“Do you think he is actually going to show up?” Bella asked nervously, smoothing down her silk skirt for the dozenth time since we had arrived at the cafe.
I looked across the table at my beautiful wife and I couldn’t help but grin. Ever since she had sent her father Charlie the plane ticket to Paris and asked him to join her there, she had been worried that he either wouldn’t show up -- or that he would and he would bring the police. I had tried to reassure her, as had Alice, numerous times, but I could tell that no amount of coddling would help her feel any better until she had seen her father and solved the “mystery” of her disappearance.
Instead of trying to comfort her yet again, I reached underneath the table and took her hand in mine, rubbing my finger over the ring that she wore that signified her as belonging entirely to me. “You look absolutely radiant, Bella,” I told her, bringing her hand up to brush her knuckles with a kiss.
She rolled her eyes, but I could tell she was pleased. Every day I got a little bit better at reading her expressions. Sometimes she would even roll back her Shield to let me read her thoughts, though those were infrequent times at best. She and Kate were still working with her Shield, but she seemed to get a little bit better with it every day. I was so proud of her. Her strength and grace amazed me. In the year that we had been married, every day had been an adventure. It was blissful, a perpetual honeymoon. I just hoped that it could last the rest of our very long lives.
“Alice said that the weather should stay snowy, right?” Bella asked in the same nervous way that she had been acting since we arrived in Paris.
“It’s Christmas Eve in Paris and there will be snow for the next three days. Alice is never wrong when it comes to the weather,” I reminded her, “and your father will definitely be here. He hasn’t been satisfied with just letters for the past two years.”
Bella groaned and slumped back in her chair. I had to stifle a laugh at her very human reaction. It was so charming and yet so out of place in the clothes that Alice had picked out for her. She looked like a little girl playing dress up in her mother’s closet. “I still can’t believe you let Alice dress me up in this silk thing,” she said with a sigh, “it’s so impractical, even with the fur coat.”
I shrugged and pretended to sip the coffee that we had ordered from the waiter on our arrival. “It is Paris, and Alice couldn’t bear to let you walk around in your favorite jeans when this city calls for elegance. At least this way you look like a fashionable lady,” I teased.
Bella made a face and leaned over the table to whisper in my ear. “Yes, but you like me best when I’m wearing nothing at all.”
My body reacted to her teasing words, I couldn’t help myself. Yes, we had been married for a year but that didn’t stop me from wanting to bury myself in my wife’s delicious little body at every available opportunity. “Or that delightful little black lace number,” I murmured back.
She laughed and straightened up, giving my knee a little pat. “Maybe if you are a good boy today we can see what we can find at that boutique Alice wants to drag us to this afternoon.”
I grinned back at her. “That sounds like a very enjoyable way to spend this afternoon. Unless Alice is wrong and Charlie decides he wants to spend this evening with you.”
Bella looked thoughtful as she gazed down into her coffee cup. “Charlie has surprised me before. I didn’t expect that he would come all the way to France to see me again. I guess he just doesn’t like unsolved mysteries.”
“Or he is your father and he loves and misses you,” I said quietly. Then I looked up and I noticed a figure approaching the Cafe that looked distinctly out of place. “Speaking of which, he is on his way here now. Are you sure you want me to stay nearby?”
She nodded, squeezing my knee as her nerves came back full force. “I don’t think I can do this on my own,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Kate will come out of the cafe in a moment and she will be at your side the entire time,” I said, putting my hand over hers and patting it gently. “Just stick to the story and don’t embellish it.”
I had to admit that I wasn’t fully on board with her plan to keep her human family in her life, mostly because I didn’t know them and wasn’t sure whether or not they could be trusted to believe our story. It was a chance I had to take though. I loved Bella enough that I would give her whatever she wanted, no matter how dangerous it may be. Hopefully she was right, and her father would accept it all and be grateful she was still alive.
When Alice gave me the signal that Charlie was coming, I squeezed Bella’s hand and walked across the street to where Alice was waiting at a tiny bakery. I watched from the window as Kate stepped out of the cafe, taking my seat next to Bella and then gave me the thumbs up. Wordlessly, Alice stepped to my side and we both watched as Charlie approached the cafe. Bella stood up a little too quickly, her nerves obvious for anyone around her to see, but not so quickly that she gained the suspicion of anyone around her. “Dad,” she said, her hands reaching out slightly in front of her, “I’m happy to see you.”
I was listening in through both Kate and Charlie’s thoughts, hoping that the two girls could handle the situation without me. Charlie looked as though he were seeing a ghost, and even from across the street I could see tears glistening in his eyes. “Bells, is that really you?” he asked, reaching a hand out to her. His thoughts were cautious, unsure of how to react to seeing his daughter that had apparently run away from him after only one day together. He wanted to hug her, to pull her into his arms, but he worried that she might refuse him. Holding out a hand was the most hope he could give himself.
Bella shook as she reached out her own hand to him, clutching it in hers. Charlie shuddered. “Bells, your skin is freezing. Have you been waiting outside for me this whole time?”
She shrugged, taking her hand back and biting her lip as she looked at Kate. She stepped in, putting a comforting hand on Bella’s shoulder. I wished desperately that it could have been me with her, but since Kate hadn’t been involved in her disappearance, had never even been to Forks, she was the better choice.“We should get inside out of the cold. Would you like to join us, Mr. Swan?” Kate asked politely.
Charlie took notice of her for the first time, looking at Kate as though he was trying to place her face. When he couldn’t, he shook his head to clear it and gave her a hesitant smile. “Are you the roommate she mentioned?” he asked.
That had been another white lie that Bella had told him. We hadn’t wanted him to know about me or to freak out about her young marriage and running away, so when she wrote to him she told him that she had met a girl on the road and her family had treated her well. Kate just nodded in response to his question and led him to the door of the cafe. I bristled a bit as they headed for the door, knowing that when I could no longer see them, I would have to focus on seeing the interaction from Kate’s mind.
“My name is Katrina, but you can call me Kate,” she said, omitting a surname because she hadn’t used one in centuries.
“It’s nice to meet you Kate. Bella has written a lot of wonderful things about your family,” Charlie said a bit stiffly as he walked past Kate and into the warm building, effectively shutting me out of the visuals.
I felt Alice’s hand on my shoulder and her thoughts brushing against my mind. “She is going to be okay, Edward. I promise.”
I put my hand over hers and squeezed, letting her know that I trusted her. “I guess we should get going if I’m going to be able to surprise her later,” I said, turning a smile on my sister. Alice just beamed at me in response.
We walked around the corner to a little jewelry store that Alice and I had been to once before, about fifteen years ago. It was close enough to the cafe that I felt comfortable with the knowledge that I could be at Bella’s side in a minute if I was needed, but still far enough away that Charlie wouldn’t accidentally spot us and guess what had really happened to Bella last March.
Thankfully when we entered the jewelry store (which catered to a very select clientele) the jeweler was not the one who had helped us during our last visit. It wasn’t likely that the elderly gentleman I remembered would be able to recognize Alice and I, but it was a possibility, and so I was relieved to see a pretty young woman behind the glass counter.
“Bienvenue,” she said warmly as we reached the counter, but she gauged our appearance and quickly switched to speaking English in a softly accented voice. “Is there something special you are shopping for today?”
I glanced at Alice and she nodded at me, her thoughts filled with Bella’s pleased face when she saw her Christmas gift. Bolstered by this, I flashed my most brilliant smile on the young saleswoman. “Actually yes, I’m here for something very special today. A week from today I will be celebrating my first Christmas with my wife since our marriage and I need a gift that will make her feel as though I’m giving her the world on a platter.”
The sales woman's thoughts grew shrewd as she realized how much money Alice and I were willing to spend on this purchase. Her smile didn’t betray these thoughts though, she remained coolly professional and yet warm and welcoming at the same time. “Is there a certain type of jewelry you have in mind? A bracelet perhaps or even a matching set of earrings and a necklace?”
I shook my head, Bella wasn’t really a fan of earrings of any kind and I wasn’t interested in something as simple as that. “I’m looking for something unique, one of a kind if possible,” I said, thinking about how special Bella was, how much she deserved something that no one else had. I wanted to give her the world on a silver platter, just like I had told the jeweler. I just had to find that perfect item.
“Does the lady in question have a favorite gemstone?” the saleswoman asked curiously, and her thoughts were running through all the possibilities in the store and the type of gems that they had in stock.
“Garnet,” I answered automatically, calling to mind the rich red stone that Bella was so fond of, “but I was thinking about something perhaps with pearls or diamonds. Something that brings winter to mind, if possible.”
The light in the sales woman's eyes when I mentioned winter was exactly what I had been hoping for. She excused herself to the stock room and within a flash she was back, cradling a small velvet box in her hands. “This is something special,” she said eagerly, showing just a trace of the enthusiasm she had been trained to keep locked away as a sales person. “We have recently received a handful of pieces based on the seasons from an up and coming artist who specializes in working with precious stones and metals. When you said ‘winter’ this was the first thing that came to mind.” She then opened the box to show us the necklace she had brought from storage and even though I had already seen it in her mind, the beauty of the delicate piece took my breath away.
It was a small pendant, just larger than a nickel in diameter and made of pure platinum. The design was of a snowflake, delicate and airy with differently cut diamonds making up each of the crystalline spines of the flake. There was also a small pearl in the center that set the whole design off perfectly. It was a beautiful reminder of the first home we had shared, the place we had discovered our friendship and our love. It was perfect.
“I’ll take it,” I said.
The saleswoman beamed at me. “Will that be cash or credit?”
By the time that Alice and I were done at the jewelry store, I was chomping at the bit to make my way back to Bella’s side. We made our way back to the bakery just in time to watch Bella hug Charlie and send him off in a taxi. I watched as she and Kate chatted for a moment and then walked across the street to us, brilliant smiles on their faces. When Bella finally entered the bakery, she was so filled with smiles that my irritation at spending part of our honeymoon away from her evaporated.
“Thank you for letting me see him,” she said as she wrapped her arms around me. “It meant a lot to me.”
“Anything that makes you happy makes me happy,” I told her honestly, squeezing her as tight as I could to make up for the last half an hour apart.
A few minutes later we all left the bakery together, hailing a taxi back to the hotel. Yes, Alice had finally convinced Bella to check into a five star hotel near the Eiffel Tower. Not that it had taken much convincing once I reminded her that this was the honeymoon we hadn’t yet had. Having a bed at our disposal was something she was very much interested in, so Alice had gotten her wish.
All in all, it had gone much better than we had imagined, and Bella was happier than she had been in weeks. And like I had told her before: anything that made her happy made me happy.
Later that night as Bella and I lay in bed together, our legs and arms still entangled from the rather energetic bout of lovemaking we had just shared, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much different my life was from how it had been two years ago.
I pressed a kiss to the bare skin of Bella’s collarbone, loving the way she sighed at my slightest touch. “I love you,” I whispered against her skin, brushing my lips along her neck.
She smiled at me, tracing my cheek with her fingers. “How am I so lucky? I’ve experienced more love in the past two years than most people get in a lifetime.”
I kissed her lips tenderly, a kiss full of all the love I had for her. “No, Bella, I’m the lucky one. I was living a life of drudgery; of endless night with only a few dim stars to light my way. When I met you... I never could have believed that such a terrible mistake could finally pull me from the darkness. You were like a sunrise, bringing hope and joy and love to a life that had precious little of it. When I fell in love with you, my life finally began.”
Her lips quivered, her eyes shone brightly with love for me. “Well then, how do I argue with that?” she asked.
“You could always just give me your rebuttal in the form of sexual favors,” I teased, nipping at her ear.
She laughed, pulling my lips to hers for a long and thorough kiss. “Mmm, yes, I could do that, but aren’t you interested in what I bought you for Christmas? It is almost midnight now, so I figure it is close enough to Christmas day.”
“It can wait until later,” I said, burying my face in her neck and kissing my way down her body. I was eager to give her my gift as well, but it could wait. My hunger for her body was more overwhelming than my excitement at giving her a present.
She sighed happily, knotting her fingers in my hair. “We do have forever don’t we?”
“Yes,” I whispered, “and I look forward to every minute of it.”
As the clock struck midnight signalling Christmas day, I reveled in the joy of loving my wife, my partner, my greatest gift in the world. Forever could never be long enough for me to really get my fill of her, but it was definitely a start.
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