Twilight character names belong to Stephanie Meyer. Everything else are the property of the author. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without express written authorization.©2009 1Blue25. All rights reserved worldwide.
A/N: Big thanks to Blackdogs for being an awesome beta.
Chapter 1: Please won't you be my neighbor
The sirens woke me long before the pounding on my door entered my stream of consciousness. Initially, I thought that some tool's car alarm had been set off and that was the annoying repetitive sound that had finally burst through into my dream world.
In the end, I was never quite sure how long Emmett had been banging on my door, but since my apartment was the closest to the front door of the building, I was probably just the first one he tried.
"Emmett! What the hell is wrong with you?" I asked after cracking open the door and staring bleary-eyed at him. The man was sweet most of the time, but he had an annoying streak. And I knew this after just one week.
"You're missing the whole thing!" He exclaimed with way too much enthusiasm for the crazy-ass hour of the day.
"Emmett, it's seven o'clock in the morning." I told him, speaking slowly so he'd be sure to understand all my words. He was like a puppy: cute, anxious to please and way too hard to train. "I worked the late shift last night, so unless someone is dying out in the parking lot, I'm not interested." I started to shut the door again, looking forward to returning to my one luxury purchase in my shithole of an apartment - the bed. My Beautyrest® Pillow Top mattress was my pride and joy and no man was going to pull me from it without at least six hours under my belt, or pajama top as it were. I smiled just thinking about slipping under the sheets and going back to sleep.
Emmett stuck his big ass foot in the door, putting a halt to my quick dismissal, and my smile disappeared. I pushed against it a few times, leaning all 125 pounds of me against the door with little effect. Yep – his annoying streak was in full force today.
"If you don't move your foot, I'm going to get my can of pepper spray and nail you in the eyes." Desperate times called for desperate measures. Emmett had no way of knowing about my mattress addiction, and while I'd been tempted to share that with him in the most intimate way possible, that was not going to happen before I got my six hours.
Fortunately, he must have realized from the tone of my voice that I meant to make good on my threat. He didn't know that the pepper spray was slightly out of reach. Ok, it was actually packed away in one of the boxes that littered the floor of my living room, but I could probably find it in fifteen minutes or less. The offending foot was removed and I shut and locked the door quickly before he got any more bright ideas. I could hear him yelling at me through the now closed door.
"There is a dead guy out here, Bells. Come look!" He pleaded with me so nicely, but I cringed at the nickname he'd given me the day I'd moved in. I'd asked him to just call me "Bella," but he insisted that "Bells" would be "our thing." I wanted it to be nobody's thing except something that Salvation Army volunteers rang at Christmas.
As I contemplated Emmett's outrageous claim, a whole range of thoughts went through my mind. How often is the average person offered the chance to look at a fresh corpse? Would I be grossed out? Would my horrible aversion to the sight and smell of blood come rushing back in an embarrassing way? This was my first time with a corpse, so I didn't have a lot of experience with tamping down the baser emotions that I felt. Perhaps I wouldn't have been so eager if dead bodies had been an everyday occurrence in my previous life in Phoenix. So, it was with part anticipation and part dread that I slowly opened the door and stuck my head out into the hall.
"Seriously?" I asked, hoping that I wasn't smiling. It was bad form to smile at a murder scene, right?
What I saw next removed any smile from my face that might have been there. I caught my first glimpse of Emmett and almost shut the door again. Being neighbors with Emmett kept my life from being dull, I'd give him that.
He was wearing just his underwear.
This might not have been so bad had he been wearing boxers. Or even tighty-whities. But no; the man had on a pair of briefs so small and tight, nothing was left to the imagination. To top it all off, they were some kind of animal print.
Emmett had a great body. He clearly worked out and I took a moment to appreciate his tight muscles, flat stomach and large package. Yes, the package was large and I spent a few brief seconds longer staring in disbelief.
He suddenly spun around and stuck his butt out, then gave it a good smack. The sound of the slap echoed in the hallway.
"My ass is pretty good too."
This reminded me why I had not entertained serious thoughts about hooking up with my hot neighbor. His mouth always ruined it. If he could have managed to look hot and not speak for a thirty-minute interval, things might have been different. But Emmett didn't know how to be silent.
I huffed, embarrassed at being caught ogling and for believing what must have been his sad attempt at seduction. He'd caught me off guard but it wouldn't happen again. I turned to go back into my apartment, hoping to forget that this exchange had ever happened.
"What?" Emmett called after me. "I saw you checking out the bod, and wanted you to have the full picture. Bells, come back. You haven't seen the dead body yet."
My door was closed again. I leaned my back against it and wondered how the other residents of the building were sleeping through all the racket. Not only did Emmett like to talk, he also talked at a much louder volume than most people. I was jealous of my neighbors' ability to block him out.
I was now more awake than I wanted to be after the man show I'd just witnessed. A part of me was still curious about the potential dead body in the parking lot. I weighed my options and decided I could tough it out with Emmett for a few minutes, just long enough to peer through the front door at whatever mess lay in wait outside.
I yanked open the door, and found Emmett on his hands and knees, trying to peek through the small crack between my door and the floor.
"I heard a thump and I wanted to make sure you hadn't fallen and hurt yourself," he explained as I glared down at him menacingly. "I was definitely not looking to see if you were taking your clothes off."
The man had no shame. I hadn't pegged him for a voyeur, but I wasn't going to waste any more time trying to figure Emmett out. I rolled my eyes and stepped around his inert form on the floor. "Emmett, get up off the floor," I called over my shoulder as I descended the three steps to the interior landing that opened to the front door of the building. "Go put some clothes on while I check out this dead body of yours."
The bottom stair creaked as I stepped off it. The apartment building was old so its creaks, moans and groans weren't a surprise. I think it was built before Columbus supposedly "discovered" America. The carpet was smelly. My bathroom had one of those over-the-tub thingies that I'm convinced hid a pink-tiled, moldy bathtub. We didn't have central air. I had to buy one of those window a/c units for my bedroom. Not that Forks was anywhere near as hot as Phoenix had been, but still, the humidity was killer in the summer.
My point is, the building was ancient. The newer construction apartments I'd checked out when I'd first arrived were open and airy. They smelled good. They were also ridiculously expensive. I couldn't figure who they were marketing towards, because it wasn't like Forks was a hot bed of employment opportunities. I'd been lucky to get the job at the canning factory. And that was only because I'd reluctantly dropped my name.
The building was split into six apartments - two on each of the three floors. My apartment was on the second floor. I'd insisted on having a second floor apartment for security reasons. No need to make the random burglar's job any easier. Emmett lived on the first floor, right underneath me. I guess he didn't have to worry about anyone prying open his windows in the middle of the night. I was pretty sure he could take care of himself.
The front door to our building was an entire sheet of glass. A small number 4 was etched into the top half of the door. There were eight buildings total in our little apartment community. I'd balked at first when the management company tried to place me in this building. Four was not my lucky number. Too many things had gone wrong that were associated with that number. I avoided it like the plague.
I'd been told this was the only available second floor apartment. Since my resources and time were limited, I'd sucked it up and signed the lease for building 4, apartment 4. Yeah, I should have known better.
I found out on my second day here that the managers were lying pieces of shit. The neighbor across the hall, Rosalie, told me that she knew for a fact that two of the other buildings across the parking lot were completely empty on the second floor.
I'd been duped into this building because they considered it to be an upgrade and could charge an extra $30 a month. Assholes. When I'd called and complained, Tyler, the head of the management company, told me that the other apartments were being renovated. They weren't available for immediate move-in. I still think he was lying.
On this particularly early Saturday morning, the sun was not shining. The birds were not chirping. It was, however, not raining, which was a major improvement over the past week.
No one had told me that Forks was the rainiest place in the entire freaking universe. I was beginning to get a sense of the reasoning behind my mom's sudden and abrupt departure twenty-five years prior. But, I was made of stronger stuff. I had a mission, and I was going to stick it out until it was accomplished.
For the time being though, I was going to find me a dead body.
I scanned the small parking lot, just beyond the door, in search of anything resembling a body. I found several bodies in fact, but they all seemed to be among the living.
Our parking lot had turned into a command post for the entire police force of Washington State, or so it appeared to me. I counted no less than fifteen state police cars, two ambulances, an armored bomb squad truck, two military-looking vehicles with "SWAT" written on the side, and two smaller police vehicles with "Town of Forks" emblazoned across the side.
These last two vehicles took the breath from my lungs. I immediately pressed my back against the wall, trying to hide behind the thin strip of drywall that bracketed the front door. Anxiously, I craned my neck to peer through the door and out into the parking lot. I tried to be as covert as possible, like Angelina from Mr. & Mrs. Smith. I had a feeling I looked more like that kid from Harriet the Spy. I hoped to God that none of the scurrying law enforcement types could see me. I was just not ready for a confrontation.
There were a lot of people to sort through; at least thirty men and women. From what I could tell, they had the building diagonally across from ours blocked off. I hadn't seen so much firepower since the last time I'd woken up in Vegas…but that was another story for another time.
"Holy hell, Emmett, what's going on?" I yelled, not even aware if he was within earshot. It didn't matter. There was some serious shit going on outside and I needed answers. I searched the parking lot frantically for the promised dead body, but didn't see it anywhere. I could only assume that it had been removed already.
"Isn't it awesome?" Emmett said, directly into my left ear. I could tell that he was standing too close to me simply by the volume of his response. I turned to tell him to back up and give me some space, but as soon as I saw him my jaw dropped open. Like a good boy, he'd actually listened to my suggestion and gone to his apartment to put some clothes on. He was wearing what looked to be some kind of robe, but…oh…lovely.
"Emmett, for the love of God, put some pants on," I groaned as I crossed the landing to sit down on the steps leading up to the second floor. I covered my eyes with both my hands, like I was getting ready to play a game of adult peek-a-boo. I'd peeked enough at Jungle Boy and his boo already.
"I'm mostly covered," he told me, looking down at his outfit and shrugging. "Besides, I didn't want to miss any of the action."
I shook my head in disbelief. My neighbors were so…strange. "Was there even a dead body in the parking lot?" I asked, keeping my face covered.
I heard him shuffling his feet and I knew I wasn't going to like his response.
"Well, there could have been," he explained. "I just wanted someone to come out and watch it with me. You were resisting and it was the only thing I could think of at the time."
I peeked between my fingers and watched him staring at his feet. He really wasn't a bad guy. He seemed lonely sometimes, which was strange because he was so extroverted. As much as I wanted to be pissed at him, I couldn't.
While I contemplated Emmett and the environs that I'd moved into, I heard a door open and shut on the floor above mine. I'd only met one of my upstairs neighbors so far. His name was Jasper and he worked from home. He said he was a writer, which made me jealous. I pictured him with tons of free time, lots of money, and the ability to travel whenever he wanted. From what I could tell, the reality didn't match up with my mental picture.
Sure enough, his blonde head appeared through the railing that separated his floor from mine. His eyes were bloodshot and his hair was a mess. Despite all that, he was gorgeous as always. His mouth was too big for his face, but it only made him that much more kissable. He had high cheekbones, and really should have been a model. He was tall and not too thin and not too big. He was practically perfect. It was a shame he was gay.
His eyes finally focused and locked onto mine. His mouth spread into a wide grin at the sight of me. Jasper and I were cool.
"Hey, Bella. What's going on?"
"I don't know," I answered truthfully. Now that Emmett had confessed to making up the dead body in the parking lot, I was even more confused than before as to why the building across the way held so much interest for the police. "There's a crapload of cops out here," I told him, nodding towards the front door so he could check it out himself.
Jasper skipped, yes, skipped down the stairs. He looked dead tired so I don't know where he got the energy from.
He stopped at the bottom of the stairs when he saw Emmett. Emmett of the no pants. Now, I'd never had any gay friends before, but I kind of expected Jasper to react in some way to finding a half-naked man in the hallway. Hell, I had. I may not want to hit that, but I can appreciate it from an aesthetic point of view.
But other than a raised eyebrow, Jasper had no reaction. He nodded to Emmett and then pressed his gorgeous face up against the glass to get a better view of the law enforcement activities.
I took a moment to appreciate the view that Jasper had presented by turning around. He had a great ass. He was wearing navy blue gym shorts, which really should be illegal for men outside of the gym because they were practically pornographic. I'd been a good girl moments before when he'd descended the stairs and not checked out what he was packing. After seeing his caboose, I couldn't keep myself to that promise any more. His top half was covered by a gray t-shirt, but when he leaned against the door I could see the flex of his back muscles. I swear my womb twitched a little, which was ridiculous considering my body had little chance of seeing any action from Jasper.
"Something major's going down across the street. Lots of firepower out here. They're strapping on bullet proof vests now too," Jasper said with authority. So far, Jasper had not been a source of enlightenment but I was more inclined to listen to his thoughts on the matter than Emmett's. I think he'd told me that he wrote books about the Civil War, so that made him some kind of expert on weapons, right? I was still waiting for him to turn around, but got distracted by the sound of another door opening and closing.
It was Emmett's first floor neighbor. I groaned and rolled my eyes when she bounced up the steps. Alice was an aerobics instructor. She had an endless amount of energy. She also liked to get up early and sing at the top of her lungs.
Unfortunately, our walls were pretty thin.
"Hey guys!" She called out, excited to see our little group gathering. I got the feeling that she wanted us to all to be more friendly and neighborly. I didn't do neighborly so well. Or friendly either. Unless you had a penis and a great body. Then, I could probably muster up a smile and a civil word or two.
Alice only met 50% of the qualifications, so I gave her my fake smile when she bounded up the stairs to the front door. She was obviously on her way to teach the denizens of Forks how to shake their thangs. I'm pretty sure she wanted me to come to one of her kickboxing classes, but I had no interest in that. Though the stripper class had sounded interesting…
This morning, she was wearing a pair of ultra-mini red shorts, a tiny black tank top, and her trainers. Alice called them her trainers, not me. They looked like plain old sneakers to me.
Emmett had untied his robe by this point and was posing against the banister. The man, apparently, needed to get laid. Alice smiled in his direction, but it was just her regular friendly smile. "Looking good, Emmett," she told him on her way to stand next to Jasper.
Alice saved her man-eating smile for the gay man at the door.
"Hey, Jazz," she purred seductively, "What's going on?" She raked her eyes up and down his body, and I noticed with jealousy that they lingered in the vicinity of the package. He still hadn't turned around for me to make my own perusal.
Jasper regained his Queen status in my head by taking a step away from Jane Fonda. He cleared his throat nervously and looked back up the stairs towards his apartment longingly. "The police seem to have blocked off our parking lot. Looks like it may be some kind of standoff."
"Ohhh…" Alice purred yet again. She reached out and placed her hand on his bicep. "It's a good thing we've got a big, strong man like you in here to protect us."
Emmett cleared his throat and moved to stand on Alice's other side. It seemed he couldn't take a little competition. "I used to work security, you know. I think I can handle any thugs that happen to come our way."
I swear to God he actually leaned forward and flexed his muscles, like he was competing in the Mr. Universe contest. It was a little ridiculous.
Alice sniffed and turned her back on Emmett. "That's nice," she told him over her shoulder. She went back to feeling up Jasper's muscles and making him extremely uncomfortable.
I heard a door being slammed open on my floor, and I knew we were all in trouble now. I thought I was protective of my beauty sleep. Rosalie brought bitchiness to a whole new level. She did not like loud noises, did not like being disturbed, and did not like our postal carrier, for some strange reason. I'm sure there were other things on her hate list, but any of those three things sent her into hysterics.
I quickly stood and moved out of the way of the tirade that was coming. I figured that I would be safe standing on the stairs leading down to the first floor.
I was wrong.
"What the fuck is wrong with you people? You're out here, making a fuckload of noise, on a Saturday, when you know I don't get home until almost four in the morning. I've had fucking three hours of sleep! Who should I fucking castrate first?"
Rosalie liked to say 'fuck.'
Jasper, smart man that he was, backed away quickly and shook his head. He clearly was not going to take the blame for our early morning chat session. Alice huffed and checked her manicure for any chips. I tried to stay hidden on the first floor, but I saw Rosalie's eyes flick over me and narrow, so I backed even further away from the approaching storm.
Poor, sweet Emmett became her first victim. I could understand his reluctance to back down. Emmett had a major jones for Rosalie. It was sad, actually. I'd seen his attempts at flirtation with her, and she always blew him off and insulted him. Always in that order. I'd personally witnessed this strange mating dance no less than fourteen times over the past week.
Emmett puffed out his chest and stood to his full height. Emmett was a tall man, but Rosalie was tall as well. They would actually make a cute couple, if either one of them suddenly turned normal.
I watched his eyes darken and smolder as he looked down into her face. He hadn't even done his standard rack check yet. "Hey babe," he told her, his voice dropping impossibly an octave. I felt my own knees go weak at the combination of his voice, eyes and display of testosterone.
"You," Rosalie sputtered, tapping her finger hard against his bare chest. "I knew this was all your fucking fault. Why don't you take your steroid-addled brain and park it inside your apartment for the rest of the day." It was obviously not just a suggestion.
I felt a little bad for the guy. He was clearly smitten, and Rosalie had some man-hating issues to resolve. I decided to step in and help the guy out.
"Actually, Rose, I think we can blame the state police for this morning's disturbance." I hitched my thumb out the door to the circus going on outside.
For once, Rosalie was speechless. Even her favorite F-bomb couldn't save her vocal numbness.
Well, it was nice while it lasted anyway.
"Fucking douchebags. They are always messing up my beauty sleep. Must be nice to have such a cake job that involves ruining the lives of innocent citizens everywhere…"
I'd actually heard this speech before. It was the same speech she'd given me about the mailman. I could only guess that it extended to all government employees.
I watched as all four of my neighbors crowded around the door, trying to figure out what was going on in the parking lot. And there was that number again: four. Fucking four. I was caught up in my bad memories of four, so it was no surprise that a little thing like a tap on my shoulder scared the crap out of me.
I screamed and probably jumped ten feet. When I came back down, I clutched my chest and tried to calm the frantic beating of my heart. I turned around to face my attacker, because I wasn't going down without a fight, when I came face to face with a god.
Yeah, I'd been drooling over Emmett and Jasper for the past week, but they were nothing compared to the man who stood before me now. He was sheer perfection. Green eyes. Great hair. His face was chiseled, fucking chiseled. He was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, but even through the material of his shirt I could make out that he was built.
I could only hope that the Greek god had come to rescue me. I would have followed him anywhere.
Jasper and Emmett looked like members of the freak show in comparison.
I stared at him for a moment, just drinking in his perfection. Thankfully, my reflexes kicked in and I didn't even have to think about the smile that spread across my face or the way that I pretended to bashfully lower my eyes under his penetrating gaze. Unfortunately, my brain had forgotten about the bedhead and dragon breath I had yet to attempt to tame. I'm sure this probably counter-acted my other attempts to make a good first impression on this man, but I was past the point of caring.
He smiled at me pleasantly, then flicked his eyes to the others standing at the door. They could have been screwing each other senseless at that point, and I wouldn't have known the difference.
"Hi," he said, his voice like honey. "What's going on?"
That had actually been everyone's question for the past hour, and we still didn't have an answer.
"Hey Edward," Emmett responded, tossing him a cursory glance before returning to his position standing as close to Rosalie as he could get.
Edward. His name was Edward. Ed. Eddie. Edarooni. Ed, my personal sex god.
He stood in between Jasper and Emmett while they explained what they knew about the situation. I watched as his head nodded and turned between the two of them while they talked. Not only was he hot, he was a good listener too.
Ed clasped his hand on Emmett's shoulder and complimented him on his smoking jacket.
Huh. I'd thought it had been too short to be a bathrobe.
Ed turned back around and his eyes zeroed in on me. I suddenly wished I wasn't wearing Rainbow Brite pajama pants and a pink t-shirt.
His eyes twinkled as he briefly looked me up and down. He had a smile on his face when his eyes returned to mine.
I'd never been so happy to be sized up before. I think I lost about 100 gazillion feminist points in that brief moment. Oops.
Ed extended his hand and I placed mine in his. His palm was pleasantly warm and strong.
"I'm Edward. You must be our new neighbor." When I pulled my hand back, I trailed my fingertips against his palm. I swear I saw him shiver a little.
"I'm Bella. Apartment four."
Ed smiled and stuck his hands into his pockets. "Six," he told me. Like I couldn't deduce which one he might be in. I hoped he wasn't one of those guys that thought all girls were dumb. We'd have problems if he was. I really didn't want to have problems with him.
"So, it looks like we may be stuck here for a while," he told me.
I couldn't stop the smile that spread across my face at that news. "Yeah?" I replied brilliantly. Phil hadn't paid for two years of college for nothing. My verbal skills were beyond description. Communication problems aside, I suddenly didn't mind the possibility of being stuck anywhere so long as Ed was there to keep me company.
"Yeah." Ed smoldered at me a moment longer. "Well, I've got some things to do. See you later."
I watched him bound up the steps two at a time. I heard his footsteps cross the hall and then the soft click of his door.
Well, that was disappointing.
A/N: Please review and let me know what you think! This story is a little different for me. Bella is on a journey so you may not like her at first. Give her a chance – everyone has a reason for the way that they act. Also, don't get hung up on "Ed." That doesn't last for too long. Thanks.