Personalities in Disorder - Outtake Part 4
The Next Morning (Takes place immediately after Chapter 1)
The pounding on the door came at 7:23 a.m. Bella groaned and pulled the pillow over her head.
"What the hell is that?" she rasped. "You have some rude-ass neighbors."
"Not mine," Edward yawned, his voice heavy with sleep. "We're at your place."
"Again?" It took a few moments for her brain to wake up and kick into gear. "Oh, right. We 'met' for the first time at the club last night." She took note of her throbbing head and winced. "That explains the hangover."
More dull thuds could be heard through the open bedroom door.
"So, you ready for the big reveal?" Edward asked, rubbing his eyes and stretching.
"I changed my mind," Bella grumbled. "This was a terrible idea."
"We could always ignore them. They're bound to give up at some point. Either that, or someone will call the police."
"Remember, this is Alice. She'd probably call them herself. Then Rose would sweet-talk them into breaking down the door."
"Or just have Emmett do it."
"Good point. Dammit."
Edward slid his arm under Bella's shoulders to pull her against his body. "We don't have to tell them right this minute. You can go play up your hangover to Alice." He shifted and nudged his morning erection into her thigh. "I'll stay hidden in here…and keep the bed warm until you hurry back."
"You'd like that, wouldn't you?" she chuckled, pushing back against the tempting hardness. For a moment, she got lost in the feeling of its solid yet silky smoothness dragging across her skin. Then she sighed. "But again…Alice. You think a simple hangover would stop her? Hell, my casket could be getting lowered into the ground, and she'd still pry the top off to question my corpse."
As if to prove her point, a muffled voice began to accompany the pounding.
"Wake your drunken ass up, hoochie-mama! You got some 'splaining to do!"
"Ugh, I'd better go." Muttering obscenities under her breath, Bella rolled out of bed and threw a wrinkled satin robe around her frame. "See you in a few."
Alice didn't let up on the banging, even when Bella called out that she was on her way. The only thing that saved the petite, dark-haired girl from a smack on the tits was the large cup of coffee she thrust in Bella's hands as she swept into the apartment. Rosalie, looking glamorous despite the ungodly hour, tugged a disheveled Emmett inside behind her.
"I tried to stop her," Rosalie declared archly, settling herself in a chair. "But you know how she is."
"What I'd like to know is what I'm doing here," Emmett muttered. "I'm sure you two are perfectly capable of annoying the hell out of Bella on your own."
"But she was acting so strange last night," Rosalie said, her voice syrupy-sweet and angelic. "What if she'd called up some random guy after we left and needed help getting rid of him? I felt so much safer having you come along."
Emmett gawked at his girlfriend. "Seriously, babe? That's what you're gonna go with?"
Rose pouted for a moment and then shrugged. "Eh," she replied, giving up on the pretense.
"Whatever, McCarty, you're already here, that ship has sailed," Alice chimed in impatiently. "Besides, I want you to hear Bella's explanation firsthand. You need to see this girl in all her bitter, awkward, normal glory so that you know that I wasn't cheating."
"'Bitter, awkward glory'?" Bello echoed, frowning. "What the hell's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, can it, sister," Alice retorted. "You know exactly what I mean. Tell us why you were little Miss Sluts 'R Us last night instead of your usual flannel-clad self."
Bella affected a wounded expression. "You thought I looked like a slut? I just tried to pick something I thought you might wear."
"Exactly!" Alice exploded. "I dress like a raging whore when I go out. I want guys to think I'm easy and hit on me so that I feel good about myself. But you don't care about that sort of thing! You haven't given a rat's ass about your appearance for years. What gives?"
Rosalie shook her head sadly and made a tsking sound. "The feminist movement would be ashamed of you, Mary Alice Brandon. So ashamed."
"Shut your face, woman. At least I own up to my need for constant attention, unlike some people I know."
"Excuse me?" Rosalie growled, standing up from her seat. "You'd better not be talking about me, because if you are…"
"Ladies, ladies, knock it off," Bella commanded. She pushed Rosalie back into the chair. "If you're going to throw down, take it outside. And let me go back to bed. You know, where normal people are on a Saturday morning at this hour."
"Preach, sister," Emmett muttered, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back against the couch.
Alice huffed and turned back to Bella. "Fine, we'll behave, but only because you haven't given me answers yet."
The brunette rolled her eyes and plopped down onto the couch beside Emmett. "I already told you. It was past time for Bella to Get her Groove Back. I'm trying to loosen up and live a little."
With crossed arms and a furrowed brow, Alice studied her friend's face, heavy skepticism on her own. "So," she said after a silent minute, "When exactly did you have this giant epiphany of yours? Were you in the middle of getting dressed last night, and poof!—your bitchy attitude towards men up and left the building?" Her expression turned accusing. "Because if all this happened before then, you certainly never mentioned anything about it to me, one of your bestest friends in the whole wide world."
"It was, um, something of a process," Bella replied, doing her best to sound guilty while fighting to hide a smile. "Remember when I changed my mind about meeting the guys at a club instead of doing dinner at my house? I figured, why not just jump in headfirst and go for broke with hair, makeup, a new outfit—the works."
Alice's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Yeah, about that. I'm sure you and Rose understand that you're not gonna get away with not inviting me to this little makeover party of yours. You're just lucky you pulled it off so spectacularly, or I'd have to cut a bitch or two."
"As if there was any doubt with me involved," Rosalie sniffed, examining one of her perfectly-manicured nails.
"Hey now," Bella jumped in before another catfight could break out. She shot Rosalie a sidelong glare before turning large, innocent eyes to Alice. "Why should how I finally saw the light matter over the fact that I did? I mean, you've been busting my balls for a long time. Isn't this what you wanted?"
Alice uttered a series of low, incoherent grumblings before allowing herself to concede the fact. "Yeah, yeah, of course." Then her nose wrinkled in annoyance. "Timing could've been a little better though," she added under her breath.
Emmett heard what she'd said and snorted. "Yeah, no shit about the timing problem. I've been waiting years to see Edward lose it over a chick, and when he finally does, it somehow bites me in the ass. I'm telling you, if he hadn't been acting like such an idiot last night, I know I would've won, dammit."
Hissing angrily, Alice made rather indiscrete slashing motions across her throat. Emmett's eyes widened when he realized what he'd said, but it was too late to take back the words.
Rosalie was careful not to look in Bella's direction, instead staring off to the side. "Hmm," she mused, tapping her chin with a finger as if in deep thought. "The timing was such an unfortunate coincidence for all involved."
"What's an unfortunate coincidence?" Bella demanded, playing her part. She eyed Alice and Emmett. "What are you two talking about with timing and Edward and winning?"
"Nothing, nothing," Alice jumped in quickly. "It's really not important…at all…with the timing...and the winning...and..."
She trailed off as realization began to set in.
"Wait a minute. You just happened to have a bizarre personality flip…at the exact same time Edward did…"
Emmett saw where she was going. "And because of that, no one won the bet…"
His head whipped toward Rosalie.
"You told her!"
Alice's jaw dropped when she gasped. Her expression of surprise was so funny that Bella and Rosalie's smug grins gave way to bursts of laughter.
The small dark-haired woman didn't find this amusing in the least.
"You…you…bet-wrecking cheater!" she sputtered. "I can't believe you ratted us out! When did you…? How long has she…? Why didn't we…? ARGH, how could you?"
While Alice attempted to shoot flames at Rosalie from her eyes, Emmett was shaking his head and chuckling.
"Damn, we got owned." He smirked at his girlfriend and patted his lap. "C'mere, babe. You deserve congrats for that nice piece of double-crossing."
Rosalie sauntered grandly to the couch and allowed him to pull her down into his lap. Emmett wasted no time kissing her with gusto.
"By the way, I'd like to make a point of clarification," she said when they finally parted. "I didn't double-cross anyone. If you'll recall, I said from the beginning that I wanted nothing to do with your ridiculous bet."
"Yeah, maybe, but that didn't give you the right to blab about it," Alice huffed. "It was pretty crappy of you."
"Huh. You know what else was crappy?" Bella growled out, glaring across the room. "The fact that you made a bet about me in the first place—especially one like that. The reason behind it is both offensive and hurtful." She shook her head in dismay. "And while we're on the subject, I'm really getting tired of you judging my life and trying to screw around with it. Why is it so hard for you to accept me the way I am?"
"What?—no!" Alice cried. "That's not why—of course I accept you! It's just that…" Her voice weakened to a murmur as tears welled in her eyes. "All I want is for you to be happy. Ever since Jake, you've closed yourself off more and more, and sometimes I feel as if you're pulling away from me and Rose, too. Even when you smile and have fun, it seems like you're holding back. I know I've been pushy and acting a little like—okay, a lot like—a pain in the ass, but I keep hoping that maybe one of these times you'll have a good experience and start to trust people again."
"How do you explain the bet, then?" Bella asked coolly, raising an eyebrow.
"Stupidity," Alice sighed. "I was frustrated and kind of mad after you hung up on me last week when I tried to set you up on a date." She glanced at Rosalie and then back to Bella. "I'm sure you know the details of how this all went down, but it pretty much comes back to me being stupid. I got so caught up in the idea of winning that I didn't think about how you might feel. It was wrong, and I'm so, so sorry."
"Yeah, me too, Bella," Emmett chimed in. "And I'm also sorry that I caused us to start out on the wrong foot. I think you're pretty awesome and hope that you'll give me the chance to redeem myself."
Bella considered them both for a long moment before nodding. "Alright, apologies accepted. The two of you were big fat douches for making the bet, and I glad you finally realize it." She turned to Alice. "I also get that your annoying-as-hell nagging actually comes from a good place in your heart. That part, I appreciate. But the more you get on my case, the more I want to dig in my heels. Yeah, I got burned pretty badly by my exes. And maybe it was taking me a while to move past it, but you can't push me into things before I'm ready. It's my life; it'll happen on my timeline. I've told you this over and over, and I hope it finally sinks in for once."
Two lines of tears spilled down Alice's cheek as she nodded frantically. "I swear, I'm not going to say another word about it. No more blind dates, no more nagging, and definitely no more bets. Pushy Alice is a thing of the past."
Bella laughed. "Whoa, be careful. I think you might've gone too far on that last one. Let's try to be realistic, here."
"Yeah, you're probably right about that," Alice giggled shakily. She sniffled and dabbed at her eyes with her sleeve. "So, are we…okay?"
"We're okay," Bella confirmed, opening her arms so that Alice could run into them. She squeezed her best friend tightly.
Emmett watched them embrace, then got up and wrapped his arms around them both. "Group hug!" he announced, lifting them a few inches off the ground.
Laughing at the unexpected gesture, Alice and Bella immediately started swatting at his chest and shoulders for him to let go. Rosalie snorted in amusement when he dropped them on the couch in a tangle of body parts.
"Personally, I think she's letting you off easy," the blonde said to Alice and Emmett. "But I suppose your epic freakouts last night were worth something in terms of payback."
"Seriously!" Alice exclaimed. "We had no idea what was going on. I'm dying to know the story behind it!"
Savoring their moment of victory, Bella and Rosalie related the meeting at the bar and how the three conspirators had planned to spoil the bet. Rosalie was modest about her role in coming up with the scheme and gave most of the credit to Bella and Edward's acting skills.
"I have to be honest, I was a little worried that they wouldn't be able to pull off what I had in mind, but the whole night turned out even better than I imagined." She looked at Bella with admiration in her eyes. "Were you in drama club in high school or something? I mean, the way you and Edward played off each so perfectly, like a well-rehearsed scene…and you'd barely spent an hour with him up to that point. Amazing."
Bella raised a hand to her mouth to cover a sly smile. "Thanks, Rose. You know, Emmett was right. Edward was really easy to work with; I guess he does have a way with people. Maybe Alice would've lost the bet if you hadn't spilled the beans."
"Ha, I knew it!" Emmett cheered, pumping his fist. "The Chick Whisperer strikes again!"
"Oh please," Alice scoffed. "I'll grant you that he's a rather impressive specimen of maleness, but you don't know the depth of Bella's man-hate. Ask Rosalie if you don't believe me. Hell, ask Bella herself. We didn't call her the Ice Queen for nothing."
The brunette in question shrugged. "It's true. I did hold a massive grudge against men after being screwed over so many times. Yeah, I think it's fair to say I was a frigid bitch on more than one occasion."
"Huh, could've fooled me. You certainly weren't like that last night. In fact, I think you were pretty damned hot."
Three of the four heads in the living room snapped toward the hallway, where a male figure clad in boxers and a white undershirt was stepping out of the bedroom. The mouths on those three heads gaped open in utter shock as the implications set in. And three pairs of eyes stared unblinking when the man sauntered across the room and lowered himself on the couch beside Bella.
There was another set of eyes staring, as well, but in a very different manner. They were sparkling brown and alight with desire. Happiness resided there, too—a happiness that glowed with laughter when she was scooped up by strong arms and deposited in a welcoming lap.
"Now that I'm more awake, I can give you a proper 'good morning,'" she told him just before attaching her hungry lips to his.
Everything else in the room fell away except for the movement of his mouth, the feel of his firm body against hers, and the subtly enticing scent of yesterday's aftershave. Humming her appreciation of his nearness, Bella ran her fingertips over the light stubble on his jaw and let her hands continue back to tangle in his messy hair.
"Um, dearest?" Edward groaned, half-heartedly attempting to slow his kisses. "I think we're close to crossing the 'proper' line when it comes to company."
"Eh, screw them," Bella mumbled against his lips. "It's way too early for company, anyway. They deserve whatever they get."
Edward's weak reply was swallowed by a renewed attack on his mouth, and he was quite okay with that. The passionate kiss continued on, interrupted only when she grabbed the hem of his tee shirt and began tugging upward.
"Hey! Easy over there!" Emmett choked out, at last finding his voice. "We don't need to see any of that."
"Shh!" Alice hissed. "A miracle is happening before our eyes. One doesn't try to stop miracles. What kind of person are you?"
Both Bella and Edward laughed at the sheer incredulity in Alice's tone. Bella planted another, more playful kiss on her lover's lips and then swiveled on his lap to face their stunned audience. Edward bit back a whimper of need as she knowingly rubbed over his growing erection in the process.
"You're evil," he muttered in her ear.
She just grinned and waited for the chaos to ensue.
It didn't take long, and came in the form of their three friends all trying to talk at once.
Emmett seemed to be having a hard time believing the scene in front of him. "How did you—? Where did he—? What the hell is going on? You didn't pay any attention to him last night, and I put you to bed…alone. And now he's here…and you're all over each other?"
Alice, for her part, didn't care about the backstory. "No, don't stop!" she cried, jumping off the couch and grabbing Rosalie's hand. "We'll leave…we're going right now! Don't mind us; you two just keep right at it!"
Rosalie barely noticed the insistent pulling on her arm. She was too busy shaking her head in awe.
"I did not see this coming. Sure, I'd hoped, but the way they pulled it off…wow. Nicely done. The student has now become the master."
"Wait. Are you saying you're surprised about this?" Emmett asked Rosalie. He turned to Edward and Bella before his girlfriend could answer. "Did you two know each other before Rose had you meet her at Antonio's?"
"Nope," Bella answered, drawing lazy circles on Edward's knee. "He asked me out after she 'conveniently' ran off on us. We had our first date last Thursday. And, other than a rather intense incident involving my neighbor's dog, it went really well."
"Yeah, I'll say," Emmett snorted. "It went well enough for you to become fuck buddies after one week. Damn, Edward. I'm not sure whether to slap you five or slap you upside the head. I promised the girls you weren't skeevy."
"Oh, my god, would you just stop talking?" Alice fumed, throwing her arms in the air. "Who cares what they're doing or how fast it's moving? Did you see the way she smiled? I swear, Emmett Whatever-The-Hell-Your-Middle-Name-Is McCarty, if you do anything to mess this up…"
"Now wait just a minute," Edward jumped in. "Let's back up here. Bella and I are not 'fuck buddies,' as you so eloquently put it." He tightened his arms around the woman on his lap and kissed her temple. "I love her."
"And I love him," Bella replied, turning to face him. Her expression was full of the very emotion she had just declared.
"You...what?" Emmett gasped. His mouth opened and closed soundlessly as if further speech confounded him.
Rosalie looked just as shocked by the announcement. Alice, however, squealed with glee and bounced back to her spot on the couch beside the new couple, who was sharing yet another heated kiss.
"This is so great! Ack! I'm so freaking happy right now," she gushed. "Oh, I know! Let's set up a triple date! How about tonight? Dinner at my place?"
"Calm down, Ali," Rose instructed. She eyed Edward warily. "Look, I don't want to be a downer and burst the happy bubble you've got going, but isn't it a little, um…soon for both of you? And out of character, too? Heck, just two weeks ago, Bella was bitching to Alice about slobbering male gorillas and how men couldn't be trusted farther than you could kick them."
Emmett nodded. "Yeah, and Edward told me he didn't want any kind of relationship to stand in the way of his career. And now all of the sudden he's doing a one-eighty and jumping headfirst into love?" His eyes narrowed slightly at his best friend. "This isn't another trick, is it?"
"Not in the least," Edward avowed. "And if you think about it, I was being sincere last night, too. Well, mostly sincere." He smirked. "Though Bella totally owns me, I'd like to think I've still got a little of my charm."
"Oh, you definitely do," Bella confirmed with a chuckle. "Even when you acted like a huge dork on purpose, I still wanted to jump your bones." She slid a provocative finger down the side of Edward's neck and traced his collar bones.
"Okay, lust and attraction I get," Emmett said quickly before another make-out session could occur. "But serious love after a week?"
"Hey, you said you knew right away with Rosalie," Edward retorted, indignant. "Why is that legit, but me falling for Bella isn't?"
"Because I'm Emmett, and you're Edward. I go with my gut, do crazy impulsive shit, take risks." He pointed an accusing finger across the room. "You, on the other hand…you have a plan for everything—one that you stick to. Take being a doctor. You've known forever that it's your purpose in life. Pretty much all your decisions since then have been carefully thought out so they support your goal. And now you're trying to tell me you're ready to be in a serious relationship just like that?" He snapped his fingers for emphasis. "No analyzing the idea to death? No testing it out first through casual dating before slowly making up your mind? Sorry, but it's not like you at all, and although I'm just getting to know Bella, I don't want to see her hurt."
Edward's face reddened in a burst of anger. "What the hell, Emmett? I'm not going to hurt her. Not now, not ever." He blew out a frustrated breath. "So what if I'm not usually impulsive? There's no reason I can't be. You should know better than anyone that a decision can be right even if it's spontaneous. But, whatever, all this is irrelevant anyway. I'm not making a conscious decision to love Bella; I just do. And that should be good enough for you. If it isn't, well, that's your problem."
His sincerity was plain to see, and Emmett raised his hands in a placating manner.
"Alright, alright. I hear ya. If that's the way you really feel, then I'm happy for y—"
But Edward appeared too riled up to listen to the other man's apology. "Some friend he is, thinking I'm not ready for a serious relationship…asshole," he muttered angrily. "I'm dead serious about me and Bella. I don't need 'casual dating' to figure out what I already know. And what's all this shit about me not being impulsive? Fuck it; I'll show him impulsive…"
He lifted Bella off his lap and set her back down on the couch.
"Be right back, sweetheart," he promised, giving her a hasty peck on her lips. Then he hurried into her bedroom without a word of explanation.
The remaining four people in the room stared after him.
"Huh, that was weird," Bella commented.
"Weird doesn't even begin to cover this—all of it," Rosalie said quietly. She studied Bella with discerning eyes. "You know I support you—hell, from the very beginning, I was hoping you and Edward would get along—but can you see why we're a little worried? It's taken you so long after Paul to get to this point, and for you to jump in so fast and so deep, well…I'm just afraid what'll happen if things don't work out this time."
Bella stood up and crossed the room to give her friend a heartfelt hug. "I know, but it's okay, I promise. The way I feel about Edward—it's so different than those other guys. With Mike and Paul, I think I was looking for a way to get over Jake and prove that I wasn't unlovable. Of course, those are terrible reasons to be in any relationship, and it didn't help that they were all first-class jerks. After them, I needed time to find myself, to get back my self-confidence."
"But with Edward?" Alice prodded eagerly.
Bella's whole expression lit up so brightly that everyone in the room felt compelled to smile along with her.
"With Edward, everything's the opposite. Instead of trying to force a connection, I attempted to deny one that was there from the beginning. Trust me, I had the same doubts you guys do, and then some, but it was impossible to ignore my feelings. And luckily, I realized that doing that was both stupid and futile. As soon as I stopped fighting it, everything made sense; everything felt right. So tell me, why in the world would I want to go against that?"
"You wouldn't," Rosalie murmured, her voice breaking.
"You shouldn't," Emmett agreed, sounding a little choked up himself.
"And I really hope you never do."
Edward had been standing against the hallway wall, observing the last minute of conversation. When he stepped back into the living room, Bella wasn't sure whether to laugh or to gasp.
She did both.
Both Emmett and Rosalie's brows wrinkled in confusion, but Alice figured it out right away. She made a number of high-pitched squeaking noises and performed an overenthusiastic happy dance on the couch.
Edward was still wearing boxers and a white tee, but he had donned black socks, his black Oxford shoes, and a haphazardly knotted blue silk tie that hung loosely around his neck. One of his hands was hidden behind his back.
"Sorry about the clothes," he said sheepishly, "but I left my bag in the car last night, and what I wore yesterday is a little, um, dirty. This is the best I could do."
Grinning like a fool, Bella nodded her understanding. She hadn't paid much attention to where Edward had flung her black dress when they attacked each other's bodies, but she doubted it was in much better shape.
"Um, E, my man?" Emmett asked rather tentatively. "W-T-F is up with the costume? Are you writing yourself illegal prescriptions again?"
Edward extended the middle finger of his free hand, not even bothering to glance his friend's way as he did so. "Shut your trap, Emmett," he said in a cheery tone. "Don't annoy me while I'm being spontaneous."
He came to a stop in front of Bella and gave her a lop-sided smile. "Well, mostly spontaneous," he amended, bringing his hidden hand in front of him to reveal a jewelry box. "Obviously, a measure of forethought went into this."
Emmett's eyes practically bugged out of his head. "Is that what I think it is? Holy—"
"Shh!" Alice hissed, jabbing him hard in the ribs. "One more word out of you, and I'll rip your testicles off and teach you a new meaning for the term 'ball gag.'"
Bella was completely oblivious to the peanut gallery, especially when Edward got down on one knee. He took hold of Bella's hand and brushed a kiss across the inside of her wrist.
"What you said earlier about everything feeling right when we're together? That's exactly how it is for me, too," Edward murmured, gazing at her with all adoration in his being. "I can honestly say that the days since I met you have been the best of my life. You're all that I never knew I needed but now can't imagine living without. Maybe it hasn't been long by conventional standards, but I love you, Isabella Marie Swan, and that's not going to change. Not next month, not next year, not decades from now. That feeling is as natural to me as my own name, and that's why I have no hesitation at the thought of being with you forever. We don't have to get married soon—hell, we don't have to get married at all if that's your preference—but I want you to know that my commitment to you is unbreakable and unconditional."
"Edward…" she whispered happily, the tears welling in her eyes. She squeezed his hand tightly.
He kissed her knuckles this time and then let go of her hand so that he could remove the three-stone diamond ring from its velvet casing.
"I'm yours," he said, his voice trembling slightly. "Will you accept this ring and be mine?"
Bella stood there for a moment, beaming and shaking her head in awe. "Wow," she breathed. "That wasn't what we…and it was just so…how am I supposed to…oh, Edward…I-I don't even know what to say…"
"Um, how about 'yes'?" he suggested with a tender, hopeful smile.
Her expression becoming solemn, she stared down intently into his eyes, questioning, searching...understanding. She broke the eagerly impatient silence of the room with a soft yet unhesitant reply.
For the briefest second, stillness prevailed as each person reveled in the joy of the occasion.
Then the second was over.
Even Rosalie let out a happy squeal.
Edward slipped the ring on Bella's finger, got to his feet, and kissed her fiercely.
"Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god," Alice shrilled as she jumped up and down. "I can't believe it! Bella's engaged! She's going to get married, and I'm going to plan her wedding! This is so exciting! And—oh! I've got it already. We could do a winter theme. Not much time to pull it together—save the date cards need to go out next week—but I know I can do it. Royal blue and silver would be so gorgeous…"
Rosalie rolled her eyes at Alice's rabid rambling and waited for Bella to cut her off. But the directive never came. One look at the practically conjoined couple told her why.
"Ahem, Alice." Rosalie clamped a hand over her friend's mouth to stop the breathless chatter. "Remember that promise about not being so pushy? Anyway, I think we should probably hold onto the wedding talk until later, seeing as how your main participants aren't paying a damned bit of attention right now."
Alice's brows raised halfway up her forehead when she honed in on the sight before her.
"Wow, look at them go," she mumbled through Rosalie's fingers, her eyes wide.
Emmett, however, wanted nothing to do with that particular suggestion. Fidgeting in place, he cleared his throat.
"Um, not to be a perv or anything, but is it getting a little hot in here?" He gave his girlfriend a significant glance and nodded his head toward the front door.
"Uh, yes. Yes, it is," the blonde said with a smirk. She walked over to Emmett and grabbed his wrist. "Well, kiddos, I'm sure you want to be alone right now to…celebrate," she told the oblivious couple. "So, congrats and all that jizz...er, jazz. Alice and I will catch up with you soon to grill you over every single detail of your no-longer-secret love affair."
Bella's only reply was to moan into Edward's mouth and slide her hands under his tee shirt.
"Well, then," Alice said, fanning herself. "I'm gonna go see what's, er, up with Jasper…bye Bella, bye Edward! Congrats!" She quickly trotted to the door, where Rosalie and Emmett were already waiting.
The latter allowed the ladies to step into the hallway first and then grabbed the door handle.
"Good going, Big E," he called out as he pulled the door shut. "Same to you, Little B."
Surprisingly, it was the rather quiet click of the door latch sliding home that caught Bella's attention. She disentangled her tongue from Edward's and looked around at the empty living room.
Something wasn't quite right, but she wasn't sure what that something was, at first.
It then occurred to her that, having gotten caught up in the taste and feel of one another, she and Edward had neglected to do a very important thing.
Startled by the abrupt disappearance of her lips, Edward jerked back to see what the problem was. When he noticed her eyes moving over the room, he surveyed the scene, too.
"Whoa. Where'd everyone go? Did they leave and we totally missed it?"
"That does seem to be the case," Bella replied, frowning.
"Oh." He ran a hand along his jaw. "Oops."
"Yeah. You could say that." Still a little winded from their intense make-out session, she took a deep breath and tried to collect her scattered wits. "This is…not good."
"Uhh…" Edward was also trying to work his way back to rationality. "Okay, let's think about this. So we didn't tell them it was a joke right away...no big deal, right? We'll have them over for dinner tonight and fess up."
"Sure. Except by then, Alice will have lined up three cake tastings and reserved a four-tiered chocolate fountain," Bella muttered, flopping down on the couch. "Damn. I hope you realize this is all on you. You and your multitalented tongue. First you addle my brain with a swoon-worthy proposal, then you short-circuit the rest of me with your practically criminal kissing ability."
"Yeah, well, you're no better," Edward huffed, falling down beside her. "How am I supposed to control what my mouth does when you lock onto me with those big, beautiful brown eyes? I swear, they're like tractor beams of lust or something."
"Tractor beams of…wha?" Bella gave him a strange look before letting her head tip back against the couch. "Anyway, we need to fix this asap. I'm starting to think Payback Part Two wasn't such a good idea."
"We might have gone just a teensy bit overboard," he allowed, taking her hand.
"They're never going to trust us again after this. I think we come off looking worse now because of how suspicious they were about us being together so fast."
"Or being together at all," Edward grumbled. "What's up with that? And, come on, our story isn't that crazy. Even if we'd gotten engaged for real, it's been over a week. Some people meet in Vegas for dinner and get married after dessert."
Bella laughed. "Yeah, sure. People in movies, maybe. Name me one couple you know who's done that."
"Well, I don't have any actual examples, but I'm sure it's happened plenty of times," he sniffed in mock offense.
"I'm sure it has, dear," Bella replied graciously, patting his hand.
Chuckling at their playful banter, Edward slid his arm around Bella's shoulders and curled her into his side.
"I love you," he breathed as he kissed the top of her head.
They snuggled together contentedly on the couch for several quiet minutes, enjoying the closeness and letting their thoughts wander. Bella absently twirled Edward's ring around her finger and admired its fiery sparkles.
"I'm so clueless when it comes to jewelry," she murmured, mostly to herself. "Cubic zirconia, crystal, diamonds—it all looks the same to me." She held her hand out from her body to see the ring from a different perspective. "You did a really good job with this. I think if I were going to pick out a real one of these for myself, I'd go for something very similar. Where'd you get it? A department store? Or maybe one of those kiosks in the middle of malls?" She poked him in the chest. "You better not have spent more than fifty bucks, or I'll spank you."
"Is that a promise?" Edward said, waggling his eyebrows theatrically.
"Oh, so he has a kinky side, too. Nice."
"Just for you, baby."
Bella let out long sigh of happiness. She didn't know how she had gotten so lucky to have come across a man like Edward, but she wasn't about to complain. They fit together so naturally, so perfectly; even their differences were well-balanced. Not a single doubt about their relationship existed in her mind. In fact, if he had truly proposed earlier instead of merely acting out their mischievous scheme, she would've said yes.
To him, she would always say yes.
As her fingers explored the flat planes of his stomach, a ray of morning sun caught the ring and caused a rainbow of sparkles to appear on the white material of his shirt. She tilted her hand back and forth to make the colorful specks dance.
"You never did tell me where you picked this up," she noted lazily. Her comfy bed was beckoning, but it seemed like such an effort to drag her tired body all the way to her bedroom.
"Hmm?" Edward sounded half-asleep himself.
"Your fake engagement ring. It's so pretty. I almost hate to take it off."
"Oh, that? Found it at the bottom of a Cracker Jack box," he mumbled into her hair.
"Wow, you're so full of it this morning," Bella chuckled. "Now I'm really curious. Are you hiding something? I don't know the going rate for faux jewelry. I promise I won't be too upset if it cost more than fifty dollars. Just tell me."
"Eh, it might have been a little over that. I don't know the exact price. You know us guys. We're terrible about remembering stuff like dates and numbers and store names." He yawned and stretched. "Are we passing out here or going back to the bed? If I don't move now, it's not gonna happen at all."
Shrugging her indifference at either choice, she continued to stare at the mesmerizing splash of color across his chest as it rose and fell with his rhythmic breathing.
Several more quiet minutes passed. Edward had just about nodded off when Bella spoke again.
"About this ring…"
"It's real, isn't it."
He shifted and tightened his arm around her but didn't say anything.
"And your proposal…that was real, too?"
His hands gripped her waist and pulled her onto his lap. He looked at her with bright green eyes that were no longer tired.
She could see the answer, burning in their emerald depths, clear as the moon on a cloudless night.
"You want to know something?" Her voice was low, intense, full of promise.
Bella leaned forward to press a soft, lingering kiss against his lips.
"My answer…" she said quietly. "It was real, too."
Edward glanced down at her hands on his chest and slowly ran a fingertip over the ring. When his eyes met hers again, she could see an extra glimmer of light in them from moisture that hadn't been there before.
"I know," he replied. "I know."
The kiss that followed was both a beginning and a homecoming. Bella wasn't surprised, but it still amazed her that a love so new could feel so timeless and certain. Grateful for such a gift, she would be sure never to take it for granted.
"So, now we have a decision to make," she said after they finally parted. She laid her head on his chest, over his heart. "Do we tell the others what really happened—that we fooled them into thinking the proposal was real when it wasn't, but then realized we were only fooling ourselves—or do we let them go on believing the lie?"
Edward hummed as he considered Bella's words, the sound causing a rumbling vibration in his chest that both soothed and excited her.
"I say we make our confession at the wedding reception. Perfect speech material, right there."
Though her eyes were closed, she could hear the smile on his face.
"Honestly though," he continued, "I don't think it makes a difference whether we tell them or not. Ask yourself this: was it a lie? Did we really fool them or ourselves? Every word I said during that proposal was honest and true. I was just as ready to move forward with you then as I am now. We may have decided after the fact that it had been 'real' for us, but I think our hearts—our souls—weren't fooled for a second."
"Hmm. That's a very good point," Bella mused. "You know, it's sort of funny how this whole adventure started with deception and mixed-up personalities, but in the end, the joke's on all of us. I guess fate can have a sense of humor sometimes."
"Oh, so you're saying you believe in fate, Miss Swan?" Edward teased. "I never would've guessed."
Her shoulders lifted in a shrug. "I haven't made up my mind one way or another about things like that. Fate as an explanation works was well as any others I've heard." Bella pushed off his chest to sit up and flash him a coy smile. "But I'll tell you one thing I believe in, Doctor Cullen. I believe in us."
He answered with a roguish grin of his own. "Is that so?"
"It is." With a sudden burst of energy spurred on, in part, by his sly expression, she hopped off the couch and tugged on his hand. "Come on."
"Oh? And just where are we going?"
"To the bedroom, of course. We have a very real engagement to celebrate."
Edward smiled at the answer he'd known was coming and allowed himself to be led down the hall.
"Yes, yes we do."
The End! Really and truly this time, lol.
Thanks to Powered By 23 Kicks for her help with some tricky spots (and for always being there for me). Big hugs to everyone who read, reviewed, and followed along on this one-shot-gone-wild journey! Love you all!