Thanks in advance for taking the time to read my little story. It's my first.

Stephenie Meyer owns everything that is Twilight. And the smile of a four month-old baby owns me.

There are no dead ends,
only detours.
-J.D. Robb-

The drive from Denver to Forks hadn't been too bad, and I had certainly had worse. MapQuest had estimated it at about 1500 miles, and said that it would take 23 hours to get there. In the end, I took some extra time to decompress from the busy time I spent working in the intensive care units at my last job and made the trip in four days. I don't think I will ever tire of a good road trip. No pun intended. When I decided to become a travel nurse a little over 5 years ago, I had a plan to wind my way across the country as I chose my assignments. It seemed like the best way to combine my desire to earn a living and my curiosity about our great country. And it's always good to have a plan. It was about a year after graduating from college when it became apparent to me that while I loved being a nurse, I no longer was in love with the southwest. That's when I found myself taking a job as a travel nurse. It was a pretty good gig. I would go from hospital to hospital, city to city, for three to six months at a time. In addition to setting up each assignment, my agency would find me a place to live, and for the most part, they were flexible when it came time to pull up stakes and head off to the next place. Charlie and Renee, my parents, live in Phoenix, and that is what I consider "home base" in that it's where all of my permanent correspondence is delivered. Home, I tend to think, is actually wherever you are. I have worked in all sorts of environments, from small community hospitals to large university medical centers. I tend to be a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and usually work in emergency departments or intensive care units. Sometimes surgery. I even trained to fly on helicopters when I was in Dallas. Who was I to turn down free training that would make me that much more marketable?

Forks would be my 13th assignment as a traveler. It was a smallish hospital in a small town. Not at all like the urban centers I had worked in over the last three or four moves. Nola, my recruiter, knew that, but told me how they really needed someone who could just go in and start taking care of patients. I was looking forward to a little slower pace, maybe expand my resume a little and learn something new- labor and delivery, perhaps? Sometimes seeing all of the critically ill patients can take its toll on your heart. L & D was a pretty happy environment, for the most part. The miracle of life, rather than the tragedy of death. Nola said that they would be willing to let me float over the whole hospital. Plus learning new stuff fit into the plan. I'm all about the plan.

The past four moves, Charlie and my ex-boyfriend Jacob have made it their job to help me relocate. I drive to the new locale with my U-Haul and my beloved, ancient Land Rover, Rufus, while Charlie and Jacob fly in and meet me. Not my idea of a fun way to spend a three day weekend, but the help was appreciated nonetheless. It was good to reconnect outside the usual holidays, to be sure.

Jacob and I have been friends forever. We endured the awkwardness of adolescence together- first kisses, dating, and eventually losing our virginity in a very cliché prom night kind of way. After high school, we attended Arizona State together. I graduated with my nursing degree, and Jake with his business degree. Somewhere between prom night and Spring Break of our freshman year, however, we decided that our fate was to continue through life as the best of friends. It was a little scary at first, embarking on romance without one another, but we eventually figured it out. I dated a few guys the remainder of our college days, one guy all of my junior year, but my love life mostly had been overshadowed by school and eventually work. Jake had better luck. He has been with Leah for over two years now. She is perfect for him, and more importantly, isn't bothered by the fact that he and I are so close. That has been a blessing for me, because Jacob's friendship is one of the few fixed items in my life, like my books, my satellite radio, or my laptop. He is my best friend, a creature comfort in my constantly changing world. I have found that if I have those things with me, I am comfortable.

As for me, I had my plan. I wanted to travel all over the country, setting foot in each state. I don't know why this was such a burning desire for me, but hey, whatever gets you through the day, right? I only have a handful left, mostly in the Pacific Northwest, along with Alaska and Hawaii. My plan didn't fit in too well with Renee's plan to become a grandmother. She thought that my plan had been compromised in Dallas. She was ready to book the church when I told her that I was extending my assignment there. I was dating Mike, one of the helicopter pilots for the air ambulance outfit where I worked. I was at the end of a six month assignment, and we had been dating for about four of those. I thought I was in love at the time, so I opted to stay on for another three. When I told Mike of my plans, he wasn't as happy as someone who might be in love with me should be, and I was devastated. Apparently, he thought I was there for a good time, not a long time. Just to make him uncomfortable as possible, I stuck out the extra three months there, my friends behind me all the way, being just as supportive as they could. My ability to make friends fast has served me well, and nowhere else have I needed it more than Dallas.

I reflected on all of this as I made my way into Forks in the late Friday afternoon. It was mid-May, and spring was in full bloom. Charlie and Jake would be here tomorrow, driving in from Port Angeles after their flight from Phoenix. Over the years, I had developed a system when it came to relocating that would make an army general proud. Despite all of my organization, it would be nice to have two men around when it came to the heavy lifting.

I had hoped that the agency would find a cute little apartment for me to rent for the six months I would be in Forks. Unfortunately, there were none to be found. Instead, I would be calling a beautiful 110 year-old Victorian home until just before Thanksgiving. It was huge, complete with a lovely covered front porch with swing and a white picket fence. When I pulled into the drive, I was blown away with my new digs.

"You must be Bella," an absolutely stunning blonde said as she walked through the screen door onto the porch. "I'm Rosalie Hale. Your agency and I weren't able to find an apartment here for you in our small town, but fortunately, my boyfriend has been restoring this place, and the timing is perfect for you," she smiled warmly, extending her hand.

"Thanks so much for your help, Rosalie. I know that time away from work is precious, and I really appreciate you coming over to let me in early, " I said, smiling and shaking the hand she offered.

"It's not a problem, really. If I didn't want to be found, I wouldn't have a cell phone. Plus, I really am just down the street," she said, gesturing for me to go inside the house.

"Emmett, my boyfriend, is a contractor and an architect. He has lovingly done all of the research and work on this place," Rosalie continued, walking through the foyer and toward the kitchen near the back of the house. "It was built around 1900 by one of the town's leading businessmen. All of the floors have been restored, along with much of the woodwork. The kitchen was gutted and updated to include everything a chef could want. All of the plumbing and electrical work is new. Upstairs, three bedrooms share a bath, and of course the master suite is to die for!"

I couldn't believe that this place would be my home. The front yard was quaint and landscaped beautifully without being overdone. I hoped I would spend many summer nights curled up with a good book on the inviting swing near the picture window. "Wow, Rosalie, just….wow. This is such an incredible home. We're not far from the hospital, right?" I asked.

"Oh, Bella, this is Forks, not Seattle. You're five minutes from everything, this town is so small. Now I just have a few things for you to sign, and we're done," she said, holding out a pen and the lease.

"Rosie, I have information on the washer and dryer for you, but I have to measure again to make sure they'll fit," a booming voice called from the foyer.

"In the kitchen, Emmett," Rosalie said. "I have someone for you to meet." Rosalie gathered the papers, left a copy for me on the black granite island, and turned to go find her man.

We turned the corner to see a large, muscular man with dark curly hair inspecting some detail over by the fireplace in the parlor. He was wearing a tight t-shirt, faded jeans that hit in all of the right places, and a backwards baseball cap. He might have been menacing had he not cracked a wide smile and revealed the cutest dimples I had ever seen. He reached out his big bear paw of a hand. "I'm Emmett Cullen. I did the work here. You must be Isabella."

I tried not to gawk at how brawny and gorgeous he was. "Yes. Just Bella, though. I have to say, you did a magnificent job on this place. I don't think I would change anything! I really can't believe that I get to live here. Much better than the tiny apartment I was anticipating," I said. "I'll actually be able to cook a decent meal for once."

"I'm glad that you like the place. I wasn't sure about it when Rosie told me that she had the perfect project for me. It was a little rough. I should have known to trust her instincts," Emmett said, embracing and smiling at his girlfriend. It was a simple gesture, but conveyed so much all at once: pride, trust, but most of all, love. These two were soul mates. Somewhere off in the corner of my mind, it registered that perhaps I was missing out on something.

The screen door slammed and we all turned to see an impeccably dressed wee girl with black spiky hair bounce into the foyer, followed by a tall blonde man.

"Hi guys! We saw your cars and thought we'd stop and see what you are doing tonight," the pixie said exuberantly. "You must be the new renter, right?" And before I could answer, she continued enthusiastically. "I'm Alice, Emmett's sister. This is my fiancé, Jasper Whitlock."

"I'm Bella Swan. I'm Emmett's new tenant for the next six months," I said, reaching out to first shake her hand, then Jasper's.

"Why only six months?" she asked. Nobody could ever accuse Alice of beating around the bush. I almost expected to be offended, but wasn't. Her smile and her interest were genuine. I found myself comforted a bit by the forwardness of her question. It was as if we were already friends. And while I was used to explaining about my job, this time, it felt different. I felt a little sad about it, and I wasn't sure why.

"I am a nurse at the hospital. I work for a company that places nurses in jobs for a few months at a time. I'll be here through Thanksgiving or so," I explained.

"That sounds like a fun life," said Alice. "But isn't it hard moving all of the time, though? And having to make friends all over with every move? And not to mention never getting the chance to settle into a new place!" Did I really project that very thought? How did she know I had been struggling with that?

As if he was reading my mind, Emmet broke Alice's interrogation. "Good lord, Alice! Enough with the inquisition, ok? I'm sure Bella is a big girl and knows what she's doing," he grinned at me apologetically. "Sometimes Alice can be a little bit enthusiastic," he offered with a shrug of his shoulders.

Alice playfully hit the giant with one of her teeny fists. "Emmett Cullen, you be nice! I am just curious, that's all." She turned her attention to me once again and spoke apologetically. "Sorry if I offended you, Bella. It's just that I have always lived in Forks, except for college. I travel a lot, but always come home to my closet!"

I raised an eyebrow at that comment. Jasper laughed and explained for me. "Alice owns a boutique downtown, and is always going off here and there to bring high fashion back here to our fair town," he said with a slight southern accent.

Rosalie spoke up, changing the subject. "Let's help Bella move a few of her essentials in so that she can start to make this big, empty place feel more like home."

"Oh, you don't have to do that, guys. My dad and friend are coming in tomorrow from Phoenix to give me a hand. And I really don't have a lot of things. I have learned to pare down the things I deem essential over the years," I said. "If it doesn't fit in Rufus or the U-Haul, I really don't need it."

"You hear that, Alice? Alice's closet is larger than your U-Haul," Jasper said to me, rolling his eyes.

"I don't hear you complaining when I show up looking fabulous as your arm candy, Mr. Whitlock!" Alice said with a sharp look in her eye.

Jasper wrapped his arms around the girl and smiled. "Anyone who thinks that you are merely my arm candy doesn't know what they're talking about, darlin'. You own me, remember?

"And don't you forget it, buddy! Now c'mon, Bella, at least let us get your truck emptied so there's less to do tomorrow. Five sets of hands will make it go quickly. And why do you call your truck Rufus?"

I gave in to their offers of help, and explained that it was a silly tradition in my family to name the vehicles we owned. "When I got my truck, my boyfriend was really into watching Kim Possible on the Disney Channel," I explained.

"Rufus the naked mole rat!" boomed Emmett. He was the last person I would have expected to make the connection. Apparently, everyone else was wondering why he was familiar with the kid's cartoon.

"What? Kim Possible is hot," he said with a wicked grin. "That pouty lip and smokin' bod? Kickin' ass all over the place? Nice"

"Emmett Cullen, I'm going to kick your ass if you don't shut it! Poor Bella must think we're all a bunch of freaks! I'm sorry, Bella!" Rose said with an exasperated sigh. "It seems Emmett will never grow up at times." Rose took her man's arm and pulled him to her side with affection. The way they acted, it was clear that Rosalie and Emmett were soul mates. Alice and Jasper, too. I ignored the pang again, wishing it away as I thought about the last time I thought I had found love with Mike.

We emptied my essentials out of the truck. I began to find new homes for my coffee pot, toaster, laptop, and satellite radio setup. After getting the antenna aimed properly for the radio, I tuned in my favorite acoustic music channel and began to feel like the place was already coming together.

"I travel so lightly. I always feel that as long as I have my computer, good music, caffeine, and some good books, I can be comfortable anywhere," I said to Alice.

Alice made a funny face. "Traveling light for me means only two pairs of shoes for each outfit!" I laughed. I could see where any excursion, no matter how trivial, would have to be executed with perfection and a flourish. "You said that your boyfriend named Rufus for you. Is it hard traveling and maintaining your relationship?" Alice asked.

"Alice!!!!" Rosalie reprimanded. "Stop being so nosey!!"

I couldn't help but laugh. "No. Jake and I aren't dating anymore. We're better off as friends. He'll be here tomorrow with my dad to help out. Maybe you can meet them while they're here."

Just then, Jasper came through the door with 2 suitcases. Emmett was following behind him with my air mattress and pillows. "Where to, Bella? Jasper asked.

"Master bedroom, please. Thanks so much, guys! Now I just have to get the vacuum and mop, and everything will be done for the evening. Tomorrow will be a long day."

"When is your first day over at the hospital?" Rosalie asked.

"Not until Tuesday. I have to meet someone named…" I said, looking through my papers, "Lauren in Personnel before I go to the Emergency Department. Hopefully they have all of my paperwork that says I'm qualified to shock you back to life. It makes it a lot easier when nobody drops the ball!"

Alice wrinkled her nose. "Lauren is such a snot. You'll do well to avoid her as much as possible. Right, Rose?"

"Definitely, Bella. She's always up too no good. Is she still trying to get into Edward's pants, Alice?"

Who is Edward? Does he need help with his pants? AAAH! Where did that come from? Get a grip on yourself, Swan! Too much love in this room tonight. It must be messing with my head.

"I think she's finally figured that dog won't hunt. She's moved on to another unsuspecting guy in radiology. Poor fellow." Alice snorted.

"Do you know anyone else that works in the Emergency Department? This is nice to get the inside information!" I said. Anything to make the first day easier.

"You could say that. My dad, Carlisle, is the Head of the department, and my brother, Edward has been an attending there for about a year. He came back here after he finished his residency. And there's Angela. She's a nurse on day shift. You'll probably see them a lot."

"Yeah, stick with Angela. She won't steer you wrong," Jasper said, coming into the parlor where we were separating a few boxes out by their destination.

"Did I mention Edward's single?" Alice said in a sly voice.

The Edward I wanted to help with his pants? The plot thickens.

"Alice!" Jasper and Rose yelled at the same time. "Girl, you have no shame, do you? One of these days someone's going to hand you your ass in your hand after one of your comments!" Rose scolded her friend.

I began to blush. No matter where I went, people were always trying to fix me up. My friends meant well, but I was hesitant after the whole Mike fiasco. I know my mom thinks that I am still traveling because I'm running from any sort of relationship. I think she watches too much Dr. Phil.

"Oh, right. Sorry, Bella! I didn't even stop to think that you might not want to date a gorgeous doctor who lives a few blocks away!" Alice continued, ignoring Rose's idle threat.

Did she say gorgeous? In close proximity to my proximity? I had to slow down. What the hell is my problem? Has it really been that long? Am I that lonely?

"Sorry, Bella," Emmett said. "Despite having two physicians in the family, they can't seem to come up with a cure for Alice's verbal diarrhea." Just then, a pillow flew across the room and smacked Emmett in the head, knocking of his ball cap. The big bear just laughed at his little sister.

I was struck by the closeness of these people. Siblings were always a bit of an enigma to me, being an only child. I watched Rosalie and Jasper as they laughed at their friends. They all had a genuine fondness for one another, it was clear. I found myself drawn to them, like they had been in my life for years. It was a bit of a foreign feeling, after having been on the road for so long. It hadn't really bothered me much in the past 5 years, not having a real home. A permanent fixed address. All of the sudden I felt a lump in my throat and a peculiar stinging sensation in my eyes. I took a deep breath. I must be getting tired. But I've never felt a pull to a place so quickly. Even in Dallas, with Mike, it took me a few weeks to commit to the idea of another three month assignment for the sole purpose of continuing my relationship with him. I screwed with the plan. In doing so, I ended up being hurt terribly, more than I was willing to admit to even myself. I couldn't possibly be thinking that Forks would be the place where the plan was altered again

"Hey, guys. I can't even begin to thank you for your help tonight. Would you all like to come over for dinner on Friday night? It's the least I could do, and I haven't had the chance to cook a big meal in so long. It's like a form of therapy for me. Please say you'll come!"

"Free food? I'm there!" Emmett said, giving Bella two thumbs up.

Alice clapped her hands and jumped up and down in her stilettos. "Oooh! I love a good dinner party! I can't wait!"

Jasper and Rosalie nodded in agreement. Once again, my ability to make friends quickly didn't let me down. "Great," I said. How about 6 o'clock on Friday night? Is Chicken Marsala ok with everyone?"

"It sounds wonderful, Bella. Now, let's get out of her hair, you guys," Rose said as she herded the others to the foyer and onto the porch. "Just call if you need anything. And I anticipate the new washer and dryer to be delivered on Thursday, ok?"

I joined the group on the porch, watching them disperse into their cars. "That'll be fine, Rose. Thanks again for everything. I think I'm going to love it here! It was great meeting you all!" I called.

Just then, a silver Volvo drove past, giving two short honks. Emmett waved and hopped into his red Jeep, following it. Friendly people, I thought. That was one of the advantages of being in a small town. Pulling out of the drive, Alice and Jasper went the opposite way, with Rosalie close behind.

I made myself a peanut butter and honey sandwich and found an apple in my crate of nonperishable food. After the light meal, I went out the screen door and onto the porch. The porch swing was so inviting. I went inside and found a notebook and pen and decided to map out the next week. Sitting on the swing, I planned my shopping list and menus for the next couple of days and decided what other things I might need from the store. Tomorrow I would explore the greater Forks area, and hopefully, with Charlie and Jake's help, get the majority of my things where they needed to be. Monday I could finish settling in and explore the town a little more. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I had 12 hour shifts, then off for the weekend. As the sun set over the evergreens, I decided that so far, I had landed in a pretty good place. Walking into the house, exhaustion hit me. After making sure that everything downstairs was secure and I went upstairs, blew up the air mattress and was asleep before I knew it.

My phone woke me the next morning, much too early for my liking. Jacob greeted me in his usual boisterous manner.

"Hey, Bells! We're in Port Angeles getting our rental. We should be there in about an hour. How's the new place?" Jake said with entirely too much enthusiasm for the early morning hour.

I could practically hear his smile over the line. That, along with my morning coffee would be enough to get me going this morning. I rose off of the air mattress and began to stretch. It's a good thing I'll be in my big, comfy bed tonight, I thought.

"Oh, Jake, it is amazing! By far, my favorite place in the whole 5 years I have been doing this. It is HUGE!" I said, looking for my toiletries bag and wandering into the massive master bath. "I feel like a princess!"

"That's great! Here comes Charlie. I'll let you go and we'll see you soon!"

"All right. Love you, Jake."

"Love you too, Bella. Bye."

I brushed my teeth and stared in awe at the closet. It was as large as a small bedroom, complete with a window seat. From the conversation last night, I was thinking that Alice may have had some influence over the design. The shower was to die for. It was all tumbled marble with multiple jets down the sides and a sumptuous shower head coming from the ceiling. There was also a big corner tub with jets that I knew I would use religiously.

After I dressed, I explored the other rooms a little more. There were three other bedrooms. One I could set up as a guest room for when Charlie and Jake got here. The other two were just empty space for now. At the end of the long hallway there was a door that led upstairs to the attic, and another that led to the second bath. I held on to the rich wood banister as I went downstairs to begin caffeinating my body.

I knew that it was going to be heaven having a kitchen like the one Emmett had designed. It looked like it was straight out of a magazine. With the coffee brewing, I went into the parlor. Built-in bookshelves flanked a magnificent fireplace. My antique desk that I had found at a flea market outside of Washington, DC would look perfect near the window, I thought. I also had a small winged back chair that would help to fill the space.

I walked back down the hall to the kitchen to fill my mug. The family room adjacent to the kitchen would be a nice resting place for my big flat screen. I love my gadgets, and I often indulged. Emmett and Jasper looked like they might enjoy some epic Halo battles. Most guys do. I was excited to be having my new friends over. Hopefully, we'd become fast friends.

After my second cup of coffee, I heard footsteps on the porch. Running to the screen door, I saw my moving men.

"Hey, Bells," Charlie said, giving me an awkward hug. I would always know that he loved me, even though displays of affection were not his forte. "You weren't kidding about the size of this place. Wow!"

"Wow is an understatement," said Jake, bending down to give me a huge hug. "You might actually have to go and buy a few more pieces of furniture. Even if it does go against the plan," he said with a glint in his eye. Jacob was accepting of my plan, although he wasn't sure why it was necessary.

I stuck my tongue out as a demonstration of my maturity and offered them coffee. "If I buy more furniture, it just means more stuff for you to move for me, you know," I teased.

We got down to business and had the U-Haul emptied by lunch time. Fortunately, the frequently rainy weather that was typical of the region blew by us and we were treated to clear skies. We took a trip to the grocery store for a few things and grabbed some lunch. Going by the town square, I noticed a yellow Porsche parked on the street. Recognizing it as Alice's, I had a pang of excitement. I'd have to check out her shop when had some free time later in the week. While shopping wasn't high on my list of things to do, I did need a new pair of sandals for the warmer weather.

After a fast food lunch, Jake and Charlie set about the tasks of putting furniture together and getting my TV and assorted gadgets up and running. I was able to get my books nestled in to their new home on the shelves next to the fireplace. My well worn copies of the classics were some of the essentials of my life. My oldest friends. I was glad to see that they had a nice place to rest for the next six months.

My new kitchen called to me. For our dinner, I made a simple pasta salad with grilled chicken chunks. It was a delight to have the room I needed to cook, even though all I did was boil pasta and cut up some chicken and veggies. The guys sat across the island from me as I prepared our food. It had been a busy day, but not too strenuous. We all seemed pretty tired, however. That prompted the discussion that always unfolded with each move.

"So when are you going to quit your nomadic ways and come home, Bells?" Charlie began, popping the top on his beer. "Your mom would love to have you in the same area code again."

"My phone has a Phoenix area code, Dad. I thought we weren't going to get into this. You know that this is what I want to do right now. I'm young and unattached. Plus the things I have gotten to see, gotten to do…those are experiences I wouldn't trade for anything."

"I think I see where Renee is coming from, Bella," Jake offered. "She thinks that your constant relocation will keep you unattached. And you know that she would love nothing more than to have you happily married."

Jake was right. My parents married young and had me shortly after. I was coming up on my 28th birthday and had not had a serious relationship in forever. She just wanted me to be happy. I just wish that she trusted me to be able to find that happiness. She had never understood my wanderlust. I still had professional goals to attain. I had been giving some thought to pursuing a master's degree and becoming a nurse practitioner. I could return to Phoenix to do that. It just wasn't in the immediate plan right now.

"Come on, you guys. Don't beat up on me. I just want to finish my circuit of the country. Then I will settle down someplace," I said with an exasperated sigh.

"How many states you got left?" Jake asked knowingly. His inbox was filled with photos of my adventures. He liked to live somewhat vicariously through my travels.

"Well, let's see. I checked off Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and, of course, Washington. That leaves Oregon, Utah, California, Nevada, North Dakota, Alaska, and Hawaii," I said as I tossed the ingredients together with some dressing. "I'm really hoping to be able to get to Oregon and Utah this move. It shouldn't be impossible."

Charlie chuckled. "How on earth did you miss North Dakota? I know that your mom has a theory that if we had taken more vacations when you were little, you wouldn't be so curious."

"She should road trip with me on my next move. Maybe I'll convince her to spend all of your retirement money on a tricked out Winnebago! What do you think, Jake? Can you see Charlie and Renee cruisin' in the Winnie?" I laughed.

"Sure, sure. I want to know who's going to empty the holding tank for the toilet?" Jake added with a grin. "You know how your mom is about public toilets."

Memories of a germ-phobic woman carrying Lysol around in her purse anytime we went out flooded my head. Indeed, Renee knew the status of practically every public toilet in the Phoenix area. "But on the Winnie, it would be like her own toilet, not a public one!" I noted.

"Bella, you paint a vivid picture. I'll let you talk toilets with her. I have to live with the lady!" Charlie said, munching on a pepper.

We ate our dinner and relaxed in the family room. The cable wasn't hooked up yet, so we just listened to music and caught up on things. Charlie decided that he was ready to turn in, and he went up to the air mattress in the guest room. Jake was going to sleep on the couch.

"So, Bells, I have some news. I'm going to propose to Leah," he said, letting out a big breath.

Several feelings coursed through me. Happiness for my friends. Sadness and loneliness for myself. Married. Jake. A small ache began in my chest, but I pushed it aside as I threw my arms around Jacob.

"I am so very thrilled for you, Jake, really! It's about time you made it legal, you know," I joked, hoping that my happiness was all that he saw. I wasn't jealous of Leah, and certainly I didn't love Jake in a matrimonial way, but the hurt was there. The yearning to finally find someone to tie me down, so to speak, crept into my consciousness for the first time since I lived in Dallas 3 years ago. I had been on dates since then, but nothing serious. Maybe Renee had been right about my job being an occupational hazard for my love life.

"It means a lot to hear you say that, Bella. I was really worried about telling you. I wanted to tell you before I asked Leah. Do you want to see the ring?" Jake pulled a box from his bag beside the couch. It was a beautiful oval cut diamond with a trio of smaller round diamonds on each side. The band was platinum. Leah was going to flip.

"She's a fool if she doesn't say yes, you know," I told him sincerely. "When do you think you'll ask her?"

"We're going to a party at her family's place on Memorial Day. I thought she'd like it if her family was there to share." Jake was right. Leah's family was large, and they were all very close.

"You have thought of everything. I really am glad you have found someone like Leah." I said, a little sadness creeping into my words. Dammit! I didn't want to do this, not to Jake.

"Bella, your guy is out there somewhere. Don't let Renee's silly pestering get to you. I'd rather you be a little picky when it comes to your heart, you know. The love you have inside of you shouldn't just be given away carelessly. I know you have a plan," he said softly with a playful wink.

"Oh, Jake. Thanks for understanding. It helps to know that you're in my corner," I said with a sigh. "Tell you what…why don't we call it a night. I still have one more day with you and Charlie, and I don't want to waste it by sleeping in tomorrow. Just a few boxes to go through tomorrow, and then we can explore Washington, okay?"

Jake drew me into his arms. "You got it, Bells. I love you," he said into my hair.

"I love you too, Jacob Black. Goodnight," I whispered.

In my 13th bedroom in five years, I settled into my freshly made bed. Quiet tears escaped from my eyes as I slid under my light summer blanket. What was I looking for out of life? Was I really holding myself back from finding someone, like Renee thinks? I wiped my eyes, remembering the feeling I had with Rosalie and the others. The desire to belong to a group like that. Where did that come from? I had always prided myself on the fact that I was independent. Maybe I was just isolating myself. I curled onto my side and fell into a dreamless sleep.

Good, bad or ugly, I'd love to know what you think! Thanks!