BtB is back everyone! I do apologize for the long overdue update. Life has been crazy with work, new students, being without my computer for some time and just life in general. I am hoping to update again in two weeks after the thanksgiving holiday. Thank you for all my loyal readers who stuck by me, all those reviews encouraging me to update soon helped me focus and get back on track.

Enjoy Chapter 21, hopefully it sheds some light on things.

Disclaimer: I do not own twilight.


Chapter 21

Thursday, October 13, 2009

EPOV

Blood. Sticky, warm wet blood was everywhere. My vision clouded with the amount dripping over my eyes from a cut somewhere on my head. There was a large figure in front of me I could barely make out laying on the cobble stone of an alley-way; I had to see what it was. My legs felt weighed down and were in excruciating amount of pain so I had to drag myself across the wet ground. With the first shift forward, a pain in my left side shot out. It was almost incapacitating, but with the amount of adrenaline coursing through my body I pushed through it, dragging my legs behind me.

My arms were wearing out with my weight and it seem like hours by the time I was at the figure which was rising and falling infinitesimally in short movements. There was a wheezing and gurgling sounds that sent shivers down my spine as I swiped the blood away from my eyes to have a better view of what was in front of me. Though after I did, I regretted it.

The horror I felt as the darkness surround me and the body I now viewed was consuming. My heart, which was already racing, was pushed to the point of shear panic when I realized that large mass was actually a body. A barely breathing body. And from the shape and curves I could make out, one belonging to a female.

Her hair and clothing were drenched in her own blood. Several pints worth, most likely a due to an artery or two being severed. Hesitantly, I put my hand on the woman's body and as gently as possible, I tried to roll her on to her back.

An audible gasp followed by another gurgle of blood was heard in the quiet of the dark alley in which we both were laying in. The pool of her essence growing with each second. Unless help arrived soon, her life would be lost. I tried to assess what her wounds were.

Several holes in her white satin shirt hinted to stomach punctures, the dark blue skirt wrapped around her lower half was torn to shreds and gathered around her waist where a gilled pattern on the inside of her thigh was visible, a sign of a depraved butcher's marking. She had taken a few blows to her head that were already purple and her hand was cradling her neck. When I tried to remove it to see how deep the cut there was, it was foolish to do since fresh blood poured out more doing so. A sob echoed between us, but she was not the one to make the sound. After several moments, I realized I was making them as my body shook in helplessness.

I looked into her eyes as I cupped her face in my hands. Silent tears streamed down her face as she tried to remain calm, knowing and accepting that her time was coming. With each breath she took, her heart was pumping more blood out of her frail and pale body.

I stared into her ocean blue, almond shaped eyes, and there was love, grief, anguish, and acceptance in them. Mine were only reflecting fear. Fear of losing her. I blinked my eyes and I saw her mouth the words that only brought more tears to my own eyes.

"I love you." Her mouth quivered, even with no vocal sound coming from her.

I pressed a kiss to her mouth ever so soft.

"I love you too. I always will." And kissed her again one final time.

I pulled back to stare into her eyes as her body started to turn paper white and all remains of her body heat cooled with the air.

She took one final breath and closed her eyes briefly, slowly her hand completely dropped away from her neck and the last amount of blood ran out as she opened her eyes, only this time revealing chocolate doe eyes, moist with tears.

"No! NO! Stay with me! You can't leave me!" I sobbed as my head fell on her chest. Panic overtook me as I prayed that the angel in front of me not be taken away. I clutched my hand on her shoulders shaking her, trying to shake life back into her.

"Please, I need you. I can't live without you!" I cried into the empty night. Sirens and the sound of footsteps were coming closer but I hung on still to the lifeless body of my love.

"Bella, don't leave me!" I begged.

I shot up in bed drenched in sweat, with fresh tears covering my face. The buzzing of the hotel alarm clock was still going as I swung my legs over the side and leaned over with my elbows resting on my knees and my hands holding my face.

My body was still shaking with my cries. Choking on the air that was hard to breathe in, I finally slammed the alarm off. I fell back onto the mattress drying the tears, curling myself into a ball and tried to calm myself down. My body was still shaking with the memories of the past intermingling with the nightmare I had woken from. The phantom pain of the injury I suffered ten years ago flamed up and I could make out the same sensation I felt then when the first incision of the bastard's knife in my side.

I had this dream several times over the past few years, near constantly for the first two after the incident, but in the last month it had slight change. This time, my angel, Bella, was the one I was losing in the dark.

Once I had finally calmed down, my body relaxed as best as it could as I watched the time tick forward on the cheap alarm clock on the night stand. Around 7:30am, I finally removed myself from the cocoon of my morning sorrow and walked over to the window of the room. Looking out to the busy morning traffic of Seattle, I removed the sweat drenched t-shirt that clung to my chest. Shops were opening below, and the morning commuters were well on their way to the office. The morning rays peaking through the gloomy clouds of the wet metropolis, doing nothing to sooth my current state.

I flung my shirt to the empty bed, and took a deep breath to calm myself further. I had a breakfast meeting in an hour with one of the other presenters from the conference a little out of town, before we made it in for opening day presentations and welcome dinner later tonight, so I needed to get a move on getting ready. A shower was a must. As I crossed the room on the way to the bathroom I glanced at the king size bed and noticed a red blotch on the white Egyptian cotton sheets. I paused and groaned out loud. I quickly took inventory of my body and found the self induced injury. I discovered small fingernail scratches on the faint scar line of my left side, with a small trickle of dried blood revealing the point of origin.

I continued my way to the shower, to wash the grime of my dreams and the gore of my inner pain. I started the water which quickly filled the small room with steam. When I stepped in to the tub, I let the heat engulf me, relaxing the tension in my entire body and reflected back on the past month.

Ever since the night Bella was attacked, I had been dealing with my own personal demons along with the pure torture of seeing the one woman I desire above all nearly every day and not being able to have her as my own. I told her to forget I was there that night, to forget that perfect kiss we shared. But I doubt she did, since I was finding it nearly impossible to function without thinking about it. But I hoped she did, only to protect myself in the long run.

The night I left her there after incapacitating that fucker who had his hands on her, I stayed awake, too keyed up, pissed and still aroused by everything that happened. I went through half a bottle of Jack when I got home, staring into the sky on my porch until the sun rose. I was dreading what I would possibly meet when I did allow myself to succumb to sleep. I knew that what happened that night would trigger the nightmares again but was relieved that I didn't suffer a panic attack once I settled in my chair and went over the events of the night in my head. In fact, besides the reaction to remembering the feel of Bella's lips, I was eerily calm.

My parents most likely noticed my quiet demeanor the following Sunday. I barely spoke to them when we attended church service, and only answered when necessary during our family lunch. I saw the looks my mother would sneak at me, and my assumption was affirmed when she pulled me into a hug before I left telling me to call if I needed to talk and that my room was always here if I needed. Since the night I broke down earlier that week, I knew I would be walking on eggshells around them, especially my mother.

When I returned to work, I was resolved to distance myself as far as I could from Bella, yet remain professional. It was a dickhead move on my part, but I would not be the one to take her away from whom ever she was seeing. I tried my best to still treat her with respect, but avoided as much contact as possible with her. In order to avoid conferring before developmental classes I took it upon myself to send all my lecture notes to her in emails. I also forwarded all tutoring requests to her in the same manor.

Ben and Angela were obliviously less then pleased that I had taken refuge in the lab's office when the research team would meet on Wednesdays, but I knew the two of them could handle training the team for the first part of the research, essentially they only needed to learn how to proctor the preliminary evaluation surveys and then enter the data into the computer program to determine candidates for the second round of investigation. I took the that time to catch up on lesson plans, grade papers, complete grant applications for future research and update my findings for my presentations I would give at conferences in the near future.

The only time where I was actually forced to speak with my Angel was during our weekly mentor meetings. I tried my best to make them as quick as possible; checking in to see how classes were going and make sure she was actively working on her proposal for her thesis. She was supposed to provide me with the proposal the meeting after I returned from Seattle. I was interested in what her brilliant mind would focus on, but nervous since I would need to actually discuss in detail my thoughts rather than pretend to be preoccupied with my computer. One can only play spider solitaire for so long.

When I wasn't at work or holed up in my townhouse, in a constant state of restlessness, I was either meeting with Dr. Liam in preparation for hypnosis therapy sessions, attending my PTSD support group on Tuesday nights or visiting Carmen and Elezar at the antique shop. When I came to visit, we quickly fell into a comfortable ease. The two of them were my surrogate grandparents, always telling me a story about a "new find" that came into the shop with Carmen trying to force several helpings of her home made baked goods down my throat. I must have put on at least ten pounds. The stand-up piano in the shop was no longer listed as for sale since they both enjoyed my playing for them too much to allow someone else to take it. On days when only one of them where in, I often found myself helping customers if needed, I knew about most of the items, so it was easy to help. Elezar often joked about putting my on the payroll, to which I told them their company and Carmen's confections were more than enough payment.

Despite the chaos my personal life had been in the past, I set myself to this new pattern with little deviation. The only wrench that was thrown in as of late was my dinner my brother the night before I left for Seattle. Emmett and Rosalie were in town again to visit along with working out some remaining details for their upcoming nuptials. I was thrilled to have Rose officially become part of our family; she was the only person in the world that had the balls to put up with my brother. Heck, living with the man deserved sainthood in my opinion. While Rose was off with her brother, Jasper, meeting with the wedding planner, I decided to take grow a pair and bridge the gap that had separated me from my confidant of my teen years and the one who pulled my head out my ass after my suicide attempt. Though I held animosity towards him for some time afterwards, I felt I needed to restore our brotherly relationship before he began his own family.

We met up at a pub we frequented during our college days to drink some cheap beer, eat some wings and shoot some pool like we did back then. His firm was doing well and he was expecting to make partner some time after the start of the New Year. Rosalie had been approved for a business loan to finally start up her custom car design shop and as soon as it was up and running they would start to work on extending their family. Rose was looking to having two kids while Emmett was aiming to start his own football team. I told him I was looking forward to becoming an Uncle and telling them all the trouble their father got into, and he responded by saying he'd help with the finer details of those stories.

After a few rounds at the pool table I finally decided to do my best and apologize for distancing myself for the last few years and not staying in touch as often. I apologized for not being there at Rose and his engagement party, and mostly for hurting him along with the rest of my family after I swallowed an entire bottle of prescription pain meds. I told him I intended to make it up to him and offered to be there for him if he ever needed me. To which he had an elegant response to.

"Buy the next round, be my best man, and never be a pussy at life again and we'll be good."

To which I gladly agreed to everything for him. I asked who was going to be the maid of honor; this caused Emmett to let out a loud guffaw.

"No Maid of Honor dude. There will be some bride's maids, and flower girls and shit, but Rosie wants a "man of honor" and asked Jasper to stand for her. Should make it quite an interesting bridal party dance eh?" He spoke while wiggling his eyebrows at me.

Let's just say my pool cue accidently slipped and hit him in the shin after that little comment. Before we parted ways I had to apologize in advance form missing a family dinner that Rose and Jasper would be attending. I didn't know much about the guy and missing this dinner was another opportunity of missing out on getting to know my future brother-in-law. Emmett told me that Rose was eager for the dinner since she would finally get to meet the girl Jasper had been dating for around a month and would not shut up about. I would be missing a good show because even though Jasper wasn't related by blood, Emmett was sure to deliver some pretty good ball-busting and I internally smiled at the idea of the concussion Emmett would be getting from Rose's slaps to his head.

Once I finished my shower, I quickly dressed, attempted to tame my hair, which was of no use as always, and picked up my wallet and the keys to my car rental off the bedside table before heading out to meet with Dr. Franklin Garber from Texas Tech for breakfast. The lobby was pretty sparse this morning. An over botoxed with almost comical implants red-head was manning the check-in counter and shamelessly flirting with a bellhop who was at least half her age, and I caught the tail end of their conversation as I swiftly made my exit to the parking garage. I will never have the same curiosity for crotch-less panties again in my life, and I felt my cheeks inflame with embarrassment, and I was not even a participant in the conversation.

Breakfast with Dr. Garber was nice. He was an older gentleman, with a trimmed and academic salt and pepper beard. He was the stereotypical professor with his horn-rimmed glasses and tweed blazer. I would have expected a picture of him along the entry for academia in any encyclopedia. I enjoyed eggs Benedict while the professor helped himself to some steak and eggs. We exchanged research findings and made small talk over our own respective sports teams. Once we finished our meals I was somehow able to coax the waitress to hand me the bill, and I paid before we made our way over to the conference center.

The presentations that day were the same as they have always been. There were studies in memory development, therapy for amnesia patients, this and that. It was all the same as it had been at all the conferences I had attended over the years. All repetition for me in my neuropsychology world with only new numbers added to finding every now and then. I was relieved that the last one I would be attending ended earlier then outlined in the program. I found myself with a bit of free time before I needed to return for the dinner that evening. I didn't feel like seeing a movie or being a tourist and go the sightseeing route, so I did the only thing that would keep me occupied and busy. I decided to go for a drive.

The rental I had was probably one of the worst pieces of scrap metal I had the chance to operate. Even my fist car as a teenager surpassed the condition of the jalopy that was puttering its way through the green landscapes of the Emerald state. It was just over an hour outside Seattle when I started to hear the ominous sound coming from the car's engine. A loud "CRACK" reverberated in the cab of the car followed by a sputtering sound hitting against the hood of the vehicle. Being pretty sure I would not be able to turn around and head back to the city, I pulled over to the side of the highway to assess the damage.

I ran my hand through my hair, giving a frustrated pull at the back of my neck once I spotted the busted fan belt. Yep, I would not be able to go that far with this piece of crap. With a heavy sigh I returned to the driver's seat and retrieved the rental company's phone number from the rental agreement papers in the glove box. After a half hour on the phone with the customer service rep, I was told I would be given a discounted rate and a new vehicle tomorrow, and that a tow truck would be dispatched shortly where I would be taken to a repair shop with the crap car. Through gritted teeth, I thank the rep and waited.

I looked at my watch and noticed it would now be about the time I had my weekly meeting with Bella back in Chicago. I leaned back in the driver's seat and closed my eyes thinking about what she was doing at this moment. Was she with Ms. Brandon? In the short amount of time I took to observe the team in the lab, I could see those two had already become the best of friends, though the combination made me laugh. Alice Brandon had always been so hyperactive and the mellow moods of Miss Swan set a text book example of opposites attracting. Maybe she was working. Part of the arrangement with the fellowship allowed it's recipients a position on the RA staff in the resident halls. Or maybe… she was with him. The other man. The one that now held my Angel's heart for his own. I could honestly say I hated him. This man I knew nothing about, a phantom waiting in the wings to sweep her off her feet and away from me. It was irrational to feel this way to a man I had never met, with no intention to meet in the future as well, but I could do nothing else. The sound of a mechanical beeping, alerting me that a vehicle was going in reverse spurred me from my contempt for bastard, which I was now referring him to.

In front of me were the flashing taillights of the anticipated tow truck the rental company had called. Once it was parked, a young and rather muscular man jumped out of the red cab and marched his way to my car. I quickly exited the car and met my transporter.

"You the one in need of a tow?" The driver asked, wiping sweat from his brow.

"Yes, I think the fan belt broke." I pointed to the hood and the man gave a nod in understanding before sticking out his hand to me to shake.

"Name's Embry, we'll get cha hooked up here and then head over to the shop. Alright?" I gave a nod back to him and we quickly attached the car to the tow and were making our way back in the direction of Seattle in little time.

On the drive Embry informed me that he was a Washington native. Lived on the reservation in La Push a few hours away and that he and a few friends from school started working at the shop we were going to once the owner finished earning his mechanic's license. All of the guys in the shop were all young like him, and told me they were trying to convince the owner to get out and meet some single women after ending an almost six year relationship with his high school sweetheart. For having just met, Embry was at ease divulging such information, and his company was much of a relief to the stiffs I had spent the morning with.

We were getting closer to the shop when he started to ask me some questions.

"So, man, I never caught your name. Shit, that was rude of me." I laughed genuinely.

"It's Edward. And it's fine; I was rather enjoying your life's history." He shot me a sly smile.

"Edward? That's a fancy name. You mind if I call you Ed?" I gave a slight grimace at that and he noticed. "Ok, I take that as a no." His laugh was throaty and his whole body shook jovially.

"So where you from Edward? I mean you have that rental, so you gotta be from outta town." He flipped the turn signal before making a right turn into the auto shop that was on the right hand side of the road.

"Yes, I'm in town for a conference from Chicago. I'll only be here until Sunday morning." I looked out the window and took in the sight of the shop noticing the red writing at the top of the building that read "Black Automotives" with a wolf's head situated between the two words. We both exited the truck and made our way to my rental as he lowered it to the ground.

"That's cool. I actually know someone who's going to school out there. Cold as fuck in the winter's right?"

I laughed once more, "You could say that. Does it get pretty bad out here?"

"Eh, not so much here in the city, but at the Rez, it could be somewhat of a bitch. We have the ocean right next to us, and those wind chills…" he let out a loud whistle. "Let's just say I hope I can have kids one day."

And with that I let out a gut busting laugh. Embry was a character and his story telling and humor turned my craptastic start into a rather enjoyable afternoon. Once the car was detached from the tow, Embry pointed me to the front and told me that someone would be there to take my information and they would get started on the repairs. I thanked him and slipped a twenty into his palm before I entered the shop's front.

The door chimed as I stepped inside, alerting the woman behind the counter of my presence. She looked up from the book she was reading and then stood to greet me. Her smile was fake, with the hint of a grimace in to as I approached the cashier desk. I gave her the rental information and my driver's license and insurance so she could submit the claim to the rental agency. I waited, leaning on the counter top as she called in my information trying to see if the company could send me a car to drive back to the hotel for the day. Unfortunately, they did not have a vehicle ready yet, so the woman told me she would see if one of the guys at the shop could drop me off and then my new rental car could be delivered tomorrow morning. I thanked her and took a seat in the lobby area, looking around at the surroundings. As I watched the cashier leave through the glass door to the actual shop, I saw a collage of pictures hanging by the door of an office. There was a thick scrawl at the bottom that read "FAMILY" and it perked my interest. I stood and slowly walked over to look at the collection of pictures.

In some of them I recognized Embry, standing with two other boys around his age, an old man in a wheel chair and another, boy, slightly older, sitting around a campfire on a beach. There were shots of some of the boys working on cars, there was a basketball team photo of the three younger ones and others of them roughhousing from the looks of the memories hung on the wall. Even the cashier made an appearance in a few of the images. There was one boy that appeared in almost all of them though, he was taller than his friends with long black hair and from what I could gather I believed him to be the owner of the shop. As I was to turn around I caught a glimpse of a familiar shade of chestnut hair in one of the pictures.

I stepped closer to the collage to get a better look and what I saw nearly shattered my heart again. There, in the center of the pictures was the boy I deemed the owner with his hand wrapped around a young girl, probably no older than eighteen. His head was inclined to her, where he was placing a kiss on the crown of her head. The face on the young woman was serene and full of love and joy, calm and comforted in his embrace. The same pair of chocolate eyes staring at me through the photo that captured my heart. Her cheeks were flushed just as they were the day she ran me over in the hallway before the first research meeting. And again, she left me breathless.

"She's a real beauty isn't she?" A loud deep voice boomed behind me, causing me to jump. I turned to face the owner of the voice and saw the boy that once embraced my Bella, only now several years older.

"Um, yes, she's very beautiful." I shifted my eyes down and then turned to look once more at the photo.

I heard the man's feet shuffle toward me as his profile came into view from my peripheral. "Yeah, I never understood how someone like her could ever choose me. She was eighteen there and I was only seventeen." He let out a contemplative sigh, and I felt the flames of jealously lick me from the inside. "You're Edward, right?"

"Yes?" I was internally praying that somehow he did not know who I was, and absolutely sure that Bella had to have mentioned her jack-ass of a professor to her high school love.

"I'm Jacob Black, the owner. I hear you need a lift to your hotel, is that right?"

Instantly I was weary that he would be my ride. "Yes, sadly my rental company is currently under stocked and it's either hitch a ride or I'm at the mercy of someone here."

"Well, all the other guys are going to be busy working on some last minute jobs and Embry just left for the day, so it looks like you're stuck with me my man." He gave my shoulder a nice slap and I internally cursed my luck.

"Thanks, I really appreciate it."

"No problem. You like the collage?" I could only nod my response. "I was a gift from my Bells." He pointed to the picture of the together and I had to bite my lip from retorting to his my Bells comment. "Before she left for school, she had all the guys and Leah bring her photos from over the years and she put it together. All of us had been together since we were in diapers and it was only fitting to have our family hang in the shop."

Before I could even think to stop myself, I blurted, "Do you miss her?" such a moron.

"Every day. She's my best friend and was my first love." It's didn't slip my mind at the tense of how he spoke of his relationship with her.

"Was? Are you two no longer together?" please say no, please say no.

"No, our romantic relationship ended last January. I had proposed, but in the end, we both knew it wasn't right. I mean, we loved each other. Just, we didn't love enough. You know what I mean?" I gave a quite affirmative and relaxed a little, relieved somewhat at the revelation. "I still talk to her though, pretty regularly. Heck, I think she calls me more than her father now-a-days." He laughed again and was cut shot at the sound of a cell phone ringing. He quickly pulled the phone from his pocket and gave a short chuckle. "Speak of the she-devil." Instantly my nerves were on high alert.

"Hey Bells, your ears must have been burning. I was just talking about you." He laughed over the phone, but instantly stopped. Something she must have said changed his demeanor instantly.

"Bella, babe. What's wrong? Are you okay? Are you hurt?" Was she injured, was she attacked again by that sicko from the alley, had he tracked her down? Millions of scenarios ran through my head at breakneck speeds, only to be interrupted by Jacob Black's voice directed to me.

"Hey, gimmie a minute man, I gotta talk to my girl real quick." I could only nod as I watch him escape to his office and shut the door, closing off his conversation with my Angel leaving me to worry and panic. I slowly settled myself in a chair and held my head in my hands.

Ten minutes later a heavy sigh alerted me that Jacob had finished his phone conversation.

"Sorry about that man, my girl is having a rough time at school and all. First time away from her family and friends and the stress with her school work. I wish I could help more, but only so much I can do from here." All my jealousy and animosity towards this man quickly disappeared. He truly cared for Bella, and his loyalty and concern made me find appreciation to his caring nature.

"It's fine. I hope she is alright."

"She is… or at least she will be. You ready to take off?" I looked at my watch. I needed to head back now or else I would be missing the conference dinner. I really wouldn't be missing much, but it would look quite bad on me if I didn't show, since I was one of the main presenters.

"Sure. Thanks again for offering."

I waved my thanks and goodbye to Jacob Black as he disappeared around the corner from the hotel after dropping me off. The ride back had felt a bit stifled and awkward, but I was thankful he never questioned me about it. Another quick look at my watch and I knew I had to sprint to my room to change for tonight, but somehow, deep in my mind I kept wondering why Bella Swan had called and why Jacob had been so worried. I decided then and there that it was futile to ignore her like I was, being how much I was already to wrapped up in her. I would still keep my distance, but I would not be as cold. I would be her mentor, the professor and she would be my mentee and student. Polite and friendly professionals but sadly, nothing more.

Jacob Black POV

The ride with Edward to his hotel had been quick, but something felt off the entire time. I shrugged it off, figuring the man was just different. Some people you can tell are comfortable around anybody, while others are not the most social of creatures. He was a nice guy, quiet, but still nothing wrong with that.

When I made it back to the shop, I had to complete the paperwork for the day. I sent of the orders for parts to supply our inventory, updated the customer files and then placed the claims paperwork for Edward's rental. As I was reading off the information Leah had taken down, there was a feeling of familiarity when I read the last name. "Cullen." I couldn't place it exactly, but it was eating away as I entered the rest of his information. I was entering his driver's license when I noticed the city listed for place of residence. "Chicago." Edward Cullen from Chicago… I heard that name before…. And then something triggered in my memory.

"No fucking way." I whispered softly. There was no chance in hell that was possible.

I quickly logged in to my personal email account and looked for one of the email's Bella had sent to me a few weeks ago. When I found the one I was looking for I quickly opened and started to read.

To: JacobBlack Black Automotives. Com

From: IMSwan uni. Chi. Edu

Date: September 20, 2009

Subject: Missing My Wolf Boy

Hey Jake,

I hope you are doing well. I guess everything here in the windy city is functioning, if you could say that. I enjoy most of my classes. Only one of them is going to be a complete bear. I swear the professor is the dullest man I have ever met in my existence. He's even worse the Mr. Varner form my Trig class at Forks High, if you could believe that. Anyways, Alice has taken me hostage on our free days lately. I think if they made shopping an Olympic sport, she would take gold, silver and bronze. That pixie will be the death of me. Did I tell you she tried to steal all my flats and replace them with stilettos? Just don't be surprised if you read my obituary in the Chicago newspaper stating "Death in Heels." Jasper and I have a date this week, but I still don't know how I really feel about him. I'm trying to give him a chance, but you see, there is someone else Jake. I met him here when I first arrived, actually I met him at that department dinner my first night in Chicago. It's hard to explain it other than to say, I really think I love him. I don't know why or how I could feel this way about him after such a short amount of time, but it's there. I can't think straight when I'm near him, and I don't think he feels the same way which is really tearing me apart. He's the same guy that saved me from that James character the night I went out for my birthday. I know you probably think my feelings are only because he rescued me, the whole damsel in distress bullcrap, but I've felt this way for him before then. I don't know what to do. He's smart, and intelligent, has the greenest eyes ever, which I know is not a good argument, but whatever. And I really do have these strong feeling for him, but since that night he saved me, he's ignored me. And that hurts me the most. It's like I don't exist to him. The real kicker is that I see him almost every day because, well because he's my mentor and the professor in charge of the research team I'm on. I will try my best to keep my head up, but just expect a call from me every now and then bitching about it. I will try to stay strong and I will not allow Edward Cullen get the best of me.

Missing you and sending all my love,

Bells

Edward Cullen. The Edward my Bells had cried over for the last month. The Edward who saved her from a sick fuck and then treated her like dirt by ignoring her was in my shop, where he was staring at my Bells in the collage she had made, and then he was The Edward I gave a ride back to his hotel to. I was livid and pain didn't even register in my mind when my foot kicked the trash can by my desk across the room. I didn't even turn off my computer as I grabbed my coat and slammed my office door close as I left the shop fuming.

"Mother Fucking Son of a Bitch!" I ranted as I started my truck. I needed a god damn fucking drink.

BPOV

Thankfully Friday went by in a fast haze. My first solo lecture had a few bumps and word slips, my handwriting on the white board was God awful, but at least those students who happened to attend the lesson were patient with me and only had a few questions. I only had one student in my recitation course and so after fifteen minutes of going over notes with him, I had the rest of the afternoon off before the dreaded Cullen dinner. I decided to run a few errands to fill up time including stocking my mini fridge, picking up my birth control prescription to help with my cramps, and sent off a University of Chicago sweatshirt to Charlie for his birthday. I doubt he would wear it that often in public, being a Washington supporter since birth, but it would probably make an appearance when I came home to visit this Christmas.

Thankfully, Alice was busy working the front desk at her hall today, so I was free from her evil makeover clutches. I had more than enough clothing now in my wardrobe due to her generosity, so I was able to pick something out fairly easy and dressed quickly giving me time to work on my hair and some light make-up. I ran my hands over the forest green satin shirt dress to smooth out the wrinkles. This was my favorite "Alice find" and the one that was the easiest to accept. It was the color that really won me over. I pulled the three quarter length sleeves in place and then added some simple silver stud earrings. With a spritz of my freesia body spray, I was somewhat ready to go.

I paced around my room for about a half hour before there was a knock at my door. Picking up the borrowed copy of Pride and Prejudice Esme had lent me from the party; I took a deep breath to calm my nerves.

"You can do this Bella." I told myself before I opened the door to a very handsome and smiling Jasper.

"Hi Beautiful." He stepped closer to me a placed a quick peck to my lips. I ducked my head shyly and felt my flush fill my cheeks.

"Hi Jazz, you look very… dashing tonight." I smiled back catching a wink from him as I peered through my eyelashes. Although I felt nothing more than friendship for him, I could still appreciate how he could fill out a tailored suit.

I picked up my purse for the evening, making sure my phone was tucked inside before following him out my room into the hallway. On instinct, Jasper took my free hand into his and gave a gentle squeeze. "Are you ready to meet my sis? She's looking forward to finally meeting you."

My stomach bottomed out immediately. "Um, yeah, I… I'm looking forward to meeting her too." A slightly uneasy and false giggle slipped out before I could catch it.

"Oh Darlin', don't fret. She'll like you, okay." I could only nod as we walked down the stairs outside to Jazz's car. We stopped together at the passenger side door, but before he opened it for me, he drew me in to a tight hug. "Bella, my sister is a bit rough around the edges. Especially when she first meets people. She's blunt and given the opportunity, could shoot the shit with the best of them. Just don't feel intimidated by her; she'll warm up to you. Besides… she always trust my opinion about people." He released me from his embrace and opened the door for me.

I bit my lip in contemplation before I asked him, "And what is your opinion about me Jazz?"

"Hmm." He mused before I felt his hand on my back guiding me to take a seat in his car. I slid in to my seat and looked up at him, waiting quietly for his answer.

"Well, I say you are one of the most beautiful, most caring, bravest and intelligent women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I'm the luckiest SOB to escort you to dinner tonight." And with that he flashed me a smile before shutting the door and running over to his side. I tucked my chin to my chest in embarrassment and flattery. The tension for the evening was slightly was relieved, yet the only sound made in the car ride to the Cullen manor was the soft tunes playing from the car radio.

Esme Cullen greeted us warming when we arrived a half hour later. "Jasper, so good to see you. How are you enjoying your wedding duties?" She enveloped him in a tight hug the pulling back to examine him at arms length with a mother like approval of his health a well being. There was something comforting in that small gesture.

"Oh Esme, you look more lovely than ever. The wedding plans are, well, as good can be expected. I never knew so much about flower arrangements before in my life." Jasper stepped back to me a snaked him arm around my waist, and I bit my lip as I saw Esme's gaze shift over mine. "Esme, I'm not sure if you remember, but I'd like to introduce you to my girlfriend, Bella Swan."

I wasn't sure if I was seeing things or not, but I saw a quick flash of sadness flash in Esme's eyes briefly before changing to one of hospitable recognition.

"Of course I remember Bella." Now was my turn to be hugged. She smelled of Gardenias and vanilla. And I felt warmth from her that was one of a mother's caring heart. Something I had missed for many years. The feeling was almost staggering. "It's wonderful to see you again dear. I hope school is going well for you."

I reigned in my emotions and straightened myself up when she released me and gave a small smile. "It's as good as it could be expected. Just keeping busy with work and papers. Thank you for inviting me for dinner."

"The pleasure is all ours dear. Carlisle speaks of you from his class, and says you are joy." Her eyes gleamed in the soft light of the entry way, with what appeared to be hope, but I was uncertain what that hope was for. "Well, I need to go check on dinner, but you too make yourselves comfy in the den and I'll join you shortly. Carlisle should be here any minute, and I believe Rose and Emmett are around here somewhere." She left us to ourselves as she walked to the kitchen.

I sat myself down in the plush leather couch in the den while Jasper headed to the bar. "Did you want a drink as well Bella?" I heard the clinking of ice cubes in his glass before he poured his drink.

"I'll have the same as you, if it's not any trouble?" I looked around nervously and examined the artwork displayed. The last time I had been here, I hardly paid attention to the details I was too preoccupied with the whirlwind of arriving here or reveling in the breathtaking awe of catching a glimpse of Edward Cullen for the first time. I could almost feel his presence hovering in the room. I ran the palms of my hand over the cushion of the sofa, feeling all the creases and padding there. Imagining if Edward had once sat in the exact spot I was in. A glass of scotch on the rocks in a hand was dangled in front of me, breaking me from my thoughts. "Thank you Jazz."

"Your welcome sugar." He placed a soft kiss on my temple and took the seat next to me.

"So." I began, but was cut off and nearly jumped out of my skin by a loud booming voice from behind us.

"JAZZY PANTS! How's it going man?" I whipped my head around to catch the sight of a statuesque platinum blonde woman giving a large bear of a man with dark curly hair a hard slap the back of his head.

"Christ, Emmett, rein it in. Didn't Esme teach you to use inside voices when you were young?" The blonde spoke. I figured her to be Rosalie, Jasper twin, an obviously God's gift to men, Sister. I felt my self-confidence taking a blow from the impact of her obvious beauty.

A soft chortle, I could already recognize as Esme's echoed in the room, "Rose, honey, Em's father and I tried as best we could to calm him down, but this boy always had a mind of his own."

"And you wouldn't have me any other way, would you Ma?" Emmett asked as he gave Esme's temple a kiss as she patted the side of his face.

"Of course not, sweetheart. Although it would have been nice to have some moments of piece and quiet, what with you and Edward getting into trouble all the time." At the mention of Edwards name I felt the slightest of blushes rise and quickly took a sip of my drink. The taste burning its way down my throat and settling heavily on my somewhat empty stomach.

"So Ma. I'm starving… when is Dad going to be home so we can start on the grub?" Emmett popped a few handfuls of olives in his mouth from the bar followed by a pull from the beer bottle he carried.

Esme made herself a dirty martini taking one of the olives in her son's hand and plopped it in her drink before sending a scolding gaze at him. "Emmett, stop eating, or you'll spoil your dinner. Maria made your favorite roast lamb and eating all those olives will fill you up." She took a sip of her drink appreciatively, and something in the hallway caught her attention, "And as for you father, you can ask him when we can start dinner."

Dr. Cullen's golden and silver locks caught my attention as he strode into the room next to his wife, briefcase in hand and placed a soft tender kiss on her lips. Esme smiled at him as if he were her whole world. The love between the two of them was strong and I forced myself to focus on my drink once more allowing them this private moment.

"Oh get a room you two." Emmett spoke up.

Dr. Cullen's eyes remained on his wife's as he responded, "Well son, we have seven of them, we could even use your old room if you don't watch yourself young man." I was mid sip when I snorted and my drink shot somewhat out of my nose. I could then feel the heated gaze of everyone's eyes on me at that moment. Emmett let out a loud laugh while I could hear the soft giggling from Rose.

"Ms. Swan? What pleasure to see you here tonight? Are you joining us for dinner?" Carlisle had set his briefcase down and was making a drink of his own. I was still recovering from the burn of the scotch in my nose, and Jasper thankfully spoke up for me.

"Yes, Bella is my lovely date for the evening." Jazz took my hand into his own and raised it to his lips, kissing it softly. Little moments like these with Jazz caused my stomach to twist with guilt. I turn my face away from Jasper to catch a silent conversation happening between Carlisle and Esme.

Esme looked heartbroken and Carlisle was solemn. I saw both of them steal a quick look at me and then back to one another. I could tell no one else caught this. Emmett was still eating his bar snacks, Rosalie was reapplying some lip glass and Jasper was distracted by playing with my hand and tracing patterns in my palm. There was something in the atmosphere that made me feel as though what was going on had something to do with me.

Before I felt even more unsettled, a petite woman walked in and whispered into Esme's ear and then quickly retreated away.

"Maria says dinner is ready." She announced and Emmett shot out of the room like a bullet, Rosalie rolling her eyes while the rest of us laughed at the adult child.

I never had such a delicious lamb in all of my life. It was tender and juicy and was served with mint sauce which I preferred over the imitation green mint jelly. The roasted red potatoes were cooked to perfection and the asparagus was still crisp and flavorful. If I could, I would move myself in to the kitchen and have Maria cook for me every day.

A majority of conversation at the table centered on the upcoming wedding. Jasper and Rose had been meeting with her wedding planner and finally settled on the flower arrangements this afternoon. Tomorrow Rose was going to a wedding gown store to look at bride's maid dresses.

"Jazzy, you gonna pick out a nice red one for the big day." Emmett boomed as he took picked at the vegetables on Rose's plate.

I saw the look on Jasper's face and was interested in what he meant. "What do you mean a red one? What would Jasper need from the dress store?" I thought a moment and said the only thing that came to mind. "Are you wearing a kilt or something for the ceremony?"

"Oh man that would be – "

"Don't even think about it Emmett Frances Cullen! Jasper may be my man of honor, but he will not be wearing a skirt." Rose screeched. Emmett tried to defend his argument, but she cut him off before he uttered a syllable. "You and the rest of your groom's men will wear pants AND underwear to our wedding, or so help me God if you even think about wearing one I will withhold sex from you for a year." Yep, that shut him up. And once everyone got over the shock of her threat, we settled back into more "appropriate" dinner conversation. I was asked about my courses and work, but I tried to make my answers in regards to the research project as brief and Edward free as possible.

I was so close to licking the plate by the time Maria came to take away our dishes before desert, Emmett was doing his best at puppy dog eyes for seconds which Maria laughed off and shook her head no. Once the table was cleared, Maria returned with a tray of some sort of pudding and placed one dish in front of all of us, except for Emmett, he got two.

Upon further inspection I noticed that the pudding was tapioca and I hummed in appreciation and began to scoop out the warm vanilla treat.

"Edward is so going to be pissed he wasn't here for dinner tonight." I tore my eyes away from my desert to catch Emmett already finishing off the first of his deserts.

"Why's that?" I asked, and immediately cursed at how eager I sounded for the answer.

"Because tapioca pudding is Edward's favorite." Esme answered, with a sad smile she placed her spoon on the table and Carlisle reached for hand, to give it a light squeeze. I saw her try to discreetly wipe away a tear and was curious as to why she had such a reaction. I figured it was none of my business and I returned to finishing mine. I found it fascinating that both Edward and I loved the same desert. When I was very little my Nana would make me some from scratch when our family would visit in the summer and Renee would try her best to make it at home after I would beg for her to make me some. It wasn't the same, but I would still eat it all because she took the time to make it just for me. After her death, I ate nothing else for desert but tapioca. I was too young to actually make it, so I stuck with store bought brands. I would even sneak a snack pack of it to school whenever I could. I smiled imagining eating the pudding with Edward and maybe enjoying a glass of milk or even chocolate milk with it.

"Have you heard how he's doing in Seattle?" Rose asked Seattle? What? Is that where the conference was? I felt a little hurt that he didn't even tell me where it was taking place. Of course, he had been ignoring me for the last month, so what should it matter. None the less, I lost the rest of my appetite and set my spoon down, pushing my desert dish away from me. Rosalie quirked an eyebrow quickly before shifting in her seat.

"Yes." Carlisle spoke up, dabbing the corners of his mouth with his napkin. "He called this afternoon and said his presentation went well today and he's anxious to get back home. He's hoping that they finish early tomorrow so he can catch an earlier flight, if not he'll be back Sunday afternoon." I fidgeted with my napkin in my lap. Just hearing about him was making me anxious that my façade for not caring about him was slipping. Jasper placed his hand over mine and stopped my movement.

Leaning in he whispered, "Are you ok?" I nodded. No, I'm not ok.

"Yes, I'm just a bit full and I think my drink is going to my head." I reached for my water glass and took a sip, my hand shaking the entire time.

We all retired back to the den for some after dinner drinks. Esme pulled Rose aside to discuss the wedding in further detail. Jasper and Emmett took to discussing college football, Carlisle needed to work on some lesson plans and excused himself leaving me to walk around examining the photographs on the mantle.

There were photos of Carlisle and Esme on their wedding day, Esme pregnant and standing next to a reality sold sign in front of a cute town house, there were pictures of Esme with a chubby little cherub of a boy with large dimples I knew was Emmett and a swollen belly once more. The pictures depicted the growth of both boys through the years. The one that held my attention the most was one of a young Edward, probably no older that ten, sitting at a piano, a smile as big as Texas with a few gaps where teeth were missing. His hair was a wild mess, sticking in every direction but he was carefree and a look of pride shining in his green eyes. It had probably been taken around Christmas due to the red reindeer sweater. I ran my hand over the picture, wishing that the light that was shining through him in the picture were still there today because it was obvious somewhere Edward's light had gone out. I pulled my hand away realizing I was smiling at this goofy little boy wishing to have known him at this age. I let out a sigh and turned to see everyone still engaged in their own conversations.

Not wanting to interrupt, I picked up the book I brought back to return and quietly walked up the stairs to the library. It was dark in the room, and I easily found the light switch, turning it on and taking in the beautiful sight and inhaling to scent of aged books.

I placed the little blue book back into its place with the other works of Austen, and allowed myself to look over all the other titles in the room. Theirs was the largest personal collection I had ever seen. Along with classics were reference books, memoirs, popular fiction and the occasional children's book, all perfectly alphabetized and even categorized by genera.

I was so engrossed, pulling books out to read the back covers, lost in my own literary dream world.

"You were here at the department dinner weren't you?" The sound of Rose's voice suddenly caused me to jump.

"Y-yes. Were you there too?" I replaced the book in my hand and walked over to where I heard her voice come from, she was standing looking at the painting that hung in on the wall.

"Yes. I was here." We both stared at the painting, and I remembered it was an anniversary gift Edward gave his parents. "That's when you fell for him isn't it?" She asked taking a sip of some cocktail with a cherry floating in it.

"When I fell for Jasper?" That had to be what she meant, right? I'm sure the sister of a person's boyfriend would be curious to find out all the details. I knew Alice would want everything from descriptions of clothing to what music was playing. Details were very important to her.

"No. Not my brother." There was a hint of humor to her voice. I turned to look at her and saw he smirk before taking another sip. "That was the night you fell in love with Edward? Was it not?" She flipped her blonde locks over her shoulder and turned face me, her eyes expectant on my answer.

All the air in me rushed out in a large breath. And I swear the Earth tilted on its Axis. My boyfriend's sister called me out on being in love with someone else, it wasn't an accusation either. She stated as fact. I could have denied it, accused her of being over protective and all that. But I didn't.

The only thing I could say was "How?"


I hoped you all like the chapter! Again, thank you for all of you that have stayed with BtB.

Reader Questions:

This was the most popular question from last time

Q. Jake's customer is Edward, right?

A. Yes, this question was answered in this chapter. A lot of you guessed that right!

Also there was some concern that I would be taking this story to a Tanya/Edward Direction after a previous reader's questions. I just want to clear something up. BtB is a Bella/Edward story. The issue of Tanya should not be of too much concern. Yes she may come into the story, but never fear, I am sticking to the B/E heart of the story.

Please send in your Reader Questions.

Also, special Shout Out to KyuketsukiInOki. Thanks for the PM the other day!