Life's a Beach

Chapter 1

A/N – It's been a while since I've written FanFiction, but the good news is that I've been busy writing my first original fiction novel. I'm very excited to announce that my romantic suspense novel Double Image (under my pen name Kate Francis) is now available on Barnes and Noble as a paperback and an ebook. While it's not quite as light as my usual FF stories, I hope my readers will enjoy it. If you decide to check it out, thanks!

I was inspired to write this story, Life's a Beach, when I received a bunch of follows on one of my older stories this week. I don't know how so many people found it all of a sudden, but I'm grateful! This story is a tribute to my favorite place in the world, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. While enjoying a winter vacation here this week, I'm awed by the recovery this place has made after Hurricane Matthew. They deserve a ton of credit.

Everything Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Bella Swan loved the beach. She dug her toes into the sun-warmed South Carolina sand, scrunching and releasing them until she found the water-cooled grains underneath. The sound of the gentle waves made a soothing backdrop, accompanied by the cries of seagulls swooping overhead. She stretched her arms up to the sky and just sighed as she felt herself completely relax for the first time in ages. This place, so different from home yet so familiar from years of vacations, spoke to her very soul. It had been a tough year, and this trip couldn't come soon enough. She wasn't one for crowds, and much preferred coming here in January, before classes started for spring semester, instead of braving the more popular but crowded summer months. Her beautiful island (at least that's the way she thought of it) rewarded her with a forecast of five straight 70 degree days. She was going to enjoy this.

She pushed her sunglasses up her nose and headed up the beach. It was still early in the morning but there were a scattering of people all out for a beach walk. A couple with an early rising toddler were setting up beach chairs and an umbrella as the little boy grabbed handfuls of sand. She allowed herself to drift toward the water, smiling when it washed gently over her toes. An older couple, who reminded her of her Nana Marie and Grandpa Charles approached from the other direction, holding hands and chatting happily.

"Good morning" said the couple in unison. Bella smiled and returned their greeting. As they passed her, she couldn't help but take a quick look at them over her shoulder and watched as the man lifted his wife's hand and kissed it gently. Somewhere, sometime in her future, that's what she wanted. Long-time love, full of obvious affection. Bella had yet to find that kind of love, or if she was being honest, anything even close to it. Especially not this year. Quite the opposite. She shook her head to dispel the thought.

Turning her attention back to the beach, she continued on her way. Some of the seagulls that were circling overhead landed nearby, pecking with determination at the sand in search of breakfast. They spread out in every direction and one wandered right in her path. Amused, she stopped to watch the bird. Her presence didn't seem to bother him at all.

"Good morning, little one" she said. "Finding something good to eat?" The gull looked at her, tipped his head to the side, and went back to his business. "I see" she said. "You're too busy for a conversation. Well, I'll let you get back…"

Something slammed into Bella from behind, knocking her feet out from under her. She barely had time to register what was happening before she landed flat on her ass in the wet sand. The water seeped into her shorts and panties but she couldn't catch her breath fast enough to think about standing up. A big reddish gold blur ran in a circle around her, splashing her previously dry shirt with more sea water as she threw her arms up to protect her face. She felt the heavy warm breath on her hands and peeked through her fingers. There stood a huge golden retriever, a happy smile on his face as he panted.

Suddenly Bella realized what he was preparing to do. "No!" she shouted, but it was too late. The dog shook himself from head to tail, spraying her with sandy water. All she could do was flop back on the sand, holding her belly as she laughed.

"Oh shit!" The voice came from behind her, accompanied by the sound of flip-flops as they slapped against the sand. "Bad Aro! Bad! Sit!" The dog stopped shaking and sat on Bella's feet. She laughed even harder as the wet fur tickled her toes. A shadow fell over her face but all she could see was shaggy hair and the outline of broad shoulders.

"Crap. Are you okay?"

It was the most beautiful voice she'd ever heard.

"I'm really sorry about my dog. He's still a puppy and sometime he gets a little enthusiastic. He was supposed to be chasing a ball but I guess he got carried away." A hand reached for hers and pulled her to a sitting position. The owner of the voice knelt in the sand in front of her. With the sun blocked by his body, she could see him clearly for the first time.

His face was as beautiful as his voice. Reddish hair, almost bronze, glinted in the sun. His face was sharp, angular, but undeniably handsome. He wore a pair of bright orange swim trunks and his flip-flops sat next to him in the sand where he'd kicked them off. Bella realized she'd stopped laughing and found herself unable to talk.

"Please say something" the man pleaded. His green eyes were wide with concern. "Are you okay? Are you hurt anywhere?"

Bella felt bad that he was so worried. "I'm fine" she answered, "really." She looked at the sand coating her arms and legs. "He just knocked the wind out of me, that's all."

"Do you think you can stand up?" She nodded. "Move, Aro" he said, pushing the big dog off her feet. He reached out and took both her hands as he pulled her to her feet. He looked her over from head to toe. "You look okay" he said, then paused. "I mean, you don't just look okay, you look great, but you don't look like you have any cuts or anything broken." His eyes drifted lower.

Bella blushed when she realized she was soaking wet. She'd chosen jean shorts and a white tee shirt for her morning walk instead of a bathing suit. "I, ah…."

He had the decency to blush and snapped his eyes back to her face. "You're all wet."

"Yeah" she said. "All I need is a wet tee shirt contest."

"I don't think you'll find one here" he answered. "Oh, wait." He reached behind him and pulled out a tank top that had been tucked into the back of his bathing suit. "Here. Maybe this will help."

She nodded and pulled the dark blue tank over her head. "Thanks."

"Look, can I make this up to you? There's a coffee shop a little way up the beach…" He stopped when the dog grabbed one of his sandals and took off down the beach. "Aro! Get back here!" He grabbed the other sandal and started after the dog. "I'm sorry, I have to catch up with him."

"it's okay, go" she said, understanding but disappointed about the coffee. "Wait….how will I get your shirt back to you?"

"I'll find you" he said, jogging backwards. "I'm Edward….Edward Cullen."

"Bella Swan" she answered.

"I'll find you, Bella Swan." He waved and took off down the beach after the dog, who had a considerable head start in the wrong direction.

Bella watched him as he ran, admiring his athletic body and his speed. An athlete of some kind, she thought. "I hope you will" she said to herself as she brushed sand from her legs. before turning and continuing her walk. The island was already working its magic on her.