New story from me! Yay! This story, at least this portion, is told in the past tense and covers a lot of time. Its meant to give you some back story as to what has gotten Bella to where she is now. In this story, Bella is in a band. I based her band's sound off of a band called The Duke Spirit. The song she sings is called Wooden Heart, and there is a link to it on my profile. They have a very different sound, plus I really like them alot. The song "Darling, You're Mean" which is mentioned later in the story is there as well. Enjoy!


This is actually happening. I can't even begin to believe it. My dreams were coming true right before my eyes and I was still reeling from the news.

We could possibly get signed. Us. This little band with an effing record deal? No no no, I must be dreaming. Someone, please pinch me before I get too deep into this dream. Or better yet, let me stay in whatever coma I've slipped into and never ever wake me up.

All of our hard work is finally going to pay off. Years of practicing, lugging gear to shady clubs, getting paid measly sums of money to help draw a crowd to empty bars; despite all that we did it for the love of the music, and the love and mutual respect we had for each other.

I'd known these boys for what felt like my entire life, but in actuality we all met our freshman year of college. At orientation, the leaders required us to go sit in on little seminars through out the day about how to get more involved on campus and how to "make the most" of our college experience. I was the only girl who went to the intramural sports seminar, and Emmett hit on me so ridiculously hard that day. I would have probably laughed in his face had it not been for those adorable dimples. I remember him saying something about girls and sports, and how he didn't think there was such thing as an intramural cheerleading squad. I countered with a good hard sock to the shoulder, he laughed and pretty much didn't leave my side for the rest of the day. He jabbered on and on about his days as a high school football star, how he was attending school on an athletic scholarship and all that jazz. Despite his meatheadedness, he really was quite endearing and besides all that, his smile was infectious. He told rude jokes, made comments about other girls, and challenged me to a burping contest (which I proudly beat him at, I might add). After our initial exchange, Emmett saw me as an equal, as more or less one of the guys as opposed to some "delicate flower" kind of girl, and we became downright inseparable.

Jasper was Emmett's dorm mate. They were randomly assigned to each other and sometimes I wonder if there wasn't some cosmic force at work in this instance. Jasper was, and probably always will be to some degree, extremely shy. He had a quiet, reserved charm about him, but lacked Emmett's confident, go-get-'em attitude. They were each other's perfect foil. Throw me into the mix, and you got trouble. That first night, Emmett insisted that we all get drunk together. Jasper was apprehensive, as was I, but once Emmett made up his mind that he wanted something, there was no stopping him from getting whatever it was. So we downed a bottle of cheap spiced rum that Emmett had swiped from his parents before leaving home, and in the course of our drinking proclaimed that I was their unofficial third roomie. I'm pretty sure Jasper assumed that Emmett and I were "together" for the better part of that night, but changed his mind whenever Emmett, in his drunken stupor, complained that the room was getting too hot and wanted to open the door. He then proceeded to invite every girl who walked by into the room for a drink and a good time. From then on Jasper completely understood that there was absolutely nothing going on between that big, dumb teddy bear and myself.

We got to know each other pretty well over the next couple of weeks; drinking and doing moronic things like college freshmen do, and through the course of our spending time together, it came out that Emmett played the drums, but was forced to leave his set back home, Jasper played guitar and wrote sappy love songs to all of his girlfriends, and I was a bit of a singer. We sort of joked around about starting a band for a while but made the excuse that we were missing a key part of the rhythm section, and opted to go to class and party instead.

We saw Emmett less and less as football season got into full swing. He was the only true freshman to start on the Offensive line in almost 10 years, and he really was incredible to watch. My dad, Charlie, used to try to get me to watch sports with him when I was a kid, but I just couldn't get into it.

"Bella," he'd say, "every guy likes a girl who understands the fundamentals of football. Or at least can appreciate the skill required to play it well." To that, I would usually just roll my eyes, but I guess I'd soaked in enough to know when Emmett was doing something good. Jasper and I were always camped out in the end-zone with big "Emmett McCarty is #1" banners and signs for all of the home games, and parked in front of and shouting at the TV for all of the away games.

We all went our separate ways for winter break; Jasper back to Houston, Emmett back to Virginia, and me, just up the road to rainy little Forks, Washington. But despite our distance, we all stayed in close contact. We'd really become quite the little family, the three of us.

New Year's Day. Jasper had flown back to Seattle a little early so we could watch Emmett's big bowl game debut together. They'd made it all the way to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Jasper, Charlie, and I watched the Tournament of Roses parade, and I made nachos, chicken wings, and various other game-time foods so we could stay firmly attached to the television all day. We were up 14-7 at the half, and Emmett, along with the rest of the team, was going great. The first snap of the second half, Emmett caught a 38 yard pass, and ran it in for another touchdown. 21-7.

At that point in the game, the other team had started to cover Emmett almost exclusively. With three minutes left to play, the other team scored again. 21-14, Then we allowed a turnover, which put the other team in the position of having a first down and only 8 yards to go. They were going to try for the touchdown and force the game into overtime. Charlie, Jasper, and I were perched on the edge of the couch holding our breath. Finally the snap, Emmett faked left, and ran right only to be completely leveled by two defensive tackles from the opposing team. He lay still on the field while the rest of the team finished the play. I remember screaming when I saw him get hit and didn't get up. Emmett always got up, no matter how badly he was hurt. But this time, he just lay there, very still.

The team medics rushed to his side, and I wished I could hear what they were saying and know what was going on. I could see Emmett's lips moving so I knew that much was alright. But after a long time of lying there, he had to practically be carried off the field. I was a wreck. There was no one I could call to find out more information. We'd just have to wait, like everyone else. But less than 12 hours later my cell phone rang and on the other end of the line was a heavily sedated Emmett.

"Bella," he slurred. "It doesn't even hurt anymore. Really. I have to get back in the game."

"Em, honey," I soothed, "the game's over sweetheart."

"What?!" I could hear metal clanking in the background like something had been knocked over.

"Yeah Em. The game's over. We won though, so that's good news. Sweetie, can you tell me what happened?"

There was a long pause before he spoke again, his speech becoming increasingly slurred.

"Out of nowhere, these guys. Big guys. And Bam! Never even saw it coming. Doctor says I've got a concussion, and my neck bone… hurts. Not going to catch much for a while. Ladies. Nurses. Hehe." He finished his almost completely nonsensical rambling with a low chuckle.

"Emmett, your neck bone?"

"No, Bel-lah! The shirt bone, with the neck. Around. You know!" he seemed to be getting frustrated and I tried not to laugh.

"Do you mean your collar bone, hun? Is your collar bone broken?"

"Yessssssss," he slurred. "That's what I said."

I had to laugh a little at that point. "Aside from the concussion and the broken collar bone, I'm glad you're alright."

"I love you, Bella… Like a sister… only hotter…heh" he laughed at himself and I had to smile.

"I love you too, Em. I'll pretend like you said you love Jasper too so he doesn't feel left out."

"Jasper!... oh yeah, let me talk to him."

"Get some rest, champ. We'll call you tomorrow."

"Night night, Bella," he said. I smiled at how much he sounded like a 3 year old just then.

"Night night, Emmett." And hung up the phone.

Two weeks into the spring semester Emmett came back to school with his arm in a sling and bandaged to his side. He was a little grumpier than usual, but he was in overall good spirits. The doctors said he'd have to spend at least 6 weeks in the sling, and then he'd have some rehabilitation after that, and Emmett was not happy about having to basically sit still for an extended amount of time. After 3 weeks he was taking the sling off and moving his shoulder around. He swore it didn't hurt, but I could see his face tighten every time he'd swing his arm around in a big circle.

Those adorable dimples must have magic in them because somehow he managed to convince his mom that shipping his drum set cross country would be awesome rehab. But of course, Emmett being the impulsive kind of guy that he is, hadn't thought through where he was going to put those drums once they arrived. His and Jasper's dorm room was a packed house as it was with just the two of them in it, let alone a bulky drum set. Not to mention his RA's wouldn't be very pleased with the added noise.

Charlie loved Emmett, and it made him almost star struck to have a top athlete hanging around the house when I brought him around, so I was able to convince my dad to let Emmett set up his kit in his garage. It was only a short drive away from campus and Emmett could be as loud as he wanted because my dad had no neighbors and the wildlife certainly couldn't complain. Charlie even gave Emmett a key to the house so he could come by and play if Charlie or I weren't around.

After a while, Emmett started disappearing to Charlie's more and more, and Jasper and I conceded that if we wanted to see him, we'd have to see him there.

Around spring break, Jasper had started to woo this girl in his Oceanography class but had managed to somehow make an ass of himself when they finally went out. He brought his guitar over to Charlie's one afternoon because he'd written a song for her and wanted us, but mostly me, to hear it. Jasper's guitar playing was amazing; his fingers seemed to move almost like magic, all of his shyness melting away into quiet confidence. His singing voice on the other hand, well… it could use some work. When he was done, Emmett looked at him with a bemused expression.

"Hey Jazz, I thought you were going to sing us a song, not strangle a cat," he said with a completely straight face.

"Hey, fuck you man. This is really personal. I knew I shouldn't have played it for you," he huffed, his face turning an obscene shade of red as he grabbed his backpack and stood up to leave.

"Aww… Jasper, don't be like that," I pleaded, pulling him back down onto the sofa in the garage. "It wasn't that bad."

"Fine. You sing it then." He thrust the lyrics scribbled messily in a red spiral notebook into my hands.

"Ha ha, very funny. I'm not going to sing a song written for your little girlfriend."

"Bella, come on. You can sing. I just want to hear what it sounds like not sucking. Do it for me." He practically begged, and flashed me those big baby blue eyes that I couldn't say no to.

"Ugh, fine."

I stumbled a little bit over the first few lines until I caught the rhythm of the lyrics. Out of nowhere, Emmett threw in a soft drum beat.

No one wastes time quite like I do
I can waste time like nobody else
You can go running back to your friends
You can go running back to your friends

Well, that's how it feels
Yeah, that's how it feels

I would understand your heart
if I could feel it
I would understand your heart
if I could feel it

All I have is all that I am feeling
All I feel is all that I know
and then I use it every day
and abuse it every way

yeah, that is how it feels
yeah, that is how it feels

I would understand your heart
if I could feel it
I would understand your heart
if I could feel it.

The skies are more certain
than you will ever be
the rain clouds are angry
at you and at me

the skies are more certain
than you will ever be
the rain clouds are angry
at you and at me

Forgive me, baby
I am not all that you see

I would understand your heart
if I could feel it
I would understand your heart
if I could feel it

I would understand your heart
if I could feel,
I would understand your heart
if I could feel, oh

When the song was over, the three of us just sort of looked at each other.

"Well that was interesting," Emmett said with a mischievous smile.

Jasper rubbed the back of his neck. "It sounds way better when you sing it, Bells."

"Um, thanks. The lyrics are a little… odd. But good." I blushed uncontrollably. It had been years since I'd really sang in front of anyone.

"Yeah, they could probably use a little work. Maybe we should revisit this whole starting a band, thing," Emmett laughed.

"Might be something to think about," Jasper said. "What do you think, Bella?"

"I don't know guys; this is just messing around in my dad's garage. A band is-"

"Fun, exciting, a great excuse to stay out late and meet chicks," Emmett chimed in.

Jasper and I laughed.

"Let's sort of keep it on the backburner for now, and maybe look for someone who can play bass. If we can find someone, then we can look at it more seriously. How's that?" I negotiated. Starting a band, though fun in theory, was really the last thing I saw myself doing.

"Deal."

And that's sort of where it stayed for a while. The song helped Jasper win the girl back over after all, and he and Alice have been a very happy couple ever since.

The semester ended, and Jasper and Emmett both went home to visit their families for a while. Jasper came back after just two weeks because he couldn't stand being away from Alice.

While she took summer classes and worked at a small lingerie boutique, Jasper hung out with me either at my apartment or at Charlie's house, all the while writing furiously in his little red, spiral bound notebook.

"Jazz, what are you writing over there all the time?" I asked while we were watching some cheesy horror movie on cable.

"Lyrics," was his only reply.

"Why? Did you do something to piss Alice off again?"

"If you must know things between Alice and I are fantastic. I don't know, I've just sort of had this melody in my head for a couple days now and I have to get it out. Have you given anymore thought to the whole band thing?"

"We haven't found a bass player, now have we?"

"No, but we also haven't been looking. Maybe if we actually looked, we might find someone." He put his pen and notebook down and turned on the couch to look at me. "Come on Bella. It could be awesome, and you know it."

"I don't know, Jazz. I've got to keep my grades up and so does Emmett. I think a band might spread us a little too thin, you know?"

"Listen Bells, this is just for fun. And we'll all be there for each other when we need support. If you need a break, we'll take a break. I know school is important, believe me. I just think the three of us are really good together."

"Alice wouldn't mind you spending even more time with me than you already do?"

"Ha! Alice loves you, and she knows there's nothing going on between me and you."

"Alice loves me?"

"Yeah. She thinks you're awesome. She can't ever stop talking about how she wishes you guys could hang out more often. "

I'd only met Jasper's girlfriend a handful of times. She worked like crazy to fund her never ending shopping addiction, while her parent's required her to keep an impeccable GPA. She seemed like a sweet girl, and Jasper adored her, but not really my type. She is super girly and feminine, while I am not exactly a tomboy, but… I guess low maintenance is the best way to describe me. We just didn't seem like we'd mesh very well. But oh how wrong I was about that.

After a few more serious conversations with Jasper and consulting with Emmett from across the country, we decided it was time to move forward. With Emmett spending the summer at home with his family, Jasper and I spent countless hours in my living room with his notebook and guitar writing as many songs as we could. We really got on a roll and started cranking out a couple songs a week.

Alice eventually started accompanying Jasper to our little jam sessions, which I was apprehensive about at first, but she proved to be no bother at all. She would sit quietly in one of the chairs by the window studying or reading a fashion magazine, not saying a word until we were finished. From time to time I'd glance over at her and see her watching me or Jasper out of the corner of her eye and a slight smile would curve across her lips. She'd catch me looking and immediately go back to what she was doing. And when we were finished she'd pack up her things, give me a hug and thank me for letting her tag along, and leave with Jasper.

Finally, one day I caught her smiling larger than usual at us as I sang and Jasper played. I could always see the wheels in her head turning when she'd smile like that, and even though Alice and I had barely exchanged more than pleasantries, I had to know what was going on in that head of hers.

"What is it, Alice?" I said, interrupting the song and turning to look at her directly. Her eyes went wide and a slight blush colored her cheeks.

"Oh nothing, just listening is all. It sounds really good," she replied looking back down at her magazine. "Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you."

"No, you didn't interrupt. I just… I mean, you've listened to us write for weeks now and you've never said anything. But I see you smiling over there, and to be quite honest, I'm really interested to know what you think," I said. I realized that by calling her out, I'm sure I'd come across as a bit intimidating or accusatory and that certainly wasn't my intent. So I did my best to be genuine, and warm.

"Really, Bella? You honestly want my opinion?" Her voice was soft and small as she looked up at me with those big blue eyes, framed by a fringe of jet black bangs.

"Of course, Alice." I smiled, but inside was sort of bracing for her to say something like she thought we were awful or something. Which is usually the follow up when someone asks if you honestly want their opinion. But quite the opposite happened. Her eyes went wide again and her smile grew exponentially as she started to rummage in her oversized tote bag that was sitting on the floor next to her chair. From it she pulled a small handheld device that I didn't recognize.

"I know I should have told you guys, but I didn't want to put any undue pressure on you. Jasper, sweetie, I'm sorry I didn't tell you." She pressed a button on the tiny thing in her hand causing a red light to flicker off and came over to sit between Jasper and I on the couch. "You guys just sound so good, and Bella, I don't think you realize how much this means to Jasper." She turned her head and smiled at him warmly, he returned her expression with a timid smile of his own and a squeeze of her knee. "The two of you alone are good enough to make it. And I mean really make it, I can only imagine what it'll sound like with Emmett and someone on bass added in. So I started recording you guys practicing." She blushed a little bit then, and dipped her head as Jasper's expression went blank.

"At first I thought it would be good to have recordings for, you know, reference material later on. But then, you guys just started sounding better and better… Oh I really hope you guys aren't mad at me…" she leaned forward and placed the little device on the coffee table and pressed a few buttons. After a few seconds of silence, my voice and Jasper's guitar playing came out of the little speaker on the back of the thing on the table.

"See how good you sound?" she said with an encouraging smile. "I told my cousin about you. Both of you. He works for a little independent record label in LA, and he wanted to hear some for himself. So… I sent him a few songs."

"What?!" Jasper and I both exclaimed in unison.

"Alice, I know you're just trying to help, but baby these songs are so not ready for anyone else to hear yet. Hell, we haven't even played them in front of an audience." Jasper was practically trembling.

"I know I should have asked your permission, but I knew you'd say no. But hey, he really liked what he heard. Honest."

Jasper and I just looked at each other for a moment before I broken the tense silence.

"Well what did he say?"

"He thinks it's got great potential, that you have a really unique sound and that he wants to hear what it sounds like once you get a full band together. Then there might be a slight possibility that he'd want to maybe bring you guys to LA to hear you in person." Both Jasper's and my eyes nearly popped out of our heads. "No promises though!" she added. But that didn't stop us from both wrapping Alice up in a tight group hug.

"I've got to go call Emmett, and tell him to get his ass back here ASAP!" Jasper jumped off the couch and ran into the kitchen to retrieve his cell phone from his backpack leaving Alice and I alone together for the first time ever. She looked at me with a sheepish little grin that slowly spread into a full blown, face splitting smile. It was infectious and I could feel my own smile creeping across my lips. Out of nowhere, a squeal gurgled up in my throat and I wrapped my arms around Alice again. She returned my embrace and squealed a little herself as we both bounced up and down on the sofa.

After a few moments we let each other go, and I started to laugh.

"I don't think I've ever had such a girly sound come out of me before," I said but she just laughed.

"Happens to the best of us every now and then," she replied with a wink.

Jasper called Emmett and told him what Alice had done, and he was on the first plane back to Seattle a few days later. In the meantime, Jasper and I put up fliers around campus looking for an experienced bass player.

The first few responses we got weren't very promising. The first guy seemed nice enough, but didn't really have very much experience. The second guy's only experience was in various death metal projects, which wouldn't really fit with what we wanted to do at all. Then there was James. He was nice, intelligent, experienced, and had similar influences to ours. Once Emmett was back in town, we invited James up to Charlie's to sit in on our practice. Emmett just had a natural feel for the rhythm of the songs and came up with a drum beat on the spot. James struggled a bit at first with getting into the rhythm, but it didn't take him long to fall into a groove with Emmett's drumming. After a few more practices, and to our astonishment, we had 10 complete and original songs. It just seemed to come so naturally to us; the 4 of us as a group.

James was great, he really completed our group dynamic but I'm a little sad to say that he always seemed like a little bit of an outsider when compared to the bond that Jasper, Emmett and I had. But of course that's not for lack of trying. We invited him to hang out with us, bond with us, which he did sometimes but he also had his own group of friends and his own prior commitments which we all understood. Nevertheless, there has always been a noticeable divide, which is regrettable.

The thing that must be said about me is that I am a serial bachelorette, so to speak. I've had many boyfriends, and I'm certainly no virgin, but I preferred the single life. Not really because I particularly enjoyed being single, but more because I never found anyone that really piqued my interest for more than a few months. Well, I had… but that's another story. James was very different from any guy I'd ever met before. He was like a mix between the great attributes of Jasper and Emmett combined into one; Emmett's fearless bravado and boisterous love of people and new things, with Jasper's down-home values and charm. Mix those things together added in with a fair amount of mysteriousness, good looks, and the volatility of a hand grenade and that was James.

One night Emmett had to miss band practice for football practice, and Jasper was called out early when Alice had car trouble, leaving James and I alone together for the first time. At first I thought he'd leave too since there wasn't much point in us continuing practice with just him and me. But he sat down on the musty old sofa beside me, picked up Jasper's guitar and started to play a song I recognized as one of my favorites.

Childhood living is easy to do
The things you wanted I bought them for you
Graceless lady you know who I am
You know I cant let you slide through my hands

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild, wild horses, couldn't drag me away

I watched you suffer a dull aching pain
Now you decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild, wild horses, couldn't drag me away

I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie
I have my freedom but I don't have much time
Faith has been broken, tears must be cried
Lets do some living after we die

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild, wild horses, well ride them some day

Wild horses couldn't drag me away
Wild, wild horses, well ride them some day

His voice was soft and hypnotic, almost as if to lull anyone who heard it to sleep. And I felt like I had been ensnared by it. My mind felt clouded and fuzzy, and it was only after he stopped playing that I realized that my heart was pounding. Once the little garage was silent again, James looked at me with a coy little smile and I snapped out of my trance.

"Wow James, if I didn't know better I'd think you were vying for my spot at the mic," I said with a laugh.

"Nah, lead singer duties really aren't my style. But it's a nice trick to pull out of my hat from time to time, surprise people. Helps with the girls too," he chuckled nervously.

"Right. The girls. I'll have to keep that in mind," I replied sarcastically staring down at my shoes on the cement floor.

"Is it working on you?" I looked up at him in surprise. Had he really just asked me that?

I brushed it off as a joke and said with a chuckle, "You don't know me well enough to understand that I'm not the typical girl, and I don't fall for the usual tricks."

"I've noticed," he whispered before standing up from the couch. "I should probably get going. I'll uhh, see you next week for sure."

"Yeah. Next week. Definitely." I walked him out to his car and as he reached for the handle it seemed like he wanted to say something, but didn't.

"G'night, Bella," was all he said before driving off into the drizzly rain.

At the next practice a week later James, who was normally very concentrated on his playing, seemed a little distracted. Every now and then I'd catch him watching me out of the corner of my eye as I sang.

"Bella, why don't we try something different," Jasper suggested that I turn around and face them instead of out at our imaginary audience, so that they could see me, and I could see them. I agreed, and we launched into the song, "Darling, You're Mean," that I'd written.

Oooh, I know, it's coming back
And I say oooh, lord, yeah it's driving me mad

Oh no, please, don't leave, don't go

Oooh, I know, it's coming back
Darling, darling...you're mean
Mean to me

It was the first time we'd really played a song full out, and I could feel myself getting pulled into it. Clutching the microphone between both hands on the stand, I closed my eyes and leaned into the music. With each "oooh" I felt my lips push out into a slight pout against the mic and my nose scrunch up a little as I sang.

When it was over, I opened my eyes to find the boys all smiling.

"Wow Bells," Emmett laughed.

"What?"

"You're sexy! I never knew you had it in ya."

"Oh ha-ha, very funny asshole." I flashed him a condescending look.

"Come one James, back me up on this. Guys are going to go nuts for her when we play out, right?" Jasper, Emmett, and I turned our eyes to James, who blushed wildly.

He cleared his throat and adjusted his bass in front of himself before he spoke. "Yeah, Bella. You're sexy," he said, a lock of sandy blond hair falling in his eyes as he focused his attention on the thick strings of his instrument.

"That was great, but its getting a little late and I should probably be heading out," Jasper said, unplugging his guitar and starting to pack up. "Alice will kill me if I'm late again tonight."

"Yeah, and I've got a 6am practice. I swear its like coach has absolutely no idea that I'm trying to be a rockstar!" Emmett laughed at his own lame joke as he walked with Jasper out into the night.

"That really was great, Bella," Jasper called before jumping into his car and speeding off down the winding road that lead up to Charlie's. James and I stood there awkwardly by the open garage door together, alone again.

"Bella," he said and I turned to face him but wasn't aware of how close we were standing to each other. Our chests were mere inches away from each other and I had to look up to see his face.

I gulped. We'd never been so close before. "Yeah?"

"You really did look sexy up there tonight."

My cheeks ignited with an intense blush. "Thanks. That's not really a word I hear describe me very much."

"Well you are. And not just tonight, but all the time." His hazel eyes bore down into my brown ones with a look of intensity that sent shivers down my spine. His stare and our close proximity caused my blush to deepen and I stood there without anything to say in reply.

I tore my eyes away from his and looked out into the inky black night and the constant rain. I felt his fingers come out to brush against my cheek. They were cool and gentle and he whispered, "That's such a gorgeous color."

I looked back up at him and my heart started to race. Before I knew what was happening, his cool hand was cupping my cheek and he had leaned down to bring our eyes almost level. I held my breath and closed my eyes before he pressed his full pink lips to mine. His kiss was firm yet gentle, not aggressive or pushy in any way; he was asking for permission. When I reached up and placed a hand on the side of his neck, he saw that as my permission being granted and his lips began to move against mine. Hungry and lustful but still soft and passionate. His other hand wrapped around the small of my back and he pulled me closer to him as I let my other hand rest against his chest. I could feel his heart thundering through his shirt when his tongue gently slipped past my lips and into my mouth. He tasted so masculine and warm, I didn't hesitate to let him in. It had been so long since anyone had kissed me that way, I didn't want it to stop. As the kiss deepened, his cool fingers moved from my cheek and into my hair, as did mine into his. I clutched at the front of his t-shirt, the want and need for more almost overtaking me in that moment. He countered my every sigh with a soft moan of his own, holding me closer and closer as our mouths moved together.

Just then, a pair of headlights swung around the winding drive blinding us in the open garage doorway. We jumped apart, like two kids having been caught. Charlie's cruiser pulled up to the front door and he waved at us from across the yard. We waved back as if nothing had happened.

When we looked at each other, he smiled shyly.

"I should probably go," he whispered.

"Yeah, I've got to be heading home too."

He reached into his bag and pulled out an umbrella. He offered me his arm in a gentlemanly gesture and walked me to my car. He opened the door for me, and just as I was about to get into the driver's seat, he caught me by the waist and pulled me close to him again. Chest to chest, he looked down at me with that same intense stare from before, and kissed me softly on my slightly parted lips.

"I'll see you soon," he said, resting his forehead against mine.

"Mhmm…" was all I could manage as he steered me into the seat and closed my door.

I sat there completely dumbfounded as I watched him drive away. I'd been attracted to James from the moment I laid eyes on him, that was for sure. He was tall and strong, had sandy blond hair that was always messy in true rock and roll fashion, and had a laid back swagger about him that just made everyone in the room look at him. But I never imagined anything would ever happen between us. Hell, I hardly knew him outside of practice, because we'd only hung out a handful of times. But I certainly couldn't deny the physical reaction he'd brought out of me, and the reaction he had had as well. There was a glaringly obvious physical attraction between us, the only problem was, where did it go from here?

A week went by as usual, and I didn't say anything to Jasper or Emmett about what had happened between James and I. On Thursday afternoon, it was a rare sunny day in the fall so I laid out on the grass in front of the library studying when someone plopped down beside me. I looked over expecting to see Emmett but was very surprised to see James sitting there. I'd never even seen him around campus before that day.

"Fancy seeing you here," he said with a charming smile that made my pulse quicken.

"Yeah, fancy that," I replied, sitting up.

"You're hard to track down, you know that?"

"Am I?"

"Yeah, I would have called you but I realized I didn't have your phone number. I thought an email telling you how great that kiss was would have been slightly impersonal." He flashed me a smile that made my insides tighten.

"Yeah, it was um… something. That's for sure." I laughed nervously and tucked my hair behind my ears. I couldn't figure out what it was about him that pulled me in.

"Look Bella, I like you a lot. I'd really like to see you, you know, like, outside of the band." There was a slight quiver in his voice, but his face read calm and collected. "What do you think?"

"I don't know, James. If it doesn't work out, the band is important to me, and to Jasper and Emmett. If that got messed up because things became weird between us…"

He reached out and grabbed my hand softly. "Bella, I promise that nothing will be weird if it doesn't work out. We're adults, right? I can handle it if you can."

I looked down at our hands intertwined together on my lap and heaved a deep sigh.

"Does this mean you're asking me out then?" I asked.

"Yeah, I guess I am." He flashed me that smile again and my heart jumped.

"I… I'd really like that." I blushed.

"Great! I'll see you tonight at practice." And with that, he jumped up from the grass beside me and took off on in a jog across the green.

I sat there thinking. Something didn't feel right. Why was I thinking about him now? He shouldn't have any bearing on my decisions, he was hundreds of miles away and for all I knew a completely different person than what I'd come to associate him with. No… I couldn't go on living in a fantasy and waiting for something that was never going to happen. James was here and now. He seemed like a good enough guy and was someone I wanted to get to know better. He liked me, so why should I hold my breath for someone else? I'd made up my mind to give it my all with James, but at the same time be cautious for the sake of the band.

That night at practice, we were all business but every so often James would smile at me, causing me to blush and smile back. I noticed Emmett shooting quizzical glances between James and I all night. He really is quite perceptive.

When we wrapped things up at the end of the night, Emmett ushered Jasper out of the garage with a wink my direction. So much for keeping things secret. Charlie was working late again, so James and I were alone again. The rain hammered down on the little house and splashed in deep puddles on the driveway. James and I sat down on the musty old couch and watched the rain in silence for a little while.

"So, Bella…" James shifted closer to me on the cushions.

"Yeah?"

"Tell me about you. I feel like I don't know you at all." His smile made me feel tingly all over, and I knew a blush was surely on its way.

"What do you want to know?" I asked, not really sure exactly where was an appropriate place to start. I was never very good at the whole "getting to know you" part of dating. What was too much information? What subjects were off limits?

He chuckled and ran his hand through his shaggy hair. "Let's start with… if you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?"

"Sushi, and don't make me pick a particular roll because, just like my children, I could never pick a favorite," I said without hesitation.

He scrunched his nose up and made a disgusted face. "Sushi? Really? Eating raw fish doesn't just gross you out completely?"

"Not at all. Its fantastic. Something tells me you haven't tried it."

"No, I haven't because it sounds disgusting," he laughed.

"Mark my words, I'll get you to try it and you'll love it."

"I doubt it, sweet cheeks. Once I make up my mind, there's no turning back."

We talked and laughed for a while, and though conversation with James was easy and fun, we had very little in common. Not only was he completely unwilling to change his position on my favorite food, he loved mobster movies which I hated, he came from a big family while I was an only child, he was always extremely popular growing up while I was a bit of an outsider, he even made a comment about how he normally went for very girly girls and it was odd for him to even be attracted to me in the first place.

James was a very nice guy, but we just didn't seem to click as well as I'd hoped. And I think he noticed it too, because when he kissed me goodbye that night the fiery spark from our first kiss was very noticeably missing.

We went on a few dates, and we both gave it our best shot but we'd just end up making out when we ran out of things to talk about, and even that became boring after a while. Though we were by no means exclusive, it was just a little awkward when we both came to the conclusion that there wasn't really anything between us, but he assured me that despite the fact that there wasn't a romantic spark, he enjoyed getting to know me better and thought that because of that we'd all be able to get closer as a band.

James and I had never come out in the open with our little affair to Emmett and Jasper, but I knew that they knew. After practice one night, Jasper lagged behind the others and asked quite bluntly if James and I were still seeing each other. I was embarrassed at first, and then I felt bad for not confiding in him, but I told him plainly that James and I had tried to date but that it hadn't worked out, but that he had nothing to worry about because James and I were cool. He just hugged me and told me that if I thought everything was going to be alright in the band, that he'd trust my judgment. That is one of the great things about Jasper; he's so perceptive and emotionally open. He knew when was the right time to pry and when wasn't.

Band practice continued on as usual, and without any strange interactions between James and me. But he was right; the two of us getting to know each other did in fact help us all grow closer as a band. The divide between the three of us and James seemed to get less and less noticeable, and our playing improved as well.

We started performing at local clubs and bars, and were surprisingly well received wherever we played. We toted our gear from little gig to little gig, but it didn't matter because we were having the time of our lives. I don't really know how we managed to keep our grades up because school seemed to take a backseat to music for all of us. Emmett even seemed to lose his enthusiasm for football, but continued to split his time between practices to keep his scholarship.

Over a year went by between when Alice first told us that she'd sent her secret recordings to her cousin in LA, and when we thought we were anywhere near ready to revisit the idea. The four of us were tighter than ever, on stage and off. We had dozens of songs practiced to near perfection. We'd carved out a niche for ourselves in the local music scene, and were getting invitations from all over Washington and Oregon to play at clubs and festivals. With each gig we gained a little bit more notoriety and could command a higher wage. Not that we did it for the money, but compensation was definitely nice.

It was actually Alice who brought up her cousin again. Little had been said about it since the formation of the band, because we didn't want to get our hopes up, but after a particularly good show she finally spoke up.

"You guys were great out there!" she said excitedly after pushing her way to the side of the stage after the show.

"Thanks, babe," Jasper shouted over the crowd and planted a sweaty kiss on her little pout. Emmett and James started to whistle, and Alice playfully pushed him away. "I have a present for you guys."

"What is it?" I asked eagerly, and a little tipsy.

"My cousin called yesterday," she shouted. We all leaned in closer to hear her as another band started to play, but she motioned for us to move outside into the parking lot and away from the noise.

"Much better," she said once we were out into the cool night air. "My cousin called yesterday, asking what was going on with you guys. I told him you guys were solid, and he wants to hear what you've got."

James and Emmett high fived each other and were grinning from ear to ear.

"But that's not it guys," Alice continued. "He wants something better than just the grainy recordings I sent him before."

"Ok, we can go Buy some recording equipment and work on something we can send him. I guess I can probably produce it well enough to make us sound ok…" Jasper trailed off, his train of thought coming across out loud.

"Jazz, honey that won't be necessary. See, he really really liked what he heard the first time and wants something finished, and polished. So, he scheduled and paid for you guys to have a couple hours in a recording studio with a producer."

I don't think I've ever seen such happy boys in my whole life. Emmett picked me up and swung me around like I weighed nothing, then moved on to Alice. He practically crushed her tiny body in A massive bear hug and planted a wet kiss on her cheek.

"When Alice? Did he tell you when he scheduled it for?" I asked her, the excitement of the situation seeping into my voice.

"That's the thing," she wiped Emmett's spit off of her cheek with a smirk. "He's really busy, and wants it as soon as possible. So… he sort of made the appointment for tomorrow afternoon."

I was floored; nervous, scared, excited, happy, a million emotions all at once. I ordered everyone home to rest up so we could be in top shape for what would prove to be one of the most important days of our lives.

We met at the studio in downtown Seattle the next day, the studio where Nirvana and Pearl Jam supposedly recorded their debut albums, and met with the producer Alice's cousin had arranged for us. It took a little while to get over our nerves, but eventually we got into the swing of things and wound up getting some really great stuff. The producer said he would send us a copy of the finished tracks and also a copy would be sent to LA.

The day I opened a package in the mail containing our finished tracks was also the day I got a phone call from Alice's cousin, extending an invitation to all of us to meet with him in Los Angeles.

I was pretty good at keeping it together until I hung up the phone with him, but shortly after our conversation ended I couldn't fight the scream of elation that rose up in my throat.

This was actually going to happen, all my dreams were coming true, and though I was more than thrilled to talk to Emmett, Jasper, and James, there was one more person with whom I had to share my good news.


Edward's coming. Be patient. I love and appreciate all of the reviews!