A/N: I wanted to thank the reader(s) who nominated my story at Twilight Awards in the AH Category. There are more details about it in my profile, but I wanted to say thank you. The response to this story has been wild and I'm glad you guys are enjoying it.

Special thanks to spotzle and vjgm for their epic beta powers.

Your eagerness for this story astounds me. Thank you all for the reviews and for those of you who don't normally read AH fics, thanks for giving this story a chance.

Should I even bother apologizing for the length again? :)

Chapter 6 "Transformation"

My poor heart

It's been so dark

Since you've been gone

After all you're the one who turns me off

You're the only one who can turn me back on

-"Turn Me On" by Nora Jones

Edward stretched out on the sectional couch in the living room and draped an arm over his eyes. It was a comfortable couch and his mom, when she purchased it, made sure that it was long and wide enough to accommodate him or in her words, "My lanky son."

After he showed Bella to his room and she decided to turn in early, he didn't see much point in the rest of the evening. Edward had waited all day to see her and when he finally did, he barely got a chance to talk to her.

But damn did she look good, he thought.

Growing up, Edward looked out for her just as he would his own sister Alice. Except Bella needed a lot more looking after.

Lately he thought that maybe Bella didn't need looking after so much and he just used that as an excuse to be near her.

She obviously survived just fine on her own while he was at Berkeley. It's not that he thought that she'd be destitute or near death without him, but he certainly wasn't expecting to find her so independent and strong willed either. Edward knew that Emmett had a lot to do with it.

Bella really came in to her own like he knew she would. For a long time, she was just Emmett's sister and then she became Bella whose brother was Emmett.

Emmett who was his best friend.

One of the things that endeared Bella to Edward was her genuine ignorance of how beautiful she truly was. All of the boys would line up if they could, if Emmett wasn't there to swat them away like flies. For a time, Edward was part of that line of defense mostly because Emmett was his friend and he wanted to help protect his little sister. At times, Bella saw him as The Other Brother.

Eventually-he didn't know how it happened; he was in the middle of it before he knew- but Edward no longer wanted Bella to see him as The Other Brother.

Seeing her last night after their trip back from the mall, brought back the memories he'd had when he first realized his feelings toward Bella had changed.

Bella started to come in to her own the summer before her junior year when his parents had taken them to their cabin at the lake. Of course, the Swans were invited. Charlie declined the invitation, but Emmett and Bella accompanied them.

He and Emmett came out for the day first and went on the water, whether it was jet skiing, wind surfing, or whatever water sport they fancied. Alice and Bella usually got up later in the day and mainly laid out in the sun. It was the routine they had any time they stayed at the cabin, so Edward was not expecting anything unusual.

Edward and Emmett were coming in from their day in the water and headed back to the cabin. They grabbed some sodas from the fridge and they were about to head out to the patio when they saw that Alice and Bella were already there. Usually, they laid out by the lake.

Emmett made a big deal about them being there and what they were wearing, or rather how little they were wearing. He asked them what happened to their old bathing suits and Bella replied that they hadn't worn one piece bathing suits since they were twelve. When Emmett realized that meant that they had been dressing the way they were - in hardly anything – for years, Emmett almost had a heart attack.

Alice assured him that they were fine, but explained that day, a bunch of guys were bothering them, so they came back. That seemed to placate Emmett, but he swore that if he saw the guys who bothered them he'd tear them a new one. Emmett made it clear that he didn't want them going down to the lake "dressed like that" anymore. Alice gave him a breezy okay, knowing it was better just to let him cool off. Bella was about to argue, but instead, flipped on her stomach and undid her top. This caused Emmett to flee the patio in a panic. After that, Emmett would not come near the patio if the girls were out there laying out.

Looking back at it now, Edward felt pretty naive about it. Of course Bella would lay out in a bikini, but to actually see her in one pretty much confirmed how he felt.

Edward wanted Bella.

And he hated himself for it. Bella looked up to him and trusted him to protect her. Countless times, she would look to him for guidance and trusted his judgment. It wasn't that Emmett was a bad brother, but things were so cut and dry with Emmett. Bella looked to Edward for understanding the things that fell in between the lines.

He liked Emmett's straight forward perspective on life. Things were either good or bad, right or wrong, easy or hard. Emmett helped to ground Edward's tendency to over think things.

Emmett was his best friend, and Bella was his best friend's sister. If he acted on his feelings for Bella, Edward believed it would be a disaster. Bella never gave any indication that she saw him as more than just a brotherly type. He could imagine how it might hurt her that he would take advantage of her trust if he ever chose to act on his feelings.

And the world of retaliation that Emmett would bring down on him for hurting Bella? Unimaginable. He really valued Emmett's friendship and he knew that Emmett respected him and his loyalty to their friendship.

He could never act on his feelings for Bella because he couldn't betray either of them.

"Oh, good. You're awake." Alice laid some clothes by his feet. "I got these for you."

Edward sat up. "Is Bella awake?"

Alice shook her head. "I went in to try and wake her, but she. . ." a small smile played on her lips before she said, "She's still asleep. Maybe you'll have better luck." She headed over to the kitchen. "I'm going to start making breakfast."

Edward shot up from the couch with his clothes in hand and sprinted up the stairs. He didn't get to sleep until really late. Alice and Jasper were the first to turn in, but Rosalie and Emmett stayed up late talking. Around one in the morning, Edward went into the guest room and crashed, but around five, Rosalie kicked him out and he went back to the couch in a daze.

It was a little after eight in the morning now. Normally he would've been annoyed with Alice for waking him up so early after the tumultuous night he had, but not only was he glad that he had not slept through the morning, Edward was also eager to see Bella.

He made a mental note to make sure to get Alice something expensive for her wedding present.

He used the upstairs bathroom to change, freshen up, and then he went to his room to wake Bella.

He knocked on the door. "Bella?"

There was no answer. There was a sense of deja-vu to the situation which caused him to hesitate just for a second before he opened the door.

Bella was still asleep. He put his pajamas on his desk and walked over to his bed. She was laying on her side in a t-shirt. He didn't realize he was holding his breath, anticipating the state of dress or undress he would find her in. He was a guy, so he was a little disappointed that there would be no repeat performance of the other morning, but he was also relieved because he didn't think something like a flimsy bed sheet could stop him this time.

He reached out and gave her shoulder a gentle shake. "Bella? It's morning. It's time to wake-up."

Her forehead wrinkled, but she did not wake up.

Edward leaned closer. "Bella?"

She flipped on her back. "No, Alice. Not yet. It's too early."

He couldn't help smiling. So, maybe she wasn't expecting Jacob that morning, he thought.

Edward reached for her and cupped her face. "Bella, wake-up." He traced the apple of her cheek with his thumb.

He was surprised by her immediate response. She leaned into his hand and reached up with her own and held onto it.

His name came out in a long sigh, "Edward." Then Bella took his hand and dragged it down past her collarbone and onto her chest. She leaned into his touch and sighed again.

Edward blinked several times and swallowed hard. "Bella?" With his other hand, he cupped her face again, trying to wake her up.

"Not yet, Alice."

He was confused. "It's not Alice. It's Edward."

She leaned into his hand that cupped her face. "Yes." Which was accompanied by another long sigh of his name.

What is she dreaming about? He wondered.

He repeated, "It's Edward. I'm right here. Bella," He added for good measure, "this isn't a dream."

Bella had the beginnings of a smile on her face, but at Edward's words, the smile disappeared and her brow wrinkled again. It took another minute for her eyes to flutter open.

She said, "Alice?"

"No, it's Edward."

Her eyes came into focus and they widened in recognition. "Edward?"

He smiled and said, "So, is this me getting to second base?"

Bella was aware of one of his hands caressing her face, but when she saw the other one on her right breast because she held it there, Bella shot up from bed, pulling away from Edward's hands.

She let out a string of curses.

Edward held up his hands. "Sorry."

"I can't believe you-"

"I was trying to wake you up."

"By groping me!"

"You're the one that put my hand there."

"That's a lie!"

"Alice tried waking you up before. She sent me up here because she thought I'd have better luck getting you to wake up."

"But you didn't have to-"

"I swear," he looked at her with genuine sincerity, "I did not initiate that."

Bella opened her mouth and closed it. She couldn't very well say, "Why not?" She hated herself for feeling disappointed. She realized that she had been dreaming and thought that Edward needed some encouragement, so in her dream, she-

"Is that a Forks High football practice shirt?" Edward interrupted her thoughts and leaned in to take a closer look at it.

Bella pulled up the comforter in front of her blocking his view. "It's Emmett's."

"Bella," he lifted the left sleeve of the t-shirt. It had the name CULLEN printed on it in capital letters. "I know you can read." He let go of the sleeve. "How'd you get this?"

"I. . .It was mixed up in Emmett's clothes." Edward waited for her to continue. Bella took a deep breath. "I was doing his laundry and when I was sorting it, I found it. It must've gotten mixed up with his stuff after a practice."

"So, you kept it this whole time?"

Bella couldn't read his expression. She raised her chin in defense and said, "I was going to give it back to you, but I never got the chance."

Edward shifted in his spot.

Bella threw off the covers and proceeded to climb out of the other side of the bed. "I better get changed." She walked toward the foot of the bed and looked back at him. "You probably want this back."

Edward stood and swallowed hard when he saw Bella. Her bare legs were endless and she was standing in the middle of his room in one of his t-shirts. A realization hit him.

"Do you wear that t-shirt to sleep every night?"

Bella shuffled her feet. "Not every night." She fisted the hem of the shirt when Edward walked around to the foot of the bed.

"You didn't have it on the other morning when I-"

"I told you, I was too tired to change into my pajamas." Bella cringed. She didn't want him to know that his t-shirt was her pajamas.

He raised his eyebrows at the fact that she slept in his t-shirt or nothing at all. He ran his fingers through his hair.

"You probably want this back," she lowered her voice, "So you can give it to Rosalie."

The last comment had him looking into her eyes. "Why would I want to give it to Rosalie?"

"Well, isn't that what the football players did?" Edward continued to look at her like he had no clue what she was talking about. "You guys gave your jerseys to your girlfriends."

"Oh, but she doesn't wear stuff like that to bed."

Bella cringed.

When he realized how his words were misunderstood, Edward held up his hands and said, "I mean, she's not my girlfriend."

"What?" She had a look of distrust on her face.

"That's what I wanted to talk to you about last night." He took a step forward. "Rosalie isn't my girlfriend."

"I don't understand. Then why. . ."

"It's complicated."

Bella gave him an expectant look.

Edward took in a deep breath. "When we first met, we did go out on a couple of dates, but nothing really clicked." He rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. "But it seemed everyone assumed that we were an item and. . . it was just convenient for the both of us. And it also seemed to make Jasper and Alice happy at the time."

"What do you mean it was convenient?"

Edward shoved a hand in his pocket. "Rosalie needed someone to accompany her to stuff that her clients would invite her to. Sometimes it was just dinner. Other times it was a weekend away somewhere. I'd go with her so that her clients wouldn't think that she was available for other things besides finding them a car."

"But that doesn't seem very fair to you."

He shrugged. "I didn't mind."

Bella wasn't sure about how to feel about the news. A part of her was excited about the fact that Rosalie wasn't his girlfriend, but she thought it was strange that he was so willing to be Rosalie's pretend boyfriend.

They heard Alice calling them from downstairs. "You guys, breakfast is almost ready!"

Edward said, "We'll be down in a minute."

"I better get changed." Bella pulled at the collar of his t-shirt. "I'll give this back to you as soon as possible."

"No, I want you to keep it."

"I can't."

"I like it on you."

Bella felt like the temperature in the room just got ten degrees warmer. He closed the distance between them and Bella instinctively returned her grip on the hem of the shirt.

"What were you dreaming about?" He asked.

Bella tried to look away, but couldn't. She could see that his eyes were an amber color. She wondered what he could possibly be nervous about.

"I don't remember," she lied. She willed herself not to blush.

One of his eyebrows curved, giving his face a playful expression. "Really? It sounded. . . vivid."

She thought her knees were about to give way from under her because of the intent look in his eyes. "Um. . ." was all she could get out.

He lowered his voice. "I've never heard you say my name like that before."

Before Bella could deny it, Edward leaned down and her body reacted by meeting his lips.

But their lips had barely brushed against each other when they heard Alice approaching. "Breakfast is ready!" She appeared at the doorway. "What are you guys doing?"

They were standing a couple feet away from each other at this point.

Bella said, "We were just talking." She gave Edward a confused look before she continued, "I'm going to go. . ." She trailed off as she went to the bathroom down the hall.

Alice mouthed, What happened?

Edward shrugged.

When they heard Bella shut the door to the bathroom, Alice stood in the doorway, hands planted on her hips and said, "Did you tell her?"

Edward blinked. "Tell her what?"

Alice let out a frustrated sigh. "About Rosalie!"

"Um, yeah."

"And?"

"And what?"

She loved her brother, but sometimes he could be so obtuse. "Is Bella okay? How did she take the news?"

Edward shrugged again. "She seemed fine."

She looked up and closed her eyes. After half a minute, she said, "You can go downstairs now."

"But-"

"Go before breakfast gets cold."

He hated it when Alice pulled an Esme, but he wasn't going to argue. He left reluctantly.

Alice had a feeling that Bella probably needed a few minutes to collect herself. To help Bella out, Alice laid out some of the new clothes for when she was done in the bathroom.

Then she went downstairs to join the others. Jasper and Rosalie were at the kitchen table having breakfast. Edward was standing in front of the refrigerator with the door open.

After a couple of minutes, Alice said, "The juice is on the table."

Edward snapped out his daze. "Oh, right."

He walked over to the table and grabbed one of the glasses and poured himself some juice. He held the glass, but didn't drink it.

Rosalie said, "Are you alright, Edward?"

Jasper said, "Are you going to drink that?"

Edward looked up to see Rosalie and Jasper giving him concerned looks. "Uh, yeah." He took a sip, put the glass on the table and then he stood there staring at it.

Alice had come over to the table and sat next to Rosalie. She looked at Jasper across the table and then at Rosalie on her left. They gave Alice questioning looks, but she just shrugged.

Trying to diffuse the situation, Jasper said, "So, how late did Emmett stay last night?"

Rosalie choked on the coffee she was drinking.

"Oh, yeah." Alice had a smile threatening to spread on her lips.

This brought Edward out of his daze and he said, "I went to the guest room around one and she came and kicked me out around five, I think."

Rosalie's coffee cup landed with a loud thud on the table. "We had a lot more in common than we thought."

Edward raised his eyebrow. "Really? Like what?" He knew both of them well enough that they had nothing in common.

Rosalie narrowed her eyes at Edward.

Alice said, "Emmett doesn't strike me as your type."

"Emmett is a very interesting conversationalist." She said in a matter-of-fact tone.

Alice looked at Rosalie in disbelief and Edward did not bother to hide his laughter.

Rosalie rolled her shoulders back. "What?"

A small smile pulled at the corner of Jasper's mouth. "Rose, you forget that they grew up with Emmett."

Rosalie opened and closed her mouth several times, but nothing came out.

Instead she blushed. Rosalie actually blushed.

"You're blushing!" Edward pointed at her.

Alice leaned in closer to inspect Rosalie's face. "You're right. Wow. I don't think I've ever seen you blush before."

"I am not!" The color was rising in her cheeks.

"You guys, we're adults here." Jasper felt a little sorry for his sister. He had never seen his sister react this way toward anyone before.

Alice smiled. "Sorry. It's actually really sweet."

Edward held up his hands as a sign of a truce.

Alice sat up in her seat. "I just had an idea," she continued before anyone could run away before hearing it. "The wedding is in a couple of weeks and Rosalie and I were talking about having some kind of combination bachelorette and wedding shower type of thing."

Rosalie, relieved to have the subject change, said, "Have you decided what you wanted to do?"

"Well, I was thinking since Jasper hadn't planned on having a bachelor party," she looked at Edward to confirm this who had a clueless expression on his face, she said, "why don't we go up to our parents' cabin by the lake for the weekend? All of us?"

"The cabin?" Edward said it with a hint of wariness.

"Yeah. We'll call Emmett too. He'll probably have to join us on Saturday, but I'm sure he'll be up for it." Alice looked at Rosalie.

She shifted in her spot. "Yeah, he might."

Jasper said, "That sounds like fun."

They all looked at Edward. He hesitated before he said, "I don't know. There's no internet access and I have to finish a write up for Dr. Pruisner. I was going to work on it this weekend and email it to him."

Alice said, "I thought you were all caught up."

"I brought some of my work with me, so that I could leave early."

"Edward, it's just one weekend." Alice had a mild look of disappointment.

"I don't think I could put it off any longer." He shoved a fist in his pocket.

Rosalie said, "Well, you have all week to work on it before the weekend. Unless," she gave him a knowing smile, "Maybe you had plans while Bella was staying here."

"I hadn't – We -" He ran his fingers through his hair. "I'll think about it." He left the kitchen and walked out through one of the French doors that lead to the wrap around porch. He shut the door behind him, making sure no one followed him out.

"Why's he so reluctant to go?" Rosalie asked.

Alice shrugged.

"He seemed really apprehensive about something," Jasper said and then sipped his coffee.

"We used to go to the cabin all the time with our parents and Emmett and Bella. I don't know why he's being like this," said Alice.

"Well, if we're going to the cabin this weekend, I better start adjusting my plans." Jasper stood up and walked around and kissed Alice on the cheek before he went upstairs.

Alice turned to Rosalie. "Will it be a problem for you to change your plans?"

Rosalie shook her head. "I left this weekend free because I wasn't sure what you wanted to do, but during the week, I have plans to be in Port-" Rosalie held up her hand to her mouth.

Alice raised an eyebrow at Rosalie. "What was that last part?"

"Nothing." She collected her breakfast dishes and went to the kitchen sink.

Alice followed her and was shocked to see Rosalie actually washing her dishes. "What's going on?"

"What?"

"Rosalie Hale, you never wash dishes."

Rosalie shut off the faucet and looked at Alice. She chewed on her lip, deciding whether or not to tell Alice of her plans.

A small smile spread on Alice's lips. Then she said, "Are you going to Portland to see Emmett?"

Rosalie's mouth fell partly open.

Alice's eyes widened with shock. "Oh my gosh, Rosalie! Are you serious?"

"Sshh!" Rosalie lowered her voice. "Please don't say anything. I can't believe I'm actually going to see him either, but last night. . ." she sighed.

Alice leaned forward. "What happened last night?"

Rosalie shook her head. "We were just talking and all of a sudden. . ." Rosalie blushed again. "I couldn't keep my hands off him."

Alice's eyebrows shot up.

"I know!" She shook her head to clear it. "He was talking about the conference in Portland and how he was looking forward to the seminar about the Forest Practice Act."

"The what?"

"I don't know. Something about having to replant trees once they've been harvested."

"Okay."

"He was actually excited and went on and on about it." Rosalie took in a deep breath. "The whole time I was expecting him to try something, anything especially when Edward left, but then he started talking about forest fires. And the thing is, he really was serious about what he was talking about."

Alice giggled. "That sounds like Emmett."

"Really? I thought he was just pretending or maybe even nervous."

Alice shook her head. "Sometimes he has a one track mind."

"Really?" This time Rosalie's tone was suggestive.

Alice rolled her eyes. "So that whole time he talked about trees and fires?"

Rosalie bit her lower lip. "Well, I don't know what came over me. I've never had a guy seem so disinterested in me before. I had to practically jump on his lap to get his attention."

Alice's mouth fell open.

"But nothing happened." Rosalie sounded disappointed.

"Nothing?"

"Well, we made out, but when I tried to. . . go a little further, you know what he said?"

"What?"

"He said, 'my sister's upstairs'. He was really worried about that." Rosalie sighed.

Alice let out a small laugh. "Yep, that's Emmett."

Rosalie turned to Alice. "Do you know if Edward talked to Bella about-"

"Yes, this morning."

Rosalie's shoulders dropped and she let out a deep sigh. "Thank, god."

"So are you going to tell Bella you're going to go visit her brother?" Alice teased.

Rosalie had an alarmed expression on her face. "No - I don't know. It was actually supposed to be a surprise. Should I?"

"Should you what?" Bella entered the kitchen.

Alice said, "Rosalie is going down to Portland."

"Oh, that's where Emmett's conference is." Bella walked over to the kitchen table. There was already a glass of juice next to the pitcher, so she picked it up and took a sip from it.

Alice looked at Rosalie. "That's right."

Rosalie shot her a warning look.

Bella looked at Rosalie and Alice who seemed to be caught up in some kind of staring match. "Are you guys okay?"

Rosalie gave Bella a bright smile. "Yeah. Great." She was a little too eager.

"Wouldn't it be nice if Rosalie saw Emmett while she was there?" Alice asked in an off-handed manner.

Rosalie elbowed Alice in the ribs. Alice did not even flinch.

"Oh, well, I guess that would be up to Emmett and," she hesitated before she said, "Rosalie."

"So, if they did happen to see each other while they were both there-"

"Alice." Rosalie warned.

Alice mouthed, What?

Bella came around the kitchen table and walked toward them while they stood in front of the kitchen sink. "Rosalie, do you have plans with Emmett in Portland?"

Rosalie swallowed hard before she said, "I was going to surprise him."

"Oh," Bella hesitated before she said, "he'd like that. I hope you guys have a good time."

"Really?" Rosalie threw her arms around Bella. "Thank you."

Bella, who like Emmett and Charlie, was unused to such displays of emotion, patted Rosalie's back in an awkward manner. "No, don't thank me. I actually should apologize to you." Bella let go of Rosalie and shifted in her spot.

"For what?"

"For those things I said yesterday." Bella looked down at the floor.

"You have nothing to apologize for. If anything, Edward-" Rosalie stopped when Alice coughed. "Anyway, it's all in the past. I'm just glad things have been cleared up."

"Bella, I was hoping you could help us with something," Alice said.

"Of course." Bella turned her attention to Alice.

"Well, we decided not to have a bachelorette party or a wedding shower," Alice said and looked at Rosalie.

"Right. Alice decided she wanted to do something else." Rosalie looked at Alice who nodded. "But we've hit a bit of a snag and we're hoping that you can help us."

Bella was relieved when Alice said there would be no bachelorette party or wedding shower. Whatever else they wanted to do, Bella was open to it.

Rosalie said, "Alice wanted to go to their parents' cabin by the lake this weekend instead."

"Oh, that sounds like fun!" Bella really liked this idea.

Alice added, "I was thinking we could leave Friday and come back Monday morning."

Rosalie continued, "It would be small."

Alice said, "You could call Emmett and invite him."

"I think he'll be okay with it," Bella said. That was easy enough. If that's all she had to do to help out, Bella liked this idea even more.

"But there is one other thing that we were hoping you'd help us with," Rosalie said.

"Oh. What is it?"

"Maybe you could persuade Edward to come along?" Alice asked.

Suddenly the idea was not as appealing as it was a minute ago. "What?"

"Since the guys don't really have anything planned for Jasper, I thought it would be a good idea for all of us to spend time together," Alice said.

"But, Edward's being reluctant about it," Rosalie said.

"He made up some excuse about work," Alice said.

"Well, if he has work-"

"But it's nothing he can't do before the weekend," Rosalie said.

"And the wedding is in two weeks. It would mean a lot to me if we could all spend time together before then," Alice said.

Alice's expression made Bella feel bad. "I do want to help, but I don't understand why you guys think that Edward will listen to me."

Rosalie stepped in. "The fact that you're going is an advantage."

Alice said, "And if you ask. . . nicely, I'm sure he won't refuse."

"Nicely? Isn't that what you guys did and he still wouldn't go," Bella said.

"Not if you ask," Alice said.

"I don't see how it'll make a difference," she said.

Rosalie threw her hands up in the air. "Gees, Bella. Just use your feminine wiles on him."

"What?" Bella said.

Alice rolled her eyes. "What she means is that if you just be yourself, Edward will come to the lake with us."

"I don't think it'll work." Bella's tone was skeptical.

"Let's fix you up just a little." Rosalie reached over and undid the bun Bella haphazardly put her hair in. "Ooh. Fresh from the shower. That will work." Rosalie scrunched Bella's hair in her hands to give it a wavy look.

"Oh, and here's the lip gloss from John," Alice held it up.

"How did you get that?" Bella asked.

"I went upstairs to get it," Alice said.

"But, I didn't see you-"

"Don't worry about it," Alice said and tore off the seal.

While Rosalie finished with Bella's hair, she said, "Okay, this is what you should say-"

Alice waved the lip gloss wand. "No, don't tell her what to say. Edward will know something's up."

Rosalie let out a frustrated sigh. "Fine. What do you suggest?"

Alice finished applying the gloss and stood back to inspect their rush job. "Hmm. . . take off your hoodie."

"What?" Bella held on to it as if Alice was going to rip it off her.

"It wasn't part of the outfit I laid out for you," Alice said while replacing the lip gloss wand in the tube.

"But-"

"It's actually unseasonably warm out there right now."

"But all I'm wearing are the two tank tops you put out." She was also wearing a pair of shorts Alice had laid out with the layering tank tops. She almost didn't wear the shorts because they were a little shorter than she'd like, but seeing as she did not have any other pairs of shorts to wear, Bella put them on.

"Suit yourself," Alice shrugged and said, "you'll see when you go out there."

"Go out where?" Bella asked.

"Edward went out to the porch to sulk," Rosalie said.

Bella looked at the French doors and then back at Alice and Rosalie. "This is ridiculous." She took back her hair tie from Rosalie and put her hair back in a loose bun.

"Hey!" Rosalie cried out.

"I'm just going to go out there and ask." She moved to reach for a paper towel so she could wipe off the lip gloss, but Alice gave her a warning look.

"Don't you dare," she threatened.

Bella huffed, "Fine."

She walked to the French doors, but hesitated before she opened it. She saw that Edward was sitting on one of the deck chairs, but his back was facing the door.

"You know, you'll probably have a better chance if you sit next to him on the bench," Rosalie said at her elbow.

Bella swore. "Gees, where did you guys come from?" She saw that Alice was standing next to Rosalie.

Alice said, "I think Rosalie is right. Proximity is key."

"You guys-"

"What's going on?" Jasper saw them grouped by the French door.

"We're giving Bella pointers on how to persuade Edward to come with us to the lake this weekend," Alice said.

His brow wrinkled. "Why doesn't she just ask?"

"That's what I said!" Bella let out.

Rosalie and Alice rolled their eyes at Jasper.

He shook his head and said, "Bella, all you have to tell Edward is that it would make you very happy if he came to the lake with us."

"Me? Shouldn't I say it would make all of us happy?" Bella asked.

Jasper shook his head. "No, just say you."

Like that'll work, she thought. "Whatever." Bella turned the handle to the door and went outside and shut it behind her. She didn't need all three of them listening to her utterly fail at this.

Esme walked in to the kitchen and saw them all clumped around the door. "What's going on?"

Alice didn't look up. "Bella is going to convince Edward to come to the lake with us this weekend."

"And why the audience?"

All three looked up at the question and saw that Esme had pointed a look on her face.

"But, Mom, it's not like we can hear them. We're just watching through the window."

"That doesn't make it any better. I'm sure you all can find better things to do," Esme said.

They all came away from the French door rather reluctantly.

Bella stood outside the door for a moment collecting herself. She wasn't sure why Rosalie and Alice thought she could convince Edward to come with them especially if he did not want to go. She was also a little nervous facing him after what happened in his room. She couldn't believe she kissed him. Sort of.

She didn't think you could count it as a real kiss especially if their lips barely touched. But she was still embarrassed that she reacted in such a way. He was mesmerizing when he looked and talked to her that way and she found she could do little to resist him.

"Alice, I don't care what you say. I'm not going," Edward said.

Bella snapped out of her thoughts at the sound of his voice. "Um. . . I'm sorry to hear that."

Edward shot up from his seat and turned around to see Bella standing by the door. "Oh, I thought. . ." He rubbed the back of his neck. "I didn't know it was you."

Bella walked toward the porch railing. "I didn't mean to interrupt what you were doing."

He followed her gaze and saw that she was looking at his cell phone in his hand. "Oh, I wasn't doing anything. I was just checking my email." He stuffed his phone back in his pocket and walked over to her.

"Anything good?"

He lifted one shoulder up and then down. "Mostly just work stuff."

"So you really are busy with work stuff?"

"It's not too bad."

"Listen-"

"I-"

They talked at the same time.

"What were you going to say?" Edward asked.

"I was going to say that it's too bad you can't come to the lake because you've got a lot of work," Bella said.

Edward looked away.

Bella continued, "Rosalie and Alice sent me out here to try and persuade you to come with us to the lake."

"They did?" He couldn't help being disappointed for some reason.

"I told them that I didn't know why they thought I could convince you to come if you didn't want to especially if you have a lot of work to do."

"You're supposed to convince me?" He looked at her with a slightly bemused expression.

"I know it's stupid. Rosalie thought I should use my feminine wiles on you," she said and rolled her eyes.

He let out a small laugh. "Feminine wiles?"

She shrugged. "What does that even mean?"

"Maybe flirt shamelessly?"

Bella laughed. "Yeah, like that's going to happen."

"Why do you say it like that?"

"Me? Flirt with you? Isn't that kind of weird?"

"Why would it be weird?"

Bella looked at him and was surprised to see the serious look on his face. "Well, because you're Edward."

He blinked several times. "Was that a thinly veiled insult or something?"

Her eyes widened. "No!" It felt like the sun was focusing it's intensity on her. Damn Alice for being right! She thought. Then she said,"I just meant that flirting seemed to never work on you."

"Were you. . . flirting with me and I missed it?"

"No," She let out a small laugh and said, "I was talking about like in high school. There were so many girls that tried to get your attention." Bella felt light perspiration on her forehead.

"But-"

"Can we go in the shade? It's kind of warm over here," she said.

"Uh, yeah." He led her to a bench which was shaded by the house. Once they were seated, he said, "So what does this all have to do with me coming to the lake?"

Bella fanned herself with an open palm. "I don't know. Rosalie thought that if I acted more feminine that I could convince you to go." Edward waited for her to continue, "But then Alice said that I just had to be myself or else you'd think something was up."

Edward couldn't help laughing.

"See, this is stupid."

"So what are you going to do?" He asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, what are you going to tell them when you get back in the house?"

"I don't know." Sitting in the shade was a little better, but she wasn't cooling off fast enough. She looked over at Edward. He was wearing a snug black t-shirt and dark jeans, but he didn't seem to be bothered by how warm it was.

She cursed to herself and unzipped her hoodie and took it off. She said, "Well, I guess I'll just tell them that you have a lot of work to do."

He was momentarily caught off guard when she took off her sweater. She went from being all legs to suddenly also having her arms, shoulders and neck exposed.

He brought his gaze back to her face. "You're not going to even try?"

"Try what?"

"To try and convince me to go?"

"What's the point if you've already decided that you're not going?"

He hesitated before he said, "Well, it couldn't hurt to try could it? I mean, at least you could tell them you tried, right?"

"So, I could humiliate myself?"

"Why would it be humiliating?"

"Well, you're not going and. . . I don't have any feminine wiles."

He smiled. "What if I keep an open mind? Plus, I know how excruciatingly painful it is for you to do this, so I promise I won't laugh or make fun of you."

She couldn't help smiling. "It's not excruciatingly painful." She was gripping the edge of the bench and looking down. "Maybe it's just painful."

After a moment, Bella took in a deep breath. She picked up her sweater that she had laid in between them and moved it so that it was no longer acting as a barrier.

Edward was sitting at the other end of the bench. He was facing her. One elbow was on the armrest and he had extended his other arm across the top of the backrest.

Bella had moved a couple of inches closer into Edward's personal space. She was embarrassed by what she was about to do next and was afraid her voice would fail her. Edward sat up just a little in response to Bella's movement.

She reached up and undid her hair. She knew it probably looked like a tangled mess especially after what Rosalie did to it, but it was the only thing Bella could think of that would be considered feminine.

Bella faced Edward. "Aren't you even a little interested in going to the lake with us?"

It took a moment for Edward to formulate an answer. "Maybe a little."

She smiled and tucked one of her legs under her, so she could turn her body toward Edward. "I really enjoyed the times we all went when we were younger."

"Me too." He smiled, but then his smile faded.

Bella continued, "We haven't been there in a long time, and I think it would be really nice if we all went. I bet we'd have fun and Alice said she'd like us all to spend time together before the wedding."

"Yeah, but-" He made a movement to get up, but Bella placed a hand on his knee.

She said, "Is something else bothering you?"

"No, why would you say that?" He couldn't help looking down at her hand on his knee.

"You had this look on your face when I mentioned going there as kids."

He looked up at her. "Oh, it just seems like that was a long time ago."

"You know what was one of my favorite things that we did when we were there?"

He waited for her to continue.

"When we'd all go down to the lake at night and have a bonfire. I remember once you dared Emmett to eat a whole bag of roasted marshmallows. It took him a while, but he did and he asked you what he won."

Edward grinned.

"And you said respect," Bella laughed and said, "Then you guys wrestled and ended up in the lake."

"My mom wasn't too happy about that," Edward said.

"And you made the best s'mores!" Bella's face lit up.

Edward could feel the back of his neck burning. "Can I tell you something?"

"What?"

"I don't like s'mores."

Bella's eyes widened. "Really?"

He nodded.

"But you made them all the time."

"Well, I knew you liked them."

Bella laughed and then she said, "That's really sweet."

Edward was caught off guard by the comment.

Bella didn't notice Edward's reaction and continued, "Emmett never made me a s'more."

"That's because he was too busy eating them all."

They both laughed. After a moment, Bella said, "See? How can you not be persuaded by all these great memories?"

"True, I should be." He gave her a good natured smile.

"But?"

"I'll think about it."

"You'll think about it?" She shifted closer to him. "It'll be fun."

It was becoming more difficult for Edward to keep his resolve. He didn't know if he could handle seeing Bella in a bathing suit especially when he knew what was waiting underneath.

Bella still had her hand on his knee and occasionally gave it a gentle squeeze when she emphasized a point. She had one of her legs tucked under her and he felt her knee brush up against his thigh when she shifted closer to him. The guileless expression on Bella's face meant that she was totally clueless about what she was doing to him.

"I'm sure it will be," he barely managed to say.

Bella studied him for a minute. When they were talking about the bonfire, he seemed ready to agree to go to the lake. Then for whatever reason, she felt a wall go up. She did not understand how he would be so warm one minute and then closed off the next. She remembered what Jasper had told her and decided to give it a try.

She licked her lips before she said, "I-I would be very happy if you came to the lake with us."

Edward blinked several times. "What?"

"Never mind." She moved to get up, but Edward put his hand over her hand on his knee.

"Bella, what did you say?"

She took a deep breath and said, "I'd be very happy if you came to the lake."

His eyes examined her face. "Really?"

"Yes," She looked down. Bella knew she should stop, but for some reason she felt compelled to continue. "It would be nice if you and I got to spend time there together." She looked up at him. "Will you come to the lake?"

Edward's mouth hung open.

"Edward?"

He blinked a few times and then he smiled and said, "Yes, I'll go."

"You will?" She grinned.

He squeezed her hand. "Bella, you didn't need Rosalie or Alice's help."

Her forehead wrinkled. "What do you mean?"

"You could ask me anything right now, and I'd say yes."

Bella withdrew her hand from Edward's. "You promised you wouldn't make fun of me."

"I didn't mean-"

"I was trying to-" She stood.

"I know." Edward stood as well.

"I meant every word I said. I wasn't trying to trick you or anything like that." Her cheeks were burning.

She turned to walk away, but Edward put his hand on her arm. "I know, and I wasn't making fun of you." He withdrew his hand and ran his fingers through his hair. "I think I know why Alice sent you out here to ask me to go to the lake."

Bella waited for him to explain.

He gave her a small smile and said, "It's probably because I can't say no to you."

She gave him a playful smile. "You shouldn't have said that."

He raised an eyebrow at her. "Why?"

"I'll remember that for later." She grabbed her sweater and walked back to the house.

Edward followed her. "What's happening later?"

"I meant for future reference." She turned around and said, "You know, like if I need heavy boxes moved or someone to shoo away big bugs, I'll know who to call."

"That's what Emmett's for," he said with some amusement in his voice.

"Oh, right," she said over her shoulder, "Don't worry. I'll think of something."

"Bella?"

She was about to turn the handle to the door, but stopped when Edward called her name. She turned to face him and waited for him to continue.

He shifted in his spot before he said, "In my room. . ."

Bella felt her cheeks burn. "Oh."

"Before Alice came in."

"I'm sorry about that."

"Sorry about what?"

"I was actually trying to step back, but I guess. . ." She started to lie.

He couldn't help smiling. "Really? Because it seemed like you did the opposite."

"It was an accident." She stepped back, but was already up against the door. She cursed to herself. How is it that Edward always manages to pin me against a door? She thought.

"An accident?" He said in a wary tone.

"Yeah, like bumping elbows or something. I actually meant to step back, but I lost my balance."

He gave her a look of disbelief.

"Yeah, kissing accidents. They're pretty common. You can google it." She turned around before he could say anything and opened the door. When she walked back in the house, Alice and Rosalie were sitting on the couch.

They both stood at the same time. Rosalie asked, "Well?"

"He said he's going."

Rosalie raised her eyebrows and Alice bounced and clapped at the same time.

Edward had followed Bella inside and saw their reactions. He said, "I still have that write up to do."

Alice skipped over to her brother and hugged him. "I know you'll get it done before the weekend."

He hugged his sister back and shook his head.

Rosalie walked over to Bella and in a low voice said, "Nice work."

Bella looked at her with a surprised expression. "But I didn't do anything."

Rosalie gave her a knowing look. "Sure."

Bella shook her head.

"Well, I better get started." Edward made a move to go upstairs to his room.

"Oh, let me get my stuff out of your room." Bella followed Edward.

He stopped and turned to face her. "You don't have to take your stuff out. I was just going to get my laptop and bring it down here anyway."

"Yeah, but I've got class and work later today, so I want to get my stuff out of there before it gets late."

"Oh," he tried to keep the sound of disappointment out of his voice.

Rosalie said, "Bella, you can bring down your stuff to the guest room. My flight is later this evening, so there's no reason why you shouldn't move in there now."

"Are you sure?" Bella asked.

Rosalie nodded. "Plus, you can show me what Alice got you at the mall."

Alice jumped. "Oh, Rose. I want to show you what I picked up at Cacique."

"Oooh," Rosalie purred and both of them were off to Edward's room leaving Bella and Edward in their wake.

"What's Cacique?" He asked.

Bella shrugged. "Alice actually did all the shopping while I was in the salon."

"That must've been nice for you."

Bella nodded.

Eager to see what Alice purchased, Rosalie and Alice reached Edward's room before them. Edward and Bella were only half a minute behind, but it was enough time for them to start going through the bags.

When Bella and Edward entered, Rosalie and Alice were not going through the clothes first. On Edward's bed lay several pairs of underwear and bras.

"What the hell are you guys doing?" Bella felt her cheeks burn.

"I'm showing Rosalie what I got for you at Cacique." Alice said and she came over and took Bella by the hand and guided her over to the bed.

Rosalie held up a pair of soft pink cotton string bikini panties in front of Bella's lower body. "Why didn't you get something with lace?"

"Bella wouldn't wear it if it had lace." Alice picked up the matching bra. It was a simple soft pink bra with a little pink bow in between the cups and she held it up in front of Bella's upper body. "The trick is to keep it simple."

"You guys," Bella warned. Edward had stayed in the door way, but she was sure he could still see everything. "Can we continue this discussion-"

"But what about these?" Rosalie put down the pink underwear and picked up a pair of midnight blue boy short panties and held them in front of Bella's lower body.

Bella took them from Rosalie and held them up. "What is this?"

Alice laughed and said, "It's stretch lace. I know you like this style of underwear, but I thought it would be good if you tried it in something else besides cotton."

Bella pulled and stretched it. Then she held it over her lower body. "Are you sure this is comfortable?"

Rosalie nodded. "It's very comfortable actually, but it's probably best to wear it under a skirt or a dress."

Alice reached into another bag and pulled out a sun dress. She held it up in front of Bella. It was dark blue, but had a light blue floral pattern on it. It stopped right at Bella's knees and was strapless.

"Is there a matching bra?" Bella asked.

Alice shook her head. "You don't need a bra for this outfit."

Edward stifled a groan.

"You should try this on. I want to see how this looks on you." Rosalie said.

"Ooh, yes!" Alice said and bounced at the same time.

Bella shrugged and pulled at the bottom of her tank tops, but stopped when she heard Edward cough from the doorway.

They all looked in his direction.

Alice said, "Oh, I forgot you were still here."

Bella cursed to herself. Alice and Rosalie always made her forget herself. She felt her face go flush.

"Well?" Rosalie gave Edward an expectant look.

"Well what?" He managed to say.

"Are you just going to stand there and watch?" Alice asked.

Edward opened and closed his mouth several times and then he ran his fingers through his hair.

"We should move downstairs to the guest room. Edward has that write up to work on," Bella said.

"We'll just go to my room," Alice said.

"But isn't Jasper in there?" Bella asked.

"I'll kick him out," Alice said and went to her room.

"Oh, that reminds me. I better go clear up some stuff in the guest room before you move down there," Rosalie said and left the room.

Bella saw that her new underwear was still strewn all over Edward's bed. She snatched them up and stuffed them in the bag they came in. "Sorry."

He took a step into his room. "It's alright."

"I didn't mean to get caught up in all that. I don't normally wear this kind of stuff."

Edward shoved a fist in his pocket.

Bella continued, "It'll be interesting to see how it will all look. I liked that pink bra, but I don't know about these lacey boy shorts." Bella took out the pair of midnight blue underwear from the bag and turned to face Edward. "Lace is usually stiff and scratchy, but this stuff," She held up the pair of underwear and pulled it sideways. "I didn't know they made them like this. This is actually kind of cool."

She looked at Edward. He had an expression on his face that she had never seen before. "Are you okay?" She asked.

He swallowed hard. "Um. . ." He hesitated before he said, "Are you really going to wear those under that dress?"

She shrugged. "Maybe." He looked like he was having trouble breathing. Bella asked, "Are you sure you're okay?"

He ran his fingers through his hair for what felt like the millionth time, and then he managed a curt nod.

"But, I don't know if I'm comfortable with the idea of wearing these yet. I think I'll try them under my pajamas first when I go to bed tonight."

Edward's eyes widened. "You mean under my t-shirt?"

"Oh," She shrugged. "Yeah, I guess so."

Alice came bounding back to the room with Jasper following. "Are you ready, Bella?" Alice asked.

"Yeah." They gathered all the bags from the shopping excursion and walked to Alice's room.

Once they disappeared into Alice's room, Jasper said, "Are you alright, Edward?"

"What?" He tore away his eyes from the hallway. They never shut the door.

"You seem very tense."

"Do I?" He took a step forward, but stopped himself from going any further. "I-She-Underwear."

Jasper laughed. "Breathe."

Edward bent down and put his head between his knees and gulped in air.

At that moment, Rosalie had entered Alice's room and the door was shut behind her.

Edward straightened and felt all the muscles in his body relax. "That was insane."

Jasper shook his head. "This is only the first day. How are you going to handle the rest of the week?"

Edward shoved both fists in his pocket. "I don't know, Jasper." He wasn't sure if he could handle another lingerie show.

Jasper clapped him on the shoulder. "Think about it this way. Are you happy that she's so comfortable talking to you about her undergarment choices?"

"What do you think?" He said wearing a less than pleased expression on his face.

"I'm just saying, it could've been you behind those doors with her instead of our sisters."

Edward groaned. "That will never happen."

"Not with that attitude." Jasper clapped Edward again on the shoulder before he went downstairs to use Carlisle's computer since he was already at the hospital.

It was easy for Jasper to talk so optimistically. He was marrying Alice. Their relationship seemed to just fall into place and it was apparent that they were each other's soul mates.

Edward turned and walked to his desk. He opened his laptop. He did a few other tasks while he waited for his email program to start up. It did bother him that Bella was able to talk so freely to him about her underwear as if they were talking about a new sweater or something more benign. He realized that maybe the reason why she was able to talk to him like that was because she only saw him as Emmett's best friend. The Other Brother.

But Edward knew that she would never talk to Emmett about stuff like this which made him inwardly cringe. Bella was way too comfortable with him.

Edward wasn't going to last the whole week if this was just a sample of what was to come. He decided that he should try and maintain his distance from Bella. It was the only way he'd survive.