Chapter One

Beginning at the End

Bella's POV

I couldn't get comfortable in this strange bed, this strange house, with the unmistakable murmurs and moans emanating from one or both of the other two bedrooms. It was hard to tell where exactly the noises were coming from and I was trying hard not to listen anyway. Why did I come on this vacation to sugar-coated hell? Because Alice and Rose had begged and pleaded and even Alice's new boyfriend, Jasper, whom I'd never met, asked to speak to me on the phone and implored me in his honeyed southern voice to please come to Hilton Head Island for the long weekend.

"Alice just won't be able to enjoy herself if you don't come along," he drawled. "And I'd sure like the chance to meet you after all I've heard."

"I've heard a lot about you, too, Jasper, and I do want to meet you but—"

"You're worried about being a third wheel?" he guessed.

"A fifth wheel actually," I laughed briefly and then sighed. "You know, since Rosalie and Emmett are coming."

Rosalie is Alice's other best friend and my brother, Emmett, is her long-time boyfriend. Alice met Jasper at a buyer's conference on Hilton Head three months ago and they had been crazy, madly in love ever since, despite living thousands of miles apart on opposite coasts. We all live in Seattle and Jasper was born and raised and still resided on the resort island in South Carolina.

"Well, I wish my roommate was going to be home this weekend to even out the numbers, but he'll be out of town."

"Thanks, but I the only thing I hate more than being a fifth wheel is being foisted on the nearest available male for a mercy date," I admitted. Jasper sounded so nice and warm, but there was more to my reluctance to come along on this obvious couples weekend. I wondered if Alice had told him about my recent break-up.

"I really wish—" Jasper started to say.

"Jasper, can I just plan to come another time without offending you? I really do want to meet the guy who has Alice so completely smitten that she's missing the biggest designer shoe sale of the season!" I teased.

"I'll leave it between you and the girls, but just know I wish you'd come along, Bella. I plan to be in Alice's life from now on, so that means I'll be in yours, too."

My heart had given a weird sort of lurch at that. I could hear his love for my friend and I even though I rejoiced for her, I lamented for my pathetically sad, selfish self at the same time. I wanted someone to talk like that about me. I wanted that so badly it hurt. Because I thought I had it and I'd been so terribly, embarrassingly wrong. How would I know when I did have it for real? And worst of all, what if I never did?

Of course, resistance was futile. I don't know why I bothered. After all these years I know that Alice Brandon gets what Alice Brandon wants. And that's why I'm trying to sleep in Jasper's roommate's big, comfy, but alien-feeling bed after a full day of air travel, brilliant sunshine and cringe-worthy PDAs from both of my favorite couples.

I was honestly trying to enjoy myself. The island was beautiful, the people were so sweet it was almost painful, and Jasper was everything Alice had built him up to be and more. I was so happy for them both. And I had known Rose and Emmett were destined for each other even before I introduced them. But, honestly, how much does it suck to be the only single person in a full-out romantic couples' paradise? It sucks truckloads. And it was exhausting trying not to let my misery show so I didn't ruin it for the rest of them.

I was so grateful to put on my comfy cotton nightshirt and slip into bed, anxious to let my mental and physical exhaustion take me. But it didn't. Damn, damn, damn…fuck! That's right, you heard me. I was cranky and lonely and reverting to petulant adolescence.

The door knob turned just as I was considering getting up to get my book out of my luggage to read for a while. The door opened slowly and quietly, dim light spilling into the room from the hall.

"Hello?" I said, unintentionally sounding a tad defensive.

A man's voice uttered a startled half-yell and then laughed in embarrassment.

"Oh, you're awake." The smooth, vibratory voice cut through me like a warm knife through butter.

"Um, sure. I guess?" I stammered and stuttered.

"May I turn on a light, please?" he asked, chuckling. If he was a mad rapist, he was the politest, sexiest sounding one I'd ever heard of.

"Uh, maybe. Who are you?" I asked, cursing my idiot tongue and befuddled brain.

"Sorry," he said and a light snapped on, blinding me temporarily. "I'm Jasper's roommate, Edward Cullen. This is my room."

I shaded my eyes with my hand to give them a chance to adjust. "Oh! I'm sorry. I'll get out of here. I thought you were out of town."

"No, don't go! Are you—You're Bella, right?"

I nodded.

"Yeah, Jasper's told me all about Alice and all of you. Listen, I was supposed to be out of town, but there was a change of plans and I just got home. I knew Jasper was having Alice and the other couple down this weekend, though I heard you weren't coming. But, when I saw my door was closed, I figured someone was in here." The dim outline of his shape was beginning to take form in my still fuzzy vision.

"The couch is fine. I don't want to kick you out of your own room," I insisted, throwing the covers back and beginning to slide out of his bed. I thought I heard him gasp, but the next moment his voice was smooth as ever.

"Well, the couch is comfortable and would be fine for either of us, but it's currently occupied by our neighbor, Jake. I found him in his car when I came in. He locked himself out of his house and his roommate isn't due back until morning, so I offered him the couch before I knew I didn't have a place to sleep."

I meant to answer. I thought of a couple of responses, but unfortunately, my eyes had adjusted and my brain disconnected from my mouth as I gazed dumbfounded at the man before me. He was nothing short of beautiful with his fine-planed bone structure, brilliant green eyes and tousled reddish hair. Bronze. His hair was bronze-colored. He had a sleek, muscled physique and he moved with an easy, assured grace as he took off his watch and crossed the room unbuttoning his dark blue button-down. He hung it up in the closet and turned back to me, wearing a plain white t-shirt and his charcoal gray dress pants.

"Don't worry about it. If it's okay with you, we can both sleep in here. It's a big bed and I'm too tired to seduce you." He gave me a sly, lopsided grin and my traitorous body flushed bright red while thrilling to the idea of being seduced by this vision of male perfection.

"Ha!" I snorted inelegantly. "So if you weren't too tired, it wouldn't be safe for me to sleep in here?"

He grinned even wider. "Hmmm. I'll have to think about that. But for tonight, you'll be safe. Okay?"

I debated for all of two seconds. "Sure. What else can we do? I sure don't want to sleep on the floor. And it is your bed after all."

Edward excused himself to the bathroom. I tried to calm my raging hormones. I glanced around the room, across the bed that seemed suddenly smaller, and then down at myself. Oh my fucking god! My night shirt had come unbuttoned below my cleavage and I was exposed to the very edge of one of my nipples. Not to mention that when started to slide out of the bed I had hiked the usually almost knee-length shirt up to my crotch. Holy crow, what a show I had put on! I quickly buttoned-up and rearranged my pajamas and pulled the covers up to my neck.

Now wearing cotton pajama pants and his t-shirt, Edward came back from the bathroom and gave me a questioning smirk when he saw my impression of a caterpillar in a cocoon. He turned off the light and slid into bed, keeping carefully to his side.

Into the darkness he spoke in that smooth, sensuous voice, "Good night Bella Swan. I look forward to getting to know you better tomorrow."

"G'night E-Edward," I choked out, clamping my legs together against a wave of sexual longing that was completely inappropriate and counter-productive.

Surprisingly, I fell asleep fairly quickly. Probably my body and mind's way of giving me a reprieve from my discomfort and embarrassment.

My body was burning with a delicious, welcome fire. One strong hand was running over the curve of my hip, encouraging the connection between my ass and what was obviously an erection of impressive proportions. The heat coming off of the body curved flush against mine was making me slick with sweat and I wanted my damp nightshirt off. As if he had read my mind, his hand slid under the hem and worked it over my head. I realized with a shuddering gasp that he was already naked when he pressed back up against me. I moaned and startled myself half-awake with the wanton sound of it.

Edward! Edward was naked and working my now all-but-naked body into a frenzy. Somewhere my conscious mind was swimming desperately for the surface, attempting to shout out orders: Stop!Thisiscrazyandwrong!Youdon'tevenknowhim!Thisisn'tyou,Bella!You'llregretittomorrow! But my subconscious mind took advantage of my half-sleep state and the flood of hormones to drown my conscience into silence.

His hand moved silkily against my sweat-soaked skin, skimming my hip, along my sensitive side, stopping at the swell of my aching breasts. He cupped one in his talented hand, his thumb grazing the electrified peak over and over, sending the shocks straight through me. I arched and stretched away from him and then fitted back against him, eliciting an animalistic growl from deep in his throat.

Suddenly, his hand slid to my shoulder and he pulled me onto my back, covering my mouth with his. The kiss was…more than a kiss. It was an experience in and of itself, that made this whole damnable trip worthwhile. His lips were soft and full, and he used them to command my response and inform me of all the things he wanted to do to me without saying a word. And again, I didn't hesitate long enough to even think it through. I answered him wordlessly, acquiescing to his plans and communicating my desires.

God, he had talented hands! And then he lowered his mouth to my already taut nipples, teasing and sucking gently at one then the other and back again. I was moaning, almost crying for release from the exquisite torture. I needed more, I needed attention to other inflamed areas of my body. But as my hands wove into his hair, he hesitated, and moved back up to my neck.

"Bella…" he breathed shakily in my ear. "Is this…? I- I'm sorry I started this. I was asleep, I swear, and then…"

I froze with mortification. He was asleep? Was he dreaming I was someone else? Did he have a girlfriend? He was sorry he started this? Oh god, please kill me now. I'm lying naked and sweaty in a stranger's bed, desperate to fuck him senseless and stupid til dawn and he's sorry he started this?

"Bella? Please say something," he begged. His hot breath on my ear was not helping. I tried to respond, but what was there to say? Where could I run and hide in this house of horrors? Wake up Alice and Jasper or Rose and Emmett to climb into bed with them and confess my delusional, latent sluttiness? Ask the neighbor on the couch to skooch over and warn him that I might ravish him in his sleep given half a chance? Shit. I wanted to be home in my own cold, lonely bed.

Edward started to pull away, but I held him to me instinctively for a second before letting go like I'd been burned in the bad way.

"I'm sorry," I choked, trying not to cry. "I thought… you wanted me. This isn't like me. I'm sorry."

"Bella, no! No, I didn't mean I didn't want you! Can't you tell how much I want you?" He moved gently against me as if to illustrate his point with the hardness against my thigh. I jerked away from him again, further humiliated by the lewdness of the gesture. Well, act like whore, get treated like a whore, I guess.

"I can tell you want sex," I whispered, surprising myself. "I just don't like being a random available outlet."

This time he slid further away quickly and completely. "I'm sorry," he muttered stiffly. "That's why I was apologizing. I know that's how it seemed."

He stood up and pulled on his pajama pants and t-shirt in the half-light from the moon streaming in the windows. He handed me my nightshirt and kept his back to me as I pulled it on over my riled up body's screaming protests. He laid down again on his side, facing me.

"Bella, I swear, I get really hot at night and I stripped off my pajamas in my sleep. I don't usually wear them. I was dreaming and I guess when my body came in contact with yours… I didn't mean to…I don't know what to say."

After a long awkward moment, I forced a laugh. "I can see how it happened, Edward. Let's just try to forget it. It's not like I freaked out and started screaming rape, right? I'm sorry I didn't stop it right away. I guess I was pretty soundly asleep for most of it, too." Okay, that was stretching the truth, but I had to save face.

"I think I'll go take a bath and read my book for a bit to um, you know, settle down. I'll see you in the morning." I slipped out of bed, grabbed my book and was halfway out the door before he responded.

"Bella, don't go."

"Edward. It's fine, really. Let's just forget it. Get some sleep."

Yes, let's all relax and try to get some sleep now. :D