Thanks everyone :) I just wanted to apologise for the missing line breaks in the last chapter, there were four of them and when I posted it up, fanfiction ate them. Sorry if it caused any confusion.

I was so desperate to write this. Hope it doesn't show.

SM OWNS ALL CHARACTERS. THE TRUTH HURTS.

40. A Cake Kiss

"Hey, Bella," Mike said to me as I passed him in the hall. To be honest, I was on my way to Edward's locker and hadn't even seen him standing there against the wall. Feeling bad, I stopped walking and spun to face him, a smile on my face as I took his in.

"Hi, Mike. What's up?"

Weighted down by the books that were awkwardly clutched in my arms and feeling my hair fall in front of my eyes a little—I had no hands free to brush it back—I felt slightly ridiculous standing there in my plain, oversized sweater.

Still, I didn't want to be rude, and by the expression on Mike's face, he wasn't interested in my currently disorganised state—and not that particularly interested in me, either, if you get my drift. Which came as a sort of relief. My experience with boys was painfully limited and I had no clue how to turn that one down.

"I just wanted to say . . . I'm sorry. For, you know." He looked ill at ease and uncomfortable, and the harsh fluorescent lights of the school made his skin appear a less-than-healthy hue.

"Oh, that's alright . . ." I was pretty sure I was clued in on to what he was abstractly getting at, and I guess I was glad. His behaviour a couple weeks ago over a small misunderstanding had been childish, but not anything that had been extremely bothering to my preoccupied mind.

"Well, it's not really, and I know I was being stupid." He straightened his shoulders and looked me in the eye. His eyes were blue, matching the chequered pattern of his shirt; I briefly wondered if he knew it and had picked that top for that very reason.

"Mike, seriously, it's okay. I think you apologised about it before anyway . . ." I was fairly sure he had, if it could count as an apology, anyway.

Mike blew out some air from his mouth in a large exhale, looking relieved. The beginnings of the dimples he had were showing as he smiled. "Good. 'Cuz, you know, I may not be your awesome lab partner anymore, but I do want to be friends."

"Sure. We're friends," I assured him. I didn't touch on the lab partner topic, because it didn't seem entirely fair; I was far from complaining over the swap.

Mike seemed to take that as all the encouragement he needed. Always leaping straight into situations without much foreground, he smirked, looked me straight in the eye and said, "So, you and Cullen, huh?"

Any progress we might have made disintegrated. Wishing I had my hands free to move so I could at least break the stiff pose I was stuck in, I had just opened my mouth to reply when I saw something more interesting than the discouragement that was dying on my lips.

Edward, with the perfect timing he always seemed to possess, came slinking over in our direction. My eyes were glued to him, and Mike, noticing the direction of my gaze and the pause in my reply, turned his head and saw Edward approaching, too.

He'd reached me in a matter of seconds and went to slide one of his arms around me. Expecting his touch, he changed course last minute and surprised me when he took the huge pile of books off of me, instead. "Hey, beautiful."

His endearment was ridiculous and sunk into my reality just how oversized my sweater was. Relieved of the weight of horrible textbooks, I picked at the hem of it with my now-free hands as Edward nodded a hello to a staring Mike.

"Hi," was all Mike said. Then he shifted uncomfortably, cleared his throat, and said, "Well, I'm off. I'll meet you in class." He nodded once at me. "See you, Bella."

As he hurriedly walked off, both Edward and I watched as he turned around one time to look our way over his shoulder. It took him all of a second to notice our returned gazes and hurry off completely, this time not pausing to look behind him.

I felt a small twinge of pity.

I scrunched my nose up, tilting my head up to see Edward. "Maybe we're late."

Edward was still staring off down the hall after Mike, even though he wasn't in sight anymore.

"Maybe."

I resisted the urge to laugh. "Maybe you scared him off."

The teasing quality of my voice caused Edward to finally look down at me and meet my eyes with his own. Very quickly, a warm smile spread across his face and he didn't look away. When we did this—when we just looked at each other, and nothing else—it scared off the rest of the world. It was no longer there. "What are you looking so happy about?"

"Nothing," I said, a secret smile playing on my mouth. "Just you."

The final bell rang its warning and I sighed over the top of its shrill noise. "Biology—yay."

"You would make the best actress ever, you know," Edward commented as we began to walk in the direction of our classroom, perhaps a slightly quicker spring in our steps then the normal drifting pace we took things at.

The sarcasm was not lost on me but I let it be.

When I didn't reply, Edward said in a matter-of-fact voice, "I really don't like Newton."

My face whipped around to give him a funny look. "Yeah, alright. I remember you giving me that impression the first time we talked properly at school, remember?"

He ignored my expression and just shrugged. "I just thought I'd say it, that's all. The fact that I said it before just means it must be true." He slid his eyes to the side, probably trying to judge whether my annoyance was real or not. By the way I was dramatically rolling my eyes, it was clear it was not. "You should be happy I'm so thorough," he teased.

"Is that so?"

"It is so. Consistency is one of my many finer qualities."

"Along with bigheadedness, it seems. What do you mean by consistent, anyway?"

I was thinking about it even as I spoke the question aloud, and I guess his words did ring true in some respects. I was thinking along the lines of his musical tastes and hobbies, so when he answered, I was surprised by how far over in the left field it was, way past where I'd even thought to look for it.

"When I like something, I like something," he said, and feeling something in my chest do something strange I looked up to find him giving me a highly intense look, full of implications. Focusing on where I was walking, I tried not to fall over.

"Well give Mike a break anyway," I managed to get out.

I didn't look up but I could see peripherally that Edward broke the strong look off with a smirk that I could tell wasn't intended for me specifically. "Sorry. But if he keeps looking at you like that, I'm going to talk about it."

I gave him the eye. We'd had this argument before, I was sure. Edward might have been onto something before but I was sure it had passed by now. "Shoosh. If you keep talking, I'm going to make you carry my books."

Edward made a funny noise. "Huh, yeah. Just what the hell is with all this stuff, anyway?" He looked pointedly at my books as he spoke. "There's a library for a reason, you know, you don't need to become a portable one."

"It's just all the Biology books we need—I brought the prac one too. Do you—"

But I stopped speaking because we'd finally entered our classroom, clearly after the bell, and the teacher was giving us a highly unamused look. I hurried to my desk, Edward trailing right behind me as she continued with what she was saying. We quickly took our seats, and Edward silently thumped the pile of books between us on the table.

"—You'll find everything you need to know in your notes we took last Thursday," the teacher said to the class; clearly, we'd missed the beginning of her speech. "Just to recap for those who weren't here"—she eyed Edward and I for a heavy, lingering moment—"this activity, if done correctly, should demonstrate both osmosis and diffusion and it will be a chance for you to show me your knowledge on the topic. I expect a lot of insight and I want the correct terminology used—you'll lose marks if you can't identify the needed vocab."

She stopped and glanced down at the watch on her wrist. "And considering you only have this lesson to complete the prac . . ." She glanced up at stared at her class. "I'd stop wasting time and get right down to business. We'll be pushing it."

With that, the classroom dissolved into movement as students stood up to collect equipment from the trollies up front. A step behind, I looked to Edward for help but realised he was just as lost as me.

"Oi, Jared," Edward said, pitching his voice a little low. It was fairly noisy in the classroom now but he still didn't want his voice to carry.

Jared, occupying the table next to us, turned to look and raised his eyebrows in a questioning manner that seemed to be an attempt at casual coolness. Edward didn't need to ask. "Page forty-eight, man."

"Thanks."

Pretty quickly we'd flipped to the right page needed—I gave a small yet slightly satisfied smile at Edward when I realised we actually needed the books I'd brought—and were busy following the instructions on how to set up the experiment.

Edward wasn't stupid; it seemed to be the majority's general assumption (you know, beauty without the brains) but he was surprisingly intelligent; I guess he wasn't completely joking when he said he'd be a good lab partner.

I watched as he calmly took over from me as I tried to split apart the dialysis bag without breaking it. He ran it under the tap, filled it with water, emptied it, and then got to work tying a knot in the bottom of it while I stared and told myself to get to work on something else.

"So are you coming over tonight?" Edward asked a couple of minutes later, breaking the diligent silence we'd set as we got busy.

I smiled to myself, but he didn't look up from what he was doing to see it.

"That depends."

"On what?"

"I guess what we're doing." This time he did look at me and pretty soon he was mirroring my grin.

"We can do whatever you want," he told me, and I realised he was being sincere.

"Oh in that case, definitely. Let's bake a cake."

Edward snorted, but he didn't disagree, so I knew I'd won. We shut up after that and kept the rest of our conversation strictly biology-based because the teacher seemed to be lurking particularly close to our desk. The experiment in itself was rather simple but I was much more comfortable with the theory behind it, something I knew Edward differed with me on.

We packed up with the other kids and by the time the bell rang, were ready to head out with the rest of the class. With one more period left to go and then the rest of the day to ourselves, the added incentive of spending that time with Edward forced me into paying attention in calculus.

Alice was oddly quiet when I told her I was going home with Edward at the end of the day. When I asked if she'd rather I go home with her, she waved away my worry and practically scoffed at me. "I'm fine," she said. "Just preoccupied. Text me if you're going to—"

"I'm so not spending the night."

Alice turned to look at me. "I was going to say 'have dinner over there', but maybe you're thinking of slightly more fun stuff, huh?" She giggled at my face. "See you later."

Edward's house looked rather still and quiet when it finally peeked through the tall trees lining the long driveway we ascended. The afternoon had turned out to be stiller than the gusty morning and the sky, although grey, was now peaked with points of light where the distant sun broke through the clouds.

As usual, Edward seemed to have to shake off the automatic feeling of being uneasy when we stepped through the front door. Although fine when it was fully occupied, when there were fewer inhabitants around, he seemed to get conscious of the place. It was actually something I loved about him. It didn't matter how large or decadent his home was, as soon as I stepped through it he was taking my things from me and apologising for mess and offering me things to drink.

"I'm fine, I don't need anything," I said with a warm laugh after the third beverage was passed my way. Edward shut the cupboard and turned so he was leaning against it.

"Yeah, okay, I'll shut up now," he said, clearly aware of his behaviour.

I smiled at him, not wanting him to feel too bad. "It's okay; it's just a bit of politeness overkill."

Edward stepped out of the kitchen and came towards me. My palms fisted at my sides as I waited.

"I guess I just get a little crazy when you're here. I much prefer going to yours."

This came as a surprise to me; favouring my tiny little apartment with its broken couch and mismatched mugs to the grandeur of the current building I was standing in made no sense to me. "Ahh—yeah?" I said uncertainly as he stopped in front of me, his shoes making a soft squeak against the expensive white tile. "Why'd you offer to go here then?"

Edward shrugged. "It seems rude to invite myself around all the time, right? Besides, if I was at yours all the time I might have to start paying rent and you know how much of a miser I am."

"You are crazy," I decided. What he just said couldn't get any more false.

He grinned, but didn't say anything in response. We continued like this for a little while, smiling empty smiles that were only filled with immaterial thoughts of indolence and contentment. Pretty soon though, an idea found its way into my mind and replaced the meaning behind my grin. Edward noticed the shift in my expression and raised his eyebrows in question.

I cocked my head to the side. "So . . . Can we make this cake now?"

He let out a laugh, but I refused to be deterred. "Come on, it will be fun. We can make whatever type of cake you want . . .?"

"So you were being serious before?"

I refused to get embarrassed; I knew that wasn't what Edward wanted, anyway. In the back of my mind, my behaviour was reminding me of Alice's; I was used to being the indulging one, not the one wanting to drag someone into spontaneous baking with them. A lot of people took my character to be one of great maturity for this very reason, but I was just beginning to realise that I felt more mature now than ever, at the moment when I was ready to just say what I wanted and not worry over being laughed at.

Edward, in a lot of ways, was allowing me to explore a different side to me that didn't often get voiced. I didn't think he was aware of it, but I was beginning to be.

"Of course I was being serious, are you saying I'm a liar?" I replied. "I guess if you're really averse to it . . ."

I didn't even have to use hopeful eyes or a quietly pleading smile. "Sure, alright," Edward sighed, rubbing the side of his face. He put his hand down and smiled, just for me. "So what do we do?"


Edward, it turned out, didn't bake. And I found it hilarious.

"I can't believe you've never made a cake before; that is insane."

"If you think this is bad," he said, purposefully doing a shoddy job of sifting the flour—it poured over the side of the counter but he looked as if he couldn't care less—"I'd hate for you to ever come round on a night when Emmett and I have dinner, and it's not takeout or something my mum dropped off."

"You're making such a mess!" I protested, amazed by it all, but then I knocked a spoon off the counter with my elbow and it landed on the pristine white tiles, face-down with butter.

I stared down at it for a second in shock, and then looked up to Edward who was choking on laughter. I took that as a sign to give it a rest.

We sat now in the lounge room facing each other, having favoured the floor over the large sofa for a reason that might never have actually existed. Having been talking for the past twenty minutes, we played our own laid-back version of twenty questions where the questions weren't numbered and the turns weren't always specified. The cake was forgotten about for the minute, safely abandoned in the oven with the timer on it.

"If you could travel anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?"

I tossed this around in my head for a moment, thinking of specific locations, tourist attractions, weather . . . "Um . . . Actually, I probably would end up staying in Forks because I'd get so overwhelmed with choices I would be unable to make one in that amount of time."

Edward made a face. "That is pathetic."

I thought about this. "Yes, it is. You're right."

He waited, clearly expecting me to have something else to add to that, but it became apparent I didn't. "Alright, so if I dragged you through Europe, would you object?" he wondered.

I shook my head, eyes alight. "Definitely not; take me anywhere in Europe. I've never been." I was joking; not about wanting to go to Europe, but about spending the time with him. This is why I found it harder to laugh off what he said next, particularly when he didn't make it sound comical one bit.

Edward smiled, all warm and nice. "Alright then," he said softly, and I felt something inside me come alive. The crazy feeling in my stomach seemed to magnify when a question I hadn't thought to ask dawned on me.

"Hey," I said slowly, realising how quiet it had been. "Is Emmett home?" The past week when I'd been here, Emmett had always been mulling around in the background somewhere.

Edward didn't move and his expression didn't change. He just watched me silently, like he was looking for a particular response I might give. "No."

I nodded even slower, digesting this, but discarding it before I allowed myself to dwell on what it meant, scared the butterflies currently battering my insides would eat me alive.

"The best musical instrument is . . ."

I knew Edward was aware of my obvious topic change but he didn't push it or make fun of me for it. Instead he took my lame prompt in mock seriousness, and frowned. "That question is horrible. In fact, it's not even a question." He answered though, anyway, looking off to the left as he did so, his hands absent-mindedly picking at the rubber soles of his converse as I fought myself to remain composed. "Alright, if you were being mean and were going to make me choose, I'd have to say . . . guitar. You need a guitar."

This surprised me, and I was glad for the distraction. He was so at ease, but I was secretly wishing there was a small part of him behind his casual front that was just as scared at what being alone together meant as I was. "Seriously? But you play piano."

"Used to play piano," he corrected me, his eyes sliding back till they were on my face. "I quit two years ago when I was fifteen and realised just how unpopular that would probably have made me if people knew. Seems stupid now, of course." But he just shrugged.

"Favourite food?" Edward asked me, and I would have rolled my eyes at the lame question but I was the one who had started it all, anyway. It was like we were merely having this conversation on silly topics to avoid slipping into the subtext of what we perhaps wanted to say, or wanted to talk about. I wasn't quite ready, and maybe Edward was, maybe he wasn't, but he sensed my feelings either way and followed my lead on the matter. I appreciated it; the last thing I needed to do was get worked up in my imagination and turn shy again to escape it.

"You asked me that question a couple of weeks ago, remember?" I prompted, sitting up straighter and crossing my legs. "And I told you it was—"

"Pavlova, yeah . . . So why didn't we make that?"

"Because it's trickier and takes more time. Or I think so, anyway. Besides, you don't have enough eggs."

Edward, apparently earnestly interested in this all, furrowed his brow as he thought. It was the first time I suspected he wasn't just doing this for my benefit when he asked, "Do you even bake pavlova?"

"Yes," I told him, laughing. "Now it's my turn, stop asking questions."

"Bella," he said, and a soft sigh escaped the confinements of my smile, nearly reaching him. "What is it?" I wondered, almost able to see the happiness of it spread throughout the room and hover between our faces. It had already begun to get dark outside, but I only noticed it then when I realised half of Edward's face was bathed in shadow, making his features that more prominent.

"Did you know that—?"

"No!" I protested. "No more questions!" But despite the laughter in my voice, it was pitched quieter than before. Perhaps there was a part of me that was nervous to hear what he might say.

Edward smirked. I was almost too distracted by it to listen to his words, but I managed to catch them just in time.

"You have cake batter on your face, you know," he said, his smirk becoming that much wider as he watched the transformation on my face. Immediately my smile disappeared and my hands reached up to touch my face, blindly searching for it. Gone was hesitation and carefulness; the empty house had just vanished from my mind.

"What?" I said, mortified, but already I was beginning to smile again, just because of Edward's infectious laugh. "Where?"

He just shook his head, refusing to answer. Quickly I sprang to my feet, going to run out of the room but Edward got up with me. I'd barely taken a step before he was holding me, grabbing my hand to make me stay.

"Let go of me!" I almost shrieked, completely unaware at how loud we were now being, too caught up in the moment and laughing because Edward was tickling me. I wasn't even consciously aware of how close he was holding me, something I'd think back on and blush at once it had all passed.

I struggled against his arms; it didn't take very long to reach the doorway and we both shoved on through it, still laughing.

"Get it off me," I demanded between breathless laughs, pressing the side of my cheek against his bicep as he tightened his arms around me. He didn't answer and I twisted my head around, searching for a mirror in the house because I'd knew I'd seen one somewhere close by. The apparent batter on my face didn't mean a thing anymore; we were past that and were just playing now, swept away in ridiculous laughter. It was the explosion from all the ignored tension that had built up.

"Stop," Edward chuckled, but I just made a noise of protest and ducked my way under his arm, finally getting past him and racing for the front hall. It was pretty dark all through the house now, almost abandoned-looking with the curtains undrawn, allowing the moonlight to flood on through; neither of us noticed any of it.

I didn't make it very far but that didn't matter. Edward grabbed me this time in a vice-like grip and turned me so I faced him; I struggled half-heartedly, tired-out in the very brief burst of activity. I could feel how red my cheeks were, warm from just looking at him, feeling him; hearing his laughs. Finally he looked at me, right in the eyes, and he slowed his laughter down until all that remained was a smile, unbidden and warm, all sorts of special on his face.

His arms loosened from around me but I didn't try to get away. I'd forgotten what I was doing.

Still slightly breathless, my heartbeat filled my ears as I watched, unblinking, as Edward reached just one of his hands up and gently touched the very corner of my mouth with his finger.

"Right there," he told me quietly, but I didn't move. I was unable to, so busy just watching him. The sounds of my breaths filled the small spaces between us and they quickened considerably when he leant in to kiss me, his lips finding the exact spot that he'd just touched, lingering there, warm and soft. My skin alighted on fire the moment he reached it, and I helplessly burned with the feeling that crawled through my entire body, unable to escape it.

I was shaking. My eyes did not turn away from his until he leaned back and came to me once again, this time finding my mouth perfectly. And I could taste it, taste the batter in his mouth as he gently pressed on my chin, coaxing my mouth to open up and let him in.

This was all new to me; this type of kissing was something we'd never done before. I wanted to wait to see his eyes close but realised mine already had, and I wanted this moment to stop so I could make sense of it but didn't want it to end.

His mouth pressed firmer into mine and his hands slid down lower until they were roaming my back. It made me feel alive, centred in my body but free from it at the same time. I didn't know what I was doing but my own hands reached up to wind themselves in his hair. And it was glorious. When he pushed, I pushed back. I couldn't breathe but I was breathing too much, gasping and feeling and disbelieving that his tongue could be so great.

It was slow. But my heart was beating so fast. And I knew, that if I was on fire right now, then Edward was, too.

.

See you soon.x