Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns all.
Rated M for several reasons.
Chpt 1 Choose Starting Point or Click on Map
It's difficult, but not impossible, to manage my relationship with Edward.
For obvious reasons Renee and Charlie think he and I broke up in the first year of college. It's a little awkward when Mom quizzes me about boyfriends but I've grown out of the worst of my blush now and that makes the telling of lies somewhat easier.
Can you say that your romantic relationship with a vampire is odd without a heavy sense of irony? Maybe.
I'm still a virgin.
And a human.
He's adamant he won't change me and I've long since given up trying to change his mind, resigned to just enjoy what we have as he was always urging me to do.
I haven't lived with his family, it wouldn't be fair to have a human in their midst all the time but I did eventually let Edward pay for an apartment for us so we could at least spend some time alone together
It hasn't been easy. I made some likeminded friends in college, the kind you should keep forever, though in the end even they had to believe I'd broken up with Edward and wasn't seeing him anymore. Things got a little more complicated then and I started leading a double life. Bella Swan college student and Bella Swan, girlfriend to Edward Cullen, and never the twain shall meet. It sounds crap but in the end it was better than the alternative of moving with them every couple years. The rest of the family moved and Edward, when he can be prised away from me, visits them.
Am I happy?
I think so. I have Edward. I have an exciting new career I'm about to embark on and a family that I love very much.
Is Edward happy?
He says he is.
"You're here!" Alice squeals, flying down the steps and dragging me bodily out of Edward's latest Volvo.
"You're here, you're here, you're here! I've sorted out your new apartment, you're going to love it, more shelves than furniture and I haven't touched your closet, Esme wouldn't let me. And you'll love the color scheme, very now but very you, your stuff's already arrived and been unpacked and Rose has resurrected that god awful truck you love so much. In a minute Edward. Oh Bella, my sister, how I've missed you, you can't imagine. And the fun we're going to have now that we're together again. In a minute Edward. Oh, and I've got us tickets for that band you were thinking about. And a table for tomorrow night at that restaurant your new boss was on about. And I'm driving you to work on Monday so you can see my new studio, it's awesome, you'll love it. And . . . ."
That's the joy, or problem, with Alice. She never runs out of breath. Or energy.
"Enough Alice." Edward finally growls, rescuing me gently from her embrace.
"I'm sorry." She laughs unrepentantly, spinning on the spot like a mini whirlwind. "I've just been looking forward to this for so long. Come in, let Esme show you her latest house, we can catch up later . . . ."
For a few minutes more I'm passed from vampire to vampire like a new cuddly toy, not that I mind, I've missed them too. Even Jasper manages a quick squeeze though he's still very careful not to stay too close to me for too long since he tried to eat me.
Of course if I thought Alice was bad . . . .
Em stops squeezing me just short of breaking my ribs but refuses to let me go for the house tour, which I therefore spend with my feet suspended high above the ground and the world's largest arm clutched tightly round my midriff.
Rose and I manage a warm smile. She doesn't hate me anymore but she and I are never going to be besties, and this is a realisation that we are both comfortable with.
"Tired?" Edward chuckles as I nearly dislocate my jaw yawning.
"Yes. It's exhausting watching you drive a couple of hundred miles."
"Hop in." He urges, turning down the covers on his comfortable looking new bed.
I obey, sliding in and sighing as he wraps me up in the comforter and then snuggles up behind me.
"Don't I even get a kiss?"
A cool finger moves my hair gently away from my neck and his breath wafts over it, setting it prickling in anticipation of the touch of his lips. Soft, gentle and as always, intensely erotic.
"Tease." I murmur.
"You don't have to tease her Eddie!" Em hollers from somewhere outside. "We don't mind."
I know that Edward's hissed something back because Em starts laughing.
"I'll be glad when we're alone again." Edward sighs with indulgent amusement.
"Seriously Alice. I can't pronounce any of this stuff, how do you expect me to order it?"
Everyone laughs and the cheeky minx asks if I'd like her to order for me.
Hell no, last time I let her do that I ate something called a ghost chilli and couldn't feel my tongue for a week.
However as usual in these situations the most entertaining part of the night is watching my family play 'hide the food' a game they have kindly slowed down over the years so I can follow it. Though I still think hiding prawns is an act of evil against the restaurant staff.
The Cullens have gone on a family hunt leaving me alone in the house and as usual I gravitate to Carlisle's study, somehow it's the same wherever they live. Warm, comfortable, smelling faintly of leather, expensive cologne and books.
Tomorrow we're moving into our new apartment and the day after, Monday, I'm starting my new job, I'm so excited and nervous I can barely sit still. What if I suck and get fired on my first day? Edward says I won't since I graduated first in my class but I'm not so sure, disaster and I still seem to be on intimate terms, I couldn't even make it out of the restaurant tonight without cannoning into an innocent man who then jettisoned his red wine over his beautiful date. Carlisle very smoothly gave them money for dry cleaning and to cover the cost of their meal but I'm still glad Boston is a big place and I'm never likely to run into them again. Being a klutz around strangers and friends is one thing, but what if I do it at work? This could be a very short career . . . .
Cool lips on my forehead wake me and I sit up, blinking in the firelight, to find Edward hovering over me and the Cullens smiling indulgently at me from the doorway.
I can smell the outdoors on them and see the new 'almost' flush on their cheeks, they're so beautiful it makes my heart swell and stutter. I'm so lucky to be part of their lives, his . . . .
"It's beautiful." I whisper.
"I knew you'd say that." Alice laughs.
"Right." Jasper drawls. "After you'd changed everything for the forty seventh time."
She smacks him squarely in the middle of his chest which just makes him laugh. I love it when he laughs, he's usually so serious I just want to give him a hug, which I wouldn't dare.
"It really is perfect Alice, thank you."
We hug for a moment and then she drags me off to inspect the rest of the apartment, finishing up in the bedroom.
"It's not too much?"
"It's a little ostentatious." I admit. "But it's beautiful."
"Not too frilly?"
"No, just on the cusp."
"Phew." She exclaims, throwing herself down on the bed. "I was a bit worried about it to be honest but I hoped you'd appreciate the whole 'Austeness' of it. You're a woman now and should have a woman's boudoir."
"No one says boudoir anymore Alice."
"I say it. Therefore it is fashionable." She says, closing the subject. "So, I have foreseen that tomorrow will go well."
"You know that's not going to stop me worrying about it, right?"
"I know. But I hoped it might help."
"It helps." I concede, flopping down beside her.
"Oh my god! You put a mirror on the ceiling?"
"You people are weird."
"I know." She accepts easily. "But you love us anyway."
I may end up living in this bathroom when I screw up at work today, every cloud has a silver lining and this is awesome . . . .
In the end I have to step out of the shower and wrap myself in one of the fluffy towels from the heated rack. Alice is picking me up in half hour and she's never late.
I've already laid out my smart suit for today and I feel like a fraud putting it on, maybe I could carry it off better with heels but the spectre of me falling out of the elevator on arrival sends me diving for the flats.
"Breakfast is ready." Edward calls from down the corridor, pulling me away from my less than impressive reflection in the mirror.
"You didn't have to." I object as I round the corner into our state of the art kitchen.
"No. But I wanted to." He says, smiling that beautiful smile and kissing me as he hands me a bone china mug filled to the brim with my favourite coffee. "Sit down and tuck in."
I really don't deserve him, no other girl could be so well cared for, so loved . . . .
"Put her down Edward." Alice growls after two minutes. "She'll be home later and you can suck her face off then."
Reluctantly Edward separates his lips from mine and waits patiently for my heartbeat to return to normal before he releases me.
"Good luck." He murmurs. "I love you."
"I love you too."
Most of Alice's Boston tour guide information goes in one ear and out the other as I work myself into a tight ball of nerves. I know its beautiful here, I loved it when I came for my interview but I can't focus on it now and it seems really sudden when she pulls up in front of my new building. God it's tall . . . .
"I thought we were going to your studio first?"
"Come after work, when you're more relaxed."
"Trust the seer . . . . I'll pick you up at five."
Holy shit. Holy shit. I have a job. I'm a grown up. Holy shit, how, when, did this happen?
Oh thank god, a coffee shop at ground level, and cups with lids, I'm saved . . . .
"You look like you need it." The barista observes as I snatch the cardboard cup out of his hand.
"You have no idea . . . . thanks."
I find a table and watch the world go by.
How am I ever going to fit in here? Look at them all. Sleek, self possessed, they all know where they're going and why and I'm sat here chanting my floor number over and over in my head so I don't forget it. This is a serious mistake. Huge. I'm going to humiliate myself and be laughed out of my one and only job. I'll have to go and work for Alice and learn about colors and fabrics and fashion . . . .
"Good morning." A cheery voice makes me jump. "I like an early starter."
"Oh, ah, Greg, I didn't see you there."
Alright not the most incisive opening line but at least I didn't spill my coffee.
"Stealth boss." He says with a light laugh. "You'll get used to it. Ready to get started?"
I nod and then let my mouth open without permission.
"No need to be." He says as I scramble to my feet and collect my things, thank god for coffee cups with lids. "No one expects miracles on your first day, hell, we don't even expect you to remember where the restrooms are."
"Good." I mutter. "Because I probably won't."
"You'll be fine Bella, we wouldn't have hired you if we didn't think you could do the job."
It turns out first days really can be easy. I met my new colleagues, my cubicle, my laptop and the restrooms and then I spent the entire day in orientation with a group of other bewildered looking college graduates.
All in all not too shabby.
Alice is never late so I exit the building like a queen and sweep semi majestically into her little yellow Lotus.
"I told you so." She laughs as we speed away from the kerb.
"I know, thank you."
"You're welcome. Now come and be shocked and awed by my creative genius, you can call Renee on the way, she's excited about your first day and will interrupt you later if you don't . . . ."