Lazy days were the best. Lazy warm days were even better; Bella loved the sun on her skin and lately she was in heaven. Peter had rescued her from the cold hands of that arrogant prick Edward Cullen and had swooped her off her feet immediately.
He was everything that Edward was not. Peter was warm blooded - no, hot blooded, a real Southern gentleman with a dangerous edge to him, but not towards her. Never towards her or those he called family and wished to protect. He was a wealthy ranch owner, former marine, with a body to die for. His well toned physique was drool worthy and it was a bonus that Peter was funny as hell.
She'd been at his ranch for a few months now, and seeing Peter shirtless never grew old. She accompanied him on horseback checking the fences on a daily basis, helped him feed the cattle and then he usually told her to relax for the day; no hard work for his little lady - no matter how bad she wanted to merely be with him and watch him work.
Being independent, she demanded a small patch of land for herself to grow vegetables and he allowed her to; tending her garden was her thing now. And god, did Peter love to hose her down when she'd be all muddy! It usually ended up in a struggle for the hose so she could return the favor to be cooled down with the water, which ended up them in the hay and his strong, muscled body covering hers and his lips leaving kisses all over.
For now, being with Peter was fun, and he didn't expect her to stick around for much longer, but Bella had other plans. She loved this life and she knew that she would become better at being a farm hand, do more for Peter. Be more to Peter than a fun fuck. Perhaps even raise a family with him. They hadn't really spoken about the future. Peter was pretty much all about living in the now, which is why he showed up in Forks when he did.
He'd been looking for some strong horses, fresh blood, to pair with his herd and make winning babies and he'd been in the right place at the right time. Edward was once again belittling Bella in front of everyone to see, and it had been not the first time, but certainly the last, that Edward had raised a hand to her.
Peter was a man of few words. The first sentence he spoke after taking Edward's arm, stopping the momentum, was; "Is this man bothering you, miss?" His blue eyes firmly locked on to hers as he stood there, unmoving as Edward struggled to get his arm back.
Bella, at that point, wasn't quite sure how to respond because even if this handsome stranger would stop Edward now, she'd be in trouble later. "It's fine," she had mumbled, looking at the ground. Looking back, Bella wasn't sure how she'd ended up in Edward's web. Everything was fine in the beginning, but the more time she spent with him, the more he started to be more controlling and there was no escape. Not even the handsome stranger could save her.
And then he did. For reasons then unknown, he pulled Edward into an alley, out of sight of the people staring at them. Edward yelped, that was as much as Bella could hear, as she was nailed to the bland grey tiles of the curb, and a minute later, Peter emerged again. "Would you like to return with me to Texas?" He drawled, eying her carefully. Even know, Bella wasn't sure what he had seen in front of him, but whatever it was, it must have been bad. "I own a ranch, you could come with me and take the time to recuperate as long as you need it."
"In return for?"
"Nothing, ma'am," Peter smiled then and Bella melted on the spot. That smile could light even the darkest room. "You look like you could use a break, I'm merely offering it to you, no strings."
Bella hadn't quite known why she accepted Peter's offer, because at that point she didn't know anything about him other than he had done something to Edward to scare him off, had beautiful blue eyes and a smile that could melt her. Her brain had been in 'fuck it' mode and accepted the adventure.
He had stayed away from her that first week, only to join her for dinner that his cook made as he was simply too busy to cook for himself, and the second week she tried speaking to him, learn more about him. After the first month, she had finally succeeded and Peter had warmed up to her.
Yeah, the hosing down and having sex in the stables was definitely only something from the last two weeks but Bella was loving it. Peter was more at ease around her, allowing himself to have some fun while he worked hard, and even the people working at the ranch were telling her that he was more pleasant to have around. And where Peter came more out of his shell, Bella regained her confidence.
Lazy days, such as this particular one, were the best. She'd done her chores that morning and had found a nice place on the patio to soak up the sun in her recliner. Peter said he'd take care of dinner that night and all Bella had to worry 'her pretty little head' over was to mentally prepare herself for the impending parental visit from her mother; but damn her too - Peter wasn't much for human interactions these days.
The sound of metal meeting wood woke her from her doze and she lifted her hat up to see shirtless Peter chopping wood; he must have brought a log over while she was dozing and he was now chopping it up. "What are you doing?" Not that she was opposed to seeing him shirtless and see how the sweat danced across his big arms and chest.
"Chopping wood," he stated-as-a-matter-of-factly. "You wanted dinner, right?"
Sitting up, she squinted as the sun hit her in the face. "Yes?" She replied, a little unsure. They usually cooked in the kitchen or on the barbeque with coal, what was he doing?
"Bonfire. Making you the best beer can chicken there is."
"Beer can chicken?"
"Bella, your father is a fisherman, surely you've had alcohol infused meat before."
"He likes to fish, yes. I prepare it on the stove."
"Oh honey, you have no idea," he winked at her before continuing to chop the wood, letting out soft grunts as he swung the axe.
She then realized that he hadn't gone to the store. "Wait, did you-"
"Kill a chicken? Of course! You're on a ranch and have been for months! Do you think all that meat in the freezer comes from the store? No darlin', that's meat grown right here on this ranch. Best there is."
"But I thought you merely bought and sold animals and-"
"We gotta feed ourselves, it's like the fishing your dad does," he laughed, shaking his head. "And here I thought you left the city and Forks behind you."
Bella scowled. "I did. It's just strange to think that that chicken has been fed by me."
He roared with laughter as he split another log in two before tossing the axe to the side. Peter then made his way over to her, sweaty and all, before kissing her hard. "Stick around a while longer and I'll make a decent farm girl outta ya."
She smirked at him. "Don't mind if I do."
"What?" He replied, his head cocking to the side in surprise. "I thought you wanted to leave?"
"What makes you think that?"
"You invited your mother over! No doubt to have her take you to wherever she lives now!"
"Oh, hell no," Bella shook her head. "She was insisting to come over, to see if I was alright. If I'm still alive. She is my mother, after all. But I have no intention on leaving but if you want me to leave… just say so."
"I very much appreciate your company," he replied, turning away from her to start building the bonfire. Peter didn't like talking about his feelings, so Bella scored this one as a win. It filled her with so much hope hearing those words coming out of his mouth that she relaxed back in her chair with a big smile on her face. "Don't gloat, missy."
"I'm not," she hummed, stretching herself a little, causing the skirt of her dress to hitch up. "What if I never ever want to leave you?"
"I can live with that."
"Good," she pulled her hat back over her face to stop thinking about the dead chicken that he likely killed and defeathered himself, and more about the small victory of him talking about his feelings.
"I promise I won't have you kill an animal," he teased her as he built the bonfire. "Maybe teach you how to skin them, then I can hose you down when you're all covered in blood and guts."
"You want me to eat later, right?" Bella muttered.
"Oh, just wait until you help one of the cows or horses with the birth of their babe, you'll be fine."
He didn't speak after that, and neither did she as she listened to Peter moving around, and eventually smelling the fire, walking around, getting the rack out, preparing the chicken, causing her to lightly doze off again, until she could smell the nearly cooked chicken. It was when her doze turned into a daydream, crispy and tender chicken dancing the macarena right into her mouth.
Maybe some mac and cheese along side of it. Or coleslaw.
"You are such a beautiful sight to see, Bella," Peter's voice sounded as she opened her eyes. "But you really need to get out of the sun now otherwise you'll turn into a lobster and then I'll have to eat you."
"Doesn't sound too bad," she laughed, stretching herself before getting up and moving into the shade. "The chicken smells so good!"
"Almost done. Get the plates. There's salad in the fridge."
Bella smiled at him before doing as he'd asked and started to deck the makeshift table he had made. Something inside of her was worried about something, but she couldn't quite place the feeling; nothing was wrong. Absolutely nothing. Her mom wasn't the worst people to have around and everything was going well with Peter's ranch, or at least he made it appear so, so why was she worried?
He had just made it clear that he wanted her to stay. Nothing was wrong. Peter wasn't Edward. Peter was better. She curiously eyed him as he brought the chicken over to the table and then how he started to cut it up in silence, plating it up for the both of them.
"Try it," he said, pointing at the chicken and she did. It was glorious. The chicken wasn't dry, she could taste the wood it had been cooking on and the taste of alcohol, although the alcohol had evaporated. It was likely that the look on her face was enough, or perhaps the slight moan as she tasted the chicken, but his face broke out in a big, wide grin. "Told ya."
"Oh, you need to make this more often."
"I will. Once I return." He sounded serious, dead serious, and something told her his leaving had nothing to do with ranch business. They had just sold a ton of cows at the market and bought a few with money to spare to take care of them to Peter's standards.
She nearly choked on her chicken as she dropped her fork and stared at him in shock. "What? Where are you going?"
Sighing, he dropped to his seat and took a swig of his beer. "I'll be back, although I'm not quite sure when that will be. I trust you in overseeing the people working for me at the ranch, although I doubt that they'll need it."
"An old buddy of mine got in trouble in some country and I need to get him back because nobody will do it as his mission was off books. He saved my life countless of times when I was still a marine, it's only fair I return the favor."
Once a cop, always a cop. Once a marine, always a marine. She understood Peter's sense of duty and his heart. It was his heart that got her away from Edward, but that didn't mean she'd have to like it. All she could do was to be supportive. Peter's sharing of his feelings all made sense now. Should anything happen to him, at least it would be without regrets. "Will it be dangerous?"
"Don't worry your pretty little head, darlin'," he assured her. "I'll get Jasper back and bring him here. I think he'll like it here. It's time he retires, we're getting too old for this shit," Peter slightly chuckled. "I'm leaving in the morning."
"You just don't want to meet my mother," she said after a moment of thought, trying to make light of the situation.
"Darlin', I would love to meet the woman who gave birth to you. Hell, if you want her to stay, I'm fairly certain we could build her a cabin somewhere on these grounds for her to live at but I need to get my friend back, you understand."
"I have to do this."
"I understand," she smiled at him. She was going to hold him to his words. That he was coming back with his friend Jasper. And in one piece. Not in a box. Peter was good at what he did, she knew that. He rarely spoke of his time in the marines, but his choice of life and the lack of sleep told her enough. He had never left it behind. "I would have come with you if I had your skill set."
He barked out a laugh. "I bet you would! All I ask of you is not to leave me. Be here when I get back."
Bella made her way over to him and crawled in his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and softly kissing him. "Like I said earlier; I'm not going anywhere."
"I promise," she kissed him again as she dug her hands in his hair. "I promise."
Days turned into a week. Bella tried not to count, and be fully committed to entertaining her mother, taking her out into town, go sunbathe. Go about her daily routine, but the worry was always in the back of her mind, and her mother noticed. So she stayed.
One week turned into two weeks.
And then, just as she'd stopped counting, Peter returned, looking somewhat beaten and bruised, but he was back and as soon as he stepped out of the car, Bella was all over him, checking him over for big hurts and when she couldn't find any, she jumped into his arms, kissing him eagerly, completely dismissing his friend Jasper, but he seemed to be knowing his way around anyway as he toddled off to the main building.
"Welcome back," she eventually said when they both needed air. "I've missed you."