Chapter One – Introductions
I knew it was selfish to leave my family like I had. I'd had to get away, though. I had to think, and I couldn't do that in a house full of people. I'd been alone in a house full of couples. It had been like that for far too long. When I'd finally thought I had found my match… I should have known it was too good to be true.
I couldn't live with what she had done – what I had done.
Now here I was in California – about to enter the coastal region – starving, alone in my car that I'd been driving for the past fourteen hours from Washington. I had to find a way to stop all the memories from floating around in my head. I needed someone to talk to, or maybe just someone to talk to me. Anything to keep me distracted.
I found a diner, Joe's Diner, complete with a big, obnoxious green sign, and pulled my silver Volvo into the lot. The building looked like it had jumped out of fucking Grease. Ugh. I was hungry, though, and I wanted a burger and fries.
I took a booth near the window so I could keep an eye on my Volvo. There were two men standing outside the diner that looked anything but kind, and I didn't want to chance my car being stolen. Not only did the car mean a lot to me, but I also had about ten thousand dollars in my trunk.
The waitress came up to me with her fake blonde hair up in a high ponytail, chewing gum.
"What can I get for you, handsome?" she asked in a sickly sweet voice, batting her eyelashes. I cringed internally; she was old enough to be my mother. I shuddered as I took in her appearance. She was wearing a hot pink skirt with a badly stained black apron and a white buttoned-up blouse that was straining from her enormous breasts. Not my type. Not worth my time. Besides, whoring around was not the answer to my pain, my regret and my loss.
I quickly placed my order for a burger, fries and a coke. The waitress left, dissatisfied with my lack of interest. I rolled my eyes, running my fingers through my usually unruly hair. I glanced discreetly at other patrons in the diner.
In a booth in the back-west corner was a family of four. The husband was on the verge of resentment and boredom. The wife was doting over her two young boys – twins, apparently – in high chairs. It was obvious, at least to me, that the husband resented the attention she gave the boys. He missed her. Their sex life probably hadn't been the same since they were born.
I had always been good at reading people's emotions. Most wore them on their faces. I wondered idly if I wore my current emotion on my face. I laughed to myself; I would look a mess. I was a mix of emotions, and I didn't want to think about them anymore. My eyes searched for another face to read.
I came upon a pleasantly beautiful heart-shaped face just across from me, in the other booth. Her brown hair was in curls, long and loose, well past the middle of her back. Her pale skin was almost translucent, but her cheeks were tinged pink, as were her plump lips. I felt the sudden desire to feel them, to see if they were as soft as they looked. I closed my eyes and shook off the thought as I continued to drink in the creature.
Her brown eyes were bright and had unusual depth as she stared back at me. Her eyes were like bottomless pools. She seemed like she was someone who wore her emotions on the surface. I stared unmercifully. I wanted to continue looking at her face, but I was blocked when a tall man with light brown hair in a ponytail sat in the seat across from her.
"Now where were we, my pet?" he asked her, the one that I could no longer see. I shifted in my seat so I could see her, instead of trying to see over his fucking shoulder.
"James," she growled, her tone clearly a warning. She didn't like the name he'd called her. I huffed in annoyance; they must been together. There went that idea of seeing if she'd like to sit with me.
"Bella, why do you deny your attraction to me?" he bit back at her.
Ah, so they are not together.
"Keep telling yourself that, James, if it makes you feel better," she said, sarcasm dripping from every word.
He laughed, mostly to himself. "So are you going to keep riding with me?"
"I'll pay for lunch and the next tank of gas, then I'll get off," she replied, shrugging her shoulders while taking a fry in her mouth. I watched, entranced, as the crisp fry went past her perfect lips, and gently bit on it as she looked at …me. And then she winked.
I was so consumed watching her lips move that I barely heard the response this James guy made.
"You don't have to spend your money. Just let me have my way with you, and that will be payment enough for the next three hundred miles."
Bella's eyes widened in disgust. "Ugh, never mind, James. I get off here." Bella pushed her plate away and grabbed her drink. She dug into the pocket of her jeans, flinging a twenty down on the table before stalking away. She looked at me wistfully before walking out of the diner.
"Bitch," James growled from his seat. I wanted to fucking punch the asshole, but something told me that this would not be a good idea. At least the beautiful woman had left his vile presence, and she was safe from his thoughts and possible actions.
I searched the parking lot; I could see that she had made her way to a black GTO with white pinstripes before flinging the door open. James watched her, eating his food and staring at her blatantly, like he owned her.
Bella removed an old green backpack and a small black duffel bag from the back seat. She swung both over her small shoulder and slammed the door closed. She started to walk across the street, where there was a small bus station. At least now she was safe.
My food came shortly afterward, and I enjoyed it, even though "the Blondie waitress" kept eyeing me from behind the counter. James left after I was halfway through my meal, sliding into his car.
The engine roared to life as he backed out swiftly, his wheels squealing with protest as he hit the asphalt, rushing down the street.
At least now she is safe, I reminded myself.
An hour later, with a quick clean up in the bathroom and a full tank of gas, I headed south. I wanted to do the coastal route. Good ol' Highway One. With its winding roads and beautiful sights, I was sure it would put my mind at ease.
I left the city of Eureka in my rearview mirror as I headed to find the onramp to Highway 101. I had driven for about ten minutes when I noticed the asshole's car by the side of the road. James. I knew nothing about him except that it would serve him right if his car broke down. Then I noticed something by his back tire – a green back pack and duffel bag. I internally groaned.
Don't tell me she is hitchhiking! Then my instincts kicked in. What if she didn't want to be with him? I cringed at the thought that he might be hurting her. My mind and body fought for dominance: I could either ignore the car or check it out. My mind agreed with my heart, I would just check to make sure she was okay.
I pulled over in front of his car. Jumping out of my own, I cautiously made my way to his car. I swallowed the bile in my mouth as I saw that he was hunched over her. Then she screamed, making my blood run cold.
"Help!" she cried out, tears running down her cheeks. I flung the door open and grabbed him by the shoulder, pulling him off her. He flew back onto the gravel, his face flushing with anger.
"What the fuck? She owes me!" he roared, getting back on his feet. My right fist then connected with his jaw as blood spewed out of his mouth. He fell back on the ground, out cold. I heard Bella sob, still in the car. James looked like he was out for the moment. I turned to look at Bella; her whole body was trembling. I turned to grab her. I needed to get her out of here.
When I turned around, however, she whimpered and cried out, "Don't leave me!" as she tried to get up. I shook my head.
"I'm not leaving you," I whispered, looking back at her fear-filled eyes. "I'm just going to get your bags so we can leave." She nodded, trying to cover up her exposed chest. Red scratches and bite marks were evident all over her pale skin. Luckily, her jeans were still buttoned and intact. I averted my eyes and kicked James again. I wanted to kill him.
"Stop, please! Just get me out of here," she cried out again.
I ran to the back of his car and grabbed her bags. The duffel bag was heavy, but the backpack was soft, like it was filled with clothes. I handed that bag to her, keeping my eyes on James as she dug through the pack for something to wear.
James started stirring. "Shit. Hurry, let's go!" Bella yelled, jumping out of the vehicle. She kicked James in the ribs once before running to my car.
"Wait why? What's the hurry?" I called to her as I ran to my door.
"Because he carries a knife and a gun!" she screamed as her eyes widened, looking behind us. I turned to see what she was looking at. James was getting to his feet, using his car for support, sending both of us a murderous glare.
Bella flung herself into the passenger seat before throwing her bags over the front seat into the back. I opened my door and slid in, jamming my keys into the ignition. I heard James running toward the car as I put it in drive and took off, leaving him in my wake.
"Are you alright?" I asked, looking at Bella and back into the rearview mirror. James was still standing by the side of the road, fuming.
"No, but I will be," Bella mumbled. "So, Superman, thank you."
I laughed. "Superman?"
"Spiderman, then?" She smirked, her lips twitching to a smile.
I laughed again, shaking my head.
"Well if I can't call you a hero, what can I call you?" she asked, trying to get my attention again.
"Edward," I answered, looking back to the road ahead of me.
"Edward. Hmm…a little old-fashioned. But nice, nonetheless." Bella sounded breathless, and she was cringing slightly as she put on her seat belt. Both the fabric of her blouse and the belt were most likely causing her scratches to sting. My hands gripped the steering wheel tightly. I should go back there and kill that bastard.
"What you should really be asking me is if you should call me a hero," I stated matter-of-factly. She needed to know that I was neither the good guy nor the hero.
"Why wouldn't I?" she asked. Her brow furrowed in confusion as I glanced at her.
"What if I'm the bad guy?"
AN: Beta'd by the wonderful lisa89, thank you.