Disclaimer: Don't own Twilight...Do own various forms of Daisy Duck who Toddler P is now obsessed with. She won't call me Mommy, but she'll run around Disney constantly saying 'Daisy'.

I tried to post this earlier, but apparently Disney Resorts are a giant cockblock because ffn was considered a Rated R website, so I even had to read updates on the tiny screen of my phone. We had a blast and P loved getting to meet all the characters. Only had a few puking incidents on our last two days, but she bounced back like a champ.

This is my Christmas gift to all of you, may you enjoy sneaking off from family members to read it. :) Expect the next update after the New Year, most likely. There should only be two more chapters after this.

Thanks to Carenl/nerac and beegurl13 yet again for getting this chapter back to me before I left so I can post this for you now! They both enjoyed it, so I hope you will too...


Chapter Eighteen: When Your Past Follows You Home

As I slowly peeked out of one eye, the mortification set in when I realized the entire room had surrounded where I was laid out on the floor. Edward was crouched down at my side with a look of concern on his face and Kate was standing on the other side of me, the toe of her boot poking me in the side. She just looked annoyed.

I immediately clamped my eyes shut and brought my hands up to cover my face. I'd just embarrassed myself in a room full of my colleagues. As if they didn't already think I was weird enough, this would do it.

"Are you going to just lie there all day or will you be getting up so we can finish the rest of this and go home?" That comment came from my principal, Ms. Laurent. She was right, they only had about an hour left today, and I was eating into all the fun and games.

I uncovered my face and tentatively pushed myself up from the floor, wincing when I realized I must have hit the back of my head fairly hard when I fainted.

"Here, let me help you," Edward murmured as he gripped onto one of my arms and hauled me up from the floor. When he released me, he stayed close and put a hand behind my back to steady me as we returned to our seats. I couldn't help rubbing my arm where he'd touched me. His touch still seemed to have an effect on me, my skin burning underneath my sweater.

Once we were seated, the orientation session continued and Irina had Edward stand up and introduce himself to the room. It was like looking at a stranger when he talked about his passion for music education and his experiences in Chicago. He'd never even told me he wanted to teach, or maybe I didn't know because I'd never asked. There had been so many signs I'd missed because I was so wrapped up in myself.

Seeing him again – even being in the same room with him again – made me realize exactly how stupid I'd been. He was just as amazing as I'd remembered, and I knew then that I could never make up for what I'd put him through. I'd been in such a dark place back then, and even though I still had my moments of depression, it really was better for me to have been on my own to mourn the loss of my marriage and the life I'd built in Chicago.

I was totally entranced by him as he charmed the room. I'd only ever seen the Cullen charm displayed so blatantly by Emmett. I never knew that Edward could be even more captivating.

"So why exactly did you chose to move to Seattle, Edward?" one of the other new teachers – I think her name was Emma – asked as she batted her mascara plastered eyelashes at him.

"Well, as most of you know, Seattle is definitely one of the hubs for the music industry, so the local scene here is active. I got into the Jazz clubs in Chicago, but I've always wanted to see what else was out there as far as other areas of the country." He smiled wistfully, and I wondered if he was thinking about everything he'd left behind in Chicago. I wanted to know if he missed it. "I guess that I really came out here for something else though. I missed an opportunity a few years back and decided that it was time to see if my chances were really gone."

Everyone seemed to be a little confused by the vague comment at the end, but I wasn't. If the penetrating stare directly into my eyes as he talked wasn't a sign, then the way he intentionally scooted his chair closer to mine when he sat back down or the way his pinky kept running along the outside seam of my jeans definitely were.

Edward wasn't here to mess around. If I wasn't mistaken, his showing up here wasn't a coincidence at all. He'd come for me.

I was a huge mess of confusion by the end of the meeting, and was glad that I could maybe retreat to my quiet apartment and process this. I was supposed to go out with Kate, but I hoped she would understand.

Kate had put two and two together as well and couldn't help the little comments under her breath as the meeting wrapped up.

"Please tell me you got on that?" she whispered as everyone started to pack up their things. Edward had gone up to the front to officially introduce himself to Irina, so he luckily wasn't there to hear Kate.

I rolled my eyes and glared at her, the last thing I needed was rumors to surface among the new hires. She looked at me curiously and the blush that arose was probably a dead giveaway.

"You totally did, I can tell by the way he looks at you. The sexual tension between you two may not be resolved, but it's sure as hell been explored. Damn. No wonder you wouldn't settle for Tyler. Why didn't you tell me you left that behind in Chicago? I would have told you to go back to get him a long damn time ago."

"Breathe," I chided as she continued her rant. She still didn't know exactly how I knew Edward. She'd made the connection that I knew him, but she still hadn't pieced together that he was from the same Cullen family of my ex-husband.

"Wait. OH!" she squeaked as it finally clicked into place. Luckily the room had pretty much cleared out. Along with Edward and Irina, we were the only ones left.

"Not here," I hissed. She laughed and pushed me out the door and into the hallway. Edward's head shot up from his discussion with the principal as we rushed by them. He looked like he wanted to say something, but Irina quickly regained his attention.

"So Cullen, huh?" She asked as I strode down the hallway toward where the vending machines were. I needed some caffeine or at least sugar to deal with this conversation. Since the president's wife had ruined school drink vending machines with her exile of sugary caffeinated beverages, I had to go with candy instead. As I selected the small bag of Hershey's kisses and watched them drop to the bottom of the machine, she tapped her foot as she waited for me to respond.

"Yup. That's his last name."

"Oh cut the crap, B. How's he related to your ex? I know it can't just be a coincidence. Especially since every time I've asked you about this guy you left behind in Chicago, you immediately clam up."

"He'shislittlebrother," I rushed out under my breath. I quickly shoved a little piece of chocolate in my mouth afterwards to try to muffle it further.

I thought she'd ask me to repeat myself, but no, apparently Kate had superhuman hearing. I was glad we'd moved down the hallway from the conference room as she started to let out loud, totally unladylike guffaws.

"Oh shit," she giggled as I glared at her. "His little brother! Oh my god! Too hilarious! Didn't know you had it in you….oh yeah, you've had it in you all right! I bet it's not little…just look at those fin…gers."

"Knock it off," I hissed as she wiped tears from the corner of her eyes. I was so glad she got this much amusement from my past transgressions.

"Oh, come on," she panted as she elbowed me in the side. "You know I think Gar's little brother is a hottie. Although, I guess I never actually fucked him."

"Thanks, you're making me feel so much better about this."

"Well, if the way he stared at your tits half the meeting is any indication, I'd say he's still interested."

If only that's why I was freaking out. I could feel our physical connection was just as strong as ever, but it'd been everything else we'd made a mess of. We were so caught up in sneaking around that our relationship had floundered. We'd gone from in-laws to friends to secret lovers and somehow the reasons that I was initially attracted to him had gotten muddled.

I didn't know if he still had the same taste in music, if he still liked movies with subtitles more than ones with big guns and explosions. I didn't know what had led him here, and I didn't know how he didn't hate me. Simply put, I really didn't know him anymore.

I'd changed over the past two years. I liked to think I wasn't the same insecure lost person anymore. I couldn't even imagine the ways that he'd most likely changed in my absence.

"I don't even know if I deserve him anymore."

"Maybe that's not up to you," I heard from behind me. The voice much deeper than the one I was expecting.

Kate had stepped to the side and Edward was standing directly behind me, his messenger bag strung over one shoulder and his hands shoved in his pockets. He looked wary as he looked at me, and I knew that he was just as scared of me as I was of him. Only he'd been the one to finally have the courage to try to resolve everything between us.

"Um, can you give us a minute?" I asked Kate as she tried to sneak out the door behind Edward.

"Oh, no," she said waving me off as she grabbed her purse from the floor and moved into the doorway. "I've got to get home to Garrett anyways. Just um…call me? Whenever you have the chance. Tomorrow….next week, whenever."

I shook my head at her subtle implication that I wouldn't be able to call her right away. I gave her a tight smile and nodded, returning my attention to the beautiful creature only a few feet away from me.

Edward's attire had obviously changed since I'd seen him last. He was wearing a pair of dark wash jeans that had a tailored look to them along with a pair of shiny dress shoes. His long sleeved pinstriped blue shirt may have had the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and a few buttons at the collar undone, but he still looked more polished than I remembered.

I found myself wondering if I looked like a slob next to him in a simple lavender sweater set and a pair of faded jeans. I normally dressed up more when I taught, but school wasn't in session yet.

"I'm glad I caught you," he sighed as he ran one hand along the side of his neck. His nervous habits were still obviously the same. "I was afraid you'd left. I wanted to talk to you."

"Well, you caught me," I said with an awkward smile, folding my hands behind my back.

"Do you have any plans right now?"

I shook my head slightly. "No, um. I uh…I'm free." I wanted to smack myself upside the head for the nervous stuttering.

"No one waiting for you? I mean, I didn't interrupt your plans with your friend?"

"No, no one is waiting for me. Kate and I were gonna go get coffee, but she obviously couldn't wait to get home."

"Did you still want to go?" he asked as he shifted his weight from side to side. "To get coffee I mean?"

"With you?" I asked with an eyebrow raised. Why was this so awkward?

"Yeah, with me. I know we won't find a Bourgeois Pig around here, but I could suffer through Starbucks if I had to."

I smiled at his distaste for the coffee conglomerate. He'd always hated the over commercialized, overpriced feel of the place.

"Don't worry, I've got you covered. There's this little place not too far from where I live."

After an even more awkward song and dance in the cold parking lot of the school, he decided to follow me to the coffee shop.

I was thoroughly surprised that I didn't rear-end someone on the way to my neighborhood with the way I kept checking my rearview mirror to make sure his silver Volvo was still behind me. I even let out an unladylike snort when I caught him waving at me. I'd been caught.

We couldn't find parking in the small lot next to the shop, but we found street parking a few blocks away. I was only about twenty feet from my building when I got out of my car, but I kept that knowledge close to my chest. I wasn't quite ready to share everything in my new life with Edward. I also didn't want to be totally alone with him. I was afraid if he knew that I lived so close, he'd want to see my apartment.

"So this place has good coffee?" he asked as he walked directly beside me on the sidewalk.

"Hmm," I hummed as I stared down at where our fingers almost brushed between us. Each of us had our outer hands in our pocket and the others dangling dangerously close together. It reminded me of all the times we'd gone out in Chicago, I could always sense his touch, but neither of us could ever actually initiate holding hands in public. Things were different now, but I couldn't deny I wanted him to touch me. "It's not bad. I'm more of a tea drinker these days, but I just like how cozy it feels."

"Any purple couches?" he asked as he gave me a shy sideways smile.

"No, but there are some red plush chairs."

"Too bad."

When we entered the shop, it was fairly deserted and I was glad that most people still seemed to be squirreled away after the New Year's celebrations a few days ago. We had our choice of seating, and even though there was a small green loveseat tucked away in the corner available, Edward sat his bag down next to a small table for two in the middle of the room. There wasn't anyone around us, but it was implied that our talk needed to happen in a public place. I wondered what he had to say to me, or maybe he just thought it'd be more comfortable for me with a little distance.

He held the table while I got my tea, aimlessly stirring as it steeped in my mug. He got up to place his order while I took off my coat and settled in. I was almost expecting him to insist on getting our drinks, but I realized our previous familiarity had become awkward. I wasn't sure how to act around him, and it was obvious it was the same for him.

"So why did you come to Seattle, really?" I asked as he sat down with his steaming mug of black coffee.

"Well I guess we're not pulling punches, huh?" He mused as he shot me a tight grin. "I meant what I said earlier, Bella. I'm here to try to figure out if I just imagined everything between us, or if it was real. I wasn't ready to just give up and let you go."

I blew out a noisy breath and nodded. He obviously wasn't going to hold anything back from me.

"It's been two years, Edward. Why now? I thought you'd have gotten over me by now."

He shook his head and tapped his foot nervously, his knee causing the table to rock slightly.

"Sorry," he apologized as he reached across to steady my cup, our hands touching slightly.

"It's alright."

We both sat there quietly for a moment as he brought his hand back to his own cup and stared down into the dark liquid.

"I tried to forget you, believe me. I was so angry at you for such a long time for just running away. I wanted to follow you, to shake some sense into you, but you'd made it pretty clear you didn't want to see me. I even thought I imagined seeing you on the street once," he chuckled darkly. "Emmett was such an asshole, telling our parents it was your idea to leave Chicago. He told them he let you leave because he knew he wasn't fair to you with how much he worked. He made it sound like he was such a fucking martyr when he was off flirting with that bitch in his spare time."

He must have been talking about Rose. I knew that Edward had a falling out with her, but Emmett didn't really go into details. Edward obviously knew about how close they were even though Em swore they were just friends.

"Why didn't you tell me about wanting to be a teacher?"

It was changing the subject a little, but he obviously held bitter feelings toward his brother. I couldn't say that Em's actions were totally innocent, but we were divorced, why did I care what he or his parents thought of me? I wasn't caught in the Cullen web anymore.

"I just wanted to surprise you, I guess," he shrugged. "I wasn't completely sure that was the way I was going when you left Chicago. I'd done some teaching experiences, with Victoria, actually, but I hadn't finalized my student teaching placement yet."

"Did you just come here for me, Edward? I mean. It's so good to see you, I feel like I need to apologize to you for so many things, but I don't want you to uproot your life for me. That probably sounds so self-centered, but you said that you came here to see about me, and….."

"I don't think you understand, Bella. I'm here, for good. I left Chicago with the intention not to go back." His green eyes were fierce as he interrupted me.

"That's not exactly possible Edward. Your entire family is there. Your parents wouldn't exactly take lightly to you taking off completely. I'm surprised that your dad hasn't threatened to cut you off for running off to the other side of the country."

There was a stilted silence after that comment. When I looked up, Edward was gently swaying his coffee cup, the dark liquid spinning as he did this.

"He already did," Edward said quietly.

"What? Oh my god, what happened?"

"I decided to 'chase a pipe dream' and move across the country to become a teacher in a suburban school outside of Seattle." When he returned his eyes across the table to me, they were filled with sadness. "They didn't understand why I wouldn't let it go to come here. I had a job at the academy my first year, and I basically told them where to stick it when I found out that my mother was behind it. That and the fact that I realized there was nothing holding me there.

"I haven't talked to Em much since you left, and don't plan on doing so since he moved that bitch into the brownstone permanently. My choice in professions was a bone of contention with my parents anyways. I was miserable, and I decided that with Ali and Jazz getting married and moving to New York that I didn't need to stay there anymore.

"I packed all of my stuff, sublet my room in the apartment, found out where you went and came here. My mother is the only one in my family who currently knows where I am exactly.

"My apartment and my car are pretty much the only things I have right now. My dad emptied my bank account when I flipped out and yelled at him the last time I talked to him. I took what was left of my grandfather's trust and bought my apartment."

I nodded thoughtfully as he poured out everything to me. It seemed like after I left, my worst fears happened anyways. He was estranged from his family, and then after the end of the summer, his friends would have been leaving him.

Apparently, Rose and Em's relationship was not so friendly if she was moving in with him – although it had been almost two years – and I couldn't believe that Carlisle was as cold as Edward painted him to be. I mean I always knew that their relationship was tenuous at best, but there was something that I was missing. They must have had a real falling out after I left.

"I'm so sorry, Edward." I reached across the table to pat his hand, but his hand came down on top of mine, sandwiching it between both of his. "I tried so hard to keep that from happening, and it did anyway."

"Don't be," he said looking into my eyes. "I once told you I would give up everything for you, and I meant it. I didn't tell you everything to make you feel sorry for me. I told you because I want you to know that I came here for you, and I have no intention of going back. Even if you don't want to be with me, I'm here, for the long haul. I'm just as guilty as you are about everything that happened between us in Chicago."

"I honestly don't know what to say to that Edward. I don't think I'm in a place where I can promise you anything. I just figured out who I am, and I was miserable until, well, I don't know that I really stopped until I came here.

"I wish that I could tell you that we could ride off into the sunset together, but I can't. I am your brother's ex wife. How exactly would that work if you started talking to your family again? I don't see them taking something like that lightly."

It was hard to look away from him as he took in what I was saying. I could tell my words were hurting him, but he looked resolved as he responded.

"I honestly don't give a shit, Bella. I'm tired of pretending that you didn't mean something to me. That you still don't. I loved you….I am in love with you. All these years apart didn't change that for me."

I gasped as I could feel all the blood rushing to my head. He sounded so serious, so determined. He really wasn't going to let me off easy. I couldn't deny that his words sparked something inside of me; something that had been dormant for so long. My feelings for him were just as strong.

"Don't give me some bullshit story about how we could never be." He continued. "I know we can be together. We don't have any responsibilities to anyone but ourselves. I know I could make you happy, why won't you let me?"

That was precisely the question I was asking myself constantly. Why wouldn't I let myself be happy?

I had a deep seated need to torture myself constantly, and case in point, I never really let Edward in. Our relationship, if you could even call it one, had always been about him giving himself completely, and I was holding everything back.

I couldn't do that to him. I was an entirely selfish person and I didn't know if I could let someone else in. My behavior in Chicago showed me that I couldn't even trust myself, how was I going to let him in?

"Don't," he whispered as he squeezed my hand to get my attention. "Please, Bella, don't overanalyze this. I'm here, I want you, and I'm not going to take no for an answer this time."

As I contemplated his words, I want you¸ I realized that maybe he was right, maybe it was just that simple. I had tried to shield him from the pain of potentially losing his family because of our affair, and it happened regardless. Maybe I wasn't the reason, but I couldn't have prevented it either, it was going to happen eventually.

I cleared my throat awkwardly and his eyes snapped from where he had been watching our hands to my face. I still couldn't get over how different he seemed in the two years since I'd seen him last. He looked so much more mature, determined….weary. What I had done had broken something inside of him. He looked much more guarded and yet he was making himself vulnerable for me.

Was I ready to take this step with him? If I said yes, and agreed to be with him, that was it, I was committed again. Hadn't I left Chicago looking to find myself away from him, from Emmett? Had I done that?

My nod was barely perceptible to myself, but his answering grin was something that would be etched in my mind forever. It was still there, that fluttering sensation that was always there with his presence in my life.

I loved him…I love him…

It had never really gone away. I had tried to bury it, to snuff it out, to smother that feeling deep inside of myself for protection, but looking into his bright green eyes, it flamed brighter than ever.

"I need to tell you something," I murmured as he scooted his chair around to the side of the small café table. My hand was still enveloped in his warmth and it made my heart skip.

"Anything," he breathed as he tucked a stray lock of hair that had fallen down from my sloppily constructed ponytail.

"I lied," I confessed, my throat cracking on the words.

He looked at me in confusion and I continued before I lost the nerve.

"I did…I mean, I still…." I shook my head as I felt a bead of perspiration form at the back of my neck. "I love you."

I felt like I couldn't breathe after the words left my mouth. I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and tried to keep myself from crying. It was overwhelming keeping it all inside all these months, the past two years even, and then just trusting him with the truth.

"Oh, Bella," he sighed as both of his hands came up to frame my face. I slowly let my eyes open, and gasped when I realized how close he had gotten. His eyes were glistening and I felt a few stray tears pool in my own as he just looked at me. He knew.

Each exhale against my skin sparked something inside of me that had long been dormant. Hope. He was still here; he was still fighting for me. All I had to do was jump.

Before I could second guess myself anymore, I leaned into his embrace. My lips ghosted over his once before he let out the most beautiful sigh. Relief. All the barriers I had put up crumbled down as he pulled my face back and captured my lips more forcefully.

It didn't even take any effort at all to melt into his kiss. The energy pulsed between us as we lost ourselves in each other and for once in my life, I was going to grab something with both hands and not let it go.

My palms came up to rest on the backs of his hands where he gripped me.

"I love you," I gasped as he broke from my lips and pulled back to look at me.

"I know," his eyes drifted shut as his chest heaved in labored breaths. I could only imagine how he felt in this moment. He had waited for so long to hear me finally tell him how I felt. He may have known, but hearing the words does something to you, it makes you feel something almost profound; something that I had never let him experience.

"I'm so sorry," I half whispered, half sobbed as I leaned forward and placed my head on his chest. His hands came down to cradle my shoulders and I let myself relax into him. "I was so horrible to you. I don't know why you don't hate me. I told you such terrible lies. I didn't mean…"

"No, don't." His hands came up and released my hair from the tie and he ran his fingers through it as he held me to his chest. "I wouldn't trade any of it. It was losing you that made me finally take a step back and do what I wanted for once. I wanted to find you, but I had to find myself first."

His words sound so mature, gone is the slightly naïve young man that he used to be and in his place is a man. Maybe he did need me to leave him in order for us to finally get things figured out. I just can't believe that he's actually here. He actually came here for me, to find me, and to love me. It was more than a little overwhelming.

"So," he whispered as he smoothed his hand down the back of my head, running his fingers through my hair. "Is there any way that I can convince you to come home with me?"

His voice low and heavy, but I could tell it was from emotion and not arousal. He was right, doing this in a public venue, no matter how deserted was probably not a good idea. I wasn't afraid of anyone finding us out, like I would have been in Chicago, but a little privacy was probably needed.

I knew nothing about the time after I left except for the little bit that he told me. He never told me that he was going to school to become a teacher. I also was beginning to wonder how we were going to explain what was happening between us to our colleagues. There wasn't exactly a written rule about inter-staff fraternization, but it wasn't encouraged either.

"You're just trying to get into my pants." His answering laugh was full and clear, he sounded happy.

"If I wanted into your pants, I wouldn't have bothered trying to talk first. You'd already be in my bed, Bella. I know what you like, remember?" He kissed the soft skin beneath my ear and ran his tongue lightly along my earlobe before blowing on it softly. He was right, if he wanted to; he could have totally gotten me naked already.

It'd been too long since a man touched me, much less the way Edward used to. I didn't exactly count the awkward almost kiss I got from Tyler during Spring Break. I couldn't deny the fact that underneath all of the emotions that seemed to be surfacing between us that there was still that tension, that sexual attraction that I've always had with Edward.

*** BD ***

We decided to leave my car parked on the street near my building and he drove us to his apartment.

It was strange being in his car again, I'd have thought he would have upgraded it since I'd been in it last, but it even still smelled the same.

Before I could try to break the awkward silence between us, he was pulling into an assigned space in a lot behind an apartment building. It was taller, and much newer than mine, but it wasn't too horribly fancy.

The door had an electronic key swipe and he quickly ran a card through before leading us to a bank of elevators.

The silence continued as we stood side by side, leaning against the back wall and watching the numbers go by.

I saw his fingers twitching out of the corner of my eye and realized that he wasn't sure how to initiate touching me either. Although, he surprised me when the doors opened and he grabbed my hand, pulling me out behind him.

"Home sweet home," he murmured as he slid the key into the door and led us inside. I found myself blindly following him as he led me through a small hallway, a kitchen on the right and his living room in front of us.

"Here," he said motioning to his couch. It was deep, rich brown leather with a few light brown linen pillows thrown onto one end. It looked vaguely familiar, and I wondered what had made the trip from Chicago with him. "Sit down and wait here. There's something I want to show you."

It was no surprise that his apartment was much nicer than mine. Edward had never hesitated to spend money on things that he actually liked. He didn't blow through it like his brother, but he did like nice things. From what was unpacked, I could tell that this wasn't a temporary move for him. He'd brought his life with him. It drove home the words that he'd told me in the coffee shop. He was here to start over, with me. For once in my life, I was going to embrace something and not look back. I was in this for good now.

We were both free of the things that killed our relationship before, and I hoped that Edward being in Seattle would provide a fresh start for us.

I wanted to get to know him again, a lot of things had obviously changed in the past two years, and we were both different people now. Maybe now that he was separated from the pressures that his parents had both put on him, he'd finally be happy.

My head turned towards the hallway that obviously led to his bedroom just as he was returning. He had something that looked like a laminated piece of paper in his hand. Edward looked truly nervous, and I couldn't even begin to imagine what he wanted to show me.

"Okay. I feel like I need to show this to you, but I'm not sure if it will freak you out. Just please keep an open mind and know that I never meant to keep anything from you before. There was just never an easy way to bring this up with you."

He hesitantly placed the paper on my lap and at first I was confused as to why this was relevant.

I scanned the page, taking in that it was an assignment of Edward's from his ninth grade English class. It wasn't until I read the title of the assignment that things started to click into place. The lesson I'd done on Jane Eyre was staring back at me with comments all over it in my handwriting.

It was overwhelming to see an old lesson of mine, back when I was idealistic and so excited about getting the opportunity to teach. It was even more overwhelming to know that Edward had been there. He'd been one of my students and I didn't even remember.

Before I could stop it; tears pooled in my eyes. I didn't know why it was so emotional for me to see this, but it tore at me. Edward had been there all along, even before I'd met Emmett, and I didn't see it.

Obviously it would have been unethical and creepy if something had happened with him when he was my student, and at the time it was also quite illegal. Nonetheless, that connection I'd always felt with him made sense. I had loved that first class of mine.

At nineteen, I was shy and unsure and that first teaching experience had kind of solidified me deciding to continue with the path to be a teacher. The students were so kind to me and there were a few in particular, one most likely being a young Edward that really made me feel like teaching was what I was meant to do.

"Hey," he crooned as he ducked his head down and tried to look in my eyes. "I didn't know this would make you so upset. I'm sorry for keeping this from you."

"No," I croaked shaking my head and looking into his eyes. "It's just so….."

"Creepy," he mumbled as his thumb brushed a few tears from my cheek.

I shook my head again and leaned forward to gently kiss him on the lips.

"Sweet," I whispered when I leaned back from him. My hands framed his face and I stared at the face of the man that he'd become. "I'm sorry I didn't remember you."

"So you don't think I'm a stalker?" he grinned.

"Well." I pretended to contemplate this for a minute, but that thought never really came into my head. If anything I hated the age difference between us back then. Now it wasn't an issue, but back then it made all the difference. We could have never been together in that part of our lives, but even then there'd obviously been a connection.

"I've loved you since I was fourteen years old," Edward whispered. I smiled weakly and realized that it'd been ten extremely long and frustrating years for him, and somehow he'd never given up on me.

Now it made sense why he'd given me that book for my birthday years ago, and why he'd recited that passage from Jane Eyre to me on our trip to Lake Geneva. It had always been about its connection to our past. I'd just been too blind to see it.

"Why don't I remember you?" I whispered. "I don't know how I'd ever be able to forget you."

He laughed a little and pulled me into his side as he leaned back on the couch.

"I'm not surprised," he said with a little bit of amusement in his voice. "I was about five foot six, a hundred and sixty pounds and had these horrible glasses. I won't even go into the disaster that my hair was back then, and it was long before they'd invented Proactiv. I was this pudgy, hopelessly dorky idiot who had the biggest crush on his student teacher."

I guess I hadn't even realized that Edward was so different. He was much taller and was almost as attractive as he was now when I was introduced to him. Most of the pictures that Esme had shown me of a teenaged Emmett were of him at various sporting events. It was mostly action shots of him by himself or with Carlisle.

Edward was noticeably absent from most pictures I remember of that time. I could only vaguely recall seeing pictures of a tiny toddler Edward, much before his teenage years, and he'd been so cute.

"This is so weird," I sighed as I traced the buttons down the center of his shirt. "I'm not even sure how to process this."

"Does it change things for you?" he asked as his hand played with my hair. He sounded nervous about how this connection would affect me.

I shook my head and looked up towards him. "No, it doesn't really matter to me. It's definitely unexpected, but it doesn't change my feelings for you. It only makes me wish that things had turned out differently somehow. I'm still in love with you. I don't think there's much that could change that."

"Good," he sighed as he slid down a little and closed the distance between us. "Because I'm madly in love with you too."

Before I could respond, he tenderly took my bottom lip between his own, slowly caressing. My eyes slid closed as I melted into the kiss and I could already feel the warmth of his touch spreading through me. I hoped this feeling would never fade, even kissing him made me overwhelmed.

It didn't take long for him to lean me back into the corner of the couch and our hands to begin wandering as we continued to kiss. When his fingers started to pull at the button of my jeans, I placed my hand on top of his, halting his motions. As much as I wanted to reconnect with him physically, there was no way that either of us was ready for it.

"Stop," I panted as he began to kiss down the side of my neck, eliciting several unbidden breathy moans. "Please, Edward."

"I know," he groaned as his forehead dropped onto my chest. I tried to ignore how close his mouth was to my breasts even though they were clothed, but failed as his warm breath drifted along the neckline of my sweater. I held myself perfectly still because I knew I would rub myself against him like a cat if I didn't show some restraint. "I just wanted to make you feel good. God, I want you so bad, but I know. We can't."

He raised his head and pouted up at me, causing me to chuckle, his torso jumping with my movements. The movement must have disturbed something else as he groaned again and reached his hand down to adjust himself in his pants. At least his jeans didn't seem too tight. That might have been painful.

"Ok, I feel like I need to take you home before we both do something we'll regret, but I don't want to let you go yet."

Edward slowly raised himself off of me and settled onto the other side of the couch, creating some much needed distance between us.

"I don't want to leave either," I whispered as I sat up against the pillows behind me and chewed on my bottom lip.

"Stay?" he asked hesitantly. "I promise I'll keep my hands to myself." He held them up in surrender and I laughed, knowing that neither of us really wanted him to keep them to himself. I wanted them all over me, preferably on bare skin, but I was trying to be good around him for once.

"Alright, I'll stay, but I think we need to talk more about this," I said motioning to the space between us.

"I want to date you," he blurted out loudly before he smacked his palm against his forehead. "That was real smooth."

I laughed at his self-deprecation and relaxed a little.

"I mean it, Bella. I want you. To get to know you, I mean. Not that I don't want you, want you too, but god, ok. Shutting up now…."

Luckily my stomach growling interrupted his word vomit, even though it was kind of adorable. I wasn't sure how he was still so awkward with me, he'd seen me naked, been inside of me, said unbearably dirty and sexy things to me, although those memories seemed like they happened in a different life. It was obvious we were different now. This wasn't some seedy affair anymore. A relationship was a real possibility between us.

"Do you have any food in this place or do we need to go somewhere?" I asked. Giggling as my stomach made itself known again.

"I have popcorn?" he said as more of a question.

"That'll probably work for now, but eventually we'll need real food."

He shrugged as he hauled himself up from the couch and moved to rummage in one of the drawers in his kitchen.

"Aha!" he exclaimed as he held up a fistful of what appeared to be takeout menus. Astonishing, he'd been here less than a week and he had already amassed an impressive amount of menus. Single guys were so predictable, but I couldn't help hoping that he wasn't really considered one of those anymore. We'd both made our intentions known, but we'd never labeled things.

"Pick your pleasure," he said as he fanned the menus out on the coffee table in front of me.

Oh Edward, you really should watch your phrasing…it could be so dangerous if I picked the pleasure I really wanted.

"Um, let's see. No to pizza, no to spicy Indian food, no to Greek food, um Italian might be ok, ah….Mexican. I can get on board with that one."

Even though there were beans, I was trying to avoid all the exotic spices. I did have slightly dishonorable plans for him after we ate. Now that I was allowed again, I wanted to kiss him as much as was possible. Garlic breath would only hinder that.

We quickly decided that we'd share a large nacho platter and get a few tacos. I was starving having forgotten to eat much besides my candy indulgence back at the school this afternoon. That might have explained the fainting spell, but I had a feeling it was more the shock of seeing Edward again.

He showed me around his apartment as we waited for our delivery. Most of his things were sealed in boxes or spilling out the top of open ones, but his place was huge compared to mine.

It was a two bedroom with a distant view of the sound out of the bay window in his bedroom. The bathroom was full sized and even had a garden tub. I was insanely jealous that he got to spread out in his own space, but knew that living on my own – no matter how tiny the apartment – had been good for me.

He had set up the smaller bedroom as a studio/office space with a desk and some of his instruments and recording equipment. I saw the infamous keyboard from his apartment in Chicago and wondered if I could finally get him to play for me.

"You know, you've never actually played something for me," I teased as I ran my fingertips along the shiny keys.

"You've heard me play before." He smiled as he shifted me out of his way and sat down on the stool in front of the keyboard. "You came to those concerts at DePaul and I know I've put on my recordings at least once in the car with you."

I hadn't even realized that he'd played me his own music when we were alone, but looking back on it, he did have a lot of piano music I'd never been able to identify on his iPod. I didn't really count his concerts because usually he was playing with a group or something that wasn't his own. I wanted to hear his music.

"Please," I pouted as he started flipping switches and then made a show of lacing his fingers together to stretch his arms out in front of him. The way the muscles of his exposed forearms bunched and stretched sent a jolt of heat through me, but I took a deep breath and tried to focus on non-sexual things. It was hard…wrong train of thought, Bella.

The sounds that enveloped me as he began to play were startling, the harmony complex and winding. I couldn't deny that his music evoked a strong response from me and as it moved into something sultrier sounding my heartbeat picked up with the teasing tempo. By the time we heard a buzz from the intercom by his door I was ready to start ripping off my clothes to mount him on the stool he was perched at.

He avoided my eyes as he passed me in the doorway, obviously on his way to let the delivery person inside. I trailed along after him fanning at myself and trying to calm down. If this was his attempt at trying to keep things from escalating between us too soon, then I was in trouble when he finally did try to seduce me.

It was made even worse by the fact that the meal we'd chosen would be eaten with our fingers. I didn't even think about that. Watching his long fingers bring pieces of food to his mouth and the constant licking of melted cheese and sour cream off of them was majorly distracting me. Who knew that eating nachos could be so alluring?

"What?" he mumbled as he licked a stray glop of guacamole from the corner of his mouth. I kept thinking about him using that long tongue of his to lick other things. I was a shameless whore. Here he was trying to be sweet and reconnect with me after all our time apart and all I could think about was jumping his bones.

"Uh, nothing," I blurted as I quickly looked down to my fairly untouched portion of the plate of food. I was sure my blush was a dead giveaway, but he had been distracted with actually eating for the last several minutes.

"You've got a little bit of…" he trailed off as he brought his thumb to my mouth and swiped it across my bottom lip. I didn't see anything as he pulled his hand away and was even more confused. It's kind of hard to get anything on your face when you're too distracted to eat.

"What was…?"

"Drool," he laughed as he winked at me and returned to eating.

"Asshole," I murmured as I picked up a chip and shoved it into my mouth. He was teasing me; he totally knew the effect he had on me. I quickly joined him on devouring the food, it was delicious and it helped distract me from my wayward thoughts. They were only going to get me into trouble.

Oh, how I longed for trouble…

"You know you love me," he teased between bites.

"God only knows why." I said sarcastically as I threw a little jalapeño at his forehead.

He pretended to look offended, but quickly retaliated as he smashed a cheesy nacho on my nose.

"You've got a little…" he said as he made a vague motion to the center of his face.

"Thanks smartass. I think I could have figured that out," I said as I took the chip off and shoved it into my mouth, crunching loudly.

"Sexy," he smirked as he got up and walked around the island, settling into the stool at my side.

"You've still got a little bit of stuff on your nose," he said gently as he leaned in toward me. Before I could blink, his thumb had rubbed the rest of the cheese off my nose and was headed for his mouth.

It was ridiculous that watching him suck cheese off his finger was arousing, but it was. I could tell that his focus was no longer on finishing dinner as his gaze dropped to my lips. I licked them self-consciously and watched as he mimicked the action and then he was on me.

My back hit the granite countertop as he pressed into me, slipping his tongue into my mouth with an eagerness that I had missed desperately. The kiss was far from innocent with lips and teeth clashing.

All thoughts of waiting flew out of my mind as his hands slid from my waist to grab onto my ass. He lifted me into him, pressing his obvious erection into my stomach as my hands went from his chest up into his hair.

Eventually, we had to come up for air, both gasping and panting against each other. The atmosphere cooled a little bit as he groaned and tucked his face into my neck, slowly calming himself.

When his hands returned to my waist and settled there, I tried not to pout, but it was hard.

God, he was so hard…

I knew exactly what he was going to say, and I agreed with him, but it didn't make it any less difficult to take. Our uncontrollable physical reactions to each other were what got us into trouble in the first place, so we needed to be cautious. I hated it, but it was the only way to make this work.

"Come on," he said leaning back and looking down into my eyes. "Let's go sit down and talk for a little while."

I followed him back to his couch and we settled into the cushions, him sitting in one of the corners and me leaned against his chest. I knew the responsible thing would have been to sit on opposite corners to prevent trying to molest each other again, but I liked listening to the rumbling in his chest as he talked.

He told me about finishing school and his student teaching experiences. Apparently he'd been close with a few of the other student teachers that were placed at the same school. They'd kept him from being lonely by making him go out with them on the weekends.

I tried not to think about what he had done during these drunken outings, but I knew he'd tell me anything I really needed to know. I trusted him.

Edward had been working with the Jazz ensemble and had apparently taken them on several outings to hear local musicians when he was teaching. It sounded like he'd really been inspired during his time at his school.

He sounded disconnected when he told me about the job that his former high school had offered to him.

The academy had made him an offer he couldn't refuse. The pay compared to one of the public schools he'd interviewed at was insane. He figured he could put away a little bit of his own money by taking the job and just wait until something opened up at a school that he liked.

All it had taken was walking in on the wrong conversation between his mother and the headmaster for it all to start to crumble. She'd arranged his position. They both insisted to him that he'd earned his placement, but he knew then that he'd made the wrong decision.

He looked into trying to find a job at one of the schools near Lincoln Park, but they all thought he was out of their price range. He'd told them he'd take base pay for any position he could get, but none of them had contacted him past a first interview. He suspected that his mother had told the headmaster to do anything to keep him at the academy and pretty much had him blackballed, but he could never prove it.

His parents hadn't understood why he wanted to make it on his own for once, and they'd fought over him deciding to quit his job. Edward wanted to be successful by his own work, not his mommy and daddy pulling strings.

"I'm sorry they manipulated you like that," I said as I placed a kiss onto his chest.

"I'm not. I probably never would have left Chicago without them finally pushing me over the edge."

He sounded resigned to the fact that his relationship with his parents had fallen apart. I couldn't understand why they wouldn't just support what he wanted, but they'd been the same way with Emmett. As long as he did what they wanted, they stayed supportive, if you tried to go out on your own they badgered you until you gave in.

"Why did you decide on Seattle?"

"I missed you. I thought about you constantly. I hated that I couldn't even bug Alice for information about you because she hadn't heard from you either." He sighed loudly and kissed the top of my head. "I knew that I should be mad at you, but I never could quite convince my heart that you actually meant the things you said to me."

"I didn't. I didn't mean any of it. I don't think I can ever apologize enough for what I said to you."

"It was probably the only way you could've gotten me to stay away from you, honestly. It sucked, and I knew you were just lashing out at me because you were scared, but a part of me realized that I'd been pushing you too hard. I thought you'd come find me when you were ready. And…" His voice broke a little and it tugged at my heart.

"And then I just left without saying goodbye…"

"Yup."

We sat silently for a few minutes, probably both thinking about all the mistakes we'd made, or more accurately, that I'd made. I still wished things had gone differently, but I was a different person back then and maybe its better that it happened this way. Neither of us was able to make it work between us back then.

"How did you find me?"

"The staff directory on the school website. I started off looking for Bella Cullen in Seattle, but then realized that you'd probably gone back to your maiden name. Eventually I found it. I was this close to having a friend do an illegal credit check on you," he said holding up his fingers.

I laughed at his candidness. He'd really been determined to find me.

We'd missed so much in the years we were apart and apparently both struggling. I wanted to tell him about my time since I'd moved to Seattle, but I wasn't sure where to begin.

"Let's go to bed," Edward whispered into my hair as I yawned.

He pulled me up from the couch and I followed him into his bedroom, my hand still encased inside of his. Our conversation had turned somber near the end, but I still think it was good that we were talking.

Edward found me a long sleeved shirt and a pair of his boxer briefs to put on and led me into his bathroom. He had a new two pack of toothbrushes in a bag on the floor, and he took one for himself then handed me one before he left and closed the door behind him.

As I brushed my teeth and changed my clothes, I thought about how strangely this day had turned out. I knew I had hoped that things would change with the New Year, but I never could have expected this.

When I came out of his bathroom, he was already tucked into his bed, leaning up against the headboard. He'd turned out the overhead light, so a soft glow from his nightstand cast across his bare chest. Apparently the facial hair and new haircut weren't the only changes in him. His muscles were much more defined than I remember them being. He really did look much more like a man.

I guess I'd always let our age difference come between us in the past, but it felt different now. We were both adults out of school and off on our own. In a week we'd be colleagues; equals. I guess we'd both gained our independence. It felt good knowing we were on equal footing.

He smiled at me as I climbed under the covers and tucked myself in under his arm. Even thought it was still early, I felt like this second chance we'd been given was going to stick. Time and lies and distance hadn't been able to dampen our feelings.

"I love you," I whispered as I ran my hands down his chest through the light covering of hair. He squirmed a little as my hand ran through the soft hair above his pajama pants. Even though I wanted to initiate more than chaste touches, I was just thankful to be here with him.

He reached over to turn off the lamp and scooted down to settle us on his pillows, pulling the covers up over us before pulling me back into his side.

"I love you, too, Bella, so much," he whispered as he kissed my forehead.

I tried to stay awake to just listen to his heartbeat, it confirmed that this was real, but I drifted off before I knew it, content and happy in his arms.


Can everybody say 'awww'? So our couple is back together at last. Next chapter jumps ahead a few months. Make sure to bring a change of panties (the good kind you don't mind getting wet). Sorry for the cockblock, but you all know they need to wait to get down and dirty.