The blare of the alarm clock woke up Bella with a start. She sat up in her bed, her hair a wild mess of curls and knots as she slammed her hand down on the snooze button.
Bleary eyed, she tried to remember why she had set her alarm for—she turned to check the time—four o'clock!
What the hell?
But when she spotted the bags by her bed, she remembered.
Oh yeah, I'm flying to South America today!
Excited, she jumped out of the bed, turning off the alarm clock before she raced towards the bathroom. She couldn't wait to get to the airport now and not only because she was going back to the country where her mother was born but because she was finally covering a major sporting event—The FIFA World Cup.
Growing up with her mother's family so close by, she always watched the soccer—er, football (she needed to get the terms straight) matches with her uncles and cousins. She fell in love with the sport when she was just a little girl, and even though her dad was more of a baseball fan, every time the Seattle Sounders played, he would always get tickets for them.
Bella got out of the shower and sighed, thinking about her dad. When he found out she was going to cover the World Cup, he was over the moon. One of his biggest regrets was never having taken her to her mom's hometown after she passed away, but this trip was a double opportunity she wouldn't miss for the world.
Too bad Benjamin wasn't travelling with her.
Her favorite photographer had gotten into a nasty car accident; his leg was shattered and would need several surgeries. She had visited him just two days ago and he'd promised he would find a photographer to substitute for him, one who would give the coverage the quality it deserved.
Bella dressed in her most comfortable clothes, knowing she was going to spend hours on a plane. She grabbed a strawberry pop tart and ate it quickly while she called for a cab.
An hour and a half later, she was walking towards the check-in desk at the airport when she spotted a mop of reddish brown hair. She stopped in her tracks and pulled a magazine from her purse. She covered her face as she tried to walk by unnoticed.
"Nice try, Swan, but I was actually waiting for you."
Bella stopped in her tracks and groaned. "What do you want, Cullen?"
Edward Cullen was the vain of her existence. Cocky, arrogant, and a total manwhore (or at least that was what she had heard), he was the only person in the world who could push Bella's buttons. He was also her biggest competition through college. Add the fact she had hated him since he completely ignored her freshman year of college, and nothing could lessen the animosity she felt towards him.
"As I said, I was waiting for you," he responded with that stupid smirk on his face, dangling a press pass in front of her eyes.
Bella took a step back, but when she saw the name of her newspaper on his ID, she tried to grab the pass.
"No, no, no," he said, shaking his finger at her. "This is my pass, which coincidentally matches yours!"
Bella crossed her arms and glared at him. "Where did you get that?"
If it was possible, Edward's smirk got cockier. "See, I had just returned from Africa, taking some pictures for National Geographic"— Bella rolled her eyes at his not-so-subtle bragging—"when I got a call from an old college buddy. He said he was desperate and needed someone to go in his place to South America to cover a major sporting event, so like the good friend I am, I accepted. Little did I know that the reporter I was supposed to partner with was none other than you!"
Bella cursed under her breath and turned around. She dialed her editor's phone number, and he picked up after the second ring.
"You're going with him or there is no piece."
Bella gritted her teeth. "Hello to you too, Emmett. Oh, and by the way, thanks for the heads up!"
Her editor sighed on the other side of the line. "Look, Benjamin and I tried to find someone to go with you, but with the Stanley Cup finals in just a couple of weeks, no one was available. We were lucky to snag Edward before another newspaper or magazine could. He's a great photographer, Bella, and he's perfect at capturing candids, something you need for your piece and the approach you want to give to the coverage."
Bella sighed, unable to deny that. When she got the assignment, she knew she wanted to do more than just cover the games; she wanted to bring light to a sport many Americans were just discovering now. Ever since David Beckham played a season with the LA Galaxy, the interest in football had grown in the States. Americans were fascinated by the talented player who was considered football royalty in Europe.
She wanted to recreate the same fascination and multiply it. She wanted America to know all the elite players who were coming to the World Cup and discover the passion for the sport through the eyes of the players. So many of them came from very humble backgrounds, and she wanted the piece to have a human interest angle. She already had three major interviews lined up, and she was looking to score at least two more.
Bella was out of time, and as much as she didn't want to admit it, Cullen was all she had.
"Fine, Emmett. But you owe me . . . big time!"
She ended the call before Emmett could reply and turned to face her nemesis.
Edward grinned and winked. "Ready, partner?"
Bella glared at him and briskly walked away.
Lord, give me strength to not strangle this smug bastard in his sleep.
Neck pillow. Check!
Bloody Mary. Check!
Eye mask. Check!
Settling in for a nice, long nap. Check!
"Oh, excuse me!"
Edward lifted the corner of his sleep mask just in time to see Bella deliberately bang his elbow with the corner of her rolling bag.
"Ow! What the f—hell, Swan?"
"Sorry, is your first-class seat not wide enough to accommodate your gigantic ego?"
Damn, the fiery pistol of a girl he'd always crushed on had turned into one hot journalist. With her fury setting him on fire, all Edward needed was a square of melted Hershey's and a graham cracker to go with his toasted marshmallows.
"Oh, I get it. It's my fault I negotiated a better deal than you did?"
"Ugh!" Bella set her chin and shuffled along with the chain gang of coach passengers, taking out her frustration on the poor suitcase dragging behind her.
Edward tossed back the rest of his Bloody Mary, yanked down the blackout mask, and let a self-satisfied grin find a home on his face.
Note to self: send Benjamin a tin of caramel corn and a huge fucking thank-you note.
Thirty days and nights to win over Bella Swan without goody two-shoes Angela to tell her Edward was a bad influence, without Bella's dear old dad and his trusty shotgun, and without mealymouthed "Fig" Newton to woo her with lame-ass Whitman's samplers purchased at the Walgreen's drive-thru window.
Fuck, that last one really hurt.
Edward rolled his eyes behind the mask, told himself he was an idiot, even growled in frustration, but it was no use. Once the painful memory crawled to the surface, he couldn't shake it.
Seriously, Cullen? You're still sore about Newton scooping you with the prom invite?
Senior prom was what . . . ten years ago? Yeah, that wound was still oozing angry pus. Maybe because Edward had purchased a brand new mauve suit with his own hard-earned money to impress the girl. Or maybe it was because of the rare effort he'd put into actually taming his crazy hair for the pictures. Or perhaps that he'd taken so much time to stage each of the four shots with his tripod and timer.
"Don't think so," the nagging voice of deeply-buried rejection answered.
With a familiar pit in his belly, Edward flashed on the four snapshots he'd slid into Bella's locker at lunch, not realizing Newton had already sealed the deal.
Shot #1: Edward in his suit and tie, clean-shaven and tidy-haired, a white posterboard with a giant red "P" hanging from his shoulders.
Shot #2: No jacket or tie, shirt unbuttoned at the neck, big blue "R" on his chest.
Shot #3: Just the suit pants, a green "O" covering his bare chest from view.
And the final blow, shot #4: Nothing but the "M" on his chest and a question mark covering up the essential bits.
Like observing a train wreck, Edward recalled watching Newton accompany her to her locker that day, the guy following behind her like a damn trained puppy who'd just swallowed the biggest milk bone of his life. As Edward spied from the alcove of Mr. Nutter's doorway, Bella discovered the envelope, and with a confused crinkle of her forehead stuffed it quickly into her backpack.
She'd never said a word to him about it, didn't have to. The story was all over school by the end of that day. Everyone knew "the swan and the newt were finally cross-pollinating." Edward made a pact with his self-esteem not to try a stunt like that again anytime soon, not to risk exposing himself. He changed his traffic patterns so he wouldn't have to run into Bella between classes, locked down Jessica Stanley for prom, and pretended it didn't kill him to watch Bella slow dance with someone else.
Since then, he'd traveled the globe, chasing after other brunettes who had a knack with words—even catching a few—but time and time again, it was Bella who slipped through his fingers.
Thirty days wasn't such a long time. He'd have to be on top of his game. Edward drifted off to sleep with the highly disturbing realization that this might well be his last chance to win Bella Swan.
A baby was crying. Of course a baby was crying. It was a fourteen-hour-long flight with only one brief layover. Why wouldn't a baby cry?
She was doubting her capacity to survive this, and regretting not paying the extra two grand the first-class ticket demanded, but she needed that money if she wanted to indulge in a few pleasures during this trip.
She wouldn't even be thinking about first class if not for that insufferable Edward Cullen!
Maybe just being away from him would make it worthwhile to have to endure coach, she reasoned. The renewed screaming of the baby crushed her pitiable attempt at rationalizing.
She hadn't seen him in over a year. That had been a very well-orchestrated plan of hers. Avoiding Cullen was vital to her sanity. And now this, all those months thanking God he was on a different continent so she wouldn't have to hear about his awesomeness from other journalists and editors, how he was so sought after. She had been better than he in college. He was an okay photographer, but... Well, a good photographer… Damn it! He was fantastic with a camera; he could use a disposable one and still get out-of-this-world shots, but that didn't make him a journalist; it made him an artist. Yes, that was it! She needed to take this opportunity to set him on the right track; he should be exhibiting his work in galleries, not encumbering her life with his pesky self-importance.
Why did Benjamin have to have that accident? It ruined a big part of the excitement she had felt over this job.
She looked around her and tried to recapture her enthusiasm from the positive energy of some of her fellow travelers. A cute couple was whispering and making googly eyes at each other and laughing at something; it was so sweet it was disgusting.
Romance was not her real agenda, but she had a secret fantasy one, too. She imagined that she could have been white-picket-fence material in some other universe. As things stood, she had more urgent matters to focus on.
Bella's chest and stomach filled with anticipation as she thought of those things she should be focusing on. The Oliveira interview, in particular, had her giddy. She had actively pursued that one. Santiago Oliveira's family was from the same small town where her grandmother had been born. There was no one left from her own family there that she knew of, but she had always wanted to see the magnificent scenery her mother described so vividly.
"All is intensely green in Crepúsculo." She remembered her mother whispering excitedly, her eyes lost in memories.
"You mean like in Forks," a fourteen-year-old Bella responded a bit disdainfully.
Her mother chuckled. "I will never understand your distaste for Forks. It really is beautiful, amor."
"Yes, it is. It's also booooring, Mama. We could fish in the Caribbean, too, you know?"
"Billy lives there, and Charlie misses him," Renée said with finality.
"I bet you miss my Abue, too. Can we go visit her? That way I would know what you mean by intensely green," whined Bella, rolling her eyes petulantly.
"It's because of the light," said Renée, dodging Bella's question. "The sunlight is bright, and it percolates through the leaves and makes all the colors pop. Green reigns over it all, but the purples, reds, blues, and yellows of the flowers and birds will not be ignored; their voices and colors are loud.
"And the charming houses, white with red tile roofs…"
A loud fart, whose foul stench slowly crept towards her, rudely shook her out of her memory.
Bella held her breath and looked at her watch, willing it to move faster.
Eleven hours left.
Stupid, arrogant, unbearably beautiful Edward Cullen and his astronomically expensive first-class ticket.
Trying to quell her frustration, she took a deep breath, remembering too late the reason why she had held it in the first place.
Authors' Note: We hope you enjoyed chapter one of Tremble! Many thanks to Chayasara for her beta services as we melded our three styles into one beginning.
Follow us here for the next chapter, then check out the Fandom Gives Disaster Relief compilation to find the rest (link is on our profile).
After chapter two, this story will become a collaboration of any and all who would care to join us. IF YOU WANT TO WRITE A CHAPTER (200-800 words), join us in our Facebook Group First Responders (see the link on our profile) and we'll fill you in on how this works! Meanwhile, check out the Fandom Gives blog (also linked on our profile), make a cash donation to the relief effort to secure your copy of the compilation, write a story, donate an item to the online raffle, sign up to beta or make a banner, and SPREAD THE WORD! All are ways to help- choose yours!
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Mina Rivera, Bornonhalloween, and Ana Fluttersby (FIRST RESPONDERS)