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Just another chapter or two and WE'RE OFF... galavanting 'cross country!! It's gonna be fun, I can't wait :-)
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Twilighted [dot] net ... http:// www. twilighted. net / forum / viewtopic. php?f= 44&t= 1868 (minus all the spaces, lol)
See ya there!!!
"Mary Alice Cullen!" I screeched at my best friend as I walked into the living room. My legs were still a bit wobbly, but I was mobile, and determined to find out what started that whole episode in the kitchen. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face if my life depended on it, but Alice had some questions to answer. "What was that 'kiss her before she does some real damage' all about? And what exactly was all that nodding and talking-between-the-lines you and Edward had going on?" Just saying his name out loud made me smile even wider.
"Who me? I didn't do a thing. Well, not much anyway. You did all the hard work yourself." She and Angela were huddled together on the couch giggling as I made my way across the room to sit by them. Alice's arms went around me and she gave me a squeeze. "Well…. What happened when we left the room?" She asked with an "I know exactly what happened" tone in her voice.
"Not a chance: you first. Why were you nodding and smiling like little devils at each other. What did I walk into today?" There was definitely something going on with those two.
"Oh, Bella, if you haven't figured it out by now, I'm not sure that all your time in college was well spent, my dear, clueless friend." Alice was clearly enjoying herself. "You've been talking about Edward in your sleep for two years, honey. Just a little at first, but then more and more the last few months. I kept waiting for you to talk to me about it, but you never did. I just thought you were embarrassed or something, and since you were trying so hard to focus on your grades, I didn't press the issue. But you have been lusting after my hunky brother in vain long enough and I'm not ashamed to admit to setting you up just a little. You actually made it much, much easier on me than I'd hoped for: especially after that dance last night. You could have had Edward eating out of your hand after that, trust me. All he needed was a little nudge this morning and I wasn't sure you'd nudge. Luckily, all it took was a little bare chest and his undivided attention. That sandwich debacle was just enough to convince him that you were as frustrated without him as he was without you."
"What exactly did I say about Edward in my sleep?" The part that registered first was that I had been talking about Edward in my sleep, and that my little pixie of a roommate just kept it to herself. I was absolutely mortified. "And why, for God's sake didn't you say anything? Grades or no grades you should have at least mentioned it. Or was it really bad?" Remembering the dream I'd had last night, I gasped. "Oh, no, Alice, what did you hear?" I was ready to crawl under the couch.
"Why, Bella, you're positively glowing red! What do you think I heard? What in the world have you been thinking, or dreaming rather, about my big brother?" She questioned me with a completely false look of shock on her face. Something told me she knew exactly what I had been dreaming about.
That little snot! I couldn't even be upset, it's not like I could deny any "impure" thoughts. It was obvious I wanted Edward now. The cat had pretty much paraded out of the bag with a full marching band. Apparently she was fine with us being together or she would have certainly said something a long time ago. Edward and I: together. It was unbelievable. There was obviously some talking to be done, but I definitely got the "together" vibe back in the kitchen.
"Yeah, Bella, what have you been dreaming about me?" Edward sauntered in.
Ok. Dying. Now.
He walked over and gently pulled me up off the couch. Wrapping his arms around me he looked over my shoulder at Alice, "that's enough teasing my girlfriend, Alice, you do that on your own time. Right now we're going to watch a movie. Besides, you have a time crunch today. So hit play and you three can finish this conversation later." Alice and Angela stifled giggles and proceeded to start the movie.
"Just remember, she was my best friend before she was your girlfriend, don't you two go forgetting that." Alice said pointedly to Edward, then glanced to me. I almost couldn't tell if she was joking or if she was really worried that I'd forget about her to spend time with Edward. Another conversation to have later.
Wait, "girlfriend?" I looked up at Edward with raised eyebrows. "Girlfriend?" I asked.
"Unless you have an objection, I think I've waited quite long enough for that privilege. Although, if you'd rather not…" He started to step back away from me and the loss of his body next to mine was as sharp now as it had been earlier in the kitchen. "Girlfriend is good. I like girlfriend." I said, pulling him back to me and wrapping my arms around his waist. Now this I could get used to.
Edward led me to the oversized comfy chair and cuddled me onto his lap. "Of course, if you'd like to tell me what you dreamed, I'd love to hear it," he whispered softly as he nuzzled just under my ear. The hairs all over my body stood up on end and I got goose bumps the size of golf balls up and down my arms. His voice had a distinct sensuality to it, a primitive maleness that reached inside me and touched the desire for him that I'd kept tucked away for far too long.
With red still vibrant on my face, I glared at him, "Edward!" There was no way I could tell him the things I'd thought about, and hoped for. I would never make it through the first sentence. He leaned up just a bit, and ever so lightly kissed me softly on the lips, then smiled. "You don't have to tell me, I shouldn't have said anything. I'm sorry. But, I've dreamed of being with you, my Bella, and I'm not ashamed of it."
Sleep-talking. Oh, what I wouldn't give to be a mind reader right now. Judging by the degree of redness on her face, Bella's dreams must have rivaled my own! That's my girl! One day she'll tell me. The thought of her saying, with those beautiful lips of hers, what we did in her dreams was enough to make me do a little necessary shifting in the seat under her. No need to go poking the girl twice in one day. Well, maybe… No. Today's working out better than I hoped: no need to screw it up by moving too fast.
I was going to have to buy Alice a very, very nice Christmas present this year. When I told her last night about our dance, and what I thought it meant for Bella and me, I was just looking for a little sisterly advice. What I got was a full blown plan of attack! Apparently I had been oblivious. As much as I had wanted her, I had no idea she felt the same. What a blind moron.
But she hadn't said anything, even to her best friend, so obviously she had her reasons for not pursuing a relationship. Hopefully it was just school obligations. Right now, I was perfectly content to be sitting here, watching a Jane Austen movie with my darling Bella curled up on my lap. I'm not sure life gets any better than this. Well, maybe if we were watching Die Hard.
"I'll call you when we're on our way back. You need to be getting out of the shower when we get there. She's gonna lose it when you come walking out all dripping and shirtless, just trust the sister on this one," Alice had instructed me this morning before she jetted off for another shopping spree with the girls. "And remember to wear the jeans with the frayed edges around the top, and no belt. She loves those on you. Apparently you have a spectacular backside." She'd giggled and batted her eyelashes at me. I'm not sure how I felt about my sister commenting on my ass, but if it was coming from Bella, I'd take her word for it.
When I came into the kitchen and Bella was standing at the pantry door, knowing that Alice was confident in her feelings for me, it took every ounce of willpower I had not to scoop her up and kiss her silly right then and there. I had quite a few reasons to believe she'd respond well, but this had to be her choice. I couldn't take being so far away from her, though. Standing so close to her, but not touching, was exhilarating. Like someone had enclosed us in a giant magnetic force field. Every part of me was reaching out to her.
My voice had depth and desire when I spoke, something I couldn't control. Pure desire. There was nothing I could do to mask it, and thank goodness it wasn't necessary. The reaction I got when she turned around was so worth it. I loved the way Bella looked at me. I loved that watching me could affect her like that. Alice was a genius. Working out a couple of times a week was habit for me, so I was aware of my physique, but I never imagined I'd get such a response from her by simply not wearing a shirt. Once I knew the advantage I had, there was no way I was going to let it go. No crowding, let her come to me, but I was definitely keeping the line of sight clear.
It was a battle for me to watch her flounder through the "sandwich making process." I hated seeing her so flustered, and obviously about to make a horrible mess of all our lunches, but the idea that I was causing her to be so distracted stroked my ego just a bit. She wanted me, I wanted her. Done and done.
There was that moment, though. That brief second when I thought maybe Alice and I were both reading the signals wrong. Bella just seemed to freeze up and retreat into herself for a minute. I could feel the distance in her and I was surprised at how badly it hurt. I had tried to prepare myself for the chance she wouldn't want to have a relationship with me, but facing that possibility when we were so close was much more disappointing than I had ever imagined it would be. Just goes to show I could be a blind moron about my own feelings as well. I'd have to work on that.
The joy I felt when she touched me, though, there are just no words. Every fear I had went out the window when she looked up at me with those welcoming eyes; eyes that said "home" to me. Eyes that I wanted to look into every morning and every night. Every night, damn, need to shift again.
Then it hit me. Every night only consisted of the next five. My little sprite of a sister was whisking my Bella away for the summer in just six days! Talk about bad timing. How could I let her leave me for two and a half months? There was no way I was going to be able to kiss her enough in the next week to last me through the summer.
I could flatten the Happy-Mobile's tires. No, that's not fair to everyone else. More importantly, they'd just buy more. I could tie my Bella up in my bedroom! Ok, time to shift again. No, dad would never allow that. But oh, the possibilities! No, not an option, Edward! I could go with them. If only I didn't have that awful workshop to attend. Funny, I'd looked forward to that for the last 3 months, and now I'd happily skip it. But that's not an option either. It took a lot of hard work to get accepted into the workshop, and it would be irresponsible to just bail out now. I'd go, no matter how much I'd rather be driving across the country, cooped up in an old minivan, with my lovely Bella and our friends for 10 weeks.
No sense in worrying about that just yet. We'll call, text, email, hmmmm… on the phone, at night, with my Bella: that had possibilities. Time to shift again. Right now, I just need to focus on this moment. Sitting here, holding my love, my Bella. The summer will come and we'll find a way make it work, together.
The movie ended and it was time for me to start getting ready for my audition. I had about 20 minutes to get ready, then about 20 minutes to make it over to Astoria. "Girls, you wanna help me get ready?" I asked.
"Absolutely," Bella responded, standing up from her cuddled up position on Edward's lap. I couldn't be happier for them. Knowing about Bella's secret interest in my brother, and Edward's not so secret interest in her, and trying to restrain myself from setting them up before now had gotten to be exhausting! Watching the two of them dance around each other, wanting to get close but not letting it happen, it was maddening. The relief I felt now was freeing, I could only imagine how they felt after all this time. They were absolutely adorable together.
"Let's get you sparkle-tacular," Angela added as the three, make that four, of us made our way back to my bedroom. I thought Edward was going to follow us all the way in, stuck like glue to the back of Bella, but he stopped at his bedroom door and gave her a little peck on the cheek before he sent her the rest of the way down the hall without him. How sweet.
You might think that three women + sparkly clothes = horribly late. Not so. I was dressed and properly glittered in no time flat. I loved this outfit. It was small and flashy and fun, just like me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not full of myself. I don't believe I'm better or more important than anyone else, but I choose to live my life with as much fun and sparkle as I can. I mean, why not?
Pulling up to the front of the Push Factor Dance Studio at five minutes to four o'clock. I started to have my first real attack of butterflies. I'd performed for so many people in school and almost never been nervous. I danced well, and I'd always had an incredible time onstage. Why in the world was one little audition making me feel like this?
Because this was the first time I'd be up against professionals instead of other students? Maybe. Training, experience and stage presence: those were the tools of dancers and I had just as good a chance as anyone else that was there today. My little "self pep talk" preceded the words of encouragement from my friends by mere seconds.
"You're going to be amazing, Alice, I just know it. Knock 'em dead sweetheart." Bella's belief in me was something I'd come to rely on. I was so lucky to have her in my corner. She gave me a little hug and hollered, "break a leg, hun," as I stepped out of the car. "She's right, Alice, you've got this wrapped up with a bow on it. Just go have fun in there." Angela said "break a leg," as I closed the door. Along with the kiss for luck from Jasper as we were leaving, and the well wishes from my parents and Edward, I was as ready as I was ever going to be. The girls were going to spend some quiet time at a local bookstore while I had my audition.
An hour and a half later I called for Bella and Angela to come pick me up. I was exhausted and emotionally drained. It was a mass audition, with group performances of standard pieces to start. Only if you made it past the first round did you get to perform a very short version of an individual piece. I made it into that second round, but not as soundly as I would have liked. Counting on my individual performance to be an ace-in-the-hole may have been a mistake, since I didn't know if the panelists saw enough of it to make the impression I was hoping for.
I was forced to admit the other dancers had intimidated me. The confidence and determination I started the audition with started to wane as incredible, seasoned performers took their turns before me. I was very much an amateur, regardless of my love for the art, and this was my first audition. It was strange, though. Even with all the doubts that had crept into my mind, I still had a good feeling about the outcome. It didn't make any logical sense, but I'd come to trust that inner voice. Optimism was a strong suite of mine, and now was no time to abandon it. Let's see if it would get me through until July when fall season company members were announced.
Right now, I was in the car, on my way back to my future husband. Mrs. Alice Whitlock. It sounded as natural to me as my birth name. We had talked about getting married for over a year now. More like "when we get married" than "if we get married." There was no doubt that it would happen. I was ready, more than ready to be his wife.
"How'd it go, baby?" Jasper asked me as Bella and I walked into the living room. We'd dropped Angela off at her and Ben's apartment on the way back. "You looked pooped."
"I worked my butt off: it was so much more stressful than I thought it would be." There was no sense trying to hide my anxiety about the audition from Jasper, he could always pick up little nuances in my behavior and personality and seemed to know exactly how I was feeling. "I think I did well enough to make it on the roster, I have a good feeling about it, but it was no cake walk."
"That just means you'll appreciate it more when you make company." Jasper reasoned. Of course he was right. I loved this man. I loved how he knew exactly what to say to make my world seem right.
Bella waved hello to Jasper, then, as I expected, headed straight to Edward's room. I couldn't blame her for wanting to spend every moment she could with him, I was the same way with Jasper. I just hoped we could find a happy medium with enough time for everyone. Our friendship was too important to me to allow the typical "after college drift" to affect us.
Alice seemed a little more concerned than I'd anticipated when we picked her up from the audition, but she said it had gone well, and that she thought she did good enough to make the company. I don't know: something about her just didn't feel right. She slipped back into "chipper Alice mode" almost immediately, so maybe it was nothing. We'd have to dish on the details during our "girl talk" later. So much had happened in the last 36 hours: I really needed to spend some quality gossip time with my best friend, two spoons and a pint of Phish Food. But right now, I wanted to spend some time with my new boyfriend.
Alice went to join Jasper as soon as we got back to the Cullen's. I went to find Edward. He was in his room. When I knocked on the door, it opened slightly and he looked up at me from his desk. That smile. That smile was for me and it made my insides jelly.
He came to the door, took my hand and pulled me into his room. As the door closed behind me, he pressed me between it, and his body. I gasped at the surprise of the movement and the sheer joy of being in that position. That gasp was the last breath I took for a few seconds, before Edward felt the need to intervene.
"Breath, my lovely Bella," Edward whispered into my ear. He lightly rubbed his cheek against mine and then started planting tiny little kisses along my jawbone, just under my ear and down my neck.
"You're not helping my breathing, Edward." I could barely make out the one complete sentence before he started kissing his way back up my neck on the other side. I reached my hands up to his waist, then circled them around his back to hold him to me.
As he reached my other ear he softly said, "I missed you this afternoon and I would really love to kiss you right now. If you want me to kiss you properly, you have to keep breathing. There'll be no passing out on my watch, Miss Swan."
I made sure to take very deliberate breaths, and he smiled. "That's my girl, now where was I? Oh yes, kissing you properly." He leaned in and pressed his lips to mine. I needed to taste him again, and my lips opened almost immediately. I imagine someday, maybe when we're 80 the sparks may stop flying and the bells may stop ringing, but for now, I got it all. The feeling of his body against mine and his kiss deepening just kept getting better. His hands, both of which had started out on my hips, had slowly found their way up my sides, my neck and ended up gently cradling my face. "I intend to make a habit of that." He said softly as he pulled away.
"I intend to hold you to that." I replied.
He smiled as he turned and reached up to his impressive music collection something for us to listen to. I couldn't help but notice him pass over some of his favorite classical and instrumental discs to pick a slow jazz CD that I had gotten for him for his birthday. I loved jazz, and luckily so did Edward.
"Do you remember giving me this?" Edward asked as he hit play on the stereo and sat down in the love seat at the end of his bed.
"Of course I do, silly, it was your birthday present. I'm glad you decided to play it now, I really like it, too." I said as I joined him. The love seat was comfy and deep and felt like sitting on a pile of pillows. Edward's arm wrapped around me and pulled me close to him. It felt like a dream to me: a very nice, very happy dream. I snuggled in closer and started to hum along with the music.
I couldn't believe how easy it was to fall into a comfortable place with him. This level of relationship didn't seem so foreign once we got back into the old groove we already had as friends. We smiled and joked with each other just like we always had, just with a little more linger in the looks and a little more innuendo in the jokes. I loved having Alice around, but I was enjoying having a conversation just with Edward. The more we talked, the more I wanted to talk to him.
"Ok, so you like jazz, you like some dance music, what's your musical guilty pleasure?" Edward asked. He was giving me a very suggestive look, one that implied he was thinking of something other than music when he said the words "guilty pleasures."
"I'm not sure I have one, I have exceptional taste in music." I replied smugly, trying not to let the innuendo make me blush too much.
"Oh, come on, everyone's got something in their CD cabinet, hidden in the back behind everything else, something they only pull out when they're all alone. Fess up." Edward was determined. Thinking about my music collection, I suppose I did have one thing that I wouldn't necessarily pop in during a party.
"Miley Cyrus," I replied, refusing to look ashamed. "I think she's fun, and I love the energy in her music. I actually like a lot of her songs. Now what's yours, music man?"
To his credit, he didn't mock me, instead he pondered for a minute, looking up to the wall of CD's. A hint of red started creeping into his cheeks as he stood and went to the top shelf of the display. "Disney movie soundtracks," he said as he pulled down a disc and handed it to me. It was the soundtrack for a musical called Newsies. "I know every word and can play every note: I love the songs and the movie."
He came back to sit next to me. As I looked at the disc he handed me I screeched, "This has Christian Bale in it! Do you have this movie? We have to watch this!" I didn't care if I sounded like a little schoolgirl, if I could watch a movie with Christian Bale in it, snuggled up to Edward, my heart (and other parts of me) would be doing cartwheels!
"Another time my dear. You seem a little too excited about Christian Bale. Maybe I should have shown you the soundtrack for Hercules first, at least he's animated and you might not have gotten so riled up. I'd like all your attention on me right now."
He took the CD away and set it on the table next to the loveseat. Edward wrapped his arms around me and stretched his legs out so that we were practically horizontal, with one of his legs on each side of me. It was like I was in an Edward cocoon. The wave of comfort and security that I felt being wrapped up in his body was quickly wiped aside in a current of sheer lust. Here was my Edward, laying here under me, and I could do anything I wanted to him.
I turned and leaned against the back of loveseat so that I didn't need my hands for support, hands that found their way under the bottom of Edward's shirt. As soon as my skin touched his I felt his muscles tense, then relax. I looked at his face and he was just staring at the lumps in his shirt where my hands were.
"All my attention, huh?" My hands started sliding slowly up his stomach, taking his shirt with them. I heard him take in a deep breath as I reached his chest, and felt his entire body tremble as I started to lightly run my nails back down to his waistband. His eyes were now closed and he was taking shallow breaths through barely opened lips. This was gonna be fun. I scooted down just a little so I could start with the tender skin just above his belly button, and proceeded to slowly kiss my way up the middle of his abdomen and chest.
When my lips reached where his shirt had bunched up under his chin I looked up, I was not prepared for the intense look on his face. Nor was I prepared for him reaching up to the back of the loveseat and hoisting the two of us up and over, putting our heads on the other end of the seat, and him on top of me. Not a bad turn of events if I do say so myself.
"Edward what…" His lips crashed into mine before I could finish my question. The intensity I had seen in his eyes was spreading through his body. Intense lips moving with mine, intense tongue claiming my mouth and intense hands sliding up my sides. Somehow in our flip he managed to put himself between my legs, and intensity was flowing between our bodies in every place they pressed together. I wanted him more in that moment than I had wanted anyone, ever, in my life. "Wow," I managed to say in a whisper as we broke apart for a breath, "Edward, we're two feet away from the bed, just a little slide over the back of this seat and we can continue this with a little more room to move." He had the audacity to giggle as he leaned back down to kiss me again.
"Oh my lovely Bella, trust me, I am well aware of how close I am to getting you into my bed." He said as he lifted his head. That was a double entendre if there ever was one. Did he know I was ready to race him to the pillows? Was he really trying to get me into his bed? It hadn't occurred to me that it might be his goal for the evening until now. "The problem with that," he said as he slid down some and lifted the bottom of my shirt with his teeth, "is," he continued as he kissed the matching tender spot above my belly button, "that if I have you in my bed tonight," another kiss, and another, up the middle of my stomach, "I might not be able to let you leave."
He kissed right up to the bottom of my bra and lifted his head to look at me. I couldn't take my eyes off of him. He moved my shirt up just a bit more and I started wishing I'd spent more time deciding which bra I'd put on this morning. Apparently the old pink lace was ok with him. He grinned at me with his eyes shining a deep, dark green. I could feel his warm hands on back, just under my shoulder blades, as he lifted my chest up just a little so he could lick the narrow space between my breasts.
Oh. My. God.
"Mmmmm, delicious. Better than I imagined." Edward said with a devilish smile as he pulled my shirt back down.
My breathing stopped along about the time he lifted me to him, that changed when I gasped half the air in the room down at the feel of his tongue on my chest. The warmth that had started between my legs at the nearness of Edward had turned into a gush of moisture as he kissed me again. I couldn't get enough of him. I wanted to keep kissing him forever. He used just enough pressure to guide my lips and tongue where he wanted them to be, but not enough to keep me from doing my own exploration of his mouth. I loved the taste of him, sweet and spicy at the same time. How he managed that, I don't know, but it was my new favorite flavor.
"We need to get upright or this is going to get much harder than it already is." Edward said. I couldn't help but giggle considering what I felt pressing into my middle, could he really get harder? Wouldn't I like to know? "No you don't young lady: I see that look in your eyes. I spent all afternoon thinking about the things I'd like to do to you, but I kept coming back to the same problem." He sat up and pulled me up with him. I couldn't help but feel disappointed as he explained what his "problem" was.
"You're going to be leaving in six days to go traipsing across the country, and I'm going to be here, without you. There's no way I'm going to be able to stand it if I know for sure what you feel like under me, in my bed, moaning my name." Edward's words were low and deliberate as he whispered directly into my ear. I swear my heart was pounding out of my chest and my whole body shook as my mind visualized what he said. He moved his head away from me just a little so he could look me in the eye. "My ego and I would like to think you'd be just as miserable without me, so I think our best bet is to wait until you get back. It's excruciating considering how badly I want you right now, but it's the lesser of the two evils."
I knew he was right. My brain knew it would be better this way, but my body was screaming "I WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH EDWARD." Loudly. It took every ounce of strength I had to remove my hands from his chest. "You're right, of course you're right, but I don't have to like it." I pouted. "But I plan on kissing you as often as possible between now and then, so just be prepared."
"I plan on doing more than kissing you, every chance I get, but luckily we both have things to do to keep ourselves occupied. Besides, we can spend time, enjoying each other's company, without jumping each other's bones. We've done it for two years, we still have that ability." He pointed out.
"Maybe you're right, but I feel like we have a lot of time to make up for, Mr. Cullen." I reached up and laid my hand on his cheek. This beautiful man, my Edward, yes, we had a lot of time to make up for. And if I had my way, we'd have the rest of our lives to do just that.
The knock on the door made me jump and Edward reached out to keep me from falling off the front of the loveseat. As he pulled me back up onto his lap, he hollered "come in" to the person in the hallway. The door swung open and a very confused looking Carlisle Cullen peered in. A smile started to roll onto his lips as the realization of what Edward and I had become dawned on him.
"Bella, dear, I was on my way to talk to Edward when Alice asked, since this is where I'd find you, if I would send you out to her in the living room. I think she wants to get back to your dorm and finish getting packed so she can come back here to Jasper before it gets too late. Why don't you go find her? It appears Edward and I have more things to discuss than I originally thought." The tone in his voice was definitely commanding, but it was fatherly and gentle as well. His smile just got wider as Edward tilted my face around to him and chastely kissed my lips.
"Do you want me to walk you out?" He asked.
"No, it's OK. I'll go fetch Alice and we'll head out. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon." Edward stood with me and walked me to his bedroom door. Carlisle stood aside and waited as he kissed me sweetly one last time. He really was going to kiss me every chance he got. Goodie.
"Goodnight, Edward. Goodnight, Carlisle." I walked down the hall and heard Edward's door close behind me.
Alice was waiting for me in the living room. She kissed Jasper goodbye saying she'd be back later, and put her arm through mine. "We have some girl-talking to do tonight, don't we, Bella?" It was more of a statement than a question, because she knew I was ready to explode with the developments of the last two days. I imagined Alice was in the same boat, between the audition and what she may have found out about Jasper's plans.
"I can hear the Phish Food calling from here." I laughed as Jasper locked the door behind us. Yeah, some good old fashioned girl-talk is just what we needed.