Disclaimer: Twilight is the genius of S

Disclaimer: Twilight is the genius of S.Meyer.

A/N: Thanks to everyone who continues to read this, I'm really enjoying your reviews. A gigantic thankyou to Spookymiss who helps me keep out the crap. And for anyone else who is as angry as me about SM's announcement about MS, I hope you can smile when you recognize some lines!

Edward automatically spun himself around so that he was positioned between Bella and James. Silently he cursed himself for being so careless at work. He should have predicted James seeking him out after their altercation in the conference room. Hindsight, he thought bitterly.

James looked at Bella appraisingly and his eyes lingered noticeably longer on certain areas than others and Edward bristled. His fists clenched in fury at his side and he could feel Bella recoil further towards the desk. If she thought she could have moved around Edward, she would have crawled beneath it. Terror flashed through her mind, not for herself but for what this would mean for Edward. He was her editor, after all. He had helped her get this job. It seemed that Edward and James were locked in some sort of stare-down death match. Despite her fear, Bella had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. Boys were boys no matter where you were.

Edward broke the silence first. "Get out of here, James."

"I'm not sure I want to do that, Eddie. It looks as though this is where the good times are today. Maybe when you two finish up, Bella could come over to my desk and I could better acquaint her with a real man." James sneered at Edward and simultaneously leered at Bella. She shivered. "Whaddya say, dollface?"

Edward took a step towards James and before James could do anything, Edward had him pinned against the door with his forearm across his throat. One of James' arms was jammed behind his body but the other swung wildly at Edward, trying to connect with whatever piece of him was available. Edward yanked that arm up above James' head, forcing the frosted window of the door to rattle.

"You.Don't.Speak.To.Her." Edward ground out through his clenched teeth.

Bella wasn't sure what to do. Her first instinct was to take the lamp off of Edward's desk and smash James' face in with it, but she couldn't do that without the entire office hearing it. Or seeing it, since it would probably break the glass on the door. She scanned Edward's desk for something else and her eyes settled on a silver letter opener. Not entirely sure what she was going to do with it, she scooped it off the desk and held it firmly in her right hand.

James was smiling into Edward's outraged face. Clearly, he was unaffected by his physical position.

"Awh, relax Cullen. I'll bring her back to you in one piece. We won't even get rough. But then, I bet she likes it a little rough, don't you doll? It's always the quiet ones that like it the most."

Edward could feel the bile building up in the back of his throat. If James didn't shut his mouth soon, he was going to have more than just Edward's arm on him.

That was enough for Bella. Brandishing the letter opener like she actually had an idea what she could do with it, she stuck her face over Edward's shoulder and narrowed her eyes in hatred. James didn't stop grinning, even though his face was starting to turn a little red from Edward's hold.

"Shut your filthy mouth you disgusting piece of trash." Bella had never been one for harsh words and she was clearly unpracticed in insults. She suddenly wished for Emmett's influence. He could swear the pants off an entire fleet of sailors.

Edward had to try hard not to smile at Bella's outburst. She was like a kitten that thought it was a tiger. But he knew James and unfortunately, she was only antagonizing him further. Thankfully she stepped away when James' smile grew in size.

"Don't start the dirty talk already, baby. Your boyfriend is still in the room."

"Shut it, James. What do you want?" Edward hissed, willing himself not to choke the man to death.

"Well I don't know, Eddie. What have you got for me? Besides your dame?"

Edward changed his positions and grabbed hold of James' lapels; dragging him forward and then slamming him back into the door, hard. The entire frame shook and Bella could hear people starting to murmur outside, they were starting to notice something was wrong. Not two seconds later, there was loud banging on the other side of the door.

"What's going on in there? Open the door, Mr. Cullen!"

Edward sighed and released a still smirking James. They both straightened themselves out and Bella noticed that Edward's hands shook as he pulled them through his deliciously messy hair.

Edward smoothly pulled open his office door and Marcus, the editors Bella saw with Edward earlier, Jasper and Alice were standing outside. Jasper pushed to the front of the group and stood beside Edward when he saw who else was in the office. Alice ran to Bella's side and gripped her hand fiercely, glaring at James.

Marcus only shook his head sadly. "What have you done now, James?"

James laughed a short bark of a laugh. "Well nothing, sir! Your question is better directed at Eddie, here. We all know what kind of a temper he has. Why, he practically assaulted me this morning."

Marcus wasn't fooled. He rubbed a stubby hand over his beefy face in exasperation.

"Eric, Tyler, please escort James to the lobby – I think it would be in your best interest to take the remainder of the day off, James. We'll see you tomorrow." Marcus waved at the two men standing with him and they responded by grabbing James' upper arms. It looked rather practiced to Bella, as though it wasn't the first time he had needed to be escorted off the floor.

"How delightful, Marcus. I'll see you tomorrow, Eddie. And I'll see you later, Bella baby." James threw a sleazy wink in Bella's direction before allowing himself to be escorted out of the office.

Bella bristled with rage and fear. "It's MISS SWAN!" She shouted after him, her voice sounding stronger than she felt.

Edward was far from composed as he spoke with Marcus. His fists were balled up in rage again and his whole body was tense.

"Oh Eddie, my boy," Marcus shook his head sadly as he placed his beefy paw on Edward's slender shoulder. "What happened?"

Edward shrugged his shoulders lightly. "He spoke rudely to Miss Swan. I've told you, Marcus; his writing will never negate his poor excuse for a personality."

"And I've told you Eddie, you need to be more careful around him. As much as it chagrins me, his writing is an asset to this paper that we can't afford to lose right now. You need to work on controlling your temper. He rubs me as much the wrong was as he does you, but you've heard the rumours. I can't do more about him right now." Marcus patted Edward's shoulder reassuringly and gave him a sad smile. It was clear he felt particularly powerless against James' supposed mafia ties.

But Edward wasn't accepting his reasons this time. Not when James had his sights on his Bella.

"There are a dozen more qualified writers on staff that are more than eager to replace him. If not for his suspect sources, he wouldn't have a word to give this paper. And there are other avenues for us to explore if you fear these rumours so much. Surely, Detective Swan has spoken to you—"

Marcus cut off Edward's protests with his raised hand.

"It isn't worth your breath right now, Edward. For some reason James is afraid of you. You just keep using that to your advantage to control what you can and I'll keep trying to do what I can from my end. Discussion over, Eddie." Marcus looked at Edward seriously and patted his shoulder lightly. He turned to face Bella and let a grin light up his face. Bella wasn't fooled though, she could see that the smile didn't reach his eyes.

"Are you alright, Miss Swan? I'm sorry you had to experience any unpleasantness. And on your first day, no less! You kids take the rest of the day off as well. I'll take your articles to my office with me, Eddie. I'll have Eric take care of your pressing items today." Marcus helped himself to a stack of paper from Edward's desk and was out of the office before anyone could object.

Jasper and Alice looked to Edward and Bella for an explanation. Alice pried the letter opener out of Bella's hand and placed it back on her brother's desk.

"Bella, honey, are you okay?" Alice stood on her tip toes to look Bella in the eyes.

Bella smiled at the concern across her little friend's face. "I'm fine, Alice. Edward is my hero again, today." She fixed Edward with a smile. "Emmett is going to be glad to know he can take a vacation from saving his little sister."

But Edward wasn't ready to smile or joke about it yet. James wasn't finished with them or more specifically, with Bella. And now that he knew Bella was as important to Edward as she was, he had what he finally needed to truly get under Edward's skin for a change. Things were going to get worse before they got better. Maybe having Bella work at the paper wasn't going to turn out so well. He certainly couldn't watch her every moment she was in the building… and James would only need a few minutes alone with her for Edward's worst nightmares to come true. But he knew Bella would never leave the paper. She loved her new job and was far too stubborn to leave it for someone like James. Maybe if he showed less affection for Bella in general. Maybe Emmett would be willing to walk her into work everyday… surely if James got a look at her brother he would be less likely to harass her for Edward's sake. But he knew Bella would never willingly take an escort into the building everyday. Unless… they made it less obvious. Emmett could just want a tour…everyday? Bella was too smart for that. But as he looked into her beautiful eyes he couldn't stand the thought of her being anywhere near a sleaze ball like James. He would have to speak with Jasper and Emmett for a better plan. Or perhaps, he would need to speak to Detective Swan… if Charlie knew Bella had come in contact with James… but did he want to do that to Bella?

Edward plastered a smile on his face while Bella told Alice and Jasper what had happened. She made Edward sound more heroic than he felt but he couldn't stop the warm feeling from spreading throughout his body as he listened to Bella speak of him so lovingly. His heart swelled as he listened to the pride in her voice and he watched her gesturing as she spoke. As she tucked her hair behind her ear and he caught a glimpse of her red nails, he suddenly envisioned them trailing down his bare chest and disappearing beneath his waistband. Something else started to swell in response. He shook his head and adjusted his suddenly snug pants as he reached for his jacket and hat hanging on the coat rack in the corner of his office.

"How about some lunch, kids?"

The three of them nodded and exited Edward's office. The normally chaotic and frenzied newsroom had grown uncharacteristically quiet as they made their way through the maze of desks and people towards the main doors.

"Edward," Bella whispered, gripping his arm. "They're all staring at you."

She was right. The entire newsroom population had ceased to work and were watching Edward, Bella, Alice and Jasper make their way through. People started talking in hushed tones and murmurs and their eyes didn't leave the small foursome.

So much for avoiding idle office gossip, Edward thought, feeling defeated.

Just as they were about to reach the double doors and escape the awkwardness that seemed to be swallowing them, a small strawberry-blonde burst through, her curls bouncing erratically as she moved. When she saw Edward, her face broke into a giant smile and she bounded over to him immediately placing two manicured hands across his chest.

"Oh, Edward!" She cried, her eyes wide with reverence. "Is it true what they've been saying? Did you really lay James out and break his nose? I heard about it on my way back from lunch! They said there was blood everywhere!"

Bella snorted. Edward raised an eyebrow in her direction and smoothly peeled the small woman's hands off his chest.

"No Tanya," he said slowly, as though he were speaking to a child. "Your constant need to participate in gossip has betrayed you once more. There was a small altercation but nothing of that caliber. James was rude to Miss Swan and I simply helped him locate his manners." Edward shrugged and took hold of Bella's wrist, leading her away from Tanya and out of the Tribune altogether.

Bella ventured a look behind them before the doors closed and saw Tanya staring after them with a forlorn look on her face. But before Bella could turn back, she swore she saw something else in the little blonde's smile. Something more than the obvious awe she felt for Edward in light of the day's events. Bella thought she recognized… lust? Oh no.

"Edward," she ventured as they made their way around the corner to a small coffee shop for lunch. "Was that your secretary, Tanya?"

Edward nodded as he pulled out Bella's chair at their table. He shrugged out of his jacket and slung it over the back of his chair before sitting down himself.

"That was Tanya Denali. She's been my secretary since I became an editor. I'm sorry I wasn't able to properly introduce you today." He smiled at her as he picked up his menu and Bella's brow furrowed as she pretended to look at hers.

Alice kicked her leg from under the table and Bella's head snapped up in response.

"Alice!" She hissed. "That hurt."

Alice smiled a tight smile and swung her eyes between Bella and Edward.

"Ask him more," she mouthed.

Bella was confused. Ask him more about his secretary? Had she noticed the lusty look in her eyes as well? Bella was sure she was the only one looking back as they had left, though. But she never bet against Alice.

Bella cleared her throat softly and Edward turned to look at her. He smiled as he met her gaze and turned back to his own menu.

"So did you know Tanya before you started working at the paper, Edward? She seemed rather concerned about you."

Edward shifted slightly in his seat, but his eyes didn't leave his menu. Jasper and Alice were both staring at him now, their menus forgotten on the table. They both knew there was more to the story than Edward was letting Bella knew and they both weren't having any of that. If Edward didn't speak up soon, Alice and Jasper would be crawling over each other to tell Bella. Edward seemed to feel their gazes on him. He sighed and slowly lowered his menu.

"No, Bella. I didn't meet Tanya until I began working at the Tribune."

"So you knew her before she became your secretary?" Bella was sure Edward was editing his story carefully, but she couldn't figure out what exactly he was editing out.

"Well, yes. She was the secretary of the old editor of the Arts and Life section, too. She collected my articles. We met that way." Edward shifted in his seat again. He silently prayed for Bella's questions to end. Why did Tanya have to show up just as they were leaving? And why did Bella need to be asking him with Jasper and Alice sitting at the same table? Edward knew that if he wasn't more forthcoming in the next few minutes that he would lose the chance to tell Bella the truth himself altogether. He just didn't feel lunch with his sister and best friend was the right atmosphere. Bella and him had only been really together for the past two days. It was fresh and delicate; he didn't need things to become difficult right now. Especially now that he had to worry about James!

"And you're quite good friends now? She seemed particularly concerned about you earlier." Bella looked at him as though she were trying to bore into his mind. He had to look away.

"Yes, we are friends. But Tanya is a tad dramatic. She revels in office related gossip."

Bella felt as though she would implode. Why did all of his answers seem so maddening? They answered her questions but seemed to be leaving so much out.

"Edward," Jasper reprimanded from across the table.

Edward shook his head, his eyes never leaving the menu. Bella wanted to rip it from his hands and throw it across the room. The items weren't that interesting.

"No, Jasper. Not now." Edward's voice was very low and very annoyed.

Alice sighed loudly and glared at her brother. She looked Bella in the eyes and smiled apologetically. "Tanya and Edward dated. Briefly." She added quickly.

The waitress came to their table at that moment.

"What can I get you folks?"

"WHAT!" Bella bellowed. The other lunch patrons turned in their direction.

"I think we need a few more minutes." Jasper told the waitress. She looked more than happy to leave.

Alice shushed Bella and looked at her brother. "You couldn't have just come out and told her? What is wrong with you, Edward?"

"You dated your secretary?" Bella's voice was incredulous.

Edward was livid with his sister but his main concern was reassuring Bella. He wasn't ready for whatever they had to be over.

"She wasn't my secretary when we went out and it was very brief." He qualified, taking Bella's hands into his. "I though it would be more appropriate" he looked at Alice, "to discuss it with you privately. I'm sorry, Bella. Don't think that I was trying to hide it from you. We honestly only went out on two dates and that was enough for me."

"Three." Alice said.

"Oh for the love of all that is holy, Alice! Do you mind?"

"Sorry," she squeaked. "But it was three, not two. If you're going to tell her at least tell her the truth."

"Fine," He sneered. "We went out three times."

Alice smiled in satisfaction and picked her menu up again. Jasper shook his head in disbelief and hid behind his as well.

Bella wasn't sure what to say. Or rather, she wasn't sure how to say what she was thinking nicely.

"Why is she still your secretary? Isn't that uncomfortable?" She settled for an easy one.

Edward shook his head.

"It was over a year ago and she's the Arts and Life section secretary. I couldn't very well ask Marcus to fire hire after he promoted me simply because we had been out on a few dates. It didn't work out for a reason, Bella." Edward cupped her cheek in his palm and stared into her eyes. They were hard, but he could tell that she believed him.

"What was the reason?" She was trying to still sound angry, but she couldn't help melting into his touch. Leave it to Edward to force her into forgetting her train of thought just by touching her.

"She was too vapid for me. I told you she enjoyed office gossip too much. She enjoys attention even more. I think the only reason she wanted to go out with me at all was because she knew people at the paper would talk and inevitably ask her questions. I wasn't interested in being with someone so shallow. She's a nice person and a great secretary, but I was looking for something much more." He smiled at Bella with his last words and she knew he meant her. But that didn't change the look she had seen in Tanya's eyes earlier.

"I don't think she got over you, though." Bella looked at Edward seriously.

Jasper laughed. "I don't think any of Edward's old girlfriends have gotten over him. Ouch! Alice!"

Alice glared at him over her menu after she kicked him under the table.

Bella snorted and Edward dropped his hand from her face. She lifted her hands from his grasp and picked up her menu.

"Bella?" Edward ventured, mentally making a note to sock Jasper one later.

She wordlessly shook her head.

"Let's just eat. I think I've had enough excitement for one day."

The waitress returned with a tentative look on her face. The four of them ordered and ate lunch in relative silence. Jasper and Alice carried a conversation on between themselves and Edward joined in sporadically, but Bella spent the rest of her lunch hour in silence.

She was more than aware that that she was acting childish but she didn't care. Her mind kept returning to Renee; she hadn't referred to her as her mother in five years. Renee had been Phil's secretary and they had run off together, despite Charlie, Emmett and Bella. All Bella had was five years of unrequited love for Edward. Could she compete with Tanya if it came to that? She didn't like feeling this way, so helpless and self-pitying. She would have to talk to Alice later for some advice. But even Alice didn't know the whole story about Renee and Charlie. Emmett and her had always glossed over the details whenever they were asked. Maybe she should try talking to Emmett.

When the cheque came, Edward picked up lunch for everyone. Bella wondered if he felt guilty.

As they walked back towards the giant building they all worked within, Bella remembered that Marcus had told them to take the rest of the afternoon off. Bella had finished the first half of the first draft of her column, so she felt confident in taking Marcus' instructions to heart. She would have plenty of time to work on the rest tomorrow. She wondered what she could fill her afternoon with when she suddenly remembered that Emmett's practice started at 2pm, she would go and watch!

When they reached the steps of the Tribune building, Alice gave Bella a long hug and whispered in her ear.

"Don't let it ruin the rest of your day. He didn't conceal it to hurt you, he's just worried about losing you now that he has you." She winked as they pulled apart and Bella felt herself smiling. But she still wanted to talk to Alice.

"Are Carlisle and Esme still out of town?"

Alice nodded and smiled, sensing Bella's train of thought.

"Come over for dinner tonight, then. I'll make your favourite." Bella winked. "And then if you want, we can-"

"Sleepover?!" Alice interrupted, barely able to contain her enthusiasm.

"… have a sleepover." Bella continued, ignoring Alice's excitement.

"It's the berries, Bella! I'll see you after work!" Alice pecked her brother on the cheek and disappeared into the building with Jasper.

Bella took a seat on the concrete steps and Edward fidgeted nervously in front of her. He wasn't sure if they were having their first disagreement and he didn't want to pressure Bella into talking about it for fear of making it worse. Usually this all came easily to him, he had never worried about another person this much. He didn't know what to do with himself.

Bella could tell he was uncomfortable so she patted the cold concrete beside her. Edward sat down and took off his hat. He spun it a few times in his hands before he looked her in the eyes. To his surprise, she was smiling. He made a mental note to buy Alice something ridiculously expensive and beautiful later as thanks for whatever she whispered into Bella's ear. Her smile gave him the encouragement he needed.

"Bella, I'm sorry that the Tanya situation came out the way it did at lunch. I hope you can forgive me."

Bella stopped him from spinning his hat and entwined her fingers within his.

"Of course, Edward. I'm sorry I made a small scene." She blushed and looked down.

Edward lifted her chin up with one of his slender fingers and kissed her softly on the mouth. He pulled away quicker than either of them would have preferred, but they were in the middle of a busy block and it was the middle of the day – so modesty was expected.

"Bella I need you to know that I really care quite deeply for you. I want us to take what's happening between us seriously. I want you to be my girl, doll."

Bella smiled and kissed his cheek. "I've been your girl for a long time, Edward."

Edward looked a little taken aback and Bella smiled again.

"You really never knew?"

"Do you think I would have left you alone for this long if I had? Why didn't you ever tell me how you felt?"

Bella snorted again. Edward grinned at the fact that such an unlady-like noise sounded so refined coming from her.

"How could I? You're Edward Cullen. Girls fell over you left, right and centre in high school and in university, you were always so busy."

Edward shook his head in amazement. "I may be Edward Cullen," he scoffed. "But you are Bella Swan. I would have fallen all over myself in an instant to be with you. And as I recall, the boys fell over you left, right and centre in university. Emmett nearly had a heart attack when he had to listen to guys on the football team talk about you. We lost our last homecoming game because so many of the guys had broken noses and couldn't play."

Edward laughed at the memory. Emmett had nearly broken his hand that week he had punched out so many of their friends. It served them right though, they knew better than to speak about Bella with Emmett within earshot. It didn't help him that her and Alice came out to every single game. Edward was lucky that Alice had Jasper or he would have had his own broken hand for sure. As it was, Edward had always verbally threatened the guys before Emmett got their hands on them. He'd always had protective feelings for Bella and on more than one occasion he and Jasper had caught each other giving her the once over. But Emmett was their best friend and there were certain rules attached to that. Edward had always looked, but also kept their lines of friendship pretty clear. He was also too dense to notice Bella's interest in him. There had been the occasional moment when he had thought they could be more, but he never felt she reciprocated it. When they finally all fell into a comfortable rhythm with each other as one big group of friends, he hadn't thought about the possibility again. But now, here they were.

Bella laughed at Edward's memory but abruptly cut it off and scowled at the ground.

"That's really horrible, Edward. Emmett is always overreacting. I'm sure what they said couldn't have been that bad."

Edward stared at her profile as she spoke. "You don't see yourself clearly, at all Bella."

"Emmett!" She suddenly cried out and stood up from the steps.

Edward looked up and down the sidewalk, thinking Bella had seen her brother somewhere. There were a lot of people moving along on both sides of the block, but Edward didn't recognize his friend anywhere.

"Where?" He asked Bella, putting his hat back on.

"No," she shook her head and grabbed his hand. "He has practice today at 2, let's go and watch! We need something to fill our now free afternoon!"

Edward had already thought of dozens of different things they could do to fill in an entire afternoon alone, but he wouldn't be a gentleman if he voiced them to Bella right now. Instead he reveled in the feeling of her hand within his as they ran around to the back of the building and his parked car. He opened the door for Bella and climbed into the driver's side.

"I'm keen to watch Emmett today, Edward. This will be his first practice as a first string player! Did he tell you that he's actually going to be playing in Friday night's game?" Bella's eyes were bright as she talked about her brother. Emmett had been playing second string since the Bears offered him a position last year. He had proven himself in a few games last season, but this season was proving to be his best.

"I don't think I can remember the last time I watched Emmett played. I only went to two games last season and he didn't play in either." Edward eased their car onto the street and towards the Chicago Bears practice field.

"The practices are better, they play pretty hard but they goof around a lot more too. You'll see, it's pretty nifty."

They reached the field in less than twenty minutes and Bella led Edward in through the player's entrance and briefly chatted with the caretaker before showing Edward to the field.

"How often do you watch Emmett practice, Bella?" Edward was surprised how well Bella seemed to know her way around the building surrounding of the field.

She shrugged and continued to lead him into the field. "Enough times, I suppose. I told you, they're really fun."

To Edward's surprise, she didn't lead him to seating area up and around the field but instead took a hallway that led directly onto the practice field itself. There were twenty or so figures scattered around the green grass doing various types of warm-ups or engaged in general chit-chat with each other.

Bella never let go of Edward's hand, so when he stopped to take in the size of the field, Bella felt a pull on her hand and stopped with him. She watched him with an amused smile on her face.

"The first look is my favourite part too," she whispered in his ear. Her breath did things to his body that he couldn't think about with her brother and his football friends so close. She gave an impatient tug on his arm and they were moving again.

Bella pulled Edward behind her all the way to the team's bench in the middle of the sidelines. She stood beside a group of men engaged in a serious conversation and scanned the field for her brother. Suddenly her hand was wrenched out of Edward's as rough hands around her waist pulled her into a tight embrace and spun her around twice. Her skirt flared out around her and she clutched onto the familiar burly figure as she laughed heartily.

"Jacob Black!" She admonished. "Put me down you big lug." She playfully swatted at his enormous shoulders and he laughed as he put her back down on the ground. They had spun away from Edward and further onto the field.

"Miss Bella Swan! How's my favourite linebacker's little sister? Come to see the big kids play today?"

Bella smoothed down her skirt and jacket and readjusted her hat once she was back on the ground. Edward strode over to her quickly and stood angrily at her side. Bella was sure that her and Jacob's exchange had unnerved Edward slightly, but she wasn't concerned. That was just Jacob.

"Where is my brother anyway?"

Edward slung his arm over Bella's shoulder and pointed towards the left of the field. Bella threw her arm around his waist. She knew he was obviously doing it to show Jacob what was what, but she didn't mind. Jake and her were just friends and any excuse to touch Edward was one she would take.

Jake, however, eyed Edward's arm suspiciously. Emmett hadn't mentioned Bella was seeing someone and Jake wondered if her brother knew she was coming to watch him practice with this unknown fella.

As Bella squinted in the direction Edward's arm pointed, Jake jogged off to let Emmett know they were there. If anyone was going to get angry about Bella being pawed in public, it would be Emmett.

"Hey, Swan! Your sister and some guy are here to watch. Who's the jerk?" Jacob thumbed back towards Bella and Edward. Bella was waving her free arm enthusiastically in their direction.

Emmett smiled and waved back. "That jerk is Edward Cullen, my best pal. Watch your mouth, Black." Emmett gave Jacob a good natured shove, but his eyes were serious. Jacob raised his hands in mock surrender and jogged off towards the huddle on the other side of the field while Emmett ran over to his sister and Edward.

"Hey lovebirds! Playing hooky on the first day, Bells?"

Bella laughed nervously. She suddenly didn't want to tell Emmett the truth about why her and Edward were free on a Monday afternoon; but she hadn't thought of an excuse beforehand either.

"Our editor didn't want Bella to feel too overwhelmed on her first day. We thought we'd use our free afternoon to watch you in action." Edward lied smoothly and quickly for Bella who gave his waist an appreciative squeeze in response. Edward wasn't sure he wanted Emmett to know the reason either. It would inevitably require him to explain exactly what he and Bella had been doing in his office. Edward wanted to keep his nose in one piece.

Emmett seemed satisfied with Edward's lie and invited them to sit on the player's bench to watch their practice game. Bella watched intently the entire time, cheering for her brother occasionally. Edward was surprised she followed the game so easily. She scoffed at his comment.

"Have you forgotten that Alice and I have been watching Emmett play football since high school?"

"I guess I didn't realize you actually enjoyed watching the game. I always thought it was more out of loyalty that the two of you were at all of our games."

Bella snorted again. Edward poked her in the side.

"Loyalty? Do you remember the people you used to play with? Who wouldn't want to watch them for a few hours every week?" Bella raised her eyebrow at Edward and smirked. Edward watched the rest of the game in silence, pouting slightly that Bella obviously came to many of Emmett's games and practices to watch the other men Emmett played with. Did she come to watch that Jacob Black character too?

When the game was over, Bella and Edward walked hand in hand back to Edward's car. She invited him to come over for dinner with Alice and to extend the invitation to Jasper and Rose as well. Charlie usually worked his latest on Monday evenings, so it would be nice to have a small dinner party. Edward dropped Bella off at home before he went to pick up Alice from the magazine and return for dinner.

Bella was busy in the kitchen preparing for dinner when she heard loud knocking coming from her front door. Figuring Emmett was too lazy to pull out his keys, she wiped her hands on her apron and stomped to the front door. As she wrenched it open, she saw it was a flower delivery. Thinking Edward was being sweet and slightly annoyed that he had spent money on flowers for her, she took the box reluctantly just as Emmett was getting out of his car.

"Hi Bella! Aw, did Cullen send you some flowers? He sure knows how to keep his nose in one piece." Emmett shut the door behind him and followed Bella into the kitchen.

Bella opened the white box to reveal twelve long-stemmed deep red roses and a big red bow. While she filled a large crystal vase with water, Emmett picked the card up out of the box.

"Let's see how mushy Edward can be," he said chuckling as he opened the envelope.

Bella turned off the water and carried the vase over to the flowers as Emmett read the card out loud.

"Congratulations on your first day at the Tribune. Be seeing you soon dollface. James."

Emmett wrinkled his brow at the signature. But before he could ask Bella who James was, she dropped the crystal vase on the kitchen floor, scattering crystal and water everywhere.