Summary: Bella meets her best friend's older brother under unusual circumstances. Workaholic Edward Cullen missed Christmas with his family, deciding to head home days after. A misunderstanding with his baby sister's roommate has a potential for something more, but what has him leaving so soon?
Bella walked through the lavish home, checking windows and doors to ensure her and Alice's security was tight. She house-sat on occasion, but she had never stayed in such a grand place until Alice brought her home for Thanksgiving. It was easy to get lost in the extensive gardens; it had a labyrinth within it! The house itself was over three thousand square feet, but it was wonderfully warm and inviting.
She loved it and the family that lived in it; though, she hadn't met Alice's older brother yet. From what she'd learned, he was a bit of a workaholic.
"You're being paranoid," Alice said from the couch in one of the living rooms. She rolled her eyes, throwing a couple pieces of candy at Bella.
Bella laughed, managing to catch a few. "Sorry, not sorry. Cop's daughter, so I can't help it when it comes to our safety. Didn't you just say the house was broken into three times last year?"
Alice's parents wanted someone to stay with their daughter while they headed out of town for a company New Year's event in New York. Bella had no other family, so they were quick to ask her to join them for the holidays.
Bella couldn't say no to Esme; it was impossible.
Alice huffed, sending a wayward black curl flopping into her eyes. She batted it away and frowned. "But they installed a top of the line security system."
"Someone tried again though, right?"
Alice stuck out her tongue.
Bella settled onto the couch beside her best friend. "What are you nine? Come on, I'm looking out for you."
Alice gave her a megawatt smile and snuggled up to her side.
Bella always thought of herself as somewhat petite, with a few curves, but Alice was tiny, much like her mother. "What time is Jasper picking you up?"
"Around seven—you sure you don't want to join us?"
Bella scoffed, lifting her long, dark hair into a ponytail. "I have access to an endless movie selection, a seventy-inch flat screen TV, surround sound system, and popcorn. This is my kind of night."
"You're like going from twenty-two to forty real quick, Swan. How are we best friends?"
Alice wasn't the first person to ask such a question. Bella enjoyed a good party now and then, but she also liked to sit back and read or watch some kickass television. Alice, on the other hand, would party every day if it were reasonably possible.
"Go get ready or you'll be bitching because you're running late." Bella playfully shoved Alice off the plush sectional onto the soft rug, earning a bird flip.
"Fine, but only because I need time to shave everywhere," Alice said, waggling her brows.
Bella groaned, throwing a pillow at her retreating figure. She searched for a movie, but Alice returned to make her life hell, as usual.
"My brother just called. He said he was on his way to come see me, but the asshole didn't let me respond before he hung up."
Bella watched as Alice tried calling her brother again, leaving a message when he didn't answer. It was a rather colorful one, too. Having missed the holidays with their family, her brother wasn't exactly on good terms with her.
"If he gets here while I'm in the shower, remember his name is Edward, and tell him I'm heading out for the night." Her lips turned up, looking mischievous. "In fact, tell him it's overnight. That will get him going."
"You want me to meet your older brother for the first time while you're in the shower?"
Alice rolled her unusual gray-green eyes, huffing.
Bella ignored that and continued. "You also want me to tell him he's basically shit out of luck to see you before you head back to school again? Doesn't he live in Seattle?"
"Yes, but he was supposed to be here for Christmas when we got here. It's not my fault he got too busy at work to spend Christmas with us. Besides, you know Jasper is heading back early to California. I won't see him for at least two weeks."
Jasper and Alice met in high school and ended up going to college at CalPoly together. They met Bella in their sophomore year when she found a great apartment and needed two roommates.
"Fine, I'll tell your asshole brother that his asshole sister can't see him until she comes back for the summer, six months from now."
"I knew you'd see it my way," Alice giggled, running up the stairs to her room.
Bella grumbled as walked into the kitchen and made some popcorn, determined to watch some good holiday movies. Every year, since she was a child, she and her father would curl up on the couch together to watch the most action-packed holiday movies they could find. Die Hard, Gremlins, Die Hard 2, to name a few. Just because he was gone, she couldn't stop the tradition.
She settled into watch Die Hard, and she'd almost made it through the entire film before Alice presented herself in all her holiday glory for the New Year's party with Jasper's family. Bella whistled, as any good friend would, circling a finger so Alice would do the same. The emerald green dress clung to Alice's small frame perfectly, showing off gorgeous legs and accentuating her shoulders. Her dark hair was up in some fancy style, enhancing her pretty, oval face.
"You look fantastic."
"Yes, she does," Jasper said from the corner of the room where he waited. Alice squealed, running into his arms and laughing when he lifted her up. "You look beautiful. You ready?"
Alice and Jasper said their goodbyes and an early "Happy New Year" before leaving, giving Bella a chance to lock up for the night. She wouldn't see Alice until the following afternoon, which was all right with her. She would finish her holiday movies and the last chapters of the book she was reading.
"That's not a bad thing," she told herself, turning off all the lights for her movie marathon. She left the Christmas lights on outside, along with the Christmas tree, settling in with John McClane and a few motherfuckers.
As she put another holiday movie hours later, Bella swore she heard something outside while she took a brief intermission. She stood by one of the hallway windows upstairs, remaining still to make sure it was nothing. Startled by the sound of someone cursing, she bit her lip and wondered if Alice's brother never got her message and came down anyway.
She quickly dialed Alice, but it went straight to voice mail. "Damn it." She headed downstairs, tiptoeing toward the kitchen to see if the alarm was still armed, just in case it wasn't Alice's brother. Her eyes widened when the display indicated someone had entered the garage.
Alice's brother decided to come home. Well, she hoped it was him.
Edward Cullen detested the holidays, or at least the non-family aspect of it. His colleagues at the lab were boring as hell, but under stress and deadlines, they were grade-A assholes. When surrounded by assholes, sometimes a somewhat nice person could become one, too.
The laboratory he worked for was pulling out all the stops for some grant money, enough to fund his research for another five years, if not more. That led to cutting most of their holiday vacations from weeks to mere days.
He hated that he missed Christmas with his family, one of the few holidays he always made time for, until now. If it weren't for the merger with Toshiro Pharmaceuticals earlier that year, he would have spent time with his baby sister.
He pulled into the garage, thankful his mother had sent him the codes to their new security system. Grabbing his bag, he saw his phone had died sometime after calling Alice as he drove in from the city. He cursed, searching his glove compartment for his charger. He headed into the house, entering another code into the panel by the door.
The sound of shuffling feet alerted him he wasn't alone. He smiled, thinking of scaring Alice just as he used to when they were younger. She had to be mad at him for not making it down for the holidays, but she always had a soft spot for him. Being twelve years older, they had little in common growing up, but he had always adored her.
He dropped his bags and ran into the kitchen, grabbing his sister by the waist, making her scream, as he tossed her over his shoulder. "Are you putting on a little weight, sis?" He laughed as his sister huffed in indignation.
He tossed Alice onto the sectional he bought for his parents the previous year, only to find dark eyes staring back at him. What the fuck?
"You better be Edward Cullen or your balls are about to get acquainted with my knee."
He stepped back, holding up his hands after a quick check to make sure she didn't kick him anyway.
The young woman cocked a slim eyebrow, jumping back up and spreading her feet shoulder-width apart in a fighting stance. Despite the situation, he couldn't help but look at her. Dressed in an oversized sweater that hung off one shoulder and leggings, she was small but with gorgeous curves.
Edward grimaced when he remembered about the weight comment he said when he thought he had Alice on his shoulder.
"Hey, buddy. Mind telling me why you're looking at my boobs with so much disgust?" The girl sounded offended, not that Edward blamed her for it.
"Fuck." He ran a hand through his hair, feeling warmth rising along his neck, cheeks, and ears. "Trust me, I'm not disgusted about your…" He held up his hands, sort of cupping, only to realize it was not a good thing to do. "Your breasts, shit. I mean…I realized how scared you probably were when I grabbed you like that and the weight thing I said. God, I'm horrified."
"Oh. Good. I don't need to put on a bra then."
Edward couldn't help looking at her chest again, realizing her words meant she was wearing nothing under the sweater.
"Hi, I'm Bella." She thrust out her hand, smiling up at him. At six-four, he towered over her by damn handy a foot. She barely reached his shoulder, but something told him she was a lot stronger than she looked. He took hold of her hand, finding himself smiling for the first time in weeks.
"Edward Cullen. Any chance we can forget the last five minutes or mention it to my family?"
"Not in your life." She offered him another smile, playfully punching his arm. "I won't tell them, if you don't."
"Thanks. By the way, where is my sister?" He looked toward the couch and found a single serving of popcorn and a drink for one person.
"Alice had Jasper's family New Year's party."
He groaned and sat down, waiting for Bella to do the same. She did, taking the seat right next to him.
"New Year's Eve; I can't believe I forgot."
"How do you forget a holiday like that?" Bella asked, passing him the unopened bottle of beer that was on the coffee table. "You look like you could use one." He smiled and took her peace offering, and had a couple sips before answering.
"Work, as usual, I swear I live and breathe it. Between the lab and home, all the days have been blending together. It's a good day when I remember the day of the week."
"It's Saturday," Bella said in a sugary sweet voice, laughing at his snort. "Don't be so hard on yourself. Alice mentioned you had a recent breakthrough back in April. Your family knows how important your work is, and they are very proud of you."
Uncomfortable with the praise, Edward nodded but said nothing about it. "What are you watching?"
"I just finished the second Die Hard and planned to start Gremlins."
"Gremlins? Were you even born when that movie first came out?"
"No, I wasn't." She somewhat shrugged, her smile turning a little sadder, but not quite a frown. "My dad raised me after my mom died when I was six, and growing up, our favorite Christmas movies were the action-packed ones."
"That's a lot of violence for a kid," he said, regretting it instantly. He remembered Alice saying her roommate lost both her parents. "But hey, they're my favorite kind of holiday movies, too."
"You're welcome to join me and my movie marathon, and then we can ring in the New Year together." She blushed, her eyes widening. "I mean, um, you know, unless you're tired from the drive."
He had been exhausted after the long ride, but not so much anymore. "Let me get my stuff up to my room and change, and I'll join you."
She smiled at him, bouncing up from the couch, telling him she would make him some popcorn.
Edward grabbed his things and headed to his room, wondering how his sister would feel about his movie night with Bella.
Hours later, Edward's arm was uncomfortably numb as Bella's head rested on his shoulder. He shouldn't dare move, but his phone was vibrating on the end table. Leaning across the front of Bella's body, he grabbed it. Alice had sent him a text.
Happy New Year, Edward. And you're welcome. I knew you'd like her.
Edward chuckled, wondering how his sister knew such things, but he learned a long time ago never to question her. Alice seemed okay with him spending time with Bella. Now, all he had to do was ask Bella out for dinner. Easy, or it would be if he were still in college—or even a couple years back when he had free time and didn't spend his days and nights working.
She lived in California; he lived in Washington.
She was twelve years younger than him.
He owned a microscope older than her.
She was beautiful, sweet, funny, and loved action movies, and she could talk his ear off about sports and politics. How the hell was he supposed to avoid her for the next few days? Then again, why should he?
A soft moan spilled from between Bella's parted lips, her arms reaching high above her head, her sweater riding up and unveiling a sliver of smooth lightly tanned skin as she stretched. He heard her throat clear and realized she'd caught him ogling her like some creeper.
"Are you going to kiss me now, or you going to keep me in suspense?"
He should've been shocked that she read him so easily, but he wasn't. They connected and hit it off easily for the last several hours.
Edward's hand slipped behind her head, brushing his thumb across her bottom lip. Her breath caught at his touch, but only for a moment. Her lips curved into a pretty smile, her eyes lighting up as he leaned forward. Their lips were a mere inch apart, and he could almost taste her. The scent in her hair teased his senses. The feather-light touch of her long lashes against his skin had the capability to drive him insane with desire.
"A little suspense never hurt anyone." Edward grinned.
She laughed when he sat back, covering his lap with a pillow for obvious reasons.
Thirty-four years old and his libido acted as if he were twenty-two.
"You Cullens are good for my heart, I think." Bella glanced up at him.
He gave her a sad smile. "Alice mentioned you lost your mother to cancer."
"Ovarian cancer," she whispered. "I don't remember much. I was only five when she was diagnosed."
"And you lost your father not too long ago."
"Car accident, two years ago," she replied, wrapping her arms around herself to warm up.
He slid his arm over shoulder, and she immediately curled into his side. Loving the warmth of her, he didn't question her further. "Shall we call it a night?" he wondered out loud.
The hand she had resting on his chest, tightened for a moment. "Do we have to?"
"No." He kissed the top of her head, pulling a blanket over their bodies and shifting until they were comfortable. They fell asleep in each other's arms, both wondering if it would be the first night of many.
"You should've seen the look on Edward's face when I walked in on you two this morning," Alice said, giggling, as Bella dressed for the day.
Bella hated that she woke alone, but she understood Edward would've been a little embarrassed by his little sister discovering him like that. Still, he could've stuck around.
"Well, you were home earlier than you'd said. Was he horrified? What did he say?" Bella asked, rummaging through her bag. She had a pair of jeans that made her ass look amazing, not that she was trying to impress anyone.
"He looked like he got caught with his hand in a cookie jar…of course his hand was awfully close to your coo—"
Bella covered Alice's mouth with her hand, glaring at her friend. "Don't you dare finish that sentence. He was very respectable last night."
"His hand was on your ass, Bella."
"Really?" Bella asked.
Alice nodded, and Bella couldn't help but smile.
"Well, that's a good sign, I guess. He wouldn't kiss me, but I know he wanted to."
"My brother wanted to kiss you? The boring, lab-coat-wearing, hasn't had a date in two years man downstairs wanted to kiss you, but didn't." Alice fell back on her bed, laughing. "Sounds like him. He's so busy working that I wouldn't be surprised he forgot how to kiss. Maybe that's why he all but ran to take a shower."
"Will you stop giving him a hard time? He said he was sorry." She woke to find Alice and Edward in the kitchen arguing about him not coming home for Christmas. "Besides, he bought you two plane tickets to anywhere in the world as a gift for you and Jasper."
"That was rather sweet."
Bella stared at her friend, not glaring, but just waiting.
Alice huffed but smiled in the end. "Fine, I'll stop giving him a hard time. You need to stop using those magic eyes on me."
Bella snorted, shaking her head. Alice always gave Bella shit for her weird eyes. They often changed colors from a dark brown to almost purple hue, but it was the strange patterns in them that always made people look away first. It was a rare, genetic mutation, according to her eye doctor, but as long as her vision was okay, it didn't bother her.
Bella and Alice each looked toward the hallway in the direction of Edward's room.
"I don't think I want to know what he's doing in the shower."
"Alice!" Before Bella had a chance to give Alice shit for that, Edward emerged from the bedroom, his suitcase in one hand, his other still towel drying his hair.
"You're leaving?" There was no mistaking the venom in Alice's voice.
They followed Edward downstairs.
"A situation arose at the lab. I must leave at once. They have a helicopter picking me up from the high school's football field in ten minutes."
Bella couldn't help but notice the way Edward wouldn't even look at her. Something in his voice and demeanor said it was not the time to address what happened between them.
Alice wrapped her arms around her middle, suddenly scared. "That sounds serious."
Edward sighed. "It is serious. I have to go. I'm sorry, Ali."
Alice nodded, hugging her brother, whispering something to each other. She stepped back and walked into the kitchen, wiping away tears.
"It was nice meeting you, Bella." Edward stood for a moment, unsure of himself, much like that morning.
Bella said the same, watching him walk into the garage. She tapped her foot a few times, rubbed her lips with the tip of her fingers, debating what to do. She knew what she wanted to do, then the doorknob in her hand twisted. A hand grasped her elbow, pulling her out into the cold air of the garage.
She looked up at Edward, his breath a little harsh, a curl of his wet, brown hair falling over one dark green eye. Her fingers brushed his skin as she swept it away, her eyes focusing on his face. His eyes narrowed for only a moment, before determination set in.
"The fuck with suspense." He slanted his mouth over hers, stealing her breath and all her senses. The surprise and shock soon turned into eager exploration. Her fingers curled in his hair, while his hands cupped her cheeks, keeping her right where he wanted her. He tasted of something sweet and mint, she of peppermint and coffee. The softness of his lips was so different from the strength of his kiss.
"UST," she whispered, between the gentle bite of his teeth and sweeps of his tongue along hers.
"Unrestrained sexual tension," she clarified.
Edward laughed out loud, resting his forehead on hers.
She smiled at him. "It wasn't suspense, but UST."
He looked down into her unique, beautiful eyes. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
"We can go up to see you if you'd like." Alice was planning on making the suggestion to him later anyway.
"I'd love that."
"I'll confirm to Alice then." She smiled again and asked for his number. They quickly exchanged contact information, before she agreed to drive him to the high school. That way, she and Alice could take his car instead of him leaving it at the school parking lot. They informed Alice, leaving a couple minutes later.
One more kiss beside the bleachers, Bella watched as Edward climbed into the helicopter. She wondered for the hundredth time what could possibly warrant his immediate attention that the company would fly him into the city.
Edward held up his hand at the suit waiting for him in the helicopter, not ready to hear what pulled him away from his family and Bella. Whatever it was, it could wait until he could no longer see her watching him fly away.
He missed her already. A smile curved his lips, remembering how sweet she tasted.
"Dr. Cullen, sir, I have the reports."
Edward loosened the collar of his shirt, asked for the tablet, and put on headphones. He placed his thumb in the middle of the screen, waiting for confirmation. It wasn't until it asked for retinal scans that he realized how serious the situation.
He held up the tablet, allowing it to scan his eyes, and waited for it to grant him access. It wasn't long before he was logged in, and on the screen was a colleague from a sister laboratory in Arizona, a Dr. Weber. Sweat beaded across Dr. Weber's brow, his eyes glazed with tears.
"Two vials of Serium47 are unaccounted for as of two hours ago. I repeat, two vials of Serium47 are unaccounted for. Security is currently reviewing all video footage, searching for the security breach. There was blood found on the scene, and four lab technicians are currently missing. I will continue to report every thirty minutes during lock down, more often if the situation turns critical."
The video ended and Edward cursed, asking the pilot for an ETA to his lab. Pushing everything but the situation out of his mind, he pulled up his notes on Serium47 and researched the worst-case scenario if the extraterrestrial virus infected anyone in the Arizona facility.
A video file caught his attention, dated four years earlier. He watched the footage with growing horror until blood sprayed across the camera's lens, keeping him from seeing the rest of it. Yet, the audio remained—the screams, the grunts weren't enough to cover the sound of flesh torn apart and chewed.
The facility in Alaska had been a victim of a gas leak, the explosion killing all fifty-three people inside, per the company's records. They had lied. The protocol was the reason they all died; it had to be. If Serium47 infected anyone in the desert facility, it would be next.
Why did his boss want him now? Surely, it was too late for his latest research project to help. Patients infected with Serium47 turned within minutes. By the time he produced enough of the vaccine for Serium47, they'd all be dead.
Unless there was something else they lied about, and Edward had no doubt they had. He had to find out, and if the situation were worse than what Dr. Weber's video indicated, fuck protocol.
He'd save his family and Bella, before saving the world.
AN: Thanks to Midnight Cougar for helping me clean this up and she'll be helping me with the updates. Get ready, this one is going to be out of my comfort zone. I have a love/hate with zombie movies and fics. One, I do NOT like gore, at all, but I love the story behind most zombie stuff.