|Same Beginnings, Different Endings
Author: ericastwilight PM
This is a challenge I came up with to help encourage myself and others to write. Every chapter is a considered a one shot. A beginning is provided and each of us must write the rest of the story. Check out the others involved inside.Rated: Fiction M - English - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 3 - Words: 31,586 - Reviews: 116 - Favs: 104 - Follows: 128 - Updated: 05-11-12 - Published: 03-21-12 - id: 7947129
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
AN: Two hundred fifty to five hundred words (or so) will be written as the beginning of the exercise and you the author must come up with what happens next. Anything is possible. The goal is to see what the possibilities could be and help with writer's block. Word count is unlimited and is completely up to the author.
All beginnings have been written by ericastwilight
Current participants: ericastwilight – kyla713 – SpunkRansom101 - cheshirekat516
Challenge Three – Coffee and Fumes
For three years, she came to the same place, ordered her favorite drink of the week, sat at her favorite table and did what she loved to do. She'd been doing it since she was child, and found her calling in writing fiction in a few different genres. It was there, that she wrote her first published book at only twenty-three years of age, and had written three more since.
She found her sanctuary in the corner of a beautiful pergola-type patio. Most of the other regulars would pass her by, offering a quick hello, knowing that if her hand was scratching away in her notebook it best not to bother her.
It was too bad that he wasn't a regular.
Cocky, arrogant and annoyingly persistent he was always there when she arrived every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning for the last month.
She remembered the first time she met him. She was already sitting in her spot, deep in concentration in a pivotal scene between her protagonists and antagonist. A thunderous roar of a motorcycle, near the turnabout where many people were dropped off, startled her.
She scowled at the little tear in her notebook page, resisting the urge to turn around and flip off the asshole. When it happened again, she shifted in her chair, making sure the skirt she wore didn't ride up her thighs, but froze when she heard a deep, rich groan.
The sound was followed by another rev of the engine and a noxious cloud of fumes. She wanted to scream, but managed to only glare toward the culprit that dared interrupted her. Instead of an apologetic smile, she met a cocky smirk and matching arched brow. Being a constant observer of her surroundings, her perusal of him was meticulous, taking every detail in.
He was tall, straddling a huge Harley, dressed in dark jeans and jacket, and black combat boots. There was scruff on his angled jaw, with hints of auburn highlights that matched his hair beneath the spiked helmet he removed and held under his arm.
When her eyes returned to his face, she nearly growled at the smirk that seemed to have doubled in size. His eyes were a bright green that seemed to dance with delight. It was his remark that made it worse for him, "Want a ride?"
"You can't park there." She cocked her eyebrow, kept her face as blank as possible, and then she yawned. That earned her the hardest glare she'd ever seen. Had Bella known that by doing what she'd done, that he wouldn't allow her a moment of peace, she would've rethought her actions.
He parked in the space closest to her table at first. Had spent and inordinate amount of time on his bike, trying to get her attention again. And when that didn't work, he started to sit at the table beside her and get her to talk. She answered in monosyllables each time.
Yet, he kept coming back, even started to get there early. His reasoning, he explained once was, "You don't seem to like the Harley. So I thought it would be best that I'd already be here when you arrived."
She changed her schedule after that, but it didn't work. He'd been there waiting. After the second week, she'd given up and spent about twenty minutes answering questions every day he was there. Through those questions she found out more about him and she had thought it would be no different that day.
It wasn't. Her table was free, but Edward was not at the one beside hers, where he usually sat. She racked her brain, trying to remember if he mentioned something that would explain his absence.
Twenty minutes after arriving, lost in her writing, she heard the unmistakable sound of a car parking in his usual spot. Curious, she looked over her shoulder and gasped. She watched as Edward's corded body walked around a black SUV, helping a beautiful little blue-eyed boy from a car seat in the back.
He offered her a smile as he set the child on his feet, barely reaching Edward's knees. "Come on, buddy." Hand in hand the duo climbed up the patio's ramp, disappearing inside the store.
Bella's heart pounded in her chest. Edward Cullen had just become irresistible. She rolled her eyes at her own mind's denial. He'd always been, she knew that even when she tried to deny it, but before he seemed to have only one thought on his mind.
Getting in her pants, and he didn't seem the relationship type. She stayed away from those types of men, having been burned twice before.
Would a child, whether his or a relative's, prove to Bella that there was more to him?
She'd have to wait and see.
"Evan," Edward said softly, bringing the baby's attention to him instead of the colorfully tattooed man in front of them. He knew the guy was a regular, but he hadn't learned his name yet. When Evan looked up at him, his eyes were as big as saucers and he pointed at the very large man.
"Per-wry," Evan said with a giggle. "Where's Perry?"
Taking a careful look, Edward realized that Evan was correct. One of the characters of the show Evan watched almost daily was tattooed on the man's forearm. When it wiggled slightly as the guy flexed his muscles, it sent Evan in a fit of giggles.
"Cute kid," the man said, smiling and flexing again. "I got the tattoo for my boy, made his month."
"I'm sure it did," Edward said, knowing exactly what the man meant. A person would do just about anything for family and Edward was no different.
"First time I'd seen you here without the bike," he pointed out. "Probably earn some points with a certain brown-eyed beauty on the patio." The man, a Native-American that stood about as tall as Edward at six-three was in his late thirties, heavily muscled, but the ring on his finger at least indicated he was married. Good, no competition, Edward thought.
Edward shrugged, a bit embarrassed that he'd been that obvious for the past month. "I seriously doubt it," he muttered. If the look she'd given him as he passed her on the way inside was any indication, he was no closer to knocking down that wall around her made of brick and mortar.
He lifted Evan into his arms, tipping his head back when the kid tried to smack his face. The little guy wasn't exactly in the mood to be held as of late, choosing to be as independent as possible, which of course, usually led to trouble.
"Oh, I don't know," the tattoo guy said. "She hasn't taken her eyes off the door since you came in here."
Edward's head snapped toward the exit, trying to catch a glimpse of his brown-eyed goddess. It wasn't until Tattoo Guy started laughing that he realized he couldn't see a thing from where they stood.
I walked right into that one.
"I'm Jacob," Tattoo Guy offered, extending his hand. "I'll tell you one thing that will get her to talk to you more." Edward tried to appear as uninterested as possible, and as if he wasn't already mentally taking notes. "Talk to her about books. She's a writer, you know. Published, too."
"Thanks," Edward mumbled and breathed a sigh of relief when the barista called Jacob to take his order. He turned his attention to Evan, fixing his little collar. "Do you want chocolate?" Evan with his little mouth agape, pointed to the pastries. "Want some cake?"
Evan's baby blond hair shook along with his head. "Nana."
When it was finally their turn, he ordered Evan his banana and chocolate milk and his usual drink. Recognizing the barista, he asked his standard question whenever Bella had gotten to there before him.
"Good mood or bad mood?"
Evelyn, a mother of three and part-time student answered, "She ordered her tea, so that means…"
"Good mood," Edward said with a waggle of his eyebrows. "Good for me."
"Who's the cutie?" Evelyn asked, taking his card.
"This is Evan Cullen," he answered. "Say hi, buddy."
Evan pulled out his thumb from his mouth, whispering, "Hi bud-dy." They both laughed as Edward moved toward the other end to collect their order. After setting Evan on his feet, he led him through the door to the patio, finding his usual table.
Edward avoided looking at her, even though he wanted to. He'd been trying very hard, too hard to get Bella to talk to him only to find out that she was an actual writer. No wonder she barely said a handful of words to him that first day. He'd been interrupting her creative flow and he knew first hand that it wasn't appreciated.
However, knowing what she did for living wouldn't have tried to stop him from talking to her, he wouldn't have been so freaking persistent. He internally groaned— he must've seemed like an annoying bug she couldn't swat.
He wasn't going to continue on the way he used to, making a fool of himself. If all the baristas and even the regulars knew how bad he had it for her, she had to have seen his heart on his sleeve. It'd been obvious from the start that she hadn't been interested. Maybe attracted, but that only went so far.
Perhaps it was time to give up on his fantasy woman.
Bella offered the little boy a smile, earning one in return. The child blushed under her gaze, making her grin further. He was adorable.
"Hi there," she greeted him and then looked at up at the familiar face. "Hello, Edward."
"Hello, Bella," he said somewhat gruffly, avoiding her eyes for some reason. As he managed to settle his companion, he didn't say another word. To her, that was highly unusual. Edward had been the chattiest man she'd ever met. "He's adorable."
Before sitting on his own chair, she'd seen his shoulders tense. Once settled down, his eyes finally met hers. There was a little hostility in them, something she hadn't seen before. Though she thought that perhaps she deserved it.
"He's not my son if that's what you're thinking," he said firmly.
Bella cocked an eyebrow at his tone and shook her head slightly. "I hadn't thought that. He looks nothing like you."
Edward nodded, dropping his gaze to the little boy. "If you say so," he murmured. "This is my little brother, Evan."
"Little brother," she said with a laugh.
Edward's eyes met hers again, smiling at her for the first time since he walked onto the patio. "He was a bit of a surprise to my mother and step-father."
"I'm sure he was," she said, smiling at Evan who hadn't taken his eyes off her. "What two or three?"
Edward nodded and replied, "Three, next month is his birthday."
"Hi, Evan," she said to him. What surprised her was how he extended his hand for her to take. She had to leave her seat, but when she did take it, Evan smiled brighter. "I'm Bella."
"Bwellwa," he tried once and then again. "Bewlla."
"Bella," she repeated once more. Evan tried again, smiling when she nodded. "That's right. What do you have there?"
"Nana," he said, grabbing the fruit that Edward had already broke off for him.
"I like that you're talking to him normally," Edward said softly. "Most don't and use a baby voice."
Bella sighed. "I used to work at a day care center, I was told on my first day not to you use it. I guess that practice stuck with me."
"What are you working on?" It was the first time he'd ever asked the question and that surprised her. She didn't think he ever noticed, taking time instead to ply her with questions.
"My next book," she said with a smile. "But I'm not telling you my penname."
It was Edward's turn to grin and perhaps tease. She took the initiative for the first time to talk to him, so perhaps it wasn't a lost cause. "Why is that?" he asked innocently and internally smiled when her eyes narrowed.
There was his goddess, passionate, outspoken, smart and sexy as hell.
"Because then you'd go out to get one and read it."
"What's wrong with that?"
She shrugged and looked away. "You wouldn't be able to refrain from giving me your opinion."
"Does my opinion matter?"
Her eyes met his briefly, before delicate pink tickled her cheeks, absolutely sweet. "Maybe," she murmured, laughing when her gaze fell on Evan. "I hope you have wipes handy."
Edward groaned when he'd seen the mess his brother had already made. "You're too much of a distraction." He kept his tone playful, but even he could hear the truth behind his words.
That just made her day. "You have been, too," she admitted not only to him but to herself. As he wiped Evan's face with a napkin, she could see confusion tighten his brow. "I'm sorry."
"You have nothing to apologize for," he murmured. "I've been disturbing your writing. I should've backed off."
"I'm apologizing because I've judged you before getting to know you," she replied, shaking her head. "I hadn't meant to, but you reminded too much of some unsavory characters in my past."
"You of all people judged a book by its cover," he said, his eyes darkening. She cringed, knowing she hadn't scored any points with him there. "So what? I show up with a kid in tow and I'm now a likeable guy?" His tone said it all. She angered him. "You finally could see past the Harley, tattoos and attitude."
"To be honest, he clinched it." His eyes narrowed further, forcing her to confess more. "But I didn't like seeing your table empty when I arrived." Her voice was so soft; she sort of hoped he hadn't heard her.
His tight-lipped scowl twitched into a smirk and his eyes danced with delight. He returned Evan's cup to him, tearing another piece of banana for him. Though he could feel her eyes on him, he had yet to meet them again after her confession.
She deserves to stew a bit, he thought.
What is he thinking? She asked herself.
He sat back, crossing his arms over his chest. She could see his corded muscles beneath his fitted t-shirt. His face was once again showed nothing of what he was thinking. She knew what she'd said would upset him, but so far he'd been honest with her.
"Is that right?" he said after a couple of minutes of tension-filled silence. She simply nodded, looking down at her notebook, cursing the fact that she had doodled his name in the margins –again. She had been since the beginning.
Why had she denied her attraction, her feelings, for so long?
His scowl turned into a smirk. "Admit it, Bella. You missed me." She tauntingly raised her chin in defiance at his words. "I want to hear it, beautiful."
"I missed talking to you."
Edward raised an eyebrow as he brought his hands together, clapping. They both laughed as Evan joined in the festivities, giggling, too. "Was that so hard?" he asked with a little taunt in his voice.
She rolled her eyes. "Yes."
"Bel-la," Evan called, reaching for her, but she was too far away. She bit her lip, wondering if she should ask.
"Would you like to sit with us?" Edward asked softly, watching the desire in her eyes.
"You don't mind?" As she asked, her gaze met his again. There was still fear within them, a wariness that made him question what some asshole probably did to her.
"Please," he offered, gesturing to the chair across from him. He watched as she meticulously packed up her things before taking a seat his table. "Now will you tell me what you write?"
She laughed softly as Evan drew her attention again, handing her a piece of his banana. "You eat it," she said to him, smiling when his mouth popped open.
"Evan," Edward groaned, chuckling when Bella slipped the piece of fruit into his little mouth. "You don't have to do that. That's his way of flirting."
"Oh really?" she playfully teased. "I wonder where he gets that from."
He smiled and arched an eyebrow. "You're doing it again, Bella." They both knew he meant judging again.
"I'm never going to live that down, am I?" He only smiled in response. "You said step-father?"
"Yes," Edward replied and grinned. "You managed to steer the conversation away from you again. Nice try."
"I write a mystery romance series," she answered with a pout. "It's sort of no fair. You always ask questions, and I answer."
"Of course. I was trying to find things that I could use to knock a few walls down."
She looked thoughtful. "I think that's another thing I realized this morning. You might look like, though much better looking, like my exes, but they never were so persistent."
"Good to know," he said. "Don't let the Harley and scuff," he rubbed his jaw, wishing he had shaved earlier, "fool you. I may look like a hard –" he trailed off and then covered Evan's ear, "ass, but I'm a website designer and computer tech."
She patted her chest with a pretty hand, batting her long lashes over her baby browns. "Be still my heart," she teased. "That explains the fact that you're here about every day. I thought you were independently wealthy."
"I'm not, parents do pretty well for themselves, though," he said, turning his attention to his brother when he called him. "What is it, buddy?" Evan pointed at Bella, murmuring something she couldn't hear. "Yes, she is pretty."
Bella cursed the blush that rose rapidly to her flush her neck and allowed her hair to drape over her shoulder to shield her from Edward's observant gaze. Then she cursed herself. He said she had walls he'd been trying to tear down for weeks and there she was hiding behind another. She steeled herself with a deep breath and curled her loose hair behind her ear.
When she lifted her gaze, she found Edward smiling at her, offering a smug wink. She rolled her eyes and pulled out her notebook.
"I don't get it, you're a writer but why handwrite?"
Bella shrugged and bit her lip to find the words that would best explain her reasons. "I've tried working at home or here with a laptop, but there are too many distractions, internet, ringing telephones, annoying neighbors and such. Not to mention that darn," that made him grin, "delete button. I see what I just wrote and question myself and there I go restarting the same sentence. Writing in a notebook with a pen doesn't let me do that. I go with the flow and my instinct."
Edward kept his eyes on her sweet face, the passion behind her explanation clear in both her gaze and color that rose in her cheeks. He'd seen how she hadn't handled taking a compliment well by hiding behind the wealth of dark hair. But that fighter inside her defiantly pushed back her natural inclination to hide. He'd never met someone like her, shy and sweet, but very tough.
"I like that about you," he said, watching her brow furrow. "You're outspoken about everything you feel strongly about. And the way you talk with not only words, but all of you, especially your hands."
She blushed again, making him smile. His fingers itched to touch the warm, soft skin. It had to be soft; skin that looked that smooth couldn't be otherwise.
"You haven't been around for one of my rants," she said with a laugh. "When I've been known to knock a chin or two."
Edward laughed and turned his attention back to his brother. "Do you still want more?" he asked, holding out the rest of the banana toward him. Evan's little nose scrunched and shook his head. He pointed instead to the backpack Edward had slung on the chair earlier. "Okay, you can have your colors if you eat the rest."
Evan seemed to think about it before he stuffed the last piece in his mouth. With a cheek full of fruit, he asked again for his things. Edward pulled them out, setting them aside to clean Evan's hands, and once done, he handed the coloring book and chunky crayons to him.
He looked to see Bella smiling wistfully at them. "I know that look."
"Oh please," she teased. "As if you don't know that power of the picture the two of you make." He shrugged but he could only contain his smile for so long. When it emerged, she playfully smacked his forearm. "You smile genuinely when you're with him."
Edward sighed and nodded. "Yeah, sorry about that, but nothing else was working."
She grinned at his confession. "Sweetie, you started out with the," she covered Evan's ear, making the child giggle, watching the two adults, "Fuck-me smirk."
His eyes widened and then narrowed. "I won't even try to deny it."
She laughed and said, "Ask me out again." Edward merely smiled and ruffled his brother's hair. "Nothing's stopping you now. Is the lack of a challenge making you change your mind?"
His eyes met hers and he could see the doubt fill them. Her teeth scraped her bottom lip, before she pulled it between them. She was nervous, that was clear. When her gaze fell back to the table, he realized he'd taken too long to respond.
"I wouldn't have tried so hard if it was only because of the challenge, Bella," he said thoughtfully. "I've been told no before."
She giggled accompanied by a blush inducing snort. "I'm sure that's true."
"Nevermind," he growled as she continued to laugh, joining her after a few moments. "All right. Did you get all of that out of your system?" She shrugged. "I have a feeling without some of those walls around you, we'll be smiling and laughing a lot more."
"Maybe," she said, shaking her head. "I admit I'm usually not so comfortable talking with anyone. I prefer to write and observe. That doesn't mean I don't live an actual life. I walk everyday here and back to my place. I have a dog that I often take with me on hikes. I travel several times a year with a few of my best friends. I love meeting my readers, even if it's a little overwhelming. Last week, I celebrated hitting the New York Best Sellers list for the third time."
"I never doubted that for a second," Edward said, laughing when Evan handed his coloring book to Bella. He watched as she took the book from his brother, taking the offered crayon, too. In exchange, she turned to a clean page in her notebook, setting it out in front of Evan. He didn't miss the glimpse of his name on one of the pages.
They both watched as Evan enthusiastically attacked the page with a green crayon. "No one that talks like you do, tips her head up to the sky to feel the sun on her face, and smiles with her eyes would ever be accused of not having a life."
She shrugged. "You'd think I was a recluse since everyone always is trying to get me to go out and do something. I'm not." Her hand cupped her neck, another nervous gesture. "Will you let me make it up to you?"
Edward smiled and looked into her eyes. "And how are you going to do that, beautiful?"
He shook his head. "Not enough time."
She smiled, her hand moving from her neck, along her shoulder before she rested it against the table. "What are you doing tomorrow?"
"All day?" She nodded. "Not much, I have to drop off Evan at Mom's in the morning, but after that, I'm free."
"Meet me here," she said softly. "I still need my drink first thing."
He laughed. "All right. Tomorrow it is."
"It's a date," she murmured. They both smiled, almost oblivious to everything around them.
That was until a little voice made himself known. "Date, date, date," Evan chanted.
Edward groaned and shook his head. "I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to keep you a secret from my mom now."
She looked at him confused. "Why would I be a secret?" There was a nervous look in her eyes again and Edward hated it. Something pretty bad had to have happened to her by some asshole that was too stupid to see how lucky he'd been to have her.
"It means I'd have to share you," he said petulantly, earning a small smile from her. "And I already have stiff competition." His eyes fell on how Evan clasped Bella's pinky firmly in his little fist. She laughed, making Evan giggle sweetly. When he drew her hand up to kiss her finger, she looked at Edward in question. "That's his Dad's fault. He's constantly doing that with my mother."
"Follows by example," she said, returning Evan's sweet kiss on his fist. He gently patted her cheek then returned his attention to his artwork.
"Hey, Bella," Jacob said, coming toward their table. He dropped into a chair nearby, straddling it. "Sorry to bother you guys, but Leah wanted to make sure you're coming to the barbeque this Friday."
Bella met Edward's eyes with a look that said, "See what I have to deal with."
"I said I would when you invited me," she said. "I'm still planning on going."
Jacob grinned and pulled at one of her dark curls, something Edward had wanted to do since he'd first laid eyes on Bella. Lucky bastard, he thought.
"You can bring a date if you'd like," Jacob offered, flexing his forearm when Evan pointed out Perry the Platypus again.
Bella's eyes widened. "Oh, where are my manners." She shook her head. "Edward, this is my friend, Jacob Black. Jake, this hottie is Edward and the little guy is Evan."
The men looked at her with wide eyes and dropped jaws, making her laugh. "I just wanted to make sure you two were paying attention."
Edward grinned. "She thinks I'm a hottie."
"Hottie!" Evan exclaimed, giggling and waving his little crayon. "Bel-la hottie!" That made their whole table and a few others laugh and her blush.
"I love how he says my name," Bella said. "Like its two distinct words. We'll…I mean, I'll be there."
Both men caught her slip and smiled. "That settles it," Jacob said. "I expect to see you both there Friday and its BYOB." He was gone in a flash before anybody could protest.
"I see what you mean by sharing," Bella said with a big smile. "You know you can't get out of it now."
Edward shrugged. "At least it's another date," he mused. "And we haven't had our first one."
"Don't let it go to your head."
His answering grin already confirmed that it had.
Bella grumbled as her golden retriever, Lionel, continued to whine near the front door. Having overslept she was running late and her poor dog was growing impatient. They had missed their daily morning walk. As much as she would've loved taking him to the coffee house, he wasn't able to remain very well behaved for such a long period of time.
However, since they missed their walk she'd have to try again. Hopefully, Edward wouldn't mind stopping by her house later to drop Lionel off before leaving to wherever they decided to go. The previous day had been fun and eye opening. Though she had been honest with Edward about having a good life and enjoying it, she had closed herself off to other aspects of it.
She had allowed her past failed relationships to close her heart to anyone trying to reach it. A part of her knew that it would take some time to trust someone enough to allow them inside, but she found it a bit easier after talking to Edward the day before. She only hoped it wouldn't bite her in the ass later.
Looking in the mirror, she smiled at her reflection for the first time in a long while. She'd gone after leaving Evan and Edward for an appointment with her hairstylist. It had been for her regular trim, but when she arrived, she decided she wanted something a little different.
Instead of a long mass of loose curls cascading down her back to just above her backside, the tips of her hair skimmed her bra. The tendrils were a little more pronounced and she found she liked the new bounce to them. With the sun shining more lately, she could easily see her natural highlights as she applied some product.
She had to admit, she was a little nervous. For some reason, she thought Edward had a little fascination with her hair. She had often caught him looking at it, his fingers rubbing together as if he wanted to touch it.
As she looked for something to wear, she tried to decide what they'd do that day. She always took her notebook with her, a habit she often found hard to break. She never knew when inspiration would strike her. It wasn't exactly a healthy practice and most of her fellow writers often told her she had to set hours every day to write.
However, she found that suggestion made it sound as if her writing was work. That wasn't something she wanted. Once writing became more of a chore, the harder it would be to write. And writing with such restrictions seemed silly. To her, writing was like painting, you pick up your pen when you need to add another layer to your work.
She picked out a yellow sundress with colorful flowers along the hem, matching it with a pair of ballet shoes. Once dressed and her things gathered, she grabbed Lionel's leash and headed out the door.
Anticipation sizzled in Edward's blood, his fingers tapping some little beat on the table as he waited for her. She was late. Did that mean she wasn't coming?
Why couldn't he get her out of his mind?
It had been bad enough when the attraction seemed one sided, but now that it was obvious it wasn't, she was there just about every minute of his day. He had hated to see her go the day before for some appointment, cutting their time shorter.
He had to be content with the time they'd get to spend together all day, and of course, the barbeque at Jacob's on Friday. He cursed the fact that he wouldn't be able to see her Thursday. He had a deadline and a conference call with a client that day.
No matter what, by the end of their first date, he'd secure that third date for Saturday. He'd love to take her to his cousin's restaurant, where he knew they would have a great time and meal.
He had to tell her he figured out her penname and hoped she wouldn't be upset. On his Kindle he already had her first book of her award-winning series. He was itching to read it, but he wouldn't until she felt comfortable enough to tell him. If he could hold out that long, that was.
It hadn't taken long for him to figure it out. She'd given him all the clues the day before. The fact that she celebrated being on the New York Best Seller's list the week before, the genre she said she wrote, and that it was a series made it easy to find her.
Where is she?
A bark had him looking toward the turnabout, and suddenly, he couldn't breathe. It was her, but the harsh sun made the asphalt expel a hazy visible heat, making her look like a mirage. A fleeting image from a dream that had him running his hands over his face to make sure she was real.
She definitely was.
Dressed in yellow, she glowed as she talked to one of the snowbirds, or "winter visitors," as they and the rest of the world called them, who stopped her and the friendly looking dog at her feet. After a few more moments, she walked up the ramp alongside of the patio area and finally met his gaze.
He was speechless for a second or twenty, he wasn't sure, but the smile that graced her face triggered one of his own.
Oh yeah, he thought, it was going to be a good day.
He held up one of the drinks he had on the table, making her smile even brighter. God, he thought, no woman should have such a disarming smile.
"You bought me a drink," she said softly as she approached.
"Did I get the right one?" he asked hopefully, standing to pull out her chair. All the baristas knew if she ordered her tea she was in a good mood, but if she ordered a super sweet drink it meant she was having a bad day. Most knew to stay away when she was armed with one of those; well, except for him. He had hoped he could cheer her up, it worked often, too.
"Yes, you definitely did," she murmured, sighing when she sat. "Thank you." Taking a quick sip, she hummed in pleasure and made introductions. "This is Lionel."
Lionel sat by his owner, holding up a paw. Edward laughed as he took it, giving it a firm shake. "Nice to meet you, bud."
"I'm sorry," Bella said. "I overslept and we missed our morning walk, whenever you're ready I can drop him off at home and you can pick me up." She looked around, likely noticing that neither his bike nor the SUV he'd arrived in the morning before was in the parking lot.
"I walked," he answered her unspoken question. "We can both walk him home, how's that?"
She smiled and nodded. "I'd like that."
"You look beautiful today," he said softly, his fingers once again itching for a touch. To occupy himself, he brushed them along his own jaw. "You cut your hair."
Biting her lip, she raised her gaze to meet his eyes. "Do you like it?"
Unable to resist any longer, he raised his hand slowly to give her time to pull back. When she didn't, he grasped a ringlet, smiling softly, watching it bounce back up when he released it. Again, he grasped another curl and felt the silky texture of her hair.
"I love it," he murmured, embarrassed that he was aroused by the simple touch. She smiled, pretty white teeth framed by the natural shade of her lips. "It suits you. Now."
She mockingly glared at him. "I already apologized for my attitude at first and so have you," she stated firmly. "Let's put that behind us so we can move on."
"Where's the fun in not teasing you now and then?"
"Oh boy," she said, shaking her head. "I have a feeling you enjoy riling me up."
He grinned, tossed his cup, offering her his hand to help her up. "Come on," he said. "If we plan to do anything today, we should get going." She nodded, and grabbed her things and drink.
Edward took Lionel's leash from her and intertwined their free hands as if he couldn't resist. "You threw your drink away," she said as they walked down the ramp.
"I was too nervous this morning, arrived pretty early," he replied with a shrug, answering honestly. "I was already finished with it when you arrived."
"You were nervous?" She smiled at that confession and nudged his shoulder with hers. "You don't have to be. Just be yourself."
"You might find me boring."
She gave him a pointed look. "I highly doubt that."
"Computer tech and website designer, remember?"
They paused at the end of the ramp when they heard a round of cheers from the patio. Both lifted their eyes to see, and they found four baristas exchanging high-fives and money.
Bella gasped and Edward laughed.
"I'm going to kill you guys," Bella growled over her shoulder, leveling them with a glare.
"Oh come on, Bella!" one of the ladies said. "We all thought you two would make a good couple." The others nodded, calling out similar sentiments. "Love you!"
Bella rolled her eyes, regretting she didn't have her hair to hide behind anymore. "I'm not thanking you in my new book this time!"
Laughing, Edward followed her down the sidewalk, curling an arm around her tense shoulders. "They have the best intentions."
He saw her lips twitch into a smile. "Shush. I don't want them to think I'm okay with it. Maybe I could get a free drink out of their guilt."
Edward grinned, hugging her close, smelling the intoxicating scent of her hair. "You smell good," he said.
"Wow." She looked up at him, taking his hand on her shoulder in her own. "Do you always say what you're thinking?" He wiggled his eyebrows. "Never mind. Don't answer that."
Pressing his lips to her cheek, he whispered, "If I did, I probably wouldn't be here beside you today." She squeezed his fingers. "You scare me a little."
"Why is that?"
"You could break me."
She sighed and looked at Lionel, who walked beside Edward as if he'd done it his whole life. "So could you, you know?" she whispered after several moments of silence.
"Will you tell me what happened?"
She shrugged, her smile falling. "I've had exactly two serious relationships in my past." She shook her head suddenly as they crossed a street. "At least, I had viewed them as serious at the time. James was an artist I met in college, we were together for about three years."
Edward whistled, unsure if he wanted to hear about her being with someone else. However, if he wanted to know why she had built such high walls around her, he knew he'd have to listen to every word.
"That's a long time to be with someone," he replied, loving how she unconsciously played with his fingers.
"Yes, it is, but it's about as long as he cheated on me," she said softly. "I had no idea at all. He worked in next town over, just started a new job. I was completely oblivious for a while."
"Don't tell me you caught him, like walked in on him with someone?"
She shook her head. "No, thank God. That would've been bad. But no, I started to have suspicions and the way he always managed to redirect conversations about his day. I think with the lack of trust, the late nights and such, I just didn't want to bother anymore. If I didn't trust him and questioned his faithfulness, then maybe he wasn't the one. So I broke it off and he didn't take that well and turned vile. Told me how I was too stupid to realize that he was sleeping with other women the whole time we were together because I wasn't adventurous enough."
"Please tell me you didn't believe it."
"At first, sure," she said with a small shrug. "After finding out that your suspicions were right, you tend to think, 'how didn't I see it?'"
"But you still tossed him out right?"
"Of course. I'm not an idiot. I figured he had used me. I was the one with the reliable car, a comfy bed and a damn washer and dryer."
Edward groaned. "Asshole."
"Yeah," she said, looking up at him. "I kicked him in the balls when he said I was a prude. Then told him it shouldn't hurt that long since his dick was tiny." She watched as his eyes widened a bit and then burst into laughter, having to pull away.
When he finally recovered he hugged her to his side again, smirking. "Remind me never to get you too mad."
"I advise against it."
After a couple of minutes of comfortable silence, Edward broke with another question. "You said two relationships. What about the other dumbass?"
Bella closed her eyes. "He ran away with forty thousand dollars of my money."
"What the fuck?"
"That's exactly the reaction I had."
"What the hell happened?"
"My first book I queried was picked up for publication, he didn't take that well."
Edward thought for a moment. Why would anyone find her accomplishing something like that a bad thing?
"Was he a writer, too? Jealous." She twirled out of his embrace, his hand still in hers. He couldn't help but smile at how pretty she looked. With a nod, she spun again, that time, back against him. She watched the swish of her dress, smiling.
She's fucking adorable, he thought, especially when she was so open and carefree. She seemed completely unaware of what she was doing as she responded. "A writer who'd tried for years to get published without success."
"And when your manuscript was picked up, his true colors showed," he finished for her.
"Yes. At first, he was a bit touchy about it. Not very supportive, but I knew it was just a little jealously. So I didn't think anything of it. It wasn't until I signed a five book deal that he really turned vicious."
"Did you kick him, too?" he asked with a smile. He really hoped she had hurt the asshole.
"Nope," she said cheerfully. "I stomped on his foot and threw a drink in his face." She sighed. "Then he tried to get away with my money."
"Idiot. He didn't get away, did he?"
"At the time, my dad was on the police force," she said brightly. "It wasn't very smart of him."
"Not at all."
"So this is my place," she said, stopping in front of a cute little house several minutes later. "What did you want to do?"
"Anything, as long as it's with you," he said, handing her Lionel's leash.
They spent their day together, hiking then later returning to make lunch at her place. It was about four in the afternoon in her backyard that Edward received a call.
"Mom?" he answered. Bella watched as his eyes widened. "Calm down, Mom. I'll be right there, did you call the police? All right, be there in ten minutes." He hung up his cell phone and ran a frustrated hand through his hair.
"I'm sorry to ask, but can you give me a ride?"
Concerned, she took his hand from his hair where he started to pull. "Of course," she replied. "Let me grab my keys. Why don't you tell me what happened?" He swallowed and nodded, following her into the house.
"She came home to find that someone broke into the house."
"No one was home, right?" Edward shook his head. "Well, at least everyone is safe. Let's go." Without a look behind her, she handed him her car keys, knowing it was best for him to drive if he was in such a hurry.
Within seven minutes, they skidded to a halt in front of very nice home just outside of town. There were a few police cars and neighbors on the lawn, talking to a beautiful woman, who was holding little Evan in her arms.
"Mom!" Edward called out for her, taking her quickly in his arms along with Evan, who started to cry. "Are you okay? Where's Carlisle?"
"He's on his way from the office," she whispered, her eyes on Bella, who winced, having recognized Edward's mother from a book signing a month before.
"Bel-la!" Evan cried out, reaching out for her. She cringed but smiled when Edward's mother offered Evan and her hand.
"Nice to meet you again, Ms. Hunter," Esme said with an arched eyebrow.
"You two know each other?" Edward asked, but shook his head. "Never mind, we'll discuss that later. Tell me what happened."
Esme had come home from picking up Evan from his play date to find their home burglarized. The door had been locked so she was surprised when she opened to find the flat screen had been ripped from the wall, along with two of her prized paintings.
"They have no idea how no one saw anything," she said to her son. "The whole neighborhood has been on alert since the Wilson's, the Baker's and the Avery's have been hit in last month."
"Did you have anyone scheduled to come out today?" Bella asked, looking around and down the street.
"Just the pest control man, but he comes every month and services almost the whole neighborhood."
Bella nodded and spotted the truck at a house down the road. "Excuse me," she said and walked away.
Edward's brow tightened as he watched her leave. "Where does she think she's going?"
"If she's anything like her character, she has a hunch," his mother answered. "You better join her."
He nodded absently and looked down at her. "You read her books?"
"Are you dating her?"
He rubbed his jaw. "Hopefully," he said. "Still think it's weird. Ms. Hunter, huh?"
"As if you didn't know," she teased, shifting Evan onto her other side. "She hasn't told you?"
Edward shook his head. "I'm wondering why now. Anything you need to warn me about?"
Esme smirked and ruffled his hair. "When you do read them, just don't look at me funny the next time you see me."
He groaned and ran toward Bella, wrapping a protective hand around her hip. "And what do you think you're doing?"
"I'm going to the one man that should've seen something."
"Are you always this curious?" he asked, tightening his hold on her. "That guy might be the mastermind behind the robberies and your plan is to walk up to him without any protection."
Her back stiffened as her walking came to an abrupt halt. "I'll have you know I've been taking classes for years to defend myself. And I don't think he's the one. Why would he still be around? No, it's someone else, but he may have seen something."
"Let the police handle it," he said firmly. "Come on." When he tried to direct her away, he found that she was about ready to hit him. "I want to find the fucker that violated my family's home too, but not at the risk of you or myself."
"Too late," she said sweetly as the pest control guy tossed something into his truck. "Hello!" Bella said, waving at him. The guy was huge, massive biceps and a short dark crew cut with clear blue eyes.
"What's going on over at the Cullen's?" he asked, walking around his truck to meet them. "Is everything okay?"
"We were going to ask you the same thing," Edward snapped, but toned it down when Bella pinched his side. "Someone broke into my mom's house earlier. Did you happen to see anything?" He could see the name embroidered on the man's shirt pocket – Emmett.
"I haven't been to your parents' house today, but that's because I saw another truck there from our company's competitor. I thought it was strange since we were still under contract to service the house. I had called it in a few minutes ago. The office still needs to get back to me."
"Competitor?" Bella said and glanced over her shoulder. "The police are on the way over. You'll have to answer a few questions. Did you see an actual person there?"
Emmett shook his head. "Man, I'm sorry. I should've called the cops when I saw the truck."
"Thanks anyway," Edward said, scratching the back of his neck. "Sorry, about snapping at you."
"Hey, no worries," Emmett offered, taking Edward's extended hand. "I would be, too, if it was my family's place."
"Bella?" someone said behind them, causing her to cringe. "Don't tell me you're on the case again?"
She pasted a pretty smile and turned to greet the two uniformed officers. "Who me?" When that earned her a glare, she put up her hands defensively. "I happened to be with one of the family members when he got a call about the robbery."
"Sure," Seth Clearwater said, pulling out his cell phone. "You know I have to report this."
Bella groaned, "Come on, like it's my fault that cases drop on my lap."
"Bella," the man said with a roll of his eyes. "Your father would have my head if you got involved again. Step aside and let us handle this, okay?"
She shrugged. "All right, but it might be a good idea to head down Henderson. I saw the competitor truck that," she pointed behind her shoulder at Emmett, "Emmett said he'd seen parked at the Cullens."
"What?" The other guy with the same lean build and warm colored skin said, with S. Ulely on his uniform.
"They were there when we passed," Bella said, looking down at her watch. "About ten minutes ago. If I'm right, that's the second hit and if they're following a pattern. They'll hit another house in the next neighborhood."
"Is that true?" Seth asked Emmett.
"Yeah, Orion's Pest Control, driving a black Chevy S-10 with cabinets." Seth and his partner took off in a hurried pace toward their cruiser.
"Damn, are you always so observant?" Edward asked her after they managed to calm Emmett down a few minutes later.
"Yes, and I have a photographic memory," she said with a smile, widening when he draped his arm over her shoulders again.
"I have a feeling you'll keep me on my toes," he murmured as he steered them back to his mother's home.
"On your toes, hair pulling nerves, and yes, anger," she teased. "You still want to date me?"
"And miss another day like today," he answered, kissing the top of her head. "But damn, if I don't want to tie you to a bed to keep you safe."
She laughed. "Oh, that sounds promising." She laughed, patting herself on the back at his shocked look as she went to meet Edward's stepfather, Carlisle.
Edward watched her and wondered how long before he was completely at her mercy. As she smiled, shaking Carlisle's hand and taking Evan, who was begging for her to hold him, he thought, it was already too late.
"You're staring," she said, typing away at her laptop. It had been a week since their first date and they had spent almost all that time together.
"Why the laptop today?" he asked, curious why her habit had changed suddenly.
"Because my hand has been cramping," she whispered hauntingly, still writing. "And the delete button fell off last week." He laughed at that and her matching scowl.
He pulled out his Kindle and glasses from his bag to read. She still hadn't confessed her penname to him, but did admit that he probably wouldn't read them. However, he started one the night before, curious of his little writer.
He slipped on his glasses and found the page he left off, reading about the heroic Olivia Benner and reluctant partner, Chase Matthews.
"Ah, you finally figured it out," she said, watching him from over her laptop. Arching an eyebrow, she smiled. "After all the clues I laid out for you, I thought you'd find out sooner."
His eyes met hers, his lips pursed as he took in her smug little smile. "I figured it out after that first day."
She grinned and nodded. "Good. I wasn't exactly subtle. I would've told you tonight."
They had a date at his cousin's restaurant later that night, since they hadn't been able to make it the previous weekend due to a conflict with one of his clients.
"You nervous?" he asked.
Bella smiled, sitting back and enjoying his darkened gaze. He looked irresistible in glasses, tousled hair and blue button down.
"Should I be?" she asked softly.
"I don't want you to be."
She grinned and went back to her writing. "I can't believe you're not bored, sitting here with me."
His lips twitched as he continued to read. "Never."
Happily, she continued, taking sips of her drink occasionally for the next forty minutes. It wasn't until Edward started to continually clear his throat that she looked to see him pulling at his collar with a finger. She smirked and kept her eyes on her screen. If he had recently started her first book, then she knew exactly where he was in the story.
When he reached for his empty drink, she kept her smile to herself.
She had tried to warn him.
Edward cleared his throat for what seemed like the tenth time in as many minutes. Reaching for his drink, he growled when he once again found it empty. Sweat dotted across his brow, his throat tight as well as his muscles throughout his body. Normally sensual scenes in a book wouldn't drive him to the state of arousal and anxiety. However, with his little writer sitting nearby, he couldn't help the lust that coursed through him.
Who knew sparring would be like foreplay?
If their first kiss had been any indication on how their physical relationship would be, he'd likely die a very happy man. It had been at her house that first night, after his mother had asked them to stay for dinner. What should've sent him into a panic, the idea of him bringing a woman home, which he'd never done, had been relatively easy.
Bella had helped catch the thieves, and seemed to get along with his family perfectly. Again, any other man would've ran in another direction, but for Edward, he liked seeing her play with Evan, make small talk with his mother and even flirt with his step-father, Carlisle.
She simply fit into his life and he had ignored the twinge of fear that came when life was as its best.
The moment he had walked her to her door, having followed her home on his Harley, he'd taken her face in his hands and kissed her. There was no warning. No hesitation on either of their parts. Just a desire to continue forward. Their mouths had met softly, his lips cradling the top curve of hers, tasting the chocolate they had for dessert at the corners, inside and on her tongue.
She was as sweet as he had imagined, more so.
It had ended with his hands fisted at the small of her back, her fingers clutching tightly at his hair, sharing breaths between them as they panted. As quickly as it had begun, it had spiraled out of control.
Edward still savored the words she'd spoken, "I've never wanted someone so bad, it almost hurts."
He had felt the same way, but instead of indulging in what they both wanted, he left once she was safely inside her home. She was too important to lose control and prove her initial thoughts of him right. For he'd known if they had slept together the night of their first date, she'd regret it in the morning. At least, that had been his initial assessment. However, the little minx had taken him condom shopping the previous afternoon, only to be thwarted again by his cousin's dire need for help when his car broke down.
Since then, Edward had decided, to let things happen naturally. If she wanted to move things further, quicker, he'd simply follow her cues.
They were once again spending the day together and would head to lunch soon, but he'd been stupid enough to read her book in her presence, not expecting the love scenes to be so steamy.
Chase glanced over the rim of his glass, his eyes finally landing on his partner, who stood near the entrance. He'd known she was beautiful from the first time they'd been assigned together; however, she was in a class of her own that night. The gala had called for formal evening wear and she was a knockout in blue and garnered every red-blooded male's attention.
The dress, fitted around beautiful breasts and a tapered waist, draped around her hips, falling shy of her ankles. His imagination ran wild with what she wore beneath the silk, or lack thereof, and had to keep from walking over to her. Lust clouded his judgment and the drink in his hand wouldn't help matters.
Placing his scotch on the bar, he decided he wanted a clear head when he made love to her later that night.
Their training and sparring earlier the day had been foreplay, a prelude to what lay ahead. When they'd finally manage to be alone in their room, the grunts, moans, and slaps of skin would be for a whole different reason. He could almost taste her still at the corner of his mouth from their first kiss earlier that afternoon.
Olivia looked from one end of the room to the other in search of him, her golden wheat hair gleamed under the glowing lights, making her look like the angel she pretended to be. However, Chase knew it was the furthest thing from the truth.
As if his thoughts had registered in her mind, Olivia's gaze met his. There was a minute twitch of her sensual red mouth, but only someone as close as he was to her would have seen it. She was that good at playing her part. Another thing she was good at, Chase realized, was heating his blood with just a look. He wanted to conquer and be conquered. That was a first for him.
Heads turned as she glided across the floor, looking like sin in the dress with the face an angel. If the people only knew what that beautiful mouth was capable of, they'd no longer see the halo that everyone seemed to place on her pretty little head. Then again, playing the part had allowed her to open doors otherwise closed to the likes of him.
His feet moved of their volition toward her, meeting her halfway on the dance floor. Without asking, he pulled her body against his, earning a smile that lit up the room.
"Somebody missed me," she whispered, deliberately stepping on his toes as he spun her.
He laughed and waggled his eyebrows as his gaze descended on the ample cleavage just inches from her lovely face. "Of course," he murmured, smiling widely.
"You left me when I needed you." There was a pout to her lips that seemed perfectly natural, but the darkened cobalt eyes indicated that he was messing with the wrong woman. He knew she hated that she wanted him, fought her feelings and attraction to him, but once she accepted it, she wanted that follow through. He was happy to oblige.
"Honey," he said and pulled her closer, allowing her to feel the effect she had on him. As she gasped, her eyes closing, her body tightly pressed against his, he added, "When your need for me matches my need for you, then I'll give you everything we both want."
"In other words, you want me to beg," she whispered, tightening her fingers around his.
His lips tasted her temple, skimmed her cheek and tested the little spot behind her ear. "Tonight."
"I need a refill," Edward said, stepping away from the table and his Kindle. "Need anything?" Bella hadn't looked up but shook her head. If he had glanced over his shoulder, he would've seen the sexy, gloating smile on her face, but swore he heard laughter behind him.
Edward wiped at his forehead, finding moisture there. He cursed his over active imagination, and Bella's, for that matter. There was something about her characters that struck familiar to him, allowing his thoughts to exchange them for him and Bella for a moment.
If the section he'd been reading was going where he thought it was going, and if it was hotter than the kiss the pair shared while sparring, then it was best for him to stop for a bit before he embarrassed himself.
"Need a refill?" Myra asked, one of the baristas that started the pool on whether he and Bella would get together, smiled at him, but there was a little teasing in her tone.
"Yes, please," he said, handing her his cup. "So are you against us or all for it?"
She smiled, as took his card to pay. "All for it, of course, but it took you long enough to get her to smile at you, though."
Edward shrugged, blushing a bit. "It wasn't for the lack of trying."
"Poor thing," she cooed. "Do you know how many of the young one's around here swoon at the sight of you?"
Confused, his brow furrowed. "Really?" When she nodded, he simply shrugged. "I hadn't noticed."
"You wouldn't. Your eyes were always on her."
Edward smiled. "Couldn't help it," he said, looking over his shoulder, craning a bit to get a glimpse of Bella picking up his Kindle.
Oh, you naughty little thing.
"Still can't, I see," Myra replied, laughing at his scowl as she handed him his drink.
He grumbled as he made his way outside but managed another smile when he saw Bella quickly drop his Kindle back on table, right where he'd left it.
"How's the writing going?" He'd hope to catch her off guard. "And should I stop reading for now?"
She looked up from the screen and cocked an eyebrow. "The writing is going very well, since I've been feeling completely inspired." She smirked and licked at her bottom lip, pulling a small groan from him. "As for your reading, if it's too hot, put the book down and have a cool drink."
He sat back and laughed, shaking his head. "I think I figured why Olivia is so familiar to me."
The sexy arched brow lifted another centimeter. "Oh really? Enlighten me."
Bella shook her head. "Hell no," she said carefully. "I'm not a sexy vixen like her." He didn't like the look in her eyes, besides anger, there was something else. "I'm nothing like her."
"I disagree. You have this sweet, angelic look about you, almost fucking ethereal. But I've caught glimpses of the devil in disguise every now and then. But, by the look on your face, you don't even know it."
When she said nothing, he continued. "And I noticed something else, your leading male, is very similar to me. Another reason I probably scared the hell out of you in the beginning."
She rolled her eyes. "You would think that my hunky, alpha male is like you. But I imagined him way before I met you."
"You imagined the perfect man, for you."
"Chase is flawed."
"Exactly," Edward mused and tapped at his chin in thought. "The thing of it is that you wouldn't be happy with a perfect man. You'd get bored."
He could see the rise and fall of her chest and knew he'd hit a nerve. The sudden slamming shut of her laptop confirmed it. Watching as she gathered her things, his stomach churned.
"Here's something you have in common with Chase, you're both arrogant and prone to self-sabotage whenever something goes your way."
"What the hell does that supposed to mean?"
"It means," she spat as she pushed in her chair, blushing as the rest of the people around them turned to look at their table. "That everything was too good to be true, so you had to go and ruin it before it does fall apart instead of waiting for something that may never come."
"How the hell is calling you out self-sabotage?"
"It's an insult, that's what. I don't put up a front to everyone that I'm a perfect little goody-goody and turn to tiger in bed. I know exactly what I want and maybe you should've read further ahead before you compared our relationship to theirs. They don't end up together because he didn't trust her when she said she loved him and thought he wasn't good enough."
She was down the ramp before he could say anything. He called to her, "We have a lunch date, Bella!"
Without looking back, she answered, "This is me canceling it."
For a week, Edward avoided the coffeehouse and read each of Bella's books. They had already become addicting and forced him to visit her website. He read through hundreds of blog entries, comments from fans and little experts from her last of the installment of the series.
It was the latest blog entry from the day after she walked away that prompted him to tug at hair in remorse.
Have you ever met the perfect guy, you know, "The One?" And do everything in your power to hold on to him, only to realize that your grasp was too hard? Maybe that initial meeting was lust at first sight, but even if you were annoyed by the strange feelings, you still allowed it to flow and grow into something else without even knowing it.
It had taken a little over a month for me to accept what I felt was something more than attraction (and annoyance), a week to love and lose him, and a day without him that seems like an eternity. What's that saying, 'It's better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all?'
To the author who wrote it, what if her love was never meant to be enough?
Taking an extended vacation, always heard the sea could cure a broken heart.
Edward spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find her. Her mail had been stopped for three weeks, and according to her neighbor, she had no idea if Bella owned any beachfront property. When that failed, he enlisted Jacob and his wife, Leah's, help.
Bella had no family. And the friends he'd met at the barbeque had no clue of her whereabouts. He made calls until he finally reached her agent, Tanya Harris.
"So, you're the one?" she asked, her voice had an edge to it that made him clench his teeth. "What makes you think I'd help you?"
"Because I'm a fucking asshole that wants her back," Edward answered, pacing Bella's front porch. He'd gone again, just to check if she'd returned home. It had been three weeks since he'd seen her and he had exhausted all his resources in finding her. Bella's agent was his last hope.
"She thinks she's nothing like her character, but wishes she was."
"Bella told you why we fought?"
"Of course, has she ever told you about fucker number one?"
"The artist, yes."
"Well, he publicly humiliated her, calling her a prude, who didn't know what to do with a man, in front of her friends."
"And that prompted her to create Olivia, the devil in an angel's disguise."
"See, I knew you were smarter than she made you out to be." She sighed and Edward heard papers being shuffled around. "You hit it right in the nose when you accused her of writing herself into her book. The thing is, you should've had more damn tact, considering where you were."
Edward groaned, "In public."
"Bingo," Tanya said. "I'm going to do us all a favor and give you the address to my beach house in California, where she's staying for another week. But I'm only going to say this once, fuck with my girl, and let's just say, I'd be careful of slick roads."
Minutes later, he was on his Harley and on the way to find Bella to have it out once and for all.
Bella typed the last word of the final installment to Olivia and Chase's adventures, but hesitated on the period. It all seemed so final to her and bittersweet. Had it really come to the conclusion she had written for the couple? That their differences were too vast, that those little things allowed them some miscommunication until the bitter end where she'd given her life to spare his.
It all seemed so trivial. If they had only talked, maybe things wouldn't have ended in tragedy.
She saved the document, but refused to reread what she'd written. Perhaps her agent was right— she shouldn't write when she was in such a dark mood.
Weeks had passed since she left Edward on the patio of her favorite writing spot and he had yet to call her. She had picked up her phone a hundred times since, and every time, she regretted her words too much, and was too embarrassed by her outburst.
She'd been called blunt and forward before, but she had never been able to rein in her emotions once they were unleashed. Edward had been a perfect gentleman, pulling back just as she wanted more in their intimacy. She knew why he'd done it. And in the end, she was just as guilty of self-sabotage as he'd been. She pushed that she was ready for more, wanting to prove that she was capable of keeping a man satisfied.
It had been for all the wrong reasons. She'd known she wanted him, even cared for him, but it wasn't until his accusation of being something she wasn't that she realized she loved him. The fact that he was capable of hurting her made her recognize how she felt.
Walking away from him had been the right thing, at least she thought so.
Stepping away from her computer, she stretched her back, watching Lionel chase a ball a silhouetted figure threw toward the water. Curious to her dog's lack of warning whenever a stranger walked on the private beach, she walked out onto her balcony, shading her eyes with a hand to catch a glance at the mysterious figure.
The sunset, unfortunately, hadn't allowed it, but the jaunty angle of his jaw was recognizable even from where she stood, along with the disarray of his hair. Her heart leapt in her chest, beating an irregular rhythm until she allowed herself to breathe again.
"He's here," she whispered softly.
As if he heard her, he faced the house slowly, standing absolutely still as her dog pranced around him, oblivious to the sudden tension in his stance. He was simply waiting for her to make the next move and she would meet him halfway, as it should be.
Edward watched as Bella ran inside the house, looking as terrified and relieved as he felt. He heard the patio door slide open, Lionel shooting inside before she closed it. Her feet padded across the wooden deck. She remained at the sand's edge, watching him, breathing as heavily as he was. Her simple blue cotton dress whipped in the breeze around her knees; she was so beautiful to him.
His hand lifted as words spilled forth, "I'm sorry for hurting you."
She ran barefoot in the cooling sand, breathless, clutching at her chest until she jumped into his awaiting arms, wrapping her long legs around his hips and holding him tightly. Her lips pressed against his mouth, jaw and eyes, her words lost against his skin. She was the first to pull away long enough to say, "I'm so sorry. Once I know what I want, I go for it completely and totally. I pushed when you weren't as ready as you thought you were."
"You're right," he gasped, holding him tightly. "I told you that first day that you were capable of breaking me. And I'm sorry if my words hurt you. I don't want you to be somebody you're not. I love you just the way you are."
Her fingers lingered in his hair as he continued. "You were right, and I did ruin everything, picking a fight because I was too scared, because all of a sudden, I realized that it wasn't simply infatuation, and it happened so quickly. I was afraid of really losing you, like my mother had lost my father. It had taken her almost twenty years to allow herself to open her heart again. It nearly destroyed her."
Tears prickled at the corners of her eyes, seeing him finally open to her completely, the real him that he hid behind the cocky attitude. To have seen his mother nurse a broken heart at such a tender age, she understood, why when faced with the possibility of that kind of devotion and love, it would elicit fear.
"I wasn't trying to be Olivia," she murmured, her lips pausing against the corner of his mouth. "More like wishing it. The thing is, I didn't know if I was capable of that, since I never felt the passion that she feels with Chase." She felt him tense at her words. "Until you."
He groaned and kissed her fully, one hand moving up her back to cradle the back of her head, deepening the kiss. "I missed you, so much," he whispered. "You're it for me, you know?"
She smiled, cupping his cheek, her breath mingling with his own, finding the truth in his eyes. "We're crazy."
"Yeah," he said with a smirk. "I thought this only happened in books and movies." His brow furrowed suddenly and doubt filled his eyes. "I just realized that, Bella, you barely know me." He was concerned, fearing again that what she felt for him couldn't be real.
She shook her head. "Of course I do, because when you asked me a question, you answered it, too. Your favorite color was sky blue until it changed when I wore that blue halter top that one day." He smirked, suddenly embarrassed. "You also love heavy rock, but on occasion listen to classical to help soothe you. You love action films but most of your favorites are indies. I could go on and on." There was a teasing nature to her voice that made him smile again.
When he realized she was right, he had opened himself up without even really knowing it. "I talk too much."
She smacked his shoulder and hugged him tightly. "Take me to bed," she said warily. "I want you."
Hoping to chase her lingering tears away, he laughed. "And you said I was arrogant. Sound pretty sure of yourself, babe."
She heard the taunt his voice and matched it, moving her hips enough against his heavy erection to have him groaning in pleasure. "You would be too if you touched me," she purred against his mouth, nipping at his bottom lip.
"Oh God," he hissed as his feet started to move toward the house. "Are you sure?"
"I know I want you, too," he said, stopping just outside the door. "But I want more than just sex."
"How does everything sound?"
"Fucking perfect," he growled, eliciting a sweet little giggle and another nip. He groaned at the feel of her breasts pressed so sweetly against his chest. How he wished there was nothing between them, and to feel her, skin to skin.
And as if she heard his most reverent desire, he felt the skirt of her dress move beneath his hands. With a little adjustment, she pulled it from under his grasp and over her head. His groan was deep and long, as his eyes fell on her chest.
"Damn," he said softly. "You're beautiful." He set her down, the tips of her toes stretched up so that she could continue to nibble along his jaw. With another groan, he stepped back enough to see all of her. The only remaining clothes were a simple pair of white panties. His eyes roamed over every inch of exposed skin, pale, creamy with sprinkled with cocoa freckles. "So beautiful."
She remained absolutely still, allowing him to look his fill. His gaze was like a caress, feather like touches of roughened hands, spanning her hips, skimming her breasts and legs. Normally, she would've felt self-conscious with him still dressed as she stood before him almost completely exposed. However, the reverent look and desire in his eyes made her feel beautiful.
He took a deep ragged breath, stepping only an inch closer to her. Her breath caught as his arm raised, his fingers outstretched as if to touch her. Only one skimmed over her collarbone, his eyes following the movement, whispering something she couldn't hear.
Edward never felt skin so soft, so achingly beautiful beneath his touch. Tiny goose bumps raised along her arms, lightly skimming them with a fingertip, his thumb brushing over her breast. She gasped, the sound making him aware of how much he wanted her hands on him.
But not yet, he told himself. He could be patient. With the same fingertip, he circled a pebbled peak, eliciting more gorgeous sounds from his little writer, his goddess. She was everything he ever wanted, soft, sweet, stronger than most, and brutally honest.
He moaned when her fingers delved beneath his t-shirt. Grinning up at him, she said, "I'm not as patient as you are." Laughing, he grasped her hips and kissed her, sipping from her deeply. They both gasped, panting for breath, which she took advantage of, pulling his shirt over his head quickly.
"God," she moaned, her fingers and soft palms running over his chest and abs. "No wonder you're cocky."
He grinned wickedly, stepping back, waggling his eyebrows. She watched as he loosened the top button of his jeans, and stepping out of his shoes. "I work out by doing a lot of outdoor activities," he said.
"I know," she said, smiling. "Like I do. Now how about we work out some other way?"
He laughed and slipped his jeans and boxers off, his mouth twitched into a smirk at the way her jaw dropped.
"I thought it was always the quiet ones," she teased after she caught herself staring and the smugness in his gaze.
Edward growled at that and had her pinned to the couch behind them before she could utter another word. She laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck, smiling up to him prettily. He couldn't remember a time when he laughed and smiled so much with any woman.
"I really do love you," she whispered, brushing some of his hair from his forehead. "I'm just sorry I was so stubborn at first."
He smiled and kissed her lips softly, slipping his tongue inside her mouth and along hers. Pulling back, he continued his exploration along her jaw and neck. "If you had accepted my advances that early on, I probably would've been scared away before the feelings I had for you took root."
"Besides crazy, we're both stubborn," she said, moaning when the tip of his tongue lashed over her nipple. "You know what that means, don't you?"
Edward laughed, pulling them both up and wrapping her legs around his hips. "Lots of great makeup sex." She threw her head back, laughing as he carried her to the bedroom down the hall per her directions. Once there, he tossed her on the bed, tackling her, sending her in another fit of laughter. Not that he minded, laughing did amazing things to her body.
Taking a peak in his mouth, the only sounds that left her then were soft moans, whimpers and his name for several minutes. He continued his mouth to skin exploration, rimming her navel, kissing from one hip to the other, basking in her sweet musky scent. Her thighs quivered in anticipation and that sent a jolt of lust down his spine. Groaning, his mouth tentatively stroked over the slick skin between her thighs, moaning at her taste and the way her fingers buried themselves in his hair.
Her back arched to meet his mouth, so close to the edge at first touch of his tongue on her skin. A groan from him reverberated from deep inside his chest and against her warm, wet skin, pulling a small cry of his name. With a simple touch of his tongue on her clit, her body tensed and felt as if it ripped apart at the seams.
God, Edward thought, she was the sweetest and hottest thing he'd ever encountered. As her orgasm crashed over her, he watched the fluttering of her lashes, the shape of her lush lips and the rapid fall and rise of her chest.
"So fucking beautiful," he murmured, crawling over her. He needed to feel all of her, her softness mold against the hard planes of his chest, abs and thighs. Breathless she captured his mouth in a heart-stopping kiss, tasting her sweetness. That made him crazy with need and desire to thrust deep inside her. "Condoms?"
Shakily, she pointed to the nightstand. For a moment, he wondered why she had brought them with her, but chose not to dwell on it, then remembering the house was not hers. Quickly, he pulled one from the box, breathless with anticipation when she'd taken it from him.
The thought of her hands on that part of him made his heart stop, his body tense and his jaw clench as desire raced through every single inch of his body. He groaned as he watched her soft hand move over him, stroking him twice before she rolled on the condom.
Unable to take much more, he pinned her hands over her head, taking her mouth as he wanted to take the rest of her. She arched and moaned at the feel of him so close to where they both wanted him to be. Despite that need, he slid in slowly, knowing it had been a while for her, allowing her body to accommodate to his size.
Her fingernails bit into his shoulders, and he groaned at the feel of her, tight, wet, warm, and so fucking good body surrounding him. His gaze roamed over the sweet flush of her neck and chest, sliding down to between their bodies, watching her take him all the way inside made his control spiral out of control.
It had been too long for him, as well.
Bella's breath washed over his face, each sweet exhale reminded him that she was there with him. They built a rhythm quickly, perfectly as their hips met over and over again. The quickening at the base of his spine ran up and radiated outward.
"Edward," she gasped, her eyes clasped shut. The feel of him inside her was perfect, leaving her warm, full and achingly wonderful. "More, so close." His answering growl, made a shiver dance up her back, quiver her thighs, and sweat blossom across her skin.
His hips moved harder, faster against her, at the perfect angle to hit the right spot inside her over and over again. Desperate to feel her come around him, he took her mouth again, tasting and sipping, touching a thumb between her thighs. Breathlessly, she pulled away to scream out his name. He groaned at the feel of her taking him deeper, clenching around him tightly, and bringing him over the edge.
Panting, he fell on her, but rolled over at the last second, pulling her over his body. For several minutes, neither of them said a word, as her fingers traced patterns over his chest, never allowing the need he had for her to completely ebb. His hand swept down her back slowly for a few minutes; shifting her enough press his lips to hers.
"How much longer did you plan to stay?" he asked, smiling when she propped herself up chin on his chest. She was small but fit so perfectly to his tall, lean body. He loved it.
"Until the end of the week," she replied. "But now I'm wondering if we should stay a little longer."
He smiled and ran a hand over her backside, making her eyes narrow. "Oh yeah?" She simply nodded in answer and cocked an eyebrow in challenge. "And what would we be doing while we stay here?"
She smiled coyly and tapped her chin thoughtfully. "I don't know about you," she said, shifting to get off the bed. "But I need to write." His look of shock made her laugh. "What?" she asked. "I need to rewrite Chase and Olivia's ending."
His lips twitched into a slow smile. "And are they going to have a happy ending?"
She moved over him, straddling him, and pressing her lips over his. After a few glorious moments, she answered, "I believe in happy endings and they deserve one."
"Yeah, but so do we."
Bella smiled and kissed him again, knowing she'd have to put her writing on the backburner for a while. And for once, she didn't mind.
Three months later
Nervously, Edward touched the box in his pocket for the tenth time since he left the house. The stoplight overhead changed to green, forcing him to move forward, toward his destination, to his Bella.
She'd been out traveling for a book tour for a little over two weeks and he desperately missed her. Pulling alongside her curb at the front of her house, he revved the engine twice to get her attention, waving when he'd seen the living window's curtain flutter as she peeked at him.
Damn, he missed her.
For a while, he'd been trying to get her to take a ride with him, having refused until she asked him to pick her up on it that night. Originally, since he planned to wine and dine her before popping the question, he had asked to borrow his mother's car, but the chance to have her on his bike was too good to pass up. He hoped she'd be wearing a dress.
He turned off his bike and hopped off, making his way up the porch when the light came on and front door opened. His eyes started from her sexy feet encased in strappy black heels, trim, smooth, silky calves and thighs he feasted on before, and finding the hemline of her black and blue wrap dress just an inch above her cute fucking knees. He loved that she usually wore dresses, skirts and such to showcase her killer legs.
"Hello, beautiful," he murmured, taking her hand and pressing a kiss there. His eyes remained on hers, but could see the sweet flush sweep her cheeks. With a small tug, she was in his arms, where she belonged. "I missed you."
Her answering sigh brushed his mouth and urged the meeting of lips, teeth and tongue that had him wondering how fast they could get through dinner. From the feel of her fingers in his hair, the push of her hips against his, he knew she was on the same page.
But not to be deterred from his task, he pulled away and helped lock the door behind her. "Come on," he said softly, loving the slightly dazed look in her eyes. He'd pat himself on the back for that later. Walking backward, he watched her eyes roam over him, taking in his unusual attire, since most of the time he dressed in jeans, t-shirt and some type of jacket.
However, for the special occasion he wore black slacks, pale blue button down and a thin black tie. No jacket since it was a step too close to a suit, which he promised himself he'd never become. And he knew Bella preferred a more casual look anyway.
"You look handsome," she murmured, biting her lip. "But I kinda miss the jeans." She pouted, batting her long lashes, eliciting a smirk from him.
"You would," he teased. "Because they're tighter around my ass." She rolled her eyes as they stopped by his Harley. "Admit it, you can't get enough of me."
Smiling happily, she tugged on his waistband, forcing coherent speech and thought away with a single kiss. She was the first to pull away, but only to nibble on his bottom lip and to say, "Where we going?"
Bella hated not knowing what he had in store for them, and would use any means necessary to find out. He groaned and shook his head. "Nice try, let's go." She growled and nearly stomped her foot, but she suddenly stilled as he straddled his bike. Taking his hand he held out to her, she wondered why it had taken her so long to accept an invitation for a ride.
Edward looked very good on the bike, and dressed as he was, he was hot and irresistible. She took a deep breath and followed his instructions as he helped her climb up behind him. If she couldn't get him to tell her where he was taking her, maybe she could entice him to have dessert at home.
"That look on your face gives you away, sweetheart," Edward teased softly, kissing her shoulder. "Wrap your arms around me tightly." He turned on the ignition and revved the engine twice. He felt her arms encircle him, the tips of her fingers brushing his erection.
Damn her effect on him.
It wasn't until he felt the way her thighs tightened around his in anticipation that he knew he'd made the right decision to take her to somewhere private—in fact, to where it all started. The baristas at the coffeehouse all pitched in to help, creating a romantic setting under their patio, filled with twinkling lights and flowers. "Ready?" he asked, feeling her head nod against his shoulder blade. "Don't be scared, baby. We're not going far."
Edward pulled away from the curb and onto the street, her body tightening around him a bit more. Oh yeah, he thought, he'd find a way to get her to ride with him more often. Once they reached town, he slowed down before every stoplight despite the color so that he could skim a hand over her beautiful thighs, beneath his palm, her soft skin chased away the nerves he had earlier.
He knew she was his future and if he couldn't convince her to marry him that night, he'd ask again and again until she said yes. At the next stoplight, he felt her lips near his ear. "I love you." He smiled, answering her with same sentiment, squeezing her thigh.
Persistence and some patience got him his dream girl, and soon it would earn him his wife.
AN: Betaed by kyla713. As of right now, mine and kyla713's challenges are up. The other two on the list above will post when they're done. It's too hard to post all at the same time, so please be patient. What kind of Edward would you all like to see in one of these challenges?