You guys continue to rock my world — thank you.

Thanks to my "team" aka the girls I couldn't do this without; Pattinlethr, SparklyMeg, Iklepixie, Everydaybella, Cruiz Fanfiction, Mariahajile & Marly580.

xXx

Chapter 9

Jacksonville

School sucks.

Both Alec and Jane try to talk to me in the parking lot. Their united front cuts like a knife to the heart. Their betrayal feels worse, knowing it's obviously been going on for so long and I was too dumb to notice. Facing whispers and pitied stares now feels even worse than I thought, and walking with my head held high feels tougher as each minute passes. Thankfully, I barely take two steps when Angela Webber appears next to me, links her arm with mine, and walks me inside. She doesn't even say anything, just smiles softly, and for that reason alone, I feel like I could hug her.

The party is the talk of the school, and I'm this week's hot gossip. Conversation stops whenever I pass a group of people, and I know the events of the weekend are passing down the hallways like a game of Telephone.

By lunchtime, I've had enough. I grab an apple from the cafeteria and go to hide out in the library.

My plans change quickly when Jane comes out of the bathrooms I pass on the way there.

"Bella…"

I carry on walking.

"Bella, please wait."

I spin on my heel and refrain from giving her the slap she deserves. "What?"

"Can we go somewhere to talk?"

"You're kidding, right?"

"I just wanted to apologize—"

"Apology not accepted."

She tries to talk, and I cut her off. "You don't get to apologize to me. You lied to me… You hurt me in the worst way possible. I confided in you. I told you how much I loved Alec, how I could feel him pulling away after we had sex, and you… You told me I was just being stupid." I take in a shaky breath. "The whole time you were sleeping with him. How could you do that to me?"

Tears fill my eyes, and I furiously blink them back. Crying in school is not an option.

She reaches out to me, and I instinctively step back.

"I'm sorry…" Tears fall down her face, her mascara leaving faint black trails in their wake. "I'll always be so sorry about this. I never meant to hurt you."

"Well, you did."

xXx

Chicago

My head spins as I try to process everything Edward has to tell me about my job. Thankfully, there's nothing too challenging, as my mind is thrown back to last night and the fact that my beautiful stranger is now my co-worker.

My stomach tingles just thinking about his lips against mine. The way he held me as if I were his most prized possession makes my heart warm—and ache—for that sort of feeling again.

I watch him as we move around the library floor. He walks with confidence, yet without the cocky swagger that most college guys seem to inherit in their first week. I lock my gaze with the hint of ink that peeks out from below his left sleeve, and I lick my lips. I want to follow that trail and see where it takes me.

"Bella?"

I shake my head. Right. Focus.

"Sorry. I was distracted. What were you saying?"

He smirks as if he knows where my mind went but schools his features quickly. "I have to do some paperwork for Mrs. Cope. Can you stay out the front and scan the books as they come in? Students have a drop-box for returned books that should be ready to empty by now. After that, they'll need to go back on the shelves."

"Right. Yeah, of course."

He makes sure I have everything I need and then disappears for the remainder of the day. I dutifully man the desk, methodically emptying the drop-box every hour and smiling at every person who walks in, resisting the urge to flip open a book and start reading. Instead, I spend any free time trying to figure out the ins and outs of the software, getting caught up as soon as possible. A few of my classmates come in, but it's not as awkward as I thought it would be.

By the end of my first shift, I can confidently say I understand the basics of the circulation desk, and I'm confident that I can juggle this job and my schoolwork.

Edward reappears out of nowhere after the last person has left and locks the door behind them. I smile nervously as our gazes meet, ignoring the flutters that cause my heart to race.

"Can I do anything to help?" I feel useless as he goes through what is obviously a nightly routine as the library closes.

He shakes his head. "No, I've got this."

I leave him as he steps behind the desk. His body is flush against mine for mere seconds, but it's enough. Every inch of my body is alive, and I want to be back in his arms again.

"Sorry," I murmur as I make my escape. No good can come from these kind of feelings, and I need to put as much space between us as possible.

I grab my backpack before signing out, and wait by the doors for Edward to finish and let me out. The tension between us is palpable, and I shift on my feet. I hate feeling so anxious, and I want out of here before I do something I really want to but know I'll regret.

If Edward senses my unease, he doesn't show it. He approaches me with a confident walk and a smile that lights up his whole face.

"You've done well for your first shift."

I take a step back. "Thanks."

It's awkward, and I hate it. I just want him to open the door and let me out.

"When are you next in?" He stands on his tiptoes, unlocking the bolt on the top of the door. I automatically drop my gaze to the sliver of skin now free as his shirt moves up. My fingers twitch with a need to touch him.

"Um…" I clear my throat. "Next Friday afternoon, I think. Mrs. Cope said she would confirm after speaking with you, making sure I was okay to come back."

The bolt on the lock coming free echoes in the empty room. He picks up his bag and opens the door, gesturing for me to go first. "Oh, Bella." He chuckles. "I definitely want you to come back."

I take a deep breath as soon as the cool air hits me, and I already feel better. Being in such close proximity to someone like Edward is playing with my emotions.

"Well, I guess I'll see you around?" I don't give him time to answer before I start walking away.

"Bella." He grasps my wrists and pulls me closer. "I'd like to see you again before next week." His words are quiet but confident.

"I don't think that would be a good idea," I say quietly. I don't turn around, too scared to see any form of disappointment on his face.

"But… Last night… Our kiss… I thought…" He clears his throat and moves to stand in front of me. I keep staring at the ground before finally looking up at him.

He smiles softly. "Just coffee?"

My mind screams at me to say yes.

My heart still feels trampled and broken.

"I'm sorry. I can't."

His beautiful smile fades. I step past him and all but run home.

Thank you for reading!

Fic Rec: A Little Too Much Too Late by MrsK81 - Having spent years waiting for her Mr. Right, Bella is finally getting the wedding of her dreams & a job opportunity of a lifetime. But life is never that simple & soon she is in way over her head.