I felt myself physically relax as the two-story rustic cabin came into view over the minor hill in the road and sighed, letting my fingers ease their grip on the steering wheel of my rental car.
Being in the clear mountain air of the Adirondacks was overwhelmingly soothing after being all but choked with smog at home in California. And I'd really missed the snow – it was ten times more fun to drive in with the thrill of three-sixties and the momentary weightlessness that went along with them when I was pressed back against the seat.
I'd taken a vacation to Lake George, New York with one of the girls I'd tried dating upon arriving in California and had fallen in love with the quaint gift shops and entertainment spilling out of every bar that lined the boardwalk. While she was very willing to stay in the hotel room for the majority of the weekend, I wanted to get out and explore.
So I drove the flashy rental car around while she pouted and raided the mini refrigerator, fearing I'd gotten lost when houses and businesses stopped appearing as frequently as they once had. It had been about twenty minutes before I spotted houses and churches and people milling around, but failed to find a place to turn around in. I'd passed a high school before I figured out that I could turn around there, had quickly taken a right turn after it and somehow ended up on a quiet street with children playing with basketballs in the road and pets roaming freely.
I'd spotted an 'Open House' sign in front of a log cabin and out of curiosity, pulled up behind a blue SUV.
Out of the many things that I'd loved about this small part of the world, I'd also found the perfect place to escape to just to relax. I'd found the realtor and offered her much more than the asking price. Her jaw dropped before she stuttered a bit and managed to say that the house was mine.
The sign was off the front yard and I'd gone back to the hotel one house richer.
And then I'd gone back to California with an ex-girlfriend fuming in the seat on the airplane next to me. I still really don't understand why she'd gotten so pissed off and had called our whole "relationship" off when she found out that I'd bought another home.
Regardless, I hadn't really minded. She wasn't nearly as interesting as she and the tabloids made her out to be.
Pulling into the plowed driveway, I quickly got out of the car and stretched my stiff limbs.
Going home to Forks, Washington to be with my family probably would've made them happier than anything, but after working my ass off on the latest movie I'd signed on to, all I really wanted was some peace and quiet.
That was not something I'd be granted if I went home. There was an over-excitable younger sister, an equally as excited mother, an older brother that thrived on tormenting me about anything and everything and a father that still slightly disapproved of my career choice waiting there for me.
And I loved my family. They were everything anyone could ever want in a family and I tried my best not to take them for granted.
But just like every other family on the planet, they were mostly handled well in small doses. I needed a breather and time on my own to recollect and remember that I was, indeed, a mature twenty-five year old normal man before visiting them for long periods of time.
Closing the driver's side door and shaking my head of the guilt forming there, I popped the trunk and grabbed the two over stuffed duffel bags. Alice, my youngest sister, had managed to surprise me with one of her very random visits and had insisted on helping me pack when she heard that I was disappearing for the next three weeks.
She hadn't done so without her little quips about how mom and dad had missed me and were counting the days until Christmas and when I'd be home with them for an extended amount of time.
I had a sneaking suspicion that my mother, Esme, had casually encouraged Alice to come to California and try talking me into coming back home with her.
And I would've if work hadn't been so grueling the last two weeks. Pressure was a common feeling at the end of a movie being wrapped, but by the time our deadline had begun rapidly approaching, we still had quite a few things to shoot.
There had been a few days where I hadn't been able to see the real light of day for over forty-eight hours straight. The make up artists were miracle workers for the way they covered the bags under my eyes and managed to clear them of any redness lingering there.
We'd all been allowed a solid eight hours of sleep, no more and no less. I enjoyed sleep; in fact, I woke up every morning looking forward to the fact that I'd be back in my hugely comfortable bed in fourteen hours. Eight hours had never been enough for me and I questioned why I wanted to become an actor almost daily when I was roused by one of my co-stars literally jumping on my back and shaking me awake.
Shouldering both bags, I pulled the cabin keys out of one of the side pockets and started the surprisingly easy walk up the driveway.
I expected to slip and slide my way up to the stairs of the porch. I'd kept a close eye on the weather over this way and had seen that there had been storm after storm the week before I planned on arriving. The fact that my sneakers were easily finding traction on salt made me smile softly as I quickly stole a look at the cabin identical to mine across the street.
The shy, timid girl with vivid brown eyes and flowing brown hair had been the first to approach me when I'd bought this place. I'd been slightly apprehensive about strange girls just waltzing up the porch steps – it hadn't been the first time that an over obsessed fan had found out where I lived and tried to get into my good graces - and had hesitated to open the door when she'd knocked. Instead of flinging the door open like I should've, I mashed my face against the peephole and eyed her.
She was attractive. At least, as much as the skewed vision of the peephole allowed her to be. She'd had a twelve pack of Heineken gripped tightly in one hand as she nervously stole glances across the street and bit her bottom lip. She didn't have a purse with her and when I lurched up on my toes to get a better glimpse at the small woman waiting for me to answer the door I was pressed against, I saw that she was barefoot.
The last two things were very important factors to me. They meant that she probably lived close by and although she might've been a fan of some sort, she obviously wasn't going to attack me with a camera or demand an autograph.
Plus, she had beer. And I had nothing but a loaf of bread and a few bottles of water from the Cumberland Farms convenient store down the road in my refrigerator.
So I'd opened the door and she quickly introduced herself as Bella Swan, fumbling over her words as she jerkily handed the beer to me, her face beginning to redden.
I invited her in and she refused, which made me grin like an ass at her as her cheeks positively flamed red.
This was the first woman I'd met in the past year and a half that hadn't wanted to come inside my home to see what it was like, or if I'd make a move on her, or to see what she could stuff in her pocket while I wasn't looking to either keep for herself or sell on eBay.
I thanked her for the beer, promising to pay her back. She shook her head, her face even redder – if possible - as she crossed her hands in front of her and shyly looked down at her feet as she made an excuse about a 'Welcome to the Neighborhood' gift.
So I ended up thanking her again and she darted off the porch after a stuttered response and possibly some excuse about leaving, almost tripping over her own feet as she ran across the road and disappeared into the cabin across the street.
I'd repaid her in kind a few days later by finding a bottle of red wine in the small and cramped local liquor store and marching my ass over to her place to give it to her.
She was slightly more comfortable when it was me standing on her porch, and had invited me in, her smile bright and open as she moved out of the way so that I could step in.
A man fifteen times bigger than she was was sprawled across the long blue couch in the living room I stepped in to, immediately jumping up to introduce himself as her boyfriend, Jacob Black.
They both insisted that I stay over for dinner and the thought of eating one more peanut butter sandwich as one more meal made it easy to accept their offer.
Bella barbequed out in their large backyard and we sat at a round white picnic table, getting acquainted and laughing over beer and perfectly grilled steak.
Neither of them ever mentioned anything about my career or even knowing who the hell I might've been. And when the meal was over, I watched almost gleefully as Bella and Jacob stuck my plates and theirs in the dishwasher, turning it on when it was full.
There had been a few fans that had kept the silverware I'd eaten with, so watching as Bella slammed the dishwasher door and turned the knob to start it was one of the most relieving things that had happened to me in a long while.
And by the end of the night, I was strutting across their yard and back to my own with a mile wide smile on my face.
It had been a very long time since I'd been able to have dinner – or any meal, for that matter – with people that either didn't know or didn't care that I was a famous actor. It was glorious.
I only stayed for a week that time, but had said goodbye to them both before leaving.
The next time I'd been able to make it back was February and the snow in my driveway was higher than my car was taller. So I parked on the side of the road and got out, dumbfounded about how I was going to make it into my house.
It hadn't dawned on me when I bought the house that I would need to shovel the wide driveway I'd been so fond of when I visited during the winter months.
So I'd slid my way across the street and into Bella's driveway, gripping the railing to her porch as I hauled myself up the stairs and knocked on her door.
She'd greeted me happily and invited me in again. I shook my head, smiling at her and then pointed behind me to the mound of snow covering my driveway, asking if I could borrow her shovel.
She laughed at me, placing a hand over her mouth as she waved me in with her other hand.
"Jake!" she'd called, closing the door behind me as I stood, dumbfounded, in the living room. "Honey, Edward needs to borrow the snow blower!"
And I panicked. I didn't know how to work one of those. My father had always made us use shovels and I'd come inside with blisters on my numb hands. But it was something I was used to; something I'd been ready to have again.
The whole prospect of using a machine that I would probably break just by touching it was slightly nerve-wracking. I was an old-fashioned kind of guy and although I loved my laptop, it was the only piece of modern technology that I owned and knew how to operate.
"Bella, I don't…"
She'd waved me off again and I huffed, running a hand through my unruly bronze hair as she disappeared deeper into the house. She reappeared momentarily with Jacob in tow, telling me that he'd help me clear out my driveway.
I protested and she waved me off again, rolling her eyes at me as the two of them led me into the kitchen and through a door leading out into the garage.
He'd handed me a shovel, pushed the button to automatically open the garage door and walked over to a contraption that looked highly dangerous.
It roared to life as I stood there, stupidly holding onto a shovel and watching as he pushed it out of the garage and across the street, attacking the mound of snow in front of him with ease.
I turned to Bella, holding up the shovel and asking her what in the hell I was doing with it when he was taking care of everything easily.
She laughed at me again and explained that he was going to make a path for me so that I could start shoveling off the porch while he finished the driveway.
"He really doesn't need to do it, you know. If he could just show me how to use it," I'd swallowed hard, looking cautiously out of the garage and watching Jacob move the monster easily around my driveway before looking back to her, "and I could do it. I don't want you two to go to so much trouble."
"Edward, it's what neighbors do," she'd explained easily, shrugging her shoulders and smirking at me. "Don't even worry about it."
"I'll take you both out to dinner," I'd offered quickly, throwing my free arm out at my side. "To make up for it."
She'd rolled her eyes and waved me off again. "It's what neighbors do," she'd said again, crossing her arms over her chest and shivering slightly. "I'll have hot cocoa for the both of you when you're done."
And before I could protest, she'd disappeared back inside and closed the door firmly behind her, effectively ending our conversation and leaving me with no choice but to walk back to my house.
Jacob and I had had the driveway and my porch cleared almost an hour later and when I tried simply returning the shovel to their garage, he'd grabbed my arm and led me into the house where there were three mugs of steaming hot chocolate sitting on the table, complete with whipped cream and marshmallows.
She'd informed me that whenever it snowed as heavily as it had and I wasn't here, they'd clear the driveway if they knew I was coming. Protesting didn't get me anywhere, as they both stared blankly at me until I finally sighed and agreed, writing down their phone number and telling them that I'd call them when I was showing up during the winter months.
And it had been that way for the past year. I always offered to take them out somewhere to make up for it, but they both said that it wasn't a problem and ended up making me join them for their dinner on my first night back.
After a while, I stopped being opposed to it. Bella was an amazing cook and I couldn't deny that I really enjoyed the company. It was comforting and relaxing and just what I'd always need after the hour long drive from the Albany airport.
Adjusting the bag straps on my shoulders, I tilted my head slightly when I only saw Bella's old red truck in the driveway. The both of them were always home when I showed up and I knew that the garage was way too packed with anything and everything for a car to fit in there.
Shrugging, I walked up the four steps of the porch, my eyes landing on a note taped to my front door.
Come on over when you're all set.
I chuckled, shaking my head as I snatched the note off the door and slid the key into the lock, pushing the door open and walking inside.
I dropped the heavy bags in the doorway before closing the door behind me and stretching my arms above my head again. Moaning happily and rolling my head around on my shoulders to ease the tension in my neck, I stepped over them and walked through the living room and into the dining room to grab the land line.
I was gloriously cut off from even my cell phone while I was here. It was so far out in the middle of nowhere that there wasn't any reception for cell phones whatsoever.
I loved it.
The house was fully furnished, thanks to my mother. She and my father had made a trip out this way to see the house I'd bought and get a feel for the small town I absolutely adored and gushed to them about whenever I could.
Upon seeing the sparsely decorated and barely furnished log cabin, she quickly dragged my father back into the car and managed to find her way to Saratoga Springs and the Taft furniture store.
I barely had time to blink before they'd left and had spent my time groaning to Bella and Jacob about how she was going to make my escape completely furnished for the invisible people I'd have visiting each time I was there.
My mouth dropped when I saw two – not one, but two – furniture vans pull up outside of the house and start unloading a massive amount of furniture and decorative statues into my home three hours later.
And I couldn't even get mad about it because that was what my mother loved to do. She renovated and redesigned and bought furniture and fixtures that no one really needed until her blessed heart was content.
Apparently, my new home away from home wasn't going to be any different.
Sitting down in the overly priced and highly unnecessary dining room chair, I dialed in my parents' home number before putting the phone up to my ear.
My mother answered on the second ring without even saying hello.
"Did you get there all right?"
"I'm calling you, aren't I?" I asked sweetly, leaning on the equally overly priced dining room table to bury my free hand in my messy hair.
"You could still be stuck in California," she countered. "Everything's okay?"
"Everything's fine," I smiled, rubbing my tired eyes.
"Have you gotten food?"
"I just walked in the door, mom. I'll go shopping later tomorrow."
"What are you going to eat tonight?"
"I've already gotten a note from Bella telling me that I'm invited over as soon as I get settled."
I looked over at the doorway, seeing the note carelessly thrown to the floor in my haste to be inside of an actual house as opposed to a plane or a car for the first time that day.
"Oh!" I could hear the smile in her voice and rolled my eyes, shaking my head. "Well then, I won't keep you!"
"Mom, please…" I begged, sighing heavily.
Ever since she'd met Bella that fateful day of the furniture shopping incident, she'd been hell bent on trying to get us together. It didn't matter that she was already in a relationship with a guy that could probably snap my neck in two seconds flat; Esme Cullen thought that Bella Swan was made for me.
And while I found her very attractive and enjoyed her company every time I was here, I was very well aware of Jacob and did my absolute best not to see Bella as anything more than a friend.
"Bye, dear! I love you!" she chirped before the line went dead in my ear.
Rolling my eyes, I switched off the phone and yawned, shaking my head as I lifted my suddenly tired body out of the chair to place the phone back in its cradle.
Rubbing my eyes when my hands were free, I stretched once again before walking back into the living room and grabbing the bags from the doorway to drag them through the house and up the stairs to my bedroom.
Grabbing my shower necessities from the very bottom of the second bag I looked in, I grumbled about Alice purposely hiding whatever I needed in the last place I looked and headed across the hall and into the bathroom.
I should've opened some windows and let the glorious, freezing cold air into the house to air it out. I should've unpacked all my clothes from my bags like Alice had made me promise that I would. I should've made a pot of coffee or gone into town to grab a bottle of wine for Bella and Jacob like I always did. Hell, I should've gone grocery shopping so that I wouldn't be eating stale crackers tomorrow for breakfast.
Instead, I reached over and flicked the knob on the bathtub to the hottest setting I could manage before getting undressed and stepping into the stream of scalding hot water.
I moaned in something close to ecstasy, throwing my head back as I braced my hands on the shower wall in front of me and closed my eyes.
There was almost nothing that rivaled an extremely hot shower in a quiet house that no one but those closest to me – and Bella and Jacob and a few slightly-nosy locals – knew about.
Perfect peace and serenity.
I watched as the telltale sleek silver rental Volvo pulled into the driveway across the street and wrapped my arms around my torso, biting my bottom lip as I continued to watch him get out of the car and stretch.
He'd called the night before, his sleepy voice slurring his words as he managed to get out that he'd be arriving sometime today.
I'd almost cringed at the thought of having to bring out the snow blower this year. The garage was a lot cleaner and clearer now, but it didn't mean that the damn thing had gotten any easier to maneuver out of it. It was still just as heavy and awkward as it had always been and I hated it with a passion.
But we had an agreement and I wasn't going to let something stupid like a few feet of snow discourage me from holding my end of the bargain. He came here to relax and get away from everything, not spend hours clearing the snow out of his driveway.
And the Edward Cullen that showed up on my porch every few months definitely needed that time to relax. The first night, he always shuffled his way over here with bags under his red, tired eyes and stayed for dinner no matter how much he probably just wanted to sleep.
The least I could do was to plow his driveway to make things a little easier on him.
It had been Jake's brilliant idea to give him a twelve pack of beer as a welcoming gift when he moved in. And the ass had stayed in the nice cool house while I suffered the heat and permanent embarrassment that went along with meeting someone new.
I really don't remember how I'd let him convince me that I was the one that needed to go over and meet the new neighbor. The new, famous neighbor that would probably just want me off of his front porch and out of his face.
I would've had to have been blind, deaf and a complete shut-in not to know who he was. Hell, I'd been practically drooling over him ever since he registered on Hollywood's radar a few months before. I never actually expected to be living in the same town as him.
And just as I was going to irrationally leave the cold beer sitting on his hot front porch, the door flung open and every coherent thought dissipated in that second.
The movie screen didn't do him justice. His oddly colored bronze hair stuck up in every which way, his vibrant green eyes stared me down as I stumbled over my name, and his voice all but turned my insides to mush when he invited me inside.
And some of the most obscene things ran through my head at that simple sentence that I felt my cheeks starting to burn in what I was sure was an almost impossible shade of red.
So I refused and then he grinned at me. I was almost positive that my heart had stopped beating for a minute at that.
I shoved the beer in his hands, he thanked me and then I all but flew back to the safety of my own home, berating myself and trying to get the image of his perfect jaw line out of my head.
Jake had been sitting on the couch, doubled over in laughter, watching the whole scene unfold in front of him from the wide front windows.
I'd refused to talk to him for the rest of the night. And it had almost worked, too. Then he'd gone and gotten me some of the most pathetic looking flowers from one of the two convenience stores downtown and I couldn't be mad at him anymore.
A few days had passed before Edward showed up on my porch this time, a bottle of my favorite red wine in his hands with an easy, lazy smile on his face.
It was a whole hell of a lot easier being face to face with him when he was over on my turf. Plus, having Jake sitting a few feet behind me helped keep the fantasies of what I really wanted to do to his jaw at bay.
We invited him to stay for dinner and he quickly agreed, getting comfortable with Jake in the dining room as I prepared the steak and offered my two cents into their conversation before we all moved into the back yard.
At the end of the night, I wasn't really sure what to think about him. I was half hoping that he was one of those stuck up, snobby actors that only thought about themselves so that my sudden fantasies would come to a screeching halt.
Instead, he was a good, down-to-earth, normal guy that merely wanted some peace and quiet in a secluded town where no one knew him. He never mentioned what he did for a living and neither of us prodded him about it.
And, naturally, the fantasies only got worse the more he talked and blended in with our small place in the world. The way he'd close his eyes as he took that first bite of steak, or the way he'd lick his lips when he was finished eating… hell, even the way he drank beer had my mind wandering off into places that it shouldn't have ever been.
Especially when my boyfriend was sitting next to me with his hand on my knee, his thumb rubbing through the fabric of my jeans as he carried on a conversation about cars with Edward.
As much as I enjoyed Edward's company, I was kind of relieved when he came over to say goodbye to us at the end of the week. I could go back to living my life like I had been before I'd stupidly been roped into giving the new neighbor a twelve pack of beer.
That had been at the end of August and until February rolled around, I really hadn't given much thought to the new owner of the empty house across the street from my own.
And when he'd shown up on my doorstep again looking perplexed and really stressed out, I couldn't help but laugh at him as he pointed to the thick blanket of snow that had once upon a time been his driveway.
And after they'd gotten that taken care of and were sitting in my kitchen, his long fingers and wide hands wrapped tightly around my cheerful Santa Claus mug, we'd made the snowy driveway agreement.
He showed up on the porch on the first day he arrived in town and I invited him to dinner. That was our ritual and that was what we'd all come to expect from each other. He was a good person and he'd turned into a pretty damn good friend over the past year. I looked forward to seeing whatever rental car he was driving pull into the driveway.
Jake had caught on to me, causing a very large rift in our previously unharmed relationship. No matter how many times I told him that his insecurities were unfounded, he wouldn't believe me. He said that we seemed to have our own language; sharing jokes that he didn't understand or think were very funny while we were in hysterics over it, quickly being able to talk about everything that the two of us had never even touched on, and the way we apparently fell into a routine when our dinners were finished.
I'd never given much thought to all of that and had never even noticed that we'd managed to fashion a routine of gathering dishes, putting leftovers away and cleaning up the mess I'd made in absolute comfort until Jake had pointed it out.
Even when Edward left for months at a time, he accused me of sneaking away to call him to talk to him when he wasn't around. It was completely absurd because ever since he started thinking these things, he hadn't left my side for more than work, showers and using the bathroom.
Plus, I'd been pretty damn happy and content with Jake and mine's relationship. A few fantasies about a famous actor that just happened to move in next door didn't mean that I was going to immediately dump Jake and try to date Edward Cullen.
Not that it would've been possible, anyway. An ordinary girl like me didn't date men like him. It was laughable to even think about.
And we'd even started fighting over the dumbest things that he could think of. I left the bathroom door open while I was in the shower, I didn't kiss him goodnight, I somehow magically made one of our glass coffee mugs fall off the top shelf of the cabinet when I wasn't even home or I made him late to work because, naturally, I didn't have his coffee ready in the morning were just a few of the things we argued over. We were in a constant state of tension and ready to spring at the first sign of narrowed eyes from each other. My pretty much perfect relationship with Jake had fallen in around me because he was turning a phone call every few months into a full-fledged, non-existent affair.
It had finally gotten to be too much and when Edward's call came through yesterday night, Jake had called it quits with me and left. He hadn't wasted any time in taking the small things of his out of the house and disappearing late last night.
I'd tried calling him all day, but he never answered his cell phone and the line at his father's house was always conveniently busy.
To get my mind off of it, I'd trudged my way into the garage, pulled out the snow blower and made my way over to Edward's with it. I had greatly impressed myself when I finished his driveway in less than two hours and happily made my way back to my home.
But then I'd walked inside, checked to see if I'd missed any calls and my heart fell again when the answering machine wasn't blinking at me and the caller ID boldly said that I hadn't had any calls while I was outside.
Refusing to break the ritual just because Jake was being insecure and childish, I'd written a quick note to Edward, grabbed the shovel out of the garage and marched my way back to his house, quickly shoveling a path on his porch to his front door and taping the note to it in a rare moment of confidence before quickly sprinting back across the road before I could change my mind and rip the note off the door.
I think I was in shock. I hadn't even cried yet and that couldn't be normal, could it? I spent three years with Jake and yes, the fact that he'd left me hurt like a bitch, but shouldn't I be more upset over this? Shouldn't I be some sort of horrid mess, clutching a pillow to my chest and miserably crying and moaning into it? Shouldn't I be doing something more than watching my famous neighbor walk across his driveway?
And now, as I watched Edward pluck the note from the door and walk inside, I felt my stomach churning.
Yes, inviting the neighbor that sent Jake into a jealous and unfounded rage over for your usual dinner was a great idea, Bella.
I shook my head and stepped back from the window, running a hand through my hair and sluggishly walking into the kitchen to check on the homemade chicken soup I'd started to make after returning from Edward's.
But still, the tears didn't come. There was an ache in my chest, but no tears. No overwhelming need to break into sobs and pound my fists against something hard in hopes that I could break it to release the pent up anger and frustration I might or might not have built up inside of me.
Sighing heavily, I scrubbed my face with my hands and grabbed a coffee mug out of the cabinet.
Twenty minutes and two cups of coffee that I didn't want later, I heard the sound of his heavy footsteps on my porch, followed by the chiming of my doorbell.
Bracing myself and taking a deep breath, I rose from my spot at the dining room table and smoothed my shirt nervously as I walked toward the door.
With one more deep breath, I grabbed the doorknob and pulled the door open, the deep breath I'd just taken catching in my throat as I looked at him.
It had started snowing again, and there were snowflakes stuck in his wet hair, stuck on his impossibly long eyelashes and melting quickly on his shoulders. His dark winter coat was wrapped snugly around his body and the bottoms of his jeans were already wet just from walking across the street.
He was grinning brightly at me even as his lips trembled with the cold air he was standing out in and his gorgeous green eyes were locked with mine.
God, the man never changes. Whatever it was out in California that froze its inhabitants in time was really working out well for him.
"Bella!" he exclaimed happily, throwing his arms out and grabbing me up to hug me tightly.
I let out a strangled whimper, surprised at the sudden contact. The whole year we'd known each other there had never been more than a casual touch here and there while we were joking around with each other. There'd never been hugging and the jolt of electricity I felt when his hand touched my bare arm shocked me.
"You're a sight for sore eyes," he laughed into my shoulder before releasing me and grinning down at me. "How are you?"
"Uh…" I stuttered, quickly grabbing the edge of the door to keep myself upright, "I'm… okay."
The bright smile he'd had on his lips fell a little and he raised his eyebrows at me, rubbing his hands together.
"Come in!" I said quickly, moving out of the way and giving me an even better excuse to grip the door a little tighter as I waited for him. "It's really cold out."
"I'm not used to it yet," he laughed, stepping up into the living room and quickly shedding his coat.
He waited for me to close the door before comfortably hanging it up on the closet door next to me, his nose in the air as he sniffed loudly.
"Hungry?" I laughed softly, shaking my head as I spared one more glance out the window.
"Starving," he cemented the statement, rubbing his stomach. "I didn't bring any wine this time, though."
I waved him off, shaking my head again as I took the lead and walked into the kitchen to grab two bowls out of the cabinet above the stove.
"I think I still have some from the last time you were here. You want some?"
"I'm on it!" he exclaimed, holding his hands up above him as he opened the refrigerator and searched around on the shelves before finally pulling the half full bottle from the bottom and holding it up to inspect it. "Have you two had any while I was gone?"
I smirked and shook my head, spooning soup into the bowls carefully.
"Where is Jake anyway?" he asked casually, grabbing three wine glasses from the cabinet next to the refrigerator and setting them on the counter. "His car isn't here. Did you finally clean out the garage?"
We'd been talking about how big of a job cleaning out the cluttered garage would be for us one day. Jake's obsession with motorcycles, dirt bikes and huge broken bits and pieces of some sort of vehicle that he was positive he could fix littered every inch of the cold garage floor and we'd never been able to fit an actual car into it.
My heart twisted and I took a deep breath, biting my bottom lip as I thought carefully about how to word where Jake really was. Truthfully, even I didn't really know. Just because his father's phone was off the hook didn't mean that he was there. He had sisters and could've easily been staying with them. Billy could just be avoiding me, knowing that I'd call him looking for his son.
And yet, still no tears. Not even the stinging feeling in the end of my nose that indicated that they were on their way; nothing.
"I don't know," I said quietly, staring intently at the soup as I continued to spoon it into the bowls.
He was quiet and I didn't even hear him pouring the wine at this point. I could, however, feel his eyes staring holes in the back of my head.
"Bella, is everything okay?"
The concern in his voice could've killed me. In fact, I almost wished that it would've. There was no way that I could actually tell Edward the reasoning for why Jake left me. It was embarrassing on so many counts that I might as well start digging a hole for myself to live in right now.
Both bowls full of soup, I placed them on the counter next to the stove and turned around to face him, licking my lips.
"Jake and I are no longer together," I said quietly. "Things weren't working out anymore and he…" I crossed my arms uncomfortably over my chest and looked down at my feet. "He left last night."
I continued to stare at the floor as I heard him approaching and bit my bottom lip as I saw his feet enter my field of vision.
"Bella, I'm so sorry."
I looked up at him and licked my lips, shaking my head as I laughed nervously at him.
"It's not your fault."
At least, not entirely and not knowingly.
"That's not the point. Did you want to do this another time? I'm here for another three weeks."
"No!" I said quickly, shaking my head. "I can't think about it anymore."
I offered him a pathetic laugh and shrugged easily.
I wasn't really lying. I couldn't think about how I barely felt more than an ache for the man I'd spent three years of my life with without trying to pull my hair out of my head by its roots.
Edward, the source of all the issues I was currently dealing with, was a welcomed distraction that I wouldn't send away from me even if my life depended on it.
"Are you sure?"
I nodded, jerking my chin in the direction of the wine and glasses. "I've got soup and wine so let's try to enjoy the rest of the night, okay? Tell me about what you've been up to."
He narrowed his eyes at me slightly before slowly nodding and turning around to go back to the wine. I huffed out a breath and turned to grab the bowls of soup, carefully balancing them in my hands as I slowly walked into the dining room and set them down on the table.
I'd been looking forward to seeing my friend since he called last night and I was not going to let Jake ruin that tonight.
"Wait." I turned, finding him standing in the doorway of the kitchen with the two glasses of wine in his hands and his perfectly arched eyebrows raised in my direction. "Three weeks?"
He grinned and nodded enthusiastically, handing me my glass before taking a sip of his own.
"I'm taking some time off. It's my Christmas present to myself."
I laughed and nodded, holding up my glass and tapping it against his. "Merry Christmas, Edward."
He grinned at me again before sitting down at the table and licking his lips at the sight of the soup in front of him.
I laughed and sat down across from him, setting my wine glass down and grabbing my spoon, watching as he did the same and quickly scooped the soup up.
I smiled softly and shook my head, sighing slightly as I dipped my spoon into the soup.
So I no longer had a boyfriend. But I had my friend and as he sat across from me at the table, his melodic voice telling me about anything and everything that he'd been up to since February of this year in between spoonfuls of soup, I really didn't think to want for anything more.