A Woman of Conviction Ch 18
It’s been almost two weeks since Lucian disappeared and Edward and I reconciled. I can’t believe that I didn’t trust his intentions with me.
We’re basically back to where we were at the time of our first date, although we did have a bit of an argument when he brought the new rental agreement for me to sign.
“This says that the utilizes are still included?” I looked at him in disbelief.
“Yes, is there a problem with that?”
I raised my eyebrow at him. “I want to pay the utilities separately.”
“Because I can.”
He shook his head.
“I don’t want you to lose out on money, Edward.”
He laughed humorlessly. “I’m not losing anything. There haven’t been any tenants in this apartment for at least five years.”
“Okay,” I sighed, and signed the new rental agreement.
We haven’t been on a second date, but I’m hoping we can go after today. Today is the court date with Jake to finish terminating his rights and paying me back child support.
I am a bundle of nerves.
“Baby, it’s going to be okay. Just relax.” Edward wraps his arm around my shoulders.
“If you say so,” I chuckle, leaning in. Jasper, Irina, and Tanya walk up to us.
“This is it. As long as he doesn’t contest anything, you’ll be done with Jacob Black for good.” Jasper gives me a comforting smile.
“Do you think he will?” I ask nervously.
“I don’t think so, but if he does, we’ll deal with it.”
“Okay.” I let out the breath I’ve been holding and follow Jasper and Irina into the courtroom.
We take a seat while we wait for our case to be called. I can’t help but look around the room and my breath hitches when I see Charlie and the woman from the game tucked over in a corner as if they don’t want to be seen.
“Bella?” Edward says my name questioningly.
I turn to face him. “Charlie is here.”
Edward turns to where I was just looking. I hear a slight growl escape from him. “What the hell does he think he’s doing here?”
That’s a good question, and I’ve never been so thankful that the boys are in school. I could not bear the thought of them here, knowing that most likely I’ll have to confront Charlie.
“I don’t know, I can’t focus on that right now.”
After a few minutes our case is called. We go up to the front with Jake and his fiancée and his lawyer.
The bailiff calls us to order as the judge shuffles through our paperwork.
“Okay, Ms. Swan wants parental rights terminated and back child support paid up to the point in time of the rights being terminated. How does your client feel about this, Mr. Gallant?” The judge looks over his glasses at Jake’s lawyer.
“He agrees to the terms,” Mr. Gallant answers.
I feel a weight lift off my shoulders and a breath escapes me in a laugh.
I turn around to Edward and he has a big smile for me. It’s over, Jake can never bother us again.
Jake doesn’t even give us a second look as he and his woman walk out.
Edward takes my hand as Jasper and Irina finish up the paperwork for us. Tanya is waiting for Irina so they can go celebrate their anniversary. As we walk out, I see Charlie and his wife with Jake and his girl; they look like they’re arguing.
I feel myself walk over, having to know. I need to know.
“Charlie!” I call out to him, clinging to Edward for strength.
They all turn my way. Jake rolls his eyes and leaves, pulling the woman with him.
Charlie looks like a fish out of water, gasping for air.
“Hello, Bella,” his wife greets me with a smile.
This seems to snap Charlie out of his shocked state. “Bella.”
“I need to know why?” I finally ask the question that has been dying inside of me for so many years.
He doesn’t meet my eyes, and Sue gives me a sympathetic look.
“I figured Mr. Cullen here would have showed you the files he has.”
Burning rage fills me up. “So I have to find out from another source because you’re too coward to tell me what I did wrong? Why you had to kick me and your grandsons out on the streets? Do you even know how bad it was for us? Did you even care about your grandsons?” I feel the tears streaking down my cheeks.
He finally looks at me. I don’t see the man from many years ago. I see an old man with so many ghosts haunting him. “I’m sorry.”
I let out a haunted laugh. “I don’t want your pathetic excuse of an apology. I want to know why.”
“Maybe we can get lunch or something so I can tell you.”
I look away and to Edward who is shaking slightly. “Do we have time?”
He sighs and takes out his phone. “Not today. The kids will be out in an hour.”
Should I bother finding out? Is he worth it? “Can I call you to set something up?”
Charlie nods his head. “Yeah, here.” He takes out a card from his back pocket and hands it to me. I take it gingerly and put it in my purse. I lift my hand in a wave and they do the same.
The car ride is quiet.
“Do you think I should have lunch with him?” I finally ask Edward.
He seems like he’s pondering his answer. “If it’s something you think you need, then yes, I think you should.”
I nod my head. “I feel like there is a ‘but’ coming.”
He smirks. “I don’t like the man. I think what he did was despicable. He put his only child and his only grandchildren on the street to fend for themselves.”
We arrive at the school, waiting for Lucian and Damon to come out. “Can I see the files you have?”
“Sure, baby, we’ll stop by the office on our way home.”
Home, our home. To be honest, Edward has been staying with us since we reconciled. The boys love it and so do I. I wonder if we should just make the leap and live together, but then we haven’t even said the three important words to each other.
I’m sure that what I’m feeling is love. But I also thought that of Jake. Fuck!
The boys climb in the car and start talking about basketball. Edward takes it all in, saying he’ll help them and asking when tryouts are and whatnot.
The stop at the office is a quick one, and before I know it, we’re back to the apartment. We do our routine of helping the boys with homework followed by making dinner together. We are a family. Lucian starts asking questions about basketball, and Edward easily answers them.
“We’ll have to hit the store this weekend and get a basketball so we can practice,” Edward tells me.
“Sounds good.” The nerves have been eating away at me, since I know all the secrets of Charlie and Jake are just there in the bag hanging on the kitchen chair.
“You okay?” He stands behind me, and I turn and bury my face in his chest.
I take a deep breath, allowing his strong pine scent to surround me. “I will be.”
Finally, the boys go to bed and Edward and I are sitting comfortably on the couch. The manilla folders are sitting in my lap waiting for me to open them. They’ve been there for ten minutes.
“You don’t have to read them, baby,” he murmurs in my hair.
“How bad are they?” My nerves seep into my voice.
I hear his gentle sigh. “It’s not good, but I think a strong woman like you can handle it.”
Feeling very confident from those words, I open the first folder.
Hurt, anger, and just pure hatred comes over me when I see what Jake has done. “He’s a pedophile.” I finally manage to come up with words for what I’m reading. I just stare at the fact that my boys have four sisters. And they are all six and under.
“How the hell did he get away with this? All these girls.” I bring my hand to my mouth, trying not to throw up.
“Honestly, from what we could gather, his dad paid off a lot of people from filing charges, and of course none of the girls’ parents wanted Jake near them or their grandkids, so they easily agreed to sever rights.” You can hear the disgust in Edward’s voice.
I shut the folder and put it on the coffee table. That means this next one is about Charlie. I peel at the edges; do I really want to know? Will this give me any answers?
“Do you think I should wait and see what he has to say?” I scoot away so I can look at Edward’s face.
“Baby, if you want to, that’s fine. This file isn’t going anywhere.” He leans down and captures my lips. I can’t help but moan in pleasure.
“Should I tell the boys about having siblings?” I ask we when finally pull away.
“What does your amazing mothering instinct say?” Oh, he is so good at avoiding my questions sometimes.
“It says that I should probably talk to them about it sometime. I don’t want them to get the information the wrong way, someday.”
“That might never happen. Considering that they’re spread through the country, and who’s to say they even know about having other half-siblings?”
What Edward says makes some sense to me. “Maybe. I think I need to think about it.” I look at him and something in my stomach flips.
“Maybe you should think about while we’re in bed.” His voice is rich, like chocolate. His eyes are dilated.