Author Note: This is a continuation of my one-shot that won several awards in the Friends to Lovers contest in late 2013, including "Most Potential for a Full Story." The one-shot will be repeated here, split into four chapters.
Thanks again to moosals for pre-reading. Stephenie Meyer owns all characters.
Chapter 1 — The Object Of My Affection
"How about this one?" I ask, stepping out of the department store dressing room in my sixth attempt at finding the perfect dress for my friend Angela's wedding next month. It's a knee-length, one-shoulder dress in a bright emerald green, and I think it looks great on me. Perfect for a summer wedding in hot, humid Florida.
"Hmmm… turn around." I follow directions, turning to face the mirrors. "I think it makes your ass look flat."
"Seriously?" I pout. I hate trying on dresses. I'm actually glad that Angela is having just a small wedding, with only her two sisters and her best friend since middle school as her bridesmaids. I've seen the show Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids on TLC — uh-uh, no way would I want to be a part of that.
"What about the one I picked out for you?"
"Edward," I groan. "I can tell just on the hanger that I won't be able to wear a bra with it."
"So what? You have the perky tits of a 20-something woman. Flaunt it!" he insists.
Rolling my eyes, I step back into the dressing room. After changing out of the green dress, I slip into the backless midnight blue dress that Edward picked out and pull up the short zipper. Unless there's something I'm missing from the one mirror inside the tiny room, Edward is absolutely right about this dress. Damn it.
"Why do you always have to try to prove me wrong and try on your own picks first?" Edward asks with a grin from his place on the chair when I step out of the dressing room again. Ignoring him, I twirl around, trying to catch the view from all angles in the three-way mirror. "Stop trying to find something wrong with it; it's perfect."
Sighing, I return to the dressing room to change back into my own clothes.
"Meet you in the shoe department!" Edward calls from outside.
I grumble the entire way to the checkout counter. The good thing about having a gay best friend is that he's not afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to… anything. The bad thing is that he thinks his sexual orientation alone is reason enough for me to categorically trust his judgment in relation to all things fashion. Unfortunately — he's usually right.
I first met Edward Cullen nearly four years ago, just before my 23rd birthday. Since graduating from the University of North Florida with a degree in English, I'd sold a couple of freelance pieces to magazines while I spent all of my limited free time writing my novel in a quest to become the Next Great Author. But given that I had bills to pay, I also worked as a waitress in a diner near Baptist Medical Center in downtown Jacksonville.
I'd only been working at the diner for two or three weeks when the best-looking man I'd ever seen in my life walked in, sitting down in my section. He was very tall and lean, with a smiling face and messy reddish-brown hair. Fuck, he looked like he could be a movie star.
As I nervously went to take his order, I couldn't help staring at his strong jaw. I wanted to lick it. When he looked up at me through the greenest eyes I'd ever seen, I wanted to drown in them. And then he spoke… my God! His voice was the sexiest thing I'd ever heard. I'm sure I stuttered my way through the entire exchange, coming off like an idiot.
Over the next few weeks, the green-eyed god came into the diner three or four times a week. I slowly learned that his name was Edward, that he was originally from a suburb of Chicago, and that he was just starting his medical residency at the nearby hospital. He needed the caffeine boost before working those crazy 24 or 36-hour shifts for which residency programs are famous.
And get this: he wasn't studying to become some hotshot cardiac surgeon or anything like that. No, Edward wanted to be a pediatrician. A freakin' pediatrician! He wanted to take care of kids, for God's sake. He wasn't in it for the glory, but to actually help people.
To say I quickly developed a crush on my handsome customer would be an understatement. Each time I saw him, I'd come back to the apartment I shared with my former college roommate, Angela, and we'd dissect our conversations, looking for any hint that he might be interested in me as well.
I admit, I am beyond awful at flirting, but I pulled out all of the stops with Edward and it didn't seem to make a damn bit of difference. Angela wanted to come observe us for herself one day, convinced that since I was hopeless at flirting, I was also unable to pick up the signs of someone flirting back.
After about six weeks, I just decided to go for it and ask Edward to have dinner with me. Of course, I chickened out in my first attempt, swearing to myself that I would definitely do it the next time I saw him.
Edward had told me that his next shift was on Sunday, so I was surprised to see him walking into the diner on Saturday evening. And this time, he wasn't alone.
Walking beside Edward was a shorter man with blond spiky hair, wearing skinny jeans and a t-shirt that totally showed off the hours he spent in the gym. Edward's hand was on the small of the obviously gay man's back as he led him to his usual table.
Good God… no wonder Edward wasn't taking my inadequate bait: he was gay!
Never in my life was I so, so glad that I had dilly-dallied in asking Edward on a date. I would've been mortified to ask and then find out that my crush was batting for the other team.
"In the kitchen," Edward calls as I step inside the door of the house I share with him. Dropping my purse, I go to look for him. I find him grabbing a bottle of beer from the fridge, looking better than any man has a right to in low-slung jeans that show off his incredible, edible ass and a tight, faded black t-shirt bearing his college's logo.
"Just in time," he smiles. "The pizza I ordered got here a couple of minutes ago, if you're still hungry." I want to laugh at Edward having to order delivery, not knowing when I'd be getting home. I really need to nominate him for the next season of The Worst Cooks in America — I don't think there was a home-cooked meal that he hadn't messed up in some way before I moved in.
"Sure, yeah, I could eat a couple pieces," I answer. "We just had 'finger foods' at the shower." While Edward grabs another bottle of beer for me, I take a seat at the table, pulling a slice of Hawaiian pizza from the box. I smile at the thought that I got Edward to start ordering my favorite toppings.
"So how was Angela's shower?" he asks, mid-chew. Ugh, men have no manners, no matter their sexual preferences.
"You don't want to hear about it," I reply, embarrassed even thinking about my afternoon.
"It was a…lingerie and sex toy party. I'm sure you really don't want to hear about vibrators and dildos."
Edward laughs, his eyes crinkling up adorably. "What makes you think I don't know anything about fake dicks?"
"Seriously, Edward… men have, you know, built-in sex toys. What do you need with more?" Oh my God, please can't one of the many Florida sinkholes swallow me up.
"I could tell you," he answers with a chuckle, "But I'm afraid your head might explode."
"Ugh," I growl, covering my ears to block out the sounds of his laughter. "Well, then I'm certain you're not interested in hearing about what women do with them."
Edward rolls his eyes. "For God's sake, Bella — I'm a doctor. I'm not disgusted by women's bodies." He shakes his head, reaching into the box for another slice of pizza.
"Your patients are children," I point out.
"Even so, it's not like I've never had sex with a woman before."
I set my half-eaten slice of pizza down on the plate, staring at Edward. He's had sex with a woman? When? "When—" I clear my throat. "Um, when did you have sex with a woman?"
He finishes chewing this time before replying. "I dated girls in high school. And had a couple of one-night stands in med school."
"You dated girls in high school? I thought you said your prom date was named Sam?" I cannot even comprehend this. Edward has dated women? Isn't he gay? Or is he saying he's bisexual? Please let him be bisexual.
"Sure, Samantha. She always went by Sam," he answers.
We finish the rest of our pizza in silence. Inside, my mind is reeling. Is Edward still attracted to women? Is there a chance for us? No, that's ridiculous, I tell myself.
Since I moved in here, Edward has seen me all but naked. He's seen me in sleepwear, or just my bra lots of times, not to mention in my bikini when we hang out at the beach together. He's even commented about seeing my nipples through thin shirts if I try to go braless… If he had any sexual attraction to me at all, surely he would've acted on it by now, wouldn't he? Maybe I'm just not his type of woman.
After we clean up from dinner, Edward and I take our usual seats on his huge, comfy sectional sofa. I throw my arm around his stomach, settling into his side as he reaches for the remote control.
"How come you're not going out tonight?" I ask him. It's Saturday night, after all.
"Early shift tomorrow."
I try to watch the movie he turns on, but my mind is still stuck on our dinner conversation. I want to ask for all of the details about Edward and women, but a part of me doesn't want to know if he's going to say that he has no interest in ever dating a woman again. I don't want to lose my fantasy.
"Edward?" I ask tentatively, looking up at him. I wait until he turns his head to look at me before continuing. "Tell me about dating women."
He sighs, then shrugs. "You know how my parents are. Even though I was attracted to guys, I wouldn't have dared to explore that while still living at home and risk my parents finding out. And it's not like I found girls repulsive or anything like that. I actually think the female body is beautiful."
Obviously not my body, given how little attention he gives it when he sees me in skimpy clothing. He probably likes women with long legs and curves in all the right places — none of which I can boast.
"I started dating Tanya toward the end of my sophomore year," he continues. "We were together about six months and were each other's firsts. She broke up with me about two weeks after we started having sex, complaining that I was a horrible lover. Next was Kate, who pretty much told me the same thing.
"Sam and I dated for a few months my senior year, and yeah, I took her to prom. I'd always thought our sex life was… okay, but then she dumped me, saying that I acted like I didn't want to be there when we had sex."
"Did it ever occur to any of them that no 17-year-old guy fucks like a porn star?" I ask. "My first boyfriend lasted about two minutes max and had no idea how to get me off."
Edward smirks at me. "Or maybe they were all on to something. Anyway, even though I moved into the dorms at Northwestern, I stopped dating entirely once I started college. Too much work on my plate being pre-med, I always said.
"I was taking a drama class to fulfill an Arts requirement in my junior year, and that's when I met Riley. He was definitely out of the closet, always friendly and flirting with me. When he asked me out, I… took a chance. It was tough coming to grips with the fact that I might be gay, knowing my own parents would disown me if they ever found out."
"What happened to Riley?" I ask softly.
"We dated until graduation, and then he wanted to move to New York City and try to make it on Broadway. I had to do what was best for me though. Johns Hopkins in Baltimore is one of the top-rated medical schools for Pediatrics, and they'd accepted me. There was nothing for me in New York. I wished him well when he left," he finishes fondly.
"Did you love him?" I ask, already knowing the answer.
"Yeah, I did," he smiles. "It was a long time before I felt ready to actually date again, not until I moved here and met Alec. In med school, I mostly had one-night stands — with men and women. None of them really did it for me though. I think… I can't really enjoy sex without feelings being involved. God, I'm such a woman," he laughs.
"Needing to care about someone in order to have sex with them doesn't make you a woman, Edward," I tell him, punching his side. It makes him pretty much perfect.
It was about a week or so after I had realized that Edward was gay that the beginning of our friendship was formed. One of the other waitresses at the diner begged me to switch shifts so she could attend a Halloween midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I hated working the late shift, but after much badgering, I agreed.
Shortly after midnight, I was alone in the diner — well, besides the cook back in the kitchen — when a creepy customer came in. He looked to be about my age, with dark blond hair pulled back in a greasy ponytail, wearing jeans and a leather jacket. As I took his order, he was obviously flirting with me, but I tried to play it off like I hadn't noticed.
As I dropped off the check, he asked me what time I got off work. I lied and told him 6am. When he offered to come back and give me a ride home, I declined and he left, leaving me a quarter tip for his $12.14 meal. Jackass.
When my shift ended at 2am, I headed out to my car. Before I could open the door, strong arms grabbed me from behind. I twisted around, trying to get away, but he was holding me too tightly.
"Well, well, so the pretty little bitch lied." I recognized the voice as that of my creepy customer, but I couldn't scream with his hand over my mouth. As I tried desperately to remember what I'd learned in the self-defense class I took freshman year, he suddenly let me go and I fell to the ground.
"Get the hell out of here," a furious voice yelled. "Pick on someone your own size."
I looked up from my place on the ground to see my assailant cowering from… Edward! He sneered, spat on the ground, and stalked off to a dark-colored muscle car, speeding away.
"Are you all right?" Edward asked, extending a hand to help me up.
"Y-yes," I answered shakily. Edward hugged me to him, and I finally relaxed, letting myself sink into his warm body.
"I don't think he's from around here," he said softly. "His car had Georgia plates."
"I've never seen him before," I confirmed, "But I don't usually work this shift."
Edward pulled back a little, looking intently at me. "What the hell did you think you were doing walking to your car alone in the dark?" he asked, almost angrily. "Do you have no sense of self-preservation?"
I shrugged. "I didn't even think about it… like I said, I don't usually work this shift."
"Promise me you'll have someone escort you to your car if you ever work at night again. It's dangerous downtown, Bella."
"I promise," I nodded, giving him a small smile. "Did you just come off your shift at the hospital?"
"Yeah," he replied, running his hand through his hair. "I was hungry, thought I'd get a piece of pie," he added with a wink.
"We're out of cherry." His favorite.
"Well, boo," he pouted. I laughed. "Hey, um, are you working tomorrow afternoon?"
"No," I replied, shaking my head. "I traded shifts with Jessica."
"Would you, um, like to come to the Jaguars game with me?" he asked.
"You like football?" I asked, shocked. Weren't gay men supposed to dislike sports? Except maybe figure skating, or men's swimming or diving, or something like that.
"Sure," he shrugged. "My hometown Bears are in town."
"Wouldn't you rather, um… the guy you were here with last week, um…"
"Alec hates sports," he replied. Ah, well, that's more like it.
"I'd love to go with you, Edward," I smiled.
"Well, well, well… someone has had a bit too much to drink," Edward smirks from his place on the couch as I stumble in the door after Angela's bachelorette party. He's slouched in the corner of the sectional, wearing boxers and a plain white t-shirt. As always, he looks perfectly edible.
"Can it, Edward," I grumble, heading into the kitchen for a bottle of water. I twist off the top, take a long drink, then wander into the family room, curling up beside him on the couch, where he's watching David Letterman.
"Did you have a good time?" he asks, throwing his right arm around my shoulders and hugging me to him.
"I did," I sigh. "It's just… every other girl who was there is already married, or engaged, or close to being engaged. And I'm…"
"Shacking up with me?" he finishes, waggling his eyebrows.
"I don't think it's 'shacking up' unless you share a bedroom," I reply, punching him lightly in the ribs.
"It'll happen for you, Bella," he says, stroking one finger down my cheek as he looks me in the eye. "So Tyler was an asshole who cheated on you. That's no reason to remove yourself from the dating pool."
"Ugh, do not speak that man's name again," I reply with a shudder.
"Do not change the subject, Swan," Edward says sternly, tapping his index finger on my nose. "You need to find a date."
"You're not backing out on me, are you?" I ask anxiously. Edward had agreed to step in as my date for Angela's wedding in two more days, given that I had a "plus one" at the time I sent in my RSVP to her invitation.
"No, relax. I told you I'd take you to the wedding and I always keep my word. I just meant in general. See any good candidates tonight?"
"We went to a strip club, Edward," I deadpan. "You know better than I do that the vast majority of male strippers — and all of the clientele at those places — prefer men."
"Hmm… yeah," he replies dreamily, earning himself another elbow to the ribs. I don't like being reminded that I don't have the body parts that Edward wants.
"Such violence, Swan," he complains with a grin so I know he's not really mad. "You're gonna pay for that."
"Oh yeah?" I taunt. "You wouldn't hit a girl."
"No, but…" He pulls his arm off my shoulders and turns toward me, his hands immediately moving to either side of my ribs — where he starts tickling me.
"Fuck!" I yell through my giggles. Edward knows I'm insanely ticklish.
I try to scoot away, ending up flat on my back on the couch. My idea completely backfires when Edward stretches out his long body to cover mine, while his fingers never stop their relentless tickling. He's lean, but he's much heavier than me, and now he's pinning me down so I can't move.
"Oh no, I'm not through with you yet," he grins, still not letting up.
"Edward, I'm serious! I'm gonna puke all over your couch if you don't stop."
That stops his torture immediately. His fingers blessedly leave my ribs as he reaches up to brush my mess of hair off my face, staring down at me.
It suddenly hits me that Edward is lying right on top of me — a position I've previously only dreamed about. My skirt has ridden up and only two thin layers separate us. I can feel his dick between us, pushed deliciously up against my center, and it feels absolutely huge considering he's not hard. It takes everything I have not to rub myself against him to try to feel how much bigger it can get.
I can sense myself getting warmer as I gaze up at Edward. I want so badly to just lean up and touch my lips to his. Is this what UST feels like? Or do both parties have to feel it to call it UST? While I'm pondering that, he blows out a long breath and sits up, running his hand through his hair.
Fuck, I freaked him out. I sit up slowly then get off the couch, hoping he isn't too weirded out by me. I can only imagine the way I was looking at him.
"Um, I'm gonna go change," I mumble, scurrying to my bedroom while mentally slapping myself for getting us into such an awkward position in the first place.
I'd never really had someone there for me when I was growing up. My parents divorced when I was just a toddler, and I spent most of my life with my loving, if flighty, mother, Renee, in Phoenix, Arizona.
When I was a junior in high school she finally remarried, and I left Phoenix to go live with my dad in the tiny town of Forks, Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula. I hated it up there… everything was so freakin' green, and it rained more often than not. There was no question that I'd move away from the area after high school graduation.
I had applied to a few different schools around the country, but after being offered a good scholarship to the University of North Florida, I decided to come to Jacksonville, where my mom had settled down with her much-younger husband, Phil, a minor league baseball player.
So I wasn't really used to having anyone in my life that I could truly count on. Until I met Edward.
Whenever one of my relationships — if you could even call them that — ended, he'd invite me to his apartment, meeting me at the door with a pint of Ben & Jerry's. We'd vegetate on the couch, watching movies and discussing celebrity gossip — anything to get my mind off of it.
And when my novel was rejected by every agent or publisher I sent it to, we did the same thing.
About six months after we became friends, Edward talked me into going to see a musical with him at the local playhouse. He'd given Alec the heave-ho a couple of months earlier and hadn't found anyone else who'd caught his eye.
We went out for sushi before the show, and by intermission, I was having horrible stomach pains. I blamed it on the sushi, but Edward had eaten the same things I had and was feeling just fine. By the time the show was over, I was about to pass out from the pain, so Edward took me straight to the emergency room, where I was diagnosed with appendicitis.
When I woke up after the surgery, Edward was right there, holding my hand in the recovery room. And he stayed there beside me in the hospital every moment that he could, even more than my own mother. I will never, ever forget that as long as I live.
But it was what happened about 18 months ago that solidified my feelings for Edward. My father, Charlie, is Chief of Police up in Forks. I got a call one day from one of his deputies telling me that my father had had a heart attack — too much greasy diner food — and was scheduled for triple-bypass surgery. He assured me that my dad would be fine, but I still needed to get to him.
Thanks to the medical bills from my appendectomy nearly two years earlier, I had virtually no savings. There was no way I could manage to get a last-minute airline ticket to SeaTac, and pay for a rental car to drive to Forks. But Edward came through for me, telling me he'd pay for my trip. I agreed, but insisted that it was a loan, not a gift, and I'd pay him back as soon as I could.
I mean, I know Edward is rich. Not so much from his medical practice, since at that time, he still had a few months remaining in his residency and was making peanuts — but because his parents are filthy, stinking rich. His mother is some famous interior designer back in Chicago — she'd remodeled Oprah Winfrey's mansion, for God's sake. And his father is one of those highly paid cardiac surgeons. Edward had come into his full trust fund when he turned 25, though it wasn't until he completed his residency that he finally used that money to buy himself a gorgeous house on the beach.
Anyway — when Edward came through for me like that, making it possible to go see my dad after his bypass surgery, I could no longer deny my feelings for him. I was in love with Edward. I was in love with my best friend. I was in love with a gay man.
Good God, I was pathetic.
A/N: The next three chapters will post one per day. The remaining chapters will update on Mondays until completion.