I have a HUGE thank you-note for the PA-crew over at Facebook. You ladies keep me on my toes :)
THANK YOU, MeteorOnAMoonlessNight for the beta work on this one!


Chapter 1 — Bella

"Bell, you're gonna have to make a decision. Like, now." My best friend stares at me with relentless green eyes that tell me she's not kidding. Alice is a jokester by nature, but there's not even a chuckle, not one hint of her dazzling smile.

"I know, I know." I sigh, cheeks cradled in my hands as I look from Alice to my sheet of monthly expenses, to the next student loans that are due for payment, to the bill for my piece of shit car that needed towing and a ton of repairs after that jackass rear-ended me last week.

"Come on, we're gonna have so much fun. It's only for one year, then we'll both graduate, and we'll have great jobs in no time." She sits there highlighting all the pros whereas I'm still browsing through my mind, trying to find some cons. I can't find any, though.

"I'll feel like a fucking freeloader, Ali." She doesn't get that I'm not thinking about next year yet, that I'll probably never get out of debt from this pathetic college. Part of me wishes I had just started looking for a menial job after high school instead of going all the way to Chicago for a degree. Once again, Alice had a great idea, and I followed her blindly here. Her dad offered for us to stay at his house, something her mother despised because, apparently, she can't stomach seeing the guy anymore since the divorce and doesn't want Alice around him too much. Alice doesn't know why, though she thinks he cheated on her mom, but she was too young to remember a time when her parents were happy and together. They divorced when Alice was only two years old. Two years too late, according to Jean—my best friend's gorgeous mother.

"Just talk to him about it. I'm sure he'll let you pay rent if you really insist," Alice starts. "Even though you really can't afford it, babe."

She's right though.

"Come on, Dad has more than enough money, and he really wants to see me more, so this is the perfect solution. We'll be able to save money, put some aside… It'll be fun, Bella."

"I don't want to live with parents again, Alice… I'm finally free from mine, and now I have to move in with your dad?" I eye her while she rolls her eyes.

"Dude, you know my dad's nothing like your parents. Hell, mine had me at sixteen. He's hardly even parental material since I've lived at my mom's for most of my life." She picks at her sunflower yellow manicure. I know the tension between Alice's mom and dad is hard on her. "He won't be home much, anyway. Come on, please, Bella. Now or never," she goes on.

I have to hand it to her, Alice will be a great lawyer. She always gets her way when I'm involved.

"Fine, I'll do it."

A loud squeal almost renders me deaf, but I'm happy I can do this for Ali. If not, we'd have gone our separate ways, and I probably would have been living in a shoebox for the next year.

"I'll call Dad right away, he's gonna be so excited." Alice disappears onto the balcony of our current apartment, which is all boxed up and ready for the new tenants on Monday. We can't afford this place, even with Alice bearing most of the weight of the rent, and the constant credit card debt I'm getting myself into isn't worth it anymore.

Okay, now it's final. I'm moving in with Alice's dad—a musician who spends more time on the road than he does with his daughter, the man who gave up his family to become an eternal bachelor. I shake my head, but I'm glad I'm not losing Alice, and I'm back to living in the here and now instead of the constant worrying about the future.

It takes Alice a ten-minute phone call to change up my entire life. We load our boxes in the back of her Mini Cooper and start on one of the many trips back and forth. This car is called a 'Mini' for a reason.

When I think about teenage parents, I often think negatively. Alice's dad, for example. I imagine him living in a trailer, even though I know she's loaded thanks to the guy, but seeing the beautiful two-story greystone building at the end of a dead-end street full of greenery and equally beautiful homes was surprising. I wasn't expecting this.

"Wow, Ali. This place is beautiful," I tell her as she speeds onto a slanted driveway in front of a two-car garage.

"I guess it's not really my taste." She shrugs and gets out of the car before she opens the garage door with the click of a button.

I was not prepared for the house, but when Alice steps inside the garage, my mouth goes dry and my palms sweaty. Behind the garage door are two Harleys and a car I don't look at because my eyes are glued to the man crouched over one of the bikes, his muscular arms shifting the fabric of his T-shirt around, ink as far as the eye can see. I swallow down a lump in my throat, unable to hear Alice speaking over the loud rock music that comes out of a giant box in the corner.

"Dear god, please!" Alice walks over to the wall and tugs out the power cable, the music instantly stopping.

"What the fu—"

As soon as he turns, I realize who it is. Alice's dad. Only he doesn't look like the baby-faced guy in her old pictures. No. This guy is six-foot-something of pure manly perfection, dripping tattoos with fiery copper hair that's longer on top, shaved on the sides. The unusual color contrasts beautifully against deep green eyes. Ali's eyes.

"Alicat!" He stands and drops an oily rag on the floor, wiping his hands on the front of his very ripped, very tight jeans.

"Daddy, watch out. This is Gucci. Dry-clean only," she gasps and motions to the orange dress she wears. Oh, that's what it is. I can easily take one of Alice's dresses and eat for a month.

Her dad arches a brow at her and rolls his eyes before extending a hand to me.

"You must be Bella, Alice's BFF, right? I'm Ed, your landlord and savior."

I laugh at his line and shake his hand, unbothered by the oil stains, mesmerized by the ink gracing the backs of his hands, his knuckles, all over his long fingers. "Hi," I croak out.

"Okay, Dad, I'm gonna unload my car with Bella and then drive back to pick up another few rounds of boxes. Is that okay?" Alice asks. She toys with the ends of her jet black hair. Standing next to her father, I realize she looks nothing like him, apart from the eyes. She once told me she's ninety-nine percent Jean, and I totally agree. Alice is petite and only a hair over five feet, just a bit taller than her mom is. The black hair and olive skin are an heirloom from her mother's Italian heritage, but the eyes? That's one thousand percent a carbon copy of Mr. Masen.

I had never realized Alice had such pretty eyes before.

"Sure, kitten. Text me when you leave there and I'll order us some food. Still eating the most disgusting thing at the pizzeria?" he asks her.

"Ah, yeah. Alice and the pineapple on pizza." I join in the laughter and shake my head as Alice tips her sunglasses down and walks back to the car.

"Maybe if you had more pineapple, Mom would've stayed with you," she bites playfully. My cheeks grow hot when I realize what she's talking about. Then again, Alice never really had a filter. I guess her dad doesn't take offense to Alice's words.

"Sweetheart, all the pineapple in the world isn't enough to sweeten that bitter cunt." Apparently, the lack of filter was genetic. I bite the inside of my cheek, but that's not helping since I'm chuckling at Ed's comeback.

"I'm guessing she doesn't like men with humor. Or she'd obviously have stayed with you," I remark. Yeah, I'm a little scared I've crossed a line here, but Alice laughs and pulls me in, arm draped around my shoulders before kissing my temple.

"See, this is why Bella's the best friend in the world," Alice says.

I spot the smirk on Ed's face, the way it tugs at the left corner of his lips. My face heats up as I watch him lick them before he full-on smiles and shakes his head, chuckling.

"Girls," he mutters, giving his motorcycle all his attention again. I look at him, muscles and an old T-shirt full of stains, his tattoos dancing on his biceps and triceps and everything else.

"You helping me, or what?" Alice asks, head buried in the trunk of the magenta Mini Cooper as she rummages through boxes.

"Hey, bestie?" Ed's head turns, hair falling over his forehead, a playful smile on his full lips. "Plug in the music again, will you?"

I look at Alice, struggling with a box the size of her torso, at her dad, humming a song as he fiddles with motorcycle parts, and I rush to the outlet. Alice groans as the garage fills with AC/DC's Cover You In Oil. The way he just carelessly sings along to the raunchy lyrics makes my heart thump wildly and my stomach tingle.

Fuck, no, Bella. Don't crush on Alice's dad.