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"One more and we're done, Bella" Jake grunts as he takes the newly carved pumpkin out onto the front lawn.
"You have like over twenty there already!" I shout from the kitchen and huff when I hear his deep laughter from outside. I'm not allowed out until he's finished. His orders. If he wasn't my best friend, I'd have ignored his request. But he wants to do this for me, so I let him.
The rustle of leaves in the backyard sends a chill up my spine and I shiver involuntarily as an icy fear runs through my body. I turn quickly to look out the kitchen window, but as I expected, there's nothing.
It's been two days of this. Two days of feeling like I'm being watched… Feeling like someone is out there.
"Bella, are you okay?" Jake asks as he comes back in. He notices everything. He can't see through the mask of happiness that I wear so often, but he can see the fearful frown on my forehead, that's for sure.
"Yeah," I say, shaking off the feeling and turning back to him with a forced smile. The last thing I want to do is have him worry about me. Well, not more than he does now, anyway.
"Okay, well, go shower and get dressed for the party. I'm gonna shoot home and do the same. Don't, I repeat, don't go outside till I'm back. It'll be dark then. I want you to get the full effect."
"Yeah, dufus, I won't. Now go so I can get ready. You know how Alice gets when someone's late."
That's enough to send him off with an eye roll but without further argument.
I go upstairs and have a quick shower. While getting into my sexier than a siren devil costume, I freeze as I look over to the dressing table.
My heart starts beating faster as I see a photo of Edward and me two years back at a Halloween party. We went as Shrek and Fiona, and even in that silly get up and green body paint all over his face, he was still more handsome than any other man I'd ever seen.
I love that photo. Problem is, it had been in my dressing table drawer for a year now. Since I got the news... Since Edward's disappearance.
I look around the room nervously, shivering as I walk over to the photo. I wrack my brain, trying to remember if I had taken it out.
No... No, I hadn't.
"Jake..." I murmur. Yes, that's the only other reason for this photo being here. He was here the day I put it in the drawer, and he knows I've not looked at it since. Just like I can't look at any photo of Edward.
Pain lynches my heart as I run my fingers over the photograph, over his face, down his body. Fuck, not a day goes by that I don't miss him, don't cry for him... That my soul doesn't bleed for him.
It's exactly a year today since my heart stopped beating.
The day I opened the door to a green-clad soldier with a folded flag in hand, my entire world crumbled.
If Jake, Alice and Jasper hadn't been there, I'm not sure what would have happened.
I'd turned feral with rage and heartache, screaming at him, swearing at him, calling him a liar, amongst other things.
I had turned and punched Jake in the face when he grabbed me from behind as I tried to attack the emissary of death. Broke his nose too.
I had yelled... wailed like a possessed woman... and finally I had vomited right there on my entrance hall floor to make space for my body to contain the utterly overwhelming feeling of loss.
I'd been faintly aware of Alice's sobs at the loss of her brother. I'd registered Jasper's attempt at being strong for her, but succumbing to his grief too. I had noticed Jake's hidden tears at the loss of his childhood friend as he stared blankly into nothingness.
What I hadn't seen, at that exact moment in time, was that I would never recover from losing him. Life would go on, as it must, because time stands still for no man. But for me? My life came to a standstill. My insides just don't work right… Like I'm faulty, I guess. I'm a mirage of my former self and I've stopped trying to claw my way back to who I used to be.
I continue smiling, I continue spending time with my friends and family, I continue telling everyone that I'm okay. Because that's what I have to do.
Why would I want them to know the suffering I carry every day? Why would I want to see pity in their eyes every time they look upon me? Why would I want them to worry about me when they have also suffered such a loss?
No. This emptiness I carry, I carry alone. It is my companion now. My Siamese twin. My shadow. I've become oddly protective of it. It belongs to me, no one else.
Jake's car pulling up drags me out of my reminiscence and self-pity. Thank God I'd put my make up on before I got dressed.
I shove the photo back in the drawer and climb into my knee high red suede boots. I look in the mirror once last time and check the horns on my head and the red velvet mini dress that hits my curves just right.
Makeup: Dark smoky eyes, check. Siren red lipstick, check.
"Bella!" Jake calls and I blow myself a kiss and grin before grabbing my cape and red fork before going downstairs.
"Looking good there, Black," I smirk as I see his Captain Jack Sparrow costume complete with a long haired black wig. I'd thought he would be too bulky for the look, but he actually pulls it off.
He lets out a low whistle as he looks at me. "Damn, Bella. How the fuck am I going to keep the men away from you tonight?"
"You know I'm not interested in anyone else, Jake," I say softly as I throw him my cape and turn around.
"Bella, you know I didn't mean it like that," he says as he fastens my cape for me.
I sigh. "Yeah, I know. Sorry."
"No one expects today to be an easy one for you, Bella. I'm here if you need me, we all are."
"I know. Don't worry, I'm fine. I mean, there's nothing I can do about it, right? Now, let me go see what you've done to the outside of my house."
He lights up at my words, insisting I keep my eyes closed until he turns me around at the end of the driveway. He takes his hand from my eyes and I have to gasp, my eyes stretched as I take in his hard work.
I can't say much else as I stare at the pumpkins lit from the inside scattered across the lawn. More than twenty scary orange smiles stare back at me from the darkness, illuminated by flickering flames from within.
Suspended skeletons hang from the porch with a luminous green light caressing the white bones from below, giving it an eerie look. One the neighborhood kids are sure to enjoy.
Smaller objects like dangling spiders and bats hang everywhere, even from the window sills.
"I did good?" Jake asks excitedly.
"You did good," I say beaming at him, yet I feel tears run down my face.
He sees them and melancholy overtakes his smiling features as he pulls me closer.
"I know," he whispers in my hair as he holds me to him. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't wish he was here. I used to love doing this shit with him every year."
"I know," I say softly against his chest. "I know you miss him too."
My body trembles slightly as the feeling of being watched overwhelms me again and I push away from Jake gently as my eyes scan the street. But there's just too much activity to pinpoint anything. Children and adults alike are all around us in various costumes. Laughter and talking, music and singing are all around us.
"What's wrong?" Jake asks, seeing the distress on my face.
"I don't know," I say as I laugh, trying to play it off. "Felt like someone walked over my grave."
He rolls his eyes at me and we head to his truck. "Well, it is Halloween, Bella. Lotta ghosts abound. Woo," he jokes and I laugh.
Reaching Alice's house is quick seeing as though they're only three blocks over.
"Will you look at that?" Jake whistles as we get out. "And I thought I was good with the decorating shit."
As usual, Alice has gone all out. She has actual mechanical zombies on the front lawn moving their limbs threateningly, making freaky noises as they seemingly search for someone to sink their teeth into.
"You know you can't out do the Pixie, Jake," I say, giggling at his pouty expression.
The party is in full swing when we walk in. Alice has the huge sliding doors open, providing a spacious flow from the lounge onto the huge wooden deck outside that Jasper and Edward had spent months building themselves. It doesn't matter what I do, or where I go; there's always something that brings him to mind... Not that he's not a permanent feature there anyway.
Jake's already grabbed a beer and making his way out to Emmett, who seems to be the Hulk, when I feel a familiar pair of arms circling me from behind. I lean back against him, inhaling the calming effect he always has on me.
"You holding up, little Darlin'?" Jasper asks in that old fashioned cowboy drawl of his that still brings Alice to her knees even after all these years.
"Yeah, I'm good," I lie, full well knowing he can see right through me. He's the only one that ever can.
"It's okay not to be," he says as he releases me only to turn me around.
"I...Jake's been keeping me busy, on purpose, I suppose. I haven't had time to... I'm trying really hard not to..."
"Bella!" Alice shouts as she spots us and I'm pulled into her familiar small bodied harder than hell hug that I love so much.
"You look fucking hot Miss Devil," she says as she looks me up and down and I laugh as I twirl for her. She always manages to pull my head out of my ass for me.
"You're not looking too bad yourself, Miss Tinkerbelle," I say as I get a look of her green barely there dress with matching green stilettos. She has fairy wings on her back with tiny twinkling lights and her skin looks like it's been kissed by fairy dust all over.
Jasper, as always, on Alice's request, is dressed like a bona fide cowboy and damn, does he pull it off perfectly.
"Where's Carlisle and Esme?" I ask as I look around.
"They're not here, Bella," Alice says, sadness filling her voice. "Mom hasn't been handling today very well. You know how she gets...since Edward died..."
I almost snarl at her. "It's not a proven fact he's dead, Alice," I remind her, my voice shaking.
Her eyes fill with pity as she looks at me. "Oh, Bella. We all wish for that to be true. But after a year...you have to start accepting..."
"No," I say, now visibly shaken and Jasper reaches for me but I take a step back. "We didn't bury him, Alice. There was no body. They've never found a body. I didn't bury him...I didn't bury him," I repeat as tears start falling. "And I'll never give up hope that he's somewhere...that he's trying to get home to me."
"Bella," she says carefully, clearly not wanting to upset me any further, but needing to get her point across. "You saw the reports. He was in that building when the bomb went off."
"Fuck the report," I hiss at her and I feel so fucking bad for being like this with her. I know she loves me; I know she's trying to help, but it's hard enough living with the fact that he's been missing for a year. Just the thought of him dead...
I see Alice glance nervously at Jasper, who shakes his head at her, but I see the determined set of her lips as she looks back at me.
"We can't bear to see you like this anymore," she says, her eyes filling with tears. "We love you so much. You're my best friend, Bella. You'll never be able to move on if you don't accept that he's not coming…"
"Don't finish that sentence, Alice Cullen," I warn her, anger bristling under my skin as I try to contain it. "Don't you fucking dare. You lost your brother, I get that. But you…" I bite back a sob and force myself to hold me head up high. "You have no idea what it's like to lose your entire life, Alice. Your entire life. Everything Edward and I had planned for our future is just…gone. Just gone, Alice. Am I just supposed to accept it? Accept something I never asked for in the first fucking place?"
My voice is raw with emotion as I look away from them, gasping for breath, fighting off the panic that wants to overwhelm me. I dare a look at her then and my heart breaks as I watch her cry silently into Jasper's chest as he holds her, his own tears streaming down his face. I sigh. Why do I always do this? Why do I always make them feel bad for wanting to help?
"I'm sorry, Alice," I say and she nods, understanding evident in her eyes. "Look, I...this was a mistake. I thought I could do this today, but I can't. Please tell Jake I've gone home and not to worry. And tell him to stay and enjoy himself, he needs it. I really just need to be alone right now."
She only nods, knowing it's useless to try and get me to stay.
"Can I give you a lift?" Jasper asks with concern.
"No, it's just a few streets down," I say as I give them both quick hugs. "It'll give me a chance to admire all the decorations."
"Okay, well, at least send us a message when you get home so we know you're safe," he says as he kisses the top of my head.
"Will do. See you guys tomorrow."
"We love you, Bella," Alice says as she leans into Jasper for support. He wraps his arm around her, pulling her closer. I'm so fucking selfish. She's still hurting every day too, just like me.
"I know," I smile before heading out.
I try to keep my mind occupied with the cheerfulness of everyone on the streets as I go. The decorations in the neighborhood are amazing this year and it seems everyone went all out.
I'm a block away from my house when that creepy feeling of being watched overtakes me again.
It fills me with fear and makes my heart race with panic as I start walking faster. Two houses away it becomes too much to bear and I jog the rest of the way.
Great. With this short dress and long red boots, I must look like a porn star dressed she-devil running from her pimp. That's not exactly what I had in mind when I chose this costume.
I'm almost breathless when I run up the porch stairs and open my door. I shake my head at myself, an almost hysterical giggle bursting forth.
Get a hold of yourself. There's nothing there.
It's all the Halloween crap and the horror movies you and Jake have been watching all week. That's all it is.
I fire off a text to Jasper to let him know I'm home and fling my phone on the couch.
I walk over to the kitchen and pour myself a glass of wine. As I take a sip a loud scratch on the kitchen window has me jump back and spit the wine out in a very unladylike manner.
I'm shaking like a crispy autumn fallen leaf as I walk slowly to the window. I lean forward peering into the darkness when suddenly a branch is swept by the wind and it scratches over the window again.
"Fuck!" I shout as I jump back, the quick movement of the weeping willow against my window almost giving me a stroke.
"That's it," I mumble at my silly nerves. I grab my glass of wine and the bottle and close and lock the front door before heading upstairs.
I just put the glass and bottle next to my bed when my body freezes in utter shock and terror overcomes me.
I don't have to turn around to know someone is behind me...watching me.
I don't move, too cowardly to turn around.
"Your costume is...quite devilishly delectable," a voice sounds behind me and my body starts trembling again.
"How did you get in?" I ask, still not turning.
I hear him walking slowly over the wooden floorboards as he nears me.
"You left the door open when you came home. Not very safe," he says in a low voice.
"Was it you...have you been watching me?" I ask, my voice shaky, matching my body.
I tense as I feel his hand on my hip from behind.
"Yes," he murmurs.
"Why?" I ask as his other hand pulls my hair to one side and his mouth comes down on the back of my neck in a hot, open-mouthed kiss that almost sends the shaking of my body into a seizure.
"I wanted to make sure...that you were alone when I came to you. You're always surrounded by so many damn people. But...I'm a patient man...I knew a time would come when I could have you to myself."
His voice has turned husky and his hands are now moving over my body, across my stomach, down my thighs. I can hardly breathe.
As his hands come back up, his fingers hitch the hem of my dress, pulling it up and over my red lace covered ass.
"Fuck," I hear him whisper in awe. "You're so fucking beautiful," he says as his hands run over the lace a few times before he roughly pulls me back against him, the breath knocked from my lungs.
"What…what are you doing?" I can feel his hard cock pressing into me from behind.
"What I've been wanting to do for the last two damn days," he whispers harshly as his one arm wraps around my waist, holding me to him as his other hand snakes down my stomach and ghosts over my core.
I want to turn, but he holds me in position. "No...no turning...no seeing...only feeling," he whispers in my ear before licking me on my pulse in my neck at the same time his fingers pull the lace one side and slides through my folds.
My body is the worst traitor on earth, I swear to God.
"So wet," he gasps as he slowly pushes two fingers into me, making me slump against him with a moan.
"So fucking wet, naughty girl," he says into my neck as his arm around my waist moves up and he cups my breast, my already erect nipple hardening painfully as he rolls it between his fingers over the fabric of my dress.
I drop my head back on his shoulder but look away from him. Right now he doesn't want me to look and fuck; I don't want to do anything that will make him stop.
His thumb starts rubbing circles around my aching nub as his fingers continue their torturous assault inside the place that has been empty for over a year...since the day Edward left for Afghanistan.
It's not long before I feel my body tensing at my impending orgasm.
"Yes," he almost hisses against the skin of my neck he's been kissing and licking and sucking. "You're so fucking close, I can feel you squeezing my fingers with that gorgeous pussy of yours."
I moan loudly at his words and even louder when he curls his fingers inside of me, hitting that sweet sweet place inside that has me pumping my hips to meet his hand.
"I want you to come...come all over my hand before I taste you."
And as he bites into my shoulder and curls his fingers again, I do just that.
"Jesus," I groan as my orgasm shakes me so hard he has to let go of my breast and hold me to him to keep me from falling.
"Oh, naughty girl," he chuckles darkly. "You're so fucking beautiful when you come," he says as he pulls his hand from between my legs, leaving me feeling empty and wanting more.
"Taste yourself," he commands as he brings his fingers up to my lips and I latch onto them, sucking the remnants of my orgasm from his fingers with vigor.
"My turn to taste," he growls as he grabs my soaked underwear and pulls it down over my boots, lifting each foot for me to step out of them.
"These boots," he says, still on his haunches behind me. "They're fucking killing me." He runs his hands up and over them, over my thighs and grabs my ass as he bends forward, nipping and kissing my skin.
"I want to see you," I plead, but he gets up and walks behind me as he pushes me toward the bed.
"Not yet," he murmurs as he bends me over, my knees on the bed and my ass in the air.
"Open up for me, naughty girl," he orders and fuck, my body obeys his command without hesitation.
I cry out as his mouth attacks me from behind, his fingers on each side, opening me even wider as his tongue licks me from bottom to top.
"That's it," he says before doing it again. "I want to hear you. I want every single fucking sound you have to give me."
Before I can answer his lips wrap around my aching sensitive clit and he sucks hard, swirling his tongue around it.
"Fuck...too much..." I mumble between embarrassingly loud whines.
But he doesn't stop. He alternates between fucking me with his tongue to sucking me in so deep to flicking over that needy part of me until I can't hold off any longer.
I feel him grinning against me when I start clenching around his tongue.
"So soon again? My naughty girl is quite needy tonight."
"You...have no...idea," I stutter just before I come again, my arms giving way and my torso crumbling to the bed as he holds my hips up to him, sucking and licking me softly through my spasms as I come down from my high.
I hear him undo his belt and listen as he takes his pants off and I think his shirt too.
"Let me see you," I beg again as I fight for my breath. "Let me touch you..."
"All in good time, naughty girl," he answers, his voice thick with desire as his hands find purchase on my hips, pulling me closer to him until I feel him at my entrance, nudging, sliding through my wetness, but not entering.
I try to push back against him, which earns me a smack on my ass, sending my seemingly unquenchable lust into overdrive.
"What do you want?" he asks as he continues to rub his cock through my folds. "Do you want this?" he asks as he pushes only his head into me.
"Yes," I pant. "Yes, fuck, please..."
"Say it. I need you to say it," he says through clenched teeth.
"Fuck me," I cry with abandon. "Please...please fuck me."
He groans loudly at my words and grips my hips almost painfully at the same time he rams into me all the way, filling me totally and utterly, stretching me to the point of painful bliss.
My cry is a strangled one, my voice not sounding like my own. I am lost in him. Right now, right here, everything else be damned, I am his.
He starts a slow torturous pace as he pulls and pushes in and out of me. I'm already clenching around him and he's hardly started.
"Fuck, you're so fucking tight. I could stay buried in your sweet pussy forever," he says as his one hand runs up my back and into my hair.
"More," I moan. "Please..."
"More what, naughty girl?"
"You," I whimper as his hand winds through my hair and he pulls me back against his chest sharply. "Harder...I need...harder..."
"Harder?" he asks as he kisses and bites my shoulder and my neck, still moving in me at a leisurely pace. "You want me to fuck that little pussy harder? Can you handle it?" he asks and I can hear his voice quivering. "I need to know."
"Yes," I breathe, struggling to move in his grip, trying to find some way to extinguish this fire burning me up inside.
He lets my hair go, his hand pushing me down again on all fours and I lean forward, pushing myself against him, adjusting my stance to widen my legs more.
"Beautiful, so fucking beautiful," he murmurs as he runs his hands over my ass before gripping my hips again. "Hold on tight, naughty girl," he says and then he slams into me with a dizzying force, the oh so deliciously big size of his cock grinding against my inner walls as he does it again.
He pulls out completely but just before I want to scream in protest, he thrusts back into me again.
"Touch yourself," he says gruffly as he picks up his pace. "Fuck, I need you to touch yourself. I'm not going to last long. I need you to come with me." His voice is a covetous plea. I move my hand down and start rubbing fast hard circles around my swollen throbbing clit. My fingers touch him as he rocks into me hard and fast.
"Yeah, just like that, naughty girl...can you feel what you do to me?" His voice is pushing me closer to the edge with every word and I rub myself faster, my mouth watering at the pressure building inside as he hits me just right every time. "You make me so fucking hard it's painful...Jesus...I need you to fucking come..."
His hands grip me harder and I know tomorrow I'll be bearing the marks.
That thought, coupled with my fingers and his ongoing assault sends me crashing.
"Holy fuck!" I almost scream as my entire being seizes up and I clench around him, feeling every fucking wonderful inch of him as I spectacularly climax with ferocious intensity.
"Fuck...fuck...fuck..." he groans as he pumps into me once more and pulls me hard against him as he stills, emptying himself inside of me as deep as he can.
That feeling right there, that most intimate moment of his release sends my emotions spiraling and I can't help the sob that rips through my lips.
He pulls out of me immediately and lies down next to me, pulling me against him.
"Sssshh, it's okay, baby," he whispers and I can hear the tears in his voice. "I'm here now."
I look up at him then and fuck, the tears come faster as I run my fingers over his tear stricken cheek and over his mouth. He kisses my fingertips as they pass before he pulls me closer to him and his lips find mine with passion and strangled longing. His tongue runs along my lips and I open for him as my tongue darts forward to meet his in an exquisite moment of unbridled love.
"God, I've dreamt of this moment for so fucking long. I was so scared...so scared I'd come back to find you'd moved on."
"Oh, Edward," I sigh against his neck. "There was never a moment in my mind that I didn't believe you'd find a way to come back to me. Moving on was never an option."
I look up at him then.
"Is that why...I mean...why have you been watching me?"
He smiles sadly as he runs his fingers through my hair. "I had to be sure, Bella. I needed to see that you hadn't moved on. If you had...if I saw you were happy..."
"You would have walked away," I whisper and just the thought brings on my tears again.
"Hey, hey," he says softly as he cups my face. "None of that matters, baby. I'm here...I'm here and I fucking promise you I will never leave you again." His voice is filled with the same conviction I see in his tear filled green eyes and fuck, I can't do anything but believe him because he's never lied to me before.
"What happened, Edward?" I ask as questions start flooding my mind. "They couldn't find you. The bomb..." But he silences me as he leans forward and kisses me again.
"Tomorrow," he whispers against my lips. "I'll tell you everything tomorrow. We have all the time in the world to talk about the past, Bella. But right now," he breathes as he rolls us and he settles his weight over me, "Right now all I want to do is make love to my beautiful wife."
And I don't argue as he kisses me again. I don't argue as he rediscovers every inch of my body. I don't argue when he enters me again, making sweet sweet love to me as we purge our souls of lonely nights and terrifying dreams.
He's right. Right now, the most important thing is that he's found his way back to me.
The past can wait for tomorrow because the present is all that matters.
Host's Note: Thank you for reading, and please don't forget to review. Public voting runs November 7th to November 13th. Please remember to keep this contest anonymous by not leaving hints or theories as to who the author may be.