It's my birthday today and I wanted to gift you guys with a little somethin' that I've been working on.

I know a few of you would have much rather had the newest chapter of My Headstrong Beta, but it will have to wait a little while longer.

This is a side-story to my FAGE piece - Cheers, Fate - a Leah and Paul fic. Edward and Bella both play important roles in this story, therefore I felt it was only natural to create a fic for them as well. I have quite a few chapters written and it is the story that is whispering in my ear these days, so I am giving it my priority. You can read this fic without having read Cheers, Fate first, but I do recommend that you give it a try.

Enjoy!


Chapter 1

I wish love was perfect as love itself

I wish all my weaknesses could be hidden

I grew a flower that can't be bloomed

In a dream that can't come true

Fake Love (BTS)

Bella POV

The familiar and intimate way in which she touches his arm, makes my stomach churn uncomfortably and my blood boil in a way that I've never experienced before. A potent mixture of anger and envy surges through me and I watch transfixed as the train wreck of a scene continues to unfold before my very eyes.

God, I wish I had the willpower to look away.

Or the confidence to actually do something about it.

Releasing a sharp breath through my nose, I shake my head slowly.

Jesus, I'm pathetic.

Yesterday after an impulsive trip and makeover in Seattle, I'd felt invincible; sexy even. Now, however, as I hide behind the door to the small kitchen of my café and spy on the man who owns me body and soul, I feel about as worthy as a pebble under his shoe. It's complete madness to think of how quickly that newfound confidence of mine managed to crumble at just the mere sight of him. How I'm still irrevocably in love with him after what happened between us is beyond me.

The woman flutters her perfectly shaped eyelashes flirtatiously, flipping her long blond locks over her shoulder as she leans in closer, whispering something into his ear. She does it with such natural ease and confidence that I almost feel like I should applaud her for it. However, when his perfect, pink lips immediately begin to curl into that crooked half-smile that I've grown to love so dearly, I feel a sharp pain explode through my chest as though he's just plunged a knife through it. Before, I could have handled this. In fact I have handled seeing him with other girls on several occasions over the years and I've been fine, but after that night; that night where all my dreams became reality for one blissful moment before they came crashing down in the next. The knife twists painfully. I should have known that it had been too good to be true. Right now, all I want to do is either scream at the top of my lungs or sink into the ground and disappear. Anything to stop this agony. Anything to distract me from my pitiful excuse of an existence.

My eyes burn, but I make sure to keep them locked on his face. Even at a distance I can clearly see his stunning, emerald eyes sparkle as he glances up at her. Eyes that constantly haunt my dreams. Eyes that right now dance brightly with humor and darken ever so slightly with another intense emotion that I really don't want to acknowledge.

God, I'm going to be sick!

Something clatters loudly against the metal counter behind me, sending a rush of adrenaline through my body. The distraction gives me the strength I need to tear my eyes away from the scene of the crime and return to the present. Biting back a startled cry, I jump and spin around, muscles tense as I search for the culprit. Heaving for breath, I place one hand onto my chest to calm my racing heart as the other leans heavily against the doorframe.

"Angela! What the hell?!"

My longtime friend and coworker fixes me with a pointed and openly disapproving look; one that I've become quite accustomed to ever since Edward moved back to Forks a few years ago. Glancing over at the counter in front of her, I see a small pile of empty baking trays.

Aha!

Rolling my eyes to hide my shame, I force myself to step away from the door and make a beeline towards my tiny office in the back. Unfortunately, Angela isn't ready to let me go. Stepping directly into my path, she forces me to a stop. Folding her arms over her chest, she locks her deep brown eyes onto mine and simply raises a dark eyebrow. Her thick rimmed glasses making her look like some strict librarian, which only enhances the intimidation.

"We have customers, you know," I begin, already knowing what she's going to say and desperate to find something to distract her with.

Her eyes narrow and she purses her lips, but still doesn't say anything.

Shit, the silent treatment might be even worse than her lashing out at me.

She also doesn't move out of my way.

Damn it.

"As your employer, I must insist that you-," I begin, trying to keep my voice steady.

"Bells!" she interrupts, her voice unusually stern.

Fuck.

Nervous energy pulses through my veins, increasing at a rapid pace, making it impossible for me to stand still. Years of therapy fly out the window in a matter of seconds, rendering me completely powerless to stop it as it builds. Drawing my bottom lip between my teeth, I bounce ever so slightly on the soles of my feet, physically unable to keep my body from moving. Instinctively I raise my right hand to drag my fingers through my hair, a calming mechanism I've had ever since I was a little girl. When they slip free far too soon, I'm temporarily confused. Then the memories of my trip to Seattle begin flickering through my mind… the beauty salon, the magazine cover portraying an edgy-looking model with platinum white hair over dark roots, the immense confidence I saw radiate out from her…

Jesus, what had I been thinking?

Luckily, the shock of my overly short hair jolts me back to reality and in the next second I'm able to remember that although I might not be the woman on the magazine cover, I'm also no longer that scared, insecure, little girl who used to be terrified of her own shadow. For years I'd been the girl who needed the long hair and large, shapeless clothing to hide behind because she'd never truly felt loved or accepted for who she was, but after moving in with Charlie... well, things gradually changed. I'd come a long way. Annoyance surges through me at my small relapse and I can practically see Jasper's serious yet steady expression in front of me.

"Say the words, Bella."

Biting my lips tightly together, I take a deep breath through my nose as the tears continue streaming down my face. Wondering if these sessions will ever get any easier, I force my head up and I do what I can to hold his gaze. Then I carefully try to form those incredibly simple, yet painfully difficult words with my mouth.

"I am worthy."

It had taken years and a hell of a lot of hard work, but I'd slowly managed to break out of my shell and had actually begun to really believe those words that I'd struggled for so long to say. I was more and more comfortable in my own skin, and honestly felt ready to take on and meet any challenge that came my way. That was until the infamous Edward Cullen barged back into my life, pulling down every brick of confidence I'd worked so hard to build with just his mere presence. I hated how weak I felt around him; how pathetic and utterly unworthy. With him, it was like I was back to square one. In the presence of the most handsome man in Forks, all bets were off and my hard-earned confidence quickly crumbled to a puddle of mush at his feet.

Inhaling deeply, I call on every single calming technique I know and after a while I'm able to find the strength I need to push back my nerves and calm the hell down. Sighing dejectedly, I rub both hands over my face and feel myself slowly regain some composure.

"I'm not even supposed to be here today," I groan, more to myself than to anyone else.

"And yet almost every morning, at this exact time, you show up without fail."

Desperate for some kind of outlet, I grab the discarded trays and place them back carefully in their appointed spot before I obsessively begin wiping down the counter. Angela unfortunately doesn't let up.

"I shudder to think what time you must have woken up to make it back here in time. Was Leah even conscious?"

Christ, I'm such a fool.

"You know my internal alarm has me up before dawn, Ange."

"Yeah, but the reason for why you chose to come back so soon, when you could have easily stayed an extra few days and treated yourself to a little mini-vacation with your bestie, is what I'm trying to get you to admit to yourself."

I snort, moving over to the sink to wash my hands. I don't need to admit something I've known painfully well ever since I was 16.

"Come on! You've never taken a full day off and you know the reason for it," she shakes her head before continuing.

"Bells, you need to do something about your infatuation with Edward because-," she stutters, looking surprisingly flustered.

I shoot her a hard look.

"Well, because I simply can't handle it any longer."

"Oh, so I'll be doing you a favor?" I deadpan, not even bothering to deny her allegations.

"Yeah!"

The way she enthusiastically nods her head in agreement forces the ghost of a smile to my lips.

"I've said this before and I'll say it again, when the day comes and you finally get up the nerve to mount that hunk of a man out there, I expect you to take a full week off."

My cheeks explode with heat, a normal reaction to her insistent teasing, however, what she doesn't see are the vivid and incredibly sensual memories that flicker through my mind with the subtle strength of a tsunami.

Hovering in that special place just between consciousness and deep sleep, I almost don't register the small movement next to me, allowing sleep to whisk me away. When a large hand suddenly curls intimately around my hip, however, I feel my breath hitch with shock as I'm instantly yanked back to reality with the subtlety of a tank. Before I've had the chance to fully react, I feel a massive wall of heat cover the entire length of my body. My eyes fly open, but I'm only met by the pitch-black darkness of night, making it impossible for me to see. Each of my other senses come to life, searching, yearning.

When two strong hands bury themselves in my hair, pulling my head back, I feel my body immediately melt beneath him in complete surrender. A whisper of his breath washes over my face just before a pair of commanding, yet achingly soft, lips brush against mine, seeking entrance. I welcome him without even an ounce of hesitation, his moan mixing with mine as his hot tongue dips into my mouth with sure and confident strokes. It doesn't take him long to find mine. I can taste the alcohol on his tongue, but can't find it in me to care. This is everything I've ever wanted and more. The way we move together in perfect unison feels like we're two pieces of one whole, and the hot and sensual dance in which-.

"When are you going to make your move, Bells?"

Oh, Ange, if you only knew…

Feeling the hot evidence of my flush burn across my cheeks and down my neck, I quickly avert my gaze and ignore her. I hate how my pale skin so easily reveals my humiliation and I've never been good at hiding things from Angela. However, this time I pray to all that is holy that I'm able to keep my little secret from her. Revealing the best and worst night of my life to Leah, had been painful enough. I don't think I could handle Angela knowing. At least not until I've managed to get over it a little myself, which I don't think will be happen for quite some time.

When the room is filled with a sharp inhale, I feel my heart switch into high gear.

"Jesus, he's the reason for your makeover, isn't he? Is this part of your plan? Are you going to sashay in and steal him out from evil Tanya's perfectly manicured hand?"

This time my eye-rolling is completely for her benefit. Exasperated with her insistence, I move over to my incredibly expensive, but worth every penny, panini grill just before the alarm goes off and pull out what I know is Edward's order. Most days he usually just drops by for a cup of coffee to go, but on certain occasions he takes his time and hangs out at the café for a while. On those days he usually orders my Breakfast Panini Special with eggs, bacon, sausage, and everything you could want from a full breakfast. I was really proud of it. Serving him on those days was perhaps the highlight of my day. The way his beautiful lips would widen with a happy grin and how his entire face would shine with genuine gratitude would always makes my heart flutter wildly and fill me with such joy that I almost couldn't contain myself. Those days are hands down the absolute best days of my life… or they were until she showed up.

A sour taste flows through my mouth and my stomach rolls as I'm reminded of who is seated next to him this morning: Tanya Denali, hot-shot journalist from LA with legs for miles and perfect, modelesque beauty. If her looks weren't enough, the fact that she was Edward's old college sweetheart, made everything just so much worse.

Yeah, there's no way I'm stepping out there today.

"Angela, please. I'm a little upset that you'd think that. I'm the one who wanted a change. I didn't do it for some guy. I did it for me and for me alone," I tell her insistently as I do the finishing touches on his plate.

If I said it confidently enough, perhaps even I would begin to believe it.

"Well, then I am glad to hear it! Girl power and zigazig-AH all the way! And not that you need the reminder, but I meant what I said when you came in today. You look hot as hell."

She sends me a wicked wink, before taking her place beside me, completing the finishing touches on what must be Tanya's order.

"I know this is one of our bestsellers, but I really don't think I'll ever understand how people can eat a salad for breakfast."

The way she spits out the words as though it is something utterly preposterous, manages to coax out a small smile of me, but other than that I remain silent. With a reluctant sigh, I hand her Edward's plate, meeting her questioning gaze with a slow and sad shake of the head. It's clear that she wants to argue over my decision not to go out there, but I'm incredibly grateful when she actually lets it slide. Leaving me to my thoughts, she picks up both orders and walks out into the café without another word. Glancing up at the ceiling, I blink away a sudden rush of tears. I know distancing myself from him is the right thing to do, I just wish it didn't have to hurt this much. Biting my teeth together, I go against every single instinct I have and move in the direction of my office…away from him. The man I've loved unconditionally since I moved to Forks when I was 16 and who, not only doesn't love me in return, but clearly doesn't even know I exist.

Damn it, I'm going to need to call Jasper and set up a therapy session.

ASAP.

§§§

Time passes by at a snail's pace as I at least pretend to get some work done. I almost cave about a thousand times, my overwhelming need to see him reminding me of an addict going through withdrawal. I'm knee deep in purchase receipts when I'm suddenly interrupted by a light knock on the door. Angela's dark eyes are apologetic when I turn around to meet her.

"I'm sorry, Bells, but Alice is here."

I don't even try to hide my groan as I lightly tap my forehead against the small mountain of papers I have spread out across my desk.

"I seriously don't know how she does it, but she has some kind of sixth sense when it comes to you. I told her it's your day off today, but she wouldn't believe me."

Mary Alice Cullen, Edward's beloved little sister and Princess of Forks, had somehow become the bane of my existence. Especially now after she'd somehow managed to stronghold me into agreeing to help her by catering for the Farmer's Ball this weekend. For some reason, I simply couldn't say no to her and the woman had enough ideas and energy to drive me to the brink of madness. There was no stopping her.

Fuck.

With Leah gone, I already had way too much on my plate with both my café and the Gorgeous Goats Creamery. I close my eyes tightly and try to figure out what I should do. I already know without a shadow of a doubt that Alice probably has about a thousand additional things for me to get done. Angela's eyes narrow ever so slightly.

"You know what, I'm just going to tell her she just missed you. Relax, I got this," she declares and turns on her heel.

Jumping to my feet, I wipe the palms of my hands off on my favorite pair of blue jeans before pulling my newly purchased black dress jacket a little tighter around my body. Leah had dragged me to a few of her favorite shops yesterday and convinced me to get a few more elegant and business-appropriate pieces. They were quite a bit more understated than what I usually went for, but with my new and flashier look, they actually fit really well. They'd also made me feel really good about myself; confident and strong.

Ah, hell.

"Ange, wait. It's fine. You know she won't let up. That woman is just about as subtle as a flying brick," I sigh, biting the inside of my cheek as I step in front of her and take the lead.

"You talked to the Three Musketeers, right? They ready to help out this weekend?"

"Yes, Jane, Alec and Bree will be here Friday after school to start prepping and then we have them all day Saturday," she answers, mirroring my strong strides.

Angela's constant and everlasting support gives me the strength I need to step through the doors with my head held high. Locating Alice immediately, I force my eyes not to wander.

Don't you dare look for him.

"Alice, what can I do for you today?"

Her grey-greenish eyes widen exponentially with surprise the moment I step into her line of sight. A wave of pleasure rushes through me as I watch her mouth drop, the shock of my makeover apparently rendering her speechless… well, at least for a blissful beat of a second.

"Isabella Swan?! Holy Fuck!" she all but shrieks. I don't need to look around to know that every single client's eyes are now turned my way.

Damn it.

As usual, I feel my cheeks burn, inwardly cursing my pale complexion, I do what I can to ignore it, keeping my attention fixed on the woman in front of me. Flipping my new blond locks from my face, I widen my stance ever so slightly and place both hands on my hips, a position that Jasper has assured me will help build my confidence in situations like this. Raising a single eyebrow in her direction, I calmly repeat my question.

"What can I do for you?"

She blinks, but still doesn't respond, her eyes busy taking me in.

"Alice," I bite out.

She shakes her head, her long, auburn locks bouncing perfectly with the movement.

"I'm sorry, Bella, but WOW! You look incredible."

Her enthusiastic compliment is unusually genuine.

"Thank you," I answer softly.

My reply appears to pull her from her shocked state. Her hand goes to her fancy, designer handbag and she pulls out a small stack of papers.

Lord, here we go.

I force myself not to roll my eyes at her. She truly doesn't know when enough is enough. The Ball is in three days!

"I found this amazing cake design that I wanted to show you."

"Alice," I begin, ready to argue.

"Please, Bella, if you would just take a look. I really think-."

I'm about to put my foot down.

I really am.

Except before I have the chance to even open my mouth, I feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise to attention in a way that I've only ever experienced when I'm around a certain someone.

Shit.

"Bella?"

The way my name falls from his lips sends an intense thrill through me that I can feel all the way down to the tips of my toes. My mouth runs dry, my heart pounding wildly in my chest as every nerve in my body comes to life with an overwhelming rush of anticipation and deep longing. Closing my eyes, I allow myself a brief moment of hesitation as I conjure up as much strength and confidence as I can before facing him; fully prepared to feel it all come tumbling down in the very next second. His vibrant, jade eyes lock onto mine, sending a jolt of something incredibly powerful simmering through me, similar to that of an electric shock. I feel my breath hitch. Those beautiful, full lips of his form a roguish smile I've never once seen shot my way.

"I almost didn't recognize you."

His smile widens as his eyes dance with something I really can't put my finger on. I feel my nerves begin to build, crushing everything in their path, but then something unexpected happens. A slight movement at Edward's side catches my eye and in the next second I'm met by Tanya's sparkling baby-blues and surprisingly, my nerves calm, replaced instead by a powerful wave irritation and strong annoyance.

"Darling, that hair color is to die for!"

Her voice sets my teeth on edge and when she touches my arm familiarly, I automatically take a step back and move away from her. I can't help but notice how her perfectly shaped eyebrows draw together ever so slightly before she's able to hide it. Then she laughs it off, touching Edward's arm affectionately instead.

Who the hell does she think she is?!

"Blonds have more fun, am I right?"

I feel like wiping the grin right off of her face.

"I wouldn't know," I answer her, my tone of voice completely void of any emotion.

"Last time I checked; my hair was white."

There's a sharp laugh followed by an overly loud snort behind me, which I know belongs to Angela. Tanya's fake, bright smile fades just a fraction of an inch, her reaction pleasing me to no end.

"Well, you look amazing. Is there a salon nearby that I don't know about? If my trip here draws out, I might need it!" she giggles sweetly, tilting her body towards Edward.

Shooting a quick look in his direction, I'm pleased, if not a little terrified, to find that he is still looking my way. His eyes creating a blazing trail down my frame. Excitement flares deep inside of me.

Is he checking me out?

I keep myself from physically shaking my head, but I quickly crush any hope I might have.

Of course, not, you idiot! Remember how disinterested he was after that night? He fucking forgot that he made out with you.

As if I could ever forget.

Focusing my attention back on Tanya, I give her an answer.

"Nah, the closest is in Port Angeles. I took a small daytrip to Seattle after work yesterday to visit a friend. We went out."

This grabs Edward's attention.

"How is Leah?"

The genuine concern in his tone makes it impossible for me to stop myself from meeting his gaze. The overwhelming compassion I find there, reminds me of why I'm so head over heels for him.

"She's doing much better," I answer, my voice soft.

He nods, holding my gaze.

"Good."

The connection between us hums and for the first time I see something in his eyes that makes me wonder if he feels it too.

"Well, it was nice of you both to drop by to say hi, but Bella and I really need to get cracking. The Ball is three days away and there is so much to be done."

Alice's assertive voice brings us both back to reality.

Edward blinks, a hint of confusion crossing his face before he turns his attention to his sister.

"I hope you aren't taking advantage, Alice. Bella has a lot-."

The way he tries to speak up for me makes my heartbeats accelerate, his sister, however, clearly doesn't want to listen.

Why am I not surprised?

"She's agreed to help with the catering, brother dear," she tells him innocently.

As if that gives her the right to change her mind left, right and center just days before the actual event.

Edward sends his sister a hard look. Apparently, he's able to see past her sweet façade.

"She deserves a chance to actually enjoy herself at the Ball, Alice, and not just work. Bella's a big part of the farming community here in Forks and I hope you're taking that into consideration. The Farmer's Ball is supposed to give us farmers an opportunity to let loose and celebrate. Bella's a part of that equation."

Alice's expression reminds me of a disgruntled child, but I'm too stunned by his words to really react. Edward sends his sister a wide and comforting grin before he wraps a muscular arm around her shoulders, moving away from Tanya's hold.

"I'm sure she has everything in perfect order, Alice. She is a world-renowned chef, you know?"

His green eyes sparkle with what I can only describe as immense pride, as he glances expectantly in my direction. A swarm of butterflies take flight in the pit of my stomach as a hot flush spreads across my cheeks in response to his compliment and kind words. Rendered speechless, I slowly bob my head to confirm that I do in fact have everything under control. Alice still looks as though she desperately wants to argue, but after meeting yet another hard look from her brother, she slowly relents. A flash of something painfully vulnerable and a hint of fear crosses her features before she nods her head in acceptance.

"Of course."

She returns the large stack of papers safely into her bag, the expression on her face changing effortlessly back into her familiar happy and bubbly persona; a move I know all too well. Watching her mask her true emotions, I feel a rush of compassion for her. The Perfect Princess might not be as perfect as she makes herself out to be.

"I have all the confidence in you, Bella. I'm sorry."

Her apology sounds genuine.

"I am so excited for the Ball. My followers are already so in love with this small-town vibe, you have no idea."

Ugh… Tanya.

"By the way, Bella, I would love to have a chance to sit down with you and talk. What you've managed to build for yourself is so inspiring and I would love to showcase you in one of my articles."

Yeah, that's about the last thing I want to do.

My mouth drops, but I can't seem to form the words. Tanya's smile curls proudly as she once again reaches to touch my arm.

"Don't worry, we'll find a time after the Ball. I know you're probably extremely busy until then. The Cullen's have been so kind to let me stay with them and I still have so much to learn."

Once again, I'm forced to fight back the urge to slap her.

"Do you have some handsome date lined up to take you to the Ball? If not Edward and I could probably drop by-."

God, I do not need to hear more about her and Edward.

I create a sharp slicing movement with my hand to cut her off and clear my throat. Stepping back, I feel the nerves once again build up inside of me at a terrifyingly rapid pace. Edward's heavy gaze pierces into mine as he studies me just a little too carefully.

"I'm fine, thanks."

I interlace my fingers tightly together and bite my lip nervously as I try to calm the fuck down.

"I have a date."

The blatant lie drops effortlessly from my lips. Relaxing my tight grip, I drop my arms to my sides, desperately trying to keep myself from fidgeting as that familiar nervous energy threatens to explode inside of me. Alice and Edward look confused.

"You going with Seth?" Edward asks, the confident and self-assured smile on his face rubbing me the wrong way.

Leah's voice echoes in my mind.

"…if you really want Edward to notice you…Jake and Edward have always been competitive…"

I shake my head almost violently, Edward's thick eyebrows rising with surprise.

"No, uh," I clear my throat, making sure to hold his gaze as I give him my answer.

"I'm going with Jake."

His jade eyes flare with something intensely powerful yet utterly indescribable.