It takes me the better part of half an hour to peel Irina off Seth, and back into her car where Bella has already stashed the gems, as she so creatively informed me.

Yes, I finally caved. I showed Bella the jewels and laughed when she made a face at how 'ordinary and ugly' they looked. She was more impressed when I told her how I was going to transfer them, though—and insisted on helping.

I agreed, because first, it would be far simpler for her to do, and second, it's pretty impossible to stay strong when she decides to ask naked.

So I let her help me fix the stones up in plain old bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bodywash, and while everyone was distracted by Irina's exuberance, Bella quietly added the extra bottles to the grocery bags in her trunk. Simple as that.

What isn't simple, is convincing Bella that a life of crime isn't as much fun as she seems to think.

"Oh come on, Edward. I'm not saying I want a life of crime. I'm just saying it was fun today, what we did. The whole cloak-and-dagger thing, hiding jewels and making a drop." She's practically bouncing on the bed, rubbing her hands with glee.

"Baby, as I've told you before, this isn't a movie where we live fabulous lives and drive fast cars, ok? It's dangerous." I clutch at my hair in agitation. This really isn't something I wanted to get back into, and now, with Bella… "Tanya and Irina… they're the fucking tip of the iceberg. The people they will be dealing with are ruthless. The only reason these two have made it so far without being killed or arrested, is because they're as meticulous as I was. Two or three deals a year. A well documented public life. It's a lot of needless subterfuge and I'm fucking glad to be out of it."

A peek at her face tells me I might have come off a bit harsh. I groan.

"Bella, I'm just saying…"

"I'm not stupid, Edward. And I don't… you're just… You know what, forget it," she huffs and turns her back to me.

I toss and turn; the aftermath of our tiff lies like a heavy weight on my chest.

I do ultimately fall asleep, but wake up to a loud crash of thunder. She's not in bed with me, and I panic.

She isn't in the bathroom, or the guest bedroom. She isn't in the kitchen or the living room. I'm seriously worried she's left me, and that too in the middle of another fucking storm.

A light breeze wafts by, and I turn to see that the door to the garden passage is cracked open slightly. I walk out, and there, in the midst of the roses, leaning out of one of the passage's glass windows, stands the girl who has driven me nuts from the moment I first saw her.

I wrap her up in my arms and bury my face in her hair. There's relief, and peace.

After a long inhale of the damp air, there's also a niggling desire to sneeze, but I can control that.

"I was happy because you let me be a part of things," she says after a while. "You let me into your life. The thrill wasn't about the stupid jewels, it was about doing what we did, together." She shrugs and continues to watch the heavy droplets hitting soft petals and leaves, hanging off thorns.

I want to bang my head somewhere for my stupidity. Instead, I kiss her gently on the cheek and pull her even closer.

"I want to always do stuff together," I whisper, and the deeper truth in my mundane words makes me feel exposed, unsure.

She smiles and finally melts into my embrace. Clothed in her acceptance, I'm ten feet tall.

I've known her a month, and we're still learning each other… building trust, sharing the dark and light of our souls, piece by piece. Who knows where we'll be in another month, or a year, or ten.

Still, the words are trying to push past my lips; words like forever, and love, and…

Lightning sizzles across the sky.

We stand and watch the falling rain, listening to its never ending clatter in companionable silence.


The End

A/N: A few months back, an old Hindi song popped into my head (type 'ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si' in the youtube search bar if you want to check it out). It made me want to write. So I pushed away my fatigue and typed. It was fun, and I made time the next day, and the next. I never had energy for more than a few hundred words, but it was the best part of my day.

Every day, as I wrote, I shared the chapter with NewTwilighFan and purpleC305, and for a while I didn't think beyond that. I had no plan, no story I was trying to tell. I had no idea where Edward would take me when I would begin to type. It was fantastic!

When I posted it here, I still wasn't sure what I was doing. Thank you all for taking a chance and reading about a rambling mechanic and a once-naked girl with the polka-dotted umbrella. Special thanks to all the people who have been along for the ride from the beginning, and have reviewed practically every chapter. It's not been possible to reply all the time, but I've waited to see what you had to say about each chapter.

This is it for these two. I'm finally going to update 'When in France', and then something new, maybe. See you then :)