Edward left the room with Kate. Jake and I stood there in silence watching them leave. The moment Edward was out of sight, Jake turned to me. “You sure have done well for you Bells. It seems like you have the perfect family here, but don’t you ever wonder what it would be like if we were still together?”
“You mean if you never left?” I asked, practically growling. “I used to, when I was trying to save up enough money to buy gas so I could get to work, but no, not now.”
He took a step closer to me. “Come on Bella. Don’t be like that. You and I had plenty of good times.” He put his hand on my arm, which was folded over my chest. “Don’t you remember my birthday?”
I glared at him.
“Oh come on. You have to remember. It was the one where you dressed up in that trampy little outfit, kinda like the one you were buying at the store the other day.”
My heart started to race. I did remember that day. I’d come home and there was this trashy lingerie in our bedroom. Jake said that he’d bought it and wanted me to wear it for him for his birthday. I’d agreed, but I’d felt sleazy the whole time. It was nothing like I’d felt with Edward when I’d dressed up. “No Jake, I really don’t remember,” I lied.
“That’s a shame. I think about it all the time, of course I have pictures to remember.”
His words just hung there in the room. Pictures. I’d remembered how he’d looked at me and told me that he wanted to remember me always like that. At the time I’d thought I was in love with him.
He’d taken a few shots of me in the lingerie. Some I was even topless. He still had the pictures? The thought of that made me sick. Any doubt I had that he still had them was removed when he pulled out his phone and showed me his screen. There I was on it, wearing the hot pink pleather panties, the top pulled down to expose my breasts.
“You know, maybe I don’t need the money from Edward. I’m sure I could sell these for ten million. I mean, Edward Cullen’s girlfriend nude. You should see the video.”
“There is no video!” I shouted.
“Yeah there is. I left the camera recording when I set it on the dresser. You should see how your tits bounced as you fucked me.” I didn’t remember that part, so I had no idea if he was telling the truth or lying. Either way, he was threatening to sell them. It would humiliate both Edward and me.
He put his hand on my shoulder then leaned in even closer and whispered in my ear. “I’m going to get money one way or another. Convince Edward and he never has to know about this.”
“I don’t keep secrets from him.” That wasn’t completely true. I hadn’t told him about Jake, but I should have. He was on my side. I could tell him about this, couldn’t I?
“Maybe he’s the kind of guy who likes the idea of pictures and video of his girlfriend sucking and fucking her ex. Do whatever you need to do. Say what you need to say. But get me that money.”
He let go of my shoulder and started to walk away. “I’ll give you ‘till New Year’s Eve. That party you’re having sounds great. I’ll be here. Have the money or it will be your face, and other parts, on the cover of every magazine come New Year’s Day.”
He walked out of the house leaving me standing there shaking. Tears were streaming down my face and I felt like I was going to throw up. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have ten million dollars. If I did, I’d have given it to him and every penny I had to keep those pictures from going public.
I jumped not having heard Emmett come back in. “I saw Jake leave and I wanted to make sure you’re okay.” He looked at my face. “You’re not okay. Did he hurt you? Where’s Edward?” He scanned the room quickly.
“Edward is talking to the party planner and no he didn’t hurt me, he just um, I guess he upset me.”
Emmett sat down on the couch and patted the cushion next to him. “You know you can tell me anything.”
“I can’t tell you this.” I sat next to him and we were both quiet for a while.
“Are you worried I’ll tell Edward? I don’t like keeping secrets from him, but if I have to, I will. I would do anything to keep the people I care about safe. Anything.” I didn’t like his tone. It was scary. It made me wonder what he was actually capable of. “Bella, did he threaten you?”
I nodded. I trusted Emmett with at least that much. “I just don’t want to say with what.”
“He threatened to hurt you or make you do things with him?” Emmett asked and I could tell, by the throbbing vein in his neck, that he was having a hard time controlling his anger.
“No, it’s nothing like that. He’s just threatening to bring up something from my past...something that would be so embarrassing to both me and Edward.”
Emmett nodded. “And he’s going to do this if you don’t give him Elizabeth?”
I shook my head. “No, he’s going to do it if I don’t give him ten million dollars.” My voice broke at the last words. “Emmett, where am I going to get ten million dollars?”
“You want to pay it?” he asked shocked.
I couldn’t speak, but I nodded.
“Then you should tell Edward. He will get the money for you, or figure out another way to solve it.”
I nodded, but I just wasn’t sure I could bring myself to tell him about the pics and potential video. Maybe Jake had one, maybe he didn’t. I didn’t want to find out. I felt so stupid and I didn’t want to see the look on Edward’s face when I told him I’d done something that could ruin him.
Edward came back out from his office, Kate having gone home, and sat down next to me on the couch. Emmett left the room, making some excuse about needing food. “Are you alright?” he asked pulling me into a hug. It was like the pressure of his arms made the damn inside of me burst and I started sobbing. Edward held me for a long time, the two of us on the couch, wrapped in each other's arms until he finally pulled back.
“You know you can trust me to tell me anything. Right?”
I nodded. Only I couldn’t tell him this. I was too ashamed. I loved how he looked at me and I never wanted it to change. Maybe he’d never need to know. “I do trust you,” I responded, slightly skirting his question. “Do you trust me?”
He looked at me with his soft eyes that had melted my heart when I’d first seen him on the big screen and even more so in person. “Yes, Bella, I trust you.”
“I need ten million dollars.” I just blurted it out. There was no working into something like that anyway.
“Bella, I’d give it to you if I thought you needed it, but even if Jake does take you to court, no judge is going to take Elizabeth away from you. At most, he’ll get one day a week. He won’t get money to support her. He can’t get at my money. Even if we were married he couldn’t.” He took a deep breath. “Besides, if we give him money now, and he told about it, it could look bad in court. He could say we tried to bribe him. And who is to say that he won’t just come asking for more in a year?”
I knew everything Edward was saying was true, but I also knew that there was more to this. And maybe Jake would come back for more, but I’d deal with that then. I needed to fix this for now. If he released those pics and video, it would be all over the news. My friends, family, the judge, they’d all see. I would look like the worst mother in the world. There was no way around it. I needed the money.
“You said you’d give it to me if you thought I needed it. I do need it. I...there’s more, more than what I told you. I just...I…”
“He has something on you?” Edward asked.
Well there it was. Now not saying something would be a flat out lie. I couldn’t lie to him. I nodded.
“And you don’t want to tell me what it is?”
I shook my head. The look of sadness in Edward’s eyes nearly killed me. I wanted to tell him, but if he looked at me like that now, I couldn’t imagine how he’d look at me when he saw me fucking Jake on video.
“Babygirl, just tell me,” he whispered.
“I…” my voice cracked and there was that lump in my throat that made it so that I couldn’t talk, breath or swallow. The tears were streaming down my cheeks. He pulled me to him.
“Alright. I’ll talk to Jasper and get it for you.”
I sat up and sniffled. “Really?”
He pushed back a strand of my hair that was wet with tears. “I’d have given you ten million dollars for a pair of shoes, if you really wanted them. There are far more important things than money. I understand Bella. I sure as hell would have paid it to keep Charlie with me.” He took a breath and looked into my eyes. “The thing is, it’s not that easy. It’s not like I have ten million dollars in the bank. It’s tied up in stocks, and real estate, movie investments. I’m co-producing a few movies.” I nodded my head. I understood, but I still couldn’t speak. “Just let me work on it with Jasper. We will get it”
Edward held me for a while without either of us saying anything. I knew he loved me, he’d said it, but this proved it. It wasn’t even the money, which was a lot, it was that he was giving it to me, knowing I was keeping something from him. I wanted to tell him, so badly, but I just couldn’t.
I fell asleep on his chest. We must have both fallen asleep because when I woke, the sun was low in the sky casting the room in a pink glow. It was my breasts that woke me, that and the sound of Charlie crying up in his room. I started to sit up, but Edward pulled me back down to him, wrapping his arms tightly around me. “You can’t have her Jake. She’s mine,” he growled in his sleep.
His words shocked me. Partly because they had been so clear, I was sure he was awake, but mostly I was shocked that he’d even think that Jake would have any chance of taking me away from Edward.
Charlie let out a louder cry and that seemed to bring Edward around. “I need to go feed Charlie,” I whispered, untangling myself from his arms. He let me go the second time, still not fully waking. As I walked up the stairs I looked back at him. He was the best thing that had ever happened to me. He was there for me, even when I couldn’t tell him everything.
When I got to Charlie’s room, Alice was there with Jasper. They were trying to give him a bottle. He kept turning his head and crying, rejecting the bottle. “I think he just wants you,” Alice said handing him to me.
That was exactly what he wanted because the moment I held him, he stopped crying and nuzzled his face into my chest.
“I’ll give you some privacy,” Jasper said stepping from the room before I could tell him he didn’t have to go. It was probably for the best anyway. I wanted to talk to Alice.
It only took me a few seconds to get Charlie latched on. Alice was looking at me, probably waiting to hear about Jake, but I wanted to ask her about Jasper first. “So you and Jasper are talking again?” I asked hopefully.
She tensed up and looked out the window. “We talked today, but just about what was going on with you and Jake.” She paused. “What is going on with you and Jake?”
Although she didn’t exactly answer the question, the fact that she didn’t answer it spoke volumes. I had no clue what had happened between the two of them. They’d seemed so perfect for each other, well more like opposites really, but perfect together. All I’d ever gotten out of Alice was that things weren’t as they seemed and that she’d had her eyes opened wide and she didn’t like what she saw. I wanted to press her for more information, but each time I did, she changed the subject, just as she had a moment earlier.
“Tell me he said he’d drop it,” she said, clearly not going to say a word about Jasper.
“Well, yeah, maybe.” I said, trying not to sound too hopeful.
“Really!” Alice exclaimed. “Just like that?”
I lowered my eyes. “No, not just like that. He wants ten million dollars.”
“Fat chance.” Alice said rolling her eyes. “Like where would you...oh...are you going to ask Edward?”
“I already did ask him, and he said he’d give me the money.” I felt sick to my stomach. I swore I’d find some way of repaying him. I just wanted my little girl.
“He’s giving you the money?” Alice asked in disbelief. “Well, yeah, I guess he would.” She was quiet for a few minutes. “But how do you know that once he gets this he won’t come back? And, don’t you think you could totally win in court? I mean, he’s had nothing to do with you or Elizabeth since before she was even born.”
“I do think that I’d win in court, kind of. I think I’d get custody of Elizabeth, but I know he’d get visitation. He would always be messing things up. Plus, he told me that he would tell the courts that he had been trying to get a hold of me for months and that I’d been hiding Elizabeth from him. It’s technically true. I’m hiding myself and Elizabeth from everyone. My number is unlisted and if someone came to the gate, the guard would never let them up to see me.”
Alice huffed. “Bella, you know that’s not true. He could have called me. My number isn’t changed and he had it. He could have mailed something here. You would have read it. He could have gone to the gate and said he was Jake, Elizabeth’s father. You would have gone out to see him. He’s just playing you.”
“I know that!” I exclaimed. “But that’s what he’d tell the judge. This is Elizabeth. I can’t gamble with her.”
Alice exhaled. “I guess not. I still think you could win. He must have dirt we could dig up.”
I couldn’t help that my face turned red. “What? Do you already have dirt?” I guess the look on my face said it all.
“Oh shit. He has dirt on you? What could he possibly have on you?”
“Pictures and maybe a video.”
I didn’t have to answer the question. It took half a second, but she knew. We just sat there for a while in silence. I didn’t know what to say, and neither did she. I was just so embarrassed. Finally she spoke. “Have you seen them? Are they really bad?”
“Yeah I saw them, and, um, we’re having sex.” Alice’s eyes widened and I rushed to explain. “I didn’t know he was taking them. I mean, I knew a few of me in this trashy lingerie, but I didn’t know he had his phone recording when he set it down. He recorded us.”
“Is that why Edward is giving you the money, to keep the pics out of the papers?”
I bit my lower lip to keep from crying, but the tears fell anyway. “Actually Edward doesn’t know about the pictures and video. I just told him that Jake was blackmailing me with something.”
“And he doesn’t suspect?”
“I don’t know. He didn’t say. He just said that I could tell him anything.”
“But you didn’t?”
“No. I couldn’t tell him. I didn’t want to see that look, the one that is on your face on his.”
Alice looked sick. “I’m sorry. What look? I don’t mean to have a look.”
“It’s not your fault. You just look shocked and disappointed.”
She hugged me and we just sat there a while. “Okay, we’re Swans, and Swans don’t just sit around and mope. Let’s get up and work on that amazing New Year’s Eve party!”
I knew Alice was just trying to take my mind off of it, but I appreciated it. “You know there isn’t much to plan. There is an event planner. She’s taking care of it all.”
Alice smirked. “Oh really? And what did she pick out for you to wear?”
I couldn’t help but return the smile. “Why do I have the feeling you already have something in mind?” I said with a laugh.
Alice and I left Charlie sleeping in his room while we went to her suite to look at some of her dresses and designs. “We have nearly a week, so I can make anything. You know that there will be press there, and that you and Edward will likely be in magazines ringing in the new year together.”
We spent the rest of the day looking at material and designs Alice had drawn up. The next few days were a whirlwind. Even though there was a party planner, there was still tons to do. A crew came out to decorate the house. We’d had one tree in the living room, but they moved that to Edward’s study since it was just a regular sized tree. They replaced it with a huge tree that had to be fifteen feet tall to go with the vaulted ceiling in the living room and added a second tree in the front entry way. Both looked like they came straight from a department store. The railings were decorated with evergreen garland woven with lights. When they were finished, the entire living room twinkled.
Lights were strung everywhere outside as well. It was literally like a circus as I watched from Charlie’s window as they put up a white tent in the back yard. It was supposed to be a bit chilly on New Year’s Eve, so portable heaters were brought in for the patio area in case people wanted to be outside.I watched in awe as extra chairs were brought in and the day the food and alcohol arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I hadn’t realized it was going to be such a big party. When I asked Kate, she told me that about five hundred people would be attending.
Between the dress and all of the changes, you’d think my mind would have been kept off of Jake, but he was constantly invading my thoughts. I had nightmares about him getting Elizabeth or the pictures being in the papers and on the news.
Edward was supportive, but he was also distracted. Filming had stopped for the month and he had time home, but he left the house several times on errands. He didn’t ask me to come with him, and I didn’t ask where he was going. It felt like there were secrets between us. The truth was, there was a secret between us. I was keeping it from him. I wondered if when this was over, I’d tell him someday.
The day before New Year’s Eve, Edward walked in with a black bag. “I have the money,” he said raising up the small duffle bag.
“Ten million dollars fits in that?” I asked not believing it. I thought it would take up half the room.
“It’s in hundreds, so yes,” Edward said carrying it to his office. “I’ll put it in the safe.” He stopped and turned to me as he reached his door. “Are you sure you want to give this to him?”
I nodded. He looked disappointed and took the bag into his office. We never spoke of it again. Before I knew it, it was New Year’s Eve and I was filled with dread.
Alice and I spent most of New Year’s Eve getting ready. I heard the house filling up with the event staff. Kate had said that Edward and I should make an entrance so we wouldn’t come down until after the party was started. I still hadn’t seen him all afternoon. The distance between us was unbearable and I started to wonder if I’d be better off just telling him. I’d rather have whatever happened between us if he found out than the awkwardness that we had currently.
I was pacing our room, considering telling him before the party when he walked in. He seemed different, lighter. “You look beautiful.”
I glanced down. I was wearing just a robe, waiting for Alice to get ready with me. “I’m not even dressed.”
He gave me that million dollar smirk. “Even better!” Leaning down, he kissed my lips softly. “I’d love to stay and make love to you all night, but I have things to do. I’m sure you need to finish getting ready, though it might be nice if you wore just that.”
I smiled at him but I guess he could see my worry. Lifting my chin with his finger, he looked into my eyes. “I know you’re nervous about tonight, but everything is going to be fine. It will be over soon. Jake will be out of our lives. Tomorrow starts a new year.” I nodded hoping he was right.
He changed into his tux and ran some water through his hair. I envied how easily men could get ready. Edward stepped from the bathroom looking like a god. It was a simple tuxedo, black with a black tie, but it made him look so sexy. I knew my jaw was on the floor. “Wow, you look amazing,” was all I could manage.
There was a soft knock at the door. “Come in,” Edward called.
Alice walked into the room wearing a robe as well. She carried two garment bags that looked like they weighed more than her. When she saw Edward she stopped and looked him over from head to toe. “Wow, you look amazing.”
“So I’ve heard,” Edward chuckled turning to me. “I’ll give you girls some privacy.” He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and left the room.
“How you holding up?” she asked hanging the dresses on the back of my door.
I shrugged. “It will all be over tomorrow. Edward said it was going to be fine. As long as I have Edward, everything is fine.”
“You have Edward,” Alice assured me with a smile. “Now, let’s focus on getting ready.”
Her excitement was contagious. We spent the next few hours getting ready. We did each others hair and nails. Alice wore hers up, with loose tendrils to the side. I was a genius with updos. I wore mine down with the exception of a few strands Alice had pulled up to put a clip in my hair. It was a small blue butterfly that I’d seen Alice wear often in her hair. “Butterflies are a symbol of change. And this one has always brought me good luck.”
I hugged her tightly. I was so lucky to have such a good sister and friend. We finished up by putting on our makeup and then the beautiful gowns that Alice had made.
Hers was burgundy with a black sash that cut across her body diagonally. It was form fitting and ended just above the knee. I thought she looked much older than she actually was when she wore it. The deep red lipstick probably helped with that illusion.
The dress she’d made me was gorgeous as well. It was a deep blue with little rhinestones scattered here and there so that it sparkled in the light. The dress was strapless and I swore the cups that Alice had sewn into it made my breasts look huge. “Well, I know what everyone will be staring at,” I laughed as I bent over the counter in the bathroom touching up my lipgloss.
“Everyone will be staring at you because you’re so beautiful.” Edward said sneaking up behind us. He flashed me his smile and I melted a little.
“Oh, I have something for you,” Alice said interrupting our mini moment. She left the bathroom and came back a minute later with a pocket square made from the same material as my dress. She tucked it into Edward’s pocket and stepped back to look at us. “Yep, the perfect couple.” I smiled at Alice. She thought of everything and knew just how to make me feel better.
“You don’t look so bad yourself,” Edward said to her waggling his eyebrows making both of us laugh. “Now go make an entrance. There are a few hundred people down there, but I know one guy that’s going to nearly have a heart attack when he sees you looking like that.”
Alice ignored Edward’s Jasper reference. Once tonight was over, I was going to get to the bottom of what was going on with those two. “See you down there,” she said leaving the room.
“Ready?” Edward asked me as I slipped on the silver shoes that I’d chosen to go with the dress.
“Almost.” I headed over to the dresser and picked up the necklace he’d given me for Christmas. “Will you put this on me?”
He took it from me and clasped it around my neck. The four diamonds fell into place resting on my cleavage. “As if people need more reason to stare at your chest,” he said with a chuckle.
His demeanor did help calm my nerves but I was still nervous as hell. I put my phone into the little purse that matched my shoes and linked arms with Edward. Before we went down to the party, we stopped and checked in on Charlie, Elizabeth and the sitter Kate had hired for the night.
When we appeared at the top of the stairs, there were flashes from the camera and the room seemed to go quiet. I scanned the crowd for Jake, but I didn’t see him. That didn’t mean he wasn’t there. There were hundreds of people in the room. It was nearly a half hour of shaking hands, fake hugging and cheek kissing before I even got a break to whisper to Edward. “I don’t see him.”
“He’ll be here,” Edward whispered back. I couldn’t tell his tone from his whisper, but he’d stiffened up when I mentioned him. “He texted me. He’ll be here before midnight. I’ll tell him to meet you in the garden. It will give you two some privacy.”
I supposed that was a good idea. There were dozens of reporters here and everyone had a cell phone these days. The last thing I wanted was a photo of me and Jake and some crazy caption about the two of us. I’d seen headlines based on much less.
I watched the clock and it seemed to be moving backwards. Edward was by my side the entire time. When it was 11:30 he leaned down and whispered in my ear that Emmett would meet me in the garden. “I’ll see you at midnight?” I asked him, before slipping away and out the patio doors.
“I’ll be there,” he said. He looked tense again. I wanted to stay and talk to him about it, but I needed to go. I had to resolve this with Jake and then Edward and I could move forward.
I walked through the guests, who all seemed to want to chat. There were less people on the patio, but still a crowd. I stepped onto the path and made my way into the garden. I walked in just a bit, stopping at the fountain. Emmett was standing there holding the black bag. He averted his eyes. I couldn’t look at him either. I was ashamed I was giving in, but I was doing this for Elizabeth. The two of us stood there waiting in silence. Five minutes went by, then ten.
I was about to say that I didn’t think he was coming when I heard footsteps. My heart raced.