Driving Forces Chapter 11

Chapter 11

My hands are clammy as I rest them on the wood of the podium. My heart is pounding in my ears as I swallow hard. My eyes never look up at the people waiting for me to speak. My entire body wants to bolt. I want to hide, but I don’t. I manage to get the words out.

Everything that I worried about didn’t happen. I still can’t believe that I did it. I told my story and Bella was there. She’s still talking to me, holding my hand, and being everything I need and even slightly more since hearing my story. It’s not long after Bella hugs me that I cry. And she holds me the whole time, humming me a soft melody.

I've had a few nightmares since telling my story, but nothing like they were in the months after my near-death experience.

Eleazar and Alistair rehearsed and rehearsed with me what I wanted to say to the group and what I wanted Bella to hear. I needed Bella to hear it. The focal point of my last session was the possibility of a relationship with Bella. Gathering the nerve to ask her on a date. Not that I’ve gotten to that part; I’ve been too nervous that she’ll say no to me.

My nerves are no better when Bella is invited to a girls’ night and takes Emma with her. She thinks it’ll be good for me to host a guys’ night at my apartment.

Bella’s brothers and Alistair are sitting around my table with drinks and chips, playing cards. They’re great, and we’re having a blast, but I can’t help wondering if they think I would be good enough for their sister. This thought makes me bounce my knee uncontrollably.

I feel Al’s eyes on me, and I’m sure he has a meddling smirk on his face. My fears are confirmed when I hear him clear his throat.

“What was it like growing up with Bella?”

A small sigh escapes my lips, thanking God that he didn’t say something else. Like, hey, do you think Bella would date Edward, here?

Emmett’s booming laugh bounces off the walls of my apartment. “She was a firecracker.” He gets a wistful look on his face.

Jasper begins smiling with the same look. “Bella ran our household like a well-oiled machine.”

Emmett snorts as his brother’s assessment. “She did. You did not want to piss her off, either.”

“Isn’t Bella the youngest?” Al grabs two cards.

“I am, but before I came along, yes, she was,” Seth answers, throwing his cards down and putting his hands behind his head.

“That didn’t ever stop her from being the boss.” Jasper chuckles.

I can’t help but smile at the image. Bella with a wooden spoon, a good foot shorter than her brothers, yelling at them while they stare down at her in shame.

Around and around, they tell different stories of Bella.

Bella going toe-to-toe with teachers to prove that she was right. Her infamous right hook that took out a quarterback when he touched her ass. Bella graduating as valedictorian with Jasper. Jasper was proud to be in her class. She never let her brothers get away with anything. And when Leah, Seth, and Sue joined the family, Bella took Leah under her wing and helped Sue out with everything she could.

My heart pangs to think about Bella taking on being a mother hen at a young age. To take on a sister like that and then have her heart broken by her.

Seth clears his throat. “Edward, I heard that you registered for classes.”

Feeling their eyes on me brings heat to my cheeks, and I find myself squirming in my seat. “Yeah, I start in January.”

Al smiles and the others whoop for me. The heat of embarrassment spreads through my body at their encouragement. I’m still trying to get used to having so much support.

“You going to stay Bella’s assistant?” Emmett has this weird look on his face as he asks.

Not missing a beat, I answer, “I wouldn’t leave Bella.”

My own voice hits my ears and I hear it. I hear how I sound. And I know I’m screwed when I look at the faces around me and find them smirking and refusing to make eye contact with me. I shrink into myself, trying to hide my obvious mortification.

Seth chuckles. “You’re a good guy, Edward.”

Emmett’s sigh is one of relief. “Thank God. I don’t think I could survive her training a new assistant.”

Jasper laughs in agreement with his brother.

It isn’t much longer before everyone but Alistair leaves. He helps me get my place back in order before Bella gets home with Emma.

“You have the brothers’ approval.” Al chuckles.

I roll my eyes. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Mm-hm,” he hums as he watches me. Shifting my feet, I find myself putting my hands in my pockets.

I feel his hand on my shoulder, giving it a squeeze. “If it counts for anything, I’m pretty sure she’s on the same page as you.”

Same page as me. Huh.

He leaves as Bella comes home with Kool-Aid-dyed hair and a big smile.

“You have fun?”

“I did.”

*Driving Forces*

I’m looking through rental ads as Bella screams into the phone at someone. I’m just glad it’s not me. I still haven’t gotten the nerve to ask Bella out. There have been plenty of moments for it, but the words never come.

The mail cart comes around and I end up with two piles in my inbox. The first pile is all for Bella, but the second is two separate letters addressed to me. The seal pressed into the upper left-hand corner on each of the different envelopes gets my heart pumping.

“Edward?” Bella’s tone is laced with concern.

My hands shaking uncontrollably, I lift the letters up so she can see. There’s only one reason I’m getting letters like this, and it can’t be anything good.

I feel Bella take the letters with one hand, but her other takes my hand to pull me up and guide me to her couch. She never leaves my side, never letting go of my hand as I sit down.

“Do you mind if I open these?” Her voice is gentle as my hand clasps hers tightly. I nod.

She pulls her hand away slowly, almost as if she doesn’t want to. I hear the tearing of the envelopes. After just a few heartbeats, I hear a sharp intake of breath and then a frantic tear of the other envelope, and a growl finally makes me look at her.

Her face would send me into a panic if I didn’t know Bella to the core. She finally looks at me.

“Edward, things are about to get rough, but I swear to you on everything I am or have that she will not hurt you, and she will not get anywhere near you or Emma. I would die before that happened.”

My chest tightens, and my vision darkens. This can’t be happening.

“What does it say?” I ask hoarsely, not wanting the answer.

She takes a deep breath. “The first letter says that Tanya has been granted early parole for good behavior and that she completed rehab and anger management courses without any setbacks.”

My body begins to tremble; this can’t be real.

“The second is a petition to the court from Tanya to get visitation rights with Emma.”

My body moves on its own, standing up and pacing. “No, no, no, no. She can’t!”

Bella stands in front of me, taking my trembling hands into hers. Our eyes meet, and I can see the determination in hers.

“Over my dead body will that woman get anywhere near either of you.”

Despite the tears staining my cheeks, I believe her.


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