A/N: Sorry for the long wait. Busy with school and my own writer's block and lack of creativity.

Disclaimer: I own nothing but instead borrow what isn't mine.

Miss Independent

Chapter 7: Eruption and Destruction

The knowing looks. The stares. The little glimpse of glint of sorrow in people's eyes when they looked at me. Knowing that people who saw me didn't see the front I wanted them to see. People who knew me since I was a baby in diapers crying my head off when my favorite toy was taken away from me. The little white stuffed rabbit my dad placed in my crib right after I was born.

I'm sure that thing was torn up and abused by now. I'm also sure my parents still had it stored away somewhere in the attic of the old family house. My mother saved everything. Every last piece of my childhood was packed away somewhere in a dark, damp attic just waiting for me to come back and claim the lost remnants of my life.

A life I sure as hell didn't want any more.

I had created a new life for me. One far superior to the one I left behind.

The small town where everybody knew everybody's business. At least here in my new life I could force secrecy on people who saw inside my inner sanctum. Strict confidentially clauses with harsh penalties for breaking them bound every one of my employees.

Even the mysterious Edward with his eyes that saw far too much for what I would have liked.

The more I was around him the more I realized he was too perceptive for his own good. He saw things about me I didn't want him to see. His eyes cut right through me, baring my secrets without me ever having to open my mouth. He saw inside my very soul it felt like sometimes.

I tried to limit my time around him, for fear of what might happen if he caught on to too many of them. I closely watched what I said. Never knowing what piece of information he would latch onto.

We talked very little and that was just fine with me. He made whatever food I requested whenever I requested it. He didn't put up a fuss and he didn't question anything. When he needed clarification he asked, but other than that he spent more time in his own head watching me than I spent inside mine and that was a very large amount of time.

When we didn't exchange words, we exchanged looks. I felt tension starting to cover us in a thick layer of pent up frustration. It was like a heavy down comforter on a cold winter's night. It wrapped around us and brought us closer together whether we liked it or not.

His eyes lingered on me and mine lingered on him. I noticed the way he walked, the fine sinew of his arms whenever he pushed the sleeves up on that white chef's coat of his and the way the cords in his throat and neck stood out when he was deep in thought. He had long fingers and I became fascinated with them.

On more than one occasion I let my mind drift to the very different things he could be doing with those fingers. Things that would make me happy and hold back the darkness that was always on the edges of my mind.

I'd be stupid if I didn't think of that. And I certainly wouldn't be a woman who had gone without for far too long.

Maybe Rose was right. Maybe we should just do it and get it over with. Of course then there would be something even bigger than the night he saw me come home in my secret clothes that I would want to enforce secrecy on him.

I walked a delicate line with Edward. Walked that line between giving into temptation and desire versus keeping my distance and keeping my safety.

It wasn't my physical safety I was concerned about. There was something innate about him that told me he would never hurt me. I never had to fear for my safety whenever he was near. It wasn't that he didn't have the capability to do it. While I'd never seen him without his shirt, I certainly could sense the power in his body. It was his sheer presence that let everybody around him know that.

The safety I was concerned about was the safety of my own emotions I'd built up. It took me years to build those walls high and safe around me. Walls so thick and resolute that very few people every saw what was held within those walls. I worried that once Edward caught a glimpse at the darkness I held back that there would be no stopping it from coming out. All my secrets, big and small, would be laid out in front of him and the consequences of that were terrifying.

I didn't even want to imagine the reaction to those secrets.

The very thought terrified me and woke me up at night.

The thought of anybody finding them out, but most certainly the thought of Edward.

Though we had shared very little with each other, I felt that bond to him already. Having someone around often enough will do that.

I felt that draw to him that I'd never felt to anybody else. Sure, if I was in a club I could spot a cute guy from a mile away. I could go up to him and dance. There was a physical attraction there. It was purely a rush of hormones that even I couldn't control with all my restraint I'd built up.

But the pull I felt towards Edward was much more. It was more of a universal force. As if the very universe itself was pulling me towards him in every way. I couldn't explain it and damn if I couldn't put it into proper words.

Days passed and it grew.

Weeks passed and it blossomed.

I knew he sensed it too. His looks became more intense. His glances lingered just a little bit longer each time.

I felt his eyes on my body and his soul reaching into my mind. Like he was trying to read me without me even opening my mouth.

Like he was listening to me without me having to say anything.

I felt the heat building.

Something told me it was only a matter of time before that heat had to find its way out. Energy can only be built up for so long before it had to be released. Volcanoes cannot simmer forever.

Eventually there will be an eruption.


The cool satin of my gown lay across my bed. It was a one of a kind dress, couture and very expensive. The designer I had commissioned it from had flown it to Paris to be constructed and finished. Every seam was fit perfectly to my body.

It was a deep sapphire color and had accents of cream around the waist. One shouldered and hit me right above the knee. I had great legs and hell if I wanted to show them off I would.

I was going to a charity event, one of those boring ones where after the red carpet is over all that is inside the ballroom is old pervy men and their thick checkbooks. Most of the exciting people ducked out the back door after walking in. I would normally have done that too except it was Rose's favorite charity.

She had a personal connection to the cause. A survivor of assault when she was 16, she felt passionately about helping and bringing attention to the cause of victims of similar crimes. She donated generously, anonymously of course. There were four people in the world who knew about her attack. Alice, Rose herself, me and her attacker. Did she want justice for him? Sure. The problem was that she was at a party and had too much to drink back when she was just starting to model. She couldn't remember exactly who it was.

The thing about Rose I admired was that she had the fortitude to do something about it rather than sit back and play the whiny victim who couldn't do anything. Just because she couldn't put her attacker in jail didn't mean that those who perpetrated similar crimes wouldn't be brought to justice. She wanted to help the women who had suffered like she did.

Her strength about it was something I was envious of. I wished I had that much strength.

Tonight's event was the highlight of our social calendar for the year. We all made sure we were dressed to the nines for it. Made sure that every strand of hair was perfect and every angle looked spectacular.

When I left my penthouse I felt Edward's eyes sliding over my body like they always did. His eyes never left me whenever we were in proximity to each other.

But tonight, I felt that the hunger, the deep ache had somehow intensified.

The volcano was steaming, boiling, looking for an eruption.

My weakness to him was growing as well. I didn't know how much longer I would be able to go without some kind of relief. Some kind of touch. Some kind of sensation more than just the caress of his eyes.

The dim light of the limo I shared with Rose and Alice left nothing to hide. Even in the darkness they could sense something different about me tonight.

"Wow, Bella. I don't think I've ever seen you wound tighter. You still haven't hit that and quit that yet?" Rose grinned at me.

I gave her my best withering glare but she only smiled wider.

"Oh it's gonna happen. I know it. I have a second sense when it comes to sexual tension. And you, dear Bella, are the world's largest bundle of sexual tension at this moment," she giggled. Yes, Rose the model giggled at me about the fact I was wound tighter than a damn snare drum thanks to the green glint of Edward's hungry eyes.

Alice stayed oddly quiet, but had this little smirk on her face. She knew more than she was telling me. I always felt like she did. Calling me moments before I was about to call her. Saying things I was about to say.

"Just stop, Rose. You don't know what you're talking about," I hissed at her.

Too bad my own body language and attitude was giving myself away.

She giggled again in a way I hadn't seen her do in awhile and it made me wary of what she thought was going on. Sure, Edward and I weren't screwing like bunny rabbits but our eyes sure seemed to be engaged in a battle of wills more than anything.

The red carpet for the fundraiser was pretty much like any other red carpet. There were a few media people with cameras and someone taping a short segment for the nightly news, but we managed to get by them with very little hassle. Rose made it a point to be right up front about everything and get her picture taken, but this was one time I preferred to keep my image out of the media.

Inside the ballroom it was the same as it was every year. It look magical. Completely freaking magical. Icicle lights and ribbon. Candles and gorgeous centerpieces on every table.

I should have been enjoying myself but I couldn't even muster the will to do that. Alice and I danced for a little while on the all together too small dance floor, though admittedly I looked a bit like an epileptic baby seal tonight than anything. My limbs just weren't wanting to cooperate with my brain. Any other night I would have been having a good time and making myself known. I usually wanted everybody to know about the great presence that had graced their benefit. The famous and infamous Bella Swan.

My brain wasn't with my body though.

I could lie and say it wasn't where it was, but then I would be doing myself and everybody else a disservice.

It was back at my penthouse, still smoldering over the volcano.

The night was ending quickly, thank god. Speeches were made. Dinner was served. A nagging voice in the back of my head told me that Edward could have done a better job with the prime rib than the cooks had done here. I tried to put that voice out of my head though.

I didn't do a very good job at it.

I knew this was a worthy cause and I should have been listening to the great speeches about victims and suffering women and all that, but the whole time I was thinking about what Edward was doing. If he was lounging in front of the television at his apartment. If he was on his bed in his apartment. Hell, if he had an apartment all together. I mean, chances were good he had one considering where else would he live, but I knew very little about him. Maybe I would look up his address on his employment file when I got back to my penthouse. You know, just to see what neighborhood he lived in. Nothing more. No hidden agenda there. I was curious.

Yeah the excuse sounds pitiful to me too.

Finally as the last toast was made people started filtering out. It looked like once and for all the night was truly getting done. I was ecstatic.

I practically had to drag Rose out of there because she wanted to talk to practically every person who had bought tickets to thank them for their support and their donations. Alice followed behind me, clucking her tongue sometimes and giving me that look like she knew what I wanted to do when I got back home.

I wouldn't put it past her to know.

The sounds of the city barely filtered through the limo and I would have sworn I heard my own heart beating above the quiet hum of the car.

"Bella, you've been tapping your fingers so hard I think you're going to chip off that polish in a second," Alice quietly said about halfway back to my penthouse.

"Am not," I snipped at her and then looked down to find I'd been doing just that on the limo's armrest.

I pulled my arms around myself and willed my body to stop the constant thrum of energy I'd been feeling the last week or so.

Alice and Rose exchanged looks.

It felt like a century before the damn limo pulled up to the underground elevator in my building's parking garage and the driver came around to open the door for me.

"Wrap it up!" Rose giggled again and made an obscene hand gesture in my direction.

"Shut up!" I snapped and slammed the door behind me before the driver could do it himself.

The limo may have been pretty sound proof but even I heard the giggles and laughter that the two girls were having as I walked to the elevator.

I punched in my code and the doors slid open with a gentle dinging noise. The smooth marble floor and mirrored side panels greeted me like an old friend and I leaned against the handrail for support. I felt like clutching at whatever I could.

Shit, I really was wound up pretty tight.

Each floor up to mine clicked off and my heart started pounding louder in my chest. I felt supremely stupid for feeling like this. Edward wasn't there. He wasn't still in my apartment. After I'd left he didn't have anything else to do for the night. He would have left long ago. Long long ago. Probably hours ago. He was probably already asleep like any normal person would be at this hour of the night.

Normal people slept. Normal people didn't have heart palpitations when thinking about the way intense eyes caressed their body like a lover's touch. Normal people weren't breaking out into a cold sweat when their elevator finally got to their floor.

The key to my apartment slid in easily and all seemed quiet as I opened the door. Reaching in, I flicked on the lightswitch that was right inside the front door so I wouldn't be going in a dark apartment.

Lights on, the door was next.

God, I felt like my pulse was skyrocketing.

There was no other explanation other than that I was going absolutely insane. The darkness on the fringes of my mind had finally caught up with me and were going to drag me under. It was the only reason I could come up with for the urges I was feeling at the moment.

My heart shot through my head.

Because there sitting on my couch in the front room was the very person I'd been thinking about, dreaming about, fantasizing about, obsessing about for every minute I was awake and most of the ones I was asleep.


Sitting on my couch.

Like he was just an invited guest.

His eyes raking over me like always.

It wasn't only my pulse I could feel in that room; it was his too. That was why I had been pulled back to my apartment. I felt the tug of him. I felt the pull. The lure of intensity and the lure of the explosion.

Something told me the explosion was going to come sooner rather than later.

Like really soon.


His voice rang out as clear as day in the quiet of my apartment, even managing to ring true above the obnoxiously loud thumping of my heart in my throat.

It was the way he said my name that had my pulse reaching into the red danger zone.

I swallowed roughly and found that I had nothing to swallow. My mouth had gone dry.


My own voice sounded painfully unsteady compared to him.

I counted to ten in my head and his eyes never left me the entire time as I stood there rooted to my spot on the floor, the front door of my apartment still wide open. My keys dangled from my fingers and all it took was a moment for me to drop them to the hard black granite tile of my entry way.

It sounded like a bomb went off compared to the overwhelming silence.

I don't know how long we stayed like that, Edward rooted to his spot on the couch and me glued to mine in the entry way. Seconds, minutes, hours. It felt like time ceased to move.

His eyes never left mine.

Every ounce of self control I'd built for so long was crumbling away. He was taking every brick out of my thick protective walls without even saying a word or making a move.

All it took was his eyes.

He stripped me bare with nothing left. I very well should have been naked. There was nothing else to protect me other than myself. And even that felt like it was crumbling.

I didn't know who I was any more.

I blinked and Edward was getting up off the couch, his tall lanky frame moving so smoothly I nearly cried. Tears prickled in the corners of my eyes and I barely held back the deluge that was sure to come soon.

My mind told me he was coming to me, taking me in his arms and making my entire world better. My heart hoped for the same thing. The heart that was still beating furiously and was in danger of giving out any moment thanks to the crazy things he was doing to my pulse just by looking at me.

He moved silently and as he came towards me I felt my eyelids slide shut. At least this way if he finally broke me he couldn't see my eyes. That was the last bastion of my secrets inside my mind.

But he didn't hold me. He didn't touch me. He barely even grazed me.

I heard the door shut behind me softly.

My heart broke.

He'd left.

I felt the tears again and hated myself for breaking the promise I'd made to not cry over anything ever again so long ago. Tears were a wasted sentiment and I didn't want them.

My heart didn't listen to my brain.

The tears poured down my cheeks before I could stop them.

Big fat, rolling tears that had been stored up for ages. Tears I refused to cry even over the littlest things. From stubbing my toe to all the big secrets I held within myself. Tears I had not wanted to ever shed over events I refused to acknowledge.

The walls had come down too soon and I had been left defenseless to the emotions running rampant through me.

I was fractured in millions of places and knew I would never be put back together. I would never be the same again. No more strong Bella. No more wild child. No more. I couldn't be that girl again. I couldn't put on that makeup and play that part. She didn't exist. An image I had carefully crafted and honed with practice disappeared in barely a breath.

Everything shattered around me.

"I'm sorry."

Whispered words filtered into my brain slowly and I heard them being repeated again and again.

Along with my life apparently my sanity had disappeared as well.

"I'm so sorry."

But the words weren't coming from inside my head.

They were coming from outside.

My eyes fought to open and through a glaze of tears I saw redemption looking back at me.

He was still there.


He hadn't left.

Strong arms wrapped around me and the pain eased.

Instinct had me clutching at him, reaching for anything I could hold onto. His shirt, his arms, his hands, back, anything. I dug my fingers into his body and I didn't want to ever let go.

There was nothing demanding in the way he held me, nothing that spoke to him wanting more than the moment. He wasn't asking to know my secrets – he was waiting for me to tell him first. There was no urgency, no need, no threat.

My world had just collapsed around me and I think Edward knew that. He had sensed the change from the very beginning. It was only a matter of time before things had to change for me and Edward had been my catalyst without even knowing it.

Or perhaps he had known it and that's why he'd stayed.

The easy thing would have been to leave.

The harder thing was to stay and hold me.

I would never forget that for as long as I lived.