The Look of Love




Chapter 1: Pregnancy Has Its Advantages

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? …We are all meant to shine, as children do. …And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Excerpted from

‘Our Deepest Fear’

by Marianne Williamson

BPOV

I slowly opened my eyes and smiled. No one had ever been happier or more content than me. “I must have been the equivalent of Mother Theresa in a previous lifetime to deserve a life this perfect,” I thought. The man that People Magazine had finally voted the ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ was sleeping peacefully next to me. Our baby girl, Kate, was happily tap dancing her way across the inside of my swollen belly. I listened to the waves crashing onto the beach outside our window. “If life was a Divine Comedy, I survived the Inferno and had arrived in Paradise.” With that thought, my body decided it was time for my husband to wake up.

Rob and I had an incredible sex life before I became pregnant. But now that I was pregnant, I was, literally, insatiable. I was so shocked by my new found lasciviousness, that I had to Google “Pregnancy and Sex Drive,” to find out if I was normal! None of my girlfriends had ever passed on this important piece of pregnancy information. Everyone is more than happy to share their stories of throwing up all day, or how their feet blew up so much they could no longer wear their Manoloa Blahnik’s, but no one had ever told me that they wanted to jump their husbands all day, every day! Thank God for the internet! I recalled the day I found the article that put my mind at ease; “pregnancy is among the most sensual, sexual times in a woman’s life. Pregnant women often top the list of the lustfully libidinous.” The article explained this was caused by increased blood flow, which created, “heightened sensitivity, often to the point of aching.” That was me! I ached for sex, all the time! Luckily, I had a husband who was very sympathetic.

I slid next to Rob and started running my tongue along his neck and nuzzling his ear lobe. I felt him start to stir.

“Mmmmm,” he sighed, finally waking up. “Good morning my ‘lustfully libidinous’ wife.”

“You’re making me regret sharing my medical research with you, Mr. ‘Sexiest Man Alive.’” I knew I was hitting below the belt with that one. Rob was truly mortified to be associated with that title. I remembered the day Randy, our press agent, called to tell us that People had decided to put Rob on the cover of the ‘Sexiest Man’ issue. Randy was thrilled because the publicity was huge. He was quick to point out that the title had only done great things for his former ‘Sexiest Man’ clients like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. Rob refused to be mollified.

“Ugh! How can you be so mean to someone who loves you so much?” He smiled.

He was smiling, but I knew his eyes too well. Most people use the phrase, ‘soul mate,’ far too casually, in my opinion. But in this case, I knew that my soul and my husband’s soul were permanently entwined. His eyes, as the expression says, truly were the window into his soul. I instantly knew what he was feeling when we were lying together like this, and I looked into the depths of his eyes.

This morning was no different. I saw pain behind his smile. I put my hand on his cheek. “What’s wrong, baby? What is it that truly bothers you so much about that magazine title?”

He rolled onto his back and put his arm across his face. Clearly, this was an excruciating topic. I waited, trusting that he would tell me when he found the right words. After a minute, he sighed and rolled back toward me. He looked into my eyes and put a hand against my cheek.

“You know me far too well for my own good,” he said.

“Mmmhmm,” I said, and gently kissed him. “Tell me, sweetheart. What is it?”

“Bella, I started modeling when I was twelve. What has your Mom told you about models and their self esteem?”

My Mom was the Supermodel, Kelly Jordan. She was more in demand at age 50 than she was at 20.

“She’s told me that most models have horrible self esteem. She said it is an awful business, and she was so relieved that I loved music and never showed any interest in modeling. She said she’s still in it because she loves designing her own product lines, but when she was strictly modeling, she hated it.”

“She’s right.” He said. “Most people outside the modeling business assume that the perfectly Photoshopped and air brushed glossy images that they see are the same way the models see themselves. But it is exactly the opposite. Even the most beautiful models, like your Mother, are never placed in a magazine without every trace of perceived imperfection being removed. The agents and photographers are brutal in pointing out exactly what those imperfections are. And the standard for beauty is ephemeral. Your Mom’s career is by far the exception. She was able to constantly reinvent herself and then introduce her own lines. Most models face a constant struggle to fit the definition of beauty that is currently the whim of some designer or magazine editor. It’s a barbaric job and a barbaric industry.” He exhaled and shook his head.

I took the hand he had against my cheek and pressed my lips against his palm. “It must have been especially difficult for you since you were so young when you started out. Kids that age grow and change overnight.”

“Yes!” He said. “That’s what made it so unbearable. One day I’d be on the ‘A-list’ and the next day I was too tall or too short or my look was strange, or whatever! It was agonizing!”

“Why did you keep modeling?” I asked.

“I didn’t! But it left its mark. All this attention to my looks makes me feel like this fame and success is just as ephemeral as the whims of the modeling agents and photographers. None of it feels real to me.”

“This is the first time you’ve ever told me how you feel about this.” I said.

“I know,” he went on. “I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with you because of your Mom. I thought that since she has had a successful and long career that you wouldn’t understand what I was saying.”

He rolled onto his back and looked at the ceiling. I raised myself onto my elbow and touched his cheek so he would look at me.

“Please know that you can always tell me anything.” He nodded. “I’ve heard Mom say the same things you just did. She told me that by some miracle, she was able to separate the glossy pictures from who she knew she was. She also told me that being married to my father anchored her. They have always been so in love. No one, not even their parents believed that their marriage would last. A rock star and a supermodel – it’s such a cliché. But my parents have always followed their hearts and lived their lives with passion in everything they do. She told me she fell in love with my father, not because he worshipped her beauty like almost every other man she’d ever met, but because he looked into her eyes and saw the beauty in her soul. She said once she felt his love for her, nothing about the modeling business ever bothered her again because she knew it had nothing to do with who she really was underneath what the rest of the world saw.”

Rob pulled me against his chest. I heard him take a deep breath.

“Bella, I didn’t even know how much this bothered me until just now. I knew I hated all the attention, but I didn’t get it until you talked about your Mom and Dad.” I looked up at him. “You said your Mom fell in love with your Dad because he saw beyond the external beauty and into her soul. Bella that is exactly why I fell in love with you. I was so sick of women just looking at me like a piece of meat. But you fell in love with me, not the glossy version on the cover of a magazine or the one on a screen, but the part that existed before my looks existed. The part that, I know, knew you before either of us was born.”

I nodded and said, “soul mates.”

We lay there looking into each others’ eyes – into each others’ souls until our bodies started to yearn for more – to deepen our connection. Rob rolled me onto my back and lovingly and tenderly kissed me. His kiss was deep and filled with passion. His lips and tongue traveled along my neck and down to my nipples. My pregnant body, so sensitive to his touch, instantly started to writhe as he sucked and swirled his tongue across my swollen breasts. I smiled as he kissed his way across my belly and spoke to our baby with utter tenderness, “Good morning precious little girl.” As he worked his way to the part of my body that never stopped aching for him, he very gently began to swirl his tongue. I immediately moaned and writhed. The pleasure was so exquisite, it was almost painful. It took only the slightest trace of his tongue to send me falling into an abyss of ecstasy. Within seconds, a deep moan erupted from the core of my being. Rob pulled me onto his lap, and I wrapped my legs around him as he slid into me.

“Oh God! Baby, it just keeps getting better. I don’t know how, but…uh, God!” I’d lost the ability to form a coherent sentence. It only took seconds, and I was moaning in ecstasy again. As soon as one wave was done, another started, and moments later I was gasping as I buried my face into his neck. My body was deeply impaled one last time as I clung to my husband’s perfect chest and watched as he threw his head back and moaned. The pressure was so exquisite that before he was done, my body released a final time.

I collapsed into his arms and couldn’t move or speak. We had experienced mind blowing sex too many times to count, but nothing had ever been like that. That needed some new language invented to describe the experience. After several minutes of holding each other and listening to our breathing return to normal, Rob finally said,

“Bella?”

“Mmmhmm?” I sighed into his chest.

“Honey, did you just come as many times as I think you did?”

I held up four fingers. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then we both burst out laughing.

“Oh my God!” He said. “I think we need about 15 kids so you can just stay pregnant all the time,” he laughed.

“Mmmhmm,” was all I could still manage.


Chapter 2: Fiction Versus Reality

“I’d better get dressed before Tim comes up here and drags me out of bed,” Rob said. Tim was Rob’s trainer. When Rob read the script for New Moon and realized he’d spend a significant amount of time with his shirt off, he decided to go for 6-pack abs. He asked Randy who he recommended as a trainer, and he told him to call Tim. When Rob expressed concern to Tim that he wouldn’t be in shape before the shoot started, Tim told him that at the age of 52, he had set as a goal to do 1000 push ups in one hour. He gave himself three months to reach his goal. By the end of that time, he was doing over 1200 push ups in an hour. He told Rob, “If I can do that in three months at age 52, you can definitely get your abs into shape.”

Tim met Rob every morning. They did cardio work daily and different muscle groups on alternating days. To get the 6-pack look, Tim had Rob do crunches while holding weights on his chest along with push ups and weight machines. By the time shooting began, Claire, Rob’s agent, joked that for all future rolls where Rob was required to take off his shirt, there would be a $1 million dollar per ab bonus added to his fee. On days when Rob was feeling lazy and didn’t want to get out of bed, Tim would call his cell and tell him to, “Get your 6 million dollar wash board abs down to the gym, now!”

Rob dragged himself into the bathroom, and I threw on one of his T-shirts and my maternity shorts and started downstairs. When I opened our bedroom door, Cassandra, my mother’s assistant was standing there. I jumped and caught my breath. “Can I help you?” I said.

“I’m sorry,” she said in her breathy Italian accent. “You mother asked me to come up here to get a notebook she left in her room. This house is so large, I got disoriented. Which room is your mother’s?”

“My parent’s wing is on the other side of the house.” I pointed.

“That’s right,” she smiled. “So sorry to bother you.”

“No bother,” I said. “I was on my way downstairs.”

I watched her walk away and thought about the day Mom introduced her to us.

Rob had the morning off, so we were relaxing on the deck. Mom walked out with Cassandra behind her.

“Bella, Rob, I’d like you to meet my new assistant, Cassandra. Roberto recommended her.”

Roberto Cavelllini, the Italian designer, adored my mother. When she quit doing runway modeling, he dramatically threatened to quit the business.

Rob stood to shake her hand, and I saw her eyes linger far longer than was socially polite on his shirtless chest. I interrupted where I knew her mind was going and said, “Cassandra, I’m Bella,” extending my hand. I gave her a look that said, “Keep your eyes to yourself.” I swear she smirked at me. As I shook her hand, I had the feeling we’d met before.

“Cassandra, you look so familiar. Have we met, possibly at one of Roberto’s shows?”

“I don’t think so,” she said abruptly.

“What town did you grow up in?” I asked. “I spent a great deal of time in Italy when Mom worked for Roberto.”

“Volterra,” she replied.

Rob and I looked at each other and laughed, assuming she was joking. She didn’t smile.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “We thought you were kidding. You seriously grew up in Volterra?”

“Why is that so amusing?” She asked.

“It’s just...” I looked at Rob, “Wow. There are actually women on this planet who don’t go to the Twilight movies!” At this, we just laughed harder, and I could see my mother getting annoyed.

“I’m so sorry, Cassandra. Volterra is an important city in a series of movies Rob’s done. So we thought you were joking. It is very beautiful there,” I said.

At that moment, my father walked across the deck on his way back from the studio. As Cassandra turned to look at him, I was sure I saw a look of pure hatred wash across her face, but she almost instantly forced a smile as my mother introduced them.

That night, at dinner, Mom told us that Cassandra had been a runway model for Roberto Cavelllini. He had arranged for her to intern with my Mother at Cassandra’s request. Cassandra was planning to launch a design career and was hoping to gain insights by working with my mother. She was apparently an orphan who had been discovered by Cavelllini while he was sipping coffee at a sidewalk café. Cassandra sat at a nearby table with some friends, and he said he took one look at her and knew she would be a star on the runway. He was right, but now she was tired of a model’s life. She was hoping to follow in my mother’s footsteps.

Something about her put me on edge, and her appearance outside our bedroom door was unsettling. I had the feeling that she had been standing there for awhile. Had she been listening to us making love?

I tried to shake off that thought as I made my way down to the kitchen looking forward to the morning’s first sip of hot coffee. I tried to give it up completely when I got pregnant, but the ritual of that first sip of the day was too deeply rooted in my being to give it up entirely. At least I’ve cut back to just a half a cup, I told myself, trying to assuage my guilt. I realized this was the first of many such times I would have to deal with the guilt of not living up to my imagined standards of motherhood perfection.

I poured my coffee and meandered onto the deck overlooking the ocean. I could see the Breaking Dawn crew setting up for the day on the other side of the resort. I smiled thinking how easy Rob’s ‘commute’ to work would be today. Several months ago, Rob, Claire, two of the studio execs and I were sitting on this deck discussing Rob’s Breaking Dawn contract. This was the first time I had ever been involved in a business meeting related to Rob’s job. I was not about to tell him how to manage his career. But in this case I made an exception because our number one priority on this shoot was that he remain close to home during the last month of my pregnancy and the first month after the baby was born.

Obviously, the studio was acting as if we were demanding they shoot the film in Antarctica. But at that moment, we were all determined to find a way to make it work. We all had copies of the shoot schedule and were staring at it. The schedule was a bar chart, which showed the months running along the bottom of the page. There were several multicolored lines indicating various phases of the film’s production. I looked at the month prior to my due date and saw a blue line with the abbreviation, “I.E.”

“What is ‘I.E.’?” I asked.

“Isle Esme,” Rob said. “They are scouting locations in South America.”

I looked back at the schedule and smiled, then stood up and walked to the deck railing. I was staring off into the distance when I felt Rob’s arms slip around me. “What are you thinking?” He asked.

I turned to him and smiled and waved my arm. “Welcome to Isle Esme!”

It had worked out perfectly, not only because Rob could shoot, literally, next door, near my due date, but we needed a house of our own. We agreed the studio could use the resort as a location, and in exchange, Esme’s house had to be built as a fully functioning house that we could move into after the shoot. We hired an architect who worked with the studio’s production team to design a house that would work for the shoot but would also serve as our home later.

I’d never been very interested in architecture or interior design. As long as I could hear the ocean when I was lying in bed, I was happy with whatever. But the day I found myself screaming at the set designer because he wanted to paint the kitchen blue instead of white, I decided it was time for more ‘medical research.’

I Googled, ‘Pregnancy and Nesting.’ I found a New York Times article that set my mind at ease:

“Nesting brings about some unique and seemingly irrational behaviors in pregnant women and all of them experience it differently. Obstetricians have long observed a deeply felt urge among pregnant women to focus on preparing the home for offspring.”

I apologized to the set designer and decided to focus on the nursery since it was in a wing of the house that was not part of the set. My Mom had, literally, scoured the globe to ferret out the absolute best baby furniture. She had enjoyed the process so much, she was now negotiating her own line of baby furniture and clothing!

I was lost in thought having an internal debate over yellow walls versus pink when I heard my assistant, Alex talking to my Dad.

As I stepped back into the kitchen, they both stopped talking. I looked at them and realized neither of them would meet my eye.

“OK, you two. Why do I get the feeling that my day is about to suck?”

They looked at each other. I could tell that they were hoping the other would break whatever news it was they were dreading to tell me. Alex finally decided Dad wasn’t going to cave in. She grabbed a copy of GOSSIP magazine, threw it at me, and literally ran out of the house! I looked at the cover. The headline screamed,

“ROBERT PATTINSON AND KRISTEN STEWART CAUGHT ON CAMERA!”

“Not again!” I steamed. “Are these people completely stupid? They’ve already had to pay us a million dollars. Are they trying to put themselves out of business? She’s his sister-in-law! When are they going to give it up already!”

The picture showed Rob and Kristen standing just inside a hotel balcony. They were holding each other and kissing. There are easily 100,000 similar pictures on Google Images, so why did GOSSIP think they were going to get away with this?

A minute later, Rob came downstairs. I showed him the magazine. “So apparently you are an incestuous adulterer since you are banging your sister-in-law. Ugh! No mercy this time! I’m telling Randy and Steve to shut them down.”

Rob put his arms around me. “This baby is bringing out your inner Grizzly Bear, and I like it. Go tear them apart for me, please!”

“Count on it. I’m so OVER this!”

He smiled and kissed me, but then his face turned serious. “What is it?” I asked.

“Honey, I can’t find my wedding ring. I put it on my bureau yesterday morning before I went to the set, and I just noticed it’s not there now. Did you move it?”

I shook my head. “I’ll ask Stacy when she gets here. Hopefully she saw it when she was cleaning yesterday. We’ll find it.” I gave him a kiss.

“Thanks, sweetheart. I’ll talk to you later. I’ve got to run. I love you.” He turned to Dad. “Hey, Barry.” Dad just grunted. He hadn’t had his third cup of coffee yet.

I knew that Randy would call me after he talked to Steve and they had their lab issue the official forensic photographer’s report that the picture was in fact, fake. When I hadn’t heard from him by lunchtime, I had Alex get him on the phone.

“Hey, Bella.”

“Bella?” I thought. He’s never called me, ‘Bella,’ in my entire life. He’s called me ‘Tink,’ short for ‘Tinker Bell,’ since they day I was born.

“Hello, Mr. Spencer,” I said, to let him know I picked up on his formality.

“Sorry, Tinker Bell, I was, ah, distracted.”

Something in his tone made me very uneasy.

“Randy, cut to the chase. I’ve known you my entire life, and I know when you are about to tell me something I’m not going to like, so just say it.”

“OK. Ah…Bella, the picture…”

“Yes, Rand, the fake rag sheet picture on the cover of the magazine with suicidal tendencies. What about it?”

“Bella…it’s not a fake.”


Chapter 3: Shattered Pieces

There was a very long pause. My brain couldn’t wrap itself around what he had just said. It was as if he were speaking a language I’d never heard before.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“Honey, it’s real,” Randy said.

“Randy, if you are fucking with me, and this is some sick joke, I swear to God, I will make your life a living hell.”

“Bella…”

“Randy, it is NOT real.”

“Bella, the lab we usually use came back and said it was real. I had the same reaction you did, so I sent it to the lab at Berkley. Honey, they confirmed it. It’s real. I’m so sorry.”

I suddenly felt like I was swimming, but I wasn’t in water. I dropped the phone. I collapsed to my knees. I couldn’t breathe. My head was spinning. My entire existence was centered in Rob’s love for me. I had never questioned it. I knew it. Yet Randy had just told me everything I knew was wrong. My entire universe was collapsing in on me.

I have no idea how long I stayed like that. When I dropped the phone, Randy called my Dad. My father came running into my office and found me kneeling on the floor and whimpering. He put his arms around me, and we stayed like that for a very long time.

My father finally spoke. “Bella, honey…you’re not making a sound. You’re not moving. Sweetheart, are you OK?”

His voice sounded like he was talking to me through water. I was still trying to anchor myself in this new reality where Rob didn’t love me.

“Dad, I have to get some air. I can’t breathe in here. I’m going for a walk.”

My father helped me stand up and held my waste to make sure my feet were still functioning as I walked outside.

“Thanks, Dad. I need to be alone right now.”

I walked to the shore. I understood the profound religious beliefs that so many people had and the comfort, faith and connection they find in their sanctuaries and in their practices. But my family was not religious, so I had formed my own, personal connection with whatever force it was that created us and kept this world spinning. My sanctuary was the shoreline. The ocean’s ebb and flow, symbolic of everything we experience as humans, has always helped me to find my way. I could never live anywhere else, and I can’t thrive when I am away from it for very long. I left my sandals on the path to the house and started walking in the surf. I knew from experience that I could not think my way out of this. I knew that if I walked long enough, the ocean’s tides would steer me toward the course I needed to take.

When I finally stopped, I sat on a rock and stared at the waves. For the first time since this morning, I allowed myself to think. Two labs had said the picture was real. One of those labs was Berkley. They were respected as the top forensic photographers in the world. This information kept repeating itself in my mind, but my being refused to accept it. I knew that when I looked into Rob’s eyes, I saw into his soul, and I knew my husband loved me. He loved our baby. Somehow, even if the world’s best forensic photographers said that picture was real, I knew it was not real. I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and sent an email to the one person on the globe that I knew could help me get back to my universe. It was the same person who had created universes in an empty warehouse.

RPOV

We had been shooting all morning. I was glad Chris was directing Breaking Dawn. I liked the tone he created on the New Moon set, and the atmosphere on this set was equally productive. But when he was on a roll, he sometimes forgot that we were actually human. He had just said, “Cut. Reset the scene.” Kristen and I looked at each other. We had just done five takes of the same scene and had been working all morning without a break.

“Time to go on strike?” I said to her, winking.

“Most definitely,” she agreed.

We turned to Chris. “Do we get a ‘human moment’ today, or are you going to keep working us as if we really are vampires?” I smiled.

“Oh, shit! Sorry! Yeah, yeah, go take a break!” He said.

I walked outside and dropped onto the sand for a Vitamin D break. This morning was grueling. For some reason, I could do fight scenes all day and not get tired, but love scenes? Forget it! Attempting to project the constant inner turmoil raging within Edward just zapped my energy. I laughed inwardly as I thought, That’s an interesting twist. Edward is draining my life force!

Suddenly Kristen was next to me, sobbing uncontrollably.

“Kris, what’s wrong?”

As she continued to sob, Kristen handed me a print out from CNN’s website. The headline read, “Independent Lab and Berkley’s Department of Forensic Photography Confirm Photo.” Underneath the headline was the picture of Kristen and me that was on the cover of GOSSIP. Beneath the photo, the story read, “Sykes Forensic Photography of Los Angeles and the Berkeley School of Forensic Photography have both independently confirmed that the picture of Twilight stars Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, shown in a romantic embrace on a hotel balcony in Los Angeles, is authentic. Neither the stars, nor their spouses could be reached for comment.”

I looked at Kristen. She choked out through sobs, “Someone sent this to Jack. He called me, screamed that he wanted a divorce, and hung up.”

Dread filled me as I wondered if Bella had seen this yet.

“Kris, we both know this isn’t real. There has to be a way to prove it. We’ll figure this out. Jack will calm down. It will be OK.” I heard myself saying all of these words to soothe Kristen, but I was finding them hard to believe.

Kristen nodded, and seemed to be able to breathe again.

“Kris, I’ve got to find Bella.”

She nodded, and said, “Go.”

I ran back to the house yelling Bella’s name as I got closer. No one was downstairs. I ran upstairs taking them three at a time and stopped dead. Taped to the bedroom mirror was the CNN article. Written in lipstick across the mirror were the words, “I HATE YOU.” I felt my life shatter along with the mirror. My cell phone lay in pieces amidst the glass. I didn’t even remember throwing it. I heard a voice screaming, “NO! NO!” over and over, then I realized it was mine. I imagined this was how people who reported near death experiences felt when they described floating above their bodies. My body was reacting to the knowledge that Bella hated me, but my brain had completely detached and was just watching as if I were in slow motion performing the role of the distraught husband in a horror movie.

At some point, my mind and my body seemed to reconnect, and I noticed I was sitting on the edge of the bed with my head in my hands. I had to try to talk to her. I grabbed the land line and punched in her number. I heard, “You and Me” start to play, and looked over to Bella’s bedside table to see her phone vibrating. This just keeps getting worse. I thought. Now, I have no way of finding her. I called Barry. He picked up on the first ring.

“Bella?” He said.

“I guess that means she’s not with you,” I said.

He didn’t reply. I could feel his icy hatred through the line.

“It’s not real, Barry.”

“Tell it to someone who gives a fuck,” he said cutting me off.

I set the phone down and heard someone behind me. I spun around, praying it would be Bella, but it was Cassandra.

“Hello, Rob.” She gave me that look I was so tired of seeing – as if she were trying to decide if she wanted me rare or well done. I was not in the mood for this crap.

“Have you seen Bella?” I asked.

“I saw her car pull away a few hours ago,” she replied.

I grabbed my keys and jumped into my car. I hit the highway, turned on the radar detector, and drove like a vampire.

BPOV

I didn’t even bother to pack a bag. I left a note for Rob and my parents in the kitchen and told them where I was going. Jack was touring with ‘Air Jordan,’ so I headed to the garage to get my car. I was glad for the chance to drive and clear my mind. The jet was so convenient, I rarely did this anymore. I put the top down on my Lotus Elise, turned on the radar detector, and proceeded to drive like a vampire to San Francisco.

I called Doug on the way. Doug was my mentor when I worked at Industrial Light & Magic. Even though I didn’t report to him, he took me under his wing because he saw my voracious appetite for learning the business. I spent as much time as I could hanging out in his studio, watching him bring alien worlds to life. After awhile, I affectionately referred to him as Yoda, because he not only taught me the technical aspects of the business, he also wove life’s wisdom into our daily lessons.

When I walked into Doug’s office, I managed a feeble smile and said, “Hey Yoda.” Doug shut the door to his office then gave me a hug without saying a word. For the first time since I heard the news that the picture was real, I let myself sob. Doug held me for a long time then guided me over to sit on the sofa in his office while he grabbed the tissues and some water. I took a deep, cathartic breath.

“Thank you,” I said.

“You’re welcome. Bell, how can I help?”

“Doug, I know Berkley said the picture was real, but I also know my husband. I know it would only be logical for you to think this is just wishful thinking on my part, but I know him. It can not be real. You have got to help me prove it is a forgery. Whoever did this has come up with a way to beat the forensic specialists.”

“Bella, this isn’t my specialty. Why are you asking me for help?”

“Because when everyone else told George Lucas he was out of his mind and the movie he wanted to make was impossible, you found a little warehouse and with a bunch of antique computers and scraps from a junk yard created magic that changed movies and the world forever. I don’t want someone who specializes in forensic photography. I want someone who creates something out of nothing. I want you to believe in me and Rob the way that you believed in George’s vision of Star Wars. I want you to help me create the technology that is going to prove this picture is fake and shut this magazine down forever.”

He stared at me for several moments.

“OK, Bella. I believe in you. Let’s do this.”


Chapter 4: UME2GTHR

BPOV

I felt a sob of relief escape my lungs as I hugged Doug and said, “Thank you.”

After analyzing the picture of Rob and Kristen, pixel by pixel, and coming to the same conclusion that the other labs had, we decided to attempt to invent a technology that could beat the forensic pixel decoding method.

A pixel was the most basic unit that made up a picture. If the picture were a jig saw puzzle, a pixel represented each individual piece of the puzzle so that when joined together, a full image was created.

We knew we had to approach this from a completely new direction. We had to redefine the definition of a “picture.”

Our question became, how do we create a printable picture that does not use pixels?

We’d been working non-stop for hours, and I needed a break. “Doug, I didn’t bring a change of clothes or even a toothbrush, and it looks like we’ll be here all night. I’m going to run out and grab a few things. I’ll be back in a bit.” He nodded, barely breaking his concentration. Everyone at ILM worked like this. Once they started a project, the rest of their lives ceased to exist. Doug wouldn’t bother to change or brush his teeth until he figured this out.

I needed to call Rob. I rummaged through my purse for my phone and realized in my rush to get up here, I had left it behind. I picked up Doug’s landline and dialed. Rob’s phone went directly to voice mail. I left him a message, told him I loved him and that Doug was helping me prove that the picture was a fake.

I pulled out of the ILM parking lot and drove to the nearest drugstore, hoping it would be one of those mega stores that would have a touristy T-shirt I could grab.

I left my sunglasses on as I walked in, praying no one would recognize me. I grabbed a toothbrush and turned the corner to see a rack of T-shirts with Rob’s face on them. I had to laugh. I grabbed the largest one they had hoping it would fit over my enormous belly, and headed to the register. The issue of GOSSIP was on display at the counter. It was all I could do not to throw up. I was waiting in line next to a woman and her teenaged daughter. Just my luck, she immediately recognized me.

I heard her gasp and out of the corner of my sunglasses saw her staring at me. I cringed. I saw her poke her mother and whisper and then saw recognition, followed by sympathy on the Mom’s face. Please, I thought, not today.

The Mother took pity on me and shook her head, “No,” at the daughter.

As I walked to the car, I saw the daughter furiously texting. “Oh, well,” I thought, “so much for the press not knowing where I am.”

That encounter certainly hadn’t cleared my mind, so I detoured and took a drive along the shoreline. As I let my mind ramble, I remembered a tour I had been on as part of a “Living Green” project I did for my home schooling program. I was studying the use of recycled materials and toured a plant that melted down plastic bottles and turned the polymers into fiber that was used to weave PolarTec fabric. I learned that the fibers were dyed prior to knitting, which helped the color fastness. I wondered if it was possible to do the same thing with ink and paper.

I burst back into Doug’s office and told him my theory. His eyes lit up.

RPOV

Where was I going? Did I think I was just going to run into Bella somewhere among the millions of cars on the California freeway system? I had to clear my head. I drove along the shoreline and kept going until my eyes started to droop. Driving 100 mph on a crowded California highway when you’re tired is a really bad idea. I needed caffeine, badly. I pulled into a Starbucks, praying it wouldn’t be crowded. I walked in, sunglasses in place and braced myself for the gasps and screams. I looked around. There were only two customers; they were an older couple, sipping their coffee at a corner table and reading the paper. Thank God. Not the Twilight target market, I thought.

The barista registered recognition, but I could tell she was struggling to remain cool. Maybe I’ll actually be able to order a cup of coffee and get out of here like a normal person, I thought. It wasn’t meant to be. The moment I had that thought, I heard the gasps and cringed.

“Oh my God! It’s him!”

I heard the giggles and squeals behind me. I glanced over my shoulder to see two teenaged girls. I smiled lamely.

They walked up to me tentatively, which was different. Usually, they didn’t hesitate to try to pull out my hair.

“Excuse me, Mr. Pattinson?”

Wow, I thought. “They’re actually polite.”

“Hi,” I said.

“We just wanted to tell you we think that picture of you and Kristen on the cover of GOSSIP really sucks.”

The other girl said, “Oh my God! I know! Like you’d ever be with Kristen? She’s like, you’re sister-in-law! How gross!”

The first girl chimed back in, “I know, right! And, like, you would ever cheat on Bella! We were at the Dave Matthews concert when you proposed, and like, we saw how much you totally love her.”

It was all I could do not to cry with gratitude and give these two girls my Porche. Instead, I said, “You have no idea how much your support means to me. Thank you. Would you like an autograph?”

“Oh my God! Yes!” They squealed.

As I signed a napkin for them, the first girl said, “How come you’re here and Bella’s in San Francisco?”

My head shot up. “What do you mean Bella’s in San Francisco?”

“We get Tweets from one of your fan sites, and one just popped up from a girl in San Francisco.” The girl punched a few keys on her cell and handed it to me. I read,

“OMG! Just saw Rob’s wife Bella in drugstore in San Francisco. She’s REALLY pregnant!”

I stared at the phone. What was she doing in San Francisco? I thought.

“Hey, can you do me a huge favor?” I said to the girl, returning her phone.

“Of course! What?” She replied.

“My phone kind of died this morning, and Bella forgot hers at home, so I haven’t been able to reach her. Can you take a picture with me and upload it along with a reply to that Tweet asking the girl who posted that to reply? Please tell her I need to know exactly where she saw Bella?”

I knew from vast experience that pictures of me circumnavigated the globe via Twitter in a matter of seconds.

“Sure!” She handed her phone to her friend and stood next to me. A moment later the picture and the Tweet were on their way into cyberspace. We stood there chatting for a few minutes. They were so polite. They asked about the baby and the movie. Less than a minute later, the girl’s phone vibrated with an incoming Tweet. She handed the phone to me. I read,

“OMG! You got to meet him! Tell Rob I saw Bella at the Walgreen’s on Valencia.”

“Do you mind if I make a quick call?” I asked.

“No! Go ahead!” She replied.

I punched my admin, Karen’s phone number.

“Karen Cross,” she answered on the first ring.

“It’s me,” I said.

“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? Chris is calling me every 5 minutes asking where you are.”

“I know. I’m sorry. Tell him I’ve got an emergency and to shoot around me today. My phone is dead so I borrowed a fan’s. I’m going to hand her phone back to her. I need you to stay on the line and schedule a time for her and her friend to come to the set.” The screams were deafening. I laughed and handed her the phone. I gave them each a quick hug and thanked them.

I ran back to the car and found the Walgreen’s on the GPS. I zoomed the map out to see if I could get an idea of what was near there and why Bella was in that area. Then I saw it - the ILM logo. The tires screeched as I tore out of the parking lot and headed north.

BPOV

I had dozed off on the sofa in Doug’s office. I opened my eyes to see Doug looking at a graphic of a bear with a monkey’s head attached. The image had been created with Doug’s new software. Instead of painting the image square by square, which was what pixel software did, the computer transformed the pixels into individual “threads” of color, then knitted them back together. We were looking at an image that Berkley would declare was authentic because they would find no evidence that pixels had been manipulated.

Doug saw that I was awake and staring at the monitor. He flipped windows, and the picture of Rob and Kristen appeared. The hotel background was shaded a different color. As he zoomed in, I could clearly see, the individual fibers of color that were knitted together to create a background. Those fibers did not match the image of Rob and Kristen. It was glaringly obvious that a movie promo image of Rob and Kristen had been “knitted” into the image of a hotel balcony.

I looked at the monitor then back at Doug and burst into tears. “Thank you,” I said between sobs.

“It was you that did this, Bella. When you came into my office, I couldn’t say, ‘No,’ to you because I didn’t want to be the one to shatter your last hope. But I thought you were grasping at straws. Your utter faith created this out of nothing.” I just nodded and brushed away the tears. I knew he was right.

Doug continued. “I’ll call Randy and Steve and send them our research. I’ll also get on the phone with Berkley. The way I remember Steve operates, that magazine should be shut down by the end of the week,” Doug said.

I inhaled one last sob and picked up the phone to call Rob. I couldn’t wait to tell him what we’d found. His phone went right to voicemail, again. I left him a message telling him that we’d proven the picture was fake and that I was on my way home.

RPOV

I pressed the Porsche as fast as it would go and traffic would allow. I loved this car. This was my last “half birthday” present from Bella. What I loved even more than the car itself was the license plate she had printed for it.

“UME2GTHR”

It was the chorus of her song – the one I sang to her the night I proposed. “You and me together, we can do anything…”

I had to find her. If those fans believed that picture was fake, surely I could make Bella believe me.

I pulled up to the gates of ILM. I took off my sunglasses, hoping they’d let me in. I rolled down the window as the guard motioned for me to stop.

“Can I help you?” He said.

“I’m Robert Pattinson. My wife, Bella, is here, and I need to speak with her.”

He looked at a clipboard. “I’m sorry, Mr. Pattinson, but you are not on the authorized list.”

I never played the ‘fame card,’ but I was desperate. “Look, do you know who I am? ILM does the special effects for all of my movies.”

“Yes, I know who you are. Your face is wallpapered all over my daughter’s room. But I couldn’t let you through this gate even if you were Harrison Ford! No one gets in here unless they are on the list.”

“Come on, man, I’m desperate. I can see her car, right there.” Her Elise was parked at the front door. “I can get your daughter onto the Breaking Dawn set.” That caught his attention. He softened his tone.

“Look, I’d lose my job if I let you in. You can park right over there and wait for her. That’s the best I can do.”

I nodded my thanks and pulled the car over to wait.

BPOV

Doug gave me his spare cell phone saying he didn’t want his very pregnant former apprentice driving the length of the California coast with no phone. I hugged him and thanked him again then ran to my car. Thank God for racing engines, I thought as I tore out of the ILM lot. Just as I turned onto the road, a red blur cut in front of me and slammed on the brakes.

“What the…?” I yelled. Then I saw it: “UME2GTHR”

My eyes met Rob’s in his rear view mirror. He signaled and pulled into a parking lot. Before I could open my door, he was at my side. He opened the door and pulled me into his arms.

“Please, please say you don’t hate me,” he said.

I leaned away and looked at him. He had tears in his eyes. I touched his cheek. “It is physically impossible for me to hate you. My love for you defines who I am. I could never hate you.”

“But the mirror…?” He said.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Our room – I walked into our room, and you had written, ‘I hate you,’ on the mirror.”

I felt a chill run through me. I put both hands on Rob’s face and looked into his eyes. “I never wrote anything on our mirror. It wasn’t me. I would never do that. I love you completely and forever. You are my life. You are the father of our baby.” I paused to make sure he was taking it in. “I came here because I knew the picture was a fake, and I wanted Doug to help me prove it. We did. We have the proof.”

He crushed me against his chest, and we both shed tears of relief.

We had so much to discuss, and we were not about to be separated again, so I drove back to ILM, and Rob followed. This time the guard let us both in. I parked my car and climbed into the passenger seat of Rob’s Porche. I called Doug and told him I was leaving my car and that we’d send someone to pick it up tomorrow. I was about to hang up when Rob ran his hand along my thigh. The electricity from his simple touch tore through me. I desperately needed him, now.

“Ah, Doug, we are both exhausted.” I saw Rob raise an eyebrow. “Is there a guest house we could use to crash for a bit?” Doug put me on hold to check. Rob smiled at me as he realized what I had in mind. Doug came back on and told me which house was available and that a guard would unlock it for us.

We drove to one of the cottages that ILM keeps on site for VIPs working at the studio. Within seconds of closing the door behind us, our clothes were scattered across the room. We fell onto the sofa, and I climbed on top of my husband’s perfectly sculpted body, kissing him with frenzied passion. I had never needed him as much as I did in that moment. My body ached for him, and my soul was frantically trying to reground itself. The rest of my world spun around an axis that derived its center from the love between us. My soul needed this passion to find its place in the universe once again.

Deep moans tore from within us moments after we connected. Our combined passion lifted all of the emotional pain and longing of the past day. As we came back down, our bodies stayed connected, and our passion continued to flow; it transformed from being driven by frenzied need to being fueled by the deep trust and peace we felt locked in each other’s arms. Our kisses were tender and slow and this gentle passion went on until exhaustion overcame us. I drifted off, entangled in my husband’s arms, knowing that there wasn’t a spot on either of our bodies that our lover’s lips hadn’t adored and worshipped. Every part of my being was filled with the love we had just shared. My soul had regained its place in the universe.


Chapter 5: Insanity in the Mirror

I opened my eyes and saw Rob looking at me. The joy I felt must have been evident because his smile reflected it back to me.

“How did you know?” He asked me.

“How did I know what, baby?”

“You said you knew the picture was a fake. Two experts said it was real. How did you know?”

I put my hands on his cheeks and looked into his eyes. “This is how I knew.” I stared into his eyes and all the love and passion I felt for him flowed from within me. I saw tears in his eyes.

“I feel it,” he said.

“I know. I do, too,” I replied.

He kissed me deeply. Then he asked, “You never doubted me, even for a second?”

“When Randy first told me his lab said it was real, then that Berkley confirmed it, I felt like my universe had shifted in such a way that I didn’t know anything anymore. My entire being was centered on your love for me. When I questioned if your love was real, it was like questioning everything that I ever knew to be real. I felt like I had lost any sense of gravity and was floating in some alternate reality. Dad found me in that state after Randy called.”

“Yeah, I’m not exactly his favorite person at the moment,” Rob said.

“I’m so sorry, sweetheart.”

“Bella! It’s not your fault. Go on, what led you to know the picture was a fake.”

“After Dad found me, I went for a walk to clear my head. The shore has always centered me. I forced my mind to shut off, and I just walked for hours. When I finally stopped and allowed myself to think again, the one thing I knew was that you loved me. I thought about looking into your eyes when we made love that morning. Your eyes told me everything. I had no idea how the picture appeared to be real, but I knew that it was not. I also knew that everyone else on the planet except you and Kristen would think I was just grasping at straws. I called Doug because when the rest of the world told George Lucas that he was crazy, Doug created ILM. I knew he would help me find an entirely new way to create photos, and that we could prove that the picture was a fake.” I explained to Rob what Doug and I had done.

Rob stared into my eyes and shook his head. I saw him open his mouth to speak several times, and then stop. Finally he said, “I keep trying to find the words to express how much gratitude and love I feel in this moment, and there is nothing that comes close.”

“Then show me,” I said, pulling his lips to mine.

******

We were scrambling around the guest house trying to find all of the clothing we had randomly thrown throughout the room. Rob picked up the Eclipse T-Shirt with his face on it and chuckled. “Nice shirt,” he said, tossing it to me.

“Yeah,” I said, doing my best thirteen year-old-girl impression, “I think he’s, like, so cute!” He laughed, and I told him about my trip to the drugstore.

“That trip is what helped me find you.” He explained about his coffee shop encounter with the two helpful fans.

“Rob, that’s amazing. When they come to the set, be sure to tell me. I want to thank them personally.”

Doug’s cell phone rang. Doug was calling to tell us to turn on CNN. Rob flipped on the TV. Randy and Steve were holding a press conference. They held up a poster, printed using Doug’s software, which clearly showed the disparity between the picture of Kris and Rob and the hotel background. They had also managed to find the original promotion picture of Kristen and Rob that had been used to create Gossip’s fake picture.

Steve announced that we would be suing GOSSIP for libel based on their “pernicious attack against Mr. and Mrs. Pattinson and Mr. and Mrs. Jordan.”

As soon as Steve said “Mr. and Mrs. Jordan,” Rob said, “Oh, Shit! You have to call your brother. Someone sent him the article that said the picture was real, and he called Kristen and screamed at her that he wanted a divorce. She was devastated.”

“What an asshole!” I punched Jack’s number into Doug’s phone.

“Jack Jordan,” he answered on the first ring.

“JACK! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TELLING KRISTEN YOU WANT A DIVORCE? THE PICTURE ISN’T REAL, YOU MORON. I’VE BEEN AT ILM PROVING THAT. GET YOUR ASS HOME AND APOLOGIZE!”

“Jeez, Bella, calm down! I called her back right after that and apologized. As soon as I had a minute to get over the initial shock, I knew there was no way that picture was real. I know she is insanely in love with me, and I know Rob is insanely in love with you. And by the way, I just saw Randy and Steve on CNN. Way to go, Sis!”

“Sorry, Jack. I should have known you weren’t a complete asshole. Are you coming home?”

“Yeah, I cancelled my next two shows. I need to see my wife.”

“I know exactly what you mean. See you soon.”

I hung up and looked at Rob. “All’s well in the Stewart-Jordan household, apparently.”

Rob was lost in space. “Earth to Rob?”

He looked at me. “Who wrote on our mirror?”

I had forgotten about that, but I knew who did it the moment he told me about the writing on the mirror. “I left a note for you in the kitchen. Obviously you never saw it?”

He shook his head.

“Cassandra,” I said.

“Why?” He asked.

“I don’t know, but it has to be her. The security at the resort has always been tight, but with the movie, it’s locked down like the White House. So we know it’s not someone from the outside. The minute I met her, I didn’t like her, and my radar for people is like Dad’s ear for music; I’m always right. At first I tried to tell myself I didn’t like her because she ‘eye fucked’ you with me standing right there the first time she met you. But that happens so often, I’m almost getting used to it!” He rolled his eyes. I went on.

“Do you remember Dad walking in from the studio the day Mom introduced us to Cassandra?”

Rob nodded.

“When she saw him walk onto the deck, her face became distorted with a look of pure hatred.”

Rob raised an eyebrow.

“The weirdest thing is the morning that the magazine printed the photo, I opened our bedroom door to go downstairs for coffee, and she was standing there.”

Rob looked surprised.

“She said she was getting something for Mom and had gotten disoriented because the house is so big. But I had the feeling that she had been standing there for awhile. I think she was listening to us making love.”

“Bella, she sounds insane. We need to call your parents,” Rob said.

I dialed the house and both of their cell phones, and they didn’t pick up. I called Alex and asked her to stay at the house until we got back and to tell my parents to call Doug’s number the minute she saw either of them.

I looked at Rob. “Let’s go home.”


Chapter 6: Fear or Love?

Rob was driving while I slept. I was dreaming about Edward and Bella flying home from Volterra after Bella rescued him, except that in my dream, they were flying in a red Porsche.

My dream shifted, and Edward and Bella were making love in the Porsche. Then it shifted again and Edward was with Tanya, then Rosalie, then Alice, then a stream of beautiful women who looked like they’d stepped out of a magazine. As I watched, I realized it wasn’t Edward; it was Rob. I gasped and sat up.

“Oh!” I said. “Thank God!”

He looked at me and brushed my cheek. “Bad dream?”

“Yes!” I told him about the dream. I was quiet for a minute, then said, “You know all about my sordid past, but I don’t know anything about yours.”

“What do you want to know?” He asked.

“How many women did you make love to before me?” I asked.

“Zero,” he said.

“Yeah, I could tell you were a virgin the first time we were together,” I laughed.

“You asked me how many women I made love to, not how many I had sex with. I was never in love before I met you,” he said.

“OK, I feel the need to buy you another sports car,” I said, smiling.

“It’s true.” He kissed my hand.

“So how many women did you have sex with?” I asked.

“Too many,” he said.

I gave him the raised eyebrow look, waiting for him to expand upon that comment. He glanced at me, smiled and continued.

“For some reason, that I can’t see, as you know, women are attracted to me.”

“Yeah, I’ve kind of picked up on that,” I laughed.

“From the time I was a teenager...”

I interrupted him. “How old?” He looked at me questioningly. “How old were you the first time?” I asked.

“Sixteen,” he said.

“And?” I asked.

“And, what?” He smiled.

“Who was she, how was it?”

“You really do want every sordid detail, don’t you?” He laughed.

“Yes, every detail. Spill your guts.” I smiled.

“Her name was Ann. She was in a play that I was in. We had a crush on each other during rehearsals and through the show’s run. After the closing night cast party, we had sex in the back of her car. The earth didn’t exactly move for either of us, but we kept practicing until we got it right.”

I laughed. “Well that’s good. You didn’t just dump her. You kept seeing her?”

“Yes, until she dumped me for the lead in the next play she was in,” he said.

“Did she break you heart?” I asked, smiling.

“Not exactly. That’s when I found out that girls found me attractive. As soon as word was out that we had broken up, girls started hitting on me. It was very good for my ego, not to mention my sex life. Except for a couple of girlfriends, one who I dated for about a year and another for about six months, its just been a stream of casual sex. I was getting sick of it by the time I met you. Now that I know what it’s like to make love, looking back, it’s so obvious why I just felt more and more empty. I realize now how much energy I wasted having sex but never allowing myself to get emotionally attached. I wanted the physical gratification, but knew I didn’t love those women, so I didn’t let myself feel anything. After awhile, it just became draining. Then I met you. Making love to you is an experience that doesn’t even fall into the same category as the sex I had before I met you.”

I was quiet for a minute. “What about Emilie?” Emilie was Rob’s co-star in, ‘Remember Me,’ the movie he made immediately after ‘Twilight.’ He was in New York filming it while I was working through the flashback issues with my Post Traumatic Stress therapy group. The tabloids had, of course, reported that they were a couple.

The Porsche shot across six lanes of traffic and exited into a rest area. Rob screeched to a stop. He turned, put a hand on my cheek and said, “Come here.” He kissed me, then looked into my eyes. “There’s been no one except you since the day I met you.”

I looked at him with surprise and then started to say, “But we didn’t...”

He interrupted. “Yes,” he laughed. “I know we didn’t. I’ve never had a woman respond with less interest to my flirting than you did.”

“I’m so glad you didn’t give up,” I said.

He kissed me again then started the car and pulled back onto the highway.

“I should try the house again,” I said, reaching for Doug’s borrowed phone.

Mom picked up on the first ring. “Bella! Are you alright?”

“Yes, Mom. Is Alex there? Did she fill you in?” I asked.

“Yes, she was here waiting for us when we got back. Honey, I am so proud of you. I don’t know that there are many people who would have trusted so completely the way you did.”

I choked back a sob. “Thank you, Mom.”

“Sweetheart, your Dad wants to talk to you. Here he is.”

“Bella, I’m so sorry for the way I talked to Rob. Please let me talk to him,” Dad said.

I handed the phone to Rob. “It’s Dad,” I said.

Rob took the phone. “Barry?” He said. There was a pause. I could hear my Dad’s voice in the background, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Then I heard Rob say, “Yes, Sir. I know. I am extremely lucky. And Barry, I do forgive you.”

There was another pause, then Rob said, “We should be back in 30 minutes or so. Here’s Bella.”

“Dad?”

“Bella, you married a remarkable man.”

“I know that, Dad.”

“And he married an even more remarkable woman.”

“Thank you, Dad.” I took a deep breath to keep myself from sobbing yet again, then continued. “Dad, is Cassandra there?”

“Yes, sweetheart. Why?”

“Don’t let her out of your sight.” I told my Dad what I had told Rob about Cassandra.

**********************

When we walked into the kitchen, Mom and Dad were sitting at the table and Cassandra was pouring herself a cup of coffee. Her back was to us. When she heard us, she spun around, and I saw a look of pure hatred on her face. Rob and I looked at each other. I could see in his eyes that he had seen it too. She tried to force a smile.

My parents came over and hugged us.

Cassandra said, with forced pleasantness, “Well, Bella, you’re quite the forgiving, wife.” She almost spit the last word.

My mother whirled. “Cassandra, what is wrong with you? How dare you speak to my daughter that way?”

Cassandra stammered, “I…I’m sorry. I’m…just…shocked to see Bella and Rob together so soon after…”

My mother snapped at her. “The picture was fake, Cassandra. Bella never doubted Rob. She spent the past few days proving it.” My mom hugged me.

Cassandra forced a smile. “Oh, I didn’t know. Well, that’s…uh…great.” She reached for her bag, as if she was about to flee the room, and knocked it off of the counter. As the contents spilled across the floor, I saw Rob’s wedding ring roll under a chair. I bent over and grabbed it.

Rob took it from me and slipped it on his finger. No one in the room missed the exchange. Cassandra stood frozen, staring at the floor.

I recognized something else. I picked up a piece of paper and handed it to Rob. It was the note I had left saying I was going to ILM.

I scanned the floor and saw a tube of lipstick. I picked it up and opened it. It was bright red. “Not my color,” I said, looking at Rob and my father.

The last thing that caught my eye was a crumpled photo of my Dad in his rock star days. I picked it up and looked at Cassandra.

“Why, Cassandra?”

“You have everything!” She said. “You have the life that I should have had!”

“What are you talking about?” My mother demanded.

Cassandra was sobbing now. She pointed to my father and said, “He left my mother! He got her pregnant then just left her. We had no money. We had nothing!”

I looked at my father, and his face was grey. He said, “Cassandra, what are you talking about? Who was your mother?”

Cassandra dropped to her knees and rummaged through the spilled contents of her purse. She found a picture and handed it to my father. He studied it.

“Cassandra, she was very beautiful. I can assure you I would remember her. I’ve never seen her before.”

Cassandra screamed and leaped at my father. Rob grabbed her as she was about to claw my father’s eyes out. Rob held her arms and pushed her into a chair. “Stay!” He growled at her.

“How old are you?” My mother asked Cassandra.

“Twenty-seven,” she said.

I looked at my mother’s face. For the briefest instant, I could see doubt flash in her eyes. Then it was gone. She looked into my father’s eyes, and I saw it – all the love and trust I felt for Rob, yet something else. In the briefest moment, I saw 28 years of shared moments that when accumulated, encompassed a lifetime of passion, devotion, trust and faith. She knew that Cassandra was not his daughter just like I had known the picture of Rob and Kristen was a fake.

I smiled. Rob looked at me questioningly. I gave him a look that said, “It’s going to be OK.”

My mother sat down next to Cassandra. “Tell us why you think Barry is your father.”

“My mother told me he was!” She wailed. “She gave me that picture!”

I was still holding the crumpled picture. I smoothed it out and set it on the table next to my Mom. We all looked at it, and exchanged glances. Suddenly, the anger I felt toward Cassandra was replaced by sympathy. The picture was obviously a promotion still for a concert.

My mother put her hand on Cassandra’s shoulder, and, as I watched the compassion with which she looked into Cassandra’s eyes, I developed a profound respect for this astounding woman who was my mother. “Cassandra, please look at me,” she said.

Cassandra looked up, obviously expecting to be met with eyes filled with hatred. But instead, she looked into eyes that were filled with compassion. I could see something shift behind Cassandra’s eyes. I knew no one had ever looked at her like that before. This woman had grown up without loving parents to gaze on her and shower her with adoration. I realized that this might be the first time in Cassandra’s life that someone had truly given her this gift.

“Cassandra,” my mother said. “Your mother obviously loved you very much. I can only imagine what I would do if my child’s father had left, and then my daughter asked about her father. What would I do if I had no picture to share or no happy memories to relate? Maybe I would create those memories so my daughter would have something to hold on to. Maybe I would even talk myself into believing them.”

Cassandra sobbed as my mother talked. I could see that some part of her knew that what my mother was saying was true, but another part of her didn’t want to let go of the fantasy.

“Your mother couldn’t have known that you would one day meet this man in the picture and hate him for not being the father you needed.” Cassandra’s sobs deepened. My mother stopped talking and let her catch her breath.

“Cassandra, we will have a DNA analysis done right away so you have no doubts, but I think you know what the outcome will be, don’t you?”

Cassandra slowly looked up and gave an agonizing nod.

“We can help you find out who your real father is or was if you would like that?”

Cassandra’s shock was palpable. She was being offered help from the people she had tormented and hated. She stared into my mother’s eyes.

“Thank you,” she said.

I realized that Rob, my Dad and I had been holding our breaths. We all seemed to exhale at the same time. Rob walked over and took my hand, and we stepped outside to give Cassandra and my parents some privacy.

Rob put his arms around me and kissed the back of my neck. I leaned against him and watched the waves hit the beach.

“Your parents astound me,” he said. “I don’t think I could have done what they just did.”

“I would like to think I could be that compassionate,” I said. “But I don’t know. I always knew my mother was an amazing woman, but today I saw her in a completely different light. I watched her eyes when Cassandra first said my Dad was her father. There was a flash of doubt in her eyes, so brief I almost didn’t catch it. But then she looked into my Dad’s eyes, and I could see the love flowing between them. She knew that my Dad wasn’t Cassandra’s father in exactly the same way that I knew the picture of you and Kristen was a fake.”

I felt Rob’s arms tighten around me. I watched the waves and was silent for a moment.

“Do you know what I think happened in there?” I said, looking over my shoulder at Rob.

He shook his head.

“I think the love my mother felt from and for my father allowed her to respond to Cassandra with compassion. I’ve often heard that everything we do as humans is either based in love or fear. In that moment, my mother could have chosen fear. She could have assumed Cassandra was telling the truth and that my father had an affair. She could have allowed fear, anger and jealously to take over. Instead, she allowed my father’s love to flow through her, and that allowed her to treat Cassandra with compassion.”

“She’s truly amazing,” Rob whispered in my ear.

“I said earlier I didn’t know if I could have done what my mother did, but now I know that if you had looked at me, the way my father looked into my mother’s eyes, I would have responded with love. Do you see how the love we have for each other impacts everything. It helps us to respond to everything in our lives with love instead of fear.”

“Your parents’ daughter is equally astounding,” he said.

“Thank you. They are incredible role models. I do my best to live the values they’ve taught me.”

Rob put his hands on my stomach. “It’s overwhelming to think about the responsibility of passing those values on to our baby.”

“Children learn from watching their parents. As long as we continue to live our lives from a place of love, she will learn how to do that too.”

“Then we are going to be fantastic parents,” he said kissing me.

“Yes,” I whispered into his kiss. “We are.”


Chapter 7: Amore

Today was the day that Rob’s coffee shop fans were visiting the set. His admin, Karen, told us that their names were Caitlin and Lindsey and that they were both 13. When we mentioned to Randy that Rob had invited the girls to the set, he came up with the scheme to have Seventeen Magazine shadow them for the day and write an article about their experience. Steve worked out all the details between the girls, their parents, the studio and the magazine. My only request was that the magazine use Casey to photograph the girls’ visit. We owed these girls a debt of gratitude, and I wanted to be sure that their experience was pure fun, and Casey was the epitome of fun!

Rob and I made sure that the studio rolled out the red carpet for them. A limo picked them and their parents up that morning and drove them to the set. Rob, Kristen and I met them at the entrance to “Esme’s House,” and welcomed them. The girls’ parents must have warned them to stifle their screams because I was concerned they were both going to spontaneously combust from sheer excitement!

Rob and Kristen excused themselves to get into their costumes and makeup. I gave them a tour of “Esme’s House,” explaining that it would be our house after the shoot completed. They lost their cool exterior when they heard this.

“Oh my God!” They screamed! “You mean you get to LIVE here?” I nodded and smiled. Caitlin squealed, “Even the fictional Bella didn’t get to LIVE at Isle Esme! Your life is better than hers!” I laughed with them.

“Yes! My life is infinitely better than hers! I don’t have to worry about my husband killing me, and I don’t have to become a vampire to live happily ever after!”

I saw the Seventeen writer eating this up.

We went back down to the set to watch them film. We had arranged for them to visit today because we anticipated it would be a special treat. In the book, when Edward becomes scared that he’ll kill Bella if they make love again, he pulls out all the stops to keep her distracted and entertained so she’ll fall into bed too exhausted to be interested in anything other than sleep. Today, they were going to film a scene where Edward and Bella swim with porpoises. Kristen and Rob had been looking forward to this scene for the entire shoot. The studio had built an elaborate tank and sunk it just off the house’s shoreline. They had arranged for Sea World to bring in two of their porpoises. When we walked down to the beach, Kristen, Rob and Chris were talking to the Sea World trainers.

As I watched them, I recalled the night I was curled up next to Rob while we read the first draft of his Breaking Dawn script. In the first draft, as in the book, only Bella swam with the porpoises because they were afraid of Edward. After I read the scene, I looked at Rob and said, “This scene is completely wrong.” He gave me the raised eyebrow look.

“You know, when you do that, it is very hard for me to remember what I was going to say.” He smiled, and I kissed him.

“Why do you think the scene is wrong?” He asked.

“It should be joyous, but it ends on a sad note because Edward can’t share in Bella’s fun. The viewer who has read the book, which will be 99.9 percent of the audience, will also know that this is the last time Bella will experience this because she’s going to become a vampire. But! If the porpoises weren’t afraid of Edward, think of the possibilities!”

Rob asked, “How could they not be afraid of Edward? He’s a vampire!”

“The same way that Bella isn’t afraid of him,” I replied. “They will sense the real Edward instead of the vampire. I bet there’s even science to back this up.” I grabbed my laptop. Rob read over my shoulder. We found that dolphins and porpoises are used to treat various conditions such as depression, autism, eating disorders and neurological disorders. We read accounts of people who described communicating with dolphins telepathically and others who said when they thought about playing with the dolphins, the dolphins were playful. When they didn’t think about being playful, the dolphins swam away.

“This is perfect!” I said. “Edward could read the porpoise’s emotional reaction to Bella and feel their happiness. Then Bella could encourage Edward to swim with her and the porpoises, and he’ll discover that they react to his love for Bella and not the monster part that he assumes they will sense. The fans will absolutely eat this up!”

Rob stared at me. “What is that look?” I asked. “Is that the ‘my wife has lost her mind’ look or the ‘my wife is brilliant’ look?” He laughed.

“It is most definitely the latter! You’re right. That’s a fantastic idea. We should call Chris.”

Chris loved the idea. He called Stephenie to make sure she was OK with it, and she said she wished she’d thought of it. The script was revised. I was excited to watch my idea being put into action today.

As our visitors and I watched, the trainers slipped into the water, and the porpoises swam right up to them. The trainers grabbed their fins, and the porpoises took off.

Kristen and Rob stood on the shore looking out at the porpoises. I told Lindsay and Caitlin that this scene was different from the book. Steve had already arranged for the girls, their family and the magazine to be under a ‘gag’ order, and I reminded them that this storyline was top secret. The studio was anticipating that this particular scene would be “the money shot.” In other words, they expected to use shots of Bella and Edward swimming with the porpoises in every publicity campaign that was done to promote the movie.

I explained to the girls what was happening since we couldn’t hear Rob and Kristen.

“In this shot, Edward and Bella see the porpoises for the first time. She’s excited and wants to try swimming with them. Edward sadly tells her that they won’t come near him, but encourages her to try.”

At that point, Kristen stepped into the water, and the trainer signaled for the porpoise to come over. He swam up next to her. She grabbed his fin, and Kristen took off. I could tell by the look of pure joy on my sister-in-law’s face that she did not have to act to nail this scene.

Chris signaled to the trainer to have the porpoise stop and for the second porpoise to approach Kristen. I knew this was just rehearsal, but I couldn’t imagine that they were going to capture a more touching moment on film. The porpoises rubbed their noses together and the look of love and joy on Kristen’s face was priceless. I heard Chris say, ‘Now, look at Edward.”

I turned to the girls. “At this point, Bella realizes that she wants to share this perfect moment with Edward. When they are on the shore, Edward tells Bella that the porpoises will be afraid of him because he is a monster. But when Bella looks at Edward, she knows that the porpoises will sense the real Edward, and not the vampire. “

Chris directed Kristen to walk up and take Rob’s hand and lead him into the water. We watched, as “Edward” hesitantly walked back into the water, obviously expecting the porpoises to swim away in terror. But, of course, they didn’t! The scene was perfect! As I watched Rob and Kristen swim together with the porpoises, I knew that this movie was going to soar past the box office sales of all the previous movies combined.

Chris yelled, “Cut!” and told Rob and Kristen to take a break since Kristen was turning blue.

I excused myself from our guests and walked over to join Kristen and Rob. They were euphoric. Rob put his arms around me and said, “You have got to come in the water with me. That was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had on a set! It’s pure joy swimming with them!”

One of the trainers overheard Rob and came over. He looked at my very pregnant stomach and said, “Oh, Yes! They will love you!”

I looked at him and asked, “Why?”

“Porpoises and Dolphins sense when a woman is pregnant. Since they navigate with sonar, which is the same thing used to view a baby with ultrasound, they immediately know when a woman is pregnant and become very protective. You should definitely try it.”

Rob took my hand, and led me to the shore. We walked in together, and both porpoises swam immediately over to me without the trainer signaling them to do so. I reached for one of their fins and it took off around the tank. It felt as if the water had been infused with the essence of pure joy. I could feel the porpoise’s love for life and knew she wanted to share it with me and our baby.

Chris finally yelled for us to get out of the tank since our ‘joy ride,’ as he called it, was costing him $100,000 a minute.

“Don’t worry about it, Chris. We’ll just sue another magazine and pay you back,” I yelled as I flew around the tank again.

It wasn’t until the trainers told us that the porpoises needed a break that we reluctantly let go. Rob swam over and kissed me. I couldn’t remember being so happy. The porpoises continued to circle around us while we floated in the tank.

My arms were wrapped around Rob’s neck, and we watched the porpoises and kissed until I suddenly grabbed my side and gasped.

“What’s wrong?” Rob asked, in a panic stricken voice.

I exhaled and looked at him. “Absolutely nothing is wrong. But you’re about to become a Daddy, so I think you’d better get me out of this water.”

“Now?!” He yelled.

“Yes!” I laughed.

**************

Several grueling hours later, I was sitting in a hospital bed holding our precious and sleepy little girl. As I marveled at her perfect face, fingers and toes, I realized there were no words to adequately capture the love that I felt.

“You know,” I said to Rob, who was curled up next to me, staring at Kate with utter adoration, “Italian is a far superior language.”

He laughed. “That was random,” he said.

I smiled, realizing it did sound random. “I was thinking about how much I love Kate. I’m consumed by it. I just met her, and I would instantly throw myself in front of a train to save her life.”

Rob nodded in complete agreement.

I continued. “Yet the love I feel for her is completely different from the love I feel for you. The English language doesn’t capture those nuances.”

Rob looked at me and said, “You siete la donna che più bella ho visto mai.” (“You are my air, and you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”)

I replied, “Sei la mia anima gemella, il mio amore.” (“You are my soul mate, my love.”)

Rob’s eyes returned to staring lovingly at his daughter. I smiled and said, “I can see it is going to be up to me to rein her in during her teenage years and make sure she doesn’t follow in my wild footsteps. Obviously the word, ‘no,’ will never escape your lips when it comes to our daughter.”

He laughed, “I’m afraid you are right.” He gently kissed Kate’s nose. “Daddy’s little girl.”


Chapter 8: Oxygen

I was sitting in the shade on the deck rocking Kate waiting for Rob to return from the set. He was working late, and I didn’t want to put Kate into bed until he had a chance to see her. I had spent almost every minute with her for the past 2 months, and I continued to be amazed by everything this little person did. There were no books or words of advice from family and friends that could prepare you for becoming a parent. Just as my formerly pregnant friends had failed to tell me how incredible sex was when you were pregnant, no one had told me how exquisite it would be to simply watch my little girl sleep. I guessed that the reason for this omission was that there were no adequate words to describe the feeling. Bliss, peace, contentment, joy, love, adoration, devotion…none of those captured the essence of the moment. I theorized that babies, so recently arrived from heaven, enabled us to feel a connection to the divine. That was the closest I could come to describing how I felt – it was like holding a piece of heaven in my arms.

My thoughts were interrupted by the buzz of my phone.

“Hi Casey,” I said. “What’s up?”

“Bella, before you threaten to take out another contract on my balls, it wasn’t my fault!”

“Uh-oh,” I said. “What did you do this time, Case?”

“I didn’t do anything! Someone broke into my car and stole my camera.”

“And...,” I said, knowing I was not going to like what was coming next.

“And, I took a video of you and Rob swimming with the porpoises.”

“And, I am guessing that video is on the stolen camera?” I asked.

“Yes…,” Casey hedged.

“Will you spit it out, please?” I yelled into the phone.

“And someone uploaded it to YouTube. It got so many hits that the entire YouTube site crashed. Google is rebuilding their servers now.”

“What?” I yelled at him. My phone buzzed. “Casey, hold on. Rob is calling me on the other line.” I pressed the flash button and said, “Hey, gorgeous.”

“Hey, beautiful,” he said. “I’m almost home. Have you heard we crashed YouTube?”

“Yeah, Casey is on hold right now. Someone stole his camera,” I explained.

“Our lives are insane, you know.”

I heard the smile in his voice, and realized how different this was. If this had happened a few months ago, Rob would not have found it amusing. Parenthood had changed him. Our whole world had shifted. Things that we used to think were important, like publicity or what the studio was doing or not doing now seemed trivial in comparison to seeing Kate smile or hearing her laugh for the first time.

“No,” I said to Rob. “My life isn’t insane. My life is perfect. I’m holding our own little piece of heaven right here in my arms.”

“You sound so happy and content,” he said.

“I am, honey. The only way this could be any more perfect is if you were here.”

“Your wish is my command.” I heard his voice next to me.

“You called me from the garage?” I laughed.

“I couldn’t wait any longer!” He put his phone in his shirt pocket and gave me a kiss as he picked up Kate. “How’s my little girl?” She smiled and touched his cheek.

“Oh! Casey!” I said. I pushed, ‘flash,’ on my phone. “Case, I’ll call you later. I’m not mad, bye.” I pushed, ‘end,’ anxious to spend this moment with my husband and daughter.

“I never would have believed that her smile could make me so blissfully happy,” he said.

I handed Rob Kate’s bottle, and he sat down to feed her.

“I have a surprise for you and Kate,” he said. “Grab my phone, and go to the videos menu.”

I pulled his phone out of his pocket, and he directed me to the video he wanted me to see. I pushed, ‘play.’

A video clip began and showed Rob standing next to ‘Count von Count’ of Sesame Street. Instead of the Count’s normal Bela Legosi Dracula attire, he was dressed like Edward. The muppet’s costume matched Rob’s grey T-shirt and flannel shirt, and instead of his normal smooth black hair, they had given him spiky brown hair.

“Oh my God,” I laughed. “This is a scream!”

The scene started by showing a sign that read, “The Count’s School of Vampire Acting.” The count said, in his heavy Transylvanian accent, “Velcome to my school of Vampire Acting.”

Rob said, “I appreciate you seeing me Count. My scene calls for me to count to 13. What should I do?”

“Ahh,” the Count replied. “Thirteen is one of my favorite numbers. It is such a lucky number! I love to count to 13. First, you must start with the number, ‘Vun.’”

“Like this?” Rob posed dramatically and said in his best Shakespearian tone, “One.”

“No! No! No!” said, the Count. “You must make the audience believe that you are counting. Say it like this, ‘Vun!’” The Count yelled enthusiastically.

The scene continued with The Count coaching Rob on how to properly count to 13. It was so cute!

When it was over, I said, “I love it! When did you film this?”

“The last time I was in New York. I wanted to surprise you.”

“It’s great, honey! What a treasure for Kate!” I put his phone back in his shirt pocket. “How was the rest of your day?” I asked.

“Interesting,” he said smirking.

“Yes?” I asked.

“After we crashed YouTube, the porpoise scene suddenly became the hot topic.”

“How did Chris finish it since we took off for the hospital in the middle of shooting?”

“After you and I left, Chris shot a few more scenes with just Kristen and some close ups of the porpoises. He also shot a few scenes with my stunt double. But when he watched the dailies, he said the very best scenes were the ones of you and me.” He smiled into my eyes.

I looked at him and raised an eyebrow.

“You know,” he said. “It makes it very hard for me to concentrate when you do that.” I laughed. He continued. “How would you feel about being in the movie?”

I stared at him, confused. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

“Chris wants to edit some of the footage of us swimming with the porpoises into the final cut.”

“It makes sense that he could edit footage of you into the final cut, but I don’t understand how he can use me?”

“There are a couple of shots where you were swimming toward me. Your back was to the camera, and I was facing the camera. I saw the dailies today. I can see why Chris wants to use them. The look of pure happiness on my face watching you swim toward me being pulled by the porpoise is priceless. You and Kristen both had you hair down. From behind, no one would ever know…”

I interrupted, “…which is the ‘real’ Bella?” I laughed.

“Actually,” he smirked. “Randy and the studio are already running with that idea. They want to create a web page with a contest that allows the fans to guess which scene has your picture and which scene has Kristen’s.”

“Are you kidding me?” I asked.

“I’m afraid not,” he said, laughing.

I thought about this for a minute. “What does the contest winner get?”

“A trip to the premiere,” he replied.

“Hmm, I’m assuming the web site and the contest will draw in millions of fans. Twilight had a seventy million dollar opening weekend, which means that over six million fans saw it when it opened.”

“This is fascinating,” he said. “I can actually see the wheels churning in your head as you figure out what the studio is going to have to do to gain your permission.” He was smirking, enjoying this whole thing.

I ignored him while I continued to run the math in my head. “OK, I’ve got it. I will only give my permission to use the scene if for every person that enters the contest, twenty cents is donated to Hannah’s Hope. If five million people enter the contest, then one million dollars will go toward finding a cure for GAN. I also want them to put Hannah’s picture on the website and explain that by entering the contest, they are helping her.”

Rob kissed me. “I absolutely love how your mind works. That’s an amazing idea.”

Kate was dozing, so we went upstairs to tuck her in. While Rob rocked her to sleep and sang her song, I got undressed and slipped into bed. When Kate was sound asleep, Rob tucked her into her bassinet. When he looked up, his eyes met mine. It only took one simple look, and I was suddenly consumed with desire. He smiled when he saw the lust in my eyes. He slipped into bed and leaned over me. I reached up and started unbuttoning his shirt while we kissed. I couldn’t wait any longer. My body was screaming, ‘Now!’ I pushed him back so he would roll over, and I unzipped his jeans and pulled them off. I immediately climbed on top of him and slid him inside of me.

He smiled and raised an eyebrow when he felt how ready I was for him.

“I know,” I smiled back at him. “My body is shamelessly addicted to you. You only have to look at me, and lasciviousness takes over.”

“Please don’t ever join a 12-step program for that particular addiction. I happen to like it when your lascivious side takes over.”

We made love, savoring the passion. The more I made love to my husband, the more I wanted him. The physical insatiability I experienced during pregnancy had subsided, but my soul still yearned to connect to its counterpart. Rarely did a day pass when we didn’t experience the intimate connection that we both craved.

*********

The love we shared last night made it especially difficult to say good-bye this morning. On days like today, I wanted to kidnap my husband and spend the day wrapped in his arms. But, for the moment, I had to settle for his arm around my shoulder as we walked to his car.

“You know,” I said to Rob as I slipped my arms around his waist, Kate is sleeping through the night now...”

“Yes, I have noticed.” He smiled.

“Which means, she could spend the night with my parents...?”

“Which means I can make love to you until you are screaming your lungs out?” He said, kissing me.

“Ahh, yes, great minds think alike,” I said. “I’ll be waiting for you tonight...alone.”

“I most definitely will not be late. I love you.”

I spent the day playing with Kate. I was still amazed at how endlessly entertaining it was to watch her do the simplest thing or to watch her do nothing but sleep! I’d spent my entire life surrounded by famous rock stars, watching them create master pieces, or on the sets of some of the all time highest grossing movies, yet the time I spent watching Kate learn how to push herself up on her hands and knees and tentatively start to crawl was far more enthralling than anything else I’d ever done.

That evening, I packed her diaper bag and headed to my parents. This was my first night away from her, and luckily my Mom remembered what that was like and was very patient while I went through my page long detailed check list of things my parents should remember!

When Rob called to say he was on his way, I reluctantly handed Kate to my Mom. Fortunately, she adored my Mother. My Mom could see the worry in my eyes. She put her free arm around me and said, “Bella, when you are flying on a commercial jet, and the flight attendant gives the safety instructions, what do they say to do with the oxygen mask if you are traveling with small children.”

I looked at her puzzled. That was a strange question. She saw my look. “Humor me.” She smiled.

“They say to put your mask on first then put the child’s mask on.”

“And why do you think that is?” My mother asked.

“I guess because you wouldn’t be much help to your child if you have passed out due to lack of oxygen.”

“Exactly,” she said. “You are giving your marriage a jolt of oxygen. It is important to take care of yourselves and each other so you can be the best possible parents.”

“How did you get so smart, Mom?” I asked her.

“I was determined to keep the passionate love that your father and I shared, so I made finding time for us to be alone a priority. I think its one of the reasons we are still crazy about each other after all these years.”

“Thank you, Mom, for everything.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart. Have a wonderful evening.”

I strolled back to ‘Esme’s House,’ as we would forever call our home, looking forward to my night alone with Rob. I had our chef prepare a light dinner and knew it was waiting in the oven. When I got back, I set the table on the deck and surrounded it with candles.

I changed into a spaghetti strap sun dress and opted out of wearing anything else. I let my hair fall across my shoulders. As I glanced in the mirror, I decided I looked pretty hot. Motherhood had done wonders for my cleavage.

I was leaning on the deck railing watching the waves when I felt Rob’s arms slip around my waist and his lips on my neck. I was instantly on fire and knew his desire matched mine. He continued to kiss and suck along the back and side of my neck and worked his way to that spot below my ear that he knew drove me insane. His hands slid up to cup my breasts, and I heard him moan with desire. I covered his hands with mine, showing him exactly what I wanted him to do. He spun me around and covered my mouth with his. It had been so long since we had been able to completely let go and allow our bodies to be driven by the passion and desire we felt.

He kissed his way down my shoulders, pushing my dress straps down my arms until it fell to my waist. I heard him moan again as his mouth made love to my breasts. He kissed lower and pushed my dress all the way to the deck’s floor. As I stood naked before him, he knelt and buried his mouth between my legs. I leaned against the rail and within seconds, threw my head back and moaned.

He picked me up so I was sitting on the deck rail, and I unzipped his jeans. He slid into me as I wrapped my legs around his waist. This moment was so sensual, sexy and animalistic. I was completely naked, and my husband was still fully clothed. It added to the intensity to know we wanted each other so much we couldn’t take the time to get his clothes off. As sexy as this was, I had to feel his chest next to my skin. Without breaking our rhythm, I unbuttoned his shirt and kissed him passionately. I slid my arms around him and pulled his chest into mine. His thrusts increased in speed until we both gasped in release.

We stayed connected for several moments. Our heads were resting on each others shoulders, our arms wrapped around each other, my legs still hooked behind his back. When we could breathe normally again, he looked into my eyes, and we both laughed.

“Wow!” He said.

“Wow is right!” I replied.

“I didn’t think it was possible for you to get any sexier, but...Wow,” he said, kissing my neck and running his hand over my breasts.

We stayed like that, kissing and murmuring, “I love you,” until I heard a loud rumble erupt from Rob’s stomach, and laughed.

“Sounds like your stomach is attempting to take control of your other body parts,” I smirked.

“I am starving,” he said.

“I can fix that. But you have to let go of me.” I smiled. He kissed me once more, picked me up, and stood me back on the deck. He picked up my dress and helped me back into it.

He followed me into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of wine and a Perrier for me while I served our grilled vegetables and pesto pasta. We brought our meal back out to the candle lit deck and had a leisurely dinner, running our fingers along each others arms or wrapping our feet around each other while we ate and talked. After we finished our meal, I ran my foot up the length of his leg until it found its way between his thighs and started to gently massage my husband’s favorite body part.

“That feels amazing,” he said.

“That’s the idea,” I said. I picked up his hand and slowly sucked each of his fingers.

He watched me and moaned, “Oh God, I can’t take it! Come here.”

I climbed onto his lap and the passion, love and lust we felt overcame us again. I eased myself onto him and we stared into each others eyes as we moved in unison.

“How is it possible that this keeps getting better?” He asked.

“I don’t know. But it most definitely does.” I replied kissing him.


Chapter 9: The Academy Awards

Rob was presenting the ‘Best Director’ Academy Award this year. I had never seen him so nervous.

“Honey, why does this have you freaked out?” I asked.

“I looked like an idiot the first time I presented!” He replied.

“You could never look like an idiot. The script they gave you was trite and forced. This time you knew enough to get advanced script approval. It will be fine!”

We were in the limo line, waiting for our queue to walk the red carpet.

“This is so surreal,” Rob said, looking out the window at the rows of fans who had camped out for days for a chance to see their favorite celebrities.

“Come on,” I said. “Don’t go all ‘Edward’ on me. Think of it as another role. Tonight you are playing the part of the stunningly handsome and successful Hollywood star, ‘Robert Pattinson.’” I said his name as if I were the television announcer for the show.

“That’s exactly why I can’t stand this kind of thing. No one is real. Everyone is pretending to be something they’re not just to get through the night. Why are we doing this again?”

“According to your agent, your ten million dollar contract requires it because the studio wants the exposure. According to Randy, the publicity is a good career move and will help to ensure choice roles in the future. And according to my mother, it is her chance to make me her very own ‘Bella Barbie’ and play dress up.”

“That’s the best part,” he smiled. “You do look rather....”

I raised an eyebrow. “Yes? I look rather...”

“Delicious is the closest thing I can come up with...” He picked up my hand and kissed it, then started to suck on my fingers.

I pulled my hand away. “You definitely have to stop that or we’ll end up very wrinkled, and my mother will kill us!” He laughed.

My mother had spent weeks searching for the perfect dress. She finally narrowed it down to five and had them sent to our house for me to try on. As soon as I saw this dress, I didn’t bother with the others. It was a black Armani with a train and cut very low. When I chose this one, my mother just smiled knowingly.

“What?” I asked her.

“I knew you would love that dress. It is perfect for you!”

My mother had also picked Rob’s tux and made sure his stylist got him ready. She told me, “The first time he presented at the Awards, he looked like he just got out of bed. No son-in-law of mine is going to appear at a formal event looking like that. He will wear Armani, and he will tame that hair!” We knew better than to argue with my mother about this!

The limo stopped and our door was opened. We stepped out to screams and blinding flashes.

We stopped for the ‘E!’ reporter. “Here’s the couple everyone has been waiting for. You both look stunning. Rob, are you nervous about presenting tonight?”

“Yes, actually, terrified is more like it,” Rob said. “Aren’t there something like 30 million people expected to watch?”

“That sounds about right. What movie are you working on?” The reporter asked.

“It doesn’t have a title yet. I play sort of a spy in training. Brad Pitt is supposed to be the senior spy showing me the ropes, but we don’t exactly get along. It’s a comedy, but it also has a lot of action.”

“What about you Bella?”

“I’m producing NickleBack’s next album. We’re in the studio now.”

We got the signal to move along. We made our way down the carpet, pausing to smile, pose, wave and chat on cue.

Rob was right. This is surreal, I thought. We’re Barbie and Ken. Wind us up and watch us walk down the red carpet. Just in time for Christmas! I thought. The Bella and Rob dolls; they walk; they talk; they smile on cue. I chuckled at my own private joke.

Rob gave me the raised eyebrow look.

“I’ll tell you later,” I smiled and squeezed his hand.

What the show’s viewers didn’t see was the elaborate party that went on back stage. No one actually wanted to sit through the entire show, so the celebrities rotated in and out of their seats. The television cameras captured them smiling on cue, then they went back stage to drink champagne and star gaze. Thank God Angie and Brad were there. They were one of the few Hollywood couples that we really enjoyed hanging out with. They were both so real and had given us great advice for surviving the publicity wars and how to redirect all the attention to focus on the causes we cared about.

After Rob presented the Best Director award, we were whisked off to the Vanity Fair party.

“I’m so glad that’s over,” Rob said as we slid into the limo.

“Honey, you were great tonight. Now try to relax! It’s over!”

“Can I finally kiss you?” He asked.

I leaned into him and met his lips. He was holding a glass of champagne. I dipped my finger in it, and then put my finger in his mouth. I dipped my finger in it again, and ran it down the very low cut V in my dress.

He ran his tongue down my throat and down my chest.

“Mmmm,” he said. “Very good year.” He ran his tongue back up my neck and kissed under my ear. “I can not wait to get you out of this dress.”

I pulled his mouth to mine and kissed him. I reached down and unzipped his pants. He moaned into our kiss as I started stroking him.

“Oh God, Baby...that feels...fuck!” He kissed me fiercely, working my mouth with his tongue while I continued pushing him toward the edge. I could feel he was about to explode. I grabbed some napkins from the limo’s bar and put them in his hand.

“Yes…, God…, harder, I’m almost...Ugh!” I felt him pulsing in my hand.

“I love making you come.” I whispered into his ear as I kissed his neck.

“No where near as much as I love it when you make me come,” he said and kissed me. “My turn, later,” he said, kissing my neck again.

“Definitely a deal,” I said.

We arrived at the Vanity Fair party and began to make the rounds.

I eventually excused myself for a ‘human moment.’

This ought to be interesting, I thought. I forgot to ask Mom exactly how I was supposed to use the rest room in this gown!

Luckily the event hosts had anticipated this problem, and the bathrooms were more like dressing rooms. I could, however, still hear the other women outside my door chatting while they touched up their makeup.

Sasha and Paloma Winters, the two trust fund socialites who loved having their picture in GOSSIP, were dishing.

“Did you see Naomi Watts? She looked like a Grand-mother.”

“I know. That dress was hideous.”

“You know who’s here, don’t you?”

“Is he?”

“Mmhmm. He looks so hot.”

“Forget it. He’s like a priest. I hear he never fucks anyone except that bitch of a wife he has.”

“Look what I have.”

“What are you going to do? Drop it in his drink?”

“Uh-huh. This ought to loosen him up. Then maybe he’ll be interested in a private party with you and me? Maybe the offer of two at a time will get his attention?”

“I like how you think, Sis. Let’s go find RPattz.”


Chapter 10: The Opposite of Ecstasy

I heard the door close.

WHAT? I thought. They were talking about Rob! Shit! I’ve got to get this dress buttoned. Damn it! What the fuck are they going to put in his drink?

I finally got the damn dress refastened and ran out of the bathroom. I frantically looked for Rob. This ridiculous purse was too small for my cell, so I couldn’t text him to warn him. The longer I looked without finding him, the more hysterical I felt myself becoming. What were those two idiots going to do to him?

I finally ran into Casey. He said he had seen Rob going into the back where there were smaller ‘VIP’ rooms supposedly for quiet ‘conversations.’

I ran toward the back. A security guard was at the entrance. I handed him a hundred and said, ‘Which room?”

He nodded to the third door.

I opened it without knocking. Rob was sitting on a sofa with his feet resting on a coffee table. His shoes, jacket and tie were off and his shirt was currently being unbuttoned by one of the bimbos. He was laughing like this was the funniest thing that had ever happened to him. He was obviously high.

RPOV

We were making the rounds, and Bella excused herself for a ‘human moment.’ I glued the smile on my face and started to mingle, making pointless, polite conversation with people who acted like we were old friends, when really, I only recognized them from a magazine or a movie.

I noticed my champagne glass was empty and was about to find a waiter, when a woman who looked familiar, handed me a full glass and smiled. “Here you go, Rob, enjoy.”

Not long after I’d finished that glass of champagne, I started to feel extraordinarily buzzed.

Exactly how many glasses of this stuff did I drink? I wondered, but suddenly my brain just couldn’t wrap itself around the advanced math that would be required to figure that out.

The room started to spin, and everyone started to sound like the Chipmunks, and I hated the Chipmunks.

The woman who had handed me the champagne earlier walked up and said, “Rob, you don’t look very well, are you OK?”

I laughed and said, “You sound like a Chipmunk.” Then I realized I did too, and this made me laugh harder.

She laughed along with me and took my arm and pulled me toward the back of the room.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“It’s a surprise,” she said.

For some reason, this struck me as hysterical also. I couldn’t stop laughing.

We walked into a private room, and another woman, who looked sort of like the first one was sitting on the couch.

“Hi Rob, she said. I’m Paloma, and this is my sister, Sasha.”

“Chipmunks have sisters?” I asked, as I fell onto the couch laughing.

Paloma handed me another glass of champagne while Sasha pulled off my shoes.

“What are you doing with my shoes?” I asked.

“We’re collecting shoes for homeless people,” she laughed, and I joined in.

Paloma pulled at my jacket. “This needs to go to the homeless shelter, also,” she said. “You won’t wear it again anyway, right?”

“No, I hate jackets. They’re so uncomfortable. Take it,” I said.

Sasha leaned over and started to unbutton my shirt, “Of course, you’ll want to give them the shirt off your back, right?” She said.

I thought this was particularly funny.

Suddenly there was a loud crash and Bella was standing there.

Oh good, I thought. Bella will really like these two girls. Wait, what was she doing? She was holding broken glass next to Sasha’s face? My wife has become the Bellinator. That thought made me laugh until my stomach hurt. When I could breathe again, I noticed the two girls were gone, and Bella was running around the room looking for something.

BPOV

After my incident with Victoria, Rob and Dad became obsessed with the idea that I learn to defend myself. I finally relented, and Rob and I started training with Tim. He taught us Krav Maga, the self-defense technique developed by the Israeli army that Jennifer Lopez made famous in the movie, “Enough.” One of the concepts was to use any available object as a weapon.

When I saw those two dirt bags hovering over my husband, I went on autopilot. I picked up a lamp with a crystal base and smashed it. This served two purposes; it got their attention, and I now had a lethal weapon in my hand. I strode toward the closest bitch and wrapped one hand in her hair and yanked her head back while I put the cut glass near her face.

“Don’t even think about it,” I said, as the other one took a step toward me. “I won’t hesitate,” I said, touching the glass to her cheek. “What the fuck did you put in his drink?”

She started to say, “I don’t know what...”

I yanked her hair back harder. “The madder I get, the uglier you get, so I’ll ask one more time before permanent damage is done to this face your Daddy spent so much on. What the fuck did you give him?”

“Ecstasy! Jesus, its just ecstasy. Let me go!”

I dropped her on the floor. “Get out!” I screamed at them.

They ran.

“Whoa! Bella...what was that for? That wasn’t very nice.” Rob slurred.

“They drugged you.” I looked for his coat and found it flung over a chair in the corner. I found his phone in his pocket and called Brad.

“Hey man,” he answered. “Where did you go?”

“Brad, its Bella. Rob’s been drugged. We’re in the VIP area, the third door. I need your help.”

“We’ll be right there.”

I turned to Rob who was still acting like this was all amazingly funny.

“You’re the Bellinator,” he said and doubled over, laughing.

“Honey, you’ve been drugged. You’ve got to drink some water and try to get this out of your system.”

“You are so hot,” he slurred. He stood up and grabbed my wrist. He started to push the strap of my gown off of my shoulder.

“Rob, stop it. You’re wasted. Let go of me,” I said, pushing my gown back into place.

“He tightened his grip on my wrist, and then pushed me onto the sofa. He fell on top of me, and I felt the air escape from my lungs. He grabbed my gown again, and I heard it rip as he pulled it off my shoulders. He roughly grabbed my breast and buried his head in my neck.

“Rob, stop, you’re hurting me. Please stop!”

He acted like he didn’t hear me. He leaned back to unzip his pants.

I watched what happened next as if it were happening to someone else. I saw Angie and Brad burst through the door like they were in slow motion. I saw my hand fly through the air as if it were no longer connected to my body. But I felt the sting when it connected with Rob’s face.

He froze and looked in my eyes for the first time since I’d entered the room.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, reaching to touch my face.

“Don’t touch me!” I screamed at him. “Get off of me.”

He stood up and held out his hand to help me up, but I pushed it away. I grabbed my ripped gown and pulled it back over my chest. I looked around the room and saw Rob’s coat. I put it on and buttoned it.

I looked at Angie and Brad. “I’ve got to get out of here.”

They nodded. “We’ll take care of him,” Brad said.

“Thank you,” I said, as I choked back a sob.

I ran out of the lounge and made my way through the back and to the limo. “Where are we going, Mrs. Pattinson?” The driver asked.

I gave him the address.

Fifteen minutes later, the limo stopped in front of an all night coffee bar. I slid the divider down. “Wait here, please.”

I walked in and ordered an Amaretto coffee, an item that wasn’t on the menu.

The barista looked at me and said, “With sugar or without?”

“I’ll need three sugars,” I replied.

She made the drink. I handed her several hundred-dollar bills wrapped in ones.

She pocketed it and handed me the drink and a paper bag saying, “Your sugars are in the bag.”

“Thank you,” I said and walked out.

“The Four Seasons,” I told the driver. “They have a back entrance. Drop me off there, please.” I called ahead from the limo’s phone and reserved a room. I told them I was not to be disturbed and registered under a fake name. I asked them to meet me at the service entrance.

When we arrived, the assistant manager was waiting. He showed me to my room. I reiterated that no one was to know I was there. I chose this hotel because they were famous for their discretion.

As soon as the door shut, I walked over to the bureau and pulled the mirror off the wall. I dumped the contents of my “sugar” bag onto the mirror and pushed it into a line.


Chapter 11: Choices

As I bent over the mirror, I saw a list of Pay-Per-View movies on the table next to it. I froze. Rob’s face was staring back at me. I grabbed his picture and felt myself being ripped in two. A battle exploded within me. The addict was screaming for me to do the line. “You can do it just once! It’s right there! No one will know!” The voice that remembered what it was like living in a ‘roach motel’ with a dealer, simply asked, “Do you really want to throw it all away?”

I grabbed the mirror and threw it in the shower. It shattered. I turned the shower on to wash away the coke since I knew I wasn’t beneath licking it off of the shattered glass. I sat down on the bathroom floor and sobbed.

I cried until my face hurt and the tears would no longer flow. I looked in the mirror. My eyes were so swollen, I looked like I’d just gone ten rounds. I splashed cold water on my face, but it did nothing to ease the swelling.

I called my Assistant Manager friend and told him to send a cab to the service entrance and to meet me with the largest pair of sunglasses they had in their gift shop. I went back downstairs and met him by the service door. As he handed me the sunglasses, I handed him a hundred. I put them on and slid into the cab.

The cab dropped me off at my parent’s house. I let myself in and went up to Kate’s room. I stood over her crib and watched her sleep. My Mom must have heard me over the baby monitor because she was suddenly by my side. She took one look at my face and pulled me into her arms.

“Oh, honey, what’s wrong?” she whispered.

“Mom, it’s been a really long night. I’ll tell you about it in the morning. I’m going to sleep right here. Mom brought me a T-shirt and sweat pants. When I slipped out of Rob’s coat, she gasped. I had forgotten about the dress.

“I’m OK, Mom. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.” She nodded and helped me out of the dress. I lay down on the sofa in Kate’s room, and Mom covered me with a blanket she had grabbed from the linen closet.

“Thank you, Mom. I feel loved.”

“You are, sweetheart, good-night.”

I focused on the sound of Kate’s breathing and let it lull me to sleep. Before I drifted off, I said a silent prayer of gratitude to the forces in the universe that had stopped me from throwing my life away.

I awoke to the sound of Kate’s squeals. She was thrilled to see me sleeping in her room. I swept her into a hug. I thought about last night’s near miss and thanked God. There was no better high than holding my little girl or listening to her giggle.

Once Kate was changed and fed and happily playing with my parents’ pots and pans, I called Angie and Brad. Rob was still sleeping.

“Bella,” Brad said, “after you left, he got hysterical. It took us a long time to get him calm enough to walk to the limo. He was sure you were going to leave him. I’m hesitant to wake him up because I don’t think he slept much last night.”

“Just let him sleep, Brad. Thank you so much for taking care of him.”

“No problem,” he said. “I’ll drop him off when he wakes up.”

Mom was sitting on the floor playing with Kate. I sat down with them and told Mom the whole story.

“Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that. Thank God you walked out of that hotel still sober.” She leaned over and put her arm around my shoulders and hugged me.

“Mom, I know it was the drugs that made Rob act that way, but…” I put my head on her shoulder and started to sob again. This made Kate start to wail, and Dad came running into the kitchen.

He looked at my mother and me and said, “It looks like you two need a girl talk.” He picked up Kate and looked at her, “Why don’t you and I go for a walk on the beach?” Kate had stopped crying and was giggling at my Dad by the time they were out the door.

I took a deep breath. “Mom, I, of all people, know that drugs can make a person behave in ways they never would if they were sober. So, intellectually, I can forgive Rob. But emotionally,” I choked back a sob, “I don’t know how to let this go.”

RPOV

I woke up and had no idea where I was, and my head felt like it might explode at any moment. I looked around the room and saw a picture of Brad and Angie’s kids on the bedside table next to a bottle of Tylenol and a glass of water. God bless them. I downed two Tylenol and lay back down. It all came rushing back.

“No,” I thought. I wanted to believe that last night was a nightmare, but the memory was too vivid. Of all the things I could have done to hurt Bella, I did the worst possible. How is she ever going to trust me again?

My head still felt like it would explode, but I dragged myself out of bed and got dressed. I had to see her.

BPOV

I cried on Mom’s shoulder awhile longer, and then decided I’d had enough self-pity for one day. “I need to clear my head, Mom. Do you and Dad mind taking care of Kate while I go for a run?”

“Of course we’ll take care of her, sweetheart. Go ahead.”

I put my hair up, grabbed my running shoes, and headed for the shore. I ran for a few miles then stopped to stretch. As I turned to head back toward the house, I saw Rob running toward me. I started walking in his direction. He slowed as he got close to me. We stood facing each other, not touching, looking into each other’s eyes. I saw the tremendous pain and guilt he felt, and my heart ached for him. I wanted to comfort him, and tell him it would be OK, but part of me held back. That twelve-year-old girl whose innocence was stolen was once again terrified.

“Bella, I will never forgive myself, but I will do absolutely whatever it takes to earn back your trust and forgiveness. Please give me a chance.”

A sob escaped my lips, and my eyes filled with tears. That familiar internal battle raged within me once again. I was consumed with love for my husband, my soul mate; but the terrified little girl was afraid to move or speak. I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. I focused on the sound of the waves and let the ocean’s breeze wash over me. I opened my eyes again and reached for Rob’s hand.

“I love you,” I sobbed.

He pulled me into his arms and held me while we both cried, our tears mingled with sorrow and relief.

We sat down on the sand. I looked away, trying to find the strength to tell Rob what happened after I left the party. I took a deep breath and met his eyes.

“I almost relapsed last night.” I told him what happened after I left him. “I came so close to throwing my life away, and then I saw you staring back at me. I couldn’t do it.” I gasped and started to cry again.

He pulled me into his arms. “Thank God you’re OK. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe I’m capable of hurting you so deeply, to the point you almost relapsed because of me. Last night, when I...” He looked at me, and the remorse in his eyes was palpable. He touched my cheek, and then looked away, unable to meet my eyes. “I felt like an animal. It was as if my mind checked out, and I was completely driven by my body’s desires. I remember you telling me to stop, and, I couldn’t,” he choked back a sob.

I brushed the tears away from his cheek. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“How can you say that?” He asked.

I looked into his eyes. “I can say that because I lived it. I spent years tormenting my parents and alienating my friends. I hated what I was doing to the people I loved. I hated what I had become, but I couldn’t stop.”

“I can’t even imagine you that way,” he said.

“Rob, I’ve never told you about the time I was gone...when my Dad had to hire a private detective to find me.”

“No, you haven’t, and you don’t have to,” he said.

“I want you to know the whole story,” I said. “By the time I was seventeen, I was drinking and getting stoned every day. I went from one party to the next. I had done coke a few times, but still cared enough about music that I didn’t want to get hooked.

I met James at a party and thought he was cute. He offered me coke, and I did it to impress him. I had sex with him when I was high which made it intense. He started showing up at my house, or parties that I was at and we’d get high and have sex.

Eventually, I was hooked. I couldn’t stop. If I couldn’t find James, I’d call around until I found someone to party with. I stopped going to the studio because I couldn’t focus anymore, and I knew Dad realized I was getting high.

One night, when James showed up, my Dad blew up and told me I couldn’t go out. We screamed at each other, and I took off with James. That’s when we started staying at that motel. James was dealing from there. Whenever we’d get high, he’d want sex. I just went through the motions. I was a shell by this time. It’s like my soul checked out; I was a zombie, just barely existing. A couple of times...”

I choked back a sob.

“It’s OK. I love you,” Rob said, and looked into my eyes. “You don’t have to go on unless you want to.”

“I want you to know. A couple of times, a guy showed up to score a hit, and James told me to have sex with him...”

I sobbed again, and he held me tighter. “I’m so sorry. I love you. I will always love you,” he said.

I continued through my tears. “I was so hooked, I didn’t even care. I did whatever he told me to do just so I could get more.” I sobbed again.

“You asked me how I could say what you did last night wasn’t your fault. It’s because you didn’t choose to get high. What I did and the pain I caused the people I loved was my fault. I chose to get high.”

“Did you?” He asked. “Isn’t the definition of addiction repeating a destructive behavior that you don’t want to do?”

“Yes, but...” I started to say.

“I know. At some point, you made a decision to pick up the first joint or do the first line, but you were a kid suffering from posttraumatic stress. You never consciously chose that life, Bella. You were going through the motions, just trying to survive.”

I nodded. “I never told you about that part of my life before because I was afraid it would change how you felt about me. I wanted to tell you today so you could understand that the addict that I was knows what it is like to lose control and hurt those you love the most.”

He pulled away so he could look into my eyes. “Bella, nothing you could ever tell me about your past could possibly change how I feel about you. You told me that during that time, you embraced your dark side, and that by doing so, it helped you to appreciate the light. Bella, you are light; you shine. You are beautiful, amazing, talented, loving, sexy and an incredible mother. Nothing about your past matters to me. I love who you are today, right here and now.

Last night, after you left, I thought I had lost you. I thought that you could never possibly forgive me. But your capacity to love is so vast, that you were even willing to drudge up the pain from your past to let me know you understand why I did what I did. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve you, but I thank God every day that you are in my life.”

“Thank you,” I said. “I love you so much.”

We sat staring at the waves. Rob’s arms were wrapped around me, and I felt his kisses along my neck and hair. He continued to murmur in my ear how much he loved me, and I knew what he had told me about the light he saw within me must be true. That light was what allowed me to love this deeply.

***************

We strolled hand in hand back to my parent’s house, picked up Kate and walked back to ‘Esme’s house.’ I nursed Kate, and when she dozed off for her nap, Rob and I lay down, exhausted from last night’s ordeal, and fell asleep wrapped in each other’s arms.

***************

I woke up from my nap when someone knocked at the door. I felt Rob get up to answer it, but the voice I heard wasn’t Rob’s. It was James. Terror seized me. Where was I? I opened my eyes. I was in the motel room with James. One of his regulars walked in. While James measured out his bag, I felt the guy’s eyes on me. I looked up, and his smile made my skin crawl. He kept staring at me and said to James, ‘How much?’ James looked up and saw him staring.

“She’s not for sale.”

“Right,” the guy said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “They’re all for sale eventually.” He pulled a wad of cash out and waved it at James, saying, “Let me know when you change your mind.”

After he left, I went over to James’ stash. He grabbed it and walked out. I opened the door and screamed at him, but he ignored me, got in his car and drove away. I figured he would be back soon. He never stayed gone for very long.

By midnight, he wasn’t back. I was sure he had left me here alone to die in this horrible room. I knew I would die if I didn’t get a hit soon. I tore the room apart looking in all his usual hiding places then moved on to the rest of the room. I ripped up the carpet and tore the backs off the ugly picture frames; I took apart the drain in the bathroom sink. I dismantled the phone and the TV. I tore the mattress and box spring apart. He had taken it all.

I lay down in the bathtub, the only spot left in the room that wasn’t trashed, and waited to die.

He walked in twelve hours later.

“Whoa, Bella, nice redecorating job.” He wandered into the bathroom and looked down at me.

I started begging him. “Please, don’t let me die. I need it, please.”

“Baby, here’s the deal. Our friend from yesterday is coming back today, and he wants to party with you. So can you be a good girl and make sure he has a good time?”

I whimpered. “Please, James, no.”

“Alright, then. I’ll see you around, I guess.” He started to walk away.

“No! You can’t leave me here. I’ll do it. Just give me the stuff, please.”

He turned around and smiled. “Good girl.” He pulled a bag out and dropped it into the tub.

********

I sat up and screamed, “NO!” I was shaking and crying when I felt Rob’s arms around me.

“Bella, honey, it was a nightmare. You’re OK.”

I collapsed into his chest and sobbed.

“It’s OK, sweetheart. You’re safe now. I love you. I’m here,” he whispered while he held me.

“I was back in the motel,” I sobbed. “It felt so real.”

“It wasn’t real. You’re OK,” he said, kissing my hair.

“I’m so sick of this,” I said. “I just want to move beyond it.”

“You haven’t been in the studio in awhile,” he said.

I looked at him. “That was random.”

He smiled. “Not really. I’ve watched you work, and the studio is like another appendage it’s so much a part of who you are. Maybe spending some time there will help you let some of this go.”

I heard Kate waking up and started to get up. Rob reached for me.

“Let me get her. This will give me a chance to spoil her without you around to ruin our fun.” He smiled.

I knew he was right. I did need the studio. “OK,” I said. “Go spoil her.” He started to get up, and I grabbed his hand. “Thank you for knowing me better than I know myself.” He smiled and kissed me then went to get “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

***************

Writing songs and playing music wasn’t my specialty. Producing albums was clearly what I was born to do. But I knew enough about writing and playing to collaborate with the artists I produced. As I wandered into the studio, I felt drawn to the keyboard. I realized a song had been rolling around in my head. I plugged in my laptop and the synthesizer and started to play. Every once in awhile, a lyric came to mind, and I typed it into the laptop. After awhile, I realized the voice singing the lyrics in my mind was NickleBack’s lead singer, Chad.

I lost track of time. I had no idea how late it was when I called my Dad to ask him to come to the studio.

“Bella, what’s wrong?” He said when he picked up the phone.

“Nothing’s wrong, Dad. Why do you think something’s wrong?”

“You usually don’t call me at 2:00 in the morning,” he replied.

I looked at the clock on my laptop. “Oh my God, Dad!” I laughed. “I’m so sorry I woke you up! I’m in the studio, and completely lost track of time. I had no idea how late it was.”

“This must be good. I’ll be right there.”

I started to say, “No, it can wait…” but he’d already hung up.

I looked at the lyrics I had so far.

He was my best friendI tried to help himBut he traded everythingFor sufferingHe found himself alone

I watched the lyingTurn into hidingWith scars on both his lipsHis fingertips were melted to the bone

But I can still remember what his face looked likeWhen I found him in an alley in the middle of the night

Tell me whatcha knowTell me whatcha gone and done now

Tell me whatcha knowTell me whatcha gone and done nowGonna do the trickGet it over withYou’re better off to take all that you gotAnd burn it on the spotJust to get high

I was stuck on the next verse. Dad came in and wordlessly sat down next to me and started to read.

For the next verse, I had started with,

Three days no sleepingHe gave up eating

Dad read it, thought for a minute then typed,

He sold his mothers ringsShe said nothing and pretended not to know

I smiled and nodded. Then I typed,

He started stealingTo supply the feeling

He nodded and typed,

Found out he pulled a knifeOn someone’s wife

I finished the verse with,

And held it to her throat

I added the final chorus,

Tell me whatcha didWhere you got it hidShow me What you really wantWatching what you gotSlowly circling the drainThrow it all awayJust to get high

I played the music I had so far, and Dad nodded. Over the years, we’d learned to communicate almost telepathically when we were in the studio. We rarely spoke when we were collaborating on a new idea.

Dad picked up his guitar and started to improvise as if he could actually hear what was in my head. Rolling Stone ranked Dad in their top 100 best guitarists of all time. He could still rock it. This song needed a scorching rift, and he knew how to set it on fire.

I realized I was still caught in my lost time experience when I looked up to see the sun streaming through the studio’s skylights. I heard a cough and turned around to see Rob sitting in the back of the studio. He smiled at me. I walked over and climbed onto his lap.

“How long have you been here?” I asked.

“About an hour,” he said. “Your Mom took Kate for a walk. It sounds amazing. Your Dad is better than ever.”

“I know.” I replied.

“You were here all night?” He asked.

I nodded.

“Are you tired?” He asked.

I shook my head. “Just the opposite,” I said. “I’m completely energized!” I continued. “Honey, I’ve got an idea that I think you will love.”

I was rewarded with the raised eyebrow look and smiled.

I went on. “The entire video for this song is running through my head. In the opening shot, Chad will be hanging out with his former best friend, during his better days. The video will show the addict in “before” shots, and he’ll look healthy and gorgeous. Then as the song unfolds, the addict’s appearance will progressively deteriorate the farther into addiction he descends.

Do you happen to know a gorgeous actor who would relish the idea of playing a part where his looks deteriorate before the viewer’s eyes?”


Chapter 12: Oprah

Rob, Chad and I were sitting on the couch on Oprah’s set watching a monitor play back the video. It had turned out better than I imagined. I had seen that kind of magic happen so many times – when a group of highly creative, talented and driven people came together, the result of their efforts was often far superior than anything that could have come from the sum of their individual contributions. Chad absolutely nailed the raw desperation I wanted the song to convey. The band wanted Dad to add a solo, and his rifts brought a razor sharp edge to it. The music was extraordinary, but it was the video that captured the heartbreak I intended to impart.

We decided that the addict Rob was to play would be a successful movie actor. The opening scene showed Rob and Chad walking out of a club looking happy, healthy, and hot. They both jumped into their respective hundred thousand dollar sports cars and sped away. The camera followed Rob’s car as it screeched to a halt on a seedy, dark, rain swept street. The money and drug exchange flashed by, and the next scene showed Rob, alone, doing a line in his character’s movie set trailer. He burst out of the trailer, obviously hyper. The camera caught the faces of his co-workers who obviously knew he was high. The next scene showed him struggling to remember his lines, followed by the director throwing him off the set.

The following scene showed Chad and Rob talking on the phone. Chad was in the club from the first scene, surrounded by beautiful women and friends, obviously having a good time and wondering why his buddy wasn’t there. The camera panned to Rob standing alone on the same seedy street, pocketing cash, as someone else drove his car away.

The next vignette showed Chad searching for Rob. He checked his apartment, and found it empty. The implication was that all of his stuff has been sold. He went to the set and was told Rob was fired. He then found Rob in an alley passed out. It took several make-up artists and wardrobe specialists many hours to make my husband look like a derelict, but the effect was chilling. Chad was shown pulling Rob off the ground as he growled, “Tell me whatcha know, Tell me whatcha gone and done now.”

The video continued with each progressive scene showing Chad becoming more frustrated and desperate and Rob becoming more and more a shadow of the character in the opening scene. The final scene was hard for me to watch. Chad frantically searched for Rob and found him in a roach and rat infested burned out building. He was lying on the floor, eyes frozen open, empty vials and used needles all around him. As Chad grabbed him and shook him, the images of Rob at the beginning of the video flashed by, only to end on a close-up of his lifeless face.

When the video ended, the audience surprised us, and even surprised Oprah, by giving us a standing ovation. I was already teary eyed from seeing images of my husband “dead,” on the monitor, but the applause really made my tears flow. Oprah had to send us to a commercial break so I could pull myself together.

When we started filming again, Oprah asked me, “Bella, that was hard for you to watch, wasn’t it?””

“Yes, very,” then the audience’s response overwhelmed me. “I wanted to make this video to depict what can and does far too often happen to an addict. Your audience’s reaction just now told me that we nailed it.”

The audience applauded again.

Oprah asked, “This is a very personal issue for you, isn’t it?”

Rob put his arm around me, and I held his hand. I took a deep breath and said, “Yes, I’m a recovering addict.”

“And this is the first time you’ve ever discussed it publicly?” Oprah asked.

“Yes, this song was inspired by an incident that happened to us several months ago. Someone slipped ecstasy into Rob’s drink at a party. Seeing him high, which is something I had definitely never seen before, was so upsetting to me that I came very close to relapsing after ten years of being clean and sober.”

“What made you decide to go public?” Oprah asked.

“From the day I was born, my parents taught me that ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ I am very aware that I’m one of the lucky ones. When I was seventeen, I disappeared from my parents’ house with the man who was my drug dealer. My father hired a private detective to find me, and then he hired a man who specializes in getting kids back from kidnappers or drug dealers. They got me out of that situation and into a very good rehab.

When I finished rehab, I had forgiving parents, a home, a career I loved, and financial resources to return to. I’m painfully aware that I’m the exception. By the time most addicts hit bottom, they have alienated everyone they’ve ever known, so they have no support when they are trying to fight their way back.

Originally, I thought only the portion of this song’s proceeds that belonged to me, as its writer, would be donated to half way houses in L.A. But when Chad and the rest of the NickelBack guys heard what we were doing, they donated all of the royalties.”

The audience applauded again. Rob squeezed my hand.

Oprah turned to Rob. “This character is quite a departure!”

“When Bella first told me her idea, I was excited because it would benefit a great cause, but I was also excited to play a character that goes completely against type for me.”

I chimed in. “Completely is right. It took makeup artists hours to make him look that bad!” Oprah and the audience laughed.

Oprah said, “We’ve got a clip of Rob being made up, right?”

“Yes,” I said. “I wanted a separate film crew to capture what it took to transform him.”

The monitor showed a time elapsed video of the four artists who worked on Rob to make him look so lifeless.

“So Rob, what was it like playing someone in a downward spiral?” Oprah asked.

“One of the reasons I like acting is I get to explore parts of the human experience that I may never actually explore, this of course, being one of those I don’t plan on actually living. I was surprised at how draining it was to play someone so desperate. I had to go home after the shoot and play with our little girl for a long time to get my energy back up.”

I squeezed his hand.

“So not only is this video nominated for the MTV Video of the Year Award, but NickelBack has been nominated for the Grammy’s Song of the Year,” Oprah said.

Oprah asked Chad about his experiences making the song and the video, and then she said, “You’re going to perform it for us today, right.”

“We are,” Chad said, as he stood up and walked across the stage to join the rest of the band.

As Rob and I watched the performance, I noticed one of Oprah’s assistants hand her a slip of paper. She stood up and slid next to Rob and me on the sofa, handed me the paper and smiled. I opened it to see a check for $500,000 made out to the Halfway House Fund. This set off an entirely new wave of tears. She gave me a hug and whispered, “Your light is a beacon in the darkness. Never stop shining it. You’re changing the world.”

I was too overwhelmed with gratitude to say or do anything other than nod and whisper, “Thank you.”


Chapter 13: Gone

We were on our way back from the airport. Kate had stayed with my parents while we flew to Chicago for the day to do ‘Oprah.’

We pulled into the resort and saw security cars and an ambulance in front of my parents’ house.

“Oh, no,” I said. “What if it’s Mom or Dad?”

Rob squeezed my hand. “Hopefully it’s nothing serious.” He stopped near the front door, and we ran to the house.

We walked through the door and saw Mom sitting on the sofa with her head in her hands, sobbing. Dad was next to her, and an EMT was kneeling in front of her taking her blood pressure. Our security chief, Ben and three other guards were in the room. Every eye turned to look at us when we walked in. My mother tried to stand up when she saw me, but two sets of hands pushed her back down.

I flew to her side. “Mom, what’s wrong? Are you OK?”

Mom started to talk, and Dad stopped her. “Kelly, you have got to calm down. Your blood pressure is sky rocketing. Let me tell them.”

Mom nodded.

“Your Mom tried to get Kate to take a nap this afternoon, and she had a fit every time Kelly left the room. So she finally gave up and took her into our room and lay down with her, hoping she would go to sleep. They both dozed off. Kelly woke up a few hours later, and Kate was gone. She assumed I had her and came downstairs to find me. I had been at the studio and just came back when Kelly came down and asked me where Kate was.” My father paused, and the pain I saw in his eyes automatically made my tears begin to flow. I knew what he was going to say.

“Bella, she’s gone – Kate is gone.”

I jumped up and screamed at him. “What do you mean she’s gone? How can she be gone?” I looked at Ben. “How could this have happened? You monitor everything and everyone that comes in and out of here.”

Dad said, “It’s not Ben’s fault. Kelly invited Cassandra over here to discuss the findings from the private detective we hired to find her father.”

Ben said, “Cassandra arrived right around the time your mother said she fell asleep, and we noted that she was only here about a half hour. We’re certain it was her who took Kate.”

Rob came over and put his arms around me. I sobbed into his chest, “This can’t be happening.”

Rob looked at Ben. “What do we do?”

“The police are on their way here now. We’ll strategize with them,” Ben said.

Ben looked thoughtful for a minute then looked at Rob. “The fact that she’s your daughter may be to our advantage. One of the security guards here has a teenaged daughter who is a fan. He said there’s not a teenaged girl in this country that doesn’t follow your every move.”

Rob said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much true.”

“Ben, I don’t understand. How are Rob’s fans going to help?” I asked.

“I’m guessing Cassandra took Kate on the spur of the moment. It’s unlikely that she is prepared to take care of a baby. From what you told me about her, I also don’t think she plans to hurt Kate. I think she’s delusional and wants Kate because she wants your life. If I’m right, she has to surface to buy baby supplies.”

“Ben, what are you suggesting we do?” I asked.

*******

Rob called Randy, and within thirty minutes, every news truck in L.A., led by Randy’s Mercedes, was making its way up the resort’s driveway.

Rob and I decided to have Randy provide the basic information to the press. We stood behind him as he started the press conference.

“Bella and Robert Pattinson’s daughter, Kate, was kidnapped earlier today from the Cielo resort where the couple lives. “

We had provided photos of Kate and Cassandra to the press and asked them to continuously run them next to the live feed of Randy.

“Police are searching for Cassandra Moretti who, family members believe is the person who kidnapped the Pattinson’s daughter.”

Randy turned to Rob. He stepped to the mic and took a deep, tortured breath.

“Bella and I would like to ask all of you who make up the incredible and enormous Twilight fan base to please watch for any sign of our daughter. We believe that the woman who took her will have to surface to buy baby supplies. Ms. Moretti will find it difficult to blend in. She was a runway model. She is from Italy and speaks with a heavy Italian accent. She’s 6 feet tall. She has olive skin, dark brown eyes, and long black hair. Our daughter is fair skinned and has blonde hair and blue eyes.”

Rob paused. I saw him struggling to keep his composure.

“The police have asked us to stress that if you do see someone who fits her description, please do not approach her. She is unstable and could be very dangerous. Please call 911 and provide the location where you saw her. Thank you for helping us find our little girl.”

Rob turned and put his arms around me while Randy fielded questions.

*****************

Rob and I numbly sat on the sofa and watched as the news stations replayed parts of the press conference.

My cell phone vibrated. I didn’t recognize the number. “Hello?” I said.

A familiar voice said, “If you want to see her alive again, you’ll pretend this was a wrong number. Be alone in ten minutes.”

The call ended. Rob looked at me questioningly. “Wrong number,” I said.

I left my phone on my lap so I could watch the clock. Eight minutes later, I excused myself and headed to the bathroom. Two minutes later, my phone vibrated again.

“Yes?” I said.

“Long time no see, Bella.”

Luckily I was already in the bathroom because my stomach immediately emptied its contents.

“It doesn’t sound like you’re too happy to hear from me, Bella.” James laughed.


Chapter 14: Paradise Lost

“What do you want?” I hissed into the phone.

“It’s a small world, Bella. It turns out your friend Cassandra likes to party.”

“James, just don’t hurt her. Name your price. Whatever you want, we’ll get it for you, but I’m begging you, don’t hurt her.”

“I like your attitude, Bella. You were always very resourceful at getting away from that resort without anyone knowing. That’s what you’re going to do right now. Call me when you are in your car. You have fifteen minutes. If you tell anyone you talked to me or if anyone follows you, your little girl is dead.”

He hung up.

I wretched again, and a moment later, heard Rob knock.

“Bella, let me in.”

I opened the door and fell into his arms, sobbing.

“Honey, you’re shaking. Come here.” He led me into the guest room and wrapped me in a blanket then held me. When I started to calm down, he asked, “Who were you talking to?”

I looked at him questioningly.

“I heard you get sick and came to check on you. I overheard what you said. Bella, I know how you think. I will not let you leave this house alone.”

“He’ll kill her,” I sobbed.

“Who?” He asked.

I looked at him and heard James’ voice in my head, “If you tell anyone you talked to me, your little girl is dead.”

“Bella, you have got to trust me. Who called you?” Rob asked.

“James,” I said, and buried my head in his chest again.

“How?” He asked.

“He said Cassandra likes to party. He must be supplying her.” I said. “Rob, we can not tell anyone else. He said he would kill Kate,” I sobbed, “if I told anyone or if anyone followed me.”

“Honey, of course he said that. He wants you to play into his hands. We’ve got former Navy SEALs standing in the living room. Don’t you think we should ask for their help?”

“Those Goddamn Navy SEALs let her off this property to begin with!” I snapped. “I have to go. He told me to call him back in 15 minutes from my car.” I stood up. Rob grabbed my wrist.

“You’re not going anywhere,” he said.

“Let go of me,” I said, glaring at him.

He looked at me and tightened his grip until my wrist hurt.

“You are hurting me. Get your hands off of me NOW!” I screamed at him.

My father and Ben came running into the room.

“Bella, what’s wrong?” Dad asked. He looked at Rob holding my wrist and took a step toward him. Ben grabbed his shoulders.

“Everyone calm down now!” Ben yelled.

I looked at Rob. “It’s been fifteen minutes,” I sobbed. “You just killed her.” I fell to my knees and continued sobbing into my hands.

“What is she talking about?” My father yelled at Rob.

“James called her.”

“What?” Dad yelled.

“Apparently he’s Cassandra’s dealer. He said he has Kate. He wanted Bella to meet him alone, without telling anyone where she was going. I overheard her. He gave her 15 minutes to call him back from her car. It’s been fifteen minutes.”

Ben grabbed me and lifted me off the ground. “Come on,” he said.

He led me outside and pushed me into the passenger side of one of the SUVs. He jumped into the driver seat as Rob climbed in the back, and we tore out of the resort.

“Call him,” Ben said.

My hands were shaking so badly, Rob grabbed my phone, found the last incoming number and dialed it, and then handed the phone back to me.

“You’re late,” James said when he picked up.

“It was hard to get away. The house is swarming with security,” I replied.

“Drive to the First Caribbean International Bank on Beckford. I’m monitoring traffic. It should not take you more than thirty minutes. If you are late this time, you know what will happen,” James said and hung up.

Ben located the bank on the GPS then called someone on his team to fill them in.

I stared out the window. I was numb. I did exactly what James told me not to do, and now my little girl was going to die. I felt Rob’s hand on my arm, and I pulled away.

Ben hung up and said, “Fridge and Cal are meeting us a mile from there. You’ll drive there alone, Bella. Cal knows one of the guards at the bank. He’s calling to fill them in. They’ll monitor you, but stay in the background unless he tries to hurt you. Bella? Are you listening to me?”

I nodded, still staring out the window.

“Bella, there’s a good chance that he doesn’t even have Kate.”

My head snapped up. “What do you mean?”

“He may have seen Rob on TV and decided to cash in. I’m guessing he’s going to try to get you to transfer money to an offshore account. Tell him he can have whatever he wants. But he has to supply proof that he has Kate. He’ll threaten to hurt her instead of giving you proof, but you have got to stand firm. Do not transfer anything to him without proof.”

“What if he has proof?” I asked.

“Then you tell him you will fund the transfer, but until you physically see Kate, you will not authorize it. Bella, this will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but I know what I’m doing. If you give him what he wants without seeing Kate, you won’t see her again.”

I put my head in my hands and sobbed until Ben stopped the SUV. He went over everything with me again, and then he and Rob got out. I slid into the driver’s seat, and Rob opened the door.

We looked into each other’s eyes, and then I threw my arms around him.

“I’m sorry,” I sobbed. “I’m so scared.”

“I am too. God, I wish I could do this instead of you. I don’t want you going in there.” He said into my neck.

“I’ll be OK. I’ll see you soon. I love you.”

He let me go and shut the door.

As I pulled away, my thoughts returned to the morning a few months ago just before Kate was born. I awoke that day, thinking I had arrived in Dante’s Paradise. Paradise Lost, I thought, as I drove toward Purgatory and hopefully, my little girl.


Chapter 15: Purgatorio

Author’s Note: The title of this chapter refers to the version of Purgatory in Dante’s, ‘Inferno.’

BPOV

I drove to the bank and found a parking space a block away. I walked quickly toward the building. I only had five minutes left. As I reached for the Bank’s door, I felt a hand on my waist, and a voice said, “Let’s just keep walking, shall we?” James pushed me away from the door, and we walked two blocks in the opposite direction. He stopped at a van, opened the driver side, and told me to get in. I climbed into the driver’s seat, and he motioned for me to slide to the passenger side. I glanced at the passenger door and noticed the handle was gone.

He climbed in. “Your phone, please.”

I handed it to him, and he threw it out the window and then pulled into traffic.

RPOV

After Bella pulled away, Ben and I climbed into the other SUV. Ben was on the phone with one of the guards at the bank. There was no sign of James or Bella.

“She should have been there by now,” I said to Ben. He nodded.

I heard Ben say, “Cal, track her phone.”

A minute later, Fridge said, “She’s two blocks south of the bank. Let’s go.”

Fridge was driving. ‘Fridge’ was the nickname Bella gave to Sam, the very large guard she remembered thinking looked like a refrigerator when we first met him after the Victoria incident.

We pulled up to where the GPS indicated Bella’s phone should be, but we didn’t see her. Cal jumped out and looked around. He came back a minute later with her phone.

“Shit!” Ben said.

BPOV

“James, where are you going? Where is Kate?”

“Kate is fine and will stay that way as long as you cooperate,” he said.

He drove for several miles then parked at the Lloyd’s of London building. I recognized it because my family had several safe deposit boxes there.

“I remember some interesting conversations we had about your Daddy’s money and what he kept in this bank,” he said. “I’ve been keeping an eye on you and your family over the years.” My skin crawled at the thought of him watching us. “I saw you and that pretty boy husband of yours come in here not long ago, so I know you’ve still got safe deposit boxes here. You’re going to show me what’s in them.”

“I’m not showing you anything until you give me proof that you have Kate,” I said.

He picked up his phone and dialed. I heard a woman’s voice answer. “Cassandra?” He said. There was a pause. “Kill her.”

“NO!” I screamed. “I’ll do it! Don’t hurt her!”

James smiled and said, “Hold off for now,” and hung up then continued.

“We’re going to walk in there like the very old friends that we are. You are going to calmly ask to see your safe deposit boxes. I will join you. You will ask for a private room to view them. If you cause a scene, Cassandra is on speed dial.” I nodded.

He reached into the back of the van and pulled out a briefcase, then he opened the door, and I slid across. As we walked into the bank, the Private Client manager saw me and approached us.

“Hello, Mrs. Pattinson. It’s so good to see you again. How can I help you?”

“Hello, Michael. I need access to my family’s safe deposit boxes please, and I’ll need a private room to view them.”

“Of course, Mrs. Pattinson. Right this way.”

We walked to the safe deposit box vault entrance, and he asked me to scan my palm. Michael looked at James questioningly. I said, “James is my cousin.” Michael nodded, and let us into the vault.

He brought me to the section with our boxes and had me scan my palm again. He unloaded the boxes, placed them on a cart, and wheeled them into a private room. James followed.

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Mrs. Pattinson?” Michael asked.

“Not right now, thank you.” Michael left, closing the door behind him.

I turned around, and placed my thumb on the scanner of the first box. The indicator light turned green, and I opened the lid.

RPOV

Ben’s phone rang.

“Ben Carlson,” he said. He listened for a moment then said, “Yes! She’s at Lloyd’s. Let’s go.”

He turned to me. “The Lloyd’s Private Client manager just called Barry. Bella showed up ten minutes ago asking to see the family’s safe deposit boxes. She said the man with her was her cousin. The manager knows the family well. He knew Barry and Kelly were only children, so Bella doesn’t have any cousins.”

I smiled. Way to go, sweetheart, I thought.

BPOV

James rifled through the first box. It had deeds of trust, insurance policies, and other paperwork that he deemed worthless. He shoved the box aside. He grabbed the next box and put it in front of me. I pressed my thumb to it. He flipped open the lid, and his face lit up. It was filled with my mother’s jewelry. There were thirty years worth of priceless pieces given to her by designers, artists, agents, and fans. I knew the jewelry that held sentimental value for her, those pieces my father or her parents had given her, were in the safe at home. She only held on to these because she didn’t want to offend anyone who had given her a piece by donating it to charity. He started emptying the box’s contents and putting the jewelry in the briefcase.

“James, there’s enough there for you to be set for life. Let Kate go.”

He picked up a large broach and ran the jagged edge of the diamond along my cheek.

“Oh, I don’t think so. That was only the second box.”

He finished emptying the box and slid the next one in front of me. I scanned my thumb, and he flipped the lid. The next box contained one hundred shares of Jordan Records Inc. issued at twelve dollars per share the day my father’s company went public. The stock was now worth two-hundred-fifty dollars per share and had split twelve times which made it worth over one-hundred million dollars.

James pulled the stock certificates out of the box and laughed.

“You don’t think anyone will get suspicious when you try to sell the original stock from my father’s company?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “because you’re going to sign them over to me right now.” He handed me a pen and the stocks. I flipped them over, and started signing.

RPOV

We pulled into the Lloyd’s parking lot. The Private Client manager came out to the SUV and climbed in. He nodded to me. Ben said, “Nice work, Michael.”

“Glad I could help, sir. What can we do now?”

Ben held up an earring. “This has a tracking device. When Bella comes out, I want you to give it to her. Tell her you found the earring she lost the last time she was here. Since she made the remark about James being her cousin, she should pick up on this and take the earring from you.”

Michael pocketed the earring and went back inside.

BPOV

A hundred million dollars apparently wasn’t enough for James to live on. As I continued to sign the stock certificates, he had me scan the rest of the boxes. He didn’t find anything else he deemed worthwhile. When I finished, I handed him the stocks and said, “James, that’s more money than anyone can ever hope to spend. You have what you want. Please let her go now.”

“All in good time, Bella. Let’s go.”

He picked up the briefcase, and we walked to the exit. Michael walked over to let us out. “Mrs. Pattinson, I almost forgot, we found the earring you lost the last time you were here.” He handed me an earring that I’d never seen before, but his look pleaded with me to take it.

“Thank you, Michael. I was wondering what happened to this. I’d better put it on so I don’t lose it again.” I clipped the earring on my lobe.

“Is there anything else I can do for you today?” Michael asked.

“No, thank you. You’ve been very helpful.” I held his eyes for a moment.

James put his hand on my arm and led me back to the van. He opened the door; I started to climb in, but he grabbed my arm and slammed my back into the side of the van.

I gasped at the pain that shot through my shoulder. He pressed his body against me, and leaned in as if he was going to kiss me, but I turned my head away.

He put his mouth near my ear and said, “Now that I have what I want, we’re going to have a little party for old time’s sake.”

He put a hand on my breast and licked along my neck up to my ear.

I choked back the bile that rose into my throat. I couldn’t afford to make him angry and jeopardize Kate’s life further by throwing up all over him.

He let me go, and I climbed in and slid across the seat.

He followed, put the briefcase in the back, and pulled into traffic.

“I’ll do whatever you want, just let Kate go!”

He started to laugh. I glared at him, and the realization crept through my veins like ice.

“You don’t have her, do you?” I said.

He shook his head, no, and kept laughing.

“You made that too fucking easy, Baby!”

My mind was flooded with the image of the seventeen-year-old girl that I was, lying in the bathtub in a seedy motel waiting to die. The rage that I’d held bottled inside for ten years suddenly consumed me. I heard Tim’s voice in my mind; ‘the most lethal kick is to the temple.’

I leaned back and drove the heels of both my feet through the side of James’ head. I saw it snap against the window as the glass cracked and blood spurted.

Somehow, the son of a bitch was still conscious. I’d heard of people high on PCP who were shot and didn’t feel anything.

He roared and swung his arm at me. I blocked it and bit down as hard as I could. While he screamed, I drove my fingers into his eyes.

The van started veering wildly across the road, and the contents of the briefcase spilled. One of my mother’s long heavy chains flew toward the front. I heard Tim’s voice in my mind again; ‘any object can serve as a weapon.’

I grabbed the chain and wound it around his neck.

RPOV

We watched Bella walk out of the bank with James. As they reached the van, he slammed her into the side of the van and groped her.

“No!” I screamed, reaching for the door.

Fridge grabbed me as Ben said, “Rob, I know. We all want to kill him right now, but he’s our best hope of finding Kate.”

When I looked out the window again, he had let her go. I shrugged off Fridge’s grasp, and we pulled into traffic and followed several cars behind.

Suddenly, the van started careening across the road. It smashed into cars on either side of it.

No, baby! I thought. Don’t do it. I imagined Bella fighting James to get control of the van.

“Cal, get closer!” Ben said.

Cal pulled to within inches of the van’s bumper.

“Everyone buckle in! We’re in for a wild ride. Cal, pull along side,” Ben told him.

Cal pulled next to the van, and I caught a glimpse of James. His head was covered in blood, and his eyes were shut. Bella was trying to steer the van.

BPOV

I pulled on the chain until he passed out, then I grabbed the wheel. I saw the resort’s SUV pull up next to us. James’ foot was still on the gas. I kicked it out of the way, but couldn’t reach the break.

I tried to steer through traffic until the van started to slow down but I was careening toward a major intersection, and the light was red.

The SUV swerved in front of me, and the van slammed into the back.

Everything went black.

RPOV

We were driving one of the “vampire proof” SUVs Barry bought after Bella was attacked by Victoria. The van literally bounced off the back of the SUV.

I bolted out of the SUV and ran toward the van. I could see Bella passed out against the dashboard; her head was bleeding.

I heard Ben scream at me to stop, but I ignored him as I threw open the driver’s side door and pushed James’ body to the ground. I jumped inside, took off my shirt, and pressed it against her bleeding head. I checked her pulse; it was weak.

Fridge wedged open the passenger door with a tire iron.

“I was a medic in the SEALs. Let me check her out.”

He ran his fingers along her neck and shoulders. “Her neck’s OK. She’ll have sore muscles, but nothing’s broken along here. Let me see the cut.”

I lifted the shirt. “OK, keep applying pressure. It’s not that bad. Head wounds always bleed a lot.”

I gently leaned Bella back onto the seat and pressed my shirt against her head again.

“Bella, honey, can you hear me?”

Her hand reached for mine. I squeezed it. “I’m right here, baby,” I said.

“Kate…” she murmured.

“We’ll find her, baby.”

“He never had her…,” she whispered.

“Bella, honey, wake up. What do you mean James never had her?” She didn’t respond.

I looked up to make sure one of the security guys had called an ambulance. Ben and Cal were behind Fridge on the passenger side of the van. Ben was on the phone with Barry, and Cal was talking to 911.

I heard a click behind me; when I turned around, I was looking into the barrel of a gun.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Chapter 16: The Inferno

RPOV

“You’re going to hand me that briefcase, and the big guy over there is going to hand me the keys to the SUV,” James slurred through the blood dripping from his mouth.

I looked over my shoulder and saw the briefcase he was referring to. I also saw jewelry all over the floor. The hundreds of hours that I’d trained with Tim took over.

I heard his voice in my head; “anything can be a weapon.”

I was consumed with rage. This animal that had stolen Bella’s soul when she was a teenager, had pretended to kidnapped my daughter, and then tried to kill my wife was not going to waste any more of this planet’s oxygen.

I picked up a handful of jewelry and threw it at him, then drove my foot through his face. I heard the skull bones shatter and watched as his head flew back and hit the pavement. I jumped out of the van and smashed my foot into his neck. I was about to kick him again when Ben and Fridge pulled me back.

“It’s over, man, its over,” Fridge said. “He’s dead.”

I looked at James’ lifeless body. I just killed someone. A part of me echoed that I should feel some sort of remorse, but I shoved that thought aside and climbed back into the van.

I could see Bella fighting to regain consciousness. She opened her eyes with tremendous effort.

“He just wanted the money; he lied.” She tried to sit up.

“No, baby, you’re hurt. Don’t move.”

“…have to find her…”

“Cal!” I yelled. “Where is the Goddamn ambulance?” As soon as I said it, I heard the sirens. The police were already here, and Ben’s influence was ensuring that curious on lookers and the press stayed well away.

“Ben!” I yelled. He appeared at the passenger door. “She said James never had Kate,” I said.

Ben nodded. “The FBI will meet us at the hospital.”

The paramedics arrived and were starting an IV when I overheard Ben yell, “What? Send a picture.”

He appeared at the door of the van. “Does Kate have any birthmarks or anything that could absolutely identify her?”

“Where is she?” Bella cried.

I squeezed her hand and said to Ben, “She has a heart shaped birth mark on the inside of her upper left arm.”

Ben repeated what I’d said. There was a pause while we held our breaths.

Shellie’s POV

My sister, Sarah is thirteen, and I’m fourteen. We are huge Twilighters. We subscribe to all of the Twitter sites related to the movies, books, and especially Rob. The Tweets were non-stop today about Kate’s kidnapping. How could that woman do anything so mean?

My Mom had just dropped us off at LAX. We were on our way to see Dad in Chicago. Sarah and I were waiting in the check-in line and reading the latest Tweets. I heard a baby cry, and looked up. A very tall woman with sunglasses on, and her hair wrapped in a scarf, was holding a blonde haired baby as she made her way through the crowds. I elbowed Sarah and nodded toward the woman. We looked at each other then jumped out of line to follow her.

We saw her sit down, pull out a bottle, and try to feed the baby, but the baby was fussy and didn’t want it.

I typed into my cell, “R there any Twi-Girls in LAX Delta term NOW? Need help! Kate may be here!”

Instantly, at least twenty Tweets replied, “Yes! Where?”

I looked around. “Meet at the Breaking Dawn poster near gate 17.”

Within minutes, there were ten Twilighters standing under the Breaking Dawn poster.

“OK. We have to get Kate back. I’m sure that’s her. My sister and I overheard that woman speak, and she has an Italian accent...”

******************

We split up into two groups and spread out to be sure we could see the tall woman no matter where she went. After several minutes of trying to get the baby to eat, she gave up and started walking again. We followed her at a distance. When she turned into the restroom, I gathered the girls together and said, “Here’s the plan...”

Sarah and I walked into the bathroom. The woman was changing the baby.

We casually went over and commented on how cute the baby was and chatted with the woman to put her at ease.

As she finished and looked perplexed about how she was going to manage to use the facilities herself while holding a baby, I said, “We could hold her for you. We love babies! We baby-sit all the time. We can stand right outside your door so she can hear your voice.”

The woman looked hesitant, but then said, “Thank you,” and handed Kate to me.

As soon as she went into the stall, Sarah ran to get the other girls. They were back in seconds and held the door.

Sarah and I took off with Kate and tore through the airport following signs for security. We burst into the security office and started screaming and crying...

RPOV

Ben said, “It’s her. She’s at the airport!”

I looked at Bella. “I’m going with you,” she said.

I started to argue. “Bella, you have…”

“I’m going with you,” she said again, leaving no room for argument.

Ben rolled his eyes and shook his head. Fridge popped his head in. “I’ve got you covered, girl. We’re all going to go get her.”

I watched as Fridge went over to the ambulance and started ‘negotiating´ with the paramedics. I could tell they were reluctant to allow anyone to borrow their equipment, but they were more reluctant to piss off Fridge. Eventually they started helping him load the SUV with the mattress from their gurney, an IV bag holder, and other first aid supplies. Fridge came back to the van and helped me move Bella to the SUV.

I sat in the back with her. When we hit the highway, he tossed me a medical scrub shirt. “They keep extras on the ambulance.”

I looked at him. “Thanks, man, for everything.”

“No problem, Bella and Kate are my girls, too.” I smiled at him.

Ben’s phone buzzed. He looked at it and smiled. “It’s her alright!”

He handed me his phone. I smiled and showed it to Bella. Her eyes filled with tears of relief. Ben’s phone displayed a picture of Kate in the arms of a teenaged girl.

“How?” I asked Ben.

“I don’t know,” Ben said. “My buddy, said the girls knew where the kidnapper was, and they were going after her.”

***********

Ben’s friend, met us at the door with a wheelchair for Bella, then ushered us immediately into the security office. I ran to the girl who was holding Kate, and she handed her to me. I grabbed Kate and held her close. Tears of relief stung my eyes, and I murmured, “It’s OK, Mommy and Daddy are here.” I covered her with kisses then handed her to Bella. She was crying, and obviously hungry and tired.

Ben’s friend led us to a private conference room. I wrapped my arms around Bella and Kate, and couldn’t hold back the tears of relief any longer as I watched Bella nurse her. I looked into Bella’s tear filled eyes then kissed her.

“Are you OK? You’re shaking.”

“I’m cold,” she said.

I looked at Ben and he walked out, presumably to get Fridge and a blanket.

“I’m worried about you. We need to get you to the hospital,” I said.

“Rob, there’s no way you are separating me from Kate tonight; I’m going home.”

Ben and Fridge came back with blankets. Fridge wrapped up Bella and took her vitals.

“Cassandra is in police custody,” Ben said.

“Thank God,” I said. “What happened?”

He related Shellie’s story and said all of the other girls confirmed it.

“You mean,” I asked with astonishment, “that a group of teenaged girls not only got our baby back from Cassandra, but kept her locked in the bathroom until security got there?”

He nodded and smiled.

“Are they still here?” I asked.

“Yes,” Ben said. “None of them will leave until we assure them Kate is OK. How is she?”

Kate had finished nursing and dozed off. We looked at her sleeping peacefully. “She’s perfect,” I said.

“Then I’ll go tell them,” Ben said. “We need to get you home, Bella.”

“Wait,” I said. I looked at Bella. “Honey, can you hang on for a few more minutes?”

“Yes, really, I’m OK,” she said weakly.

“Ben, I want to talk to them. Can you ask them to come in here? I think it will be less chaotic than me trying to go out there.”

He nodded and left.

While he was gone, I called Karen and filled her in.

A few minutes later, the door opened, and ten girls filed into the room and sat down.

I took a deep breath and said, “Who is Shellie?”

The girl who had been holding Kate when we arrived waved.

I walked over and gave her a hug. “We can’t even begin to express how grateful we are to you for what you…” I paused to look at Shellie, then looked around the room, “for what all of you did. Kate is sleeping soundly, safe in Bella’s arms right now because you were quick thinking, selfless and brave.”

Tears were still streaming down Bella’s face. “Thank you all, so much. We will always be in your debt,” she said.

“We want to do something special for all of you,” I said. “We’re going to organize a special screening of Breaking Dawn so all of you can see it before it opens.”

They started to squeal then slapped their hands over their mouths because they didn’t want to wake Kate. These girls were just unbelievable!

“I’m going to call my assistant, Karen,” I said. I dialed her number on the conference room’s phone and then placed it on speaker. “She’ll take down all of your contact information.”

We thanked them all again then went back to the SUV.

Ben had one of the resort’s security guards bring another SUV with Kate’s car seat. Bella reluctantly let go of Kate so I could strap her into her seat. We both sat in the back on either side of her. I took Bella’s hand, and she met my eyes.

“I can’t believe what those girls did. They’re so young. How did they have the presence of mind to do something so mature, so brave, so…?” I was at a loss for words.

“Shhh,” Bella said, running her hand against my cheek. I looked into her eyes. “She’s safe. We’re all OK now. I love you.”

I took her hand and pressed my lips to her palm. We rode in silence, holding each others hands and watching our little girl peacefully sleep.


Chapter 17: What is Normal?

BPOV

Kate slept tucked between Rob and me for the next several nights. Neither of us could bear to leave her side, and even her bassinet seemed too far away.

We had stayed with my parents the past few nights because my mother wanted to make sure I didn’t over do it. I rebelled last night, and we returned to ‘Esme’s House.’

Rob and I were having breakfast and watching Kate happily kicking her feet to make her bouncy seat rock. I looked over at Rob and could tell he was still very anxious. I walked over and started to massage his shoulders. “You’re so tense.”

He took my hand, pulled me into his lap and looked into my eyes. “I can’t keep living like this.”

“Like what?” I asked.

“Not that long ago, a crazed maniac who thought she was a vampire from one of my movies tried to kill you. A few days ago, another lunatic kidnapped our daughter. I’m virtually a prisoner everywhere I go. I can’t get a cup of coffee without a security escort. I can’t go anywhere in public without people screaming at me. Oh, and let’s not forget that I killed someone the other day. I feel like I’m going to snap.”

I put my hand on his cheek. “We need to get out of this house.” I jumped up and grabbed the baby carrier and gave it to Rob. He slung it over his shoulders and strapped Kate in while I packed a backpack with baby essentials, water, snacks and a blanket. When I was done, I said, “Come on.”

We walked down to the shore. Kate was thrilled to be walking with her Dad. She stared at him while he made faces and talked to her. She giggled and laughed. After awhile, the ocean’s waves and the walking motion lulled her to sleep.

When Rob saw she was asleep, he started to speak, “Bella, I...”

I put my fingers on his lips then kissed him gently. “Shhh,” I said. “Just walk with me.” He looked at me and nodded.

We walked hand in hand in silence, listening to the waves and letting the breeze wash over us.

When Kate woke up, demanding her lunch, I sat down on a rock, and Rob handed her to me. While I was nursing her, Rob peeled off his clothes and walked into the water.

“You are killing me!” I said.

He laughed and dove into the waves.

As I watched him swim, I saw the ocean wash away some of his anxiety, and his body started to relax.

By the time he climbed out of the surf, Kate was done nursing. Rob put his shorts back on and came over and shook his wet hair over us. Kate giggled and reached up for him.

We spent the next few hours worshipping our little girl. She loved the sand, so we spent most of the time attempting to prevent her from stuffing her sand covered hands into her mouth. When she started to get sleepy, Rob held her and sang her song until she dozed off. We put her on the blanket between us and watched her sleep.

“Thank you,” he said.

“For what?” I asked.

”For today. This was exactly what I needed. You saw me spinning out of control, and you knew exactly what I needed to get re-centered.”

“It has always worked for me,” I said, kissing him. We started to make out like teenagers. Kate’s presence kept our passion reigned in, but the shared tenderness in our kisses still served to center and reconnect us.

“Do you ever wish we were normal?” He asked, kissing my neck.

I smiled and looked at him. “Normal is a cycle on a washing machine.” He laughed. “Define normal,” I said.

He looked thoughtful then said, “I guess I associate ‘normal’ with the life I led as a kid. We weren’t famous or rich. We were solidly middle class. My parents were great. They encouraged whatever we wanted to do.”

“Are you defining normal or a happy childhood?” I asked, aware that I sounded somewhat defensive.

“I don’t know, Bella. I guess I’m very confused right now. I’m struggling to make sense of what happened a few days ago, and I can’t.”

“I think I can connect the dots,” I said. “Your childhood didn’t have crazy people trying to kill or kidnap people you love.

“Yes, I guess that’s the connection. Maybe I should quit.”

“Quit what, Rob, acting or life?” I said, hearing the edge in my voice.

“Why the sarcasm?” He asked.

I felt a wave of anger wash over me. “Rob, I will support whatever career decisions you ever want to make. If you get sick of acting or it no longer holds an appeal, then I’ll be the first to say, ‘quit!’ But I won’t let our lives be dictated by fear. We were in the depths of hell a few days ago, but everyone on this planet faces trauma at some point. I believe that is exactly why we are here! Why else would the human experience exist? We are here to experience all of it, not just those parts that we deem normal,” I snapped at him.

“Bella, why are you so angry? What’s going on?”

I took a deep breath. I knew he was right. “I’m sorry,” I said. He nodded and squeezed my hand, waiting for me to continue.

“My childhood was nothing like your childhood, so to hear you define normal as your childhood experience put me on the defensive. Plus, it was a combination of my past and my father’s fame that created the hell we just lived through. I guess a part of me got scared that I didn’t fit into your view of normal.”

He pulled me into his arms. “You definitely don’t fit into my view of normal. You are far too extraordinary to be equated with normal.” He leaned down and kissed me.

“Thank you,” I said.

We sat holding each other and let the waves and the breeze erode away the tension that had gripped us for the past few days. When Kate woke up, we packed up and strolled back to the house.

“I have something for you back at the house.” Rob said with a smirk.

“What is it?” I asked.

“Oh, you’ll have to let me show you tonight, after Kate’s in bed.” He replied, still smirking.

“Hmm,” I said. “Something tells me I’m going to like this gift.”

We spent the rest of the day showering Kate with love and attention. When she could no longer hold her little eyes open, we tucked her into her bassinet and watched her fall asleep.

Rob wrapped him arms around me and said, “Do you want your present now?”

“Oh, I forgot about that. Definitely!” I said.

He went to his bedside table and pulled out an elaborately wrapped box. I had no idea what he was up to. I felt sure this was going to be a very interesting surprise.

“You know, I have to go on the promotion tour next week, so this is a going away present,” he said, handing me the box.

“Thank you,” I said taking it from him. I unwrapped the purple ribbon and slipped open the gold foil paper. I opened the lid of the box, and fell over laughing. Inside was a giant penis shaped vibrator. Next to it were several sets of batteries.

“I’m speechless,” I said. “I can not think of one appropriate thing to say!” I was still laughing.

“You’re going to hurt my feelings,” he said, smiling. He took it out of the box, loaded the batteries, and turned it on.

“It sounds like it could power a jet ski,” I laughed.

“Aren’t you even remotely curious?” He asked slyly.

I took it out of his hand and put it in my bedside table. I put my arms around his neck and kissed him. “I think I’d much rather have the real thing while you’re still here. We’ll save that,” I said, nodding toward my bedside table, “for next week.”

“Sounds like a plan,” he said as he kissed me.


Chapter 18: “Da”

Author’s Note: The song Rob sings in this chapter is by Kenny Loggins. It’s called, “Cody’s Song.”

My fabulous Beta-reader, Cullen818, recently commented (while reading the whole James/Cassandra saga) that I didn’t give poor Rob and Bella a break. So here’s a chapter that is pure fluff. I was inspired to write this after watching all of those interviews that the cast did before ‘New Moon’ opened.


My phone buzzed. “Good morning, gorgeous,” I said.

“Good morning, beautiful. How are my girls?” Rob asked.

I put him on the speaker. “We’re having fun. Kate is chewing on everything I put in front of her.”

“Send me her picture. I don’t want to miss anything,” he said.

Just then Kate said, “Da.”

“Oh my God!” I screamed. “Did you hear that?”

Kate laughed and said, “Da” again.

I heard Rob laugh. “Rob, keep talking to her,” I said.

He started to sing her song. Her eyes became huge, and she smiled. I grabbed the camera.

When Rob stopped, she said, “Da,” and laughed.

“Her first word!” I said.

“I know! Excellent! I’m her first word!” He laughed.

“Of course, since in her eyes the sun rises and sets around her Daddy.”

“What are you going to do today?” He asked.

“Take a nap when Kate does!” I said.

“Why are you so tired?” He asked. “Was she up a lot last night?”

“No, I stayed up to watch you on ‘Letterman,’ than got up to watch you do the ‘Today’ show,” I said.

“Bella! You have more recording equipment than anyone else on the planet. Why did you do that?” He asked.

“Because I miss you. You were awesome, by the way. You were really funny on ‘Letterman,’ and I think Matt Lauer is in love with you.” He laughed. “They’re both really nice,” he said. “I’ve got to go. I’m calling you from the green room on the ‘Regis and Kelly’ set, and they’re ready for me.”

“Good luck. Kate and I will be watching. I love you,” I said.

“I love you, too. Bye, Kate! I love you!”

“Da,” she said.

“Do you want to watch Daddy on TV?” I asked Kate.

“Da,” she said. I picked up the remote and flipped to ‘Live with Regis and Kelly.’ Rob was just walking on to the stage amidst deafening screams from the audience. Kate giggled.

Regis and Kelly bantered with Rob for a while, and then Kelly asked, “So how are Bella and Kate?”

“They’re great! I just got off the phone with them, literally, before I walked out here. Kate just said her first word, which was, ‘Da.’” He beamed, and the audience laughed and clapped.

Kelly said, “Oh, we have to hear that!” She looked off stage at the producer, Gelman. “Can we get them on the phone? OK, good. We’ll take a break, and when we come back, we’ll try to get Rob’s daughter to talk to us!”

They went to a commercial, and my phone rang.

“Hi ‘Da,’” I said, laughing.

“Are you OK with this? It’s not like they asked,” Rob said.

“Sure, go ahead and have them call the land line.” I picked up Kate, and we went to the kitchen to grab the phone. We went back to the living room, and I muted the TV. The phone rang, and Gelman said we would be live in 30 seconds.

“Hi, Bella! Hi, Kate!” I heard Kelly’s peppy voice.

“Good morning,” I said.

“We heard that Kate said her first word today?” Kelly asked.

“Yes, and of course she said, ‘Da,’ since her Daddy is the center of her world,” I replied.

I could hear the audience’s, “Ahhhh,” in the background. I glanced at the TV and saw Rob beam.

“Look at him,” said Regis. “He’s glowing like a vampire!” I saw Rob throw his head back and laugh.

“So, Bella, do you think you can get Kate to talk to us?” Regis asked.

“It’s definitely not up to me. This morning she said, ‘Da,’ when she heard Rob. Since you all put Kate and me on the spot, I’ll put Rob on the spot. Why don’t you sing to her, honey?” I said.

Rob started to sing:

Through the years, You'll always be The lullaby in the heart of the child in me.

I'll be there to sing to you, I promise you I promise to Comfort you and sing to you.

And darling, I'll be there, Anytime, and anywhere, Kate, I'll be there just for you.

Rob stopped, and Regis and Kelly signaled for the audience to be quiet. Right on cue, Kate said, “Da,” and the audience went wild. I saw Rob burst out laughing.

Kelly said, “What was that you were singing, Rob?”

“That’s from a song I wrote the night I found out Bella was pregnant, and I’ve been singing it to Kate ever since. It’s called, ‘Kate’s Song.’” The audience applauded.

“That was beautiful. Have you recorded it?” Kelly asked.

“No, it never occurred to me,” he said.

“Let me get this straight,” Regis said. “Your wife and father-in-law own one of the most powerful recording companies in the business, and it didn’t occur to any of you to record that song?”

Rob laughed. “No, it’s always been Kate’s song. Barry wrote a song for Bella when he found out Bella’s mother was pregnant, and he never recorded it. It was always just for her.”

Tears filled my eyes as I listened to them talk about my magical song.

“That song is so special to Bella, and I wanted to do something similar for Kate. So I’ll never record it. It will always be for her alone.”

I heard more, “Ahhhhhs,” from the audience.

Regis said, “Based on the audience’s reaction, I’d say that getting married and having a child hasn’t hurt your image?”

Kelly jumped in, “Of course not. He was voted, ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ after he got married! I think women find men who are in love with their wives to be very sexy, right?” She looked at the audience, and they screamed.

Rob laughed. “My press agent will be thrilled to hear that since I’m definitely very in love with my wife.” The audience screamed again.

“So Bella,” Kelly asked, “What’s it like having all these women screaming at your husband all the time?”

“I guess I’m somewhat used to it since as a kid, everywhere I went with my Dad, women were screaming at him. Then as a teenager, everywhere I went with my brother, girls were screaming at him. It seems like it’s my destiny that the most important men in my life are universally adored by women!” I replied.

“So it doesn’t put a strain on your relationship?” She pressed.

“Not at all,” I said. “Everything about our relationship just keeps getting better,” I replied.

“Everything?” She said slyly.

I took the bate. “Yes, absolutely!” I said, equally coy.

Regis jumped in, “Do we need to leave you two girls alone? This is a family show, you know!”

“God, thank you!” Rob said.

“Kelly, we’ll have to do lunch the next time you’re in L.A. We can dish about our sexy husbands,” I said.

“It’s a date,” she laughed.

“And of course, if we’ll be discussing sexy husbands, we have to invite Regis’ wife, Joy.”

The audience roared and Regis looked appropriately smug. When the laughter died down, Regis said, “Yeah, it was a tie between me and RPattz here for that ‘Sexiest Man’ cover, but I was gracious and stepped down to give the next generation a chance.”

Rob played right along. “Yes, and I was so grateful to you for that.”

They went to a commercial, and Gelman came on the line, thanked me, and we hung up. The phone immediately rang again.

“Hi Rand, what’s up?” I said.

“Are you trying to put me out of business, Tinker Bell?” He laughed.

“Yup, you finally figured out my game. That’s been my life long goal – to take over Spencer Inc. What are you talking about?” I asked him.

“That Regis and Kelly bit was spectacular!” He gushed.

“Glad you approve, Randy. We aim to keep you happy.”

“I think Kelly was on to something,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“You should join Rob for the rest of this tour,” he said.

“Randy, what are you on? I’m not going to drag Kate around the globe, and I’m not going to leave her behind.”

“You wouldn’t be dragging her around the globe. New York is the last leg of the tour. Think of it as a family vacation. Bring your Mom! She loves New York.” He paused, and when I was silent, he jumped back in. “New York is decked out for the holidays, and I know you miss him.” He continued to list all the reasons this was a good idea.

“Let me talk to Mom and Rob and call you back,” I said.

“Well, about taking to Rob, I have an idea...”

*******

Two days later, my Mother, Kate and I were in New York. Rob didn’t know we were there. I was sitting in a conference room near the set of the “Tyra Banks Show” watching Tyra and Rob banter.

Tyra said, “So you’re near the end of your promotional tour. Where have you been?”

“Tokyo, Rome, Frankfurt, Paris, London, and now here,” he said.

“That’s serious jet lag,” Tyra replied.

“Yes, I’m running on fumes,” Rob said.

“Well, when we come back, we’re going to help treat your jet lag,” Tyra said.

I saw Rob raise an eyebrow. I knew no one had told him about this.

One of the producers came to get me, and I stood just off stage and watched as they started filming again.

Tyra said, “Our next guest is a specialist who helps people recover from jet lag. Please welcome Dr. Craig Schiele.” The audience applauded politely.

“Dr. Schiele,” Tyra said, “Rob has circled the globe during the past week. Do you think you can help him recover from his jet lag?”

“I’ll try,” said the doctor, smiling.

“Rob, are you game?” Tyra asked.

“Sure, I’ll take all the help I can get!” Rob said.

“Alright,” Tyra said. “Rob, go ahead, stretch out, and relax in this recliner.” Rob sat down and leaned back into the recliner while Dr. Schiele explained that he was going to use a seasonal light therapy box to help adjust Rob’s biorhythms. “We’re going to put this mask over your eyes so the light won’t bother them,” the doctor said, placing a sleep mask on Rob’s eyes. He turned the light on.

Tyra said, “We’re also going to massage your hands and arms with a sea salt treatment formulated for jet lag. How does this help?” She asked Dr. Schiele.

“The salt helps balance the body’s electromagnetic system,” he said.

That was my cue. Tyra put her finger to her lips to let the audience know they needed to be quiet. I walked over to Rob and started massaging his hand and arm with the sea salt treatment.

“How do you feel, Rob?” Tyra asked.

“Great!” He said. “This is very relaxing. Wake me up when the show is over.”

“Dr. Schiele, what else will help Rob overcome his jet lag?” Tyra asked.

“Normalizing sleep patterns is essential. So in Rob’s case, the sooner he can get back on a normal schedule, the better. Also, sleeping in familiar surroundings is important. In addition, many people don’t realize that couples synchronize their sleeping patterns, and being separated disrupts sleep for both partners,” the doctor said.

“So reuniting with his wife will help Rob get over jet lag?” Tyra asked.

“Exactly,” Dr. Schiele said.

At that, I leaned over and kissed Rob while slipping off his sleep mask.

His expression was priceless. His face broke into a broad grin as he continued to kiss me. He pulled me onto his lap and said to Tyra, “You’d better go to a commercial now since I haven’t seen my wife in a week.” Then he returned to kissing me.

The audience went wild, and Tyra said, laughing, “We’ll be right back.”


Chapter 19: Slumber Party

I was sitting in the middle of our living room, which was currently filled with teenaged girls tucked into their sleeping bags. Rob and I arranged for a special screening of Breaking Dawn the weekend before the movie opened to the public. We invited all of our ‘Airport Angels,’ as we’d nicknamed them, along with their parents, to ‘Isle Esme’ for the weekend. Their parents were staying in the resort’s villas. We invited the girls to stay at our house for a slumber party.

They arrived on Friday evening along with the entire Twilight cast. Rob’s adopted Twilight family hadn’t hesitated when we asked them to spend the weekend as an added bonus for the girls to whom we owed our daughter’s life. We hosted a party that evening, and the girls had a chance to meet the cast. Casey offered to photograph the event and make sure all of the girls had their photo taken with the cast.

It was late Saturday night now. We had watched Breaking Dawn tonight, and the girls were still buzzing with excitement. I was playing the role of ‘House Mom,’ and sleeping in the living room with the girls. Rob was upstairs manning the baby monitor for the night.

The girls were discussing the “Which Bella is Real?” contest. A page on the Breaking Dawn web site showed the portion of the trailer with the porpoise scene. There was a clip, which showed Kristen being pulled toward Rob, and her back was to the camera. There was a similar clip of me. When I first saw it, I couldn’t even tell which clip I was in. When I watched it again, I realized what gave it away was Rob’s face. He never looked that relaxed when he was in character. He always had an element of the tortured soul showing through when he was projecting Edward.

The girls were dying for me to tell them which scene I was in. We had a copy of the trailer on DVD, so I popped it into the player and turned on the TV. When it got to the scene with Kristen, I pressed ‘pause’ and said, “Look at Rob’s face.” I pressed ‘play’ again, and when my scene was on the screen, I pressed ‘pause’ once more. “Now look at his face,” I said.

“He’s happier in the second scene,” one girl said.

“You’re right,” said another.

This set off another mini debate about which scene I was in. It was so funny to listen to their reasoning and how seriously they were discussing this.

“Bella, come on! You have to tell us.”

“OK, but you all have to promise not to tell anyone since the results won’t be announced until the premier.” They all solemnly swore to keep it a secret.

“Let’s vote first. How many think I was in the first scene?” Three girls raised their hands.

“How many think I was in the second scene?” Five girls raised their hands.

“So we have some abstentions?” I asked.

“We can’t decide!”

I replayed the two scenes again, and when we got to the second scene, I pressed, ‘pause,’ and said, “The reason I told you to look at Rob’s face is because he looks so relaxed in this scene. He never looks like that when he’s playing Edward. Even when Edward is happy, there’s always the “tortured” element showing through.”

More squeals and discussion followed. I was amazed at how this topic had so thoroughly captivated them!

“Bella?” Shellie asked.

“Yes, sweetie?” I said.

“Usually, at slumber parties, we talk about boys,” she said, tentatively.

“So let’s talk about boys!” I said.

The girls squealed.

“Can we ask you about Rob?” One of the girls asked.

“Sure,” I said. “What do you want to know?”

“Is he a good kisser?” Three of them asked at the same time.

I laughed. “He is an absolutely amazing kisser.” This was followed by more squeals.

“Tell us how you met and fell in love,” Sarah said.

“Well, I think you all know we met on the Twilight set...” I told them the story of hearing Rob’s music for the first time and how working on the soundtrack led to our relationship.

“Bella?” One of the girls whispered.

“Yes?” I whispered in reply.

“What’s it like to...?” She turned bright red. “You know...”

“Make love?” I whispered.

Squeals, giggles and nodding heads erupted throughout the room. I took a deep breath. I had to choose my words very carefully!

“When you find your soul mate, making love to that person is magical. The connection is so much deeper than the physical closeness. You can feel your souls coming together as your bodies do.”

I heard murmured, “Wow’s,” and contented sighs.

“Is Rob your soul mate?” Shellie asked.

“Yes, he is most definitely my soul mate. It feels like I’ve known him since long before either of us were born.”

More sighs followed.

“OK,” I said. “You need to try to go to sleep.”

They groaned but began to quiet down. After a little while, when I was sure they were sound asleep, I slipped upstairs to check on Kate and kiss my husband goodnight. I slipped under the covers and Rob wrapped me in his arms. “I was eavesdropping,” he said.

“Oh really?” I asked.

“What you told them about making love was beautiful. I was wondering how you were going to handle that question! You sounded like you were really enjoying yourself tonight. You’re a natural ‘House Mom.’”

I thought about what he had said. “You know, I never did slumber parties as a kid. By the time I was their age, I was drinking and getting stoned with rock stars who were much older than me. I completely skipped being a teenager. Tonight was so healing. That little girl whose childhood got left behind when she was twelve got to experience what its like to be a teenager. Once again, our ‘Airport Angels’ helped us. And I thought we were doing something for them this weekend.”

He pulled me closer. “I love you so much,” he whispered.

“And I want you so much, but it would just be too weird to make love with a living room full of teenaged girls!”

“Yes! I agree.” He laughed.

“Good-night, sweetheart.” I kissed him and slipped back downstairs to my slumber party.


Chapter 20: The Look of Love

“Casey and Randy want to meet with both of us,” I told Rob, and rolled my eyes.

“Well, we know that can’t be a good thing,” he laughed.

“Right, they’ll probably want us to pose nude for the cover of a magazine,” I laughed.

*******

“Actually…” said, Casey.

I stared at him, and then laughed. “Case, this time you’ve completely lost your mind! We aren’t posing nude!”

Randy jumped in. “Just hear us out.”

“No!” I said. “You’ve both lost your minds!” I stood up. “End of discussion. You should both leave. We all have work to do, and this is a waste of time.”

“They’ll donate ten million dollars to your Half Way House Foundation,” Randy blurted out.

I stopped.

Rob and I looked at each other.

I sat back down.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“I don’t joke about that kind of money, Tink.” Randy said.

Casey jumped back in. “I will take the pictures and be the only one on the set. I’ll do my own lighting. I guarantee they will be beautiful and a work of art. They don’t want porn, here! You’ll pose so you’re not completely exposed. And,” he added frantically, “You’ll have the final say about what does or doesn’t get published. If you aren’t happy with the photos, we won’t publish anything.”

I looked at Rob.

He smiled. “Honestly, I don’t see the problem. I get to be naked with you, and the Foundation gets ten million dollars.”

I shook my head. It was three against one. I was so outnumbered.

*******

The day of our photo shoot, I was very nervous. We decided I would be the most comfortable at our house, so Casey was scurrying around our bedroom setting up lights and creating the mood he wanted. He also wanted to shoot us on the beach and in the water.

Rob and I had just spent two hours being “styled,” by the magazine’s make-up and hair specialists.

Rob was acting as if nothing at all unusual were happening. He saw that I was freaking out and put his arms around my waste. “We don’t have to do this, and even if we do, we can trash the pictures. Why are you so nervous?”

I stared at him. “Why are you not nervous?”

“I get paid to hang out in front of cameras all the time. I’m pretty used to it.”

“You don’t get paid to hang all the way out in front of cameras all the time,” I quipped.

“You have a point,” he laughed. “But in a way, it’s harder for me to be emotionally exposed than physically exposed. Every time I step in front of the camera and try to project a character, there is part of me that is always watching and judging my performance, wondering if I’m portraying the emotion in a way the audience will get. Compared to that, posing with you seems easy.”

I pulled him closer. “Thank you for saying that. It helps me put it in perspective,” I murmured against his chest.

Casey popped in. “I thought we’d start indoors and end with the water so we don’t have to re-do hair and make-up after the ocean shots.”

“I’m all for not re-doing hair and make-up,” I said.

Casey started to tell us how he would be posing us, and I could feel myself getting tense.

Rob held up his hand, and Casey shut up. Rob looked at me and said, “Why don’t you let me talk to Casey and figure out what he wants. You go outside and relax for a few minutes.”

I smiled at him and nodded, then stepped outside.

A few minutes later, Rob came outside and took my hand. “He’ll start shooting pictures of us clothed first. That way, you can relax, and he can test the light.”

Casey told us earlier that he planned to do most of the shots in black and white. I was wearing a silky white dress and Rob had on a white shirt that was unbuttoned and black pants. I had to admit, he looked hot, but then, he always looked hot.

Rob led me back upstairs, and I heard, “You and Me,” playing. He took me into his arms and started to slow dance with me. “Just forget about Casey, and focus on me,” he said.

I had to admit, they both knew what they were doing. I felt much more relaxed listening to my song and dancing with Rob. I heard the click of Casey’s camera, but as long as I focused on Rob’s eyes, I found I could block it out.

After a few minutes, Rob took his shirt off and took me back into his arms. We kept dancing that way. Casey didn’t say a word. He and Rob must have agreed that it would be best if he remained as unobtrusive as possible.

When the song ended, Casey stepped out of the room.

Rob and I got undressed and slipped between the white sheets. He motioned for me to lie on my back, and then positioned himself so he was leaning over me.

He quietly said, “OK,” and Casey came back in. Casey took a few shots while we stared at each other. I noticed Casey rearranging the sheets every once in awhile.

After several more shots, Casey adjusted the lights.

Rob explained that the next series would create a shadow effect.

Casey stepped out again while we posed so I could retain some semblance of dignity.

We sat up and faced each other. I twisted so my chest was pressed against Rob’s chest. Rob draped the sheet so it just barely covered my lower half.

Casey stepped back in and turned on a fan so my hair started to blow. This made me laugh, and Casey caught our laughter on film.

Rob just chatted with me as if we were alone. We talked about Kate, the movie he was making, and what the foundation would do with the money. Every once in awhile, he would run a finger along my cheek or push a hair away from my face. These little motions were always followed by a ‘click.’

“You are so comfortable in front of a camera. How do you do it?” I asked him.

“Part of it is that I’m just used to it. The other part goes with the job. You learn to forget it’s there. I’ve noticed that when I’m doing a scene, and I start thinking about the camera, the director will immediately cut and want to re-shoot. It’s instantly apparent on film when an actor starts thinking about acting instead of actually acting.”

“You make this look so easy,” I said.

“I guess that’s why they pay me ten million dollars a movie,” he laughed.

Casey stepped outside again.

“Time to go outside,” Rob said.

We put on bathing suits and robes and walked down to the shore where Casey had set up. Our house had its own beach, which was completely secluded from the rest of the resort. Lying in the sun with Rob, naked, on this beach wasn’t so unusual. It was being photographed while doing it that was!

We started by walking hand in hand along the shore while we still had our suits on. After Casey got several shots, Rob slipped out of his shorts and walked over to the blanket Casey had placed on the sand. I was amazed at how comfortable he was in his own skin. He walked around with nothing on as casually as he did fully clothed. I couldn’t imagine ever being that comfortable with my body.

I sat next to him and took off my top. I told Rob and Casey earlier that I wouldn’t be comfortable being completely nude for these shots. Rob lay on his back on the blanket, and I sat next to him. I bent my legs so they were discreetly between him and the camera. I twisted and let my head and hair fall back and felt the sun wash over my face.

“I’m amazed at how comfortable you are walking around nude,” I said to Rob.

“That’s partly a cultural thing,” he said. “I’ve noticed that Americans are much more up tight about their bodies than the rest of the world, especially Europeans. We threw the uptight puritans out centuries ago so we could go about enjoying ourselves.”

I laughed and heard the camera click.

The last shots were in the water. The sun was going down, and Casey wanted to capture us in silhouette. I was most comfortable with these shots because I still had my bikini bottoms on and Rob held me close to his chest the whole time.

Casey finally said. “OK! We’ve got it. You can relax Bella. You were gorgeous, honey!”

“Yes, you are gorgeous. Rob pulled me tighter, and I could feel how turned on he was.”

“So this whole thing turned you on?” I asked him, smiling.

“You - naked turns me on.” He bent his head and kissed me. “Let’s go find someplace private, shall we?”

Casey turned around to give us privacy as we got out of the water and slipped on our robes.

“Do you want to see the shots now?” He asked.

Rob looked at me and smiled.

“Ah, not now, Case. Call us later, and we’ll figure out a time,” I said.

Casey looked at us and smiled. It didn’t take a mind reader to figure out why we were ‘too busy’ to look at the pictures.

“No problem, guys. Thanks, these are going to be the best work I’ve ever done. You two were born to be on film.”

“Thanks, Case.” I said, giving him a hug.

We practically sprinted back to our room, and then stopped in the doorway as we realized Casey would have to pack up his stuff that was in there. We turned around and headed for the guest room on the other side of the house.

As soon as the door shut, Rob reached for the tie on my robe and pulled it off in one motion. He grabbed my bikini bottoms and pushed them to the floor. As I stepped out of them, he threw off his robe then picked me up and sat me on the guest room bureau. He slid his tongue into my mouth at the same time that his cock slid into me.

“Oh God,” I’ve been thinking about being inside you for hours,” he gasped.

I wrapped my legs tightly around his back and pulled his hips into mine.

He reached between us and gently brushed my clit until I threw my head back, and a passionate moan escaped my lips. He picked me up again and turned me around. I leaned over the dresser, and he slid into me from behind.

“Ugh God,” we both cried, as he plunged back into me.

“Baby, make yourself come. I want to watch you in the mirror,” he said.

I met his eyes in the mirror and slowly licked my fingers. I reached down and started rubbing my clit and kept my eyes locked on his until the pleasure became too much, and I shut my eyes and screamed.

I felt him pumping into me and watched as he threw his head back and moaned. He leaned over me and kissed the back of my neck then slowly pulled out of me. He led me to the bed, and we collapsed into each other’s arms.

“I would have paid them ten million…,” he said.

“Mmmhmmm,” I said.

We cuddled for a few minutes until Rob’s stomach started to growl.

“I’m starving,” he said.

“So I hear,” I smiled.

“You know one of my favorite things about living here?” He asked.

“That I live here too?” I smirked.

“Yes! In addition to that, I love picking up the phone and having food sent to our front door whenever we’re hungry; and not just any food, five star quality food! It’s amazing! I still can’t get used to how great that is!”

I laughed. “It is pretty great. I’ve taken it for granted for so long, I don’t even think to be grateful for it anymore, so I’m glad you mentioned it. It gives me a new appreciation for this place, to see it through your eyes. It is truly one of the most spectacular spots on the planet, and I take far too much of it for granted.”

While Rob called the kitchen and asked them to send over dinner, I put my robe back on and wandered downstairs, intending to get some tea. I stopped when I reached the living room and saw the laptop from my office sitting on the coffee table. A picture of Rob and I slow dancing in our room was on the monitor. Casey had typed a message: “Click the picture to see the rest of the shoot. I can’t wait to discuss these with you! They are beautiful beyond words. Case.”

Rob came down the stairs, slipped his arms around me, and read over my shoulder. He started to reach for the mouse, and I grabbed his hand.

“I’m not sure I’m ready for this,” I said.

He turned me so I was facing him. “Why?”

I looked at the floor.

“Bella?” He said, lifting my chin so I had to meet his eyes again.

I blurted out, “What if they’re awful? I mean, I know the pictures of you will be amazing, but I can’t stand pictures of me even when I’m fully clothed, and…”

He clicked the photo, and the next shot appeared. Rob was shirtless, and we were staring into each other’s eyes.

I gasped.

“What?” He asked.

“You…”

“What?” He raised his eyebrow.

“I’ve never seen that look before. I look at you constantly. I stare into your eyes for hours every day, but I’ve never seen you quite like that before…” I couldn’t tear my eyes from the photo.

“What do you see?” He asked.

I stared at the picture, and tears welled in my eyes.

“Bella? Honey, what’s wrong?”

I looked up, leaned into him, and shook my head to indicate nothing was wrong. I was too choked up to speak. I finally took a deep breath and said, “The way you are looking at me…it’s like love and adoration and passion and …”

He kissed me deeply.

“Yes, it’s like that.” I smiled. “He captured how it feels to be loved by you…in a picture! He’s…a genius! Click the next one!”

We sat down and started scrolling through the pictures. One was more beautiful than the next. It was as if shedding our clothes had also bared our souls. Casey’s camera caught the pure essence of the love between us.

The final shot showed us holding each other while standing in the water. The sun was setting behind us, so the image was our silhouettes. Rob was bending to kiss me. It was breathtakingly beautiful. I was so surprised and overwhelmed by the pictures’ beauty that I was speechless.

Rob just looked at me and smiled.

“You don’t seem remotely surprised,” I said.

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “You are truly the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. There was no doubt in my mind that these pictures would capture that. Casey is about to become very famous.”

I nodded in agreement.

*************

A month later, Casey called.

“Hey, Case,” I said. “What’s up?”

“You guys caused another major Internet failure today,” he laughed.

“Why? What now?” I asked.

“CANDID posted the shoot on their web site today. They expected the traffic to be heavy, so they added additional web servers and were prepared for millions of hits per hour; you guys still crashed them,” he laughed.

“Oh my God!” I said. “Well, at least they are apparently getting their money’s worth out of those photos!”

My favorite photo turned out to be, not one of Rob and me, but one that Casey took at one of the Half Way Houses the Foundation supported. He captured the image of a mother being reunited with her little girl for the first time in six months. How he managed to make a photo heart wrenching and heart warming at the same time, I don’t know, but he did. As part of our contract, we insisted that the magazine disclose that our fee was being donated to the Half Way House Foundation and that Casey’s photo of the mother and daughter be printed with ours. The editors later told us that the response to that picture was so overwhelmingly positive that they were planning a full feature story and were sending Casey back to shoot additional photos.

Casey stopped by to deliver a copy of the issue with our pictures and to fill me in on what the CANDID editor planned. After he told me about the Halfway House shoot, I saw his expression get thoughtful.

“What?” I asked him.

“Girlfriend, I know you know what you and Rob have is special. But what you don’t know is what the rest of us see. I was ecstatic with how your pictures turned out because I captured the love that the rest of us see when we watch you two together. And you two openly and willingly share that love with the world. I’m just…” He got teary and emotional.

“Oh, Case! Come here.”

We gave each other a big hug.

“Your creative genius is what made those photos come to life. You are a master at capturing emotion. I saw sides of Rob in your work that I’d never seen before. I still get tears in my eyes when I watch the slideshow.”

“Really?” He asked.

“Yes! Even the title of the article agrees with me!”

The article was titled, “The Look of Love.”


Chapter 21: Vacation

“Our anniversary is coming up,” I said, to Rob as we strolled on the beach one night after Kate fell asleep at my parent’s house.

“Yes?” He said. “And…?” He asked.

“We met just as your career exploded. You’ve been booked back-to-back for ages. Other than our quick honeymoon, we’ve never actually taken a vacation!”

“I am soooo painfully aware of that, sweetheart, and I’m very sorry.”

“I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty,” I smiled. “Your schedule was necessary to get you to where you are now.” I said.

“Now, being…?” He asked.

“Now, you have clout. You have proved you can ‘open’ a movie. You don’t need to book yourself back-to-back. You’ve got a month off when this shoot is done. How would you feel about going away with me?”

He pulled me into his arms and kissed me deeply.

“May I take that as a yes?” I asked.

“Definitely,” he said, and kissed me again. “What did you have in mind?”

“Well, Mom was talking to Roberto recently, and he was mortified about what happened with Cassandra. So he offered to let us use his island.”

“His island?” He asked. “People actually own their own islands? I thought that was something Stephenie made up.”

“You would be amazed. It’s on the top of the list of ‘toys’ people want when the money starts to roll in. We see it all the time. First comes the sports car, next the plane, and finally, the island.” I said.

“So why doesn’t your family have an island?” He asked.

“Have you noticed where we live?” I asked.

“I see your point,” he smiled.

“Anyway, Roberto entertains at his island and writes it all off as a business expense. He has a full time staff there. He said he would make it available to us for our exclusive use whenever we want it.”

“Where is it?” He asked.

“It’s off the coast of Italy. He’ll also let us use his yacht to get there.” I smiled. “Does it sound appealing?”

“Oh no! Not at all,” he said. “Can’t you do any better than that?”

I laughed. “I know, it was the best I could do, but we’ll suffer through somehow.” .

“What about leaving Kate?” He asked.

“I had a long heart to heart about that with my Mom. She’s actually the one who suggested we do this. She’s very adamant that couples need alone time in order to keep their marriage strong. She said she used to leave my brother and me with our grandparents while she and my Dad took vacations alone, and we were happily spoiled. Once I thought about it, I realized she was right. I have nothing but fond memories of those vacations with my grandparents. As I got older, I also noticed how connected and in love my parents seemed when they got back, so it always seemed like a good thing to me. I know it will be hard to leave her, but I also know we really need this time alone.”

***********

“Crap!” I said, as I ended my call with Jack.

“What’s wrong?” Rob asked.

“He has ‘Air Jordan’ booked for his tour the week we’re leaving for vacation, which means no ‘mile high’ club for us since we’ll be flying commercial.”

“You know, we could afford our own fleet of planes,” he said.

“Rob, the privileged life I’ve led and continue to lead is already very hard for me to justify when there are children dying of starvation or those who have to walk for miles every day for clean water or…”

He interrupted me. “I thought you said you were home schooled?”

I looked at him. “What does that have to do with anything?” I asked.

“Because I’d swear you were taught by some of those Puritans that we threw out of Europe centuries ago.” He laughed and went on. “First there’s the whole, ‘I’m uptight about my body,’ thing and now there’s this, ‘I have to feel guilty because I’m wealthy,’ thing,” he teased.

I rolled my eyes. “I think we’re clear that my body image has a lot more to do with my very un-Puritanical encounters with the men in my past, and my values around money come directly from my parents. Are we going to have a fight about this?” I asked incredulously.

“No!” He hugged me. “I’m sorry. I happen to agree with you.” He paused, “About the money part, not about the body image part. You can run around here naked all you like,” he laughed. “I wasn’t serious about buying a fleet of planes. But it will be a drag to fly commercial. It’s next to impossible for me to relax in public.”

I thought for a minute. “I’m determined that you are going to have a real vacation. I’ll figure something out.”

*******

Ben’s airport security friends proved to be an invaluable asset. Ben’s friend arranged for an escort who took us through the employee entrances, check points, and led us through the back hallways to avoid the public.

I had also discovered, on a previous trip, a very helpful British Airways agent whose daughter was a fan. After securing her a copy of the Eclipse DVD before it was released to the public, I’d earned her undying loyalty. She informed me that many of the B.A. personnel were more than happy to maintain our privacy; it seemed they felt an obligation to be protective of their fellow expatriates, especially the famous and gorgeous ones.

I’d also learned that carrying a supply of Twilight merchandise around with me came in very handy.

My new British Airways friend escorted us to the VIP lounge near the gate where we were to board. So far, there had been no screaming fans for Rob to deal with. I thanked her and handed her a copy of Breaking Dawn that was signed by Stephenie. She gasped, “Oh! My daughter will be ecstatic. Thank you, and have a wonderful trip!”

We sat down at a cocktail table, and I saw Rob visibly relax. “You are a miracle worker,” he said.

“It helps to have friends in the right places, as well as autographed copies of Twilight merchandise.” I showed him the contents of my carry on, and he shook his head and laughed.

The waitress came over; “Mr. and Mrs. Pattinson, it’s a pleasure to have you flying with us. Can I get you something to drink?” Rob asked for a Guinness draft, and I asked for Perrier.

I noticed other travelers enter the lounge. A few recognized Rob but just smiled and continued on.

“Since your comment about Europeans being less uptight about their bodies than most Americans, I’ve started to notice other differences. You know what else Europeans are less up tight about?” I asked.

“The list is too long for me to even begin,” he winked at me.

“You’re probably right,” I laughed. “But specifically I’ve noticed that, in general, Americans are pushier about invading your space.”

He thought for a minute. “I don’t think I’d put it like that. If we’re going to stereotype, I’d say that, in general, Britts are more reserved.”

“That would be because you threw out all of the rebellious trouble makers centuries ago,” I quipped.

“Exactly,” he smiled.

The waitress came over to tell us the flight had finished boarding, and they were ready for us to take our seats. My agent friend had arranged for us to sit at the front of the plane and board last.

When we boarded, I noticed that the flight attendant had closed the curtain between first class and coach to give us privacy while we took our seats. I glanced at the first class passengers and most of them were reading and didn’t bother to look up. A couple registered recognition, but remained nonchalant.

“So far so good,” I thought.

I sat down next to Rob. He took my hand and said, “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked.

“That was the first time since I was cast in Twilight that I have walked through an airport and on to a plane and not been accosted by paparazzi or swarms of fans. You can’t even imagine what a relief it is.” He kissed me. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said. “You look tired, sweetheart.” He had worked through the night to finish principle shooting on his current film so we could leave as planned today.

“I’m exhausted, but I can never sleep on planes; I can’t relax. I’m always afraid someone is going to recognize me and start screaming.”

“Do you trust me?” I asked.

“Of course, with my life,” he said.

“Then let me take care of you. I want you to be relaxed and rested when we get to Italy.” I handed him a sleep mask and my iPhone. “My phone has a white noise app on it. Put on the sleep mask so you’re not tempted to open your eyes and wake all the way up if there’s an announcement, and let the white noise lull you to sleep. I’ll deal with anyone who comes by wanting to meet you.”

“I can’t…,” he started to say. I put my fingers on his lips and kissed him. “Yes, you can; go to sleep.”

He smiled, put in the earphones, started the app, put on the sleep mask and leaned back.

I pulled out a book. By the time I was through the first few pages, I was relieved to note the steady, peaceful breathing next to me.

At one point, a little girl who looked about seven years old and her Mom were walking down the aisle. I smiled at her, and she gasped and said, “You’re Bella!”

“Yes,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“I’m Tracy.” She peeked at Rob.

“Is that Edward?” She whispered, wide-eyed.

Her Mom said, “Tracy, we don’t want to bother them.”

I smiled at her Mom. “It’s OK. Tracy, that’s Rob, but he’s the actor who played Edward in the Twilight movies.”

She giggled. “That’s right. I forgot!”

“Aren’t you a little young to watch Twilight? Didn’t it scare you?”

“My Mom doesn’t let me watch the scary parts. She fast forwards the bad vampires.”

She looked at her Mom. “Lisa is going to be so jealous that I got to see Bella and Edw…I mean Rob.”

“Who’s Lisa?” I asked.

“She’s my big sister. She’s thirteen. She’s back there.” She pointed to the back of the plane. “She has pictures of Rob all over her room!” I laughed.

I looked at the mother. “Do you know what seats you are in?” The mother nodded. I pulled out a pen and had her write the seat numbers on a napkin.

“Tracy, tell Lisa that when Rob wakes up, I’ll get his autograph for you and her. I’ll have the flight attendant bring it back to you, OK?”

“Really?” She looked at her Mom. I can’t wait to tell Lisa!”

The mother thanked me profusely.

About an hour later, a flight attendant whispered to me, “Mrs. Pattinson, there are a few passengers who’ve asked if they may ask for an autograph. What do you want us to do?”

I thought for a minute. “How many is a ‘few’?” I asked.

“About five or six, but I’m afraid it will start an avalanche,” she replied.

“Please write down their first names and seat numbers,” I said.

Shortly after that, the attendants turned off the cabin lights. I lifted the armrest, pulled a blanket over us and curled up against Rob’s chest. I had been asleep for a few hours when Rob suddenly jumped and woke me up. I opened my eyes to see him smiling at me.

“What woke you up?” I asked groggily. “Power surge,” he smiled. I’d noticed that sometimes when Rob was working long hours or through the night, he would get so exhausted that when he finally fell into a deep sleep, his whole body would suddenly release all the tension in one giant “jerk.” This usually woke him up. When this first happened, I was worried there was something wrong with him, but a quick Google search revealed that these “hypnic jerks” were normal when people’s sleep schedules were altered. He started calling them “power surges.”

“Go back to sleep,” I whispered.

“Mmmhmm,” he said. We shifted so he was leaning toward me. As I was drifting off to sleep, I felt him slowly unbutton and unzip my jeans.

“You’re not sleeping,” I murmured.

“Shhh.” He said, putting his fingers to my lips.

He traced his fingers around my lips then licked his fingers, slid his hand back under the blanket, and slowly worked his way back inside my jeans. He slid his fingers under the lace of my thong. I quietly gasped at his touch. It was exquisite torture to remain still and silent when my body desperately wanted to moan and writhe.

“You are torturing me,” I whispered.

“Mmmhmmm,” he replied.

The clandestine aspect of his ministrations made this experience almost unbearably erotic. I buried my face in his neck willing myself to remain quiet. His mouth was next to my ear, and I heard him whisper, “Come for me baby.” My hips arched into his hand, and I stifled my scream.

“Oh God!” I exhaled quietly against his chest.

“Sweet dreams, my love,” he said, and went back to sleep.

***************

We woke up when the flight attendants turned the lights back on. They announced we would be landing in an hour.

“Did you sleep well?” Rob asked with a sly smile.

“Yes, very, since I was so incredibly relaxed thanks to you.” I smiled and kissed him.

While we sipped coffee, I told Rob about Tracy and Lisa.

He said, “Let me see what’s in that bag of yours.” I handed him the bag. He pulled out an Eclipse DVD and signed, “To Tracy and Lisa, Thanks for watching! Rob Pattinson.”

“You’re thanking them?” I asked.

“Of course! There wouldn’t be an Eclipse DVD if no one had watched Twilight, right?” I smiled. I knew he meant what he said.

“I really respect how you treat your fans,” I told him.

“Bella, that’s like saying you respect me because I need oxygen.”

“What?” I asked.

“Of course I respect the fans. I owe my entire career, hell, my entire life to them! I had a blast shooting the Twilight movies, met you, made life long friends, and picked up a sister-in-law along the way; I now live in paradise; I have a beautiful daughter; I’m able to pick and choose my roles, and to top it off, they are willing to pay me a lot of money for something I’d willing do for free! So, yes, I respect and am grateful to the people who made this fairy tale existence possible and only ask for an autograph in return.”

He said this without a trace of a smile and with deep conviction. He meant every word, and I loved him for it.

“You realize,” I said, “that there are other successful actors out there who are not so gracious?”

“I can’t worry about them, can I? I just know that if I have a chance to say, ‘Thank you,’ I do it.”

“Wow,” I said, smiling at him.

“What?” He asked.

“I just fell further into love with you,” I said. He smiled and kissed me.

“Back to work,” he said, smiling. “I need another item to sign for Tracy and Lisa.”

I looked in the bag and pulled out one of the Twilight journals. “Perfect,” he said, signing it.

“OK, there are eight other requests from random fans back there. Here’s the list.”

He looked at it for a long time.

“What?” I asked.

“Thank you, again. I can see you ran interference so I could sleep. I really do appreciate how you take care of me.”

“You’re welcome. And thank you for taking care of me last night,” I smirked.

“My pleasure,” he smiled back at me.

I pulled a stack of Twilight postcards out of the bag. He signed them all, and I motioned for the attendant.

“Do you mind one more?” She whispered.

“No, of course not,” said Rob.

“She smiled. The captain’s daughter is a huge fan. Her name is Cassidy.”

I handed Rob a journal. He signed it and gave it to the attendant.

A few minutes later, the attendant came back with a piece of paper and handed it to Rob. He opened it, and we grinned at each other. Tracy had drawn a picture of a castle. A prince and princess were standing in front of it, and underneath she had written, “Bella and Rob.” At the bottom, she wrote, “Dear Mr. Pattinson, (My mother says I have to call you that.) Thank you for the DVD and the journal. Your friend, Tracy xxxooo”

“OK, can we just give her everything in the bag?” He asked me, smiling.

“I’m afraid not,” I said. “It’s my emergency stash.” He laughed. I pulled out a postcard, and Rob reached for it. “Not this one,” I said and smiled.

I wrote, “Dear Tracy, I love the picture you drew of Rob and me in front of a castle. When we get home, I’m going to frame it and hang it in our room. Thank you. Your friend, Bella.”

I caught the eye of the flight attendant. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I have one more.”

“Not a problem at all, Mrs. Pattinson.” She took the card.

A minute later, there was a very loud squeal followed by Tracy yelling, “MOMMY, THEY ARE GOING TO HANG MY PICTURE IN THEIR ROOM!” We looked at each other and burst out laughing.

This vacation is off to a very good start, I thought.


Chapter 22: Paradise Found

To say that Roberto’s island was paradise did not do it poetic justice.

Every wall of the main house was comprised of glass doors that slid to the side and folded conveniently out of the way. The breeze and the sound of the waves constantly surrounded us, even while we slept.

I loved the Pacific Ocean and its surfer’s paradise waves. However, the Mediterranean looked as if someone had painted it turquoise purely for our benefit. We floated for hours, bobbing in the gentle waves.

Until now, I thought the Cielo’s staff was second to none. However, Roberto’s staff somehow managed to anticipate our every need yet remain virtually invisible. I made a mental note to ask him how they were trained.

The true magic of the island was watching Rob become more relaxed than I had ever seen him.

We were lying on the sand; his eyes were closed. I ran my finger across his forehead. He took my hand and kissed it. He opened his eyes. “You look very pensive,” he said.

“Mmm, I guess I am,” I replied. “I’ve never seen you so relaxed. Ever since I’ve known you, there’s been a slight crease right here,” I said running my finger over his forehead again. “I just realized it’s gone.”

“Bella, truly, I have never even been close to as relaxed as I feel right now.” He pulled me into his arms.

“You know, this week has been reminiscent of your lustfully libidinous pregnancy days,” he murmured into my ear.

“Mmmm,” I replied.

“So now that you aren’t nursing Kate…” Rob said.

“Yes?” I asked.

“Maybe we need to get started on child number two of the fifteen that we are planning?”

I laughed. “Maybe fifteen would be just a tad irresponsible of us given the world’s population explosion.”

“OK, a dozen, then,” he said smiling.

“Once my period…,” I abruptly stopped talking.

“What?” He asked.

“What’s today’s date?” I asked him.

“The seventeenth,” he said.

I started to count on my fingers. I counted again, and then gasped.

“I think I know why I’ve been so lascivious! I forgot! I did get a period again after you started giving Kate a morning bottle of formula. But I just realized that only happened once. It stopped again!”

“So you’re pregnant?” He asked.

“I think so!”

He grabbed me and kissed me. “Let’s find out for sure! Wait, there’s no drugstore on this island!”

I laughed. “I’ll ask Elena to bring over a test kit from the mainland tomorrow.”

The next afternoon, the cook, Elena arrived and handed me a package.

“Here’s is the item you requested from the pharmacy, Mrs. Pattinson.” She gave me a warm smile.

Rob overheard her and came running over to me. It was like watching a little kid on Christmas morning; he was so excited!

“You need to drink something! What do you want?”

I laughed. “Iced tea would be great.”

“I’m on it!” He came back a few minutes later and handed me a glass. He sat on one of the oversized patio chairs and pulled me into his lap. While I sipped my tea, we talked about what life would be like with another baby.

After I finished the tea, I picked up the test box and started to walk toward the house.

Rob stood up, and I turned and smiled at him.

“Stay,” I said. “I can do this myself.”

He laughed and sat back down.

I leaned against the counter in the bathroom staring at the test, willing the one line that appeared to turn into two. The two lines were supposed to appear within three minutes. I waited for ten, and then heard a knock.

“Honey?” Rob said through the door.

I opened the door with tears in my eyes and shook my head, no.

Rob hugged me. “Bella, it’s OK. We know we can have kids. And we’re certainly experts at our attempts to create them.” He looked at me and smiled. I tried to smile back.

“I was so sure. It’s just really disappointing,” I sniffed.

We held each other for a while then walked down to the beach. One of the advantages of a private island is that clothing was truly optional. We shed our bathing suits and walked into the ocean. We swam until we found a secluded cove. Rob pulled me toward him, and I slipped me hands into his hair and wrapped my legs around his waist.

I ran my tongue along his neck and said, “I don’t think we’re normal.”

“I thought ‘normal’ was a cycle on a washing machine?” He asked, as he kissed along my shoulder.

I laughed. “I guess a better word is ‘average.’ I’ve read and heard that many couples lose interest in sex over time. I want you more now than ever. I only have to look at you, and my body responds, and forget it if I’m actually naked anywhere near you! There’s nothing else I’m capable of thinking about.”

“From comments your Dad has made and from they way he looks at Kelly, I’d say your parents are not ‘normal’ either.”

“Hmm, I’ll have to ask Mom about that when we get home,” I said.

“You can’t be serious?” He asked. “You would actually ask your Mom about her sex life?”

“I’m an American, remember? We have no reservations about invading someone’s privacy.” He laughed and kissed me.

His kiss returned my thoughts to how much I wanted him. This vacation redefined my definition of mind blowing, but even when we weren’t on vacation, there had barely been a day since we were married that we hadn’t made love. If we didn’t, it was because one of us was too sick to do anything except sleep or because Rob was traveling. But even when he was traveling, we managed to work around that with the creative use of technology. That thought made me smile.

“What are you thinking?” He asked.

“I’m thinking that I need to feel you inside of me right now.”


Author’s Note: The inspiration for Roberto’s Island was Richard Branson’s island, which you may rent for only $46,000 PER NIGHT. There’s a slideshow on my website on the “The Sound of Love Images” page which shows pictures of Branson’s island paradise. http://sites.google.com/site/addicted2twylyte/


Chapter 23: Happily Ever After

Forty Weeks Later…

“I CAN’T DO THIS!” I screamed.

“Yes, you can. You’re almost there,” Rob said and squeezed my hand.

“I can see his head, Bella. Push!” I heard the mid-wife say.

“Uuuuuuuuggggg!Ahhhhhhh!” I screamed and pushed.

“His head is out,” Rob said.

“One more big push, Bella,” the mid-wife said.

“I can’t! I can’t do it.”

“Yes, you can. This is it. Once more, sweetheart. You can do this.” Rob kept up the pep talk.

“We...ugh...are...ahh...NEVER...ahh...having...ugh...sex...ahh...AGAIN!”

Some maternal instinct kicked in, a final energy reserve and gave me the strength to push our son into the world.

“You did it!” The mid-wife said as she placed our little boy on my stomach. Rob cut the umbilical chord, and she whisked him away to suction his mouth and nose and wrap him up.

“I love you so much,” Rob said, kissing my forehead.

“Me too,” I said, exhausted. “Is he OK?”

“He’s perfect,” the nurse said, handing me a fluffy blue bundle.

“Oh!” I gasped. “He looks exactly like you,” I said to Rob. “He’s gorgeous, just like his Daddy!”

“No,” Rob said. “Look at those eyes. He definitely has your soul filled eyes.”

I stared into our son’s eyes and had the feeling that we had met a long time ago. “Hello little man,” I said. “Welcome to the world. We love you with all our hearts.”

Rob climbed into bed with us, and the three of us snuggled.

“Now that you know what he looks like, what do you think his name is?” Rob asked.

“You know, we talked about using Jordan as his middle name like we did for Kate. But he looks like a ‘Jordan,’ to me. What about using ‘Jordan,’ as his first name?”

“I hadn’t thought of that, but I really like it,” Rob said.

“Jordan Richard Pattinson?” I looked at Rob. Richard was his father’s name.

“Perfect,” he said.

A few nights later, we were sitting on our bed. Jordan had just finished nursing and was drifting off to sleep.

Rob reached into his bedside table and pulled out an elegantly gift wrapped box. He placed it on the bed between us and said, this is your half birthday present. He took Jordan from my arms.

“Is this gift going to make me fall over laughing?” I asked, smiling at him.

“I certainly hope not,” he said grinning back at me.

I unwrapped the box and lifted the lid to see the most beautiful heart shaped locket I had ever seen. It was gold, inlaid with a diamond, an emerald, an amethyst and an aquamarine, the birthstones for each member of our family.

“Oh, honey, this is so beautiful,” I said. I opened it; one side held Kate’s baby picture, and the other side held Jordan’s. I got tears in my eyes. I put it on, leaned over, and kissed Rob. “Thank you, so much. I love it. I don’t think I’ll ever take it off.”

“You’re so welcome.” He brushed his fingers across my cheek. “You must be exhausted. Try to sleep.” I nodded and laid down. I watched my husband stare into our son’s eyes with such love that tears filled my eyes again. Rob was right; I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept much since Jordan’s birth; yet I didn’t want to close my eyes. This moment was too perfect. As Rob looked at our son, I saw a new universe unfold in his eyes. I could see the hopes, dreams, fears, and pure love streaming from his heart, of which, a very large part now belonged to Kate and Jordan.

I watched them until my eyes refused to stay open. Before my eyes closed, they landed on the framed picture that Tracy had drawn for us of a prince and princess in front of a castle. When I had it framed, I added the text to the bottom, “And They Lived Happily Ever After.”

The End.


Epilogue

Two Years Later...

BPOV

“Ben,” I said. “Kellen told us that he caught the Winters girls putting a drug in his drink. This has to stop.”

“You set up the bait, honey. I’ll take care of the rest,” Ben smiled.

A few weeks later, Brad and Angie hosted an elaborate A-list party. They normally would never allow the Winters girls anywhere near their property, but they told security to look the other way on that particular night. Rob, Ben, Kristen and I arrived early and went upstairs to watch the party from the monitor set up to play back the security feeds.

Jack had readily agreed to serve as bait. I was sure that they would go after him in revenge. I knew they would surmise that if they couldn’t have my husband, they’d go for the next best thing.

We watched Jack make the rounds.

Just about the time the party was peaking, the girls strolled in and surveyed the room. I noticed the eyebrows that were raised among Angie and Brad’s guests at seeing those two there, but the guests were too polite to comment.

Jack had an earpiece so Ben could talk to him.

“They’ve arrived,” Ben said to Jack.

I saw him glance in their direction. He made his way to the end of the bar and ordered a drink, and then started chatting with the guest sitting next to him.

In less than two minutes, they circled him like vultures. Jack was bugged, so we heard the entire conversation.

“Hi Jack,” Sasha cooed. “It’s so good to see you again.”

“I’m sorry, have we met?” Jack said.

I laughed. My brother could be a jerk, but I had to love the guy.

“Oh Jack, you’re so funny! We met you at the MTV awards party. I’m Sasha Winters, and this is my sister Paloma.”

“Oh, hello,” Jack said, obviously unimpressed.

I grabbed the mic Ben used to talk to Jack. “Don’t play too hard to get! You’ll scare them off.”

I saw him smile slightly as if to say, “I know what I’m doing.”

“Where’s Kristen?” Paloma asked.

“She’s working,” he said.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Paloma said in a most unsympathetic tone. “You must get very lonely when she’s not around.”

“Yes, I do miss her a lot when we’re apart,” he said.

Sasha put her hand on his shoulder and whispered into his ear, “We could help ease your loneliness, Jackie.”

Kristen looked at me, “How exactly was it that you refrained from killing them when you had the chance?”

I smiled at her. I looked back at the monitor and heard Jack say, “Uh, no, thanks.”

“Oh. My. God! What is it with you and that brother-in-law of yours? You’re like priests!”

“We’re both very lucky men; we happen to be in love with our beautiful wives.”

They giggled. “What’s love got to do with it? We’re just talking about having a little fun.”

Paloma put her hand on Jack’s cheek and turned him so he was facing her and his back was to Sasha. Sasha dropped something into Jack’s drink.

We had them.

“That’s it,” Ben said into the mic. “Don’t touch that drink.” Ben picked up a radio and said, “Let’s go.”

I watched as one of the guests left the group he had been talking to and followed two very large security guards toward the bar. Ben had pointed him out earlier and told us he was a plain-clothes police officer. He approached Jack and the girls. I saw him flash his police badge and say,

“Excuse me, but you ladies need to follow us quietly out of here.”

I saw the security guard carefully pick up Jack’s glass with a napkin and put it into a plastic box.

The girls immediately started causing a scene. The officer whispered something to them that we couldn’t hear. They suddenly looked mortified and then calmed down and followed him outside.

“Come on!” I grabbed Rob’s hand. This was just too good to miss.

We went out the back and walked to the front. Rob had one arm around my shoulder and the other around Kristen’s shoulder. None of us could contain the joviality we felt. As we walked by the police car, I locked eyes with Paloma. I gave her a knowing smile, and Kristen and I waved as we walked back into the party.

The next day, Mom told me that Sheila Winters, the girls’ stepmother had called her to apologize. Sheila and my mother were on the Hospice board.

“Sheila was mortified,” my mother said. “She’s tried to get Walter to rein them in for years, and he refused to do anything about their behavior. But she said this time he was furious and refused to bail them out of jail. He’s decided to cut off access to their trust funds, credit cars, cars, the works. He said until they can prove they are grown ups, they won’t get another dime.”

“Well that will hurt much more than their probation and community service,” I said.

Mom looked far away.

“What are you thinking Mom?”

“How lucky I am that you and Jack turned out so well. You could easily have been spoiled brats like the Winters girls, but somehow, you are compassionate, loving, talented, beautiful and amazing people! I feel so blessed.”

She had tears in her eyes.

“Oh Mom, come here.” We hugged for a long time.

“Jack and I are the lucky ones. Children learn from watching their parents. I remember, growing up, how you and Dad looked at each other, and I could just see the love flow between you too. It made me feel loved to see what you two shared,” I said.

“Oh, honey, that’s beautiful. Thank you for telling me that.”

********

That evening, I was sitting on Kate’s bed, reading to her. I noticed Rob appear and lean against the doorframe listening. When I was done with the book, I looked up at Rob and smiled. He smiled at me, and I felt that familiar surge of love from across the room.

Kate looked up at me then knelt on the bed. She put her hands on my cheeks and stared into my eyes with a very serious look.

“What is it, sweetheart?” I asked her.

“Mommy, how do you do that?”

“How do I do what, sweetie?”

“How do you make Daddy send all of that love across the room like that?”

Rob and I burst out laughing. He walked over and swept her up and twirled her around while she laughed. He set her back down on the bed and put his hands on her cheeks and looked into her eyes. He said, “It’s very easy to send love across the room when you love someone so much.”

She giggled and they rubbed their noses together.

We tucked her in and sat on either side of her while she fell asleep.

“She is stunningly beautiful, like her mother.”

“Like her father,” I corrected.

He rolled his eyes. “I’m still waiting for the day that you just say, ‘Thank you,’ and mean it, when I tell you that you are beautiful.”

I looked into his eyes and saw our love reflected back at me. “Thank you,” I said, and I meant it.


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