AN: This is my first story for a while - real life gets in the way as we all know
This will be a little bit of a departure from my usual type and much shorter while I get my head back into the suspense game
No angst - just a little drama and romance
My thanks to MeteorOnAMoonlessNight, MissLiss15 and a welcome to annaharding for their beta and pre-reading services
I hope you like it
Disclaimer: All characters belong to Stephenie Meyer; I just like putting them in different positions ...
From Lemonade to Love
It seemed natural to take fresh, cold, homemade lemonade to the construction site across the road. Little did she know that the simple action would lead to love.
I jerked up in bed with a start when a loud bang from outside my house echoed through the open window of my bedroom. For a moment, I was slightly disoriented, having been dreaming of the largely silent green forests of my teenage years.
Lying back down again, I looked at the clock on my nightstand, seeing that I still had an hour until I needed to get Ben up for school. The noise outside continued, though not as loud as the bang that had woken me, and I was now curious to see what was causing it.
I slid out from under the lightweight comforter and reached for my robe at the end of the bed before heading toward the window. Through the sheer curtains, I could see that the plot of land opposite my house now had a sold sign at the edge of the property where yesterday it had still stated that it was for sale.
All I could see for the moment were piles of timber of all shapes and sizes, and I wondered if the building would be a traditional home like mine, or a newer type. I had to admit I had a fondness for the type of house I lived in, and most of the houses this close to the beach were built with either a crawlspace or off the ground as mine was.
The alarm from the phone on my nightstand jerked me out of my perusal of the goings-on outside and I quickly silenced it and headed for the bathroom for a quick shower before it was time to wake Ben. I contemplated whether or not to wash my hair, deciding that it was worth it since the night had been hot and humid. After drying my skin, I wrapped my hair in a dry towel and brushed my teeth.
In the bedroom, I slathered lotion on every bit of skin and followed that with sunscreen since it was likely that today would be as hot as yesterday. Dressed in shorts, a strapless bra, and a string strap cami, I headed, barefoot, for Ben's room.
"Hey, sweetie," I called as I drew the curtains back and slid the window up to let in the fresh morning air. Turning to gaze at my son, I marveled at his corn-colored hair, matched perfectly with his father's sky-blue eyes. He definitely didn't take after his father or me, but on our only visit to his father's family, his mother had told me of his grandmother who had been a natural blonde. Neither Ben nor I had seen his father since Felix had left in the middle of the night when I was six months pregnant. I had no idea where he was right now, but we did okay without him. In all honesty, I was glad there was no likeness; I could pretend Felix and I had never been a couple.
I sat on the edge of his bed. As usual, he'd kicked off the sheet and was scrunched into a ball in the middle of the mattress, his childhood bear, Eddie, half underneath him. He might be six years old, but he refused to give it up; it was the one my dad had given him when he was born.
"Come on, sleepy-head." I nudged him and he straightened out his body, stretching and opening his blue eyes.
"Morning, Momma. Is it still school today?" He'd stopped calling me Momma except at times like this when he was still half-asleep or on his way to bed. It seemed a shame, but he had to grow up sometime. I just wished that time would slow down. I missed the toddler he'd been, but it was still exciting to see him grow and develop his own personality.
"It is, sweetheart. It's Monday, but the good news is, Friday is your last day for the summer."
"Yay! I get to go to the beach every day!" he shouted, jumping out of bed. I set him up for his shower and headed to the kitchen to put on coffee, returning to the living room to draw the curtains back. I could see that the guys on the site already had heavy machinery delivered and were beginning the process of putting the pilings into the ground.
We left the house for the twenty-minute walk to the school. "Look, Mom. They're digging holes over there with that big machine." He pointed excitedly, hopping up and down beside me. "Can we go and look, Mom, please?"
"Maybe later, Ben. We need to get moving, or you'll be late for school."
He chattered like a magpie as we walked, talking about anything and everything while my mind was occupied with the new building opposite my house, wondering who would be living there.
As I walked back home from the elementary school, whistles came from the new house site. I could feel the blush heat my cheeks and almost wished I'd left my hair down. But I wasn't that girl anymore; not since I'd had to grow up and give my son the best life I could.
A voice rang out across the site. "Enough, guys, don't be rude to the lady." My head jerked up at the sound, and I found my gaze captured by one of the most gorgeous looking men I had ever seen." Sorry, ma'am," he called out to me. "They're a rowdy bunch, but they mean no harm."
I waved to let him know that I'd heard him and hurried up the steps, letting myself in the house. I leaned against the door, my heart beating a little fast, though I couldn't say why. I didn't feel threatened by any of them, so I could only put my reaction down to the way he'd looked at me. Green eyes narrowed against the sun, a glimpse of sweat-darkened, rich, thick bronze hair showing blond and red highlights that the sun must have brought out, and a body that was just about perfect.
His tight black t-shirt molded to his chest, showing his defined muscles, and worn blue jeans covered strong thighs. Talking about thighs, I clenched mine against a sudden rush of desire that thoughts of him brought to mind. I'd had a few boyfriends over the last couple of years since I'd moved to Carolina Beach, but having a six-year-old isn't really conducive to building a relationship. After all, it wasn't just me someone would be taking on, and Ben was much more important to me than anyone I'd dated in the last four years. It was a case of love me, love my son, or nothing at all.
I shook my head and moved away from the door and into the kitchen to make a fresh pot of coffee. While that brewed, I unloaded yesterday's dishes from the dishwasher and loaded the breakfast things, ready to switch it on after dinner tonight.
As the heat of the day rose, I opened the window in the living room wider to let in as much fresh air as possible. My desk was set against the wall, out of the direct sunlight but close enough to feel the outside air. I settled into my seat, switching on my computer. Taking a quick look at my emails, I found two from James Hunter, my boss at LoneStar Publishing, each with a manuscript attached for me to edit. I preferred the paper manuscripts, but realized that times had moved on and this was a much better use of my time.
James had been really good to me, accepting that I needed to work from home for Ben and very understanding when I knocked back his attention. He hadn't held it against me when I told him that I had to concentrate on my son and I didn't want a relationship with anyone. In fact, he'd been very helpful when I approached him about writing my own book, letting me have the use of one of the other editors when it was needed.
The sounds from outside filtered into the room, mostly from the building site opposite. I could faintly hear the sea in the background and the sounds of people walking past on their way to the beach. It was still early in the season and as the schools hadn't yet finished for the summer, tourists were thin on the ground and would be for the next few weeks.
I worked for a couple of hours, losing myself in reading and editing what was proving to be a good book. I had hopes for this author who had a series of four books planned about a young girl who fell in love with a vampire. It was written for a young adult audience, but I could already see how it would appeal to women from all ages and walks of life. Forbidden love, sexy vampires, immortal life; who wouldn't be drawn in?
Before I knew it, lunchtime has arrived and I saved my work and left it to make myself a sandwich and pour a glass of the sweet lemonade I'd made the previous day. The tart cold sweetness slipped over my tongue, and I rolled the frosted condensation on the outside of the glass on my forehead while I savored its taste.
I stepped out onto the deck to finish my drink and eat my sandwich, thinking about my own book. With James pushing me to finish this current manuscript and three others, I hadn't had a lot of time to work on it lately. Thankfully, over the summer I had some vacation time saved so I could spend some time at the beach with Ben and a little time on my own writing project.
The construction site was quiet for the moment as the workmen had stopped for lunch, finding shade under the trees on the edge of the property. A quick decision had me heading back indoors, and I loaded up a tray with plastic cups and a large jug of lemonade. Before my courage could fail me, I carefully made my way down the steps and across the road.
"Hey, guys," I called. "Would anyone care for some lemonade? It was freshly made yesterday."
Bronze-hair stood from his seat on the ground, brushing off the seat of his pants and rubbing his hands on the front of his jeans, drawing my eyes to his thighs once again. Aware of his eyes on me, I lifted mine to see the smirk form, and for the second time today, I could feel my cheeks heat.
"Thank you, ma'am. That's very kind of you." He turned and waved at the rest of the men lazing under the trees and raised his hand to beckon them over. "It's lemonade all around, boys." One by one, the workmen approached me, taking a cup and filling it from the jug. Each murmured a quiet thank you and then made their way back to where they had been seated.
With an empty jug, there was no further reason for me to stay. Reluctantly, I turned to leave but was halted by a hand on my arm. The tingles that ran over my skin were chased by goosebumps, and I jerked, startled by the feeling. "Sorry, I didn't mean to make you jump, ma'am." He let go of my arm and I immediately felt the loss. "I just wanted to thank you again." He held out his hand and took mine in his large, warm one. "It looks like we might be neighbors pretty soon so I wanted to introduce myself. I'm Edward, Edward Cullen."
I reveled in the feeling of his hand engulfing mine and returned his blinding smile. "That's nice to know, Edward. I'm Bella Swan, and I look forward to being a good neighbor." We stood there for a few minutes. "Well, I need to go, Edward. Can I have my hand back, please?" I giggled as it was now his turn to blush.
I headed back inside for another couple of hours of work before meeting my son from school. I planned on a picnic on the beach for later so we could enjoy the water and the warmth.
~ oOo ~
I hadn't always lived where it was warm. My mom and dad divorced when I was three years old and for a while after she left, taking me with her, Mom moved from town to town looking for the next best thing. By the time I was thirteen, she was done with being a mother and shipped me off to my dad, having found better things to concern herself with.
Charlie Swan was the chief of police in the small town of Forks, Washington, and he welcomed me with open arms. I thrived under his care and that of his live-in girlfriend, Sue Clearwater, whom he eventually married. With regular schooling and healthy meals, my whole life and demeanor changed. I had seen Mom a few times between then and when I graduated from Forks High. Although I missed her quirky personality, I didn't miss being the adult in the house; finally being able to act like a teenager for the first time in my life was a complete revelation.
My dad wasn't pleased when I found out that the boys at school had taken an interest in me, but for me, it was the first time I'd been noticed in that way. Sue, thank goodness, had persuaded him that it was time to let me be a teenager and told him it was best I dated while they could be there to watch over and protect me.
During my first year of college, I met Felix Santiago, who was studying engineering and destined to work for his family's business. He would be joining their research and development team as soon as he graduated. He was charismatic, well-built, and extremely good looking with dark brown, almost black, hair and blue eyes; he looked as Italian as his name. Unfortunately, he'd thought I had the same heritage, so when it turned out that it was only my mother's love of all things Italian that had given me my name of Isabella, his interest in me had waned as fast as it had arrived. His parents were lackluster at best, and although they were polite, they definitely didn't think I was good enough for their precious son.
When I found out I was pregnant, both he and they were absolutely horrified and refused to acknowledge my baby even before he was born. Felix signed over his parental rights without ever having met his son, never looking back, and I was relieved that I wouldn't have to take his wishes or those of his family into account when deciding our future.
My mother virtually washed her hands of me the moment I told her I was keeping my baby, and I'd heard from her only occasionally since that phone call, until her death. My father, on the other hand, wasn't exactly pleased, but he and Sue supported me every step of the way when I decided I couldn't bear to give him up for adoption.
I returned home to Forks at the end of my first year of college. Though I couldn't return full time, I did manage to transfer my credits and had finished my degree by the time Ben was three. My best friend, Angela, had looked after him when Sue couldn't, and I would always be grateful to them.
Originally, I had wanted to be an investigative journalist, but having Ben changed all that; I wanted to stay closer to home for him. I couldn't do things that might put my life in danger now that I had someone so dependent on me. I never regretted it for one second.
No one was more surprised than me when I found out that Mom had named me in her will, leaving me fifty-thousand dollars. She and her then-boyfriend had been in a horrendous accident that took both their lives. It took me a little time to come to terms with having such a huge sum of money but, eventually, Sue told me to accept it and use it to gain my independence and give Ben the life he deserved.
I had managed to find an entry-level position with a publishing house in Seattle and, other than a once a week meeting, I was free to work from home as often as I wished. At that time, I was still living in my dad's house, which I did for the next year. By the time Ben was five, I was ready to branch out on my own.
James Hunter had taken over from his wife, Victoria, when she had twins and decided on doing the whole stay-at-home-mom thing. When I expressed a wish to move to somewhere sunnier to give my son the chance to grow up in a warmer climate, he suggested that I apply for the job as editor at their office in Charlotte. It was around a three hour drive, but I wasn't expected to be there more than once a month or for extra, special meetings.
I went for the interview, taking a long weekend to check out properties, and the rest is history. I'd found this house and had never looked back. Of course, my dad, Sue, Angela and Eric, her long-term boyfriend, were sorry to see me move, but they all supported me and visited as often as they could.
~ oOo ~