you’re going to be upset with me, because I have something else to share.”
“Oh, Bella,” he mutters, tips back the remains of his glass, and waves for the server to bring another. “You can always talk to me about anything. Anything. Don’t ever forget that.”
I nod, but I’m no longer filled with the confidence I felt earlier in my hotel room.
“Let’s hear what you’ve got.”
“I sort of agreed to the exploratory idea of being a part of a news magazine show—a co-anchor.”
“Sort of agreed?” His brow furrows in confusion.
“Maybe I should say considering rather than agreed.”
“It would be new—human rights focused…” I have a difficult time swallowing around the lump forming in my throat, but I need to get this out on the table. “With Edward Masen. Do you know him?”
He leans back against his seat while watching me closely. “Yes, we’ve met.”
I shift in my seat. “We spoke about the opportunity recently, and I suggested that you could possibly lend your support or even participate.”
“Me? Why didn’t he speak with me himself?” Carlisle shakes his head, but accepts a new drink from our server. “Is that why he was here for the awards?”
Tension fills my shoulders as I reach up rubbing at the muscles in my neck. “Not entirely.”
“You invited him?”
“No. He’s friends with Emmett.”
Our first courses arrive, and I wonder if I’m going to be able to get my fish down while Carlisle’s bitter salad seems to reflect his change in mood.
“Is this somehow related to you doing his show?” he questions, waving his fork in my direction. “Is he leaving This Week?”
I expel a deep breath. “Edward said he’s interested in making a change and starting a new show.”
Carlisle pauses eating. “Why? Why would he do that?”
I lower my voice to almost a whisper. “Um… because of me.”
He shakes his head and returns his attention to his salad while I have yet to take a single bite. I know I need to acknowledge that I haven’t been exactly truthful with him in the past.
“Yeah. We have a bit of history between us, not only professional.”
His eyebrow arches at those words. “I don’t remember you ever mentioning dating him.”
“It was… complicated.”
Carlisle gives me a skeptical look.
“I messed it up.”
“Oh, Bella… and you think that combining your personal life with your career is the right move?” He raises his voice slightly, getting the attention of the other patrons near us. “Dear Lord, have I taught you nothing?”
I shrink back in my seat. “I know, I know. When you say it like that, it sounds like the worst idea in the world. I understand it’s a risk, but it’s in the early stages. The show may never make it past the drawing board. I warned Edward that could be the case, especially with me involved, but he’s determined to find a project or something for… us.”
We’re interrupted by the server who removes Carlisle’s empty plate and grows concerned mine is untouched. “You didn’t care for the tilefish, Miss? I can bring you something else, if you would prefer.”
“I’m sorry. I haven’t had a chance to try it.”
“Okay. I’ll return after a bit. Your next course shouldn’t be much longer.”
I take a few small bites, struggling to swallow with each forkful as an uncomfortable silence settles between us. Carlisle sips his aquavit, appearing to choose his next words carefully.
He rubs his forehead, then runs his hand through his short hair. “Any news magazine show would be lucky to have you involved, but an on-camera position decreases your chance at anonymity moving forward. You’ll be recognizable from every corner on Earth. You thought you were targeted previously? You’ll have zero chance at finding refuge anywhere. Anywhere. And here I was going to suggest you start writing under a pseudonym, but good heavens, Bella… this… this just leaves me completely at a loss on how to help you move forward.”
I brush away the tears before they have a chance to trail down my cheeks as I stare at my plate.
Carlisle reaches across the table and his hand closes over mine. “I’m sorry, I’m sure this is a wonderful opportunity, but how does this help you heal from what you went through not long ago? This is another example of you burying yourself in your work and not addressing any real issues. Did you ever use the information I sent you and contact the trauma therapist in Berlin?”
I sniff back the tears threatening to escape once more and shake my head. “No.”
“Until you do, I would advise against starting another new project or getting involved with anyone else. Maybe you should consider canceling your interview with The Times too.”
It’s those stinging words from one of the most respected men—not only in my life, but also in the world—that has me reconsidering everything. My confidence takes another hit and my next steps are put solidly in doubt.
A/N: Huge thank yous to LizziePaige, Honeymoon Edward, purpleC305, and Midnight Cougar for their help with this story. xx
There are plenty of highs and lows with this week’s chapter, but I hope you enjoyed hearing from Carlisle again. He’s one of the strongest voices in Bella’s life, but next week we’ll hear from Rose, and she isn’t holding anything back.