Title of Story: Good Girls Can't Save Bad Boys

Rating: M

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Genre: Romance/Angst

Word Count: 11953 (wordcounttool dot com)

Story Summary: When Bella moves to Forks high, she learns about fast cars, cigarettes, and making saviors out of demons, particularly one named Edward Cullen. "Maybe there's nothing more to bad boys. Maybe they don't have some secret sensitive side they keep hidden from everyone except the good girl, because maybe they're just bad. And maybe I like that."

Standard Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.


It's dustier than Alice let on, my nose tickling at the floating specks of debris when I walk in. Still, it's impressively large for an abandoned carport, "The Garage" nickname apt as I spot three cars parked haphazardly between random columns. A collection of various tools lay sprawled across half a dozen steel tables, grease rags cover the floor beside a stack of tires, the air thick with some chemical smell that Charlie could probably name.

I stop thinking about my father then, certain he'd kill me if he knew where I really was instead of studying at the library with my first friend in Forks. Same characters in a different setting, but I doubt he'd see it that way.

"It's big." My voice echoes.

"They should be here soon," Alice sighs, sitting at an empty table against the west wall.

I join her and she takes my arm to loop around hers easily, a small smile gracing her face. I like Alice. She's talkative and colorful, if a bit pushy, but I consider myself lucky she even sought me out less than a week ago on my first day of school. It's clear everyone in this town and their grandmothers have known each other since they were fetuses, Alice being one of the few exceptions.

She's not too nosy, either, her questions about back home sparse and shallow. She doesn't know why I left or that I miss my mother. I think about keeping it that way.

"What about boys?" Her eyebrows waggle. "Any that interest you yet?"

"Not really," I shrug. She narrows her eyes suspiciously, but it's the truth. I say the boys here are nice, cute, and smart enough, but everyone's typical and boring and overly helpful. She claims they've all got Shiny New Toy Syndrome, making me mutter something about how even the smallest of towns can't escape objectification.

She's laughing when the door creaks open and two voices drift in, quiet but clear.

"—cost more in Port Angeles than La Push, you know that."

"Fuck if I'm going back there, Whitlock."

"Your fault for shitting where you eat," the first one laughs.

"Bite me," the second one mutters.

They walk in our sight a second later and Alice squeals before taking off for a grinning blonde guy, her arms around his neck and legs around his waist in an instant. He's muttering something in her ear that makes her giggle and she's asking why they weren't at school for the past few days, but the only thing I can focus on is the gorgeous fire-headed boy next to them who won't stop staring at me.

No, not staring. Glaring.

"What the fuck, Alice?" he asks, maintaining intense eye contact with me.

"Um." I can't do anything but resist the urge to gulp while my eyes dart to the giggly pixie.

She dismounts the blonde, throwing the stormy-faced boy a confused glance. "What?" Her eyes drift to his are before her expression clears. "Oh, this is Bella Swan. She's new—"

"I know who she is," he interrupts coldly. "You brought the chief's daughter here? I thought you only looked stupid."

"Hey," the blonde interrupts defensively, "I'm sure it's fine." He turns to Alice, keeping his eyes on me. "Right?"

I can't tell who he's asking, but she answers for me anyway. "Totally. Bella's cool."

That's precisely the last word I'd use to describe me, actually, but I nod even if this feels like some weird, lame, small-town initiation process. Next stop, hazing?

"Charlie's at the station all the time," I shrug, hoping the gesture comes off as casual. "Couldn't tell him anything even if I wanted to."

"Do you, though?" the hothead asks.

And despite the exasperation in his eyes, I nearly laugh.

Do I want to tell my father, the chief of police, that I'm knowingly visiting a site of illegal activity? That I'm hanging out with juvenile criminals who spend their time repairing cars that participate in the very prohibited street races he himself has raided before, all to make a fraction of the winners' earnings?

That it's not an adolescent craving for rebellion or even a child's cry for attention that's causing such disregard for the law, but instead the exhaustion that comes with stale chasteness after so many years?

"No," I answer swiftly. "I don't."

It's silent as stormy-face continues to stare at me like he's trying to elicit some other answer until finally his anger fades to irritated resignation as he pulls a cigarette from behind his ear. He sticks it in his mouth unlit, mumbling something that sounds a lot like "Bad fucking idea," before pulling a lighter from his pocket and shaking his head at the blonde. He leaves without another word.

And that's the first time I meet Edward Cullen.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Even without the help of Alice, I would've learned enough about Edward just by attending Forks High. It's obvious within the first week of school that there's always something to say about him; from how many times he's been arrested (eight) to how many female faculty members he's fucked (anyone under thirty-five) to which nights he holds underground wrestling matches (Tuesdays and Fridays). The rumors aren't exactly inconceivable, what with his smoking on school grounds and the occasional blushing teacher that passes by, but I guess the level of plausibility is what makes rumors so dangerously believable.

I would know. I'm not in Forks more than four days when I already hear what people are saying about me. What they're saying about Renee.

Although most of the student body is appropriately polite, I hang out with Alice and her boyfriend, the blonde, Jasper. His sister Rosalie both awes and scares me, eyes a frozen lake, her temper all fire. She's always seen with a big burly guy with dimples named Emmett who calls me Swan Princess and seemingly doesn't care about the long-term side-effects of spray tanning. He's funny and charming, like a cruder version of Alice, and I eventually grow comfortable around them, small-town gossip be damned, It's a plus they don't seem to hate my existence, either. Most of them, anyway.

The only times I see Edward are in The Garage and Biology with episodic sightings in the halls. He comes out of his shell a little when in front of an open car hood, talking quietly but frequently with Jasper and Rose about parts, costs, and race dates. He's quiet but has a steel tongue and a crooked smile that probably gets him anywhere. We avoid each other for the most part, the sting of our first encounter still vividly memorable, and I tell myself that he doesn't know shit about me. I tell myself I don't want him to.

Alice always sits next to me at our table, sometimes joined by Emmett who stares at Rose while I study or read or talk deserved shit about teachers. There's beer to drink and cigarettes and joints to smoke, and when I express worry concerning the boys and Rose working while "under the influence," everybody laughs.

"Such a cop's kid," Edward mutters through a smug smile, shaking his head.

"Well, we can't all be mechanically-skilled deviants," I reply before my brain catches up with my mouth.

It's the first time I've seen him speechless, just looking at me with a quirk between his brows, expression more amused than offended. His lips part but before he says anything, Emmett claps his hand against my back with a loud guffaw, prompting everyone else's laughter.

"Swan Princess has a mouth," he bellows.

Edward smirks, raising his brows ever so slightly. "Wonder what else she uses it for."

I make a vaguely scoffy noise despite the burn of my cheeks, knowing he's trying to get under my skin and denying the fact that he's more or less successful. "Wouldn't you like to know," I mutter.

He's still wearing that grin when he turns away, disappearing behind the hood of an '87 Ford Taurus.

He's a shit lab partner in Biology, almost always dozing off unpunished because Banner's too scared to do anything, constantly glancing at the napping boy next to me like he's more of a sleeping lion. I don't know if I'd disagree.

It's the beginning of October when he stumbles in Bio late as usual sporting a drawn hoodie with a baseball cap underneath, hands stashed in his pockets as he plops down next to me. He reeks of rain and smoke; whether it's cigarette, weed, or exhaust, I can't tell. Maybe all three.

"Cap, Cullen," Banner recites monotone.

Edward pays no attention to the ineffective reminder as he pulls out a sorry-looking binder.

I feel my brows raise with surprise. He doesn't usually take notes. Doesn't usually stay conscious, either, but today's different. He's completely wired; rolling his sleeves to his elbows, tapping his fingers against the table restlessly, knee bouncing.

He rummages through his backpack as Banner lectures, shaking the near-empty sack repeatedly before muttering a curse, letting it drop on the table. His fingers tap impatiently against his open binder showcasing a clean sheet of paper. My eyes dip to the pencil in my hands.

The end of it pokes his arm before I realize, making him jump. And then he turns his face to me and I almost jump.

The cap and hood now make sense as my eyes zero in on the sizable smudge of black-blue above his left cheekbone. It's still pretty fresh, sore and tender-looking. I feel my brow wrinkle, unable to help the shocked part of my lips as I try to imagine the size of a fist that would leave a bruise like that.

"What?" His voice cuts my inspection.

I blink, switching my eyes to his, gulping back my um. "Pencil."

Actual confusion instead of anger this time. "What?"

I force myself to stare back as I nod towards the blank sheet in his open binder. "For your paper."

He darts his eyes to his notebook. Then back to me. A second passes. I'm just about to place what shade of green-gray his eyes are when he promptly plucks the pencil from between my fingers and faces the front of the class, back hunched over his desk as he begins writing without another word. End of discussion, I guess.

"You're welcome," I murmur instinctively, soft enough so he can't hear. I think I must imagine the small rise of his lips, but remember that I've always had pretty good eyesight.

Later that day, when Edward shows up at The Garage sporting that shiner, no one even mentions it. Almost as if it's a normal occurrence, everything goes as usual; cigarettes are smoked, jokes are made, and cars are fixed.

I figure nobody knows what happened. Either that, or nobody cares.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Sometime during Madame Laurent's lecture two Thursdays later, I get a text from Alice. She and Jasper apparently decided to ditch the last two periods to dry hump in the woods or some other lovey-dovey shit that makes my stomach churn, so I'm to hitch a ride with Edward after school since she drove me in the morning.

Fantastic.

I'm trying to jam my books in my locker after school when I finally give up and decide to just hold them instead of breaking school property. With a resigned sigh, I slam my locker door shut, Edward's face instantly appearing behind it.

"Shit," I jump in surprise, books hitting the floor.

His eyebrows bounce like, wow, really? before he's kneeling on the ground picking them up. I'm startled for a second before I drop to my knees and join him. Our fingers don't touch while trying to reach the same sheet of paper and our eyes don't meet and there's not some moment of vague understanding between us or anything. He just grabs a few of my books and I get the rest of my papers, sighing as we resume our standing positions.

"Thanks," I mutter as he passes them to me.

"Everybody says sex is obscene," he replies lightly, out of nowhere. "The only true obscenity is war."

Um. "What?" I blink.

"Tropic of Cancer," he nods to the novel in my hands, the corner of his mouth rising slowly as he leans against the row of lockers. "I wouldn't have figured you for a porn-reader."

I'm momentarily stunned into silence, part of me surprised at how many words he's saying—to me, no less—while the other half is shocked at the actual content. Quickly, though, astonishment blurs into irritation. The guy seems to be a pro at preconceptions.

"Erotica," I stammer-correct, cursing the probable flame of my cheeks as I stuff everything in my backpack. "What's it to you?"

He shrugs against the lockers and I think of how everything about him gives off the air of casual carelessness.

"And just what would you figure me for?" I ask with a challenging edge to my voice, annoyed at his snobbish aura.

His eyes are blatantly green as he pauses, a sliver of pink flashing between his lips as his tongue peeks out, bringing his mouth to an almost-smile. His eyes sweep the floor for a beat. "Ask again later."

I can't really say anything to that so I zip my backpack with a huff in reply. "Just so you know, I wouldn't have figured you for a reader, period," because he doesn't have a monopoly on shitty prejudgments and I'm feeling mouthier than usual.

His laugh is short and through his nose as he shrugs. "Some things are easier to read than others."

"A man of simplicity," I practically snort.

"More practical than simple," he edits after a second. "Don't like to waste time."

"I can see that." My voice comes out quieter than I want, which probably has something to do with how this is the most I've ever heard him speak. His voice is smooth, sharp, and script-bored.

He cocks his head. "Yeah?" but he sounds like he's laughing inside.

I look past him to the exit, tired of being a source of amusement. "We should go."

There are a few stares I ignore as we leave the building and enter the student parking lot, faint whispers all around us. You'd think I was walking around naked with Bigfoot.

His car smells like cold cigarettes and pine, the seat freezing my ass as soon as I sit and close the door. The floor is covered in trash; wrappers, a disposable shaver, some gum, and empty food containers. My eyes wander to the backseat and widen at the blanket stashed between a package of water bottles and a few cartons of crackers, a small pile of clothes are strewn across the rear deck. Edward starts the engine and I hurry to put on my seat belt, noticing he doesn't bother with his.

"Are you sleeping in your car or something?" I ask without caring if I seem intrusive or rude. It's not exactly like he's the poster child for tact, either.

He just sniffs, eyes on the rear view as he puts the car in reverse. "You're nosy."

After slowly turning the wheel, he switches gears and stomps on the accelerator, speeding out of the lot so fast, I have to clutch my seat to avoid flying across the dashboard. "I prefer curious," I breathe, trying to get my heartbeat back to a normal pace.

"I prefer silent."

"Fair enough," I mumble, still attempting to catch my breath.

A few minutes pass before he clears his throat, rubbing the skin above his eyebrow as he drives. "I, uh. Wanted to say I'm sorry, by the way."

My eyebrows pull together as I glance at his profile, wondering what in the hell he'd think I need his apology for. "I'm a big girl, Cullen."

His grin is small but spreading, eyes sliding to my legs in a way that makes me shift. I'm wearing jeans and a coat, fully-fucking-clothed, but the way his stare lingers says otherwise. "Trust me, Bella. I know."

It's suddenly too stuffy in his small car and I switch my eyes to my window instead of trying to burn a hole through his face, the echo of my name rolling off his tongue for the first time bouncing inside my head.

"I meant," he continues casually, clearly accustomed to making girls squirm while sitting still, "when I assumed you'd rat."

Oh."Right. Well...yeah."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, you should be sorry."

He chuckles and turns left at a stop sign. "That's why I am."

"Being the Chief's daughter doesn't mean I'm a squealer," I continue. "And assuming that I am kinda makes you an ass."

Some kind of scoff-exhale flies out of his mouth. "Do you always say everything that comes to your mind?"

"I could ask the same of you," I reply, recalling the first words I ever heard him say.

"I don't talk much."

"Thought that just meant you didn't think very much, either."

"Now who's the one assuming things?" he chuckles, the sound deep and warm and a total contrast to the steel of his eyes.

"Not everybody's what you think they are, you know," I scoff.

He pauses. "I know." And I think he does.

He switches on the radio then, end of discussion. I'm not so peeved at it this time.

XxXxXxXxXxX

It's easy to blame the stabbing cold for my shivering, but the fact that we're out in the open night hosting a prohibited event that could be busted any second by my own fucking father has a lot to do with it.

The race is being held across some bridge connecting Forks to a nearby town called La Push and we're standing off to the side, waiting for everyone else to arrive from either team. There's not as many people as I thought, not one of them blasting Pitbull from a stereo or wearing a wifebeater. Fast and the Furious has some explaining to do.

"That's Angela," Alice nods towards a girl with dreadlocks in the crowd sipping a beer. "She and her boyfriend Ben—the, uh, green-haired bearded fellow—introduced Jasper and Edward to The Garage."

I squint at them, their faces unfamiliar. "They go to our school?"

"Nah, graduated last year. Sell quality pot, though. Oh," she grips my arm, tugging lightly, "there's Big A."

Aro Volturi looks about the same as he sounds: strange, tough, and serious. He steps out of a sleek, small car that's been sitting in The Garage for weeks with a drawn brows and a set mouth.

"Great smile," I mutter, watching a group of hardcore biker-looking guys approach him with equally stony faces. He's important; I know that much from hearing his name exchanged about fifty-three times in the last month within the grimy walls of The Garage. From what I've gathered, he'll be racing the very dragster our three grease monkeys have been repairing for weeks on end.

Alice laughs and turns her head, on the lookout for Jasper and Co. "Where the fuck are they?" she mumbles as a few groups come to the bridge, some students from Forks but most kids I've never seen before.

"Who's coming?"

"The usual," she sighs. "Jas, Em, and Rose."

"Mmm," I clear my throat for a bit before asking, "Not Edward?"

"Dunno," she replies, bored. "Sometimes he comes, sometimes he doesn't. Kinda does his own thing."

I nod, jamming my fists in my pockets, thinking about the ride in his car two days ago. When we got to The Garage, he went straight to working on Aro's hot rod and I went straight to my books, but the air was different between us. He's been a little chattier with me since then; cracking jokes in Biology and spooking me in the halls. I discover that he's actually pretty funny when he's not a brooding asshole and his grin is something you could get spoiled with. It makes me wonder.

"So, what's his story?"

"Hmm?" Alice asks distractedly.

I cough, shoulders shivering. "Edward."

Her head jerks quickly at his name, the sympathetic warning in her eyes making me itch with discomfort. "Oh, honey," she chuckles low. "Don't go there."

I bristle at her patronizing tone, forehead scrunching. "Go where?"

"You know."

"Do I?" I ask dryly.

She shakes her head and sighs, breath exhaled white in the cold. "Listen, I know he's gorgeous. I mean, have you seen that hair? Not to mention those arms..."

I'm not blind, so I have. "Jasper," I remind, half-joking.

Her smirk fades as she rolls her eyes. "Cullen sure is pretty to look at it, but that's about it. You don't wanna get involved with him."

"You're right. I don't."

She smiles, unconvinced, and raises her hands. "Look, don't get me wrong, there's nothing I appreciate more than a good ol' rebellious streak to keep the chief guessing. And Edward's definitely the rebellious type," she assures, as if I need confirmation. "He just has a lot of shit going on."

"I'm not asking where we should register, Alice. I'm just...curious."

I can tell she doesn't buy my shit, but she rolls her eyes with a sigh, pulling a carton of Malboros out her coat pocket. "Well. For curiosity's sake."

I don't bother trying to tamp down my grin as she passes me a cigarette. She lights hers before mine, taking a few drags.

I stand smoking in the bitter cold as she goes over the basics. He moved here from Chicago freshman year with his parents, otherwise known as the town's deadbeat and drunk. The girls were all over him, of course, but when he was charged with a DUI early sophomore year and seen in the back of my own father's cruiser three months later for petty theft, the crowds died down. So began his infrequent yet noticeable visits to the station, the number of his rumored arrests increasing when he was actually pulled in for questioning more than anything. Though he's had his share of fist fights, he hits the books more than anything, never earning less than a C in any class. Impressive, considering how many naps he takes in Bio.

He hates getting drunk, runs faster than half the Forks' track team, and has worked in The Garage since junior year. They've never been caught, but it's gotten close, and he only does it because he's good with cars and needs the money.

"For what?"

Alice just shrugs. "He keeps to himself, really," she exhales, looking over my shoulder momentarily. "You're the first newcomer he hasn't like, wanted to exile."

"Right," I scoff, rolling my eyes, but her words ring semi-true. I think of telling her about his closet in his backseat, how he apologized for his first impression of me being wrong. From what she's saying, it seems sorry isn't even in his vocabulary.

"You probably know as much about him as I do," she sighs, flicking the end of her cigarette so the ash falls to the wet ground. "There's really nothing else to him."

I want to tell her she's wrong, but take another long drag instead. What do I know? Maybe he's just a messed up kid with a messed up past. Maybe there's nothing more to bad boys. Maybe they don't have some secret sensitive side they keep hidden from everyone except the good girl, because maybe they're just bad.

And maybe I like that.

XxXxXxXxXxX

Winter Break is boring as shit. Alice is out of town, Jasper and Rose are visiting their dad in California, Emmett left for a sick relative in Ohio, and Edward's off doing God knows what. Everyone's gone, leaving me alone with a late shift-working Charlie and a cold, damp house.

It's only Tuesday when I decide I can't take being cooped up alone anymore and visit the local diner for lunch. It's got dingy windows and even grubbier menus, but I love it even if half the patrons won't stop staring at me like a specimen under a microscope. I'm peeved, but say nothing out loud about how they really should've found a new star for their gossip stories by now, given that I've been here four months already. Talk about old news.

"Cherry pie," an amused voice suddenly chuckles behind me.

I swivel my head around mid-bite and nearly drop my fork, gulping down my pie and licking any remnants off my lips. "Edward?"

He's standing there in a ratty, old military jacket and a beanie, long legs wrapped in denim, his boots peeking out at the bottom. "Swan," he nods.

I can't help the quirk of my forehead. "What are you doing here?"

"Here?" he repeats, eyebrows raised. "You mean the completely public diner that's open to the entire community?" I just blink as he slides in the booth seat opposite of me smoothly, taking off his beanie and running a hand through his hair a few times. "This seat taken?" he asks without looking up, grabbing a menu.

"What if it was?" I stammer through a half-daze, still completely perplexed at what he's doing. Here. With me.

"Then I'd probably be expected to leave," he murmurs, eyes scanning the selection.

"Yeah, but would you, is the question."

He cracks a grin, eyes cast downward. "Don't do too well with expectations."

I squint at that, wondering what the hell is going on here.

"What the hell is going on here?"

"Hmm?" he asks distractedly.

"What are you doing here?"

He raises his head and glances over me like a broken lamp at a yard sale. "Just sitting down to talk with a friend."

"Friend?" I repeat dubiously. "I'm your friend now?"

This time, the glance is longer, eyes almost burning. "Or something like it." And then he's back to reading.

Friend. Sure. Except according to Alice, Edward Cullen doesn't do friends. He does enemies, one-night stands, and cold acquaintances. The only friends he has have known him five times longer than I have. Maybe he's trying to branch out, turn a new leaf or some shit. Whatever the case, it's confusing as fuck and slightly intriguing.

"I thought everyone left for break," I switch the topic, clearing my throat.

"Well, you thought wrong."

I laugh softly, "And here I thought that was your job."

He smiles suddenly. It's bright and big, nothing like his teasing smirks or mischievous grins. I may be blinded. "Right there," he nods. "That's why I'm here."

"Come again?"

He leans back against the booth, spreading an arm across the top of the seat. "Maybe I find you refreshing, Swan."

"I'm not a soft drink, Cullen."

The corner of his mouth twitches as he lazily drums the fingers of his other hand against the table, watching me slowly. Seconds pass. "Any plans?"

My forehead wrinkles at the abrupt turn in conversation. "Huh?"

"For Christmas."

"Only if you count sitting alone watching shitty reality TV as plans."

He looks shocked, almost amused. "No festive dinner for the chief?"

"He won't be around to eat it," I mumble with a shrug.

He nods, expression unreadable. "Better than what I'm doing."

"Which is?"

He leans forward to play with a sugar packet, avoiding my eyes. "Going home."

"You mean your car?" I joke, hoping he doesn't take offense. He doesn't; releasing a small chuckle as he scratches the back of his neck.

"Sure," he mutters.

"Where do you live?" I ask, curious more than anything.

His eyes are suddenly dead along with his voice as he drops the packet of Sweet'n'Low. "Why do you care?"

I stare at him blankly for a second, perplexed and then royally pissed as I scoff, rolling my eyes and grabbing my bag to leave. Fuck this. I know menopausal women whose mood swings don't match his.

"Bella, wait. Shit." My movements halt as I take in his closed eyes. "Sorry." He shakes his head, opening them.

Slowly, I relax into my seat and set down my bag, waiting for him to continue. "Okay." It comes out like a question.

"I just...I don't like talking about home."

"Why not?"

He laughs mirthlessly. "You really are nosy, you know that?"

"I thought I was refreshing." He rolls his eyes even as his lips pull up. "Besides, this is what friends do."

"Delve into your personal life?"

"Share with each other."

"And what if I don't want to?"

"Then you're not a very good friend," I snort.

"Never said I was."

I raise a brow, pursing my lips. "What's in this friendship for me?"

His smile is cheesy and forced as he winks once, pulling a cigarette from his pocket to stick it in his still-grinning mouth. "I'm sure you'll think of something," he murmurs around it, pulling his beanie back on.

I dart my eyes between his rising figure and the menu he was studying five minutes ago. "You're not gonna order something to eat?"

He dips his gaze to my nearly empty plate before shrugging. "Not hungry. Besides, this is a no-smoking zone. Merry Christmas, Swan." The cigarette in his mouth shifts as he grins. "Enjoy the pie."

And then he's gone.

XxXxXxXxXxX

It's weird at first, hanging out with Edward. He's seemingly everywhere I am the rest of that week, bumping into me at the grocery and library, giving me a lift home after my truck breaks down. I should probably be worried—scared, even—but can only feel relief that he's around when everybody else isn't. He's just a stand-in until break ends. At least, that's what I tell myself.

The truth is, he's completely provocative and makes me feel like he knows every secret I've ever kept, even from myself. It's awkward the first few times we shoot the shit because he's him and I'm me and we barely know each other. But maybe the fact that we're strangers makes us bold, willing to tell the truth, because who cares? Maybe we're so busy with remaining unaffected by one another that it happens behind our backs, becoming closer through blunt honesty. He's still a moody asshole and I'm still foolishly outspoken, but we fit that way, challenging and teasing without really changing.

Before long, I've shared half of my life story in Phoenix and he's telling me everything he'll do once he finally bolts. We share secrets and dreams, almost daring each other to go further, deeper. I discover he's a fantastic listener, hates olives, and is saving up to leave. It's swift but sudden, the realization that he knows more about me than anyone else. I know without a doubt that the same is true for him.

We don't bother explaining when everyone comes back after Christmas, letting them think what they want. Em asks if we're in an episode of Body Snatchers, Rose couldn't care less, Alice is silently confused, and Jasper scoffs disbelievingly, asking if we're "friends now or whatever."

"Or something like it," I answer with a quick glance at Edward. He grins, and I love that nobody but me knows why.

I'm not dumb. I know I'll probably leave with an empty chunk in my chest and that he's clueless and careless. I almost wish knowing that is enough to stop me. But it's not.

We're in The Garage the first week of February and I'm sitting at our table reading Miller while he works on Aro's latest request. Everyone else has plans, so it's just us two; a circumstance I've grown to prefer.

"Shit," he mutters as I turn another page, his profane comments a normal occurrence. He says it again after another minute, though, preceding the sharpest inhale I've ever heard him emit.

My eyes dart to him standing in front of the open car hood, body tense, face pulled with...pain?

"Edward?" He says nothing in return, closing his eyes for a beat before working on the exposed engine again. Not twenty seconds pass before he's hissing in pain again, my book completely forgotten as I crane my neck to get a better view of him. "What's wrong?" I ask, giving his pain-taut body a once-over.

He clears his throat, avoiding my gaze. "Forget it," he answers gruffly. But three minutes later, he drops a tool with a metallic clang, a pained grunt escaping his lips.

The book falls from my hands and I'm at his side instantly. He's gripping the edge of the car, knuckles white, lips curled. "Okay, tell me what's wrong.""

"I'm fine," he grits out.

"No," I say, moving my head so I'm in his line of vision, "You're not."

He manages to roll his eyes while in seemingly excruciating pain. "Leave it alone, Bella."

"No."

"I'm fine," he repeats.

"No, you're not."

"Yes. I am."

"You stubborn..." I trail off as my finger pokes his abdomen lightly, barely pressing his shirt. He recoils in pain, releasing a strangled groan. "Sure. Just dandy."

Through his pant of pain, he smirks a little. "Gutsy, Swan."

I roll my eyes. "Something's obviously wrong, Cullen. Just. Take off your shirt."

His smirk transforms into a full grin at my order. "Is that what this is about it? You could've just asked me to strip, doll-face."

"Whatever, Dirty Harry," I mumble with a shake of my head, willing my face to stop burning at the thought of him, nude. "I could always poke you again."

"Injuring the wounded? Devious."

"I thought you said you were fine."

He's the one to roll his eyes this time, but he doesn't look away and neither do I. It turns into a stare-off, his gaze filled with smug amusement while I raise a brow, determined and a little nervous under his scrutiny. Eye contact with him never fails to simultaneously terrify and exhilarate me, the sensations amplified standing so close, gazing and letting him gaze back. After a while his stare shifts, lips pressed together, skeptical confusion wrinkling his brow as he registers I'm not backing down.

His fingers travel to the top of his shirt. Without breaking the stare, he slowly unbuttons his flannel, brow quirked in challenge even as he surrenders. He looks at me with curiosity and heat that ignites my cheeks as his fingers undo the buttons painstakingly slow and I'm a Popsicle under the sun; melting sweet and slow and to my ruin. He shrugs out of the long-sleeve and drops it on the car, standing in a white wife beater that he finally removes with a sigh of completion. I allow my eyes to lower as he tosses it to the side, needing to swallow my gasp.

They're the freshest bruises I've ever seen; purple and blue blossoms spread across his ribcage like a mural of rich pain. My mouth falls open in horrified shock, eyes glancing to him watching me tensely, like he's just waiting for me to freak out. I clamp my lips together and give his battered flesh a once-over, not having realized I've been holding my breath until I need to inhale.

"Ice," I say before walking to the perpetually beer-stocked fridge and finding a bag of frozen strawberries—courtesy of Alice, no doubt. I grab the pack and walk past Edward, wordlessly craning my head to a bench a few feet over without bothering to wait and see if he'll follow. I sit on the steel plank upon reaching it, starting at the unexpectedly small distance between our bodies. He remains standing in front of me with his stomach level with my face, eyes twinkling as he looks down on, clearly taken with the compromising position our bodies are in.

"I'm not above sympathy favors," he says smirking even as his breathing is strained with pain. "Especially from you."

Immediately, the frozen bag is placed against his stomach in an effort to shut him up, to show that he can't get away with talking like that, but when he hisses and jumps in pain, remorse is quick.

"Sorry," I murmur, eyes on my hands holding the cold package against him. "Am I hurting you?"

"No," he replies tightly, eyes squeezed shut. "Just surprised me. Again."

"Edward..." The question is right there, on my tongue. I wonder briefly if he'll flip out at me asking, for stepping some invisible boundary, but decide that I don't give a shit. "What happened?"

His mouth tightens. "Don't worry about it, Bella."

"Too late," I murmur, shaking my head. "Who did this to you?" My other hand leaves my lap to softly graze against his bruised flesh, the muscles shifting beneath my fingers.

He sucks in a breath and I look up to see his brows drawn above those bright emerald eyes. They're hooded and tired but burning through me, and I see the shift occur in them. His hand is suddenly over mine, releasing my grip on the frozen bag so he can hold it himself. My fingers are entangled in my lap as he moves and takes the seat next to me with a sharp grunt.

"I hate getting drunk." I almost tell him I already know this from Alice, but bite my tongue as he continues. "Because my mom is always shit-faced." He's staring at the bag of melting strawberries in his hands, the pull of his brows the only sign of stress, voice conversational. Casual carelessness.

I didn't know about his mom, but I'm familiar with drunk parents. "Does she yell?" I ask quietly.

His lips twitch as he shakes his head. "Nah. She leaves that to my dad. Mom drinks a lot. Dad drinks a lot more."

I bite my lip, but need to ask. "Did he..."

He glances at me, swallows, and looks away with a long inhale. And I know.

"Edward," I gasp, sympathetic.

"Don't." He winces, but I know it isn't from his bruised flesh. "I'm not telling you this to get your pity or whatever. I just..." A sigh escapes his mouth, his hand rubbing the back of his neck.

"You have to tell someone, or say something, or—"

"I'm telling you," and my face softens at his tone even as I wonder why I didn't know about this sooner. He knows he could tell me anything.

"Someone who can do something," I explain.

"I can take care of myself," he says, more assuring than defensive. "If you think this is bad, you should see him."

"That's not..." I shake my head, trailing off speechlessly.

"It doesn't happen as often as it used to."

"It shouldn't happen at all."

His gaze cuts to me, eyes hard. "I know that, Bella. But, shit. What am I gonna do? I don't turn eighteen till graduation and there's nowhere else to go. I stay away from home as much as possible, but..." his face turns cold, hard. "I can't stay away forever. Not yet."

The image of the blankets and food in his car come to mind and I'm speechless, wondering why he never told me before, thinking about him spending Christmas as a human punching bag. To the handful of times I'd seen him with a cut or bruise, assuming it was because of some punk on the playground and how everybody else turned a blind eye or refused to bring it up. How he doesn't deserve this, because nobody deserves this.

"I'm s—"

"Don't apologize." He turns the sagging bag over in his hands silently. "You did nothing wrong."

"I'm still sorry it happened," I reply swiftly.

His eyes aren't quite so hard when they meet me this time, moss-green and clear. His lips part and he shifts his head closer to mine, looking at me like he's searching for something he's never had but desperately needs.

"Sleep with me."

His eyes nearly pop out of his skull.

"I mean," I continue quickly, eyes squeezed shut. You idiot. You fucking imbecile. "I just—My house." He's staring at me when I allow my eyes to open, amused and nervous. "Since you need a place to crash. Charlie's never around, anyway. He wouldn't notice another person in my bed. I mean, you could always sleep on the floor, but. That's not. As comfortable as my...yeah."

"Bella."

"Yeah?" I'm breathless and burning from all the mindless rambling, barely meeting his eyes.

He gulps, darts his eyes to my mouth, and closes them. "I need to go," he mumbles softly, almost to himself.

My brow furrows as he rises from the table with a cringe, a muttered "fuck" spat from his mouth in pain. "What?"

"I'm...I have to leave."

"What do you mean?" I nearly get whiplash from the sudden change in his demeanor. "Where?"

"I just need to get out of here," he exhales, walking towards the car, and I wonder if he's talking about The Garage or Forks. He pulls on his shirt and buttons his flannel, wincing all the way. "Now."

"Why?" I ask, standing from the table myself. "Are you in trouble? Do you need me to—"

"Just," he interrupts quickly, the word a swinging hammer as he holds a hand up, his back to me. "Don't follow me."

"Edward," I say, but he just grabs his backpack and shoots me another stormy glance before walking out the door.

XxXxXxXxXxX

I was never good with sadness. It always felt too hopeless and helpless, too crushed. I'd turn it into anger quickly, liking the control and aggression and power. Being sad meant vulnerability which meant weakness which meant defeat. And so I'd get mad like the deeply unhealthy nutcase I was.

I thought all that might've changed after Renee.

It didn't.

XxXxXxXxXxX

By the time Valentine's Day comes around, Edward and I have officially stopped talking. If we saw each other in town or in school, he ran the other direction. It's as if I don't exist. Worse yet, it's as if he wishes I didn't.

I'm fucking pissed, of course. Who does he think he is, opening up and letting me in just to kick me out a second later and lock the door in my face? Worse than being pissed, though, I'm worried. Actually concerned for his well-being. The doucheface walked out on me and I'm the one tossing and turning, wondering if he's okay. Which just gets me angrier.

Nobody notices except maybe Alice, who asks if I'm stressed a few times, forehead wrinkled with suspicion more than interest. I tell her I'm fine with a quick nod and request for liquor. A week passes of Edward and I avoiding each other, freezing when our eyes meet in The Garage and turning mute in Biology. A week of cold glances and awkward silences. A week of telling myself that I'm angry, so fucking irate, when I'm more than that. I'm hurt.

"Let's go out!" Alice suggests one day after school. We're in my room smoking with the windows open and the door locked, books open and untouched on my bed.

"Sorry. Charlie's coming home early tonight." I don't tell her the real reason why I can't; that I don't want to.

"Tell him you're sleeping over my house like always," she shrugs.

"I should really study."

Her eyes drop to the books on the bed before lifting to mine. "Like we are now? Please," she scoffs. "You're just gonna stay in and mope some more."

"Am not," I reply defensively. I don't fucking mope.

"Yeah," she nods, voice muffled as she takes another drag. "You are."

"Whatever."

"He's a fucking dick, anyway," she says casually.

My breathing hitches. "Who is?"

She glances over me, sniffing. "The asshole who put you in such devastation, Swan. I know a broken heart when I see one." She doesn't say his name, but I see it on the tip of her tongue, along with her I-told-you-so. She's been observing more than I thought.

"I'm not—I don't...You're wrong."

"Clearly," she laughs, gesturing to my undoubtedly red face. "Look, let's just go out for a bit. Let off some steam. God knows you need to unwind."

"Thought that's what I've been doing," I say pointedly, waving the hand that's holding my cigarette.

"Kid stuff," she grins.

I exhale and it's a sound of surrender. She knows it, her smile widening as I ask, "Where?"

XxXxXxXxXxX

A party was a good idea, I decide upon my third cup of watered-down piss that passes as beer in Mike Newton's house. I chuck the red plastic cup somewhere behind me, someone's "Hey, watch it!" making me apologize through a laugh, though it's not really funny. I may be a little drunk. The living room is crowded with sweaty kids bumping and grinding, so getting out proves to be difficult, but possible.

I find Alice in the crowded kitchen and she raises a red plastic cup to me. "Isn't this fun?" she yells.

"Hmm? Yeah," I nod a little too quickly. And it is, I guess. Just really fucking crowded and hot, which probably has something to do with how almost half the school's stashed in this house. Speaking of.

"Is Jasper coming?" I ask. "Or Rose, or Emmett, or. Edward?" His name is muttered, but she doesn't show attention to it.

"Mm-mm," she shakes her head, taking another sip from her cup. "Jas is busy and Rose and Em are," she makes a crude gesture with her fingers, giggling. "And you know Edward does—"

"His own thing," I finish, nodding and bitter. That he does.

"Swan?" she asks as I turn to leave to find the bathroom.

"Yeah?"

Her eyes rove over me and I wish I could ignore the pity in her eyes. "Have fun."

I roll my eyes with a smile. "Thanks, Brandon."

"Anytime, babe!" she laughs after me as I leave the kitchen and enter the dining room. I reach the stairs and make my way to the second floor after some twisting and turning, but the bathroom is locked. Groaning in frustration, I kick the rug and head downstairs again. With some difficulty, I head to the sliding doors that lead to the backyard and step out into the biting cold, thankful for the empty back patio. The freezing air bites at my face, but I like the muffled quiet and the almost painful clarity that comes with the cold. It clears my head and wakes me up as I stash my hands in my pockets, shivering.

"Bella?"

I whip around and a scoff rolls off my tongue instantly. "God. Are you fucking serious?"

Edward takes a step closer slowly, approaching me like a rabid animal that could tear his head off any second. It's possible. "What are you doing here?"

"I'm at a party, dad. Is that not allowed?" I'm being dramatic and sloppy and bitter, and I can't care.

"Can we talk?"

My voice hangs flat as I ask, "What about."

He shifts his weight, pausing for a moment. "I shouldn't have just left."

"No shit." My eyes meet his, my stare as cold as the snow surrounding us. "Where did you even go?"

His face falls and he breathes out sharply, scratching the side of his head. "I can't. I..."

"So what you meant by 'can we talk' was actually 'can we pretend nothing happened so I can continue being a secretive bastard,'" I nod, clicking my tongue. "Say that instead next time. Wastes less time." I start for the house again and am about to open the doors when he clutches my arm, stopping me.

"Bella, wait. Just fucking hold on, okay?"

"For what?" I nearly yell, his face so close and so tired, pale-skinned and bony in the bitter night. He looks the way I've been feeling: like shit. I shrug his hand off with a sigh, weeks of pent-up worry and blatant caring pushing through my clay defenses. "Why did you leave, Edward? If you can't tell me where you went, at least tell me why."

"I just—I had to get out of there."

"Why?"

"Because," he responds just as loudly. "You were inviting me to go home with you to sleep in your fucking bed, Bella. Jesus," he whispers, shaking his head. "I couldn't be near you another second."

My face crumples as I take in his meaning, hot embarrassment coursing through me. "Well, sorry being a thoughtful friend."

His laugh is ice. "I'm way past that point, Swan."

I throw him a puzzled glare. "What?"

Edward swallows hard, eyes scanning the black backyard, words whispered in a rush. "I want you, Bella." He says it like a secret, a confession, a curse. "All the time. I can't...I had to leave. Who knows what would've happened if I stayed."

My breath is choppy as I squint at him, disbelieving. "What?".

He bites his lip, shaking his head. "I told myself that I wouldn't let me ruin...this. I couldn't. But that night, sitting with you...I never told anybody that before. It was fucking intimate. And then you go and ask me to sleep with you and," he gulps, eyes on the ground. "I was going crazy."

My throat is dry as I blink at him, taking everything in. I've been trying to bury the part of me that yearns for him, telling it to shut up and die because it'll never happen. But now.

Still. "So you just left? No explanation?"

"I'm sorry," he exhales. "I didn't know what to do."

"You could've talked to me."

"Another second more, and we wouldn't have been talking," he replies instantly.

Well. I pause at that, licking my lips that are suddenly dry. His eyes dart to the movement and I can see it, the blunt desire in his stare. It's more than physical, though. I see it in his clenched fists, in the way he quickly looks away, minutely shaking his head.

"Why do you keep pulling away?"

He stares out at the blinking darkness. "That's what I do."

"Not with me," I remind him, stepping closer. "What if you wouldn't be ruining anything, Edward? What if I want you too?"

"Bella." His eyes close. "Stop."

"No," I answer simply. "Why?"

He sighs in frustration, raking a hand through his hair. "Because. You're too good, and I'm...not."

"Gimme a break," I scoff coldly. "Don't pull that good vs. evil bullshit with me."

"It's true," he chuckles without humor. "And I'm leaving, I swore to God I'd leave the second I graduate and if this—if we happen, I'll never go. I can't ask you to pick up and leave for my sorry ass, so we can't—"

"You're scared." My voice is cutting, eyes ablaze. "Just fucking say it. You don't think you don't deserve me, that you'll ruin me. You're just too scared to let yourself have what you want."

He's stunned into silence, lips parted, eyebrows drawn. He either doesn't believe what I know or knows it's true.

"But I'm not," I say quickly before crashing my mouth to his, too swift for him to stop it. He doesn't, though, hands at my waist instantly, his lips responding straightaway, and I wonder how weak his resolve was. Obviously stronger than mine.

His lips are cold and soft and it feels like giving up, giving into something good. My hands pull at his hair, drawing a sharp grunt from him as he moves his lips to my neck and sucks. I'm panting his name, pulling so his mouth meets mine again, relishing in the beer-mint taste of him, in the slide of his tongue, how hot and firm his mouth is. Our heads are shifting, noses bumping as we try to get closer and I laugh and he's saying he can't and I'm saying he already is, lips languid but persistent, drawing out the feeling that reaches my toes.

It's a kiss that swallows us whole.

XxXxXxXxXxX

We're pretty much inseparable the weeks that follow, at each other's sides constantly. He jokes about corrupting me a lot, a serious edge to his voice that I try to kill by assuring him I've done shit he's never even heard about. He knows it's a lie but laughs anyway, knowing what I really mean is that I can make my own damn mind. It's hard for him to accept that I want him, completely and constantly, but I'd be lying if I said I was convinced of his affection for me, too. Neither of us are used to this, to accepting something good as ours.

I know he's leaving in the summer without me and I try to imagine his life in sunny California where his aunt owns an auto shop for him to work at. I think of how we'll promise to keep in touch but eventually lose it, how it's that much more important to make the best of what we have now.

"I knew it," Alice claims in the cafeteria the week of St, Paddy's. Two hours prior, Edward and I were seen kissing in my truck, much to our friends' expectations. Emmett made a dirty joke, Rose muttered "About time," and Jasper just shook his head, smiling.

"Okay," I laugh, taking a swig of my Snapple.

"I'm serious," she insists.

"Seriously scary," Edward pipes in, taking a seat next to me. Alice sticks her tongue out at him and he just rolls his eyes, his body inching towards me. It's the way we are; when he shifts, I move. When I turn, he follows. I realize we were both fighting it before; this magnetic chemistry between us that keeps us so physically close, it's almost alarming.

"No lunch?" I ask, eyeing the empty space in front of him where his tray should be.

He just shrugs.

"Not hungry?"

His eyes turn darker, flicking to my mouth. "Not for food."

"Get a room," Rose huffs.

And we do. Mine, specifically. It takes some convincing, but when I explain to Edward just how absent Charlie is from the house, he finally agrees to visit. Then the visits turn long, melting into mornings, and before you know it, he's sleeping over pretty regularly. Except we don't get much sleep.

"Edward," I gasp as his lips trail down my neck, my hands in his hair as he moves lower to the bare skin of my stomach. It's already April, but it's not warm enough for the windows to be open. Good thing, too.

"The door's locked, right?" he murmurs against my flesh, stubble tickling my abdomen.

"Mhmm."

"And Charlie's working late?"

"Yeah," I breathe.

"Good," he whispers, unbuttoning the fly of my jeans, eyes on mine.

I lick my lips at the sight of him slowly undressing me, kicking my pants off as he crawls upwards and tugs at the bottom of my blouse. It's on the floor with his in a second, his stare as hot as his hands rubbing me through my bra, caressing and squeezing. His tongue licks across the tops of my breasts and I pant his name. I sit up and he's confused for a second as I bend my arms backwards and unhook the clasp of my bra, letting the straps fall. It's the first time he's seen me bare and his eyes burn right through me, throat constricting as he swallows.

His eyes dart to mine and they're full of...something. "You're exquisite." He's looking at me like never before, voice so light and soft, I think I may be imagining it. I lean forward and kiss him while pulling his hair, his groan igniting the burning between my legs.

"Edward," I sigh when his lips move to my neck. They travel lower until he swirls his tongue around my nipple, making my head jerk back. "Shit." He does it again, harder and slower and my hands tug at his hair, my nails scratching his scalp. He groans around my breast, sending buzzing pleasure to where I'm aching below. "Touch me," I pant, eyes creaking open to find his stare hooded with want.

He nods before crawling down my body so his face is at level with my thighs and he asks me to spread my legs for him, so I do.

"Just like that," he murmurs, letting his hands wander. He strokes me through my underwear, pulling a sharp exhale from me. "I can feel how wet you are through this," he breathes in awe. We've done this before and he's touched me there, but he's more vocal this time, and it's exponentially hotter.

"I want you," I tell him, voice pleading.

"I know," he smirks. He's watching me watch him pull my panties off before sliding his hand down my hot flesh, spreading the wetness around. "Christ," he grits out, jaw locked. He strokes me, soft and long. When he slips two fingers inside, I whimper, reflexively spreading my thighs even farther. "God," he grunts, the sound dripping with desire. "Yes. Wider, Bella." His fingers are smooth and soaked, probing, digging, picking up pace with each stroke, hitting deeper. My breath turns choppy and I'm moaning his name and he's telling me how hot I feel, how tight I am around his fingers, his words turning me into a pile of wanton yearning. I tell him to keep going and he says that he will, bending his head to suck on my clit.

The burning pleasure in me builds and builds, a crescendo of profanities yanked from my mouth. My hand grabs at my breast and he groans at the sight, the sound's vibrations finishing me off.

His name soars from my lips as I come apart around him, the tight dig of his fingers still going until I can open my eyes again. He crashes his mouth to mine without giving me a chance to catch my breath and I don't care, my fingers unbuttoning his jeans instantly. He sheds his boxers and I straddle his naked thighs, making a fist around his cock, the low groan he emits enough to work me up again.

"Bella," he pants when I swipe my thumb across the slit at the top of him. I grip him tighter and he chokes on a breath, eyes screwed shut, head knocking against my headboard.

"So hard," I whimper, staring at the near-purple head of his erection.

"I want you," he mumbles as explanation, opening his eyes to stare at my hand pumping him.

"Me, too," I tell him. "So much."

He sits up a little straighter, making me bounce on his thighs, and leans forward so our mouths meet. I swallow his strangled moan and he pulls away, his deep gaze flashing with more than hunger like before. There's desire, longing, lust, another L word I don't dare let myself think. And then I know.

"Now," I breathe.

"What?" he pants.

I release him from my hand and scoot closer so my thighs encase his waist, my sex rubbing against the base of his cock.

"Fuck," he whines, head falling back. He darts his eyes to me, chest heaving, understanding crossing his face. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," I nod, biting my lip at the feel of his length brushing my entrance with every shift of my hips.

"Shit. Stop that. I gotta..." he makes a move to get up, but I tell him to open the drawer near my bed instead. He finds what he needs in there, flashing me a quirked brow and a grin that I return. "Prepared, are we?"

I shrug coyly. "You never know what'll happen."

He smirks and tears open the packet, throwing the wrapper to the side. His eyes are on me as he rolls on the condom and I glance down at his thinly-sheathed hardness before wrapping my fingers around him.

"Bella," he says roughly before kissing me. It's sweet and short; nothing like his fiery gaze when we pull apart. "Get on your back."

I break out into goosebumps at his commanding tone and obey, settling among my pillows as he stares down at me, licking his lips. "You're so beautiful," he says, pulling my legs apart gently.

I feel exposed as his eyes trail down my body so I stare at his, my mouth watering at his taut muscles, his smooth skin. "Not bad yourself, Cullen."

He doesn't laugh or even smile, face earnest as he glances up at me. He moves between my legs and hovers above me, silent and serious. "Bella," he says, my name never before containing so much meaning. When he opens his mouth to continue, I shut it with my own.

"I know," I murmur after pulling away. And I do. But we can't say that. We won't make it apart one day if we do.

He nods in understanding before hovering above me again, lips brushing my neck as my hands come around to stroke his back, letting my nails scratch his skin softly. He inhales sharply, shifting his hips so the head of his cock rubs against my wet core, pulling a low moan from both of us. With a quick glance at my face, he purses his lips and thrusts forward.

I moan at the feeling of finally being filled by him, my flesh adjusting for his size. He knows it's not my first time and I know it's not his, but it's never been like this. The burning in his eyes and the shocked part of his lips tells he knows that, too.

"So good," he mumbles, swiveling his hips back to push inside me again, deeper. "Fuck. It's never...I can't—"

"I know," I breathe, nodding. "For me, too."

He moves slow and deep, sucking on my breast gently while his hands grip my hips, keeping me in place. I close my eyes and let the feel of his skin against mine wash over me, his short pants in my ear becoming my new alphabet. He's always so strong; so tough and guarded, but in this moment, his hard against my soft, head bowed to my chest in reverence, he's more open than he's ever been.

And I know it's the sex, but it's also so much more than that. This is us giving and taking and sharing and him offering everything he has, all for me.

"Faster," I mumble, needing more, arching my back. He catches a nipple between his lips, sucking hard and stealing my breath.

"Yeah?" he grunts, moving his hips closer, bringing him deeper, tighter.

"Yeah."

He pushes my legs farther apart so I'm completely spread, bent knees pushed against the bed as he pulls out. I whine at the loss, but the sound is quickly replaced by a high moan when he rams back in, hips slamming against mine, his pubic bone rubbing my clit. He does it again, each time harder, bringing him deeper until I can barely catch my breath, my mattress creaking as he drives into me relentlessly.

"Fucking...look at you," he grits out. I raise my head to see him staring down at where we're joined, his stare transfixed. I know I'd lose it if I saw, so I let my head fall back as he tells me I take him so tight, that we fit perfectly. When he shifts a little, hitting deep inside, I moan out his name, my legs quaking.

"There?" he asks roughly. I nod, but he tells me to speak up.

"There," I cry out as he hits it again and fuck, it's just too much, too hard and deep and hot and then he grabs the tops of my shoulders and pushes down as his hips thrust forward, making me take him so deep, I can't think, can't breathe, can't fucking do anything but call for God.

"Hook your knees around my shoulders," he grunts.

I do what he says, whimpering at the new angle as he continues to push down my shoulders and fuck me unrelentingly, pumping deeper and faster, whispering filthy fucking things in my ear until his words push me off the edge and I'm coming, coming, coming undone.

"Fuck," he moans, thrusts choppy. "Yes, Bella. Fucking come for me."

"Edward, oh God," I moan, back arched high off the bed, head hanging backwards. I let the pleasure swallow me until I'm brought back to earth with his own release pulsing inside of me, a string of "shit, fuck oh God Bella, Bella, Bella" falling from his mouth.

He collapses on top of me, our chests heaving and sweaty as he murmurs something against my skin I can't hear. My hand reaches to stroke his hair and I feel his thumb rubbing against my waist, the room filled with our heavy breathing until he presses a kiss to my neck before rising up and pulling out.

When he returns from the bathroom, I'm already dozing off, a pleasurably exhausted half-smile on my face as he joins me under the covers, wrapping his arms around me from behind. He's warm and soft and when he starts humming distractedly, I fall asleep almost instantly.

I hear him say it right before I go under. Three words whispered in my ear, breathy and barely audible, buzzing my blood. I tell him "Me, too," slurred and tired, but he's already asleep.

XxXxXxXxXxX

I'd be lying if I said he's insatiable after that. Because I am, too. With the imminent separation looming over us mixed with our very active teenage hormones and lack of parental supervision, though, what do you expect?

May blurs into June and summer skin is shown and sucked, the beating sun adding to our slow burn. There's slight guilt for robbing everyone else of his presence during his last month in Forks, but he assures me there's no one else he'd rather be with and they understand that.

"It's worth it," Rose tells me the Saturday before graduation when I half-jokingly apologize for hogging her favorite bronze-haired bad boy. "To see him like this. Happy." She scoffs lightly, watching Em and Edward trying to swipe a few bottles of Stella from inside a gas station. Edward smooth-talks the cashier as Emmett stashes a case in his pack, careful to avoid cameras and mirrors.

I stare at Edward as she continues. "He's never...I've never seen him like this, Bella. Before you, he was a mess."

"So was I," I snort.

She remains somber, lips pursed. "Bella, you're—I'm...glad you're here," she stammers, awkward and heartfelt.

"Me, too."

I tell Edward about what Rose said later that day, his head on my bare stomach, my fingers raking through his hair.

"She's right," he says, trailing a finger across my arm resting against his chest. "You know you saved me, right?"

He turns his head to meet my eyes when my body goes rigid. "People don't save other people," I tell him, because it's true. Good girls can't save bad boys. "You saved yourself, Edward."

He's staring, eyes probing and swirling with depth that I could drown in. I can see him thinking back to his life before this, before us. How my bed was a safe haven from his house, how he made the choice himself to change paths for the better. "Maybe," he admits after a second. "But you helped."

"Hell yeah, I did. You know, you helped me sav—" He's kissing me before I can finish, mouth desperate, my hands tangling in his hair. When he moves his lips to my neck, I pant his name and he starts speaking to my skin.

"To have her here in bed with me," he murmurs, "breathing on me, her hair in my mouth—I count that something of a miracle," he quotes.

He knows it's my favorite book, the only thing of Renee I have left. Tropic of Cancer was her original if risky idea of teaching me sex ed, and I've held onto it ever since. I confessed to him weeks ago about what happened, how one day I came home from school to find her room completely wiped clean, half the fridge's contents gone, and a two-word note on the counter: "Call Charlie." How I haven't heard one word from her since. How I didn't think I could ever believe in anything again, until he helped me realize I deserved to believe in myself.

I kiss him hard, pouring all my thanks into the pull of my tongue, the grip on his hair. He gives right back and I can feel it, the desperate urgency to make this last.

"I'll never forget you," he breathes, lowering his mouth to catch my nipple between his lips.

I feel like crying at the pleasure, at his words. My back arches as I breathe out, "You, too."

"The way you sound," he mumbles, dipping his fingers to my bare entrance, making me whimper his name. "The way you taste," he continues softly, bringing them to his mouth, licking them clean. He hovers above me, tracing my cheek with the back of his hand as he gently nudges my knees apart so he can thrust forward, entering me swiftly. "The way you feel," he says, voice strained, eyes hooded, staring at my mouth.

It's quiet and slow, passionate but heavy, my fingers grasping every inch of his skin, knowing it'll all be gone soon. He does the same, his lips everywhere, kissing and speaking promises into my skin. Every hard thrust brings me closer, but I hold on, needing to savor it, putting it off because it's just too fucking good to end.

"Let go, Bella," he breathes across my chest, glass-green eyes begging.

"Edward," I gasp when I feel my control slipping, the coil within tightening until finally I shatter, breathless and frozen as he chases his release.

We're quiet after, his lips at my neck unmoving, my hands in his hair still. And I know he's thinking the same thing; how perfect it would be to stay in this moment, frozen near the end forever. But minutes tick and mornings arrive and days pass.

"Wear sunscreen," I tell him as he stands on my front porch the morning of his departure, a cigarette behind his ear, sunglasses tucked in the collar of his shirt, bag slung across his chest.

"I will," he replies with a small smile that doesn't reach his eyes.

I nod, biting my bottom lip to keep the tears at bay as I glance at Emmett's car in the driveway. "When does your flight leave?"

"An hour." His voice is soft and deep, and I think of all the words I've heard it say.

"Not a lot of time," I raise my eyebrows.

"No."

"You should leave."

"Yeah."

"Edward?"

He kisses me one last time, his lips urgent, my hands clutching his hair. It's hungry and sad and goodbye and when he pulls away, neither of us can look at each other. He clears his throat as he steps off my porch, my eyes anywhere but on him, finally landing on my hand that's holding the cigarette he had behind his ear.

"Edward!" I call out, waving it.

He turns around, walking backwards, darting his eyes to my raised fingers. "Keep it," he shouts. "Give it back the next time I see you."

I do.


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