Author Note: Back with a new fic! I hope you enjoy it. Now that I am done pre-writing this one (except for the Epilogue), I can work on the continuation of Everything She Wants.
Thanks again to moosals for pre-reading and making my banner and book cover!
Chapter 1 – First Impression
"So, it looks like someone is finally moving in to old Mrs. Cope's place."
The eyes of my two best friends stare at me across the booth's table. "You hadn't mentioned that anyone was looking at it," Angela says, almost accusingly, as if I had been keeping something from her. I love her to death, but she's the second biggest gossip I know. The biggest being our coworker Jessica.
"Please tell me it's a single man in his 20s," Alice says excitedly, almost speaking over the top of Angela's words. I try hard not to roll my eyes. Alice has always been the "boy crazy" one of the two of us. She's right though — there are few eligible bachelors in Forks, so it would be awesome if one were to move to town.
"OK, first of all," I begin, looking at Angela, "I had no idea anyone was looking. I may live next door, but I do have a summer job. Still, it's a little weird that I never saw any activity there until the SOLD sign appeared this afternoon.
"As to your question, Alice, since I never saw anyone, I have no idea if it's a single man. I doubt it though; I'd expect a house with that huge backyard to sell to someone with a family."
"Yeah, you're probably right," she groans, looking like I've just told her that her dog died.
"It may not even be someone new to town," Angela points out. "I mean, who moves to Forks?"
"You did," I remind her with a grin. Angela followed her boyfriend — now husband — and Forks native, Ben Cheney, home to Forks after they met in college. The reward for my comment is a peek of her tongue.
"Keep us posted on what you find out," Alice begs, and I smile, nodding.
After splitting the check, the three of us head outside and I climb into the cab of my 1950s era Chevy truck, a gift from my dad for my 16th birthday. His friend Billy's son, Jacob, fixed it up for me after his dad could no longer drive. I can't really afford a new vehicle so I continue to rely on Jacob, who now works at the local garage, for the frequent repairs.
For nearly two years now, my two best friends and I have held our Thursday girls' nights at the Forks diner, where we catch up with everything that is going on in our lives. Or, where Alice mostly complains about her single status and Angela tries not to brag about getting some on a regular basis. Ben is a busy lawyer and a good sport about it, using the opportunity to work late one night per week.
Alice Brandon has been my best friend since her family moved in down the street from my dad and me, when I was about four years old. Alice's dad is a doctor at Forks General Hospital, and her mom is a stay-at-home mom. My own mom left when I was two, so I spent a lot of time at the Brandons' when my dad was working. Alice followed in her dad's footsteps — sort of — in becoming a nurse and now works with him at the hospital.
It was Mrs. Brandon who taught me everything a woman needs to know, including how to cook and bake. As a teenager, I worked at a local bakery that also sells homemade ice cream during what passes for summer in Forks. I thought seriously about going to culinary school to become a pastry chef, before deciding that I wanted a career where I could make more of a difference than just helping the townspeople gain weight.
I first met Angela Weber-Cheney two years ago, when I began working as a first grade teacher at Forks Elementary. Angela has been teaching kindergarten since the year after I graduated from Forks High, and we clicked immediately. She just loves children, having worked as a babysitter for the kids who got too disruptive during her father, Reverend Weber's, sermons. She and Ben are planning to start a family soon; she's trying to time a baby so that she gives birth shortly after the upcoming schoolyear ends.
I still love baking and still work during the summers at the bakery, when they always add extra staff to handle the higher demand, led by the ice cream sales. Besides enjoying the job, a beginning teacher's salary isn't all that high, so I can really use the extra money. I lived with my dad for my first year after college to save up before buying a small bungalow of my own a few streets away from my childhood home.
As I pull into my driveway, I look over at the dark house next door, its lawn and shrubs overgrown and full of weeds. The widowed Mrs. Cope died shortly after I moved in last year. Her three children and seven grandchildren all live out of town, the nearest one in Seattle. They'd been trying to sell her place for months. It needs a lot of work on the interior from what I remember; I'm not sure if Mrs. Cope had redecorated since the 1960s.
While I like to tease Alice about being boy crazy, this town really could use some fresh blood. I mean, practically the only guy in town that neither of us has dated is Jacob! Most of our high school friends that didn't plan to go on to college paired up before graduation and have kids already. I haven't dated anyone seriously since Riley when I was at U-Dub, over two and a half years now. Alice goes out regularly, but never more than a date or two with the same guy. She tends to have a thing for the rugged types — loggers, mostly — but they seem to come and go. And I doubt one of them would be buying a house with flowered wallpaper.
Every day as I leave for work and arrive back home, I look over at the house next door, but nothing ever seems to change. Finally on the tenth day, I come home from work to find that the overgrown yard has been mowed. Taking that as a sign that the new homeowners will be here soon, I text the news to Alice and Angela before they accuse me of holding out on them.
Two days later, my cereal breakfast is interrupted by a loud knock at the door. I quickly wipe off any milk moustache, then rush to answer it.
"Good morning, Ma'am," a tall bearded man wearing dark blue overalls greets me.
"Um, good morning," I reply, a little confused by my visitor.
"We're not gonna be able to park our truck without blocking your driveway. If you need to go out at some point today, could you please move your vehicle now?"
I look over his shoulder, noticing for the first time a large United Van Lines truck in the middle of the street — a moving truck. My new neighbors are here!
"I do need to get to work in about a half hour," I reply with a nod. "Let me just grab some shoes."
I close the front door most of the way, then hurry to slip on a pair of sandals. I find my keys then step outside, making my way to my Chevy parked in the driveway. Like most of the homes on this street, I have a one-car detached garage at the end of the driveway. But also like most of the homes, there is no basement, so I'm using the garage for extra storage.
My truck starts up with a roar, and as I shift into reverse, I notice that the driver has pulled the huge moving truck up about 20 feet. Backing out, I quickly pull around the nearest corner, parking along the curb.
As I walk back to my house, the man who'd knocked on my door waves to me, and I wave back as I hear the beep beep of the truck backing up.
After finishing my breakfast, I get ready for work at the bakery. I've only got another six days of work left before it's time for me to get ready for the new schoolyear to begin on September 1.
When I walk out my front door, I stop for a moment to see what the two men are unloading from the truck. As more of the object comes into view, I realize it's a crib.
Well, there goes any hope that an available man will be moving in next door. Maybe I can make a new friend in his wife though.
When I get home from work that evening, the moving truck is gone. I quickly spot a dark red SUV with Illinois plates parked in the driveway next to mine. So my new neighbors have moved here all the way from Illinois? That's… strange. I'm not sure what kind of job either of them could have that would transfer them to Forks, of all places. Something with the National Park Service?
But what other reason could there be for moving here? Perhaps one of them grew up in Forks and moved away, though I can't recall hearing any gossip about Forks High graduates who went to college quite so far away.
I think about stopping by to say hello, but they're probably exhausted from the move. Better to stop by tomorrow.
Taking advantage of my day off, I decide to bake an apple pie to welcome my new neighbors. I know it's kind of an old-fashioned thing to do, but Mrs. Brandon always baked a cake or pie to welcome newcomers to the neighborhood.
As I chop the apples, I start to get excited about meeting my neighbors. It really has been awhile since anyone new moved to town. And they're likely relatively close to my age if they have a child young enough to still sleep in a crib. While I love my two best friends like sisters, I'm certainly not opposed to adding someone else to our group.
In case they're busy running errands, I wait until late afternoon, then cover the pie and cross the two yards to next door, hitting the doorbell with my elbow while my hands are full.
And then I wait. The SUV is parked in the driveway, though assuming they have two cars, they could both be out in the other one, I suppose.
Just as I am about to ring the doorbell again, the door swings open. My head automatically tilts up so that I can make eye contact with the tall man who appears in the doorway.
I'm struck dumb. The man standing before me is gorgeous — like he belongs in Hollywood or on the cover of a magazine. He has jade green eyes, cheekbones a woman would kill for, pouty lips, and a strong chin — all topped off with a head of messy reddish-brown hair.
Some part of me realizes I'm staring, but I can't help myself. It's like God took all of the qualities that make a man attractive to me and put them all into one man. I feel a bit like Alice, drooling over anything with a penis. And after my two-plus-year drought, I nearly have to hold myself back from jumping him.
"May I help you?" a male voice asks, bringing me out of my stupor. As I shake my head to clear it, I realize for the first time that my dream man is holding a child. Well, not a child, but a baby, probably somewhere between six months and a year old. Duh, Bella, you knew they had a crib!
"May I help you?" he asks again, sounding impatient.
"Oh! Um, yeah, um — sorry," I chuckle nervously. "I'm Bella Swan. I live next door," I add, nodding my head in the direction of my house. "What's your name? I never ran into the realtor to ask."
"Edward," he answers quietly. "Edward Cullen. And this is my son, Masen."
I smile widely, looking at the blond cherub who's peeking at me from where he has his head buried against his father's chest. "He's adorable! So, um, I baked a pie to welcome you and your wife to the neighborhood." I hold out the pie in my hands toward Edward, once again chuckling nervously when I realize that duh, his hands are full. "I could set it inside for you."
Edward remains silent and unmoving; as I look up at his face again, he seems so… deflated. I'm confused as to what I could have done to put that look on his face. After another moment, he takes a step backward, allowing me to pass by him into the house.
Having been inside before, I know right where the kitchen is. I head straight there, setting the pie on the kitchen counter since the small table is full of boxes. Turning around, I nearly jump out of my skin when I realize Edward is right behind me, still holding his son.
I smile uncertainly, glancing around at the dated kitchen with bright yellow walls. "I imagine your wife will be redecorating soon. I don't think Mrs. Cope touched anything in decades."
"There's a lot of work to do," he agrees softly.
"So, um, if you ever need someone to watch Masen, I'd be happy to. I teach first grade, so I'm around children a lot, though obviously he's younger than my usual," I laugh, rolling my eyes at my word vomit. "How old is he?"
"Oh wow, he'll probably be walking soon!"
"He's pretty good at crawling now," Edward replies, smiling down at Masen, who's now watching me curiously. I smile in return, seeing the obvious love this man has for his son.
"So you're from Illinois?" I ask. "I, um, saw the plates on your car."
"Which city?" I ask, being nosy.
"Oh, my gosh! I can't even imagine moving to a tiny town like Forks after living in a huge city like that. It was an adjustment for me when I moved back from Seattle after college, and I'd grown up here!"
Edward just stands there silently, and I start to feel like maybe I'm intruding. I don't hear anyone else in the house, so I assume his wife isn't home right now. Maybe he's uncomfortable having a strange woman in the house?
I clear my throat. "So, um, welcome again. If you need any help getting acclimated or need anything at all, please don't hesitate to ask, all right?"
"Thanks," he replies.
"Oh, and I hope you enjoy the pie! It's won best apple pie in the Forks Fourth of July Fair for four years running! I'll, um, just let myself out."
I squeeze past where Edward is standing, making my way to the front door. As I step outside, my lust-addled brain clears a bit and I really start to wonder about our odd conversation. Edward didn't say much, though he was never rude or anything like that. I feel like I'm missing something, but I have no idea what it could be.
A/N: I know it's been awhile! I started writing this fic last November and got about 8 chapters done before the holidays hit. I'm not sure I wrote another word of it until May. It sat nameless on my hard drive for months because the most obvious title (The Man Next Door) was already taken.
The title is a song from Duran Duran's 1982 Rio album. Go look it up on YouTube if you're not familiar with it! All chapter titles are Duran Duran songs, some of them pretty obscure album tracks, so no guessing the titles this time. Limiting myself to one artist (albeit one with a ton of songs) means that some titles are literal while others are kind of abtract.
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