Chapter Twenty-Two

She just shook her head in disbelief. Why did she need a limo, a driver, and a bodyguard just to go less than a mile? With a soft chuckle, she guessed she would have to get used to the extravagance. Because she was now Mrs. Edward Cullen. Holding out her hand, she admired her rings. Edward hadn’t spent one penny on them and the thought she was wearing his grandmother’s rings made them even more special. The pink diamond was flawless, and the simple gold band complemented the elegance of the ring.

“Mrs. Cullen,” Sam whispered, as he stood with the back door open. They had arrived, and had surveilled the area for any potential dangers before he opened the door. He expected her to be ready to exit the vehicle, yet she looked as if she was lost in her thoughts as she held out her hand. When she didn’t respond, he called out once more. “Mrs. Cullen.”

Bella jumped at hearing Sam’s voice. “Sorry, I haven’t gotten used to answering to that yet.”

“I am sure, Mrs. Cullen, that you will hear it a lot once the news of your marriage gets out,” Sam said, as he helped her from the car. “No matter how crazy it gets, just remember you will always have someone close to protect you.”

She had forgotten how crazy the paparazzi were when they saw Edward and her together. Other than the first time they had gone out shopping, they had been lucky to have avoided the vultures. There was no doubt Edward would do everything possible to keep her safe from them and anyone else who would want to harm her. A smile spread across her face as she thought of what he had done to the vile Billy. She couldn’t wait to hear how Billy took being arrested.

“Bella,” Esme called out, her arms open wide. “I love your outfit.”

Closing the distance between them, Bella stepped into Esme's warm embrace. It had been a long time since she had felt the joy of a mother's hug. Rose’s parents, Victoria and Royce were supportive after her parent’s death. However, none of their hugs felt as calming as Esme’s. She always missed her parents, but today was worse. When she had told Edward she had never imagined having a large wedding, that was true. However, she saw her parents being beside her on her big day. 

Esme pulled back and when she looked at Bella, she saw the unshed tears in her eyes. “Bella, are you okay?”

“Just having a moment,” Bella said, reaching up and wiping the tears which had escaped.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Esme asked.

“Yes, but after the tea. Today is about Rose.”

“Honey, Rose is having two weeks of Rose Days. I want you to know I am always here for you. You have given Carlisle and I our wish, come true. We never thought Edward would fall in love. You are our miracle, and I can see in your eyes how much you love him in return. Bella, you are part of this family and I would love nothing more than to be your mother.”

Her breaths became ragged as tears flowed down her face. “I would love that more than anything.”

“I have always wanted daughters and now I have two,” Esme said, wiping her own tears. “Now, let’s go fix our faces, before the crowd arrives.”

When they entered the house, Bella noticed several people had already arrived. She had hoped to be here before the first guest arrived. Esme pulled her along down a hallway and opened a closed door. They stepped inside and Bella found she was in a stunning den. It had a white couch, two comfortable looking white chairs, a unique pink and gold Victorian cabinet, pink curtains, and accents in either pink or gold. It was stylish and extremely feminine.

“This is my den. When you live in a home where you are the only female, you will need a place to get away from all the testosterone. Come, let me show you to the bathroom,” Esme said, then walked to the door past the cabinet.

Bella walked into the bathroom and couldn’t help but let out a gasp. It was a bathroom fit for a queen. It had a white extra large tub, a gold and glass sink, a gold-framed mirror behind it, a gold vanity with a matching chair. The window had pink plantation shutters and a gold chandelier. “Esme, I love this.”

“I do too and I bet if you ask Edward he would have the contractors at the house tomorrow,” Esme said with a chuckle. “He is just like his father. Now that he has found you, he will do or give you anything to make you happy.”

Bella confessed, "I only want to be with him." She didn't care about material possessions. Edward’s love was all she wanted.  

“I know, and that is just another reason I think you would be the perfect wife for Edward,” Esme said as she watched for Bella’s reaction. When she got up this morning, she had a funny feeling that today was going to be special and not because of the parties. 

Her heart rate picked up when Bella heard those words. God, she hoped she could last the next two hours without Esme figuring out that she was already married to Edward. “I guess we better hurry before Rose sends out a search party for us.”

“Oh my, I forgot all about the party,” Esme said. 

They fixed their makeup and headed back out to the foyer, which was now filled with women dressed in their afternoon tea outfits. Bella was glad she had picked out her outfit before coming to Edward’s home. Unlike the other dresses, which she had decided weren’t good enough for the welcome party or the engagement party, this one was perfect and she loved it. 

Rose appeared with a short, dark-haired girl. “Bella, you look wonderful,” Rose cooed, as she pulled her into a hug. “Oh, this is Alice.”

“Jasper’s wife?” Bella asked.

“Yes,” Alice answered, confused that she knew her.

“I met Jasper before leaving Edward’s,” Bella said. 

Before Alice could reply, Esme called Bella over to meet some guests. She introduced her to the Senator of Massachusetts' wife and a congressman's wife. As soon as they heard she was Edward’s girlfriend, they gushed over her. Bella wondered how they would act if they knew she wasn’t Edward’s girlfriend, but his wife. She was married to a powerful man, and as his wife, she would be treated differently. 

Just as the last guest arrived, Bella looked up to find Leah and Tia walking in. As soon as they saw her, the smiles they had been wearing disappeared, and a sneer formed. She was lucky and hadn’t been close to them since the welcome party. As they passed her, Bella heard them whisper. “Smella.” Damn, she wished she had a couple of Edward’s gags for the pair. Oh well, she will take the high road once again, because she didn’t want to ruin Rose’s party.

Bella walked into the den and was astonished by the transformations. The bifold door system on the back wall opened completely, allowing the room and deck to become one large entertaining area. Esme had done it once again with the stunning decor. Large tables were on either side of the room, filled with finger sandwiches, cheese trays, fruit trays, scones, nuts, mini quiches, and an array of bite size desserts.

Down the middle of the room and out the doors to the decks were round tables, which seated eight. Each table was covered in a white tablecloth, gold and white china place setting, gold silverware, and pink rose tea settings. Bella wondered how Esme found enough tea settings which matched, because there had to be over a hundred guests.

“Rose, Bella, please come and have a seat,” Esme called out from the table which overlooked all the other tables. The room was full of women dressed in their best tea party attire. Like Bella, Rose, and Esme, many of the ladies wore large decorated hats. Not only did Esme design the party to perfection but also had several photographers taking pictures of the party. They had signed a contract which prevented them from releasing the photographs to the news or private media industry. Once the family went through the pictures and determined which ones to release to the media, they would name the photographer who took the picture, along with a hefty bonus. Esme stood with her water glass and knife. She began tapping the side as the sound spread through the crowd of talkative women, who hushed at the sound. Sitting the glass and knife down, Esme looked out at the crowd.

“Thank you for coming today. As mothers, we dream of the day when our children find the person who they fall in love with. I remember the day when my Emmett called me from college and told me he had fallen in love with the woman who one day would be his wife. Then he told me the tale of how they met and how he literally fell in the rain at her feet.”

The crowd of ladies busted out into laughter at the comment. 

Esme placed her hand on Rose’s shoulder. “I was blessed with two sons. They have been my pride and joy, yet I have always secretly wanted daughters. Victoria, I promise you, that Rose will not only be Emmett’s wife but also a daughter to Carlisle and I. We will love her and protect her.”

“Thank you, Esme. Royce and I will miss her terribly back in Washington, but hearing you say that comforts us,” Victoria said, as she picked up the napkin and wiped the tears from her eyes.

After giving Rose’s shoulder a squeeze, Esme turned toward Bella. “I know today is Rose’s special day, but I felt compelled to say something to this young woman beside me. My son Edward is a loving, caring man, whose ambition for making a name for himself has always been the first in his life. Carlisle and I hoped he would find someone who would complete him. A few days ago, I got the most wonderful news. Our Edward had found, as he put it, the other part of his soul. Bella, thank you for coming into his life. Thank you for loving him for who he is, even for his faults. Like Rose, Carlisle and I will love you and protect you. You may not be married, yet,” Esme said with a giggle, which caused the crowd to laugh as well. “But I know it won’t be long until you are. Everyone, raise your glasses to Rose and Bella.”

The ladies all raised their glasses, except for two. Leah and Tia were seething mad. How dare Smella wiggle herself into Edward’s life? It should be one of them who should be up there beside Esme and the one in Edward’s bed. They could have prevented this catastrophe if Esme hadn’t been watching them like a hawk. Not only had she had them watched, but also dictated what they could wear to the events. Tia leaned towards Leah and whispered. “We have to break them apart before that bitch tricks him into marrying her. Maybe our new friend might have some ideas.”

“I have his cell number. We will call him when we leave this horrible party,” Leah muttered, sneering up her nose.

Two hours later, the guests left and the cleaning crew started breaking down the tables. Rose and her mother were going to spend a few hours together, so they left to get a medi pedi. Esme was going to relax with a glass of wine and a trashy book.

Bella was back in the car and on her way back to the house. As the car pulled up, a smile broke across her face. Edward was standing at the door waiting for her. Sam pulled up and as soon as the car stopped, Edward was at the door, opening it. He reached in the door and took her hand, helping her from the car and into his arms. 

“I fucking missed you so much,” he said, hugging her tight against her body. While they were apart, he felt as if a part of him was missing and now she was back, he could finally breathe.

Her hands gripped his coat, pulling him closer. “I missed you, too.”

They stood wrapped in each other’s arms, just enjoying each other. When they broke apart, they walked hand in hand into the house. Edward led them upstairs and to their bedroom.

“Let’s change into some comfortable clothes before we have to get ready for dinner,” he said.

“That sounds wonderful,” Bella replied, kicking off her high heels. They went into their closets, changing into shorts and t-shirts. Once changed, they walked out onto the deck and sat down on the loveseat.

“How was the tea party? Did anyone notice your rings?”

“It was very nice. Your mother gave a beautiful speech, welcoming Rose and me to the family.”

“I bet she has been having one of her feelings again.”

“What do you mean?” Bella asked.

“I swear she is clairvoyant. She always has these feelings when something is about to happen and most of the time she is right. Now do you want to know about the floor show?”

“Oh, my God, yes.”

Edward explained everything that had transpired and how Jacob had the pleasure of not only witnessing his father’s embarrassment, but felt a small sense of  revenge against his father. “Billy is being held overnight, because there were no judges available for a bail hearing.”

“How is that possible?”

“Maybe a few favors were called in. By tomorrow morning, he will go before the judge. However, this time he is going to be arrested again for grand theft. A guy who works for James has tracked the money Billy stole and has the electronic fingerprint which shows who and how he stole the money. With this amount of money, Billy will be denied bond.”

“So, he is out of our hair?” Bella asked.

“Yes, darling, but we have evidence he was accepting money from the monster who attacked you,” Edward said, as he stared at her face for any evidence of concern she might have with the information.

Her hands shook. Why couldn’t he just leave her alone? She had done everything his parents wanted her to do, and they had promised her he would never see her again. 

Seeing her distress, Edward wrapped his wrap around her and pulled her close. “I won’t let him harm you again.”

“Why me?” she cried.

“He has some sick obsession. I also have to tell you he has purchased a condo in the same location as your condo.”

“WHAT?” 

“Yes, but since you are now the mistress of our home, you won’t have to go back.”

“But what about all the stuff in my condo?”

“We will hire a moving company and have them pack everything up.”

“Thank you,” Bella said, cuddling even closer. She had never felt safer than she did in his arms.

The rest of the afternoon, they stayed on the deck, enjoying each other’s company. Before they knew it, it was time for them to get ready for dinner. Edward put on a pair of dress pants, jacket, and a light blue button-down shirt. While Bella put on her silver high neck dress with a pair of black Louboutin shoes.

“Are you ready for the screaming to start?” Edward asked with a chuckle.

“Yeah, just worried that Rose will think I was trying to upscale her wedding.”

“Baby, she won’t, even though she might be worried we rushed into it.”

“Shit, you are right. Well, I will just have to put her straight, because what we have doesn’t have a timetable. We love each other and we wanted to be tied to each other for the rest of our lives. If she can’t accept it, she will just have to get used to it,” Bella confessed with conviction.

“Damn right. Now let’s go announce the wonderful news of our marriage,” Edward said, taking her hand. 

They walked down the hall and descended the stairs to the ground level. Hearing voices coming from the living room, they found everyone already there with drinks in their hands. As soon as they walked into the room, Esme turned and ran over to them. Hugging Bella first, then turned to Edward and pulled him into a tight hug.

“You two look so good together,” Esme said, her eyes shifting between the two of them. The feeling that something was about to happen was stronger than ever. She hoped they were going to announce they were engaged. 

“Thanks, mom,” Edward said. “I see everyone has a drink.”

“Yeah, Emmett has been playing bartender and telling us about the events of today,” Carlisle said with a chuckle. He could not attend today’s events because he had to go into the office and do some work. “I am sad I had to miss it.”

“Yeah, but tonight I don’t want to talk about Billy,” Edward said, as he squeezed Bella’s hand. “Bella and I have some news we would like to share.”

Esme’s hand came up to her heart as she waited for the news. 

“Shit, where are Maggie and Richard?” Edward asked, looking around then called out. “Maggie.”

Maggie came into the living room, wiping her hands on a dish towel with Richard beside her. “Edward, are you needing something? Dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes.”

“No, I just wanted you two here as well,” he said with a smile. He took a deep breath and looked towards his family. “I never thought I would find a woman that I would fall in love with, but that all changed when I opened the car door and this wonderful creature put her hand into mine. She is everything I never knew I wanted or needed. Some will say we are crazy, but when you know it is right, time has nothing to do with it. So, this morning, Bella and I decided to start our lives together.”

“YOUR ENGAGED!” Esme screamed.

“No, mom, we are married,” Edward said, bringing up Bella’s hand to show off her rings and held up his ring finger wearing the single gold band. Everyone’s mouth in the room fell open and the silence was deafening.