A/N Hello! Long time no see, I know! I have no excuse, other than laziness, reading, and not touching my laptop for a few months. Bad, I know. But I needed the break I guess. Anyway, I'm back, and there are tons of ideas in my head, so hopefully I'll write them. I've missed you guys!
What finally got me going was the fact that Babies at the Border is doing another compilation. I was going to post this a while ago, to be honest, but when I heard they were doing another, I wanted to wait and see if I was going to be able to write for it. And finally I was. Yeah, I'm submitting a Getting Blitzed outtake that will take place approximately a year or so after we last saw them, when Dani was getting ready to go on her first date with Tanner and Cockyback was dealing with the fact that his little girl wasn't so little anymore. It's an update on that relationship, the lives of all of our sweet Cullen clan, and of course, Rainbow! There's DPOV and EPOV and I think it's fun. Hopefully you will, as well.
And if you want it earlier rather than waiting on me to not be lazy and post, you can contribute to charity, get an awesome compliation and tons of stories to read. Win all around. Go to batbcomp dot blogspot dot com to find out all the details!
Now, on to my first contribution. I hope you have as much fun with it as I did. I had every intention of writing more, and I still may, but I don't know if these two are talking to me right now or if they're going to be crowded out by other voices (I sound like a crazy person...fitting). Keep it/me on alert and hopefully I'll have something for you soon. Love you guys!
"Do you know what day it is?"
I didn't even bother to look up from my computer. Of course I knew what day it was. It would have been impossible not to know, what with the freaking countdown the girls had posted on a whiteboard on the wall across from me. Even without it, I knew. I'd lived in Forks all my life. Every year at the same time, the town came to life when the Forks Knights arrived.
Summer League was the biggest thing around here every year. Seriously, we had nothing else. We were a tiny town that subsisted on summer ball, logging, and Newton's Sporting Goods, which of course loved baseball season as well.
"Come on, Bella! It's Christmas in April! But the presents are pretty men with gorgeous bodies and hot buns in tight baseball pants! It's Christmas and Thanksgiving and Halloween all in one!"
I finally looked up from my computer and met the eyes of my best friend and fellow teacher, Alice Brandon. "It's more like VDay."
"Well yeah, we hope it leads to love!" She bounced in excitement.
I smirked at that one. I'd believed in that once upon a time. What a moron I'd been. "I misspoke. I meant to say VD Day."
Alice rolled her light-blue eyes and shook her head. 'That only happened to Jess, and I really think it was Mike Newton who gave her-"
I cut her off with my hands over my ears. "I do not want to know! Abort, abort!"
"Oh, you heard that as well? I also think it was Mike…" She broke off at my aggrieved sigh. "Fine. You're such a grump. Come on. Let's head to Bucky's and see about improving your mood."
And Bucky's was the last place I wanted to go. "Alcohol isn't going to help."
"Who said anything about alcohol? The best way to get over Riley Biers is to get under someone younger, hotter, and even more talented."
Christ. "The odds of the Knights getting a player who's even better than Riley was are astronomical. And I don't want to talk about him."
It hurt to admit that Riley was good. Amazing, even. It hadn't been a surprise when he'd received a September call-up by the Red Sox. It hadn't been a surprise when he'd hit .315, with 9 home runs and 38 RBIs to help lead the team into the playoffs either. No, the surprise had been when he'd told me, his girlfriend of a year and a half, that it'd been fun, but he had bigger, better things awaiting in Boston.
It wasn't like I hadn't known when we met. The baseball boys were temporary. They'd come and go before you could bat an eye. Most flamed out and went back to their hometowns. The lucky few made the major leagues and left Forks in the dust. I hadn't had any illusions when I met Riley two years ago. He hadn't made the majors that first year, but instead of returning home, he'd stayed with me, leaving only for spring training. We'd had what I thought was a loving, committed relationship heading into the next summer season. And we'd been fine up until he got that call. Then it was "It's been real, see ya…" as he headed out the door.
Alice sat on my desk. "Look, Bella, I know he broke your heart. He's an ass. And I wish for him to get a raging case of herpes, strike out every at bat, and develop warts and pits all over his face every day."
A giggle escaped before I could help myself. Picturing Riley covered in warts and pox did wonders for my soul. "Pus-oozing warts."
"So gross! And so be it! As I will, it will be done!" She waved her arms as if granting a magic wish. "Now, let's go to Bucky's."
Her sweet face softened, and she grabbed my hand. "Bella, seriously. It's been seven months. I'm not saying you have to go home with anybody. I mean, it would be awesome-" she broke off when I swatted her hand away"-but really, just hang out with us for a little bit. Laugh at Jess's and Lauren's blatant displays of their tits. Enjoy watching Rose crush dreams. Help me find my dream man!"
I had to admit, we'd had some good times at Bucky's. All the players flocked there because it was the best of the only two bars in town, and it was where all the single girls went to meet them. And nobody was more ridiculous or obvious than Jess and Lauren. Nobody was less available than Rosalie McCarty either. She'd met and married her man straight out of high school. Emmett was her co-owner in the town's only auto shop. Needless to say, they did booming business.
"If I go…" Alice cheered ,and I held up my hand. "I said if." I waited as she nodded. "I will have one, count it, one drink. I will not speak to anyone out of our core group or people from town, and you will not give me crap for it."
She started to open her mouth, but I hurried on. "I will leave, likely within the hour, and you also won't argue, cajole, whine, or cry about it. Those are my terms. Take them, or I'll just go straight home now."
Alice sighed but nodded. "You drive a hard bargain, Swan."
"Don't you forget it, Brandon. Now let's go find your summer stud." Or studs. That was more accurate.
Bucky's was exactly as I suspected it would be. With the season starting in two days, the vast majority of the players were in town, and they were looking to score before they even took a turn at bat. Jessica and Lauren had found a table right in the center of the bar, with a view of everything. And they already had several admirers around them.
Alice, knowing me all too well, grabbed my arm and steered me to their table. She also simply raised an eyebrow at the first guy she made eye contact with at the table and had him rising so that she could sit down, without having uttered a word. She shot the same look at the guy next to her, and he moved so that I could sit. I had to admit she was impressive.
"Ali! Bella! Meet Tyler, Eric, James, and Alec! Pitcher, pitcher, catcher, and shortstop. Boys, these are our friends, Bella and Alice." Jessica gestured toward us wildly, clearly already wasted.
We all nodded, and the one with the darkest hair, Tyler, asked if we'd like a drink. I went for beer, while Alice asked for a martini.
"Another Long Island for me, sweetie," Lauren cooed, grabbing his ass. Holy shit, she was gone, too.
"Me, too!" Jessica chirped.
"Are you sure you need that?" I demanded as he wandered off to get the drinks. "How much have you had already? It's not even five o'clock!"
"Bitch, please. How do you think we got this table? We've been here since ten. We took the day off." Lauren tossed back her long blonde hair, staring at me incredulously.
Alice laughed. "I told you. It's like their Super Bowl."
"So many hot guys, so little time." Jessica giggled, sending a flirtatious wink at Eric. I noticed her blouse was unbuttoned right down to the cleavage. Christ. Had I been that obvious when I met Riley? I didn't think so.
"You have plenty of time. Pace yourself," I told her.
"Hey, I want my Riley Biers," she said, causing me to wince as every male eye turned my way.
"You were with Riley?" Alec, the one sitting on my left, leaned close to me. He was cute, I guessed, with light-brown hair and eyes, but he didn't do anything for me. And I didn't like the way he'd lit up at the mention of my ex.
I shrugged, hoping that would be the end of it, as Tyler handed out our drinks.
"She was with him until he got called up," Jess told them. "He dumped her once he got to the pros. Would you do that to me, Eric?" she simpered.
"Of course not, baby." He slid an arm around her and pulled her closer to him. "I'd be lucky to have you as my girl."
I bit back the snort that wanted to escape at his words. Jess would be his girl for a week, tops. I'd bet money on that. Neither of them were going to settle for long.
"Riley was a fool," Alec said, putting his hand on the back of my chair. Oh, hell no. "Maybe you could be my good-luck charm since he was dumb enough to let you go."
I grabbed my beer and chugged it down. Promise to Alice officially fulfilled. "Yep, banging me is the key to getting to the majors. You'll have to compete with the rest of your team to get me, though, as I'm in high demand. It's an extensive application process. Leave your resume and a photo with my friends here, and I'll let you know if you've been selected for the next round."
"Damn!" Jess hooted.
"Go Bella!" Lauren yelled. "I'll go through the applications for you!"
Ugh. Ali just looked sad at my words, but I couldn't help it. I pushed back my chair and nodded at her. "It's been…well, exactly like I thought it would be. Don't do anything stupid, and call me if you need a ride later."
Alec grabbed my hand as I started to walk away. "Wait, where are you going?"
"Anywhere but here. I'm not going to be your summer girl. I don't do baseball players anymore. Lesson learned the hard way. Find someone else." I tugged my hand from his grip and walked out into the cool air, breathing easily for the first time since we'd set foot in the bar.
It was kind of sad that I was ready to go home at five on a Friday night. I debated what I wanted to do for the evening and decided I'd stop by the library and get something new to read. Alice and the girls would be stalking players all weekend, so I'd be on my own, which was honestly the way I preferred it these days.
I walked the three blocks to the library, smiling when I saw the old brick building. It'd been my home away from home since I was a kid, and I still loved it. Mrs. Cope was still manning the desk, twenty years later, and she smiled at me when I came in.
"We just got the new Jackson novel in!" She knew of my penchant for mystery novels and gestured to the section of the library that catered to new releases.
I headed that way, thrilled to know just how my weekend was going to be spent. Deep in a murder mystery. I adored looking for clues and trying to solve the mystery before the hero did.
Our library was set up a lot like a bookstore, since the nearest bookstore was an hour away. New releases were all bunched together so we wouldn't have to search for the most recent books. I didn't see it on the top shelf, so I kept looking, but no, it wasn't there. Maybe Mrs. Cope was wrong and she hadn't shelved it yet.
I started to turn to head back to the desk when I saw someone hunched over at one of the tables in the corner. His back was to me, so I couldn't see who it was or what he was reading, but the book in his hands did look pretty new. I edged that way, hoping to get a glimpse before I asked Mrs. Cope where it was.
I moved along, pretending to be looking at the shelves nearest me, not wanting to be caught staring at the stranger's hand, when he glanced my way and I froze in place. Holy crap but he was beautiful. Piercing green eyes, reddish-brown hair that was cut close on the sides but a little longer on top, an angular, defined jaw, and plump lips that curved into a smile as he caught me ogling him.
"Hello," he said, and his voice was soft and musical and sexy. Who was this guy? Where did he come from?
"I was just checking you out," I hurriedly told him, gasping when I heard my own words. Please tell me I did not just say what I think I said.
He barked out a laugh. "I noticed."
Oh God. Kill me now. I blamed the beer I'd chugged at Bucky's. I was out of drinking practice and therefore I was impaired and my mouth was speaking without thinking.
"I meant, I was checking to see what you were reading." My cheeks were burning, but man, he was beautiful. Even better-looking than Riley had been. I couldn't help being tongue-tied.
He flipped the book, and I saw that it was indeed the book I'd been looking for.
"You've got my book."
He smirked at that. "Really? I wasn't aware that Jason Jackson was a woman. Clever alias."
Jeez. "I mean, the book I was coming to check out."
"Hmm, well, I'm afraid that I'm planning on checking it out myself. I'm already three chapters in, and I'm hooked."
Damn it. My weekend plans were going up in smoke because this hot stranger was going to take my book away. And yes, I knew I could just buy it on my Kindle, but it wasn't the same as holding it in my hands. And I didn't want to wait two days for Amazon to deliver me a copy either. I wanted it now.
"Don't you have a Kindle?" I demanded.
"Don't you?" he returned, which yeah, I couldn't deny.
"Do you even have a library card? Are you from here?"
He tilted his head, those pretty green eyes sparkling at me. "Is that a requirement for getting one? Permanent residency? Do I need to give my passport? Sign my soul away in blood?"
Well, crap, hot stranger was not cooperating with me. "I could check it out for you. Then the blood won't be necessary. You look like you might faint at the first sight of it."
He laughed hard at my comment. "If you only knew."
He shifted, and I noticed his green jacket, his long, jean-clad legs, that ended in combat boots. Coupled with the hair… "Were you in the Army?" I asked.
He nodded, running his free non-book-holding hand through his hair. "Yeah. I'm still getting used to having actual hair."
I laughed and sat down at his table. "I bet. Sorry if I was a little forward about the book."
He smiled. "Not a problem. I love a girl who loves to read."
My cheeks heated again. "Well, it's nice to meet a guy who does as well. Not that we've met, exactly. I mean…"
He held out his hand. "I'm Edward."
I shook it, noticing how his hand engulfed mine. It felt kind of nice. And that was a stupid thought. Dude had my book, and that's the only interest I had in him.
"Nice to meet you."
"You, too. What brings you to Forks?"
He flashed a crooked smile that made my heart beat a little faster. This guy was seriously gorgeous. Alice would die if she saw him. Jess and Lauren would probably spontaneously combust.
"What brings anyone to Forks this time of year?" he asked.
I glanced down at the table and noticed a notebook in front of him, along with a pen and a few books on baseball.
"Are you a writer?" I asked, not able to keep a little of the awe out of my voice. I couldn't help it, though. I admired writers. I loved to read and occasionally imagined what it would be like to write, but I'd never been able to put more than a few words down. Writing wasn't for me. Reading was.
Edward smiled. "I dabble."
Damn. That made him hotter. "So baseball and murder mysteries. Are you going to write about a dead baseball player?" I had one in mind that he could kill, in print that was.
He laughed. "That sounds like something I'd read. Why would someone want to kill a baseball player?"
"Many reasons," I muttered, making Edward laugh harder.
I shrugged, not wanting to rehash the Riley situation again. "Someone who wants his position on the team could take him out."
Edward smiled and damn, it was potent. "I like that. Ambition is always a good motive for murder."
I nodded. "Or he could have stolen someone's wife."
"Love and passion are always good," Edward agreed.
"You should be taking notes. These are good ideas. A black widow. A jilted lover. A rival from another team who was tired of being second best."
Edward laughed again, and a shiver went through me. He had a great laugh. "I'm afraid to take my eyes off you."
My jaw dropped open, and I swear he blushed. "I meant, you're entirely too full of ideas for murder. I'm afraid to look away and have you shank me."
I decided to ignore the pang of disappointment I felt at his words and focus on what, for me, was a compliment. "I left all my shanks in my other dress."
Edward laughed again. "That makes it my lucky day."
"Well, you are taking my book, so you never know… I may hunt you down and take you out to get it back."
"Murdering for reading material? I don't know if I've ever run across that motive."
I laughed. "Misery sort of had that motive, but that's the only one I can think of."
Edward grinned. "You are a reader. I like it."
"Me, too." My stomach grumbled, and I sighed. "You're saved by the stomach, it seems." I pushed back from the table. It was time to get away from Edward. He was entirely too easy to talk to, along with being easy on the eyes. And since I was off guys for the foreseeable future, it was best to avoid temptation.
Edward stood up as well. "Speaking of stomachs, where is there to eat around here?"
"Endless options. There's Bucky's, the local bar, currently loaded with horny baseball players and small-town girls with big dreams of rich husbands and big cocks."
He gaped at me. "Uhhh…"
Shit. What was with me today? "Sorry. I had a beer there before I escaped to come here. I seem to have killed a few too many brain cells." I shook my head. "There's the diner, over on Azeele Street, which has good burgers and sandwiches. The Lodge for your finer dining, and that's about it. There's a McDonald's and BK as well if that's your thing."
Judging by the face Edward made, it wasn't.
"And the grocery store is just down the street. They make good salads, subs, and chicken tenders."
"Thanks." Edward packed up his notebook and then picked up the baseball books and my murder mystery. "I guess I'd better go sign my life away to get that library card."
I laughed. "I can put in a good word for you with Mrs. Cope. She'll waive the blood fee."
He grinned. "You're too kind."
"The least I can do for a guy with great taste in books." I pointed a finger at him. "But you damn well better return it quickly and in pristine condition. I'm getting it next, and if there are any bent pages, any dirty food stains, I'll get my best shank."
Edward held up his hands in surrender. "I would never defile a book, especially one that was going to a murder mystery connoisseur such as yourself. You could off me and nobody would ever suspect you."
I waggled my eyebrows at him. "Remember that. Happy reading, Edward."
I broke away from him, heading out with a wave for Mrs. Cope, who would know soon enough why I wasn't checking anything out. I'd get some dinner and watch something mindless before bed. I hit the diner, waved at Sam behind the counter, and gave Angela my standard order of a cheeseburger and fries.
I let my mind wander back to Edward. I'd had a surprisingly good time talking to him. Maybe Alice was right and it was time to think about dating again. Not that there were many non-baseball prospects around here right now, but maybe I'd run into him again and we'd see.
As if I'd conjured him with my thoughts, Edward walked in the door. He glanced around and grinned when he saw me. "I'd say great minds think alike, but having heard how you think, I'd be a little worried about myself."
I smirked at him. "You should be so lucky." Well, why not? I'd just thought about the potential of dating him, hadn't I? "Do you want to join me?"
He set his bag down in the booth and reached over, grabbing my utensils.
Edward unwrapped the napkin and took my knife out before handing it back to me. "Better safe than sorry."
I had to laugh. "You're ridiculous."
"Am I? You're the one with all the murder plans."
I rolled my eyes. "Hello, we have witnesses. I couldn't just stab you in front of everyone. If I were to kill you in public, I would use a poison."
He narrowed his eyes at me. "Good thing I haven't ordered yet, then."
Edward was sort of crazy, but he was fun. "Yep, you're safe." I couldn't let him get too comfortable though. "For now."
Angela came over, and Edward ordered the same as I had, with the addition of a chocolate milkshake.
"So did Mrs. Cope give you any trouble?"
Edward shook his head. "No. I only had to sign away my firstborn child, but I figured that was preferable to blood any day."
"For sure. You won't even have time to get attached to the kid, so no biggie." I assumed he had no kids, anyway.
Edward reached into his bag and brought out the book. It was hard not to reach out and snatch it from him. I shifted in my seat and sat on my hands so I wouldn't do it.
Wide green eyes stared at me. "Are you sitting on your hands so you don't take the book away from me?" he asked, sounding incredulous.
"I mean, I had my heart set on reading it this weekend. It was going to be the perfect escape from…"
"The horny baseball players and desperate small-town girls?" he asked with a very cheeky smile.
Damn it. "Must you remember everything I say?"
"It seems I must," he responded. "The things you say fascinate me."
He found me fascinating. I found that exciting. In too many ways. "Well, I'm glad to hear that."
"I'm pretty glad about it myself," he responded.
Our food came, and we tabled our banter while we ate. I noticed that Edward had a really long, squishy-looking fry, which happened to be my favorite, so I reached over and exchanged it for an overdone one of mine.
"What do you think you're doing?" he asked as I popped the fry into my mouth.
"I wanted that fry. It had the perfect ratio of squish."
Edward laughed so hard I was afraid he was going to choke and I was going to have to whack him on his back. Which would be okay, but I didn't want to have to attempt the Heimlich. I would more than likely crack some of his ribs, and he'd press charges, deciding that I had indeed tried to kill him.
Luckily, he controlled himself, and then he reached over and grabbed my water, taking a long drink. I'd have protested, but watching his neck work as he swallowed distracted me.
"What in the world is a perfect ratio of squish?" he asked once he'd drunk half of my glass of water.
"You know, it's not so squishy that it falls apart when you lift it, but if you press on it, it pushes inward but doesn't break."
Edward shook his head. "You're weird."
"I'm usually not, but for some reason I'm feeling very weird tonight. I blame the beer."
"And the baseball players."
Edward studied me. "Bad experience?"
"You could say that."
"Multiple bad experiences?"
What, did he think I was a baseball Annie? "No, just the one." Enough about me. "What about you?"
His grin flashed. He was so pretty. "I've never dated a baseball player."
"Ha, very funny."
Edward shrugged. "I had a girlfriend when I joined up, but it didn't survive the distance. Dating wasn't really a priority over there. Surviving was. Now I'm here."
Right. I got that. And I should say something. "Thank you for your service."
He smiled. "Thank you for saying that."
We made some innocuous conversation as we finished our dinner. Edward insisted on paying for my dinner, and I didn't feel the need to argue the point. Maybe I could treat him next time.
Dusk had fallen while we ate, and I smiled at the sunset. "Beautiful, huh?"
I glanced over and saw Edward looking at me instead of the sky. My cheeks heated, but I kept his gaze. "I'm glad you think so." Silence filled the air after that statement, so of course I sought to fill it. "Where are you staying?"
I nodded, unsurprised. They were short-term rental apartments that filled up during baseball season. If Edward was here to write about baseball, that was the place to be.
"You know how to get there from here?"
Edward nodded. "Yeah, I'm pretty good with directions."
Somehow I had no doubt of that. "Good."
What to do now? Did I kiss him? We weren't on a date really, so I wasn't sure what the protocol was.
"It was nice meeting you," I said lamely, because it was least something to say.
"It was nice meeting you, Bella."
I loved the way he said my name, kind of like a caress.
"Well, have a good night."
Right. That was a dismissal then. I turned to start heading home when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"I was thinking…"
I turned and grinned at him. "Don't strain yourself."
He flashed that killer smile and tugged on my hair. "You really want to read the book, right?"
That wasn't what I'd expected to hear, but I nodded because it was true.
"Well, I was thinking if you weren't doing anything else this weekend, maybe we could read it together."
That was weird. "Like pass it back and forth?"
Edward laughed. "No, like I read a chapter out loud, then you do, then me. We can talk and try to figure out whodunit together."
I really kind of loved that. "Yes!"
He chuckled. "So, where should we go?"
"My place," I said immediately, because baseball players, no thanks.
He laughed. "Right. Tomorrow?"
"Why not tonight?" It had been my plan after all.
"Why not indeed? Lead the way," he said.
Somehow, my plan on reading by myself all weekend had expanded to include one very handsome man. Finally a win for me. Maybe this baseball season wouldn't suck after all.
"Oh my God, he cannot be the murderer!" I smacked Edward on the shoulder as he again, for the umpteenth time, declared that the latest character introduced was the killer.
"Why not? He was on the scene!" How he said it with a straight face was beyond me.
"Edward, he's a dog. Dogs do not shoot people."
"How do you know? Have you ever seen one with a gun? He's a German Shepherd, Bella. They're smart as hell."
I stared at him from over the top of the book. It was my chapter to read, but Edward kept interrupting with his ridiculous theories. "Do I have to read this alone?"
He shook his head. "Did you forget that it's my book? If I go, so goes the book." He leaned back, his feet kicked up on my coffee table, looking quite at home in my living room.
Damn. He had me there. "You may have checked it out, but it's in my hot little hands. Think you could take me?"
Edward's eyes raked up and down my body and I felt myself heating up again. My reaction to him was insane.
"You're what, 5'5"? I've got got like eight inches on you. And you weigh…" He broke off and grinned. "Well, I know better than to guess a woman's weight. But I know it's not much, comparatively."
"Just because you're oversize doesn't mean you could take me. I'm spry."
"I'm sure you are."
And before I could blink, Edward had me pinned to my couch, his face just an inch away from mine. My brown eyes stared into his gorgeous green, and I held my breath as he pushed my hair out of my face, his calloused fingertips brushing along my left cheek lightly.
He chuckled so I blinked, breaking from his stare, and noticed the book was in his hand without my even being aware he'd taken it.
"Jeez, we're you Special Ops or something?" I demanded, trying not to be too disappointed when Edward released me and scooted back to his end of my couch.
The mirth died out of his face, and I immediately regretted my words. "I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it. It's just something I'm trying to put behind me."
Right. Duh, Bella, why not ask him if he's killed anyone? His eyes glazed over, and I feared I'd sent him someplace truly awful. Time to bring it back to something good.
"How long have you been writing?"
He shook his head, as if to bring himself out of his memories. "Since I can remember, really."
I loved that. "So, what are you writing? A book about baseball?"
Edward laughed. "Nothing so taxing, I'm afraid. I'm writing a series of articles about what it's like in AAA, the drive to make it to the majors, the ups and downs, that sort of thing."
That was really cool. "So, are you focusing on one player or all of them?"
He shrugged. "Probably a mix. We'll see. Depends on who achieves the dream, I guess."
That made sense. "What paper is it for?"
He looked almost shy as he peeked at me through his long lashes. "Sports Illustrated."
Whoa. "Holy shit, Edward. That's amazing! Talk about the big leagues!"
He laughed. "Well, I'm honored that they thought it would make a good story. Hopefully it actually will."
"It will." I plucked at my soft blue throw that was draped over the back of the couch. "I can say I knew you when you were just starting out."
He tilted his head and studied me again. The man had a way of looking right through me, it seemed. "What makes you so sure we wouldn't still be talking if I did hit the big time?"
Ha! "Because that's the way it goes, Edward."
"Who was he?" he asked, leaning forward, still staring intently.
"Are you asking because you want to know me or because of your article?" I asked, immediately regretting it when he sat back and glared at me. "Sorry."
"It's cool. I'll go. You can keep the book." He set it on the couch between us.
Damn it. Me and my big mouth. I grabbed Edward's arm as he started to stand and held until he sat back down.
"I said I was sorry. It's a sore subject is all. I was stupid enough to believe that his feelings for me were going to last longer than the summer, especially after he stayed when he didn't land on a team two years ago. But last year came and so did the call, and he went but left me behind."
Edward picked my hand off his arm and squeezed it. "I understand sore subjects, as you well know. Sorry I asked. He sounds like a real jerk."
I sighed and squeezed back. "He was, but so was I. I knew going in that it was likely just temporary. I was stupid to believe that I was more than just a summer girl to him."
"You should have been." Edward smiled at me. "I can't imagine he's met anyone more interesting than you no matter where he landed."
I had to laugh at that. "I think that's your kind way of calling me weird, and you're not wrong. And he landed in Boston."
I saw the instant it hit home and nodded. "Yeah. Riley Biers."
"He's kind of a legend to most of the kids here," Edward said, rolling his eyes. "They all want to be the next Riley."
I laughed, and yeah, it was a tad bitter. "No joke. One of the guys at the bar thought that if he dated me, maybe it would put him over the edge."
Edward shook his head. "What crap. Which one of them said something that asinine?"
"I think his name was Alec."
"Figures. He is an ass."
I had to agree. "Well, he's what sent me out of the bar and to the library, where I met you. So you should probably thank him for making your day."
Edward chuckled. "I'll have to do that, right after I kick his ass for being a moron."
That wouldn't be such a bad thing, now would it? "Think you could take him?"
Edward gave me that look again, and I laughed. "Sorry. I never should have doubted you."
"That's right, woman." He ran his thumb across the back of my hand, which yes, he was somehow still holding. "Now, are you going to read to me or what?"
I picked up the book with my free right hand and nudged it back open. I wasn't going to let go if he wasn't. Edward grinned at me and squeezed again. My heart squeezed along with his little grin. What was I doing? Reading. That's right. Just reading with a new friend. No worries. Sure.
I woke up feeling quite sure that I wasn't where I was supposed to be. I was too warm, too cramped, too…not alone? I opened my eyes and found myself staring at Edward's stubbly jaw. Huh. He was lying along the inside of my couch, and I was pressed right up against him, my arm over his chest, his arm underneath my neck, our feet tangled together. How had that happened?
I remembered Edward yawning, and I suggested he lie down because it was way too late for him to walk back to his place. I was supposed to go to my bed, but somehow I hadn't ended up there.
Edward looked so peaceful when he slept. He seemed to be free of whatever memories he flashed to at times, which was good. I was glad he wasn't having nightmares or anything.
As I watched him, his free arm wrapped around me and pulled me closer. I mean, I wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth when he had his arms around me. Hooves? Whatever. I snuggled into Edward's hold and smiled when I felt his laugh move through me.
"Busted," he murmured, and I swear I felt his lips against my hair. Had he kissed me? Or was my hair just so wild that it was all over his face? Probably the latter.
'What do you mean, busted?"
"You were staring at me."
Well, so? "You were right in front of me. What was I supposed to do?"
"You were supposed to be in your bed. That's where you said you were going, anyway." His laugh tickled the side of my face pressed against his chest again.
"Well, I didn't."
"So I see."
I shifted and felt something hard pressed up against my leg. "You don't seem to mind overly much."
"Hmm. I woke up with a beautiful woman in my arms. I can definitely think of worse ways to start the day."
I lifted my head and looked into his gorgeous, smiling face. "Beautiful, huh?"
Edward cupped my cheek in his hand. "Very beautiful."
I waited, wondering if he was going to kiss me. Now would be the time, right? When a guy spent a night with a girl and called her beautiful even though she had crazy bed hair, stinky morning breath, and likely some eye or drool crusties?
Edward released my face and rolled his neck. "I don't think like my neck likes your couch."
Well, damn. Guess not. "Maybe my couch doesn't like your neck."
He laughed and moved to sit up, lifting me up with him. "You make no sense."
Oh sure, I was the one who didn't make sense, when he'd had the perfect opportunity to kiss me right in front of him and he hadn't taken it.
"Neither do you." After rolling out of the awkward position I'd been in when he sat up, I stood.
Edward stood as well, stretching that long, strong body of his. If I didn't already have drool stains, I'd have them before long looking at that hotness in front of me.
"I make more sense than you know." With those confusing words, he grabbed his button-down and slid it over the white T-shirt he'd stripped down to last night, covering up those tanned, defined arms of his.
"I should get going."
And I should be used to those words by now, but they hurt anyway. "Sure."
Edward reached out and pulled me into a hug, and yes, this time, his lips definitely touched me. It was only the top of my head, but it was something.
"Last night was the best night I've had in too long to remember."
Me, too. I tilted my head to look up at him. He really was tall. He smiled at me and squeezed my shoulder.
"You don't have to go."
"Yeah, I do." He pulled me back to him. I burrowed into his neck and breathed in. He had a manly, soapy, sexy scent. "Believe me when I say that I don't want to, but I have to."
No reason why he had to seemed to be forthcoming, but what could I do? "Okay."
Edward released me, and I stepped back. Time to put back up the defenses. He was smart to push me away before I got too attached.
"Were you planning on going to the game on Monday?"
I snorted at that one. "God, no."
He tilted my head up so I'd have to look at his face rather than his chest. I didn't want to, though. He was so damn beautiful and I couldn't have him.
"Let me rephrase that. Bella, will you come to the game on Monday? I'd like to see you there and spend time with you after if you want to."
Relief filled me at his words. I still didn't understand why he was leaving, or why he hadn't acted on what was clearly attraction on both of our parts, but at least he wanted to see me again. That meant something, right?
"I'll be there, then."
He smiled and leaned down, kissing me on the forehead this time. With luck, next time he'd actually venture farther down my face to my lips. They really wanted to be touched by him. As did the rest of me.
"Good. I'll leave the book here, then. Maybe we can read more after the game, if you want."
His wicked grin flashed again. He picked up his bag and tossed it over his shoulder. "Me, too." Before I could react to those words, he headed to the door. "See you then, Bella."
I followed him to the door, standing in the doorway as he turned and sent me another grin and a wave. I watched him walk away, wondering what Monday was going to hold. It looked like I was going to a baseball game for the first time since Riley had left. Lord, help me.
"I'm sorry. I think I had an aneurysm. Did you just say you were going to the game?"
I couldn't blame Alice for staring at me. I'd flat out refused to even say the word baseball after Riley left, let alone watch it. The things I did for Edward.
"You heard me right."
"But why?" she asked again, disbelievingly, and again, I couldn't blame her. But I wasn't ready to tell her about my evening with Edward yet. A part of me was sure I'd imagined the whole thing, except that every time I saw the book lying on my coffee table, I knew it was real. Edward had left this leather cord he'd had to hold our place. I may or may not have run my fingers over it a time or fifty.
The best way to get my best friend off my back was to go on the offensive.
"Alice, do you or do you not want me to go? You asked me to go after the douche left me in the lurch. You asked me to go to Bucky's to meet the players with you. Am I not allowed to go to the games now?"
Alice threw her arms around me. "Of course I want you to come with me! I didn't think you were ready, but if you are, then hell yes! Let's do this!"
Yeah, it was that easy. I drove us to the stadium because it was out in the middle of nowhere and actually too far to walk. I let Alice get the tickets because it was the least she could do after chattering non-stop about the player she'd met, and how one of them, James something or other, was an incredible kisser, but she hadn't let him come home with her yet.
"Maybe if he plays well today," she chirped, leading the way to our seats on the first base side, behind the home team bench. I searched the area for Edward. I'd been an idiot not to ask where he'd be sitting. I imagined he'd want to be somewhere close to the action, but maybe he was on the other side? Why hadn't I asked for his number so I could text and ask?
It was weird. I felt like I'd gotten to know a lot about him in our hours together, but I hadn't even gotten his last name or his phone number. It was probably a good thing he hadn't kissed me. I mean, I should know that much before I kissed a guy, right?
"There's James!" Alice bounced in her seat before standing up and hollering his name. The dude from Friday night turned and sent her a wave and blew her a kiss. She returned the gesture.
"Yes! Take that, bitches. He's mine!"
I had to laugh at her possessiveness. More than likely, he or she or both of them would be on to the next conquest next week, but whatever floated her boat.
"So, did you actually find out anything other than what a good kisser he is?" I asked as Jess and Lauren came into view. They never missed a game, surprise, surprise.
"Oh yeah. According to James, there are a couple of really hot pitching prospects here this year. That guy Alec that you blew off"-she scrunched up her face at me-"and some other guy. And I guess there's a hot shot first baseman, who's older and coming back after time away for injury or something. James doesn't know him but said he's really good."
Well, that was good. If I was going to be subjected to baseball again, it damn well better be good baseball. Another thing Riley had robbed me of when he'd left had been my love for the game. I'd been raised on baseball and had been going to games since I could remember. It actually felt nice to be back in the stadium again. I'd spent more time here than just about anywhere else.
"Holy shit. What are you doing here, B?" Jess threw herself down next to me, and Lauren sat on her other side.
"I decided to see if the team was going to be any good this year." Not mentioning Edward, thank you very much.
"I don't know about the team, but several of the players are." Lauren licked her lips. "Tyler has amazing hands. And other parts, if you know what I mean."
I rolled my eyes as she and Jess and Alice started comparing notes on their conquests. I could only hope they weren't doing so because they planned on hooking up with each other's dudes. It wouldn't be the first time. Freaks.
"But let me tell you, I'd dump Tyler in a heartbeat for that Cullen guy. Did you get a load of him?"
"No! Where is he?"
"He's in the dugout. You'll see him up close and personal because he plays first, apparently. I had to get Tyler to tell me since he walked away when I yelled his name."
I snickered. He sounded like a player with some actual sense. Lauren looked quite putout that her hottie hadn't acknowledged her. I was sure she'd rectify that soon enough.
"Oh my God, he's beautiful. Tall, tanned, toned, and terrific. I couldn't see his eye color, but he's totally gorgeous, and he's got really short hair. Perfect ass. I just want to bite it!" Jess rhapsodized right along with Lauren, while Alice ate it all up with wide eyes.
"Where was he this weekend?"
"Not at Bucky's, that's for damn sure. No way we would have missed him."
That went without saying. They were like heat-seeking missiles when it came to hot guys. I tuned them out and watched as the players started lining up for the anthem. I stood and sang along with the rest of the crowd, and it felt good, right, to be here again. I just wished I knew where Edward was.
"Look! There he is. Isn't he gorgeous?"
I followed Jessica's finger and froze the instant I saw the player headed in our direction. Green eyes met mine, and I gasped as he gave me a little nod. I could swear he almost looked apologetic as he took his position next to first base.
"Oh my God! Did you see that? He totally nodded at me! He wants me!" And Jess and Lauren and even Alice were off, exclaiming over how extremely gorgeous Edward was. His lips were kissable, his jaw was lickable, he was completely fuckable… On and on they went as I sat there, unable to move, unable to shake what was right there in front of me.
Edward was a baseball player. He'd lied to me. He was Riley 2.0. He was even worse than Riley, because he knew about Riley and he let me believe that he wasn't like Riley. But he was. Because he played baseball and he lied. Was any of it true?
The inning ended with a grounder to Edward, and he scooped it up and touched the base so effortlessly, graceful in that big, long body of his. He turned and lobbed the ball into the stands, right in my direction. Had I been capable of moving, I might have caught it, but I wasn't, so it hit my shoulder and Jess grabbed it.
"He threw me the ball!" Jess shouted, dancing around while Lauren called her a "lucky bitch." Alice told her she was "so in." None of them noticed that I wasn't talking-that or they didn't care.
The first two Knights got out quickly, the first striking out and the second popping out to second. The loudspeaker announced Edward Cullen at bat, and the girls all started shrieking.
I watched as Edward stepped to the plate, looking beautiful and confident. He took a couple of practice swings before stepping into the batter's box. He had a fierce look of concentration on his gorgeous face as he cocked the bat over his shoulder.
The first pitch was low for a ball. The second was on the outside corner, and Edward watched it, not swinging at the called strike. The third came in right over the center of the plate, and Edward swung, the bat connecting with a loud crack as the ball sailed out of the stadium, over the center field wall. The crowd erupted and got to their feet as he jogged the bases, rounding third, not smiling, his gaze on me, or so it seemed.
Jess kept screeching about her man, and I wanted to hurl every time she said it. My mind whirled as Edward came back onto the field, glancing my way again. I went over very bit of conversation we'd had, especially when he'd left on Saturday morning. He wanted me to come and see him play. Why? Why didn't he just tell me? Had I bashed baseball players too many times? But he wanted to see me after. Was he coming over? What was I going to say when he did? Why had he lied and told me he was a writer?
The game went by, the Knights building on their lead. Edward got a double on his next at bat and had been driven home on a line drive that landed between the short stop and third baseman, dribbling between them.
He made several good defensive plays, almost diving into the stands to catch a foul ball, bringing him as close to me as he'd been since Saturday morning. He mouthed something at me as he got up, but what he said I didn't know. The girls all assumed it was for Jess. I knew she was going to throw herself at him at first opportunity, and there was no way I could watch that.
"Hey, can you get a ride with the girls?" I asked Alice.
She nodded, eyeing me sadly. "Was it too much for you?"
If she only knew. But I nodded, letting her think it was about Riley and not the gorgeous liar at first base. "Yeah. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
I waved goodbye to Jess and Lauren, refraining from punching them or pulling their hair like a part of me wanted to. I drove home in a daze, my mind going a mile a minute, dissecting every word and action of Edward's during our time together.
When I got home, I glared at the book that had started it all. Only my love of all things written and my fear of Mrs. Cope kept me from throwing it or burning it or something. It wasn't the book's fault that I'd started having feelings for another lying baseball player. That was all on me. And partially on Edward.
God, was he going to come over? He'd said he wanted to read today, but that was before. Plus, for all I knew, Jessica had gotten her claws into him and he was even now letting her touch his incredible body and fuck…. I couldn't do this.
Maybe it was time to get out of town. I'd lived here all my damn life, and clearly this town was too small for me now. I needed somewhere I could go and disappear, not stumble over handsome ball players every five minutes.
Yes, that was a plan. I'd just call in to work, get a sub for the rest of the school year, and hit the road. Maybe I should head north. They didn't have any teams in Alaska, right? Way too cold. Yes, that was a good plan.
Before I could enact the plan, there as a knock on my door. I knew it was him. And part of me wanted to hide until he went away. But another part of me wanted to know why he'd lied. So I opened the door. And there he stood, looking beautiful in a light-blue T-shirt and jeans, his hair wet from a shower.
"Hi," he said nervously.
"Why?" I asked, not even bothering to wait.
He sighed. "Can I come in?"
Why not? He'd already been in and done nothing when he'd had the green light, and it was a steady red now, so nothing to worry about there. I gestured him inside.
He glanced at the book before turning to face me. "You didn't burn it."
"It isn't the book's fault that you're a liar." I didn't tell him I'd thought about burning it. I wasn't about to admit that.
"I didn't lie."
"Yes, you did. You said you were a writer."
He shook his head. "No. You said I was a writer. And I am writing those articles for SI. Just as a player rather than an observer."
Damn it, he wasn't getting me on semantics. "You lied by omission, then."
"I'll cop to that," he said. "It was pretty clear from the start that if I told you I was in town to play baseball, you'd have taken off."
I opened my mouth to argue, but I knew he was right.
Edward let out a harsh laugh. "Exactly. And you were funny. And beautiful. And you were at the library on a Friday night instead of hooking up with my teammates." His emerald eyes met mine. "I wanted to spend time with you. Running into you at the diner was fortuitous, and then we came here."
He ran his hand through his hair. "Bella, I wasn't lying when I said this was easily the best night I'd had in a long time. Since before I enlisted, really. And the closer I got to you, the more I wanted you, the more I worried about telling you why I was here."
I wrapped my arms around myself, not sure what to do with what he was saying. "Why did you ask me to the game? I probably wouldn't have known for a while."
"And then you would have hated me more."
I shook my head. "I don't hate you. I just don't know what to do with this." I started pacing the room. "You're good, Edward. Really good. According to my friends, all the guys expect you to be called up, just like Riley was. So what's the point of pursuing anything with you when I know how it's going to end?"
"See!" He threw up his hands. "I'm not Riley, Bella. And I wanted you to see that. That's why I didn't tell you. I wanted you to see me, Edward the man, not Edward the baseball player. I wanted you to give me a chance."
God. What did I do with this? I wanted to give him a chance, but what was the point?
"Do you know why I didn't kiss you?"
That stopped my pacing in my tracks, and I looked at him again. "No."
"I wanted to." He clenched his fists at his sides. "I wanted to more than I've ever wanted anything. But I couldn't kiss you until you knew. I wanted you to want me after you knew everything. If you're going to hold your ex against me, there's nothing I can do about it, but I had to protect myself too. Because if I kiss you, Bella, that's going to be it. I'll be yours, no matter where I go. But I need you to want that as well."
I did. I wanted it. But he could hurt me so easily.
"Baseball has been my dream since I was a kid. And I had the talent to make it. I was drafted in the first round straight out of high school. But I'd made a promise to my father..." He shook his head. "It's a long story. I put ball aside and enlisted. Eight years later, here I am. And I've got to try to live my dream now. It's my turn. I hope you can understand that."
"Of course I do. I just don't know if I can let you in and watch you leave."
Edward nodded sadly. "I get that. I do. But I don't want you to be my summer girl, Bella. I want you to be my girl. I think we could be amazing together. And I can't guarantee that I won't have to leave. I hope that I do. But if I leave, I won't leave you behind like he did. All I ask is for a chance."
I had to admit, I was scared. I didn't know what to say, so I just kept hugging myself. I knew Edward wasn't Riley, but I knew that when he left, which he would, it could destroy me if I let myself like him more than I already did.
I looked up when I heard my front door opening. I turned and saw Edward standing there, his hand on the knob. "I'll go. If you want to talk to me, you know where to find me. I'm in apartment 136."
Yeah. I should let him go, think for a bit, decide if I wanted to risk going through this again. Absolutely what I needed to do. Time and clarity before I made any kind of rash action.
Edward stepped through the door, and I stepped after him.
He turned, and the look on his face had me reaching out to him. He looked so sad.
I watched as a slow smile spread across his face. "Yeah?"
He stepped toward me, and I put my hand on his chest. "If you dump me, I will dig out my shanks."
Edward let out a loud, happy laugh. "I'd prefer the poison."
"You don't get to pick, dummy."
His arms snaked around my waist. "Yes, I do. I pick you."
Those words were beautiful. I slid my arms around his neck. "I pick you, too."
His lips were on mine then, and holy hell, they were every bit as good as my idiot friends had thought. But they weren't ever going to know that, because those lips were mine. Edward pulled me closer, his tongue slipping into my mouth, both of us moaning as we tasted and explored each other.
I have no idea how long we stood in my doorway, making out. I knew that we were both breathing heavily when we pulled apart and Edward rested his forehead on mine.
"Oh yeah. You're not a summer girl."
Damn right, I wasn't. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. You're a forever girl."
My heart warmed at those words. "I'll be your forever girl, if you want."
The End, or really, The Beginning