Hey, y'all. I hope most of you saw the sneak peek for this story at TLS over the weekend. If not, there are a few things we should get out of the way before we even start. I don't want anyone hitting me with guest reviews claiming I didn't warn them.
Warning: This is not a romance. Not even close. There will be non-canon pairings. There will be character death. There will be stuff that might make you uncomfortable. This story isn't for everyone. I'm cool with that.
Oh, and Stephenie Meyer still owns Twilight.
Edward Masen was six years old the summer his mother won a trip to Disneyland at her company picnic. That vacation was his first time in an airplane. His first time leaving Forks, really. At the park, his stomach stirred when a plastic Dumbo lifted him into the air. He closed his eyes, leaned back, and let the air hit his face. When the ride was over, he convinced his mother to wait in line for it again.
Edward wanted to fly.
It was all he ever wanted. So he studied hard in school, joined the ROTC, and spent long afternoons Googling career paths to become a pilot. All the signs and every road pointed to the same destination: Lackland Air Force Base.
Texas, of all places.
It was an easy decision, signing his life over to the good old US of A. He would be rewarded tenfold. He breezed through his ASVAB, graduated second in his class, and spent hours in weight training, honing his body to perfection.
And that's what got him in the end.
Tanya Denali was supposed to be high-school entertainment, a distraction. It started that way, anyway, under the bleachers after the homecoming game his sophomore year. Her cheerleading skirt tickled the backs of her thighs in a way that drove him mad.
Falling in love wasn't supposed to be in the cards, but somewhere, in those moments of post-coital bliss and whispers in the dark, they heard each other and clicked. She didn't mind the idea of sharing him with the sky, and she was the one he wanted to fly home to.
In a perfect world, they could've taken their time.
In the real one, they had too much to drink on prom night and ended up staring at a positive pregnancy test a couple of months later. So, instead of college, Tanya decided to sit out a couple of years while Edward officially joined up.
She cried a little when he left a month early for boot camp with his best friend, Jasper, in a beat-up old Jeep on a cool, rainy afternoon. He cried a little, too, between Forks and Seattle. Jasper was the kind of friend to stare straight ahead and focus on the road ahead until Edward was ready to engage.
They spent a few days in Portland, then wasted one in Bend. The California state line was a welcome sight. They peeled the canvas top of the Jeep back and slid dark aviator sunglasses onto their faces. Both boys had let their hair go since the holidays, since they knew high-and-tights were in their futures. They stopped shaving and hit every mom-and-pop beach bar along the coast. At least, that's how the first week felt.
They rented surfboards in Santa Cruz and caught waves bigger than any they'd ever seen at La Push or Westport. Edward's pasty skin bronzed as the days passed, and his dark hair lightened under the sun. Girls in bikinis and moms in swim dresses approached the boys if they stayed on the sand too long, so they spent as much time as possible in the water.
And at night, Edward would take his phone and walk out to the patio chairs next to the hotel pool and call his girl to say goodnight. Once or twice, he had to soothe her through ugly bouts of vomiting and longed for the second trimester to hurry. They'd been told she might feel better then.
Edward was counting on it, because he wanted her there when he graduated from boot camp. He wanted to take her to a hotel that night, bend her over every piece of furniture in the room, and then fall asleep with his ear against her belly.
He tilted his head back and listened to the waves licking at the beach, inhaled deep briny gulps of air, and stared at the stars as he listened to her talk about her days—the dirty looks, the judgmental stares.
"Fuck those people," he told her. "We're going places, you and me. Eventually, I'll be able to request where we live. We'll have beach babies and forget rainy Forks ever existed."
"Sounds good to me," Tanya replied. Then she dropped the phone to throw up again.
The guys pulled out of Santa Cruz early the next day and hit every beach they could until they woke up days later, shortly after noon in San Diego, with eleven days left until show time.
"I've got an aunt in Tucson," Jasper said. "Ever been to Arizona?"
Edward shook his head. They tossed their duffel bags into the backseat and hit the road instead of the waves. The sun began to sink as they sped through Yuma, kicking up dust and pointing at odd, phallic-shaped cacti and gorgeous tile-roofed cottages in every size and color. The dummy light kicked on a few miles outside of Gila Bend, so Jasper eased the Jeep off the highway at the first Love's Travel Stop along the way.
The sky was golden pink in every direction when Edward's feet hit the concrete next to the gas pump. He reached for it and stretched on his toes. Then he twisted his neck back and forth and grinned.
A tiny brunette in tinier denim shorts peeked around the pump and eyed him head to toe. Edward smirked and nodded. "What's up?"
Her red lips curved into a wide grin, and she lifted her sunglasses to rest on top of her head. "Hi."
Edward swiped his card and waited a few moments before keying in his PIN. He lifted the nozzle and hit the button for regular unleaded. Then he waved at the cutie and followed Jasper inside to take a piss and maybe grab a candy bar.
A pleasant floral and berry scent hit him in the candy aisle a moment before a soft voice greeted him. "Where you headed?" the brunette asked after reaching for a bag of Sour Gummies.
"The clouds," Edward replied. His eyes dropped to the edge of her calf and back up to her creamy thigh. He plucked a Snickers from the display and turned on his heel, willing his dick to cut him some slack.
She followed him through the store and over to the short line at the register. "I'm Isabella," she said.
He glanced back. "Edward."
Jasper saved him by cutting between them with his arms loaded with candy and sodas. "It's going to be a long night, and some guy in the shitter said the next gas station is on the other side of the desert." He noticed Isabella and lost his train of thought at the sight of her cleavage against the orange tank top that clung to her slim waist.
Edward shoulder-checked his friend to turn him around so they could pay and hit the road. His head cleared the second he breathed in fresh air. The harsh smell of gasoline greeted him back at the pump. There was a small puddle next to the back tire.
A tall guy in swim trunks and Chacos popped his head around the tank. "The auto-shut off failed," he said with a shrug. "Sorry I couldn't stop it sooner."
Edward groaned when he saw the charges but reached out to shake the stranger's hand. "Thanks, man."
Isabella's perfume danced on the breeze. "Let's go, Felix," she said, folding her tiny frame around her companion's thick side. "I want to get back before dark." Felix nodded and checked the ties on a tarp covering the back of their rusty old pickup truck. Isabella turned to Edward and smiled. "Be careful out there," she said. "The desert can get a little weird after dark."
Edward exhaled and laughed it off. "It was nice meeting you, Isabella."
She backed away and held his gaze as she made her way to the passenger side of the truck. A flash of red reflected in her eyes from the truck before she lowered her sunglasses to shield them from the setting rays. The engine rumbled to life, and Felix waved before pulling away and kicking up a trail of pebbles and dust in his wake.
Jasper started the Jeep and tapped the dash. "Let's go," he said.
The sun set not long after they entered the desert, and they had to pull over to dig jackets from their bags. Edward dozed in and out of sleep despite Jasper's constant fiddling with the radio. There was no signal on his phone, and not a clear station could be found. Eventually, he found a classic rock station and let Pink Floyd fill the night air.
The "check engine" light popped on, so Jasper thumped the symbol a few times and said a quiet prayer under his breath. "Just get us to Tucson," he whispered.
Five minutes later, the Jeep lurched, and a horrible grinding woke Edward as Jasper eased them onto the shoulder and off the highway. Smoke poured from under the hood on both sides. Jasper and Edward both unbuckled and made their way to the front of the Jeep.
Edward pulled his phone from his pocket and cursed at the "no service" symbol at the top of the screen. "Motherfucker."
Jasper shook his head and looked down at his own phone. "I've got nothing," he said.
"It's a long walk back." Edward pointed in the direction they'd already travelled.
"Maybe there's something ahead." Jasper tipped his head forward.
The flipped a quarter, and Jasper won with heads. They grabbed their duffle bags and set out on foot toward the dark rock formations in the distance.
A/N- The goal is to end this puppy on Halloween, so I'll see you again later today with another chapter. Maybe even 2.
Thanks for reading. I *heart* y'all.