Contest entry for the May to December Romance Contest

Title: Once In A Lifetime
Name: lovepotionbrewer and SunflowerFran
Rating: M

Summary: 'When one door closes, another opens …'That explanation perfectly described the arrival of Edward Cullen into our lives.

This is a surreal experience for me to be posting on FF. I never thought this would happen. However, LPB was so sweet when she took my plot bunny and helped to make it into something wonderful. I will never forget her kindness.

I stand at the end of the ornately-carved, four-poster bed, one finger tracing the swirling vines and flowers in Oak relief as the other smooths non-existent wrinkles from the soft flowing silk over my hip.

The ivory sheath may well be white with heat from the gaze of the man who rests there, his hands folded behind his head, an impressive tent pitched in his boxers.

"Beautiful," he whispers, the voice caressing the word with a lilt and syllabic emphasis as unique to me as the husky growl I've learned to recognize as his intense desire.

"Tell me what you want, Mr. Cullen," I encourage, wanting to prolong these moments of anticipation for both of us.

"You, Baby Girl, only you," he speaks with more volume, sitting up a little more, leaning on one elbow as his eyes continue to trace every inch of my barely covered curves. "You know how long I've wanted you like this, don't try my patience or I may not be able to continue being such a gentleman."

The way in which my body reacts makes me understand just how far he is able to bring me with just his voice alone.

I've spent hours thinking about what makes it, what makes him, so irresistible. All I know is that only he has this effect on me. It's only him that excites me, him that makes me want to do things I had never considered before.

I bite my lip to keep from saying something that would spoil this game we are playing. But I know he can see my body reacting to his words. I feel my nipples harden under his gaze and the thin fabric. My thigh muscles clench.

"Isabella," he growls, breaking me out of my musing and back into the present that includes only us, barely clothed in a candle-lit room filled with the scent of multi-colored roses. "I can only control myself around you for so long; do you want me to lose control?"

"Yes," I breathe.

I could try to pretend, but both of us would know the truth. The heat that floods my cheeks and makes its way down to my chest, is one of desire, not deceit.

"Is that so?" He says, rising from the bed. He steps across the room slowly, his movements, almost feline in their predatory grace. In the few seconds it takes him to reach me, I marvel at his perfection – the taut, perfectly defined muscles of his chest and legs; the way his bronze hair catches the candlelight; the face that takes my breath away.

I can only nod as he stands inches from me, his eyes now greedily studying my mouth.

"You want me to be less than a gentleman tonight, Bella?" he asks, raising an eyebrow and giving me his best, crooked grin.

I nod again.

"How often I misunderstand you, despite all my efforts to get inside that pretty little head of yours. You want me to excite you Baby Girl? You want me to touch you all over this delicious body, to kiss and suck your nipples and touch your sweet, sweet pussy? Is that what you want?" he asks. He is so close to me now that I know he can see me shaking with want as I rub my thighs together looking for relief.

The intensity of what he can make me feel with his dirty words, his tenor, his voice is almost too much. Part of me feels that I don't need actual physical contact to completely unravel for him. But, I want all of him so much I don't care if I'm risking more than I can handle.

I open my mouth to protest, but he stops the words with a single finger to my lips. I cast my eyes downward, studying his strong hand as it cups my chin.

"For all your innocence," he continues his speech while his hand wanders to my chest, ghosting over the top of my nightie. "I know there is more you want us to do to each other, and I want to do it all. I can show you things you've only imagined as you lie on your bed, thinking of me."

My eyes widen, and his smirk grows.

His touch is so gentle that I cannot even feel his fingers on my skin.

He is holding himself back so I feel only the silk. His eyes leave mine to take in my curves from his new perspective. Part of me wants to look away, to cast my eyes down in shame, but the hunger I see on his face is too irresistible.

"You want me to teach you, Baby Girl?" he whispers, "You want me to show you what I can do to your body, the pleasure I can bring you, the places I can take you? I've wanted to do things, naughty things to you since I first saw you. You, so beautiful, so innocent. So ready to be explored."

His words become more statement than question as he continues. I moan, and shiver at his words, spoken so close, so soft, yet with authority.

"Baby, you're shivering," I don't need to look to know he's right. But my eyes travel over my own body as he directs my gaze with his sexy words. "Look at your nipples, so big, so ready for me, so ready for sucking, and your body, so perfect, so ready for me to explore with my hands, fingers, mouth."

I gulp and he offers another direction. "Hands behind your back, beautiful girl."

I do as he says.

I now feel so exposed.

His eyes roam over me as he places his hand on his rock hard cock and begins to stroke.

My breath hitches.

"You like this Baby Girl, you like watching me stroke myself? I have to; I need some relief from the sinfulness that is you. You do this to me just by me looking at you; I want to take you so hard… Now. My naughty, little innocent girl," he whispers as he comes closer. "Look at you."

He is so close I can feel the heat from his body, and the hair as it rises on my arms and legs; I am shaking with need.

He speaks quietly into my ear.

"Baby, I can see how turned on you are, how much you want me to touch you, feel you, take you over to the window and press your naked tits against them for all to see, while I tease your perfect ass with my cock. You know we can do that, right? It would make me quite chuffed to put you on display while I make you come. But no, I am not sharing you with anyone. I'm going to turn out the lights and have you all to myself, multiple times as you scream my name."

In the seconds it takes for him to click the lamp, I allow myself a smile at his phrase. His panty-dampening accent is always present, but I am reminded of how different our worlds have been, the distance we've traveled to find each other, when he uses terms like 'quite chuffed.'

"Nothing in the world pleases me more than watching you come undone for me. If you want to drive me mad with desire, to lose control, then all you need to do is not resist me."

My eyes adjust to the dimmer glow cast by the candles and travel from his chiseled jaw to his emerald eyes, burning with desire. I know he sees my complete surrender as he meets my gaze. My mind and body are completely under his spell. My panties have been wet since he promised to teach me, and now there's a familiar trembling building between my legs. It starts so suddenly and with such unexpected power that I almost reach out to him in order to steady myself. But I grip tighter to my own wrists as he continues his verbal seduction.

"Sweet, darling, beautiful girl," he starts in a low growl that builds with the tension in my belly. "Come undone for me, watch me , listen to me. Your body, your smile, your laugh, your soul does this to me. And when I'm taking you tonight, when I'm between your legs licking, kissing and nipping, remember how my dirty words turned you on, how you came because you trusted me."

My knees buckle as my orgasm hits me hard and fast and I lose sight of him as a blackness of lust clouds my vision. He does this with just words.

Only Edward, only him.

He catches me and scoops me up, kissing me passionately

I moan, but there is more I want to say. "I want you to teach me how to please you, too."

He chuckles, "Nothing in the world pleases me more than watching you come undone for me. Haven't you realized yet that there is nothing you can do that doesn't please me?"

"You know what I mean," I say.

"I do," he replies in his most haughty tone, though, as he continues, the teasing falls away as he fails to keep things light. I nod in agreement, knowing that I'm also promising to do my best at silencing my doubts. We've worked hard to get to this place, and I want to show him that I can give myself entirely to him.

"Good girl," he whispers, bending to breathe the words in my ear as his fingers play with the thin straps of my nighty. "Do you want to know how much this beautiful body of yours pleases me, Bella?"

He doesn't wait for a response before placing both his hands on my shoulders, guiding the straps down my arms, exposing my breasts to the air of the room. I greedily watch his tongue moisten his lips as he stares at my chest.

"You have the most gorgeous breasts," he says, although it sounds more as if he is talking to himself. "So perfect, so full, as though they were made for the shape of my hand." He proves his statement by cupping me in each of his palms, using his thumbs to play with my nipples before lowering his head to kiss each one. I throw my head back and let the shivers he creates run up and down my body while incoherent words spew from my mouth.

"Yes," he says, pulling back, "Just like that, Bella, don't hold anything back. You make me so hard when you are like this." He presses against me so that I can feel his erection on my hip and it makes me moan even louder. I brace myself against the bedpost to keep from falling over, sparing a fraction of a thought to the hope that the walls of this English hotel are thick and soundproof.

"You drive me so wild," he murmurs, bring his lips to my chest again and again between the words. "I'm dying to make you come again, but this time we're going to slow, aren't we Baby Girl?"

I nod again, not even sure what I'm agreeing to. All I know, is that I trust Edward more than I trust my own mind and body.

"I could spend all night kissing these fuckingly-perfect American tits," he growls in a playful manner. Despite his words, he moves his mouth away from my painfully hard nipples and brings his hands back, gently kneading and massaging. As always, he knows exactly the touch I'm craving. My back arches toward him, wanting more.

"But, I've got other plans for you, my love," he says. He pulls my negligee off my hips where the silk has pooled. He guides the silk down my legs and kneels in front of me. He looks up at me, standing in just a lacy thong.

"I do love these knickers," he says. "But, I'm afraid they'll have to go. If you don't want me to destroy them, you'd better chivvy along and take them off. I can't promise to control myself much longer and they are blocking me from your sweet pussy."

I don't hesitate to hook my thumbs in the fabric and do as he commands. As soon as I have shimmied out of the thong, Edward scoops me up in his arms. He holds me against his bare chest for a moment, the hand attached to the arm under my knees reaching to ghost against my calf. I know he wants to be touching every part of me all at once because that is how I feel for him, always desirous of more.

He crashes his lips against mine and greedily devours my mouth before placing me gently down on the bed. I feel the soft mattress sink slightly beneath me and rose petals scatter in the warm air as he lies beside me.

He continues to kiss me deeply, teasing me with his tongue until I am breathless. When he pulls back, it is as if the fire behind his eyes is the only light in the room.

"You are simply too irresistible for your own good," he tells me.

"Your perfect mouth makes me dream of your warmth around my cock," he says with a soft kiss at the corner of my mouth.

"This graceful neck makes me hunger to nibble and suck to make you whimper," he whispers in my ear. I then feel his lips begin to ghost along my collarbone and then gently bite up and down my neck.

"The color of your blush across your chest when I'm really turning you on," he says, pulling back and gazing down at me. "So beautiful, that pink tells me you want me as much as I want you." For the first time, he reaches down to touch himself over the silk he still wears. I groan at the sight of his straining cock. I don't think I've ever wanted him so badly.

"And those delicious little sounds you make," he says, "they make me so impatient." Finally, he removes his boxers and I want to close my eyes, the beauty of his hard shaft is just too much.

"Hmmm…" he hums as if deliberating what sweet torture he wants to inflict next. I shift on the mattress, growing impatient. "I've already told you how incredible your knockers are though I could go on for days about these enticing little nubs," he says affectionately pulling on my still hard nipples.

"But what can a mere mortal man say about the miracle that is this pussy," he growls, crawling down to the foot of the bed to position himself between my legs. I open for him willingly, and he takes in the sight of me as if it's something entirely new to him.

His eyes darken from emerald to evergreen.

"Maybe Shakespeare could do it justice. But, words fail me when I see you so wet and ready for me," he says gently tracing my entrance with one finger. My body convulses and jerks off the bed as his touch finds my most sensitive spot.

"All for me," he growls. "And I've barely touched you. What am I going to do with you, my eager girl?"

"Please," I beg, my hands fisting around the quilt. "I want you so much, I can't wait."

With a smirk, Edward concedes to my begging, sliding his left hand under my hip and squeezing my bottom as brings his mouth down to my pussy. I can feel his tongue tracing my entrance and then teasing around my clit and I start to moan and gasp. He sucks, building pressure before entering a finger and tapping that place inside that brings me undone. I feel the coil inside me let go and tears spring to the corner of my eye as incoherent words fall from my mouth.

Before I've fully regained my senses, Edward has repositioned himself so his long, lean body is stretched against mine. I can smell a slight tangy sweetness on his mouth as he kisses my lips and pulls my body against his.

He teases my entrance with his cock, rocking us in place, building friction.

"Oh," I cry.

"But, I hadn't gotten to the best part," Edward continues his monolog as if there has been no interruption of stars and fireworks around us. "Your fantastic bum. You think I'm such a gentleman, always asking you to walk ahead of me? If only you knew the wicked things I want to do to you at the sight of your arse swaying as you enter a room. Looking is one thing, but what it feels to grab your tight little fanny. I'm the luckiest bastard in the word to have this bum."

Unable to take anymore, I press my lips against his this time. He offers no resistance, which I take as a sign he feels he has teased me enough. Our tongues explore and we continue to rock against each other, the rhythm building.

"Do you know how much my cock aches when I touch that sweet little ass of yours, my love?" he asked.

I don't answer him in words, but use all the strength remaining in my still unsteady muscles to roll us over. He subtly assists in the movement, hugging me to him as we turn, and then shifting, one hand on each of my hips to guide me to a comfortable position over his torso. I know how he loves to watch me as we make love, so I rest back on my calves holding myself up as he finally enters me.

I sigh at the feeling of fullness, not moving for a few seconds but enjoying the moment of connection unlike any other.

"I love seeing you sink down onto my cock," he says. "Show me how much you love having it inside of you, love."

Eager to follow his command, I begin to move, slowly at first. His eyes never leave mine, even as his face scrunches in concentration as the muscles deep inside me react stronger, clenching around him.

His left hand continues to caress my bum, as his right reaches between us, pressing against the place he knows I need him. I moan and bite down on my lip, losing sight of him for just a moment as my eyelids flutter.

"That's it, baby," he urges. "Enjoy how good my cock makes your pussy feel. We'll go at your pace, my love. I've got you."

He may be trying to encourage me to take it slow, but hearing his tenderness just makes me want more.


I speed up my thrusts and Edward adjusts the tone of his words. "Oh, my Baby Girl needs more, does she? I can give you more if you think you can handle it." At this, he raises his hips to meet mine at just the right moment, pushing deeper and harder than before. The friction against my clit makes the ministrations of his fingers almost unnecessary.

"Oh, yes," I cry, loving the feeling, but wanting more. I need Edward everywhere.

As if he could read my mind, Edward keeps up the pace of his thrusts from beneath me, guiding me with one hand still on my ass, while his other reaches for my breast again. He squeezes them together and kisses each in turn, synchronized with the movements of our lower bodies.

It's becoming too much.

My mind and body are unraveling again, but I want him to come with me.

"Edward," I breathe, and he pulls back from my chest to meet my eyes. "I love you," the words come out something like a groan and a scream as the tremors take complete control of me, the feeling of euphoria flooding my body. An orgasm unlike any I'd ever experience rocks me, making my eyes roll back in my head for a second as my heart tries to escape my body.

Whether it's my words or my orgasm that send him over the edge, Edward's thrusts become more erratic and I see him lose complete control, too. I fall on top of him, our bare chests pressed against each other and our legs entwined as our lips meet once more.

We lie together, still connected, for a few moments before Edward shifts to position me onto the mattress before spooning me. I whimper a bit in protest at the loss of him inside me, but I feel like my insides have turned to goo and I can't do anything more than sink into the soft mattress and take a deep breath.

As I inhale the sweet scent of the roses on my pillow, the flowers evoke a collage of scenes from the past, both joyous and sad.

But before my mind can drift anywhere, whether to sleep or memory, I hear a velvet voice whisper in my ear.

"I love you, Mrs. Cullen."

"Mmm…" I mumble, "Honeymoon sex is the best."

1 Year Earlier

I knew I couldn't stay hidden for long.

Today was destined to be a day of extreme dread for me.

One day, twenty-four hours, in which I would be the center of attention.

All eyes on me.



It was the one thing I loathed more than anything in the world.

Right now, I could allow myself to sneak off to a quiet corner to be alone with my thoughts for just a few minutes.

Spying an old-fashioned armchair nestled into a vestibule off the main hall I gratefully sink into it and closed my eyes.

Unfortunately, denying myself the sense of sight heightened my other senses. My nose wrinkled at the overpowering scent of lilies, carnations, roses, and perfume, my ears became attuned to the quiet voices in the room just beyond the alcove where I had taken refuge.

"Such a tragedy…"

"They were so in love…"

"Have you seen him?"

"It's no wonder he's taken it so hard, she was the center of his universe…"

"I almost didn't recognize him…"

"It's like he's aged ten years in a matter of days…"

"Of course, it's natural to mourn, but this is more, don't you think?"

I swallowed a lump of fear that was harder to ignore than the grief I had been managing to hold at bay.

So, it wasn't just me who had noticed the extreme change in Phil. Others could see it, and they also worried that it was beyond the norm.

I had expected the tears.

The seven stages of grief described on the various websites told me that.

But, I hadn't expected to come home to find a man I could barely recognize.

I had no experience comforting someone who had lost their wife. I didn't know what normal grieving was; this was the first funeral I had attended. I hadn't even lost a grandparent.

The overwhelming scent of flowers in the air brought back the memory of the moment I took Renee's bouquet from her, freeing her hands to accept the ring from Phil. At that moment, as she turned from me, her face glowing with an inner light I had never witnessed, I had realized she was no longer mine to worry about.

I was no longer the one she would call when she couldn't find her cell phone charger. She wouldn't be counting on me to remind her when she needed to pick up the dry cleaning. It wouldn't be me sorting through the stacks of mail she'd leave on the hall table or her dresser, or (once) in the crisper drawer of the fridge. Phil would be the one to take care of her, to clean her messes and make sure the bills were paid.

I had cried bittersweet tears as they had recited their vows to each other, realizing that my mom didn't need me anymore. But a small part of me had been joyous to be relieved of the responsibility. For the first time in my life, I only needed to worry about taking care of myself.

Phil was the General Manager for the Seattle Mariners, who were a few games away from clinching a spot in the World Series. If my mother had passed away any other year, or even at a different time in the season, her funeral would be attended by their friends, and perhaps a few business associates involved with the team. There would not be reporters from ESPN staked outside their house and we would not have had to arrange for security around the funeral procession.

The fact that she had succumbed to breast cancer mere months after being diagnosed, and at the height of a media storm surrounding the team, made our family's loss an international story. The league had already committed to a season-long awareness campaign about the disease, and because of that, Phil and Renee's tragic love story became fodder for the PR team to spin into media gold.

Television reporters, magazine writers, and bloggers of all levels who had at one point or another covered Phil were using their history to hound him for interviews or at least a comment. It only made for a juicier story asmy mother's cancer advanced, even the brainless personalities on sports radio could recognize that Phil had fallen into a deep depression.

Phil needed me to get through my mother's service. I'd have to provide him with a hand to squeeze and an ample supply of tissues that I had packed into my black suit jacket. I took one last deep breath, my nose wrinkling from the sickly-sweet scent of carnations, patted my Kleenex stuffed pocket, and stepped out into the foyer of the funeral home.

Our friend Emmett was manning the door, keeping the onlookers at bay. I intended to walk by him, keeping my eyes on the ornate carpet, but I was caught completely off-guard by the voice of the man he was blocking.

"I'm … Well … I'm not quite sure how to … I suppose one could say I'm an old friend of the family," the stumbling words were all colored by a thick English accent.

That was initially what made my head turn.

However, it was more than curiosity about the speaker's obvious foreignness. The small part of my brain not on survival mode recognized that the tenor and tone of this man's voice was the most alluring sound I had ever heard. Although it angered me to think that someone was trying to lie their way into what should be a private moment for my stepfather, I was also overwhelmingly curious to see the face that matched this voice.

The man's eyes moved from Emmett to me just as I turned, and I gasped at what I saw. There were plenty of handsome, well-dressed men around me, as the funeral was well attended by Phil's team. But, none that came close to him.

A suit that would put every model in the Brooks Brother's catalog to shame covered his broad shoulders. Silky reddish-brown hair swept over a face that was framed by a jaw that could have been chiseled from granite. Perfectly shaped lips were pressed together as if trying to hold back words that he was afraid to say.

He was the kind of man that every woman just wanted to stare at for hours.

However, what had stopped me in my tracks were his piercing emerald eyes—eyes that were the precise shape and color as those of my stepfather.

Eyes that belonged to a complete stranger, yet eyes that were so familiar and comforting.

Something about this man made my earth tilt on its axis.

Emmett was saying something to him, but I couldn't make out the words.

I forgot for the briefest moment that I had been hurrying to stand by Phil as we said goodbye to my mother. I stepped forward and offered my hand to the gorgeous gentleman.

"I'm Bella Swan," I said, "Renee's daughter. I'm afraid I don't remember meeting you."

Beside me, Emmett growled as my words confirmed his suspicion.

"How do you do, Bella?" the Englishman replied, his eyes never leaving mine despite the six-foot-six two-hundred-pound threat just inches away. He took my hand gently in his with an uncertain jerk of his arm as if afraid to touch me, but desperate to create a link between us.

My skin tingled at his touch.

"My name is Edward Cullen. I read about the tragedy, and I just … I wanted to be here, for the family."

The way his velvet voice caressed each word sent a shiver up my spine.

The cadence of his syllables, so often dropped by the Northwestern American tongue was almost deja vu – like. I had always known there was something missing from the words I heard and spoke every day, but could not quite recognize what it was.

Until now.

I couldn't stop looking into his eyes, even as I felt a blush spread across my cheeks from my brazenness of holding the gaze and his hand too long.

"Did you come all the way from England?" I asked, and then bit my lip, wishing I could have come up with something more intelligent.

Edward nodded. "I had just read the news. I saw the name Phil Dwyer, and there was a photo…" he trailed off, glancing around us nervously. "It was the picture that made me…" He stopped again, his face twisted in a mixture of confusion and embarrassment, and his head dropped.

"It's okay," I encouraged, though I had no idea why. All I knew, was that something squeezed my heart when he had broken eye contact. I needed to see his green eyes again, though I had no doubt about what I had already seen. I threw a quick glance at Emmett, silently entreating him to give us a little space. Emmett gave the smallest ursine growl under his breath but backed off.

"I booked the first flight I could," Edward finished, raising his head to meet my gaze again while our grasp changed, our fingers becoming interlaced.

I nodded, more to myself because there was really no question that he belonged here.

"Would you like to come up front with me?" I asked, squeezing his fingers gently and preparing to lead him inside.

"No," Edward's eyes flickered to the crowd, searching briefly, and then returning to my face. "No, I don't think that would be quite the right thing to do. Not at all the right time now…" As he trailed off, he pulled his hand away to run it through his hair.

Oh my lord, it was a familiar gesture.

My throat tightened as I remembered just how often over the last few days I had seen Phil tug at his hair.

"But you came all this way," I protested.

"Yes, well, so I did," Edward fumbled again. "But, it would be rather balls-up for me to go in there now, wouldn't it?"

"I'm not familiar with that expression," I admitted.

Edward looked even more embarrassed and distracted.

Organ music began to play, and I turned my head back to the sanctuary, feeling guilty and torn. Phil needed me to be sitting next to him right now, regardless of the handsome, mysterious man in front of me.

"Bella," Edward called my name, and I turned back to him, unable to resist the delicious sound of my name in his accent.


Edward sighed and looked at me pleadingly. "It was wrong of me to come here without any warning. I have no right to ask anything of you as you've just lost your mum, but…"

"You can ask, Edward," I encouraged.

"Do you fancy a cup of tea? Later, I mean," he paused, looking down at his tie as if berating himself. "Perhaps we could talk somewhere public, but not quite as public as all this, if you understand…"

I glanced around the room and spotted the guestbook propped on a little podium just outside the door, with a stack of cards and a pen. I quickly scribbled my cell number and handed it to Edward.

"Don't leave," I pleaded as I handed it back to him. "I mean, it would mean a lot to us if you stayed. To know you were here."

"Yes," Edward replied. "I'll be here for you, Bella."

"And here for Phil," I hedged.

"Yes," he replied, his eyes burning.

I nodded, and then reluctantly walked away.

As I made my way up the aisle to the first pew, to stand beside Phil, I wasn't as concerned about the hundreds of eyes that I knew were staring at me. As much as I had been dreading being the focus of so much unwanted attention, the crowd ceased to matter as I slid in next to my stepfather. Without looking, he placed a shaking hand over mine on the smooth wooden rail separating us from the pulpit.

The only thing I could sense outside of my grieving heart, were the emerald eyes holding me in their gaze.

Like an embrace.

I could feel their warmth surrounding me, just as honestly as I could still feel the heat of his touch on the hand that was not under Phil's.

The service passed in a blur.

One of Renee's childhood friends gave the eulogy, which I would be grateful for until the end of my days. There was no way I could have spoken in front of this crowd, no matter how much my mother had meant to me.

Others came forward to talk about what an inspiration Phil and Renee's love had been, and I gritted my teeth. It wasn't that I wasn't appreciative of their words, but the last thing my stepfather needed to hear, was that he had lost something that was once in a lifetime. Something so rare that most people would never experience it themselves.

The phrase 'once in a lifetime' took shape in my mind like a puzzle piece. I had known when Phil had met my mom years ago that he had been completely smitten. It had never occurred to either of us that he would be the type of man to have a woman in every town the way some professional athletes and their entourage did.

And for Renee, it had been as if all the false starts at love had been a practice for this, her home run.

As I watched Phil gazing at my mother's casket as if he was burying his own heart, it was natural to think that she had been the ONLY one ever to hold a place there. However, it struck me as shortsighted, even childlike to have made that assumption. I was living, walking proof that Renee had loved someone before she met Phil. She had never attempted to hide her history. Was it possible he had not been as honest with her? And if so, why?

I was pondering these questions as I stood in Gran's living room hours later. My fingers were in my pocket absentmindedly tracing the card bearing Edward's phone number. I began to wonder how short of a window I had to get answers.

Would he be leaving soon?

"Bella," my grandmother's voice and her hand on my shoulder broke me out of my reverie. "Sweetheart, you look like you could use a break."

Gran had understood me in a way that my mother never had. She could tell just how much it was taking out of me to be forced to speak to all these strangers, to have them looking at me, trying to imagine what I was feeling.

"No, I'm fine," I mumbled.

Gran shook her head at me. "Phil has all his friends here now and they'll probably be distracting him with stories for at least a few hours. Why don't you step out for a bit, take some time for yourself, maybe take a drive out to look at the ocean?"

If I had been thinking only of my mother, this would have been the perfect advice. But now it gave me the perfect alibi. I nodded, unable actually to say that I'd do what Gran suggested because I was such a lousy liar she'd know immediately. As it was, the tiny crease of confusion that the Swan women all got when we were considering a problem, had formed above her brown eyes. But, she didn't say anything else, just gently guided me to the door.

I drove my ancient truck a few blocks before pulling over to the side of the road to take out my cell phone. My heart was hammering as I entered the number. I wasn't even sure it had rung before I heard an anxious 'hello' in a British accent.

"It's Bella," I said, unable to think of where else to begin.

"I didn't expect you to call so soon. Is the reception already over?"

"No," I said. "I just stepped out. I needed a break and Phil's got his friends with him."

"He seems to have a lot of good friends."

I wasn't sure how to categorize the emotion in his honey-toned voice at those words, so I answered simply, "Yes, he does."

"Would you be able to meet me for that cup of tea now?" This question was definitely colored with anxiety.

Was Edward uncertain whether I would agree to meet him?

"Is there a good tea room nearby your place?" he prompted.

I laughed despite myself, "Edward," I said. "You may be able to get a cup of tea somewhere, but in Seattle, if it's not a coffeehouse, it's a bar."

"Oh, right, of course," he fumbled. "Which would you prefer then?"

After determining where Edward was staying, I directed him to the nearest Starbucks and told him that I would be there in a few minutes. When I arrived, he was waiting outside, his hair damp from the ever present Washington rain. As I walked toward him, he brushed his wet locks back in the same familiar gesture, catching my eye at the end of the motion. His face broke into a crooked grin that made my heart skip a beat. I smiled back, noticing that the muscles in my cheeks felt stiff and underused.

"You didn't have to wait out in the rain," I said as I reached his side.

Edward swallowed and shrugged. "I'm afraid I was rather anxious to see you. Normally I would have my umbrella, but I'm afraid I left it home, and it was a bit far to go back and retrieve."

I laughed, unable to stop myself from responding to his wry humor. He smiled again and held the door open for me.

After ordering a latte for me and a large tea for himself, Edward gestured toward a table in the far corner of the café. I slid into to a seat, shrugging out of my rain jacket.

Edward's face was a mask of worry and guilt.

It was the look of someone who knew they were an intrusion in someone's life, but didn't know how to stop.

I recognized it as the way I had felt when my mother had first started dating Phil. When she had to make the choice between staying home with me or traveling with him. I was uncertain how to put Edward at ease or how to answer any of the dozens of questions I had, so I said the first thing that came to my mind.

"I'm so glad you came."

Edward sighed at these words.

His reply came out in a rush, "I was afraid you might tell me to leave, that you didn't want me here, especially now."

"Why wouldn't I want you here?" I asked.

The question made me realize, that despite the connection I had instantly felt when I met this man's eyes, and despite what I suspected about him, I was, in fact, sitting across from a complete stranger.

"I've heard that Americans are rather straight-forward and unreserved, and I expected I'd at least have to explain myself before you'd show me such kindness," Edward admitted. The confession seemed to embarrass him, and he lowered his eyes to his tea in front of him, which remained untouched.

I shook my head at my own foolishness.

Edward had assumed it was a cultural difference between us. I suppose others would have chalked up my willingness to slip away from my mother's funeral reception to talk to him in a Starbucks as a foolishness of my age. Twenty-somethings were supposed to be impetuous and make irrational choices, especially when they were around extremely attractive members of the opposite sex.

But, this was the first time I had ever done anything remotely like this. I had never even dated anyone I hadn't known for months beforehand.

"So, you prepared an explanation?" I prompted.

Edward nodded. "Several, actually."

"Why don't you give me your best one now?" I asked, smiling at him and secretly wishing I could hear every version of what he wanted to tell me.

"Bella," he started, "Have you ever felt as though a part of you was missing? Or that you were somehow different from everyone around you? That you didn't quite fit right?"

I inhaled a ragged breath, feeling my eyes widen and my heart accelerate. I hadn't expected him to say anything like that. But, I knew exactly the feelings he was describing.

"I was raised by the most wonderful people," Edward continued. "My mum is a nurse, and my father a doctor. The story, I was always told, was that they met in a surgical hospital during the Vietnam War. They fell in love and married after they returned to England. Then, about six months later, I was born."

I cocked my head, wondering if I was supposed to understand if that was some sort of scandal. This was not fitting with what I had assumed.

"I had a wonderful childhood. You cannot imagine more loving people than Esme and Carlisle Cullen." He went on. "I was encouraged in all my pursuits, yet I knew it was my father's wish that I follow in his footsteps and become a doctor."

"I suppose most children are desperate to make their parents proud, to follow in their footsteps. Therefore, I made no objections when my father suggested I attend the same university he had, to begin my pre-med studies. He wanted me to become a surgeon. I think I realized even then that it wasn't what I truly wanted, but I was so eager to fulfill my father's desires, even his unspoken ones.

"I was quite fortunate in this regard as well. It was working at the hospital, having patients and their families counting on me that made me start to feel complete. Though I continued failing utterly at romance, I made wonderful friends there. And when I could improve someone's life, it made me believe I had a purpose; that I belonged.

"One day, there was an accident on the motorway. My father was brought in with a head wound and he had lost a lot of blood."

I gasped, my hand automatically going to my mouth.

"No," Edward said, taking in my expression. "It wasn't even that serious, and he's completely recovered. But, that night, he required a transfusion. I was ready to donate when I realized I didn't know my own father's blood type."

My stomach began to twist into knots. It wasn't that I was afraid of where I knew Edward's story was heading, but I could imagine the complete shock he had experienced. I thought of how I had pitied myself for the abrupt changes in my life, Renee's death and witnessing Phil suffer from his depression.

"My father has type O type blood," Edward said. "My mother is type A and I'm type AB."

I didn't know enough about blood types to be certain of the genetic possibilities, but there was no doubt what the implication was to Edward's story. "You realized that he couldn't be your biological father," I surmised.

"Yes," Edward sighed. "After the shock subsided, I went to talk to my mother. She told me that before she had met Carlisle, she had a brief affair with an American G.I. named Phil Dwyer. He had been transported to England for care before being discharged back to the states. They had agreed that it wasn't meant to be between them before he left. It was a week later that she realized she was pregnant, and soon after that she met and fell in love with Carlisle."

"Does your father know?" I asked, and then corrected myself. "I mean, does Carlisle know that he isn't your biological father?"

"Yes," Edward replied. "He's always known. It was just me, and I suppose, Phil Dwyer who were kept in the dark. I had thought of trying to find him when I learned the truth, but I was already a grown man myself. I had always known something was missing from my life, but how could he have felt the same? Wasn't the fact that he hadn't ever contacted my mother or searched for me the proof that it didn't really matter. Perhaps it was better for him to not have such a disruption in his life."

I shook my head. "I'm sure he doesn't know," I said earnestly. "Phil isn't the kind of man who could forget about a son and never mention him if he knew."

Edward gulped. "I know this is rather the worse time imaginable, but do you think I should try to meet him?"

I shook my head vigorously. "Edward," I urged. "It's not just that you should, but that you have to meet him. He's your father. I just …" I broke off.

"What is it?" Edward asked as his green eyes reflected an echo of the pain I had seen in Phil's so often over the months of Renee's illness.

"It's just," I gulped. "Don't judge him by the man you meet today. My mother's death has taken a lot out of Phil."

Edward cocked his head to the side. "You've said that, yet, it must also have pained you deeply, Bella. And here you sit, listening to my sad tale about discovering the mystery of my father. How can you accept my selfishness in your time of grief?"

I stared into Edward's eyes for over a minute, really pondering his question before I answered. "I suppose it's in helping others that we help ourselves."

"How old are you Bella?" Edward asked his eyebrows rose in surprise.

"I'm twenty-four," I said. "Though Renee used to say that I was born at thirty-five and got more middle-aged every year."

"I can't say I've ever met a twenty-four-year-old woman as gracious, kind, and intuitive as you," Edward said. "Nor of any age," he chuckled.

I blushed, looking down at my hands.

I knew he was complimenting me, but I also felt as if the subject of my age had created a gap between us. While we had been talking about Edward growing up and his feelings of being a misfit, I thought I had been overwhelmed with a sense that he was expressing how I had always felt.

That we were the same.

However, now I realized, even if we were technically stepsiblings, Edward's life and my life were spheres that could never touch. Not only did he live on another continent, but also he was a doctor, unimaginably handsome, sensitive, intelligent and perfect. He would never want an ordinary-looking twenty-something nobody such as me.

The discouraging voice in my head sought confirmation of this as I did the math. "If you were born shortly after Phil was discharged from Vietnam that would make you…" I trailed off, not sure which year I should use as a starting point.

"I was born in 1976," Edward supplied. "I'm an old man pushing forty, still trying to find his daddy. I suppose that makes me quite the sad sack, doesn't it?"

"No," I said, reaching out and touching his hand with my fingers. "I don't think it makes you sad at all. I don't think I could ever be brave enough to hop on a plane to face something that might change my entire life."

Edward's face broke out into a crooked grin.

"Bella," he whispered softly. "I suppose you haven't yet experienced the fact that your whole life can change at any moment whether you want it to or not. I was just looking to find a piece of my heart that I felt was missing."

A thousand images of my mother came flooding back to me and tears pricked my eyes.

"Bloody hell, what an arse," Edward whispered. He got out of his chair and knelt beside mine. "Please forget I said that, Bella."

I turned my head to look at him and he reached for my hands. I placed them in between his and he rubbed them gently. "Of course, you know exactly what that's like, don't you? That's why you're here with me. If only I were as brave and strong as you are, I wouldn't have needed to jabber to you before being a man and presenting myself to Phil."

He paused, looking down at his shoes.

I wondered how anyone could look so immaculate after traveling literally halfway around the world. I imagined how someone passing by the café would see us – a girl in a rumpled black dress with blotchy eyes and a man on his knees at her feet. I snorted to myself, stopping my tears.

That was one fantasy I could not allow myself to indulge in, no matter how it may look.

"Edward," I said, making him look up into my face again. "No one can truly know what another person is going through. But, if it were me in your place, I think I'd be pretty worn out from worrying and wondering about what might happen."

Edward nodded in agreement.

I smiled encouragingly at him, and then picked up my cell phone.

"Bella?" my gran answered.

"Hi Gran," I said as Edward's eyebrows rose in confusion. "I was just wondering how many people are still there."

"They're pretty much clearing out, dear," she said. "I was getting a little worried about where you might be."

"I'm just down the street," I answered. "How's Phil doing?"

"I think having so many people here actually did him good." She chuckled. "He just asked me what we're having for dinner."

My heart expanded at this news. It had been weeks since Phil had willingly taken food, instead of being reminded and cajoled into eating.

"That's great," I said. Once again, my cheeks felt unnaturally pulled as I broke out into a grin. "Why don't you set the table for four? I've got someone special I'd like to bring home."

"Oh," Gran answered, apparently confused. "All right then, we'll see you soon, dear."

I ended the call and stood, offering my hand to Edward again.

"I hope you worked up an appetite telling me that story, Edward," I told him, grinning shyly, "Because our family likes to show our love and welcome with food."

Two months after that fateful night that I remembered as both the official goodbye to my mother and Edward's entrance into my life and Phil's, I was at the airport. I bounced on my toes trying to see over the crowd of travelers making their way through the Sea-Tac Central Terminal.

Finally, I caught a glimpse of the reddish brown waves I had been waiting to see, and my heart started thumping in my chest. I couldn't get any closer, but it was as if my body could not accept what my brain knew. I felt like sprinting toward him the instant he exited the plane, TSA agents and customs be damned.

As I caught sight of that face I had been longing for, the one that looked so much more amazing in person than over Skype, it was as if my body went into shock and refused to propel me toward him. Instead, I stood there frozen as Edward flitted around the people between us to skid to a stop before me.

Before I knew what was happening, he had wrapped his arms around my waist and lifted me up off the ground. I laughed as I gazed down at him, breathless in surprise at his exuberance.

"Welcome back," I gasped.

"I wasn't expecting you to meet me at the airport," Edward beamed, finally lowering me to the ground, but pulling me into another hug before I could create any distance between us. From over his shoulder, I saw a security guard staring at us a bit suspiciously.

"No one was here to greet you last time," I shrugged. "I didn't want you to feel like you were alone now."

"I don't think I could ever feel that way as long as you were somewhere within reach," Edward replied, still grinning as he pulled back just enough to look me in the eye.

Women passing openly ogled his tall frame in his perfectly tailored suit. I noticed a strawberry blond actually lick her lips when he spoke. That damn English accent was simply too irresistible.

I ducked my head, blushing.

We had been emailing and regularly Skyping. Though it started out that we'd talk about Phil, it had changed at some point. Over the last couple of weeks, my day just wasn't complete unless I could tell Edward about what I had done, and heard about how things had been for him since the last time we talked.

I frequently tried to remind myself that I shouldn't fall for Edward. Aside from all the practical reasons such as our complicated family connections and the geographic distance between us, I had only become more convinced that he was far too perfect for me since getting to know him better.

But, I had to admit, I felt like I had more in common with Edward than I ever had with a guy my own age or even my own mother. Things with us were so easy. Within a few minutes of talking, he could make me laugh, and I could get him to open up about things I knew he kept hidden from everyone else.

There was something about that feeling of never quite fitting in that we shared, and it seemedtand fitting in that we shared,t of times, yet he was the best thing that could have happened to all of after my mother to make us fit together perfectly. And now he was here, standing on the ground of the same continent, holding me in my arms. I knew I shouldn't allow myself to feel anything more than happiness for Phil's sake, but the inner Bella was doing cartwheels.

Needing something to keep my imagination from running wild at his last comment, I decided to tease Edward as we walked hand-in-hand to the baggage carousel.

"How have you been doing with your studies?" I asked, with a grin.

"Brilliantly," he replied, looking cocky. His own smile widened and his eyes twinkled. "Ask me anything."

"Okay," I said slowly, "what would you say if I told you the pitcher had good cheese?"

"I'd ask whether it was Cheddar or Muenster," Edward replied without skipping a beat.

I slapped his chest playfully, and then gulped as I felt his pecs harden under my palms. Touching Edward was definitely a bad idea if I wanted to keep myself from falling any deeper than I already had. Edward cleared his throat, and I dropped my hands. He smirked a bit, and then asked in a teasing voice. "Did you want to ask me something about baseball, or should I assume I need to feed you before we get up to Forks to meet Gran and Phil?"

"Ha, ha," I replied. "I think you must be the one who's hungry."

"I'm a bit peckish," Edward said. "Perhaps we should stop for a bite. Moreover, I'm not sure I'm ready to share you with anyone else. Since you were kind enough to meet me, I want to take full advantage of my unexpected Bella-time."

I could feel the heat flooding my cheeks, but I kept my eyes trained on the linoleum under our feet.

I must have been about to walk into a barrier or trip because suddenly Edward's hand grasped my elbow and pulled me toward him. Our eyes locked as I put my hands out to steady myself and avoid knocking my face into his chest. Edward raised his other hand to my face and caressed my cheek with his thumb.

"Hmmmm …" he hummed. "We still have so far to go with technology. A computer screen completely fails at capturing how alluring that blush can be."

I forgot to breathe, and the room around us started spinning.

Edward's eyes widened in alarm and he released my arm and face to place his hands on either side of my waist to steady me. This was slightly better, enough for me to remember how to exhale.

Edward watched me for a moment, then seemed to relax, though he shook his head, and looked away toward the spinning suitcases. "I think I see my luggage," he mumbled. "Will you be all right for a moment?" he asked me, his forehead wrinkled in concern.

"Of course," I replied and took another gasp of breath to prove my point.

Edward looked a bit dubious but stepped away. This made it someone easier to remember how my lungs were supposed to work.

A tense, unexpected silence descended upon us as we gathered up Edward's bags and headed toward my car. I was surprised to see he had four large suitcases. Although there was no doubt that Edward dressed extremely well, I couldn't imagine him needing so much.

"I thought you were just staying for a week," I teased as we filled my trunk and then had to shove his final bag into the back seat of my sedan.

"That was the original plan, but I decided I would probably need a bit longer," Edward said, coming around to the driver's door to open it for me.

"Is this chivalrousness an English thing or a generational thing?" I teased.

Edward frowned, looking at his hands as if they had betrayed him. "I like to take care of you," he mumbled, "Though I don't quite trust myself to drive us back to Forks. It will take a while to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road."

"Edward," I rolled my eyes at him as I sunk into the car, "it's called the right side of the road, literally and figuratively."

His grin returned as he closed my door and walked back to his side.

"You didn't answer my question," I said as he buckled in and I turned on the engine.

"I did," he responded tersely. "It wouldn't matter if I were an American bloke of twenty, I'd still want to take care of you as much as you'd let me."

My face flamed, and I'm sure even Edward could tell it wasn't from the blast of hot air that came flooding out of the car's air vents.

"I meant how long are you staying?" I mumbled.

"Oh," Edward picked an invisible piece of lint off his pants (or as he would call them, trousers) as I pulled out. I studied his fingers as long as I dared before turning my eyes back on the road.

"Well?" I prompted.

"Yes, well, umm, you see…" Edward stammered.

It reminded me of the first time we met.

I smiled a little to myself thinking about how even in those first moments I had felt drawn to him. That feeling had intensified over the weeks with the two of us getting to know each other.

"What are you smiling at?" he asked.

I turned my head and smiled even wider at his look of confusion. "Nothing," I lied, but I could feel the traitor blush giving me away, so I tacked on a bit of honesty. "I'm just really happy you're here."

Edward flashed my favorite grin, and I had to look away.

"I'm glad to hear it because I'll be here for about four weeks," Edward's answer was pregnant with something withheld. Even I could tell he was holding something back.

"Four weeks?" I prompted.

"Yes," he said. "I figure it will take that long to get through the job interviews and find a decent flat. Though I've been assured the interviews are merely formalities, as is the need to return to England to file for my H1B. But, despite what they show on House Hunters International, I expect it will take a while to settle the living arrangements. I'm rather particular about my digs, you see."

I didn't realize my hands had released the steering wheel until I felt the car begin to swerve out of our lane. I grabbed it tightly again and the vehicle rocked as I jerked us back into the proper lane.

"Ah," Edward said triumphantly. "See, even you know that the left is the proper side to drive! You're not so blinkered after all."

"What?" I choked out.

"You were headed toward the right side, that is the left side – the proper one," Edward explained as he pointed out the windshield.

I shook my head. "What was that about job interviews and flats, and digs?" I asked in an impatient tone.

"I'm sorry, Bella," Edward sighed. "I thought we had made progress on the language barrier. I suppose you would refer to 'finding a decent flat' as 'looking for an apartment,' and well, I don't know another way to explain a job interview. I thought that was the same in American." He ended his speech with a mock helpless shrug.

"Why would you be looking for a job and an apartment while you're here?" I asked, unwilling to allow myself to hope.

"Isn't it obvious?" Edward asked, all teasing out of his voice. I met his green eyes that were doing this indescribable burning thing. I felt their heat all the way from the tips of my ears to my toes.

"Is the economy so bad in Britain?" I stuttered, not trusting myself to answer anyway but teasing.

"It has nothing to do with the economy, Bella," he scowled and looked out the window at the greenery that attracted so many tourists but couldn't hold a candle to his eyes. Despite the need to focus on the road, I was desperate to have him look me in the face again.

I bit my lip, glancing back and forth between the twists and turns of the road and the still mysterious man sitting beside me.

Think, Bella, I commanded myself.

And then I realized, shaking my head.

"Of course," I breathed.

"You understand now?" Edward's voice was full of hope and longing as he turned back to me.

I nodded and was rewarded with a triumphant grin from Edward. "You're moving for Phil," I said. "That's so sweet, Edward. It will help him so much to have you close." I swallowed and stared out the windshield again. It was almost too much admitting how low Phil had gotten, how close I had come to losing faith that he would ever heal before Edward had introduced himself and they had begun to tentatively build a relationship.

In a way, their friendship reminded me of the one I had with Renee. Obviously, since Edward was already an adult it wasn't as though they would bond playing catch, or as if Phil could do all those fatherly things such as teach Edward to ride a bike or shave. I smiled a bit at this thought and made a surreptitious glance out of the corner of my eye at Edward's scruff-covered chin. It had been a long flight and he had what could only be described as a Trans-Atlantic shadow.

"So, you're happy in Forks then?" Edward prompted. "Enough good-looking young blokes to keep you entertained?"

I laughed at this but even to my own ears it sounded strange. I didn't miss the emphasis Edward had placed on the word young. As if that was how he saw me, a silly kid running around on meaningless dates.

My stomach churned.

The rest of the drive passed in a series of awkward silences and false starts at conversation. I wondered if I would ever manage to talk with Edward as easily as we had over the phone while there was this distracting, electrical hum that went along with his physical presence.

More than once, I started to move my hand from the gearshift to touch him, but I pulled back, certain he wouldn't want me pawing at him. By the time we pulled into the driveway of Phil's house, my fingers were aching from resisting the urge.

Get a grip, Bella, I admonished myself.

I went around to the trunk to help Edward with his bags, but he stood in my way, making a shooing movement that made me roll my eyes.

"In America, even women can carry a suitcase," I told him.

"Not my suitcase, and not my-" He didn't finish his sentence but looked down at his hands as he pulled at the heavy luggage.

"Hey guys," came Phil's voice behind us. "How was the ride?" I turned to see my stepfather standing on the porch and gasped. There was an honest-to-goodness, genuine, non-teary, dimples-showing smile on Phil's face.

I beamed back.

If we were anywhere other than the rainiest place in the country, it would have been the perfect moment for the sun to burst through the clouds. However, I wasn't going to ask for two miracles in one day.

"It was great!" I exclaimed, running up the porch and hugging Phil tightly.

"I thought it might be," Phil said. A chuckle rumbled in his chest, making me shake with mirth.

Behind me, I just made out Edward saying something that sounded, "Not that way."

I turned to face him, an eyebrow raised in confusion.

"Oh," Phil's shoulders drooped. "I thought…"

"It was a lovely ride," Edward amended. "I've just got a bit of catching up to do on my young-American speak."

"Oh," Phil replied.

Over the next weeks, Phil's house was as full of life as it had been since Renee got sick. The three of us shared stories about each of our lives, allowing even Phil and me to learn more about each other. One night Phil unexpectedly pulled the wedding album off the shelf and we all sat together on the couch, my stepfather on one side, his son on my other.

His eyes got wet but did not overflow as his trembling fingers traced a picture of my mother standing in the sunlight holding her bouquet. "I see so much of Bella in this photo," Phil commented.

I let my own fingers touch the photograph for a second, before squeezing Phil's hand. "Mom was much prettier than me," I said.

I thought I had heard a low growl before Edward made his own comment. "I see exactly what you mean, Phil. A real beauty."

There were one or two sticky moments and some were just kind of cute. Edward was such a gentleman – he was constantly jumping up and trying to help me do even the simplest tasks. He even insisted on going with me to the grocery store, noting that he could not imagine allowing me to move two weeks' worth of food all by myself.

As I learned, our SUVs and hamburgers weren't the only things that were super-sized compared to the U.K.'s version. Edward's eyes had popped when he saw our refrigerator and explained that he was used to doing 'the shopping' every day.

"Really," he complained as he made his familiar stand between me and the car's overflowing trunk, refusing even to let me lift one of the lighter bags. "It's as if they expect ladies to be pack mules the way they load these bags."

Others were just – weird.

Like when Edward drove me – far too fast for someone still getting use to driving on the right side of the road – into Port Angeles to show me the apartment, he had chosen. He walked me through each of the rooms, sounding just like a realtor. He showed off his modern kitchen with professional appliances, his bath with a large soaking tub, and the beautiful view from the balcony of his master bedroom.

"It's quite the bachelor pad, Edward," I told him, even though I desperately wanted to imagine myself here with him, chopping vegetables by the stainless steel range and sipping tea on the weekends, staring off into the mountains. "And there are lots of single professionals in Port Angeles. I imagine you'll have a different woman here every Saturday."

Edward dropped his arms that he had spread out to gesture to the deeply colored hardwood floors. They were just like the ones I had told him I missed from my first apartment that I had given up to come back to Forks.

"Bella," you are driving me absolutely mad."

"Why?" I asked. "Really, Edward it's a lovely place. I didn't mean to imply-"

He cut me off before I could finish. "Do you really not see that there is only one woman I want in my kitchen, in my apartment, and in my life?"

I shook my head.

"You've met someone? When?"

"A few months ago," Edward responded. "And she's absolutely perfect except for the fact that I apparently am nothing but an old man to her."

"What?" My blood boiled with a mixture of jealousy and indignation. What kind of idiot would think Edward was old?

"Bella," he groaned. "All this time, I thought you were holding me at arm's length because you were afraid that I was just passing through, that I'd come to disrupt Phil's life and yours. I thought by now you would have seen the truth."

I shook my head. "I never thought that, Edward," I said. "And I never held you at arm's length."

"Really," Edward said, taking a step closer.

Without thinking, I took a half step back.

He smirked in triumph, but his green eyes remained sad.

"Why is it you always try to grab the door before I can open it for you, Bella?" Edward asked, the sadness seeping into his voice a bit. "Are you trying to tell me something? Is it me who does not understand your signals?"

"What signals," I asked, confused. "I'm just not used to men treating me the way you do, Edward. It's not that I don't like it. I love what a gentleman you are."

"As I've told you," Edward continued, "I want you to get used to it. I wanted you to realize that you deserve it. I've flirted and teased and done everything I knew how to show you how crazy I am about you while still being a gentleman. But, perhaps I shouldn't have?"

"You've flirted?" I blurted out blinking.

How had I missed that?

Edward raked his hand through his hair and I thought about how he made that gesture when we were teasing each other and I made a self-deprecating comment.

Was he frustrated with me because I hadn't responded to his compliments the way he wanted?

"Yes, Bella," he said. "How could I not when the most tempting woman in the world – the most kind-hearted, funny, sweet, and loving person I've ever met is right in front of me. How could I not want to put her on a pedestal and worship her as she deserves?"

"I thought you were just being nice to me. I thought that you saw me as a friend, or, a," I gulped before I could manage to say the unthinkable word. "Sister,– that you saw me as Phil's daughter."

"I know Phil loves you as his own child," Edward says. "How can he not? But I'm thirty-fucking-eight years old, and from the moment I laid eyes on you in that chapel – looking more like an angel than any mortal who's ever walked the face of the earth – I have never seen you as a sibling or a child."

"You didn't?" I gulped.

"No," Edward growled. "Is that how you see me, as an older brother?"

I shook my head. "I tried to see you that way, but I couldn't. I-"

Edward closed the distance between us, standing just an inch away from me in the empty living room with the floors of my dreams.

I could feel his warm breath on my lips when he next spoke.

"How do you see me Bella?"

I bit my lip, unable to say a word.

"I'm going to kiss you, Bella. If you don't understand how I feel about you after I do," he paused and then started again. "If you don't feel what I feel then I will take you home and we never have to talk about this again. I'll always be a good friend to you no matter what, but you should know that I will never stop wanting more."

Before he could say anything else, I threw my arms around his neck and crushed my lips to his.

Electricity ran up and down my spine as our mouths moved together. He tasted like the most delicious wine, and it went right to my blood, making me dizzy with desire.

I could feel one of his hands running through my hair, caressing my locks gently but eagerly, while the other circled my waist holding me against his hard body.

His mouth left mine to run a trail of kisses along my jaw as he whispered "beautiful girl" over and over each time his lips touched my skin.

Eager for more, I was soon backed into the wall of the living room as Edward ravaged my mouth and neck with kisses that made my toes curl. He leaned into me, allowing each and every plane of his body to press against mine. I felt everything, and to say that he was as turned on as I was would not be a misconception.

"God Bella, we have to stop…" The words barely registered in my idled brain, but the feeling of Edward's strong hands on my shoulders was enough to break through my lust.

I panted, trying to control myself. I had not wanted Edward to think of me as a kid, and the moment he had told me how he felt I had acted like a horny immature teenager.

That was so unlike me.

I nodded, looking down at my shoes, unable to meet his eyes.

Edward's hand cupped under my chin and forced me to meet his gaze.

"Bella, don't look away from me like that," he admonished. "I'm falling so hard for you. But, our first time is NOT going to be on the floor of this apartment."

I nodded, lost in his eyes and the sensations that only intensified at the phrase 'our first time.'

"When we do it, I'm going to show you what a man of my experience can do," Edward said, his voice starting tender and turning husky. "I've wanted you for so long. I intended the first time I got to enjoy your body to be sweet and tender, but I can't promise that right now. I need you to understand what you do to me."

Edward emphasized these words with a smouldering stare as he ran his fingers up the sides of my breasts. I couldn't remember ever feeling so sensitive to just a mere touch. Or maybe Edward just had a magic way of touching me.

"You have no idea how many times I've imagined you calling out as I stroked myself, picturing your beautiful tits," with these words he pulled at my neckline, which was just loose enough to reveal one side of my bra.

"So much better than I even imagined," he groaned, licking his lips. His eyes darted from my hard nipple to my face. "Do you understand now, Bella? Do you think I'm a gentleman now that you know I've been jerking off to fantasies of you exposed to me like this?"

"I think so," I stuttered.

Edward smirked and brought his head down to my breast, sucking gently on my nipple.

"God, yes," I moaned, my head falling backward as the coil inside me started to build.

"That's not my name, baby girl," Edward admonished, pinching my nipple between his thumb and forefinger. "Tell me who you've been thinking of in your lonely bed," he urged. "Have you been aching for my, Bella?"

"Yes, Edward, yes."

"Do you ever touch yourself, love?" he asked, still holding me against the wall of the empty room. My breaths were beginning to echo into the empty space.

I nodded.

"Mmmmm…" Edward hummed as if considering the molding, while his hand moved from my breast to slide under my skirt, gently tickling my inner thighs as they moved higher. "I've imagined that, but no matter how tempting the thought of you touching yourself may be, I bet it's nothing compared to how wet you are for me right now."

As his fingers reached my quivering pussy, I knew he found proof of his words. My panties were soaked, and I could feel my walls flutter as he cupped my sex. I expected another smirk, but his jaw clenched tight, as he growled. "So wet…" He pushed the fabric of my panties aside and pressed his thumb against my clit. I reached out to grab his shoulders, unable to stand without his support any longer.

"Hold on tight, Baby Girl," he said pulling his head back to take in my face. I could only imagine what I looked like, my mouth hanging open and my eyes glazed as he masterfully worked my body with his magic fingers.

"So good," was the best I could manage. Perhaps dirty talk was a skill one earned through experience.

"Mine," he called as I clung to him.

"Yes," I whimpered. "I'm yours, Edward."

"That's it Baby Girl, say my name," he encouraged while he moved his hands over my body in ways I could no longer understand or describe. It felt like his touch was everywhere, and I could feel the tingles building in my stomach.

"Oh Edward," I called, "I've wanted you so much."

With that admission, the last strings holding me to the earth snapped. I could feel my body arch off the wall, spurned on by his hardness against mine rubbing into me in all the right places as his long fingers circled my hardened nipples. Even as the sensation was no longer trapped within my body, I still saw spots of light as Edward bent down to take my breast in his mouthas his own release came.

His bronze head moved slowly up my body, kissing me lightly as he made his way from my breast up my chest. With a groan, he continued kissing up my throat and neck as he smoothed out my skirt. I was still a quivering mess, but dressed again when his lips met my ear.

"That's one way a man can show a woman how much he desires her, Bella. However, there are many others. And I intend to show you all of them."

"I think you'll find me eager to learn," I whispered in his ear in return. "But just because I'm younger, I hope you don't think I have nothing to show you."

Edward pulled back and gave me his best smirk. He took both my hands in his and guided me out of the room.

"I'm counting on it," Edward said smiling.

When Phil walked me down the aisle toward his handsome son, I couldn't help but remember the day we had both met him.

All three of us – my stepfather, my husband-to-be, and me – had been lost in our own grief and doubts.

They say you can never truly love someone without opening yourself to the risk of pain. As I kissed Phil's cheek, both of us with tears streaming down our faces, I knew I could still only imagine the pain he had experienced from my mother's death.

But, I also knew in the core of my very being, that truly loving someone was worth the risk, even the inevitability, of that hurt.

Phil's hand trembled slightly as he took mine and placed it over Edward's, which made me glance anxiously into my stepfather – soon to be father-in-law's face. The green eyes I met had deeper lines around them, but they were no longer dull and full of pain.

The grief was still there, of course, but it was mixed with strength. Phil glanced from me to Edward and his mouth pulled up into a crooked smile so similar to the man I was about to marry that it made laugh.

My mother and Phil's love story would be remembered, not just by us, but also by the world. So many had read about it the papers and responded to our personal tragedy with generosity that made her memorial foundation a leader in breast cancer research.

But, I knew it was more than the charity that brought on Phil's change. Though it would never be the same without my mother, we were a family once again. The three of us, as well as Gran and Carlisle and Esme, who were all looking on with tears of their own.

It didn't matter who was related by blood –

We were all bound together by love.

Gaah, I am such a romantic. Phil has been in a million stories but what did we really know about him? So this was it, my bunny. Thanks for reading.