Entry for the Straight thru the Heart Contest
Title: Necktie Nymphos
Summary: She loved him then; he loves her now. Pretty sure love only works when two people love each other at the same time.
Pairing: Edward and Bella
Word count: 6764
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
It just sort of happened—me falling in love with Bella. We met our freshman year at U-Dub when she transferred to my floor in the North Campus dormitory. It was your typical dorm experience—long corridor, communal bathroom, intermingled by gender, with impromptu hallway parties on random weekend nights.
College is supposed to be an institution of higher learning, an integration into a grown up world for young adults. Yet there was a 1 a.m. curfew. Complete bullshit, if you asked me.
Several times, I made it just under the wire, earning a disapproving look from Emmett, the burly resident advisor.
"You're cutting it close, Cullen."
"Second time this week."
"I don't get why there's a curfew anyway."
Emmett shrugged. "I don't make the rules. I'm here to enforce them." He grinned as he punched his fist into his palm. Though he looked like a bear, I knew he was as soft and squishy inside as a stuffed animal. I promised to try to be on time in the future as I made my way to my room near the far end of the corridor. As I approached, I saw my roommate had the proverbial tie hanging off the door knob.
"Fucker," I muttered as I rolled my eyes. At least I had the courtesy to have sex off campus. I hoped Jasper's flavor of the week would do the walk of shame back to her room soon. Shrugging out of my jacket, I slid down the wall and made myself comfortable on the floor. I grabbed my English Lit textbook out of my knapsack and got a jump start on some reading.
Half an hour later, I heard the door buzzer chime, followed by Emmett lecturing another latecomer. She walked toward me, red-faced, with her backpack slung over one shoulder. She glanced at me and quickly looked away, digging for her keys in her coat pockets. She stopped outside the door next to mine.
"Are you kidding me?" She grumbled. Looking over, I noticed she'd been dealt the same fate as me—a scarf wrapped around the knob. Catching her eye, I tilted my head at the spot on the floor next to me. She smiled and sat down cross-legged beside me, her backpack landing with a thump.
"Hey. I'm Edward Cullen." I extended my hand.
"Bella Swan. Nice to meet you."
I jerked my head toward her door. "You're living with a nympho, too?"
"Apparently. I just moved in this afternoon."
"Where did you transfer from?"
"South building. My unit had a water leak."
"Welcome to North."
"Emmett give you shit?"
She laughed. "Yeah, but I bet he's just a big teddy bear."
"You catch on quick."
"You're in Professor Tanner's AP English Lit class, aren't you?" Bella asked.
"Yeah, how did you know?"
She reached into her backpack, dragging out the same bulky textbook I was reading. "Tanner is such a hard ass, huh?"
"For sure. I hope I can flirt my way to an A."
I laughed. "I can turn on the charm when I want to."
"You don't believe me, Swan?" I flashed her a smirk, the same one that got me an A+ in Mrs. Cope's high school history class. "I'm pretty hard to resist."
"Sure you are, Cullen."
"If I didn't have a girlfriend I'd be flirting with you right now, and you'd be madly in love with me by the end of the semester."
"Does your girlfriend know how modest you are?"
"It's one of the things Vanessa finds endearing about me."
The door to her room creaked open and boy-toy emerged, buttoning up his shirt. Bella put her textbook away and zipped her backpack.
"Thanks for keeping me entertained," she said, getting to her feet.
"It's never dull when I'm around."
"Apparently. I hope you're allowed in soon. Goodnight." She gave a small wave and her door closed with a quiet click.
"Did you get in trouble for coming in late?" Vanessa asked the next time I was at her place. She was attending Seattle Community College, only a 15 minute drive from U-Dub. She was lucky enough to share an apartment with two other girls. We often took advantage of her quiet room.
"Nah, it was fine. Except my roomie had a girl over so I had to sit in the hallway for over an hour until she left."
Vanessa rolled on top of me and pressed her lips to mine. A year into our relationship, and her kisses still excited me. "Poor baby."
"Actually, it was fine. I met the new girl from the room next to mine. Her roommate had a guy over so we were both banished to the hallway. Bella's pretty nice."
My girlfriend raised her eyebrows. "Do I need to be worried about this Bella girl?"
I wrapped my arms around her and flipped her over, pinning her against the bed. "She's got nothing on you, babe." My lips trailed kisses down her neck, clavicle, and lower, erasing any doubts.
I made it back to the dormitory in plenty of time before curfew, hoping to beat Jasper to the room. Bella was sitting on the floor outside her room, sweatpant-clad legs stretched out in front of her. I tried to remember if I'd ever seen Vanessa in sweats, then laughed off the thought. She was far too fashion-conscious for that.
"Kicked out again, Bella? Sucks to be you." I tsked her with a shake of my head and a grin.
Bella gestured to my door where the tie was, once again, visible. "I wouldn't be so quick to make fun, Cullen."
I groaned and sank down beside her. "Damn it. I could have stayed at Vanessa's longer."
"Aww. It must have been hard for her to pry herself away from all that sexines." She waved a hand at me.
"Do I detect some jealousy?" I wagged my eyebrows; she raised her book.
"You wish. I've been perfectly content with Mr. Caulfield."
I grabbed the ratty copy of A Catcher In The Rye and snorted. "Are you kidding? He typifies narcissism at its finest with angst and misguided rebellion."
Bella countered. "Perhaps a simple-minded reader would see it that way."
"Simple-minded? I'm majoring in English literature. I think I know what I'm talking about."
"I'm also a lit major. What's your take on him?"
"He finds the world around him dispiriting and superficial; his alienation is there in the clearest terms." I flipped through the novel where Bella had several passages highlighted in yellow—a girl after my own heart—and quoted an example of Holden being an ass.
"I respectfully disagree," Bella said. "Caulfield's supposed immaturity is actually a sign of his maturity. He's got the world figured out." She found her own paragraph for rebuttal. Normally soft spoken, her voice took on a modulated tone,and I smiled as she read aloud.
We continued our debate for a while and, though I wouldn't admit it to Bella, I understood her point by the time Jasper's redheaded hit-and-run was exiting my room.
"Looks like we'll have to continue this debate another time. Goodnight, Bella."
"I think maybe she's right. Perhaps Holden did have everything figured out. I'm going to have to give it a re-read, keeping her points in mind."
Vanessa failed to hide her boredom, not bothering to cover her yawn. "Uh-huh."
I rolled over, propping myself up on my elbow.
"Am I boring you?"
Vanessa smiled. "Sort of. I know you're a lit major but…"
"But you'd prefer to make out."
"Now you're talking. Come here."
It became a regular thing—hanging out with Bella outside our rooms while our roommates got busy. I began to look forward to debating with her, purposely taking the role of antagonist so I could listen to her argue her point. Her cheeks would flush in annoyance, hands waving wildly as she spoke. I couldn't help but laugh at her animation and she'd playfully punched my shoulder in frustration. Every debate ended the same— when one of us would finally be permitted back in our room, and we'd bid each other good night.
There were times when we weren't locked out of our rooms, but we'd still hang out. Usually we would talk, but occasionally we'd sit reading in comfortable silence. Sometimes we would go to the kitchen where we'd stick a frozen pizza in the oven and share a can of Coke. Bella would pick off all the pepperoni and mushrooms one by one and eat them first. Then she would peel off the cheese, tilt her head back, and dangle it into her mouth.
I'd tease her about her weird ways, but honestly? I thought it was kind of cute.
Many girls in our dorm wouldn't come out of the bathroom until their hair was blowdried and styled, and their makeup just so. Not Bella. She would walk around with her hair wrapped in a towel turban, face free of any cosmetics. Vanessa was one of the former girls. I rarely saw her undone. Bella was a natural beauty, unassumingly so. She made sweatpants and hoodies look good. Every Tuesday she had an early class so she had to drag herself out of bed. She'd pad barefoot into the kitchen, bedhead and all, stifling a yawn. I'd laugh as she'd stumble in, blindly grabbing a cup of coffee before plunking herself down at the table.
One morning, her robe was open. Her nipples very prevalent in her thin, white, spaghetti-strap tank top. I averted my eyes but not before Bella figured out what I had seen. She blushed and quickly pulled her robe across her chest.
I grinned. "Don't be shy. I've seen nipples before."
"Cullen," she warned. "It's too early for me to have a comeback. Let's both pretend this never happened."
I shook my head. "No can do. Those perky little nips of yours are burned into the back of my eyelids." I closed my eyes. "Yep. There they are. Hello, Bella's nipples."
"You're an ass." She got up and smacked the back of my head.
"Have a great day. I know I will."
My favorite times with Bella were spent talking literature as kindred spirits. She turned into a feisty, passionate women when she talked about books. There was fire in those chocolate-brown eyes.
We didn't always debate, though it was always entertaining. There were quite a few books we shared the same sentiments for. Wuthering Heights, A Farewell To Arms, Gone With the Wind, and The Bridges Of Madison County, to name a few. We discussed how, sometimes, you read a line and just had to repeat it over and over again until it hung in the air, echoing in the back of your mind. Eventually, you lost that line; it slipped away until you reread the book and found those amazing words again. Once again, they still blow your mind with their power.
Bella and I were discussing Bridges late one night. She was especially passionate about it.
"I could read that story over and over again." She sighed happily. "I devoured it in one sitting because I couldn't put it down. And when I closed the cover, I had tears streaming down my face. Who doesn't crave a love like that?"
"I didn't cry, but I agree. It's a classic love story."
"Admit it—you cried like a baby, didn't you?"
I held my index finger and my thumb an inch apart. "Maybe my eyes were a wee bit misty."
"Gah. That book is ridiculously romantic! Francesca experienced the one true love of her life, knowing it could never be." Bella swooned, clutching the book to her chest. "It showed us what it is to love and be loved so intensely that life is never the same again."
I was disappointed when Jasper's single-serving girl opened the door at the same time Alice, Bella's roommate, released her man from her clutches. It signalled the end of our time together for the evening. I stood, offering my hand to help my hopeless romantic counterpart to her feet.
The next thing I knew, Bella's mouth was on mine. Warmth from her lips sent butterflies in my stomach into flight. When I became aware of what was happening, it was over. Too soon or not soon enough, I wasn't sure.
I took a step back. There was air in the space between us, but none for me to breathe. Bella looked as surprised as I was. Her hand flew to her mouth, cheeks scorched with embarrassment. I didn't know how to respond so I just stood there motionless and mute. She started babbling away.
"Oh, my god. I'm so sorry. I have no idea why I just did that. I guess the romantic side of me got carried away. Shit! This isn't going to make it weird between us, is it?"
"Nah. But you're going to regret mackin' on me in the morning," I chuckled. "Goodnight, Bella."
I waited until she closed her door before walking to Emmett's room in a kiss-induced daze. He answered my knock in flannel pajama pants, rubbing sleep from his eye with the heel of his hand.
"Hey, Edward. It's late. Is everything okay?"
I shook my head. "You're the resident advisor. I need you to advise me!"
He opened the door wider and invited me in. He sat down on the edge of his bed, but I was too worked up to sit still.
"So, this thing just happened. And I'm 100 percent innocent in this, but I may or may not have enjoyed it, and now my head's a little—okay a lot—fucked up."
"First of all, stop pacing; you're making me dizzy." He pulled out his desk chair, and I dropped into it. "Second, back up a bit because I'm lost."
"Bella kissed me."
Emmett grinned. "I don't see a problem here."
"I have a girlfriend—Vanessa. We've been together for over a year. My high school sweetheart."
"She's the reason you're coming in at the wire a lot of nights?"
I nodded. "Right."
"What's up with you and Bella? I've seen you guys hanging out quite a bit lately."
"Yes, we do. And tonight, out of nowhere, she planted one on me. I didn't push her away. Mostly because I didn't realize what the hell was happening, and then I was like 'whoa!' And I love Vanessa, seriously. But, damn! Bella's a great kisser."
"Is she? Or was it just the newness of it? You've been kissing Vanessa for so long and all of a sudden you're kissing someone else—"
"Correction—she's kissing me."
"She's kissing you, and it's different from what you're used to. Bella's got a different technique or her lips are softer, or firmer, or whatever. Things that are new are exciting."
"But I should have pulled away sooner!"
"Dude. You were like 'holy shit! Her face is on my face!' That takes a second or two to register with your brain."
"I guess. Do I tell Vanessa about this?"
Emmett exhaled then pursed his lips in thought. "That's a tough question. On one hand, I think you should always be honest in a relationship. But you didn't instigate this. If you can tell me this won't ever happen again—"
"Then I think telling your girlfriend will do more harm than good. It will only damage the trust you have, which is hard to build back."
"Thanks, Emmett. I appreciate your advice." I got up to leave.
"No prob. But, you only get one 'get out of jail free' card, my friend. If you and Bella lock lips again, I think you should 'fess up."
"It's not going to happen again. Guaranteed."
"Then you have nothing to worry about."
I took Emmett's advice and said nothing to Vanessa. Guilt ate at me, though, and manifested itself by way of flowers—hand delivered by me—the next day. It wasn't too out of character and earned me a fantastic blow job.
Bella avoided me for the next week or so until I finally caught up to her after Tanner's class. She had grabbed her books and was out of the classroom in a flash, but her strides were no match for my long legs. I quickly fell into step beside her.
"Do you remember what I said to you the first day we met?"
She shook her head.
"I told you you'd be madly in love with me by the end of the semester." I bit the inside of my cheek to stop myself from laughing.
"Bella. I'm teasing you. Relax. It wasn't a big deal. Things don't have to be weird between us. It's not your fault I'm irresistable." She punched my gut and I let out an exaggerated groan.
"That was a momentary lapse in judgement. All your romantic jabber, I got carried away."
"I'll be sure not to discuss that Fifty book with you, then," I gasped.
"Very funny," Bella said.
"I've gotta run to my next class. What are you doing tonight?"
"Why? You asking me out on a date, Cullen?"
"You wish, sweetheart. I've been wanting to see the new Matt Damon movie, but Vanessa says it looks too violent for her." I rolled my eyes. "Going out with me may be the highlight of your week."
"You're always so modest."
"Thank you. So, what do you say? I'm buying."
Bella smiled. "Sure. Do I have to dress up all fancy for you?"
"Your fanciest sweats will suffice. I'll meet you back at the dorm at six."
My last lecture ran late so I had to rush back home. I had a quick shower, put some product in my hair, threw on khaki pants and a polo shirt before knocking on Bella's door. My mouth dropped when she opened it. She was wearing a simple black dress and flip flops. Her hair wasn't up in its usual messy bun; it was hanging loose down her back. Bella looked beautiful. I smiled as she twirled around for me, the skirt part flaring and showing off her shapely bare legs. I gave a low whistle.
"You clean up nice, Ms. Swan."
"As do you, Mr. Cullen."
"Why, thank you. Shall we?" I offered her my arm.
We passed Emmett on the way out who gave us a questioning look. "Where are you kids off to?"
"Dinner and a movie."
He raised an eyebrow, and I shook my head, indicating it was nothing more than two friends on a strictly platonic non-date date. Emmett didn't look convinced.
Dinner was great with the easy conversation that was typical between us. The movie was gory and violent. I loved it; she hated it, and we debated all the way home.
Essentially, Bella and I were back to normal.
"I saw 'Wild Horses' tonight."
"Who'd you go with?"
"Bella. It was pretty gory. You would've hated it."
Vanessa was silent on the other end of the phone.
"You still there?" I asked.
"What's the matter?"
"You don't think it's weird you took another girl out on a date?"
I snorted. "It wasn't a date. It was me and Bella going out for dinner and a movie."
"Sounds like a date to me."
"Sounds like someone's jealous."
"I'm not. It's just… I don't know. You spend a lot of time together."
"She lives right next door to me. It's a cramped dormitory. Remember, I spent a lot of nights with you, too, but we get to do things that are a lot more fun than dinner and movie." I could almost hear her smile on the other end. "Can I come over tomorrow?"
"I'll bring Chinese food. Love you, babe."
"I love you, too. Goodnight, Edward."
About a month after the incident-that-shall-not-be-named, I was once again locked out of my room. This night, however, I was alone. Jasper's one hit wonder left, and there still wasn't any sign of Bella. I thought about texting her to see if she was okay until I realized it really wasn't any of my business. With a final glance down the empty corridor, I went to bed.
The next morning, I bumped into Bella on my way back from my shower. Her makeup was the slept-on kind of smudgy, her hair in a messy ponytail. I side-eyed her curiously.
"Good morning. Are you coming or going?" I asked, slinging the towel over my bare shoulder.
The blush, which crept up her neck and turned her cheeks and ears crimson, gave me my answer.
"Well, well, well. Look who's doing her own walk of shame."
She ignored me by deflecting my comment. "Put a shirt on, Cullen," she heckled, her hand outstretched to shield her eyes. "You're so pale you're blinding me."
I jutted my chin at her. "Hey. I don't try to be sexy. Sexy tries to be me."
She snorted. "I wouldn't refer to that as sexy."
"Keep telling yourself that."
We walked down the hallway together.
"So, what's his name?" I teased. A slow smile tugged at her lips.
"Tyler. He's a Starbucks barista."
"Did he tell you you're brew-tiful? Or he likes you a latte?"
Bella groaned. "That was bad, Cullen."
"As bad as the sex?" She punched my shoulder. "Ow!"
"Thank you. Does Java Joe have any other aspirations?"
"Tyler," she corrected, "is working on his Bachelor of Science."
I gave an exaggerated yawn. "So, the sex was bad."
"Funny, I didn't peg you as a one-night-stand kind of girl."
She side-eyed me. "Actually, we've gone out a few times already. And, not that it's any of your business, but I don't think it's a one-time thing."
I poked my elbow into her side. "Yeah? You really like this guy, huh?"
She looked thoughtful, hopeful maybe. "I think I do."
We arrived at our rooms and I turned to face her before going our separate ways. "You know, I kind of missed you last night."
"Can't say I was missing you, Cullen."
"Now who's incorrigible?"
Bella smirked as she went into her room.
"She was totally doing the walk of shame. You should have seen her face when I confronted her." I laughed. "Priceless."
"Who cares? Bella's a big girl. I'm pretty sure she can screw whomever she wants."
"Well, yeah. But you don't know her like I do. She's pretty straight-laced."
"You're right. I don't know her like you do, though you seem to know her very well now, don't you?" Vanessa's words were snippy.
"Bella's my friend, nothing more."
"Except you talk about her every time you come over. Bella this, Bella that. Blah, blah, blah."
I reached for her hand. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize. I should start being more attentive to you." I pressed a kiss to her hand, then worked my way over to her breasts. "Should I start here?" I asked, my hand inching its way up her thigh. "Or here?"
I pulled into the school parking lot at a quarter to one. Stuffing my hands into the pockets of my jeans, I made my way across campus to the dormitory. I caught sight of them—Bella and Barista Boy—saying a passionate goodnight outside our building. He reached over and tucked an errant section of hair behind her ear, his hand lingering on the back of her neck. It was dark so I couldn't be sure, but I imagined her looking up at him, eyes intent on his. I'm sure she licked her lips as her hands threaded in his hair before they came together.
"Get a room!"
Bella squeaked as they both jumped.
"Hey. What's up?" I jutted my chin at what's-his-face. "You must be Peter."
"Uh, no. I'm Tyler." He glanced at Bella, whose eyes bugged out.
"Oh, right, sorry. I can never keep up. Well, see ya."
I sauntered by them and into the building with five minutes to spare until curfew. For once, there wasn't a tie on my doorknob. No sooner had I stripped down to my boxers was there a pounding at my door. I opened it in my state of undress, already anticipating who it was.
Bella stood there, hands on hips, nostrils flared, right foot tapping. She was adorable when she was pissed off.
"What was that about?"
"What?" I asked innocently.
"You know damn well his name isn't Peter!"
I shrugged. "I thought it was hilarious."
"Well, I didn't. And neither did Tyler."
"I'm sorry," I said, my hands held up in surrender. "I was trying to be funny."
"What's funny are those boxers. What the hell?"
I looked down. They were two-toned—one half red, the other yellow. The red side had a hand pointing up and the words 'the man' in bold print. The yellow side, the hand was pointing at my crotch and said 'the legend.' I grinned.
"Vanessa bought them for me." I swivelled my hips. "You like? I can ask her where she bought them if you want to buy a pair for Garrett. Though I'm not sure if they come in boys size small."
"It's Tyler! Ty-ler."
I waved her off. "Whatever."
"For your information, a small wouldn't fit him." She waggled her eyebrows.
"Too big, huh? Well, I doubt they make extra-extra small, but maybe if you Google it."
She smacked my arm. "Why don't you like him?"
"I never said I don't like him."
"We should double-date then."
I made a face. "Yeah—you, me, Vanessa, and Jose— as in no way Jose. Goodnight, Bella."
"Goodnight, Cullen." I watched her stomp back to her room and climbed into my bed, still chuckling.
"Then I called him Garrett. She was so mad! You should've seen her." I slapped my knee as I guffawed. "God, it was hilarious."
"Stop. Just stop."
"What? You don't find that funny?"
"Not at all."
"Baby—" My lips kissed air as she pulled away.
"Don't 'baby' me."
"What's your problem?"
"Since you two met, you've talked about Bella every day. Every. Single. Fucking. Day. Do you know that? It's obvious you're insanely jealous of this other guy, plus you two have a lot in common. Honestly, I'm a little worried right now… about us."
"You have no need to be."
"Edward, do you still love me?" Tears brimmed in Vanessa's eyes.
Anger simmered inside me. "Of course I love you, you know that. We have sex all the time."
"Having sex doesn't equate to love. Love is butterflies in your stomach. Conversations that continue late into the night and comfortable stretches of silence where you don't feel the need to talk. It's thinking someone's beautiful first thing in the morning, bed-head and all. Love is everything else but sex."
Thoughts of Bella poked and prodded for my immediate attention. Was jealousy why I disliked her being with Tyler so much? There were visuals of her in the black dress and that morning tank top. I thought about all the times I'd seen her looking radiant without a stitch of makeup on, wearing sweatpants and a ratty tee. I smiled at her anger the night before. Her voice, chiding me by my last name, echoed in my ear. Damn it, I could almost taste the sweetness of her kiss in my mouth.
"You love her." Barely a whisper, Vanessa's words shattered everything there ever was between us. The magnitude of those words bulldozed me. My hand tugged through my hair. Vanessa saw the confirmation on my face and started to cry. I reached out for her, wanting to comfort her in some way.
"Don't touch me. Please, just go."
Swallowing the lump in my throat, I managed an apology.
"I'm so sorry. I never, ever meant for this to happen. For what it's worth, I still love you, Vanessa."
"Fuck you, Edward."
I got up to leave. Sliding her house key off my keychain, I left it on her nightstand, knowing it was the last time I'd see her.
When I got back to the dorm, Bella and Tyler were, adding insult to injury, unabashedly making out. I walked by without heckling or acknowledgement, letting myself quietly into the building. I assumed the position on the floor, resting my head in my hands.
"Hey," said a quiet voice behind me a few minutes later. "You okay? You just missed a prime opportunity to call Tyler by the wrong name again." Bella sat down beside me.
"Vanessa and I broke up."
"Oh, shit. I'm so sorry. What happened?"
"Nothing. Everything. I don't know."
"Do you want to smoke a joint? It might take the edge off."
I stared at her in shock. "Sweet Bella, daughter of the police chief, smokes pot?"
"On occasion. Come on. Wait, you're not a weed virgin are you? I don't want to strip you of your innocence."
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" I gave a reluctant smile.
"Maybe. Stay here. I'll go grab it. Oh! And I have the perfect break-up playlist we can listen to."
Emmett caught us trying to sneak out past curfew.
"Where are you two going?"
"Vanessa dumped Cullen's ass," Bella explained. "Okay if we go for a walk?"
Emmett nodded sympathetically.
Bella and I walked away from the building and sat down in the wooded, grassy area adjacent the parking lot. With far more expertise than I expected, Bella lit the joint and took a long drag before passing it to me. I inhaled and immediately started coughing out a lung like a fucking rookie. Bella laughed. We lay down in the grass, stared up at the heavens, and listened to the music.
It had been a long time since I'd gotten high, and I'd forgotten how much I missed it. Nothing looks different per se, but it feels different in a way I can't quite put my finger on. I'd probably heard Radiohead's "Creep" a thousand times, but in my intoxicated, fucked up state, it felt deeper and intensely personal. Subtle plucks of the strings I'd missed time and time before were picked up in my hazy trance. With my eyes closed, I started singing along. Bella rolled onto her side, head propped up by her hand, speaking when the song finished.
"I didn't know you could sing."
"There's lot you don't know about me." I turned my head to face her.
"Yeah? Like what?"
"I play the guitar. Really well, in fact. My dad taught me. Tell me something I don't know about you."
Bella tapped her lips with her finger. "Um. I have a fear of dogs. Don't laugh. I was bitten when I was a kid and ever since then, they freak me out. Left a scar and everything."
"My scar? Right here." She lifted her shirt and tugged her pants down a little. I squinted but couldn't see anything in the dark. Bella took my finger and traced it over her hip bone. I don't know if it was the effect of the weed or the effect Bella was having on me, but there was something so intimate about touching that part of her body. I snapped my hand back as though her skin was on fire and I was about to get burned. Our eyes locked. I mumbled something about being sorry and tipped my head skyward; she did the same.
"Do you want to talk about what happened between you and Vanessa?"
I shook my head. "Nope."
We stayed out there for a while, but when I could hear Bella's teeth chattering I told her we should go back inside. I shrugged out of my U-Dub hoodie and handed it her, insisting she put it on, though it left me only in a t-shirt. We walked back in silence.
Emmett let us back into the building. If he smelled weed on us, he didn't comment. He asked if I needed anything. I shook my head. He clasped my shoulder.
"I'm down the hall if you change your mind."
"Thanks, Em. I think I'm just going to head to bed."
Bella and I walked toward our rooms.
"Thanks for tonight," I said.
"What are friends for?"
"Is that what we are? Friends?"
She looked at me questioningly. "Of course. Wow. The weed makes you funny."
For a few moments, we both stood there, awkwardly. The need to kiss her was overwhelming. I leaned in…
"Okay. Goodnight," Bella blurted out and was behind her closed door before things went any further.
I went to bed, my head a fucked up jumble of emotions and questions.
The next night, there was an party in our dorm. The corridor was swarming with kids. Tyler was one of them. Jasper was putting the moves on Alice and looked to be successful in his attempt. Emmett's girlfriend, Rosalie, was there as well. Everywhere I turned, there were couples pairing up. Feeling very much like a third wheel, I escaped to the kitchen under the pretense of needing a drink of water. I leaned against the counter, grateful for a moment alone, though it turned out to be short-lived.
"Pass me a water, Cullen."
I reached into the fridge and grabbed a bottle. Instead of passing it to her, I set it on the counter.
"Bella." I said her name softly, already unsure if I should continue. "I, um… fuck it!"
I breached the gap between us; my mouth was on hers an instant later. Heat flushed my body and my heart pumped double-time. I traced her bottom lip with my tongue, gauging her response as my hand wrapped around her neck, holding her close. Her quickened pulse beneath my thumb. Bella's fingertips dragged up my chest and looped around my neck. My knees felt as jiggly as the Jell-O shots I'd had earlier. Her lips parted slightly and our tongues met for the first time. Her low, sexy moan caused my dick to stir against her. I had to force myself to pull away, knowing I was dangerously close to the edge of reason. Though separated, our eyes remained ardent on each other.
Tyler, Emmett, and Rosalie sauntered into the kitchen, stopping abruptly when they saw us in such close proximity.
"Bella?" Tyler asked, looking back and forth between us. Bella, with her fingertips pressed to her lips, kept her eyes on mine. My hands tugged through my hair.
"What was that?" she asked me directly.
"I, um… Shit. I think… I might be in love with you." I scrubbed my hands over my face. "Honestly, I don't really know what I feel toward, you but I want us to figure this out."
"Hello, asshole. Remember me?"
I pointed at Tyler but addressed Bella. "And seeing you with him? With anyone but me? It drives me insane."
Bella's hands began to shake, and I wanted to gather her in my arms and make it right.
"I don't mean to upset you. It's the last thing I want to do, but I think we could work. I know you a hell of a lot better than he ever will. Go ahead, ask Tyler a question he should know the answer to. What's your favorite book? Ice cream? Shit, ask him something easy… what do you take in your coffee."
Tyler snorted. "She loves chocolate ice cream, all girls do, and she takes cream and two sugars in her coffee. Her fav book is… well, I don't know what it is. We're too busy fucking to have time to read." I wanted to smack the smug look off his face.
I shook my head. "Wrong. She hates ice cream. Her favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, and yes, she does takes cream and two scoops of sugar in her coffee; but when she thinks nobody's looking, she adds a third. Don't you see, Bella? You and me… it's supposed to be you and me."
Tears welled in her eyes. "I loved you then; you love me now. I'm pretty sure love only works when two people love each other at the same time."
"Then? What do you mean, you loved me then?"
Anger reddened her cheeks. "That night when I kissed you. I was trying to tell you… I hoped you'd figure out that I… that I…"
"That you what?" I wanted her to say it aloud, make it a reality.
"That I had feelings for you, okay? But after that kiss, it was obvious you didn't feel the same. I was humiliated. When you took me out to dinner, I realized I'd rather have you as a friend than not in my life at all. And then Tyler asked me out. I've moved on. I'm with him now."
"Do you love him?" I asked quietly.
"That's not a fair question."
"Yes, it is."
She shrugged. "We've only been together for a short while so, no, I don't. But, can I see myself falling in love with him and being happy? Yes. And, right now, I don't know how I feel about you, either. I need some air." Bella escaped from the kitchen and I started after her. Tyler stood firmly in my way. I growled in protest, and he shoved me backward. I pushed right back, and we started to scuffle. He got one solid punch to my upper cheek, under my left eye.
"Stop!" Emmett's voice boomed before I could retaliate. "None of that. Not on my watch! Tyler, you stay here. Edward—outside."
"But, Bella," I protested. Rosalie laid her hand on my arm. "I'll talk to her."
Tyler glared at me, and I glowered at him as I bumped past.
Outside, Emmett folded his arms across his chest and narrowed his eyes at me.
"What the hell are you doing, Edward?"
I shook my head. "I don't know."
"You better not be fucking with Bella's head."
I sat down on the steps to the building, Emmett beside me.
"What's fucking with my head is her. She's all I think about. I dream about her. Every night when I come home, I pray that Jasper and Alice are fucking someone so I can get her alone. That first kiss? It loops on repeat in my brain. 'What if' questions niggle away at me. What if I'd kissed her back? What if I hadn't wasted all those months with Vanessa? What if, what if?" I scrubbed my hands over my face. "I don't know what the fuck is going on."
He threw his arm heftily over my shoulders. "You, my friend, are undeniably in love."
"With a girl who doesn't love me back."
He nodded. "Yeah, that's a problem."
Emmett and I sat outside for a couple of hours. The party-goers finally cleared out, and when it was quiet, we headed back in. Rosalie was waiting for Emmett. I was too scared to ask where Bella was. I walked back to my room, feet and heart both heavy.
Bella was there, sitting by her door, and stood up when I approached. Her mascara had run black lines down her pretty face.
"Nice shiner," she said.
"You sure know how to confuse a girl, don't you?"
"Bella, I'm so sorry. God, I'm such an idiot."
She agreed. "Yes, you are. And Tyler says to tell you you're an asshole."
"I deserve that."
"Maybe. But you're a cute asshole."
"Shut up and kiss me, Cullen."
Her arms wrapped tight around my neck as mine slid around her waist. I pulled her closer, melding together. Our mouths connected, our tongues met again, and this time it was me who was moaning.
"Wait." She pulled her lips away from mine. "I can still call you Cullen, right?"
"Fuck, yes. It's sexy as hell when you do."
"You're sexy as hell. Oh, and by the way, Jasper and Alice are hooking up tonight. I saw them head into your room earlier. Which means my room is free." She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.
"You know," I mumbled between kisses. "We really should thank those necktie nymphos. They sort of had a hand in getting us together."
She tugged me forward by way of her teeth nipping at my lips, her fingers unbuttoning my shirt.
"Speaking of us getting together…" She reached out and snatched the necktie off my door and transferred it to hers. "Get in here now, Cullen."
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