Thanks as always to MeteorOnAMoonlessNight for being the most fabulous beta I could ask for!
SassYNoleS for pre-reading, and Sara AKA Nikki Black for help with translations as the story goes on. ;)
"Oh, my God! Bella!" Angela jumped up when she saw me walking into the deli and wrapped me in a hug.
I squeezed her back, happy to see my best friend. "Ang! I missed you so much." I'd been back home in Seattle for a week after being away at school for the last four years. I hadn't made much attempt at coming home during those years. Now, wherever I looked, it seemed everything had changed, including the people. "It feels like it's been forever since I saw you."
"That's because it has been forever! I'm really glad you could meet me for lunch. I can't wait to hear about everything you've been up to all this time!"
I gasped as my eyes landed on her left hand. "What I've been up to? Angela! Are you engaged?" I grabbed her hand and pulled it toward me to inspect her ring.
Her eyes lit up as she grinned at me. "I was wondering if you'd notice. Ben asked me to marry him last week and, well, I said yes!" she squealed.
"Holy shit! That's—" My words were cut off as the bell above the door clanged loudly and he walked in; Edward Cullen. My breath caught in my throat and I felt my heart thumping in my chest as my gaze followed him up to the counter. Even though I hadn't seen him in years, he apparently still had some pull on my inner teenage girl. I hadn't really thoughtabout him in years, either, except for a few times in passing. He looked... well, he looked amazing, but his features were harder than I remembered. His arms were now covered in sleeves of tattoos, and any sort of innocence his face once held was gone.
"He got out of prison a few weeks before you came home," Angela whispered, knocking me from my thoughts.
"Prison?" I mouthed. He'd always had a reputation as a bad boy, but prison? I couldn't imagine what he'd gotten mixed up in to land him there.
"I'll tell you later." Angela sat up straight, her eyes darting to the counter. I glanced back where she was looking just as he finished picking up his order. His eyes met mine and a slow, almost predatory smile formed on his lips as he approached our table.
"Bella Swan." The way my name fell from his lips almost caused me to moan. After all these years, I shouldn't have been affected by him like this. Especially after finding out he'd been in prison for a reason I didn't yet know.
"Uh, yeah, Edward, hi." Heat rose in my cheeks as his gaze raked over my face and body, stopping at the small bit of cleavage my shirt revealed.
"You look good." He smirked before heading out the door.
"What the hell was that?" Angela shrieked before slapping a hand over her mouth.
"I have no fucking idea." I gave a nervous laugh, shifting in my seat. I wasn't one for gossip, but I had to know. "What did he go to prison for?"
"Armed robbery, drugs; there was a whole list of things."
"Armed robbery? Seriously?"
She nodded. "Yeah, apparently he got mixed up with The Kings."
"Shit." The Kings. Unlike with other gangs, there wasn't anything all the members had in common, other than the fact that none of them really fit in anywhere. That made them extremely fucking dangerous.
"I know you had the biggest crush on him, Bella, but you need to keep your distance."
"I love you Ang, but I know. I think I can handle myself. I have a cop for a Dad, remember? Enough about Edward Cullen, let's talk about that ring on your finger! Do you have a date in mind?"
And with that, all thoughts of Edward Cullen were forgotten. At least, for Angela, they were.
I sighed as I stood outside the apartment building I'd just moved into days before. It wasn't in the best neighborhood, but the rent was cheap. I refused to come home from school only to go back to living with my parents. Besides, it was close to the school where I'd taken a job teaching an evening class for adults. It was far from my dream job, but it was a foot in the door; something to put on my resume.
My thoughts shifted to Edward as I began to climb the three flights of stairs up to my apartment. I still couldn't wrap my mind around the fact he'd been in prison. While we were in high school, he'd always been defiant, hotheaded, and the first person to flip off a teacher or end up in a fight with a classmate. I knew all of those things added up to him leading the life he had, but I also knew there was more to him than that.
I remembered him as extremely bright; he'd made amazing grades even while skipping class and not even really trying. He could have done anything he wanted with his life if he'd put his mind to it. Instead, he'd decided to waste it all.
Then there were his looks. He'd always been tall and lanky, even in high school, but after seeing him earlier, I noticed he'd bulked up. It was obvious by the way his shirt stretched across his biceps. His hair was still a deep brown that was in constant disarray, as if he had just rolled out of bed. His eyes were bright green, but no longer held the same innocent mischief. Now they almost seemed empty, like everything had been drawn out of him. His jaw looked sharp enough to cut glass. His skin had an olive hue, due to the fact his mother was Colombian while his father had been pure Irish. He was, and it seemed he always would be, ridiculously fucking hot.
I gasped as I suddenly slammed into something hard, losing my footing and almost falling down the stairs. Luckily for me, two arms shot out and wrapped around my waist, steadying me.
"Dammit, you need to watch where the fuck you're going, Bella Swan."
I'd know that voice anywhere. My gaze darted up to his face, lingering for a moment to take in the sharpness of his jaw and the tattoos that scrawled up the sides of his neck. Once again, I felt the heat of a blush rise in my cheeks. "I'm sorry—"
"What the hell are you doing here, anyway?" He narrowed his eyes at me. "Do you live here?"
"Uh, yeah. I moved in on Monday."
He shook his head. "A pretty little thing like you in a building with an ex-con who used to run with a gang? What were Mommy and Daddy thinking, letting you live here?"
My eyes widened at his statement and my mouth dropped open.
His fingers grazed the bottom of my chin, closing my mouth for me. His touch burned me. "Look, I know your little friend told you all about why I've been in prison. Let's cut the bullshit so you don't have to act like you're not afraid of me."
Little did he know that I wasn't afraid of him, even though I probably should have been. "Edward Cullen." I rolled my eyes, feeling brave in the moment. "I wasn't afraid of your punk-ass in high school, and I'm sure as hell not afraid of you now. Maybe I would have been if you hadn't gotten caught, but, well… we both know how that ended."
He barked out a surprised laughed. "You used to be so quiet. Looks like Chicago toughened up that pretty mouth, huh?"
With that, he ran down the stairs and my obsession with Edward Cullen was fully reignited.