Penname: DeJean Smith

Beta: MidnightCougar

Prereader: MidnightCougar

Title of Story: The Three Bs

Rating: M

Pairing: Bella, Edward

Genre: Mystery, Romance

Word Count: 6187

Story Summary: For decades, Edward has aided women in their darkest hour with Alice's guidance, ignoring her ulterior motive to find him 'the one.' This Halloween, she sends him to Bella's Bakery and Books. Is shopkeeper Isabella just another damsel-in-distress or is she something more?

Standard Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.

The Three Bs

In a bustling Seattle Starbucks, a man sat in the back corner, appearing to nurse a cup of coffee. He gave off the air of wishing to be left alone, even though he was quite handsome and several patrons of the coffee shop cast him a second, or even third, glance. His nose twitched in disgust, as yet, another wannabe Millennials' order was filled.

"Alexander!"

Pumpkin Spice Latte, whip, soy.

"Jessica!"

Pumpkin Spice Mocha Java nut.

"Andrea!"

Pumpkin Spice Coconut half-caff over ice.

Had he been capable, he would have puked right then and there.

"Oh, it's not that bad, Edward."

He looked up to see his reason for being in Seattle.

"Hello, Alice."

"Is that any way to greet your sister after we haven't seen each other in, what, a year?"

She quirked her head to the side, reminding him of a teacup Yorkie with her fashionably styled pixie cut, nerdy framed glasses, and Rockabilly dress complete with petticoats.

"More like five, but who's counting?" He huffed a sigh and stood, opening his arms for a hug.

She happily threw her arms around his waist, squeezing tightly before releasing him and taking a vacant seat.

"It's good to see you, too." She rummaged through her bag and pulled out a small box, plopping it down in front of him. "This is your next assignment."

"Alice, I'm not doing any more assignments. They are useless. Futile. She doesn't exist."

He had told her to cease with the projects. Every time she had a vision that involved a woman in need, she called him, thinking it would be "the one," his mate.

Kate.

Rose.

Bree.

All fine, acceptable women. All women who drove him batty.

He chuckled under his breath at his own joke as he ran one finger over the lip of his paper cup.

Vampires. Bats. He was quite the comedian.

"Are you done with your moment?" Alice demanded, one eyebrow cocked as she looked at him over the dark frame of her glasses.

Truth be told, he was quite done with the entire process. Not that he had minded helping others. The experiences reminded him of his humanity and that was reward enough, thank you very much. Garrett, Emmett, and Bree were content with their outcomes— the latter deciding she was happy to remain single while the others mated.

"I'm done with you playing matchmaker, Alice." He picked up the now-cool cup of coffee and took it to the trash receptacle.

In turn, she airily waved one hand, pulling out a small, leather-bound book.

"She's out there. I just know it, but—"

"Alice." He spoke in a low, only audible to her, tone, warning her to back off. He was done searching for someone that did not exist.

"This one is different. Even if she isn't your one. You need to meet her. I can't explain why, but you do. Isabella Marie Swan, 25, single, female. Goes by Bella."

He slid into his chair once again.

"Alice, please…"

"Owner of The Three Bs in Forks, Washington, the rainiest place in the Pacific Northwest."

"I'm not—"

"Hush."

She leaned over and placed one finely manicured fingertip over his lips as she continued to read.

"She needs an assistant for the All Hallows' Eve rush if her business is going to succeed through Thanksgiving."

"Moh mhe mees…"

He removed her finger from his mouth and began again.

"So, she needs shop help. That's not worth calling me to meet you here. I was perfectly fine in Chicago—"

"Sitting in your parents' home, watching the paint peel because you want to be antisocial?"

She wasn't wrong. Being able to hear the thoughts of every living being was a noisy affair. In order to keep his sanity, Edward often retired to his parents' old summer home to escape the cacophony.

"Bella needs someone with your skill set and physique."

"What?"

Now he was more confused with the job's details.

"Open the box. Read the particulars there. You won't regret it."

"Alice…"

"When have I been wrong?"

"Uh, Kate, Rose, Bree…"

"You helping them wasn't wrong, Edward. They simply weren't your mate."

"Yes, but—"

"When will you learn to stop arguing with me and just go with it?"

"I'm not a 'go with it' kind of person, Alice."

"And did you have something better to do in Chicago other than scaring the bejesus out of kids who come around that house on Halloween?"

Damn it, Halloween, now his parents' house was going to be covered in eggs and toilet tissue. Leave the porch light on one year and not answer the door for the little beggars, and they never forget. He leaned back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest.

"They should have better things to do than damage other people's property."

"Yeah, kid. Get off my lawn!" Alice's voice sounded remarkably like his long-deceased father's. Her face softened, and she gazed at Edward as a loving sister would. "Trust me on this. She is the one you need to help."

"Help."

He found it difficult to believe Alice's motivation was not spurred by something more than mere assistance for a woman in need.

"Help. Until you do that, I can't see anything more, and that is what makes this so intriguing for me."

"How so?" Edward wondered.

"I don't see a future for her if you don't."

Alice's mind opened, and Edward could see fleeting images of a shop, a rainy street, and the back of a woman toting something heavy, and then, nothing. Ever since awakening from her transformation with no knowledge of her past, Alice detested untidy lifelines. Everyone had the right to a beginning, middle, and eventual end. The incomplete silence in Bella's story gnawed at Alice like a festering wound.

She knew he had agreed the instant his mind was made up.

"Fine. I'll go."

"Thank you, dear brother!" She leaned over and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "You won't regret it!"

"I've heard that before."

He turned his attention to the box, ignoring the sweetly mumbled "grumblepuss," as Alice departed. Inside, he found a small e-reader and a wallet containing up-to-date identification, credit cards, and cash.

"Well, Miss Swan, what can you tell me about yourself?" he whispered, turning on the device.

BBB

The Three Bs on Main Street in Forks was nestled between Newton's Hardware and Jake's Auto Repair. Not necessarily the best of locations for what ended up being Bella's Bakery and Books, a quaint shop that combined a used bookstore with a coffee shop and a boutique bakery.

Yet, after his first impression disparaging its location, Edward found himself enthralled with the store. Someone had lovingly restored the façade, keeping the old brick and oak entryway that reminded him of the soda shop he had escorted the fair Sally Minters to once upon a time.

First kisses stayed with you, even through one's transition.

A jangling brass bell announced his entry into a cozy shop filled with used books, organized by type based off a quick glance. Somewhere in the background, he could smell warm spices and sugar.

"Welcome to The Three Bs! Let me know if you need anything!"

A welcoming alto voice from around the corner greeted him, and he followed the sound to find its source.

"Oh, hello! Looking for something in particular?"

For once in his vampire life, Edward was stricken mute.

Behind a bakery display case stood a young woman, clad in flour-stained jeans, a long-sleeved black tee, and an apron emblazoned with an embroidered bumblebee holding up a cake. Her brown, wavy hair pulled back in a functional ponytail and several sprigs had worked their way free. She brushed an errant lock out of her face with a "phhhsht" of air blown from one side of her mouth and when that didn't work, she used the back of one latex-gloved hand to clear her vision.

"Don't tell the health department I didn't change gloves after doing that," she said with a giggle and a wink.

He watched her carefully arrange a plate of jack-o'-lantern cookies on a crystal tray, completely enthralled by her. Edward realized he had the uncontrollable desire to know everything about Isabella Swan: her likes, her dislikes, what she looked like first thing in the morning after…

"As much as I love company, are you just going to watch me all morning?"

Edward could tell she wasn't upset by the teasing tone she took and the twinkle in her eyes as she wrestled off the disposable gloves and tossed them into a brimming trashcan.

"I…I…"

"Let's start this again. Hello. My name is Bella, and this is The Three Bs. How may I help you?"

"Job."

Bella pinched her lips together, trying to stifle the laugh that threatened to burst forth.

Edward shook his head in self-disgust and ran one hand roughly through his hair. He had never been tongue-tied around someone, but this woman leveled him to monosyllabic responses.

The memory of Emmett's lolling tongue and stuttered, immediate declaration of love when he saw Rose for the first time struck Edward. Oh, God. He now understood how Emmett felt when he found his one.

And Jasper.

And Carlisle.

And Garrett.

And—

"Looking for books on how to find a job? Interview strategies? How to gain friends and influence people?" She seemed to be enjoying teasing him and grinned, revealing dimples and little crinkles around her eyes.

Having had enough, Edward rattled his brain again, releasing a growl of frustration. It didn't escape him that Bella took a small step back, nearly bumping into a display featuring a homemade Jack Skellington, surrounded by copies of Frankenstein, It, Pet Cemetery, Dracula, and other titles from the horror genre.

Good. She had a healthy sense of self-preservation.

He cleared his throat before beginning. "My name is Edward Cullen, and I saw you were looking to hire someone."

Bella relaxed noticeably as he smiled.

Alice had always told him his smile was his best feature.

"And what talent set do you bring to The Three Bs, Edward Cullen?"

"I'm a Jack-of-all-trades."

"Hmm… Jack-of-all-trades, master of none?"

"I have many talents, Mrs. Swan."

"Miss or Ms. Mrs. Swan is my mother, who right now is spending my inheritance chasing a twenty-two-year-old baseball prospect." Bella shook her head at that notion, bringing herself back to the present.

"So, Mr. Cullen. Do you have a resume? References?"

"I'm new to town. I have all of that in my car. But I can assure you, I have adequate capabilities at whatever you might present me."

"Hmmm… Which side of The Three Bs operation are you interested in? Books? Bakery? Coffee? And do you have a specialty? Chocolates? Fruit? Savories?"

She turned toward the behind-the-scenes part of the store.

"If you say you make pumpkin spice anything, I will walk out of here right now," he blurted out.

Slowly, Bella turned around, her eyes wide with shock. A huge grin crept over her face, and she put her hands on her hips as she studied the young man before her.

"Follow me."

She motioned for him to follow and he did, winding their way to the back where a pot of strong, dark coffee awaited in the kitchen.

"My pressssshhhhhhiousssssss!"

Edward chuckled as Bella's face contorted into a Gollum-like expression before she grabbed a mug and filled it. She held the pot up to him, silently asking if he'd like some which he politely refused.

"Considering I've already been up for" —she glanced at the clock— "four hours, and it's now half past seven, I'm overdue for a cup."

Bella leaned back against the counter. After taking a long sip, she motioned with her mug toward a worktable laden with dozens of cooled cupcakes, several tubs of fall colored icing, royal icing witches on brooms and ghosts, and a variety of tips, bags, and spatulas.

"Those are for the front office at the local elementary school. Principal Smith has a standing order. Show me whatcha got."

Edward gazed at the supplies for a moment before nodding. He pulled a ball cap out of his back pocket and put it on as he made his way to the wash sink. Bella watched him carefully, taking in his every move, from the precise rolling up of his sleeves which revealed a very nice set of forearms to his vigilant technique for washing his hands. She might or might not have scoped out his ass, but he was not sure.

She had.

"You mind music while you work?" she asked, pouring a second cup of coffee for herself.

"Not at all."

Edward did not look up as he prepared a pastry bag with a trio of colors: purple, orange, and black. A few seconds later, the opening notes of Monster Mash filled the small kitchen space. The classic Bobby Pickett version, of course.

"It's my Halloween Pandora list."

"Completely fitting for the day."

"Hmmm. Haven't listened to it in a while. Haven't felt up to it. Used to be my favorite holiday," she said wistfully.

Edward glanced up from the cupcake he had just piped with a perfect swirl and noticed the sadness in Bella's face. He wanted to put down the tools and engulf her in his arms, but he was certain that would not be appropriate behavior considering they had known each other for less than twenty minutes, so he returned to the job at hand.

Six different designs, all featuring a unique piping technique, lay in front of Bella's examining eye. She looked from the cupcakes up to Edward then back to the cupcakes.

Edward suddenly realized he could not hear her thoughts. He had been so taken by her appearance and his reaction to such that it had escaped his notice. But now, now the realization struck him, and he was flabbergasted to the point he almost missed the fact she was talking to him.

"When do you want to start?"

"What? That's it?" He was astonished. He had created a rather impressive resume with coursework at a small, yet prestigious cooking school with a focus on pastry work, but she accepted his word without even seeing it.

"Edward, I'll be honest. Look around. Does Forks look like the hotbed of the cooking scene?"

"No. I can't say that it does."

"Okay. So far, I've had three high schoolers come by about the job, and the first thing they've asked is the pay and if they get football Fridays off. Since I have an agreement with the local wedding chapel, and most weddings are Fridays and Saturdays, when I've told them 'no,' they leave. I don't exactly have people beating down the door to be hired. The pay is ten dollars an hour."

She finished her mug of coffee with a satisfied sigh, picking up a cupcake with the perfect icing to cake ratio, a royal icing ghost shimmering against the sparkling black icing he had created with a touch of luster dust.

"And the hatred for pumpkin spice everything made my day."

Bella winked before she crossed the kitchen to rinse out the mug and set it in a drying rack.

"If you know the difference between pâte à choux and shortbread or between JR Ward and Laura Kaye, I just might have to marry you."

"Ummm…"

Edward was saved from coming up with a response when the bell rang announcing a customer.

"Welcome to The Three Bs! Be right there!" She lowered her voice and requested he finish the cupcakes for her, grinning when he nodded that he would do so.

With a quick wink, Bella hustled out of the kitchen to attend to her patron.

Edward made a ready assessment of the kitchen; it was neat and tidy. The appliances showed some age, but were in good working order. A binder near him revealed a spreadsheet with orders and requests. Someone, more than likely Bella, had handwritten notes in the margins. On one corner, a chocolaty smudge in the shape of a thumbprint where someone turned the page with dirty hands caught his attention.

Halloween was going to prove to be a very busy day between filling school party cupcake orders, cookies for various workplaces, and even a spider-shaped cake for the police department. That did not take into account any walk-in business The Three Bs might have, as well.

The Three Bs was a labor of love, and it was obvious Bella had taken time to make sure her baby was well cared for.

"Edward? Could you help me out here, please?"

"Sure thing. Whatcha need?"

"Mrs. Cope needs assistance carrying her order to her car."

Bella motioned toward the stack of bakery boxes, ignoring the gasp from her client. She already knew her new assistant was handsome, but if Shelly's reaction was going to be typical, she might have to banish him to the back, which would be a shame, because then she would not get to enjoy the eye-candy that was Edward Cullen.

Edward nodded at the older woman, her curly, naturally gray hair combed out to resemble Frankenstein's bride. A few minutes later, he returned, six dozen cupcakes lighter and what would have been a bruised tush had he been human.

"Mrs. Cope needs to work on her personal space issues," Edward grumbled, as he reentered the shop, earning a laugh.

"Do you know how to work a cash register? I need to put a few finishing touches on Tarren Tella."

"Tarren Tella?"

"It's a tarantula cake I'm making for my dad's work. We come up with silly names for them each year."

"Gotcha. I think I can handle it."

"Knew you could." She grinned, spinning on her heel and heading back to the kitchen.

Edward realized he was staring after her and shook his head. What was it about this woman that called to him so?

The rest of the day saw a steady stream of customers, some clad in gaudy, silly costumes, others simply looking for a tasty pick-me-up to get through the afternoon. Bella's customer service was spotless. Every time someone entered The Three Bs, she gave them her full attention, stopping and chatting about inconsequential things. Each patron felt as if they were welcome and a part of a family rather than a mere business transaction. Edward was especially impressed she attempted to include him in as many interactions as possible, introducing him and even fending off a particularly handsy high schooler with an overactive imagination.

As time went by, however, Edward became more and more confused. Bella did not need his assistance, other than helping fill orders and wait on customers. The shop did a booming business, and a quick look into the financial side showed it was in the black.

So why did Alice say the store would not be there by Thanksgiving if he did not help Bella?

"Twick or tweet, Mister!"

Edward looked down to see a little girl in a Moana costume complete with stuffed Pua under one arm and an extended plastic pumpkin basket in the other hand, patiently waiting for a treat.

"Claire? Claire? Where—"

A tall, Native American gentleman dashed through the front door, rapidly pulling up to a stop when he saw Edward standing by his daughter. His eyes narrowed as he took in the sight.

"What are you doing here, blood sucker?" he barely muttered, putting one hand on the child's shoulder, pulling her toward him.

Edward's eyes widened as he realized his identity had been discovered, but he quickly recovered as he read the rapid-fire thoughts that went through the man's mind. He pointed to his own eyes.

"Vegetarian," he murmured quietly.

Haven't seen one since…

"Claire, Miss Bella is in the back. I'm sure she'd love to see your costume."

The two watched as the girl skipped out of sight. Edward heard Bella's squeal of delight as she began to fuss over young Claire's Moana costume.

"I'll ask again, what are you doing here?"

"Bella hired me as an assistant."

"And?"

"That's it, Jacob Black."

The man's eyes narrowed even farther as he stared at Edward, curious as to how the newcomer knew his name. Edward pointed to his temple with a wry smile.

"Oh. So, you're that one. The mind reader."

"Your ancestor knew my father. I hold to the treaty."

"You better."

"I would rather die than harm Bella."

Jacob knew that look; the one Edward had etched into his face. He had seen it in many members of his own tribe. Hell, he had seen it in his own face every morning when he looked in the mirror.

"Good," he replied with a curt nod of the head. "We would hate for more harm to come to Bella. She's been through enough."

Edward was just about to ask what Jacob meant when Claire skipped out of the kitchen and grabbed her father's hand.

"Daddy, let's go! The sun's about to set, and we can go twick or tweeting."

"Did you say good-bye to Bella?"

Edward didn't miss the sadness that flitted across the young girl's face.

"I said 'see you next time' like you taught me to!"

"Good girl."

Jacob turned back toward Edward; his thoughts filled with vague threats should harm come to anyone in the area, but a small tinge of hope colored his ramblings, confusing Edward as he watched the two exit the store.

"Would you lock up and flick off the sign?" Bella called from the kitchen.

"Be happy to!"

Edward completed the tasks and entered the back to find Bella spraying down the worktable. She grabbed a cloth and efficiently wiped the surface down with long strokes from one side to the other. Due to the width of the table, she almost had to stand on tiptoe to reach the far end in order to avoid lying down on the top.

The idea of bending her over the table just so, for other purposes, flitted through Edward's mind, and he caught the low rumble in his throat before it vocalized.

"Anything you need done out front?" he asked, clearing his throat first.

"Usually, I vacuum, but tonight, I don't think it'll make a bit of difference."

She pointedly avoided looking at him as she crossed the kitchen to toss the used rag into a bin and pulled off another pair of latex gloves.

Her tone and demeanor seemed off to him, and Edward felt something was amiss. "Are you okay, Bella?" Edward inquired, concern laden in his soft voice.

"Just tired." She sighed and dropped her head. "Halloween always takes a lot out of me."

"Then I'm glad I was here to help."

He wondered if offering to draw her a bath or prepare her dinner would be out of line.

But, she still evaded Edward as she continued to walk around the kitchen, tidying, and the change in her open, friendly disposition of the rest of the day was a shock. Edward recalled their interactions, trying to discover if he had done something wrong or inadvertently upset her, but he came up empty.

"Here."

So lost in his own thoughts, he had not realized she had approached him. Bella stood directly in front of him, but several feet away, holding up a couple folded bills.

"I didn't have the paperwork ready to get you on payroll, so here's today's pay."

"Bella, I don't need…"

"Take it, Edward. Go have a nice supper, get a drink at the bar, or something. Have a good Halloween night."

Something in her voice was still off, and it bothered him that he could not figure out what had caused the drastic change.

"Is something wrong, Bella?"

She shook her head, still not meeting his eyes.

"Bella? Did I do something?"

He ducked his head, trying to get her to look at him, but she made a concerted effort to avoid him.

"Bella, please talk to me." The desire to help her consumed him, and he knew he would not relent until she told him what was amiss.

She laughed, a dark, harsh, bitter sound. Spinning on one heel, she turned to look up at him, her dark brown eyes filled with a mixture of anger and pain.

"We've talked all day, Edward. And it has been wonderful. Don't get me wrong. Today has been quite possibly the best day of my entire existence. You're smart. You're funny. You're exceptionally talented. And don't get me started on how attractive you are. But it's Halloween."

The way she said the holiday's name made it sound as if he should know something he did not.

"So, at midnight you turn into a pumpkin?" he asked in a light, teasing voice in an effort to get a smile.

"If only," she replied with a heavy sigh.

"Bella…"

He stopped when she held up a hand, her head once again tilted down. Silence filled the room for what felt like an eternity. Then she took a deep breath and slowly released it as if she had made a life-changing decision and needed to gear up enough courage to take the next step.

"I want to try something," she whispered, looking up at him finally. "Will you let me?"

"Anything."

Truly. He would give her anything she desired. It was as though his entire existence was merely to be there for her, to please her, to fulfil her every whim. Edward could not explain it, but there had been an immediate connection from the moment he laid eyes on her; something he'd never felt with any of his prior assignments.

Bella rose up on her tiptoes and kissed him lightly, lingering just long enough to gauge his reaction. Edward wrapped his arms around her waist and held her, deepening the kiss carefully, testing her reaction, giving her the opportunity to pull away should she so desire.

She didn't.

Instead, her arms encircled his neck, drawing him closer, her fingertips toying with the bits of hair that poked out from under his cap.

"Wow!" she breathed airily as she pulled back, watching for his reaction.

He grinned back, sharing the same sentiment, leaning his head forward so their foreheads touched.

Bella suddenly realized her feet were no longer touching the floor as he held her. She felt safe rather than trapped, and sighed contently.

"I live upstairs," she murmured.

"Do you, now?"

"Would you…?"

"I would like that very, very much." He peppered her jaw and throat with slow, lingering kisses between each word as his voice grew deeper with desire.

When her feet touched the floor, she took his hand, and with a shy smile, guided him up the back stairs to her apartment.

It was a homey space, open and airy, with exposed brick and oak beams. Edward noticed Bella had created distinct rooms without the benefit of walls. Near one wide window, a comfy chair surrounded by books begged for a rainy day and a nice pot of tea. The dim light from a single lamp next to a queen-sized bed provided the only illumination.

She burst into laughter, clamping her hands over her mouth to muffle the sound.

"What?" Edward asked, delighted by the sound, but baffled by it just the same.

"This." She plucked at her apron. "Quite the seductress."

"I don't know. I can imagine you wearing only that. And nothing else."

A delightful blush infused her cheeks, and quickly, she tugged at the strings, tossing the apron aside.

"Ummm…" she started.

"Changing your mind?"

It was well within her rights to do so. He was hers to send away. But for him, as a vampire, there were no doubts. He knew Alice had been right; Bella Swan was "the one," his mate. However, humans were more random, less certain. They flitted from relationship to relationship over which way toilet paper was hung.

"No. It's just." She took a deep breath. "I have scars. A lot of them. I'm not ready to talk about them, but…"

Edward took her hand and pulled her flush against his chest, wrapping his arms around her waist and lowering his lips to hers. "You're perfect."

"Okay," she whispered against his lips.

He smiled as she realized he wanted her. All of her. Whatever part she wanted to share right then, he would take.

"You lead," he murmured. "As far as you want to go. If you want me to go to my car, and leave you until morning, I will. If you want me to stay, I will."

A slow smile crept over her face.

"I have been waiting for you for a long, long time, Edward Cullen."

"I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, Bella Swan."

Taking a reinforcing breath, Bella crossed her arms in front of her and pulled off her long-sleeved tee shirt, revealing a simple nude, lace bra.

"Beautiful."

"Hardly," she scoffed. Her hands rubbed nervously over thick, swirling scars that ran up both arms.

"To me, you are."

He leaned down and silenced her arguments with another kiss, taking her in his arms once again, holding her securely. Edward chuckled as he felt her hands tug at his shirt and allowed her to pull it over his head.

"Impatient, are we?"

"I don't have all night," she muttered, reaching for his belt.

"Well, then, by all means…"

Together, in a fumbling of hands, interspersed with kisses and caresses, his shirt, her bra, his belt, her belt, shoes, and jeans tumbled to the floor. Just as his pants were about to go flying, Edward reached for them.

"Do I need…?"

"I can't have children," Bella blurted out, nearly tripping herself as she pulled off one sock, then the other.

"I'm clean and…"

"I know, Edward."

If he lived ten thousand years, he would never forget that moment, the time he took his mate for the first time.

She reached up and removed the hairband, shaking her ponytail free before taking his hand and guiding him to her bed. Edward lay next to her, running one hand up her thigh, over her hip, and to her waist, feeling more raised scars.

What had happened to her? he wondered.

Alice had not mentioned any accident or attack.

Would his venom heal her? he postulated.

Edward was so distracted, he did not notice Bella lean over and kiss him. She gently pushed him to lie on his back and climbed on top of him, placing loving kisses down his jaw and throat, nipping at his collarbone.

"Blegh, blegh, I'm a vampire," she teased, biting a little harder.

Oh, little girl, if you only knew.

Edward felt himself harden further at the bite.

"Someone liked that!" Bella grinned, wiggling her ass. "Should I bite harder?"

"Do I get to bite back?"

Even in the dim light, he saw her eyes dilate at his suggestion. He felt the hum rumble through her as she pondered the idea, leaning down for another kiss. His hands ran up and down her arms and back in reverence, as she threaded her fingers thought his hair, scratching his scalp.

Bella reached down and guided him to her entrance, rocking back and forth, relishing the feeling as he stretched her. A groan of pleasure escaped as she leaned back once he was fully seated.

"Fuck," she murmured, as his hands gripped her hips.

Edward had never seen anything as rapturous as the woman above him. Bella's eyes were closed, her lips parted, her hair wild around her shoulders, curling just above high and tight nipples that begged for his mouth. Sliding one arm around her waist, Edward sat up just enough to answer that plea. She gasped in shock as his tongue laved across one point then the other.

Reaching behind him, Bella took hold of the headboard, using it as support as she rocked against him.

"More," she begged.

"More?"

"I won't break. More, Edward. Please."

Reaching down between them, he teasingly rubbed that sweet spot, smiling to himself as he felt her tighten around him. The mattress springs groaned in protest as he thrust deeper and harder into her, kissing her throat, jaw, and finally capturing her mouth, swallowing her cries as she shattered around him.

Bella collapsed against Edward, enjoying the feel of his fingertips lightly dancing up and down her spine.

"I am so out of shape," she mumbled sleepily. "You're not even breathing hard."

Edward chuckled as he tenderly maneuvered the two of them under the covers, wrapping her up snugly. He glanced at the clock: 11:45 p.m. Plenty of time to run to Chicago and back before sunrise. There was something he needed to retrieve.

"Bella?" he whispered, kissing her temple.

"Hmmm?"

"I need to get something from my home. I'll be back before you start work."

She nodded, her breathing already evening out.

"I love you."

Bella smiled at his soft words, not opening her eyes.

"I love you, too."

Edward swiftly dressed, casting one last glance at his beautiful Bella as she slept, then made sure the door locked behind him.

BBB

The ring was easy enough to find, and once secure in Edward's pocket, he ran back to Forks, pleased with his progress. He reached the city limits just as the first rays of sunlight peeked through the trees.

Slowing to a normal pace, he rounded the corner to The Three Bs location only to find an old, charred pile of rubble.

Had his heart still been beating, he was certain it would have sunk at the sight. What had happened? Where was Bella?

"Quite the shame, eh?"

Edward spun around to see a chubby, blond man motioning toward the storefront.

"What?"

"Fire Marshall said a leaking fuel line on a Beetle at Jake's repair shop caused the fire. Took out all three stores. Jake's, The Three Bs, and Newton's Hardware. Burned them to the ground."

"Last night?"

"What? No. Five years ago. I'm only now opening Newton's new location out on the 101. Insurance was a bitch."

"Five? But…" Edward shook his head and looked back to the devastation.

"Was a shame about Bella. She always went all out for Halloween. Decorations, costume parties. Why one year, she turned The Three Bs into a haunted house and donated all admissions to the soup kitchen down the road for Thanksgiving." He shook his head sadly. "Anyhow, they say she was found in her apartment, still in her costume. Think she was Poison Ivy—she had these vines wrapped all around her. Had fallen asleep in a chair by the window. Flames burned her right up."

"Burned?"

The man looked at Edward as if he had lost his mind, then cautiously took a step away. Had he not just explained what had happened?

"Some people say her spirit comes back on October 31st, and you can get her famous cupcakes and cookies. But only that day. What nonsense. Well, I need to get to the store. Mike Newton's the name. I just come by every year to pay my respects to Bella. We went to school together, you know."

Mike's fantasies of a sexual relationship with his Bella flooded Edward's mind, bringing the heartbroken vampire to the breaking point. It was obvious the human lived in his own made-up world, but Edward felt his control ebbing.

Edward waved off the man, taking a step back. Bella was dead. But he had just been with her the previous night. He had made love with her.

How?

"Are you okay? You look awfully pale, my friend."

Upon receiving no response, Mike shook his head and left, leaving the odd stranger to his thoughts.

Edward sat on the curb, his head in his hands as he tried to make sense of everything. He thought of Alice, and how she had said, "You won't regret it." She was all knowing, so he had to trust there was a purpose to his being there.

Someone carefully approached him, interrupting his thoughts.

"Go away, Mike," Edward grumbled. "I don't need to hear the story again."

That was the last thing he needed right now, dealing with that idiot and his creepy story and his delusional thoughts. Then, he gasped, realizing he could not hear any thoughts.

"Did you mean it?"

Edward jumped to his feet, spinning around to find Bella standing beside him. She was dressed in a fresh set of jeans and a long-sleeved tee, her arms folded across her chest as if she could protect her heart by covering it.

He had never seen a more beautiful sight.

"Bella!"

She took a step back, not allowing him to touch her.

"Did you mean it? What you said right before you left me?"

He silently reached into his pocket and pulled out his mother's wedding band.

Behind him, the rumbling of bricks and screech of steel broke the stillness of the early morning air. Edward turned to see The Three Bs rapidly returning to its pre-fire state.

"How?"

"In a world with werewolves…and vampires…what's to say there can't be a ghost?"

"But…" Edward waved one hand toward the rapidly reassembling The Three Bs.

Bella shrugged. "Halloween magic."

Edward felt his phone buzz, and he pulled it out to discover a message from Alice.

Feliz Día de los Muertos! Everyone deserves a happy beginning to their story together.

Edward and Bella could not have agreed more.

Thank you for reading my entry for the Tricks and Treats 3 (2017) contest. Three Bs, through the fantasmaglorious assistance and guidance of Midnight Cougar, won 1st place public vote, 1st place Judges' vote, Skeleton in the closet (biggest surprise ending), Spell-binding award (most original plot), Decorator award (best use of Halloween theme), and the Candy Land award (best romance). I still am flabbergasted.

For those that didn't catch it—Bella found her 'one' and can be with Edward forever, ghost and vampire together without her needing to be changed. Now that they are together, the Three Bs is rebuilt and can be open for customers every day, not just Halloween.

Thank you for reading!

DeJean