Hey everyone. I want to say a huge thank you to all who reviewed last chapter. It was the most I had received to date - it truly made me smile - so thank you. :)

To all my DC girls - I love each and every one of of you. Thank you so much for supporting me. I wish I'd told you all sooner. Bean, there is a little treat for you in this chapter. ;)

Hugs to my special group - Jedigirlsc, VronniePantz and twimom76 for just being them.

Sobriquett - she keeps me sane, and keeps me company, and I adore her. Go vote for her in the Indies. Her one-shot L'Heure Bleue is in the Love Conquers all category. Voting opens on the 15th.

And my beta SusanQ. She is amazing. Thank you.

Also, the Eclipse "teaser" has me doing this a lot... among quiet curses of course - O_o

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight and all its characters. She also needs to take the pen and paper away from Rosenberg.


Bella

No, he couldn't be here right now. I wanted to be alone. I would recognize that voice anywhere. It had been haunting me even in sleep... all silks and velvets and just generally appealing, caressing me for its own selfish purposes. I imagined it to twist and float breathlessly like billowing smoke, wrapping itself around me curve for curve, and sticking to me like glue. I didn't move... maybe couldn't, instead choosing to use my voice.

"I want you to leave," I said clearly, my arms starting to ache from their awkward position behind my back. I heard a deep sigh exhale from his nose, and imagined him to be pinching it with his lithe fingers like he did when he was stressed or angry. I had watched him carefully enough over the weeks to pick up on many of his mannerisms, after all, when someone is fully out to get something from you, it's hard to ignore them. You find yourself just as involved as they are: watching them, thinking about them, constantly wondering. It was like watching your favourite movie, or reading your favourite novel, you eventually got to know these characters and their traits - even the completely hateful ones that you'd rather not. It never escaped my notice that the darker characters, the mischief makers and brooding beauties, were the ones to ingrain themselves into your brain the strongest. They make themselves comfortable until you moved onto to the next story, but were always ready to be called upon by a simple thought process.

"Let me help you," he replied, the faint sound of his feet moving towards me on the plush carpet making me tense further.

"I think you've done enough tonight, don't you?" I seethed, clenching my jaw shut and trying to take measured breaths to keep my fury from flying out like a wildly struck whip.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" he snapped, his steps faltering. I finally managed to move, swinging myself around to face him angrily.

"You know exactly what that means! You invited them here, on my birthday," I screamed pushing him away from me.

"I didn't fucking know they would do that. Why do you think I'm up here now? I came to see if you were alright." I just snorted, not believing a word of it. I mean, how could I, when had he ever shown interest in my well being? Well there was that time when he took me home from school when I had my hoe-down with Jessica – quite literally that hoe went down. And earlier he was actually... sweet. My brow creased, frustrated that perhaps he was actually being sincere, but that still didn't change the fact that he knew something like this could've happened. He purposely invited them for his own desirous motives. I didn't want him here with me now, and I sure as hell didn't want his concern. No doubt this was just another one of his ploys. I didn't see how he could believe that I would trust anything he had to say after our mostly hostile relationship.

"It makes no difference, your words mean nothing to me. Just leave." I stared him down, waiting for him to process my words and do something about them. The only parts of him that were moving were his jaw, which was clenching erratically, and his chest, which was heaving and pushing his toned chest outwards. I knew he was annoyed, and quite frankly I didn't care. He had brought it all upon himself.

"Why can't you just accept what I'm telling you. I may be a lot of things, but I'm not a liar. I genuinely came to say sorry – which I never do. You should take it." Could he be any more fucking arrogant?

"I should take it? Am I supposed to say thank you? Start shouting out the windows that Edward Cullen apologized to me?" I took another step forward until I was hovering right in front of him, our bodies almost touching. "You have a sense of self importance that you need to quit if you ever want to be taken seriously. I don't trust you." He flinched at my words and I wanted to laugh. Everything was a performance. He was the lead, and I was the understudy expected to obey.

"God, are you always such a bitch, or do you save these moments for me? Because I have to tell you, not super attractive from where I'm standing," he informed me sharply. "And I'm sure Jakey downstairs doesn't see this side of you," he spat, emerald merging into ivy and creating an incredibly disarming vortex.

"Don't you dare bring him into it, he has nothing to do with it!" I shouted, feeling my anger growing at a rapid pace. "For someone who supposedly hates him, you're constantly talking about him," I fumed, squinting my eyes. "So why is that exactly? Is it jealousy? Did he steal Leah away from you or something?" I asked while watching every little shift his face made. "Because from where I'm standing, he hasn't done anything that could warrant such resentment."

I could see his hands balling into fists, digging into the tops of his thighs, obviously incredibly antagonized. "That's because neither of you know anything!" he shouted, glancing away from me crossly for a split second before staring me head on. "I didn't start this thing with him, he had a problem with me, and acted on it. The problem is, whatever he's accusing me of, is in no way true. If the truth ever got out, it could hurt a lot of fucking people, and I, for one, will not be held responsible for that pain." He ran his hands madly through his already wayward hair, the different tones catching the light and making it all the more tempting to touch. "You have no idea what you're talking about, so for the last time, keep that nose of yours out of my shit!"

"Well then, have the courtesy of doing the same for me," I snapped, attempting to storm past him, my dress completely forgotten. I didn't even realize his hands were on me until I found myself pushed up against the bedroom wall, his body pressed against my own in deliciously enticing ways. I couldn't even speak from being so mad – I was breathless and warm... oh god was I warm. He constantly drove me to this state, wanting and needing, driving me to become reckless. I made the mistake of looking up at his face...his eyes so dark. My breath caught and I couldn't stop the whimper that escaped from my lips as my hips subtly and unconsciously moved against his. His face inched closer, almost cautiously, his gaze flickering from my eyes to my mouth and back again. This somewhat surprised me, the almost hesitancy that he was showing, I was sure he would just take.

"Are you going to tell me to stop?" he whispered against my readying mouth. Was I? Jessica's words from earlier suddenly flooded my thoughts: "he was always too far out of your reach anyway." I could feel my hand move from my side and fist his shirt, which must have been all the encouragement he needed, as his mouth immediately attacked my own, all tongues and teeth and warmth. I was helpless to the feel of it. His lips met mine again and again - they were unyielding and oh so soft. His movements were firm and bordering on desperate, my own matching his perfectly.

I needed more.

My fingers grasped his hair, pulling angrily until he grunted in my mouth. There was nothing sweet and gentle about our actions. We were punishing and taking, drowning in our own want. It never occurred to me once to break the surface and come up for air. His hands moved from my waist to the bottom of my dress, pushing it up as his hands slid their way along the back of my knees and thighs, pausing to the stroke the skin for just a moment before hoisting me off my feet, bringing my center flush against the place it wanted most. My legs wasted no time in wrapping themselves around him, my moan filling his mouth as he pushed himself fully against me.

"God, these legs... you don't even know how any times I've imagined having them wrapped around me like this," he breathed, then grunted as I tightened them around him further. "I hate that you do this to me." I could feel exactly what I was doing to him, and I couldn't deny that I was reveling in being able to do so.

"Feeling's mutual, I promise you," I whispered, as his mouth attached itself to my neck, his lips trailing heated kisses down the column of my throat. I pressed his face harder against me, moaning when his tongue came in contact with my skin. I was rubbing myself shamelessly against him, addicted to the flashes of pleasure and warmth that were assaulting me.

"This is getting in my way," he said irritated, his hands swiftly gathering at the back of my neck and removing the necklace from Mike easily, as I clung to him. He threw it behind him, no concern for where it ended up, and recaptured my legs immediately. He had no idea the gift was from another, but the fact that it was a gift from a male, and that he had removed it, was almost as though it was some type of subconscious territorial thing.

I clenched my teeth and glared at nothing, the heat rising within me at him thinking it was okay to do that. To have no regard for others' possessions. My hands grasped the back of his hair, pulling his face away from my neck and bringing his mouth forcefully back to mine, punishing him almost as I knew that he would regret the kissing afterward. I always thought that I would find it awkward to kiss another, never having much experience with it. Even with Jake, I was sometimes hesitant to try things, but here, now... with Edward, it was like I had been kissing him forever. He took my bottom lip in between his own, nipping at it gently before caressing it with his tongue, asking for entry. I instantly opened my mouth to him, sucking in a sharp breath through my nose as I felt his tongue brush minutely against my own. His mouth tasted of mint and alcohol, and was all together too addicting. He groaned, pulling away from me to focus his half-lidded eyes upon mine. His cheeks were flushed, his eyes glassy and shining like a star filled night sky, and his lips were the most temping shade of ruby from my lips - my kisses. I bit my bottom lip, wanting to press my mouth against his again and again. My dress had ridden up completely by now, his erection pressing itself against my lace-covered center and heightening every sensation considerably.

"Faster," I breathed, tightening my hold on his shoulders and ignoring the voice in the back of my head that was telling me to stop. His erratic breath was beating against my face in a staccato rhythm, his hips grinding into my own in what appeared to be a well-practiced maneuver. For some reason, the fact that he had done that previously - brought someone else as much pleasure as was coursing through me right then angered me. I knew it was foolish to think like that but in that one moment, I didn't want him to be able to think about anyone else, didn't want him to see anyone but me. And I sure as hell didn't want anyone else's hands touching my skin. I was burning, and he was the only one that could both set me further alight, and distinguish that flame of desire all at the same time. As much as I knew I would probably hate myself for it, I needed him to feel me. All of me.

"Oh god," he moaned, bringing his head down to kiss the swells of my breasts, a shiver rippling its way through me from the delicious sensation. I suddenly hated the fact that the fabric was covering the area where I so desperately wanted his attention, his mouth. I grabbed the front of my dress, pulling it down and revealing myself to him. His eyes widened, most likely shocked that I had initiated this, before he raised them slowly back to my face. His eyes burned into mine as he bent and took a nipple into his mouth, sucking on it – hard. I opened my mouth, no sound coming out, feeling so much, and wanting to do so many things. I was breathless and writhing, and so needy I thought I may start weeping.

I took his face in my hands, kissing along his jawline, feeling his day old scruff on my lips, my hips still moving along with his. "Bed...right now," he groaned out, pulling me away from the wall and carrying me over. He lay me down, hovering over me, his eyes sweeping along my exposed skin as if he didn't know where to touch first. His hand came to my breast, kneading it roughly, my chest leaving the mattress and pushing itself against his palm.

A part of me wanted to keep it there forever.

"So perfect," he whispered, capturing the nipple of my opposite breast in his mouth, his tongue swirling around the peak, driving me absolutely insane. I was panting audibly, never before experiencing anything close to this feeling. If I wasn't so turned on, I would have been embarrassed about the sounds that were escaping me.

His warmth was too far away, I wanted him covering me. I wasted no time in pulling him down upon me, his body easily giving itself over to my command. Both his hands were skimming up my thighs, gathering my dress so that it lay bunched-up at my waist. I could feel his length against my hip, my body automatically shifted, trying to get it where it was meant to be. "Are you wet for me?" he breathed in my ear, nipping my lobe. "Am I the only one who can do this to you?" Part of me wanted to scream, "YES!" but the stubborn side of me wouldn't give him the satisfaction. I felt a single finger brush along the apex between my legs, applying more pressure as he reached my bundle of nerves. "Jesus," he moaned, taking a shaky breath and finally bringing his hips back to mine.

If I wasn't sinning right now, I would have just thanked god.

I closed my eyes, basking in the tingles and euphoria that he was producing. I felt his lips lightly brushing along mine, my eyes snapping open and meeting that precious green. "Do you like this?" he asked, thrusting his hips harder against me. I whimpered, grasping his shoulders, my nails digging into his skin as I could feel the stirrings in my stomach start to build. "Do you want me to stop?"

"I swear to god, if you stop now..." I glared at him, wrapping my legs around him once again to show him I was completely serious. He chuckled, and I wanted to wipe that smirk off his beautiful face. I pulled on his hair, the smile slipping from his lips as his eyes became darker, his movements faster.

This time it was my turn to smile.

His hands found my ass, kneading my cheeks and grinding into me with a new vigour. I slid my hands down his chest, stopping at the hem of his shirt, tugging, trying to lift it from his frame. "This comes off," I panted, arching my back as he rolled my right nipple between his fingers. He made quick work of his shirt, his chest and torso bared to me. His skin was flawless, his muscles defined, and I had never wanted to run my fingertips along anything so much in my entire life before. I wanted to see if it really felt as smooth as it looked, wanted to see what it would taste like to my tongue. I was basically a wanting mess. His hips continued to push, gasps leaving my mouth as my legs started to tense. I was so close - and from the way his arms had started to shake, I was pretty sure he was too. I wanted the clothing out the way, I wanted to push my underwear down my legs. I wanted him to remove his jeans. If he'd wanted it too, I would have said yes without delay. I would have given him my virginity.

"Let go, Bella," he voiced, my name expelled as a whisper. He was watching me, his eyes so full of lust, that along with the friction his chest was causing against my sensitive breasts, I fell over the edge. My eyes automatically closed, my mouth opening in a silent moan as my orgasm hit me. I almost thought I would stop breathing completely from its intensity. He was still sliding his hardness back and forth against me as I lay there waiting for my heart to stop racing, grunts pervading the air, his breathing shallow. Three more quick thrusts and I felt him stiffen above me, a groan filling the space around us. I had to battle with myself not to look at him. He collapsed on top of me, his face resting in the crook of my neck, his breath tickling my over-heated skin. I still hadn't opened my eyes, so many different thoughts swirling around in my head. I felt limp and somewhat satiated, but the overwhelming awareness of what I had just done weighed heavily on my emotions. I had given in – I had willingly granted this. Also, a strong part of me wanted to do it again.

I don't know how long we had both been lying there, but our breathing had calmed down considerably, which was the total opposite of the panic swelling inside of me. There was a light sheen of sweat between us, his body slightly slick. It made me feel even more ashamed of what I had just done. Jake's face flashed though my head, and though I didn't think we were dating, I knew this would still hurt him. Then there were my friends, what would they think if they found out? Would they find out? Would Edward now go around and tell everyone, all his friends? I suddenly felt extremely nauseous.

After what felt like forever, he slowly lifted his chest away from me, resting his weight on his arms and looking straight at me. The front part of his hair was stuck to his forehead, and I had to resist the urge to push it away from his damp skin. If I were being entirely truthful, he had never looked so relaxed, or so attractive as he did right then. I couldn't handle looking at him like that, I had to look away. I focused my attention on his discarded shirt on the floor, the dark colour of the material matched my dread perfectly.

"I guess you won, huh?" I voiced emotionless, just waiting for his words of victory to spill forth over my weakness like an unstoppable waterfall. When a few minutes had gone by, and he still hadn't moved or a spoken a word, I had no choice but to sneak a glance at him. His eyes were hard and his jaw was clenched – he almost looked to be fighting with himself over something. He noticed my attention finally directed at him, and exhaled a deep lungful of defeated air.

"Yeah, I guess I did." Those were not the words I had expected to hear come from his mouth. I couldn't help but frown at him. His demeanour was in no way anticipated, and I had no clue how to react - my brain so muddled with self-hatred that I wasn't able to do anything other than stare. His eyes swept down to my chest, horror creeping across my face as I belatedly realized that I was still exposed to him. I wasted no time in pulling the top of my dress back up to cover my breasts, my fists desperately clinging the fabric to my skin as if I could erase the reality that he had seen them, had touched them, not to mention had his sinful mouth on them.

"I think you should leave now," I whispered, dragging my gaze away from his intense expression, trying to detach myself from the situation I now found myself in. He hesitated for just the slightest of seconds before pushing himself off the bed. He bent down to pick his shirt off the floor, my eyes surreptitiously watching as he slipped it over his head. He truly was something to look at. I sat up, the bottom of my dress thankfully falling to a modest length, saving me from any more unwanted uneasiness. His legs slowly moved him to the door, a breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding setting itself free as I watched his hand grasp the metal handle. His knuckles turned white from the strength of his grip, and for an alarming moment I thought he wasn't going to leave. Thankfully, as soon as that thought had transpired, he was unlocking the door and slamming it shut, the sound echoing throughout the room and rattling the pictures on the wall with its force. I scrambled to my feet, rushing to lock the door after him, my form slouching back against the wood while I cradled my head in my hands.

I should never have had this party.

Of course I knew I was the one at fault, and that blaming anyone other than myself would have been totally inaccurate. Edward himself had given me an out, even if he had somewhat initiated it. Not to mention he had been striving towards this for weeks. The worst part was that I must have known what I was doing. I wasn't intoxicated heavily or tricked into anything. I had physically wanted him. And after all the dreams and teasing that had been relentlessly occurring since that night at the beach, I was surprised I had lasted as long as I did.

A knock at the door caused me to jump, a squeak of surprise leaving my throat. "Just a minute," I called, cringing at the scratchy sound to my voice. I quickly made my way to the bathroom, manically trying to flatten down my hair and smooth out my dress. My reflection in the mirror showed flushed cheeks, and bright eyes filled with worry. I was panicking, thinking that someone would be able to take one look at me and just know. I turned on the tap and rinsed my mouth out with water, unsuccessfully trying to remove his taste from my tongue. I turned off the water and took a few deep breaths before switching off the bathroom light and padding across the carpet to open the bedroom door.

Jake was standing there, hands in pockets and looking fairly awkward. "I couldn't find you downstairs, so Alice said I could come up here and check." I could feel the colour draining from my face, guilt crashing over me in violent waves. "Are you okay? You're looking a little pale." The concern on his face was so sincere. I didn't deserve it.

"Yeah, I have a bit of a headache. The noise down there wasn't really helping," I lied, trying to put on my best smile. "I'm sorry I didn't let you know beforehand," I whispered, swallowing the lump that had formed in my throat. He waved me off, asking with his hands if he could come in. I nodded and stood to the side to let him pass, freezing when I saw the rumpled state of the bed sheets.

"Were you sleeping?" he asked softly, perching on the edge of the mattress and tapping the space next to him. Again I just nodded, not trusting my voice to speak. He held out his hand for me to take, pulling me down next to him and hugging me to his side. I wanted nothing more than to sink into him and take comfort from his embrace, but I couldn't, not after what I had just done. "What's that?" he asked, squinting at a point on the floor.

"What's what?" I queried, trying to follow his line of sight to see what held his focus. He removed his arm from around my shoulders, leaving me feeling both relieved and empty. His fingers held up a silver chain, my forgotten necklace hidden among the carpet fibers. "Oh...it must have fallen off," I fibbed, attempting to take it from him with shaky fingers as flashes of just how it had gotten there infiltrated my mind.

He ignored my hand, sweeping my hair over my left shoulder as he settled behind me. He silently reattached the chain around my neck, his fingers slowly following the trail of metal until he righted the pendant as it was meant to be shown. I could feel his breath spreading over my skin, and froze when his lips started brushing along my shoulder. The hand that was settled at my hip started to make its way further up my side towards my breasts. No, no, no, no, no. Not after tonight. I can't. I shot off the bed, running my right hand along my left arm nervously.

"I'm sorry," he said, sounding guilty and just a little confused. I shook my head, he's not the one who should be apologizing, he has nothing to be sorry for.

"No, please don't," I replied, taking a step back towards him. He sighed and looked at me, questions brewing on the tip of his tongue, ready to be unleashed.

"What are we?" he asked, holding my gaze when I felt the powerful urge to look away. We were finally going to have this conversation, answering the very same questions I myself had been thinking about non-stop since we started this. I guess it was finally going to have a name. I just still didn't know if I was ready to. "I mean, you like me, right?" I licked my lips and took a shaky breath.

"Yeah, I like you," I answered truthfully. Like wasn't a strong word, I could deal with like. "You're my friend."

"And is that all we are...just friends?" I broke his stare and looked to the floor, thinking of how to answer this question. I couldn't yet tell if my feelings were strong enough for more, after all, we were only just getting to know each other again. It was all too fast.

"I do feel something for you Jake, I'm just not quite sure what that something is, or how to fully explain it yet, even to myself." I studied his friendly features, wondering if he would get angry or sad, but he did neither of those two things. He smiled at me and stood from the bed, stopping in front of me and grasping my hands in his.

"But you're not opposed to trying?" he whispered eagerly. I thought about it for a second, and then realized that I wasn't. My mind flashed to what I had done not moments before in this very room with Edward. If I could have that type of connection with someone who was in no way my friend, then I could definitely try with someone who was.

"I can try," I stated, watching the smile break across his face. "But I'm not ready for anything serious, no labels." His smile was still in place, and for that I was glad.

"No labels," he repeated. He engulfed me in his arms, and I weakly circled my own around his sizeable frame. His scent was so different. His was comforting and familiar, while Edward was luring and hunger. He was the forbidden fruit. "Get some sleep," he murmured, "I'll let Alice know not to disturb you." I smiled gratefully and watched as he left the room, the door clicking softly behind him.

I wasted no time in stripping out of my clothing, my hands grasping the material of my dress and pulling until it gave way. I didn't care if I had torn it. Holes and tears had already occurred tonight. What did further damage matter? I walked into the bathroom, turning the knob of the shower, altering the water as hot as I could manage. I scrubbed my skin roughly, an angry red forming on it and representing my own feelings towards myself perfectly. The soft peach of the towel I wrapped myself in afterward was such a strident contrast. I chose my old flannel pyjamas, wanting, but not deserving, security and reassurance that everything would turn out okay. I winced at the disheveled bedding as I slid under the covers, turning off the bedside lamp and attempting to block out the fading noise coming from the last of the guests downstairs. I was thankful that I was located on the top floor, the most peaceful spot at this precise moment. I twisted to my side, getting into my usual sleeping position and sighed. That's when his scent hit me; the whole bed smelled like him. Was it even possible? I mean he hadn't even been in it that long. At that point I honestly didn't know if it was my own imagination or not, but what I did comprehend was that I had to get out of that bed. There was no way I could sleep in it. I made my way over to the chaise, pulling the throw from across the back of the chair and settling myself as comfortable as the limited space would allow. That night I dreamed of white - blinding almost it was so bright, feather-like softness and bronze desperation.

"God that dress is so ugly." I cracked an eye open to see Alice and Rose sprawled out on the bed, a magazine between them prodded with pointing fingers. "It's about time you woke up, your snoring was getting on my tits," Rose voiced without looking up from the current page she was scanning. I rolled my eyes.

"I do not snore," I mumbled, covering my mouth as a yawn started to escape. My hand froze mid air when I thought about whether my mistakes had been broadcast at all this morning. They were smiling at me so I was pretty sure I was safe for the time being.

"You should have heard Jazz last night," Alice giggled. "He'd had a little too much to drink and was mumbling the word "Bean" over and over again."

"I swear we're not really related," Rose joked, comically shaking her head at us.

"You feeling better?" Alice inquired while getting off the bed to nudge me over to curl up next to me. I half smiled and shrugged.

"I'll be fine," I assured, and even if I wouldn't be, it was my own fault. I would just have to deal with it, and fix my mistakes to the best of my ability.

"That's really pretty," Alice commentated, fingering the bracelet from Jacob. Another pang of guilt hit me in the chest, my hand rubbing the spot as if I could physically remove it.

"Yeah, it's a birthday gift from Jacob, and this little frog charm is from Quil and Embry," I smiled, flipping it between my fingers.

"Speaking of Jacob," Rose cut in, "I thought he and Edward were going to kick the shit out each other. If looks could kill I swear," she said shaking her head.

I tensed. "What happened?" I inquired, eyes wide.

"Well, nothing in the end," she replied, playing with the ends of her hair. "Edward came down the stairs to the den looking as if he was in a foul mood, which isn't particularly unusual. Of course your man starts giving him the death stare, to which Edward reciprocated. But cranky pants soon left the room with his trail of walking STD's behind him," she sighed. "And oh my god, you should have seen James and Victoria on the dance floor in the early hours this morning! She had her hands down his pants in front of everyone, neither one of them thought it was at all odd...or disgusting. I swear, I was this close to kicking their asses out. It nearly made me lose my martini and cake combo, which again would have made me pissed. That frosting was so good. Em especially enjoyed it," she winked, causing me to giggle and Alice to groan in repulsion. Edward leaving with those hateful girls shouldn't have bothered me, but I couldn't shake off the irritation the information caused. I knew he had a reputation, but to actually go from one person to the next in the space of a few minutes seemed extremely low - even for him. If it was remotely possible, I felt all the more ashamed of myself. I was merely another name added to his list of conquests. The only positive I could gain was that I hadn't slept with him. The fact that he never once attempted to push it past what we were doing was somewhat surprising. I thought for sure he would have wanted more. Simply one more piece of information to add to the seemingly never ending inventory belonging to Edward Cullen.

"I'll get up now and go tackle the battlefield of mess that is bound to be everywhere. My party, my mess," I smiled, sitting up and rubbing my eyes.

"Please, that's been done for hours now. Cleaning crews are worth every penny." I launched myself at her, hugging her to me as I rocked us back and forth.

"Oh thank god, I don't think I could have handled that this morning," I voiced gratefully, smiling when she giggled. She kissed the top of my head and patted my ass, telling me that however much she happened to be enjoying the love, Charlie had called asking me to come home.

I scrunched up my brow in wonder. "Do you know why?" I asked her, feeling even more confused when she puckered her lips and shook her head. She either didn't know herself, or the little mischief maker was keeping secrets. It was incredibly unusual for Charlie to call here, in fact he had never previously done so. My interest was definitely piqued.

"Come on Ali, let's leave Bella to change. Call us later, okay?" Rose smirked. Yes, they were most definitely keeping something from me. I scowled playfully at them before bringing them both into a hug at the same time, thanking them for last night. I had gained some form of pleasure from both parts of the evening, even if the later part had ended on a disastrous note. I would need to talk to him, I knew that, but not today. I couldn't face him today. Perhaps he would act as if nothing had happened? Sometimes living in denial could be blissful, I merely hoped he felt the same way. I categorically wouldn't be holding my breath on that one.

Once dressed, bags in hand, and bed swiftly remade, I found myself standing at the door without any intention of walking through it. I was stalling. I knew whose room was opposite to this one, and that he would without a doubt hear me open the door if he was holed up in his own room. In simple terms, I was being a chicken-shit. Stop being an idiot, it's not as if you can live in here forever... ooh look, I could so fit a mini kitchen in that corner. I mean, there's already a bathroom adjoined to the room. All I would need is someone to bring me things every now and again to make sure I don't starve. It would be perfect. With the way I was feeling right at that second,if it was at all possible I would've given the whole thing a damn good shot. After another pep-talk, I grabbed the handle and opened it, rushing out the room and not bothering to close the door behind me. I couldn't help but shoot a glance at the offending door as I flew past, praying that it wouldn't fling open and reveal a smug Edward. I breathed a sigh of relief when I reached the bottom of the stairs, thankful that I hadn't had an uncomfortable run-in. I had been looking towards the ground when I rammed into someone. And it had all been going so well. I looked up into the attractive face and blushed. Looks like it just got even better.

"I'm so sorry, Dr. Cullen. I wasn't looking where I was going," I apologized, even though a part of me wasn't that sorry. Whatever you do, do not lick his face.

"Don't be silly, it's fine. I wasn't either," he laughed. "Plus, I always look forward to these collisions," he winked. Oh Jesus, just say the word and I'll never stop. I'll change my profession to personal stalker, anything. I had to stop myself from voicing that I was his to do with as he wished. Shame he was only joking. Thinking about it, I should really hate Esme. Jealousy is such an ugly emotion. I heard a door bang upstairs and hurriedly said my goodbyes, making sure to slyly glance over my shoulder at his pert ass. I am such a pervert. I uncharacteristically left through the front door, not knowing who, if anyone, would be hovering in the kitchen. I wasn't taking any chances.

My bags were slipping off my arms as I made my way home, quiet curses slipping from my lips at my inability to even carry a bag. They nearly fell to the ground at the double-take I did at the sight of two cars I had never seen before parked in driveway. Charlie's cruiser was also parked there as usual, but he hadn't mentioned we were expecting guests. Then panic coursed through my veins as I started thinking the worst. What if something had happened to him? I was stumbling across the lawn, half-tripping on a flower pot on the front step before bursting through the door.

"Dad," I shouted, rounding the corner, having to blow wayward stands of hair out of my face so I could see properly and not fall flat on my face. This was so not time for any of my clumsy accidents. It would be just my luck to knock myself out in what could be a potential crisis. I could feel tears instantly form as I gazed at my mother and Phil sitting on the couch, identical smiles on their faces. I dropped my bags on the floor as Renee stood from the seat, her arms open ready to embrace me. I wasted no time at all stepping into her hold. She was dressed in her typical eccentric attire, a red and orange patterned floaty long sleeved top, black leggings and huge hoop earrings. She was barefoot, which didn't surprise me as she used to hate people walking into our house with their shoes on, so she would never do it herself in another's home, even if it had once belonged to her.

"My beautiful girl," she whispered, stroking the back of my hair reverently.

"I've missed you so much," I confessed, momentarily tightening my grip on her. She had worn the same perfume for years, all honeysuckle and rose - natural resources only. I adored it. It reminded me of childhood trips to the swings, and teen years when a particularly good looking resident had moved into the neighbourhood. She had always been a terrible flirt. Mostly innocent, but a flirt nonetheless.

"You didn't think that I would've only sent a measly email to my only daughter do you?" she asked, taking me by the shoulders and brushing my hair behind my ears. I bit my lip, suddenly feeling sheepish.

"I might have," I whispered, smiling at her. She simply shook her head, turning to Charlie and Phil to playfully roll her eyes.

"Well, now you're finally home, you can have your present. I got Charlie to phone next door earlier but you were sleeping. He had to stop me from coming over just to see you," she huffed, causing me to giggle. It was no threat, she would've done it, too.

"Ah, so this is this gift that Charlie was on about?" I sighed. "Honestly, I really didn't want anything," I protested. Neither were short of money, this was true. After all, how would Phil be able to live off the wage of a semi-professional ball player and still be so comfortable financially. The guy was loaded, and I knew Charlie saved most of his money. The TV he bought a few months back was the only extravagant item that he had apparently gotten in years. I never once doubted him on that.

"Your mom picked it out, but I chose the colour," Charlie stated, rising from his recliner with Phil in tow. I walked forward and gave my step dad a small hug. He had always been really cool to have around the house, even if at first I had found it a little strange. He was more like a buddy than an actual parental figure. Needless to say, he was always teasing Renee about something or other, occasionally getting me to join in. They made each other smile so much. It was exceptionally easy to like him. Even Charlie seemed to get on with him on the very few occasions they had met, but then, that was Dad. He would give everyone a chance at least once, whether he actually wanted to or not. That was merely the nature of his personality.

"The colour of what?" I inquired, utterly puzzled when they started pushing me out the door. Then I saw Renee with a huge grin etched onto her face while standing next to one of the cars. The red car to be exact. He remembered that I had wanted my first car to be red. I gave Charlie a watery smile while tiptoeing to kiss him on the cheek. "Thank you." His cheeks turned a mild red, slinging his arm over my shoulder and leading me to it.

"I can't believe you all did this for me. It's too much," I said while running my hand along the cold metal.

"Nonsense," my mother replied. "You like it don't you?" she asked, sounding a little worried now. "If you don't, we can take it back and change it for something else," she added.

I gazed back at her as if she had suddenly sprung two heads. "Are you serious? I love it, it's perfect," I stated, and it truly was... well to me anyway. Phil started talking "car," and while I didn't understand most things he was saying, I did manage to make out that it was a Mitsubishi Eclipse. As long as it wouldn't break down on me and leave me stranded in the middle of nowhere, that was all that mattered to me. I had learned how to drive last year, and already had a license. My mother had offered to buy me a car once before, but back in Phoenix I had gone nearly everywhere with her, so there really wasn't much need for my own vehicle – I would just always borrow hers if a situation ever called for me to do so.

"We'll take it for a test drive later while the men watch their sports," my mom winked, looking so excited that I couldn't help but smile back at her. I think that's just another reason I had gotten so close to Alice, they had a lot of similarities in some ways, especially when it came to being able to encase you in their emotions. They both had extremely infectious personalities. The two men were still discussing my car, and I figured they'd be talking about such things for a while yet. My mother wrapped me in her arms as we walked back into the house, making it a little difficult to move, but I didn't care. She was here. I picked up my discarded bags and asked her how long she was staying as we ascended the stairs.

"We've got to be heading off early tomorrow morning, Phil has a game to get to back for," she responded. "But we'll see each other again for Christmas, whether you fly out to us, or we come here, just as long as I get to see you." I dumped my bags on my bed as Renee made herself comfortable on the edge of the mattress. I started emptying the contents to put away, but paused when I suddenly remembered something.

"Carlisle and Esme gave me plane tickets for my birthday, so that side of things is already taken care of," I informed her, feeling totally spoiled from all the gifts I had been given from my friends and family.

"Then it's settled, you can fly out to us. Try and drag your dad with you, if you can. He may need a lot of persuading, but it will do him good to get out of this town," she sighed. "You know, I don't think he's ever even had a proper vacation, gone to an exotic destination, nothing. He's very much stuck in his ways, always was," she smiled, obviously thinking back to their earlier times. That was one thing I was always truly thankful for, the fact that they had split amicably. I don't know what I would've done if the situation had somehow been reversed.

"I'll try, but I think it's pretty inevitable that he'll refuse." We both nodded seriously for a second before breaking out into small chuckles. We both knew deep down it would take more than a few pleading words to get him on that plane.

"So, tell me more about these friends of yours." We settled into easy conversation, me relaying the summer events and funny stories pertaining everyone. She would inject her own snippets of information along the way, and soon enough, we were updated on each other's lives.

"So, any boys you want to tell me about?" she asked with an impish glint in her eye. This was the question I had been dreading as I turned away to put my earrings from Rose safely in my jewelery box so she couldn't decipher the look on my face. I wanted to tell her about last night, about the mistake I had made, but I didn't want to see her disappointment reflected back at me. She had always drilled into me never to do anything I wasn't comfortable with, or that didn't feel right. But the thing is, last night... those feelings that I had experienced were so intense, that however mad I was at myself for they way I had achieved them, I couldn't stop thinking about how good it felt.

"Not really," I finally answered. "I mean, I have a friend who I'm close with, but nothing serious as of yet. We're just going to see how things go." I didn't tell her about Edward and the fact he constantly drove me to a yearning state. I hadn't even included him in any of my stories. To her, he simply didn't exist. My mood had shifted, so I was grateful to Phil when he shouted to Renee from the bottom of the stairs, something to do with a cake. I mentally prayed it was store bought, otherwise disaster could strike anyone of us in the form of food poisoning. It was absolutely true, she was in no way a cook. If it wasn't for Phil, she would be eating sandwiches constantly.

"Come down for cake when you're ready, okay?" she grinned. "I better go stop them both from demolishing the whole thing." She kissed the top of my head and shut the door behind her, shouting as she descended the stairs that the cake better still be in the perfect condition she had left it in. Both of those men had incredible sweet-tooths, however much they tried to hide it. They probably thought it was unmanly or something.

I got to the last bag on my bed, the one from Edward. I considered just shoving it away in the back of my closet and forgetting about it, but I didn't. The set was so very pretty, and I wanted to keep it. Would I feel at ease wearing them? Probably not, but I couldn't throw them away. I hadn't noticed before just how heavy the bag actually was, my hand freezing when I spied something else in there. I slowly reached my hand inside, pulling the heavy package from inside. The was a note attached to the outside, his handsome scrawl decorating the paper.

To further add to your terrible taste in literature - E.

I pulled the box open and gasped when I spotted the full collection of Austen nestled inside amongst the colourful and delicate layers of tissue paper. How did he know I didn't have them? Yes, I had read them all, but I had forgotten to bring my old copies from Phoenix. Then I remembered he had been in my room, and studied my possessions. Granted, it could have just been luck on his part, but something told me that wasn't the case.

I think I despised him even more in that one moment; he had just made everything explicitly more complicated.


Reviews will get teasers. Now I know some may be a little grumpy after this chapter, but please trust me. I only read B&E, so that should give you some indication of my plan here. You will get what you are after, I promise. Let me know what you think. :)

Also, Bella's car is real. I didn't add on Eclipse just because of the books. Picture is one profile.

Thanks for reading. VHL xx