This story was originally written as a one-shot for "The Sandbox Presents: Things That Go Bump in the Night" contest.

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters. No copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter One

Well, at least I didn't have to wear a costume.

I sighed as I shrugged into the black button-up dress shirt and tucked it neatly into the waistband of my pants. Lori had indicated that our dress code for the evening was all-black, to fit in with the theme of the Cullens' party, not to mention the holiday. It was Halloween, after all.

Strange, I'd moved to Port Angeles to get away from Forks, to put some distance between myself and all the memories there. And yet, here I was, getting ready to go back not just to Forks, but to the home of my high school crush, Edward Cullen. So strange how things come full circle.

Edward had become my default biology lab partner when I'd moved to Forks in the middle of my junior year. Jessica had warned on me on my first day there that the Cullens pretty much kept to themselves, and Edward was no exception. He didn't say a single word to me during that first class we had together, just leaned away with a disgusted look on his face. Not exactly a confidence booster. Then he'd been absent from school for a week. His first day back, he took the initiative and introduced himself, apologized for being rude, and we chatted about inconsequential things. The next day, he went back to ignoring me. He was polite when we had to work together on labs, but nothing otherwise.

I spent my summer break working at Newton's Sporting Goods and fending off Mike's frequent advances. Eww. I didn't ever see any of the Cullens, except for the two times I ended up at the hospital (broken knuckle and suspected concussion, respectively) and saw Edward's father, Dr. Cullen. He would always inquire as to how I was doing, how my summer was going, and we made small-talk as he checked me over. He never mentioned Edward and I never asked.

To my surprise, when school started again in the fall, Edward was in all of my classes. Every. Single. One. He was still ignoring me, though, so it didn't really matter. God, if he'd been a little friendlier and I'd been a little more confident, I could have maybe approached him about being study partners and gotten to know him better. I liked to think that I could have worked up to hinting that he should ask me out or something. He never turned in my direction, though, and so I spent the entire first semester in unrequited lust after the gorgeous guy that was never more than a seat or two away from me, all day long. I never told anyone, not Angela and definitely not Jess, who probably would have told Lauren and had a great laugh at my expense. Edward Cullen wasn't interested in dating anyone at Forks High, and definitely not quiet mousy Bella.

But then Charlie suffered a fatal heart attack three days after Christmas and even after I finally went back to school a month later, everything in my life had become blurred around the edges and slightly out of focus. Renee had pleaded with me to come and live with her and Phil, but I knew I would be headed right back into the same situation I'd avoided by going to live with Charlie in the first place. Charlie's house was sold, and with Renee's reluctant approval, I went to live with my best friend Jacob and his dad Billy in their shoebox house on the reservation. The Quileutes became my second family and surrounded me with love, they kept me from going off the deep end after Charlie's death. But even my memories of living in that little shoebox house were blurry. The only thing I remembered with any clarity of detail was that when I went back to school, Edward started talking to me again.

Of course, by then it was a bit late.

One week after graduation I put the boxes of my belongings into the back of my truck, headed for Port Angeles, rented an apartment, and enrolled at Peninsula College, just as I knew Charlie would have wanted. Jacob and Billy had been sad to see me go, but understood that I needed to get away from Forks and just made me promise that I'd let them know if I ever needed help, and to come back to visit every once in a while.

That had been almost four and a half months ago, and I hadn't been back.

I had enough money to be comfortable, with the sale of the house and Charlie's life insurance policy, but I'd picked up a job part-time with Lori and her catering company, Classic Creations. She specialized in smaller high-end gigs, and I helped out whenever she needed an extra pair of hands. Tonight I was going to be a waiter at the Cullens' party, back in Forks.

Evidently Dr. Cullen was throwing the bash as a going-away and retirement party for another one of the doctors at Forks Hospital. Dr. Gerandy was seventy-five years old, had lived in the area for most of his life, and was beloved by the entire community. Quite a few former Forks residents were actually coming back into town for this party to wish him well. So that the party would feel welcoming to all instead of stuffy, it was being held at the Cullens' home instead of at a hotel ballroom or reception hall.

I hadn't told Jake or Billy yet that I would be back in town. I decided that I'd see how I felt after the party, and maybe give them a call and crash at their place instead of driving back to Port Angeles.

Sighing, I gave myself a little shake. I needed to get going pretty soon or I'd be late, Lori had asked me to be there by 7:00. I quickly put my hair up into a French twist, slicked on some lipgloss, and tucked my driver's license and some cash into a small wallet that slipped into my pants' pocket. Five minutes later I was in my truck and headed back towards Forks.

The drive was uneventful and soon enough I was slowing down to turn into the Cullens' drive. Someone had been thoughtful enough to wrap orange twinkle lights around the trees on either side of the drive, fortunate since the cutoff wasn't marked in any other way and I probably would have completely missed it.

I'd never visited the Cullens' home before, but I'd heard plenty about it and as I pulled within sight of the gigantic white house, I understood why they could easily have a party here. The place was huge. Following Lori's directions from earlier, I drove around behind the house and parked next to the Classic Creations van. Lori, I knew, had been here since early this afternoon.

I sat for a moment, looking up at the gorgeous white house, and wondered if Edward would be there tonight. Technically, I wasn't there to mingle with the invited guests, but surely if he were there I could at least say hello and ask how he was doing. It was the least I could do to acknowledge his kindness towards me in the later half of our senior year.

When Edward had started talking to me again, after I'd returned to school in late January, it was at first just kind routine inquiries, the type that I received everywhere I went. Charlie had been the small-town police chief, and now that small town's eyes were trained sympathetically on his daughter. Edward gave me his phone number and told me to call him if I ever needed help catching up on my schoolwork, or if I wanted to study together. I never did. He made sure that I took notes throughout the classes we had together, and if I zoned out too much and forgot, he would give me his. He always appeared conveniently in line behind me at lunch and made sure that I actually put food on my tray, before I went to sit with Jess and Angela and he went to his own table with Alice, the only one of his siblings still at Forks High. After a while he started making little jokes here and there, trying to coax a smile out of me. It was never anything more than friendliness, but it was enough that I actually remembered those moments from a period when everything else was somewhat lacking in my memory. They were moments I would have thrilled to if the numbness of Charlie's death hadn't surrounded me. At graduation, he'd come up to me and taken my hand. I could recall in perfect detail how chilly his skin was, but I remembered being surprised at the unexpected contact, and his words to me: "Be safe, Bella." Even at the time, they'd seemed strange, but in the next moment his sister Alice had pulled me into a strong hug, yet another surprise since I barely knew her.

"It will all work out, I know it!" she'd whispered in my ear. I'd puzzled over her strange words, but it was graduation and everyone was either crying or hugging or promising to keep in touch no matter what. One week later I'd left for Port Angeles and I hadn't seen any of the Cullens since then.

And so it was very strange that now here I sat, behind the Cullens' gorgeous home, thinking about what had been, what could have been, and the strange little detours that life will send you on.

My phone chirped with an incoming call, and I saw it was Lori. Instead of answering, I opened the truck's door, took a deep breath of the damp autumn air, and walked towards the back door, leaving my jacket behind in the truck. Inside was a buzz of activity: the Cullens had evidently hired a company to decorate the house in a Halloween theme, and I knew that guests were supposed to be arriving in costume. It seemed a strange combination, Halloween party and retirement celebration, but the festive holiday atmosphere did lighten the mood. Maybe on second thought, it was a pretty clever idea.

The kitchen was easy to find, and Lori's face relaxed visibly when she saw me. "Oh Bella, thank goodness you're here. Paula just called off, if you can believe it? The biggest party I've had all season, and she waits until an hour before to call off. It'll be you, Penny, and Tony working the floor tonight. They aren't doing a sit-down dinner or anything like that, so just keep the appetizers moving and clean up as it's needed. We'll do champagne as the party gets going for the toast, but then they'll have a separate bar for drinks. Mrs. Cullen asked that we start serving the desserts around nine-thirty, so you'll probably be out of here by ten-thirty at the latest. Tony is going to help me break down. Okay?"

I nodded. One of the great things about Lori was that she planned everything down to the tiniest detail. It made my job easier: circulate with the hors d'oeuvres, smile at the guests, remember my p's and q's, pick up abandoned dishware, and generally make sure I represented Lori's company as well as possible. It wasn't rocket science, and she paid pretty well since she often had to call on me last-minute. Paula skipping out would make things a little more hectic, but I wasn't too worried since this wasn't a snooty high society-gig.

I helped Lori finish prepping the last of the hot apps, ready to go into the oven before service, and put the finishing touches on the cold apps. Penny and Tony arrived, and soon enough, we heard the increasing babble of arriving guests in the next room. Mrs. Cullen came into the kitchen just then.

"I think things are ready to get started, we'll probably kick things off officially with the toast in a few minutes, Lori." She smiled at each of us, then came up to me. "Bella, dear, how are you doing? I'd heard you moved to Port Angeles?"

I was stunned. My departure from Forks had barely been noticed by some of my friends, and yet Esme Cullen was aware of it? "I'm taking classes at Peninsula College now," I squeaked out, remembering my manners.

She nodded, her smile growing even wider. "That's wonderful, I'm glad to hear it. Edward always spoke so fondly of you, and of course we all dearly miss your father. I'd wondered where your after-school plans had taken you."

I ducked my head, completely floored by her words. Edward had mentioned ME to his mother? And not just mentioned, but "spoke fondly of?" That was interesting to hear, to say the least. Esme inhaled sharply as if to say something else, but instead paused, reached out to gently touch my cheek, and then left the kitchen.

Lori eyed me curiously. "You know the Cullens?" With all the expensive society parties she catered, she had a very strict no-fraternization policy. We were there to serve the food and make sure the client was satisfied at the end of the night. We were not there to schmooze or pal around with the guests. With all of the high-profile clients she'd had, it was a necessary policy and I understood where she was coming from.

"Well no, I mean, yes, I guess…I went to school with their kids, and I've met Dr. Cullen a few times. They're nice people."

"Oh, I didn't realize that." I nodded silently, and thankfully Lori's attention was diverted as she and Tony began popping open the bottles of champagne. Penny lined up the glasses and for a while we were completely occupied with filling rows upon rows of champagne flutes and arranging them on trays. Penny, Tony and I carefully carried them into the living room when they were all filled, allowing the guests to pick them off our trays. This was always the part of working these gigs that made me nervous, it would be true Bella Swan style to trip and dump a tray full of champagne flutes all over an honored guest or thousand-dollar outfit. I kept my eyes fixed steadily between where I placed my feet and where my tray was in relation to my body and soon enough the three of us had distributed champagne to all the guests present. We retreated back towards the kitchen to get ready to distribute the hors d'oeuvres, when I allowed myself a glance back into the gigantic living room.

They were just starting the little speeches and toasts, the room crammed with smiling people raising their glasses. Everyone had indeed come in costume and there were witches, ghosts, and zombies, along with more creative costumes such as Albert Einstein, an Egyptian pharaoh, and even a Beyonce or two. I thought I saw Alice Cullen dressed up as the sexy genie from I Dream of Jeannie, but with the blonde wig I wasn't sure. Dr. and Mrs. Cullen were dressed up as a royal couple from a time past, Esme's gown looked like real silk and a bejeweled crown sparkled convincingly on her head, while Dr. Cullen somehow managed to make knee-length breeches and a spangly jacket look good. I didn't see anyone that I could tell was Edward anywhere.

He's probably not even here. I remember Edward mentioning during one of our mostly-one-sided conversations that he'd been accepted to Dartmouth College. There was no reason for him to have flown back across the country for a party in the middle of the semester. My shoulders sagged, but I wasn't sure if it was in relief or disappointment.

The toasts were made, the hot apps were ready to circulate soon enough, and I busied myself working around the room, picking up empty champagne flutes. There wasn't a still moment with us being down one person, so time flew by very quickly. It wasn't until my stomach growled rather loudly that I peeked at my watch and was surprised at the time. No wonder I was starving, I'd only pecked at my breakfast that morning and I'd forgotten to eat lunch.

I went back into the kitchen, only to find it empty. It was usually at this point, when the party relaxed into its groove but before dessert service, when Lori took a well-earned break and went outside for a breather and sit-down. There were still plenty of the apps sitting on the counter, cooling on the trays, so I took the opportunity to pop one into my mouth. Mmm, mussels wrapped in pancetta. Absolutely delicious. I swallowed it down and grabbed another one, knowing that Lori wouldn't care. The flavor was absolutely perfect, and I savored the second one, chewing more slowly and sliding the app off its skewer, pulling the wooden stick carefully out from between my teeth.


I let out a muffled yelp and half-choked on the morsel of food in my mouth, I hadn't realized anyone else was in the room. I coughed once and then hastily swallowed, rapidly blinked back the water in my eyes, and turned around towards the voice.

"Sorry, you just really surprised me…" I muttered apologetically, probably turning ten shades of red, when I realized that the figure lounging easily against the doorframe was Edward Cullen.

He looked the same, in fact it was remarkable how he hadn't changed at all in the months since I last saw him. The same tousled bronze hair, the same beautiful eyes, the same perfect face that would make a supermodel cry in envy. He was dressed casually in jeans and a black t-shirt that hugged his carved arms and chest, and a half-smirk sat on his full lips. "Hello, Bella."

"Ed-ward? I…hi, how are you?" I knew the words sounded stupid as soon as they'd left my lips. I sounded more like a groupie meeting her rock idol than a woman greeting a former classmate. Even if that classmate had been her secret high school crush and the subject of more than a few naughty dreams since then.

Edward pushed himself away from the doorframe and came towards me, his movements as graceful as I remembered, easy and sinuous as a mountain lion moving through the forest. "I'm fine, Bella, and how are you?"

"I'm…okay. Just working, you know."

He nodded. "My mother told me that you were here. Imagine my surprise." It wasn't a question, and I wasn't quite sure how to take it. Was he surprised because he was happy to see me again? Or surprised that his former classmate was now the hired help at a party thrown by his wealthy parents? I felt myself flushing at the thought…I had never really thought of myself as "the help" at any of the gigs I'd worked for Lori, but somehow the familiarity of this one made me feel as though I were at a disadvantage. Here he was in town from Dartmouth for his parents' party – no, function – and I was picking up dirty napkins that the guests had casually discarded on the side tables.

Why couldn't I have met him again on more equal terms? Why couldn't we have run into each other in Port Angeles, or when I eventually got around to visiting Jake and Billy? Why were we right back where we'd parted, where I was boring and clumsy little Bella Swan, while he was a gorgeous and privileged Cullen? My face flamed and I knew I ought to buck up, that no one could make me feel this way except for me, but I couldn't help it. In that moment, I knew very clearly what I'd never truly realized back in high school…he was too good for me. He probably had a beautiful socialite girlfriend back in New Hampshire, that is if she wasn't here tonight. He and his family simply moved in different circles from plain old me, there was no reason why he would ever want what I had to offer.

Standing directly in front of me now, Edward lifted his hand to pluck the empty wooden skewer from between my frozen fingers. "You're wrong, you know, what you're thinking." He tossed the skewer onto the marble countertop, and it was then that I noticed how close he was. He smelled so incredibly good, I could actually smell him, he was so close, and it was absolutely intoxicating.

"What am I thinking, that's wrong?" I asked slowly, too dazzled by his proximity to put together a wittier answer. Edward put one hand on the countertop behind me, next to my hip, and then lifted his other hand to run the length of his index finger along my cheekbone.

"You're perfect," he breathed into my ear, leaning even closer before. "Perfect, beautiful, in every way. Why wouldn't I want you?" The tingles running through my body started feeling more like jolts of electricity then, and I fleetingly wondered if someone had slipped something illicit into my glass of water. There was no way this could be real…two minutes ago I'd been noshing on Italian bacon, thinking about my growling stomach, now Edward Cullen had me pinned up against the cold hard counter in his kitchen, calling me beautiful. This kind of thing only happened in movies and on soap operas, not in real life. Was he messing with me?

"You…you could have mentioned that when we were back in high school," I managed to squeak out. "You know, back when I actually had a crush on you?"

The half-smile that had been on his lips pulled into a full one as he looked down, letting his fingertip slide down my cheek, over my jaw, down the column of my neck, and settling on my collarbone, just barely exposed by the unbuttoned collar of my shirt. "You had a crush on me?"

Oh shit, had I said that out loud? Backtrack Bella, backtrack! Save face! "Well, along with the entire female population of Forks High, that is."

"Hmm," he mused, his fingertip running just slightly back-and-forth on my collarbone. "But what about you, Bella?"

I rolled my eyes. Really? Was he really going to do this Don Juan routine in the kitchen of his parents' home? Did he think it was as though we were right back in biology class, meeting for the first time, and that he hadn't ignored me for months afterward? "Yes, of course I had a crush on you. Too bad you couldn't be bothered to talk to me and find out." The words came out without thinking and in my next breath, I would have given anything to take them back. It too sharply reminded me of when he did start talking to me, and how kind he had been then.

As if in reaction to my own embarrassment, he leaned back, pushing away from me. "Trust me Bella, at that time it would have been very bad for you to like me. I couldn't encourage that."

I gasped, genuinely mortified now. Was he actually saying that he was too good for me? That I wouldn't have been good for what, his college career? His aspirations? His plans? Or was I just the pathetic little Bella Swan in his eyes, with her sad little crush and sad story, someone he felt a moral obligation to keep an eye on for a few months before we graduated?

"Well, in that case, I'm glad you didn't." My voice was coming from far away, it sounded empty and hurt to my ears, but there was anger in it too, and I drew on that. "I would hate to have messed up any of your plans, or your perfect life."

His eyebrows drew together as his forehead creased into a frown. "Bella, that's not what I…"

"Spare me, Edward, please. You come in here, push me up against your kitchen counter, call me beautiful, and then in the next breath say that I wouldn't have been good for you? What the fuck is wrong with you? Who does that?"

"I didn't…" he started, taking a step towards me again. This time, however, I put my hand up flat against his chest, and when he kept coming, I pushed back.

I may as well have been pushing a boulder. The muscles under his shirt didn't give an inch, and he moved even closer to me. The knowledge that I'd been ready to wrap myself around him, to kiss the full lips I'd dreamt about so many times, while all along he was reminding himself of all the reasons why I wasn't good enough…it made me angry. I brought my other hand up to his chest alongside the other and I shoved him away, hard.

"Bella!" The gasp came from the door leading to the back of the house where Lori stood frozen in shock. "What are you…" Her eyes flitted over to Edward, who had finally backed off, and her eyes widened as her mouth rounded in horror. I imagined how it must look to her, one of her employees pushing around the son of tonight's client, and I moaned internally.

"Mr. Cullen, I'm sorry, I didn't realize…did you need something? Or does your mother?"

"No, thank you Ms. Stein. Bella and I were just catching up." With that, Edward turned and walked out of the kitchen, and Lori wheeled to me.

"Bella, please tell me that was not what it looked like." Lori's voice was calm, but the meaning in her words was apparent. And what could I say, it had been exactly what it looked like.

"I'm sorry, Lori. Edward and I…he…it won't happen again." Lori shook her head, unhappiness tight around her eyes and lips. I was one of her most reliable employees, but she had her business to think of, and she was obviously thinking that I'd jeopardized it. Maybe I had.

"Bella, you know what an important client this is for me. I can't afford to have anyone representing my business…" she stopped and shook her head. "The evening has been a lot easier than I thought it would be. Why don't you go ahead and leave? I'll pay you for the full time I'd originally planned."

I nodded silently, shaking with nerves and utter humiliation. Lori had been a great boss, even just part-time, and I'd let her down. I couldn't blame her for what she was obviously thinking. She turned to begin plating the desserts and I walked out of the kitchen and out through the back door, the cheerful clamor of the party fading behind me.

There were orange twinkle lights strung up in the trees out behind the house too, and they cast my red truck in an eerie glow as I plodded over, yanked open the door, and slouched behind the wheel. Once there, I shut my eyes and took several deep breaths, mortification still burning in every cell of my body. What would Lori say if Esme came back into the kitchen to inquire about me again? I'm sorry, Mrs. Cullen, I had to send Bella home. She was being inappropriate with your son. I felt like a scolded child, and plus I was pretty sure that I'd just been fired from my part-time job.

I choked back a sob. Screw this. I didn't need to be here, I didn't need these people or any of this. I'd go back to Port Angeles tonight and find another part-time job later, not that I really needed to. Maybe I'd just…

Maybe I should just get out of here. I swiped the back of my hand across my eyes and took one last shuddering breath. No more crying, I had pride too. I turned the key in the ignition of my truck, saying farewell to Edward Cullen, for good this time.

The truck let out one cough, rumbled, and then died. I turned the key again, and this time it barely let out a whimper before it died again. I sat clutching the steering wheel, praying harder than I had in a long time. Oh please please, not now, not here. Please please just start and let me get home, or at least just run long enough to get me to Jake and Billy's… I turned the key again and this time there was absolutely no sound from under the hood of the truck. It had been acting up over the past few weeks, but worked well enough to get me around Port Angeles. Apparently the drive to Forks had done it in.

My options were pretty bleak: I could go back inside and meekly beg a ride back to Port Angeles with Lori, leaving my dead rusting truck sitting behind the Cullens' lovely home. I could call a tow truck and have it hauled away as all the guests strolling out to their Mercedes and BMWs watched in horror. I could call Jake and beg him to come pick me up, but none of the Quileutes liked the Cullens for reasons I'd never understood, and they refused to set foot on the Cullens' property. So any way I looked at it, I was pretty much screwed.

Tears boiled out of my eyes then and I bent my head to the steering wheel. This was just too much. I hated allowing myself to be so weak, but at that moment, I was just too tired and depressed to care. I cried silently for a few minutes, only to jerk upright with a gasp of shock when someone tapped on my window.

It was Edward. His expression was pleading, and if I hadn't been so utterly demoralized, I would have given him the finger and told him to leave me the hell alone. As it was, though, I was sitting in a busted truck in his driveway with damn few options.

"What do you want?" It came out dull instead of accusatory.

"Bella, can I talk to you? Please?"

"It's not like I have a choice," I muttered quietly, but he evidently heard me because he went around to the other side of the truck and opened the door, sliding onto the seat next to me. I stared at the steering wheel and spoke.

"I am swallowing my pride here, just so you know. But I think I need a ride, just into town. I'll have my friend Jake come pick me up from there. And I'll make sure my truck is towed first thing tomorrow morning, so it won't be in the way."

He didn't respond, and I finally looked over at him. He was looking at me with such intensity that even after the misery of the past twenty minutes, my heart jumped. The soft orange of the twinkle lights lit up his skin strangely and glittered in the topaz of his beautiful eyes. "You misunderstood me before, Bella, I wish you'd let me explain. I never said that you weren't good enough for me."

All the breath went out of my lungs as if I'd been punched. This night just kept getting worse.

"I don't want…"

"Bella, please just stop and listen to me for a minute? I said that it would have been very bad for you to like me. Bad for you. At that time," he paused for a moment, "It wouldn't have been in your best interest to be around me more than you already were. As much as I wanted to be around you, and it was very very much…" His finger was reaching back towards me again and brushing over my cheekbone, just as it had before in the kitchen. "I was afraid I'd end up hurting you. But please know that there was nothing I wanted more than to be around you, I wanted it all the time. I'm sorry I didn't make that clear."

I hiccupped, feeling somewhat mollified. "Why would you have hurt me?"

He thought for a moment, and then brushed away one last tear that remained on my cheek. His fingers were shockingly cold. "I can't really explain it. But please believe me when I say that I would never hurt you now. I could never hurt you now. I will only take care of you, like I always wanted to." His fingers trailed back across my face to my neck, which he then stroked gently.

I sat blinking, thoughts whirling madly, but enjoying the sensation of his hand brushing over my skin. "I…I don't think that makes sense. I don't understand."

"I know." He wasn't surprised. "It's not exactly something I can explain in one conversation. But I'll tell you everything, eventually." His fingers, gentle as a caress, began pulling the pins out of my hair. "Alice was happy to see you tonight too. She's actually hoping that you'll come back inside."

"What about you?" I felt him pull the last pin out of its place in the French twist and my hair slowly uncoiled, slipping down my back. Edward carefully placed the hairpins in a neat pile on the dashboard, then returned his hand to my hair, softly running his fingers through until it had spread into its normal mass of thick waves over my shoulders. His other hand moved to my face as if it was a magnet and he was being pulled inexorably towards it. This time his fingertips brushed over my lips and his entire body moved closer to me.

"Me? I'm very much hoping that you'll come in."

I bit my lip and thought about it. The thought of spending more time with Edward undeniably made my pulse race, but I somehow felt as though we'd skipped a very important point in the conversation. The way his eyes were moving over me made me hot and cold by turns, and I couldn't deny that the attraction I'd felt for him was still there, if not greater. He took his fingers away from my mouth at the same he leaned in close to me, and I let my eyes close as his cool hard lips met mine.

It was better than I'd ever thought it would be. Of all the times I'd imagined kissing him in my high school crush, in all the more erotic fantasies I'd had about him as my fascination had grown, nothing had come close to the feeling of his mouth on mine, of his hands on my body. One still tangled in my hair and the other was on my hip, pulling me into him. I moaned softly as his lips parted and his cool tongue ran over my lower lip, mutely directing my mouth to open. The taste of him was so sweet on my tongue, the feeling of his rock-hard body pressed against mine made my very insides ache in the most wonderful way. He moaned too and deepened the kiss, until I was truly breathing him in, and even his breath was cool in my mouth. When his lips left mine I gasped in air.


"Hmm?" His lips were moving down my jaw now, down towards my neck. His hands settled more firmly onto me, pulling me until I was sitting on his lap. I wanted to say something about how much more comfortable we would be if we were not in my truck, in his parents' driveway, but my brain had evidently disconnected from my mouth and when I spoke again, something stupid came out.

"What are you supposed to be, anyway?"

He stopped for a moment, and then his lips moved against my throat. "What do you mean?"

Apparently once the stupid filter disengaged, it was gone for good. "It was a costume party, but you aren't dressed up. What are you supposed to be?"

He was laughing then, I could feel his chest shaking where it was pressed up against my side, and I could hear the smile in his next words. "Can't you tell? I'm supposed to be a vampire."

"I don't believe in vampires," I said somewhat breathlessly, for at that moment he'd moved his lips directly over the pulse point in my neck and was sucking at it very gently.

"Why not? Is it that hard to believe that a vampire wants you so badly right now?" I could feel his tongue on my skin then, pressing where his lips had been.

"A vampire would want…would want my blood," I gasped out, coherent thought well on its way out the window.

He kissed my neck and sat back, smiling at me. "That's very true. But isn't it possible that a vampire might want your body too?"

Was it possible to die from an overdose of sexy? If so, consider me DOA. "I suppose so, I guess that would be the best of both worlds?"

"Yes, it would." Edward's fingertips were on my face again, running slowly over my skin. "Bella, there is so much I want to tell you, so much…but I can think of better places to do it than in your truck."

Yes please! "If Lori sees my truck sitting out here, she's going to come looking for me."

I was still on his lap as Edward slid across the seat and opened the door, then he was standing with me with me cradled in his arms. He moved away quickly, towards the side of the house.

"Don't worry about it, Alice will have Emmett push it back behind the garage, your boss will never see it." Well that made no sense whatsoever because I didn't even realize Edward's brother was back in town, and how Alice was supposed to know about the truck was beyond me. But it didn't matter because now I was able to wind my fingers into his hair, I could feel his hard arms holding me tight, and he could have told me Emmett was going to push it all the way back to Port Angeles and that would have been okay too.

"Edward…where are we going?" He didn't respond, but instead tipped my face around until it was literally an inch from his own. Then he was kissing me again and I genuinely didn't even care if he was dragging me off to the woods, all I knew was the slick rasp of his tongue over my own and the low moan that came from his chest as I whimpered into his mouth. I felt his muscles bunch under me, then air rushed past, then just the slightest of bumps. I felt as though he'd just taken a large step, perhaps through a door, but when I opened my eyes we were in a quiet dark room.

"This is my room," he answered my unspoken question, making no move to put me down.

"Is…is your room on the first floor?" I was completely confused now, had he clambered through a window and I'd failed to notice? The sounds of the party had faded far away and my eyes could only make out the faintest glow from the orange twinkle lights outside.

"No, it's not. Bella…" his hands moved gently, caressingly, over the parts of my body they supported. "Are you afraid?"

"Of you? No." I whispered the words, and as I did, I saw some raw emotion flare in his golden eyes. He took several steps, laid me down on what I presumed to be his bed, and then stretched out over me, his hard body pressed inch-for-inch against my own. All the nerve endings I possessed stood on end as he swept a hand from my waist down my thigh, and I couldn't help but moan again when he gently bent my leg and knee so that I was half-wrapped around his waist. He was cradled between my legs then, and I could feel him, really feel him, and he was rock-hard against the place that most wanted his attention at the moment.

How could I have known that I would want him this much? In all the months he sat nearby, but never speaking, in all the months he did speak to me but held himself apart, and then the subsequent months without seeing him, how had my body known that I would crave his touch so much? How did I know that he would be the one to awaken the passion that had hidden within me for so long, to make me ache with need for him even as he moved against me, kissing and stroking and worshipping my body? There was nothing I could compare this to…not the awkward moments with Jake that we'd sworn never to repeat, not the romance novels I'd read to pass all the time I spent alone. And not even the fantasies I'd had, dreaming of Edward as my own hands moved over my body, nothing had prepared me for the sheer need that I had for him now, almost frantic and painful in its intensity, but utterly comforting, as though I'd been here a thousand times before.

"Bella," he murmured, and his voice was part of it too, and I'd known it all along while not knowing it at all. "Bella, it was always you. I've always wanted you, and only you. You don't know how long I've waited for you."

I could feel him unbuttoning my shirt with exquisite slowness, as though it were a gift he'd waited so long to receive, that he had to prolong the experience of having it for the first time. His hands moved reverently over my skin, lips following, and then my bra was gone because I could feel his firm cool lips moving on my breasts, making me cry out with my need for him. My hands moved over him and he seemed to anticipate every move they sought to make, for his shirt was suddenly gone. I could run my fingers over every inch of his hard muscled torso, and as I moved down further he went still, allowing me to run my hand over his arousal.

"Yessss…" he hissed, just as I whispered "Please?" and then the rest of his clothes were gone, as were mine. He came back over my body from below, kissing his way up my legs, his body shaking with need and the enormity of the goal we were both straining towards. This time when he stretched out over me there were no barriers, all I could feel was Edward, he was in my nose and my mouth, kissing over my face, hands running over my body, worshipping while also arousing, urging my own response from me. When his fingers first ran over the part of me that ached the most, I cried out with pleasure, when they probed into me I could only moan out my ecstasy.

My eyes were blinking heavily, I felt as though I must be drunk because there was only Edward right now, the only thing in my mind and my heart and my body was him, and I needed him just as I needed air to breathe and food to eat. I urged him on with my hands and my wordless pleas, tugging at his body when he stopped to assure himself that I wanted him as badly as he wanted me, in that moment, in this world.

His cool lips came back to rest at that same place on my neck, directly over the pulse point, just as the hard length of him settled against my heat. He probed on slowly, pushing into me, unlocking a searing trail of pleasure. There was a slight pinch of pain, then just the most wonderful feeling of being fulfilled, my body arching against his as I finally felt, for the first time, complete.

I cried out, this this was what I needed so badly, I needed him. He moved within me, never moving his lips from that pulse point on my neck, only whispering my name so that I could feel the words against my skin. He kept his mouth there even as his body moved faster, as his hands worked to urge the responses from me. He kissed, he nibbled, he licked, he sucked, but just there, his mouth never moved from there.

He must have felt my heartbeat, the blood moving faster under his lips as I began to come around him, calling out his name with all the breath I had left, coming in sharp endless spasms of pleasure that I'd never known before. I felt him growl against me; "Yes, love, yes!" as I sobbed in ecstasy, throbbing around him and through him and in him until he gave up, thrusting rapidly into me, provoking his own release deep inside of me. It was then that he finally moved his mouth away from my neck, moving it up to gently kiss and caress my mouth with his own, murmuring to me before I was able to comprehend again, and reassuring me when I could.

"It was only ever you, Bella. I've only ever wanted you."

"I don't understand." My words from earlier, but there was no bewilderment now, it was simply a statement of fact. This was not rational, I knew it was illogical to the point of almost being supernatural, but while in his arms I wasn't afraid.

"I know. There is so much I have to tell you, and most of it will sound impossible. I just need you to trust me and believe that I love you, I have always loved you, and I will always love you. Never doubt that."

In some sluggish sense, my brain was beginning to work again. "Why didn't you tell me this before now?"

He kissed me, gently, tenderly, even as I felt him hardening within me again. "What if I were to tell you that the vampire that I'm supposed to be had been afraid of hurting you? That it took me a year and a half to build up my tolerance and my confidence, before I knew that I could love you without hurting you? That in the meantime I could at least watch over you and protect you until I knew that we were both ready? But that now I know that I can be with you the way we've always wanted, the way we're meant to be?"

I heard him, I mostly understood him. "But I told you, I don't believe in vampires."

He laughed, and settled again over the pulse point on my neck, probably feeling it quicken under his lips as he kissed it ever so gently.

"Then, my love, I'll just have to convince you otherwise."