Disclaimer: I own nothing...

A lonely Edward moves back to his hometown to reconnect with his family after four long years away. He never expected a little ray of sunshine- and her mother- to change his life forever.

1

E

With the top down on my 1963 S-22, I enter the city limits of the tiny tourist town where I was born and raised. The familiar scents of home assault me, and my body relaxes significantly after the three-day drive.

The salt from the ocean a mere four streets over, chlorine from the pools every home on our block is unnecessarily equipped with, and the smell of oak trees that create a shaded canopy over the entire neighborhood are familiar and comforting.

I tried to visit every Christmas during college and then afterwards, failing miserably the past four years, but this is different. This trip will be my last coming home because now that I'm finished with school and have no obligations with the previous company I worked for, I have no intentions of leaving the only place that's ever felt like home.

The Comet's bearings squeak as I pull into the driveway of my parents' home, and I can't hold back the chuckle at the sight of the banner that hangs from the front porch.

'WELCOME HOME, EDWARD!' is hand painted on what looks like a giant bed sheet.

No doubt Alice's handiwork. She's been in art school for three of the four years I've been absent, and fuck, she's talented.

I grab my bag from the back seat and take the steps two by two before swinging open the door with a loud bang.

"Mom? Dad?" I drop my bag in the foyer and walk toward the kitchen. "Ali?"

I'm met with silence, and after a quick investigation upstairs and out back, I find that my welcoming party is absent.

I check my watch and am about to call someone when I catch a note on the old whiteboard above the kitchen phone.

'You are late, and Alice had to work, so come meet us at…'

I sigh and write the address on the palm of my hand before walking back out to my car, scowling at the welcome banner.

I'm surprised to see that my sister works at a restaurant along the beach but figure it must be for spending money while she finishes school. Parking along the street, I assure that nothing in the cab is worth stealing and walk up to the quaint establishment, realizing I was wrong.

Alice doesn't work for a restaurant. She owns it. Or at least half of it.

I chuckle at the hand-painted sign hanging from the roof that depicts a cartoon version of my sister hugging an unfamiliar brunette.

Seaside Solace

The familiar signature with a star instead of an A in the corner of the sign informs me what I already knew. Alice has gotten even more talented over the years.

Rather than smelling the overpowering odor of seafood that every restaurant along the beach seems to hold, I find myself entering a mom and pop type eatery.

There is a nautical theme going on inside. Murals of sea creatures and mermaids cover the walls, while the tables seem to be draped with casting nets, but the meals on the plates I pass by look like southern food salisbury steak, country fried chicken, heaps of mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese.

"Edward!" Mom calls from a table with a perfect view of the water.

She jumps up and pulls me into her arms.

"Hi, Ma," I whisper, letting her squeeze me.

"How was the drive?" she asks, pulling away and patting me like I'll disappear.

"Beautiful and very necessary."

She didn't understand why I decided to drive the Comet down instead of shipping it with the rest of my stuff, but I like to drive and needed the three-day journey to clear my head. Besides, that car is my baby, and I would worry sick about it being away from me for any amount of time.

I look out one of the large bay windows and make sure it's where I left it.

Mom pulls me into another hug before passing me off to my father.

He stands up from the table, moving a tad bit slower than I remember, and gives me a tired smile.

"Late night at the hospital?" I question, taking in the rumpled slacks and button-down he's wearing.

He nods. "Came straight here when I got off."

I could argue and tell him to go home and get some sleep, but I know it would be futile. My decision to take the full ride scholarship to a college out of state and then signing on with Masen Photography straight out of school was a very hard pill to swallow for everyone. My homecoming is a time for celebration.

"So where is my little sister?" I ask, looking around. "It seems she's been hiding certain facts about her life from me."

"Oh, she didn't want to gloat about the success of Seaside Solace." Mom beams. "She and Bella opened about a year ago, and in the beginning, it was a struggle, but they are finding their niche."

"Bella?" I question.

"Right here," a voice calls from behind me. "Sorry about the wait. Our server called out this morning, so Alice and I are tag teaming the floor and dish duty."

I turn in my seat and am caught off guard by how beautiful my sister's business partner is.

She blows a stray lock of hair out of her face and uses her pen to tuck it behind her ear. She's pale, which is sort of uncommon around here, but I can tell she's a frequent beach goer because of the natural blond highlights in her mahogany hair, as well as the freckles that dot her nose and bare shoulders.

"Bella, this is Alice's older brother, Edward." My mom laughs, knocking me with her shoulder. "Edward, this is Alice's business partner and best friend, Bella."

We shake hands.

"Nice to meet you, Edward," she says, giving me an award-winning smile. "I'd love to sit and chat, but I have to take care of my tables before your sister calls for aid in the back."

As if on cue, the door behind the counter swings open, and my sister exits, wiping her red face with a towel.

"Bella, we have to get the sink looked at. The hose just sprayed me in the face again," she complains.

Bella laughs and pulls her hand out of mine; I hadn't even realized that we were still linked.

"Why don't you call Jake and see if he can come look at it?" She looks around for a second, surveying the room. "Better yet, I'll ask Harry if he can take a peek. I'm sure I could bribe him with a few extra slices of pie."

Alice laughs and throws her arms around me, squeezing me impossibly tight. "Hello, big brother!"

A few patrons chuckle at her enthusiasm.

"You act like you didn't just see me a few days ago." I chuckle. "You've been holding out on me."

She pulls back and plants a loud kiss on my cheek. "Only because I wanted to surprise you—make you proud."

"I'm always proud of you, little sister." I pat her spiky black hair. "Why don't you give me a tour?"

She bounces from one foot to the other excitedly and bites her lip. "I don't know if I'll have time. We're shorthanded today."

I look around and find Bella trying to butter up an old man that sits at the end of the bar. He ruffles her hair and argues that an entire pie to go won't be necessary. They joke around, and she leads him into the kitchen with a laugh.

Alice snaps her fingers in front of my face. "Don't even think about it."

"Think about what?"

"Going after Bella, that's what." She rolls her eyes. "She owns sixty percent of SS, and she's my best friend, so that in turn means she's off limits, big brother. Capiche?"

I watch the kitchen door swing one final time, and Bella disappears from my view.

"Besides," Alice mumbles, "Bella doesn't date."

"I didn't say or do anything to insinuate that I had any plans of the sort, Ali. Chill."

"Mm-hmm," she mutters. "I'm going to check my tables. Order whatever you want. You guys are Bella's table, so she'll be with you once the problem with the sink is handled."

I sit down next to my mom and watch Alice flit around the dining room. She stops to talk with each customer, and I can tell my sister is very happy in this setting. She treats every customer like they're something special, and they smile at her like they feel the same.

"How do you feel about fried mac and cheese, Edward?" Mom asks as I sit next to her. "They have this sauce that goes with them that is to die for."

"Sounds good." I chuckle, picking up a thick menu and leafing through it.

Halfway through lunch, Seaside Solace is completely slammed with a wait list. Mom offers to help out, but Alice and Bella both insist they've got it. They tag team the rush, sneaking into the back to work on dishes and check in with the cooks in the kitchen, who holler out in deep southern voices when an order is ready to be picked up.

"Charlotte and Peter are a godsend, even if they act like slave drivers," a flushed Bella jokes as she fills my sweet tea before she's off again.

Both girls refuse to take payment for the meal, so Dad drops a twenty in each of their aprons, kisses them both on the cheek, and helps Mom put her cardigan on.

"Are you sure we shouldn't stay? Make sure they don't need any help?" I ask as I follow them to the door somewhat reluctantly.

"No, baby boy. They won't allow it. Besides, they close shop soon, so it will die down." Mom smiles. "Let's get you home."

I sigh and follow her out the door, happy to finally be home.

I'm finally back in the saddle!

Expect 0% drama

92% fluff

and 8% Sunshine

Special thanks go out to my prereaders Jdifrans1, myonlyheroin and WonkyGangsta

So many thanks to GeekChic12,