It all belongs to Stephenie M. I am just lucky to dabble with them.
WARNING: This story will not be fluff like my others. There will be drama, blush-worthy cursing, and (some) mature situations. Everyone's human, but Bella and Edward are OOC. Bella's not shy and is very mouthy, and Edward is intimidated by her. Edward and Emmett are twin brothers and Alice is the little sister. Rosalie and Jasper are cousins.
Chapter Title: Halloween Hook-Up
Chapter Song: "Just Say Yes" by Snow Patrol
"Bells, you are so lucky I haven't bitten you yet," Jacob grumbled as we climbed the stairs to the porch of the infamous Cullen mansion.
"Shut it, Fido," I replied, tugging his leash and getting a garbled yelp out of him.
"Damn, Woman! Are you trying to kill me?" he asked, attempting to pull the leash out of my hand. Wasn't going to happen, though; I had that sucker wrapped around my hand and wrist. He wasn't getting away unless he yanked my arm right off.
"Maybe the next time you trick a woman into wearing a costume, you'll choose a better outfit," I told him.
"It's not that bad," he argued.
I made a gagging sound in the back of my throat to show how very wrong he was. Jacob, in all of his teenage hormonal stupidity-infused glory, convinced me to let him not only pick my costume this year, but to let him come with me to the Cullen Halloween Spooktacular. I couldn't outright kill him since he was a family friend and all, so I'd settled for an extensive list of ways to torture him, starting with the black and white full-body dog costume he was wearing, complete with shiny red collar around his neck and FIDO spelled out in gold across it. And the leash—the black leather leash I had no intention of releasing and every plan to yank as much as possible.
"I don't understand why you're so mad," Jake said as I lifted a hand to knock on the door.
"You don't understand?" I practically screamed at him. "Jake, a toga has more material than this thing." I was basically wearing a sleeveless white robe with a plunging neckline and slits up the sides that stopped just above mid-thigh.
"That's because a toga is Greek and this is Aztec. You're a sacrificial virgin, Bells."
"One problem there, Jakey," I said, using the childish nickname just to piss him off. "I'm not a virgin and you're going to be the one getting sacrificed."
"Just knock on the door so Alice can bounce out here, flit around like Tinkerbell, and then invite us in."
"She'll probably be the second to attempt to kill you tonight," I replied.
"Yeah, I didn't think you were going to put the kitchen knife down. That was a great scare, Bells."
"I wasn't trying to scare you," I told him, keeping a perfectly straight face.
Jacob gulped and started banging on the front door. The Cullens were very rich and very beautiful, every last one of them—including hot doctor dad, Carlise, and sweet and charming best mother in the universe, Esme.
Alice was the youngest child; she was smart, funny, and so cute with her little five-foot self and spiky black hair. Though, there hadn't been anything cute about her reaction to hearing I'd let Jake pick my costume instead of her. I'd had to promise I'd stay after the party tonight to help clean up and sleep over for us to get an early start on a day of after-holiday shopping.
Alice and I had always been in classes together growing up, but we'd only become good friends when high school had started. We'd stayed friends all four years of high school and were now roommates in college at PSU—Sophomores, baby! We were both home for the short Halloween break, but I hadn't planned on doing anything except studying. Jacob had begged, pleaded, and tricked me into other plans.
Alice's older brother Emmett was also pretty cool as long as he was sober and not screaming "Stella" under my bedroom window loud enough to wake Charlie. My dad. The Chief of friggen' police. And to make it all that much worse, Emmett wasn't even yelling for me. He was yelling for my neighbor, Rosalie Hale. Or at least that had been the way it went through most of high school. Once he'd started PSU, the episodes had become very infrequent and far between—at least in Forks. Now that Rosalie shared an apartment with Alice and me, we had to hear it at least once a week from within our very own hallway. I still didn't know the story behind "Stella", but I had every intention of getting it out of him one day.
Instead of Alice opening the door, Jake and I were greeted by Emmett's very fraternal twin, Edward. Even though he hung out with us at least once a week, he and I had spoken only a handful of words to each other in the past six years—all the rest were yelled during the arguments we couldn't seem to avoid. Alice swore she had no clue what his deal was and promised he was a very likable guy otherwise. From the number of girls chasing him around PSU, I knew that was true—I just didn't know why I was the exception to his usual niceness.
"Bella," Edward greeted with a nod of his head.
"Edward," I said, attempting to be nice for Alice's sake. Once the door was shut and the cold left behind, I unwrapped Jacob's leash so I could get my jacket off. "Don't even think about moving," I warned him, getting an audible gulp in response.
"Interesting costume, Jacob," Edward said with a barely repressed laugh.
"Just take the damn jacket," Jacob ground out, thrusting his coat toward Edward.
I chuckled while wrapping the leash around my arm once more.
"Before you guys move, I have to give the welcoming speech Alice instructed me to give or she'll have yet another fit," Edward said as he hung our coats up in the nearly overflowing closet. How many friggen' people had Alice invited this year?
"Bells, I don't know how you stay friends with such an odd little freak," Jacob muttered under his breath.
I elbowed him in the side, doing more damage to my elbow than his chest. "Shut it, Fido."
"Welcome to—" Edward had finally turned back toward us, but now he was too busy eyeing my costume up and down to finish whatever greeting Alice had charged him with giving. The man was too good to speak to me but not to ogle me! Bastard!
I rolled my eyes and promised a painful death to Jake again, tugging him forward by his leash and strolling past Edward. Had he been at least halfway decent to me, I would have given him props on his authentic-looking fifties baseball uniform. He'd forgone the hat, choosing instead to let his wild coppery hair roam free—or maybe it was more untamable than I realized and hat wearing was impossible for him.
"Bella!" Alice squealed, rushing over to me and giving me a huge hug as if we hadn't seen each other just last night. She had on a wig of red curly hair, a string of pearls around her neck, and a cream colored old lady bra and underwear set on with black heels.
"Alice, are you Janet?" I asked, hating Jacob even more for picking this damn costume for me.
"Damn it, Janet," she sang, striking a pose with one hand behind her head and one on her hip.
My best friend got to dress up as a cult classic iconic figure while I was stuck being plain girl in the sacrificial garb. I so would have made an awesome Columbia from Rocky Horror Picture Show. I could even do the Time Warp without falling on my face! But no! I was stuck as the damn sacrificial lamb tonight. Jacob was so staying on my shit list for this one.
"Please tell me Jasper is Dr. Frank-N-Furter," I begged.
"Not with my blonde hair," Jasper grumbled from behind me. I whirled around to find the love of Alice's life dressed only in gold shorts with his usually curly hair straightened.
"Rocky!" I squealed, throwing my arms around him and hugging him tightly.
"At least I'm not the only one being tortured," Jasper said, giving me a smirk as his blue eyes took in my outfit. He knew I would never pick something like this for myself.
I yanked on the leash, dragging Jacob away from whatever girl he'd been talking to and over to my friends. "Blame it on Fido here."
"Holy hell!" Jasper yelled. "Jake, is that you?"
Jake nodded sullenly. "She glued the whiskers on."
"Costume glue is easy to get off," Alice replied, completely missing my purely evil grin of pride.
"She didn't use costume glue," Jake said, glaring daggers at me while I twirled the end of the leash in my hand, taunting him with it. "She used Gorilla glue."
"Oh, Bella." Alice giggled and hid her mouth behind her dainty little hand.
"So much for not wanting to dress up," Rosalie said as she sauntered over in her Mystique costume, making the X-men character look even sexier than Rebecca Romijn had been able to pull off. I wasn't the least bit surprised to find Emmett dressed as Wolverine with his big muscular body.
"An awesome cult classic and a pretty decent comic book turned movie. I am so jealous," I told my friends.
"What exactly are you besides a really hot chic?" Emmett asked.
"An Aztec sacrificial virgin," I explained. "Fido thought it was funny," I added, tugging at Jake's leash the second his goofy smile appeared.
"Jakey!" Emmett yelled, reaching out and scratching him behind his fake floppy ear. "Wanna play fetch, boy? Wanna chase a stick? Because I don't see Bells letting you chase any ass after dressing her up this way."
We all laughed while Jacob scowled and tried to get the leash out of my hands.
"She looks beautiful." We all turned at the sound of the deep voice, shocked to find Edward standing near us. Well, not so much that he was standing near us as that he'd given me a compliment. Of sorts. I think. On second thought, he'd probably just been teasing—he seemed to have a dry sense of humor from what I could tell.
"That's not in question," Jasper said. "We just know Bells doesn't pick this sort of thing on her own. And it's fun to bust Jake's balls for it."
"We haven't met before," Edward said, extending his hand to Jacob. "I'm Edward."
"He's the scrawny twin," Emmett added, his chest puffed out in pride.
"Clearly," Jacob said, eyeing Edward with a cocky grin on his face. Anytime Jake thought he had a chance of taking another guy down, he got that look. The funny part was the only fights he'd ever been in were with me and I'd kicked his ass each and every time. What I lacked in brute force, I made up for by knowing exactly where to hit a guy.
Jake's smile completely disappeared once his hand was locked with Edward's and I watched in awe as the tendons in Edward's forearm tightened. The two idiots were shaking hands as hard as they could—and Jake was breaking out in a sweat. That was pretty damn amazing considering the kid was nearly as wide as Emmett and only an inch shorter. Edward was taller than Jake, but with a much leaner build. Muscle mass was not accurately portraying physical strength tonight.
I let it go on for a few seconds more before deciding to step in and keep Jake from making an idiot of himself—or at least a bigger one than the dog costume managed. "Before you two cavemen end up with stumps instead of hands, let go," I ordered, putting my hand on theirs to break the contest. The part of my hand touching Edward's skin tingled like crazy while the side touching Jacob felt warmer than the rest of me. It was such an odd sensation that I jerked my hand away from them.
"You heard, Bells," Emmett said, pulling their hands apart with little effort. "Play nice and behave or I'll put you both in the doghouse."
"We don't own a doghouse," Edward pointed out.
Emmett chuckled and wrapped an arm around Edward's shoulders, using his thumb to inconspicuously point to a sofa in the corner of the room. "Over there with Mallory is the doghouse."
Edward and Jacob both visually shuddered before locking eyes with each other. They stared for a few seconds before nodding at the same time, seeming to come to some sort of agreement. Guys were fucking insane and I doubted I would ever understand them.
"Now that we've had the testosterone moment, let's have the alcoholic one," Rosalie announced, moving toward the drink area.
"Fido, you will fetch me a rum and coke and come right back," I ordered, untangling the leash from my wrist and hand.
"You could throw a 'please' in there, you know," Jacob muttered.
I ignored his whining; he had gotten into this with his stupid costume choice and had no one to blame but himself. "Failure to come back will result in you being neutered," I threatened.
"While he's busy with that, I have something to show you," Alice said, linking her arm with mine and leading me into the next room. She closed the sliding wood doors, leaving us in silence in Edward's empty piano room. He was a total ass, but the man could play a piano insanely good. And the one time I'd heard him strumming on the electric blue bass in the corner—I very nearly promised the man marriage and a baby to keep him playing and I didn't want either of those with anyone. Ever. I knew exactly how much of a shit I'd been to my dad after my mom had left him for a younger man and I didn't have the patience to deal with that kind of crap.
I shook my head to clear out those thoughts and realized my best friend wasn't monopolizing the conversation for the first time in ever. She hadn't even started it yet! So very unlike Alice Cullen. "What do you want to show me, Ali girl?" I asked her.
"You have to promise not to scream," she said, biting at her lip and twisting her fingers.
"When have I ever screamed?"
"That time Edward walked in on you changing in his room."
"Well, duh! And remind me tomorrow that I'm still mad at you for not remembering to tell him I was staying in his room for spring break."
Alice shrugged. "He wasn't supposed to come home. Besides, that was months ago. The statute of limitations on revenges has run out."
"Whatever," I said, waving my hand around. Surprises made me friggen' antsy and I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. "Just tell me what you have to tell me, Rainbow Bright Sprite."
Alice poked her tongue at me and then smiled so wide and so happily that I felt my stomach drop. I'd been expecting that smile for awhile now, but wasn't prepared for the reality of it.
A platinum ring with a square stone appeared out of Alice's bra and took its rightful place on her all important finger. Besides teaching me fashion, Alice had taught me to speak jewelry and I knew I was looking at the real deal right there.
"So he finally manned up and popped the question, huh?" I asked as I tilted her hand, catching the light on her ring.
"He asked during lunch with my parents today. I couldn't believe it, Bella. Dad and Mom are so thrilled for us and they love that we've decided on a long engagement. Besides needing the next two years to plan my wedding, it's just smart to wait until college is out of the way."
"And when do we help you pack?" I asked, doing all I could not to show how sad the thought of an apartment with no Alice made me.
"You aren't. Jasper wants to stay in the athletic dorm as long as he's playing football, so he's going to keep rooming with Emmett."
"Are you okay with that?"
Alice smiled and nodded. "At first, I was disappointed, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I get another two years with you before we start getting separated by careers and husbands." She must have seen me scrunch my nose because she quickly amended her statement. "Careers and my husband."
"I'm happy for you, Ali," I said honestly, giving her a huge hug. "Do the twins know?"
Alice chuckled and shook her head. "You're the only one who even calls them that."
"I call them many other things as well, but most of those aren't socially acceptable. But getting back to the original topic … When are you telling them?"
"Tomorrow. I know they'll be the ones to give me the 'you're too young' speech and if I didn't hear it from Mom and Dad, I sure don't want to hear it from them."
"Then you better put that ring away and tuck away that megawatt smile, Ali girl," I said, giving her a big grin.
Once the ring was safely hidden away, we rejoined our friends and the party.
"Time to partner up for the spooky ghost hunt," Alice called out. For a small girl, she had one hell of a voice on her.
"Alice, I haven't had my drink and I seem to have lost my dog," I said, looking all over for Jake. You'd think a six foot tall guy in a dog costume would be easy to spot.
"Here's your drink," Edward said, passing me an orange plastic cup. "As for Fido, he must not know Jessica's reputation because he left with her."
"Edward, you'll be Bella's partner then," Alice ordered, handing him the pad and pencil we were supposed to use to mark down our ghostly sightings. I didn't understand why Alice still found this fun, but I'd pretty much play any game to make that girl happy.
"Is that alright with you, Bella?" Edward asked, actually looking me in the face. I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen his green eyes straight on this way. They were a really nice emerald color and framed by long, dark lashes. Standing this close to him, I could see features from both Esme and Carlisle so clearly; her eyes, lashes, brows, and lips with his chin, cheek structure, and nose.
"It's fine," I said with a shrug.
"Great!" Alice chirped. She turned and addressed the party. "Teams will go off in as many different directions as possible and we'll all meet back here in an hour. The team with the most sightings written on their pad will win a special prize."
"So where should we start?" I asked Edward as the room cleared out around us.
"I saw her messing around in the weight room this morning. We could start there."
"Yeah, that'd be the only reason to catch her in that room. Alice Cullen doesn't do sweat."
Edward grinned as he held the door open for me. "Actually, what does she do?"
"She orders people around, namely me. But I need the bossing most days, so it works out well."
"Why would you need to be told what to do? You always seem so independent and in charge when I see you."
"Give me a project and I am all over it. Ask me to get out of bed without holding a cup of coffee in your hand and watch me come up with some pretty interesting and convincing reasons why leaving my bed would be a danger to the health of everyone around me. Emmett once hid the plug for the coffee machine just to see what I would do. It didn't end well for him or his favorite football jersey."
Edward's laughter filled the mirrored weight room and I couldn't help but crack a smile at the sound. It was the first time in six years he'd laughed for something I'd said. It was totally my Indiana Jones grabbing the golden skull moment, without the giant rolling ball of rock chasing after me.
"Not to sound rude or anything, but what are you doing home?" I asked. "Alice was in such a tizzy that you were staying at PSU and not doing the Halloween party this year."
He shrugged. "I had originally planned to stay and get ahead in a few classes, but things sort of changed."
"I know how that goes," I said as I took a seat on the weight bench. "I got as far as having my books laid out in front of me before Jake showed up and conned me into this getup."
"So what is Jake to you? I sort of thought boyfriend, but then he left with Stanley."
I couldn't help the crazy laughter pouring out of my lungs. "Jake? My boyfriend? Oh, Edward! That's the best joke I've heard in weeks," I said, getting the words out while continuing to laugh.
"So what is he then?"
I shrugged, never really having figured out a single word that encompassed Jake and all his Jake-ness. "He's part family friend, part giant pain in my ass, part little brother, part bodyguard, and major mechanical brain. He can fix anything on wheels, and I do mean anything."
"What about a 2005 Volvo?" Edward asked, looking perfectly serious. "Rosalie couldn't even figure out what's up with it."
"I give Rose mad props for her skills, but Jake is one with the auto. It's scary how quickly he can get a completely dead car to roar back to life. We took Alice's Porsche to three different dealerships and no one could figure out why it was having intermittent periods of sluggish response. Jake spent one afternoon with the car and fiddled with some sensor or another and that baby has been purring like a spoiled kitten ever since."
"Alice told me about that, but I can't believe your Jake is the Jake."
"With a truck as old as mine, it pays to have a good mechanic on speed-dial. I just wish I could get the lazy bum to promise to go to technical college next year."
"Wait! He's only a high school senior?"
"Don't let the age fool you, Cullen. The boy is brilliant. He lacks greatly in the maturity department at times, but he's a friggen' genius all the same."
Edward nodded and seemed to just be noticing the pad in his hands. "We should find at least one ghost to keep Alice from screaming at us."
"Screw that," I said as I stood up. "I'm in it to win it. What about you, Cullen?"
"I don't know, Swan," he replied with a lopsided smile. "I've never teamed up with you before."
I sighed and shook my head, pretending to be saddened by that knowledge. "Oh, the joys you have missed. Being Alice's best friend gives me the unique ability to get inside of her crazy little head."
I looked around the room carefully, checking for anything obvious that might be a clue. All I could see was my reflection displayed over and over in the many mirrors.
And that's when genius struck!
"If I was Alice and I had set up something in a room of mirrors, it would glow in the dark. Cullen, hit the lights," I demanded.
Edward's pinched face made it clear he didn't have much confidence in my deductive skills, but he turned the light out anyway.
"Shameful," I said with a laugh, pointing at the badly drawn glow-in-the-dark ghost being reflected by three of the mirrors. "I wonder if the others are going to be this easy to figure out."
"I wish you were this easy to decipher," Edward said. Or at least I think he did.
"What was that?" I asked, wanting to be sure before saying anything.
"Nothing. Just wondering where we should go from here." With the lights still out, I only had his voice to go on and it didn't seem like he was lying. I really must have misheard him. But why on Earth I would mishear those words in that order was beyond me—I'd left my drink untouched in the front room.
I shook those thoughts away, focusing on my best friend and thinking like her. "I would say the library at the end of the hall. Ghosts like to haunt things with an old feeling so that room would be perfect."
Edward agreed and we set off down the hall, nearly getting run over by a boisterous couple coming out of the library and laughing like loons. The only thing that kept me on my feet was Edward pulling me out of the way and against the wall.
"Nice save," I said once it was safe to move again. "Wonder if that means this ghost is a dearly departed fashion designer of some sort," I mused, entering the dimly lit room and taking a quick glance around.
"That certainly sounds like something my sister would do."
I left Edward near the door to go to my favorite section of the library. Carlisle kept a small shelf just for the books Alice and I had adored during high school. Our worn and tattered copies of the Vampire Diaries greeted me, bringing an instant smile to my face. Our hardback copies of the Harry Potter series were there in all their glory and I pulled out Deathly Hallows, flipping through until I found the page where Harry died and our tears had smeared the ink at the bottom of the page. Many good times had been had curled up on the sofa in here with library books in our laps.
"Why is the page smudged?" Edward asked, suddenly standing right behind me.
I felt my nose crinkle as I quickly closed the book. "Long story."
"People usually say that when they don't want to answer a question."
I put the book away before turning to face him. "It's a girl thing anyway."
"Yeah, you and Emmett are nothing alike. When I bring out the 'girl thing' he covers his ears and practically runs away from me like my words will stunt his growth or something. It's really fun to do in the middle of the grocery store."
"Emmett and I are often complete opposites, but we have a few things we agree on."
"Like changing our plans to spend time with a beautiful woman is a worthwhile endeavor."
"Rosalie has had Emmett on a short leash since eighth grade when she grew boobs. By the way, do you have any idea what that whole Stella thing is about?"
"He still does that?" Edward asked with a chuckle.
"God, yes. The Chief is a little too amused that it's now relegated to my hallway and far away from his house."
"How is your dad?"
"He's doing good. Dating Sue Clearwater. Or trying to. Last I heard, Leah wasn't too approving. But Seth and Jacob are over the moon about it. Then again, those two are always excited about something."
"What about you? How do you feel about it?"
"I feel I was the teenage daughter from hell and my dad deserves to get to be happy for putting up with my crap."
"You weren't nearly as rebellious as you thought. It used to drive me insane the way Alice and you would talk like you'd done these amazingly horrid things and all that had really happened was a flunked test or a late paper."
I snorted; I couldn't help it. "Obviously you weren't listening in close enough, mister failure as a spy guy. If you had been, you'd have known about the sneaking out, the underage drinking, the pot smoking, and the tattoo parlor hopping."
His eyebrows drew upward as his green eyes widened. "You have a tattoo?"
I nodded and grinned. "Several."
"Can I see one?"
I stared at him for a moment, shocked by the eager look on his face. Since when the hell had I become interesting to Edward friggen' Cullen? "Make you a deal," I said. "For every ghost you find, I'll reveal a tattoo."
"How many are there?" he asked, his expression calculating as his green eyes roamed over me. Without x-ray vision, he couldn't see any of the tats, even with this being a ridiculously open costume.
"You'll have to wait and see," I replied, giving him a smirk I usually reserved strictly for guys I flirted with. Not that I was really flirting with Edward, but we were definitely playing some sort of game here.
Edward licked his full red lips and then turned away from me, busying himself with searching out Alice's ghost. I'd spotted it earlier, but I wasn't going to give any hints. Instead, I grabbed my old copy of The Red Tent and settled onto the sofa with it.
It was at least a good fifteen minutes later before Edward's voice announced the ghost was found. He looked like an eager trick-or-treater as he dropped himself to the end of the sofa and fixed his green eyes on me.
I chuckled as I lifted up the bottom of the skirt and pulled my purple converse sneaker off my right foot.
"By the way, I think it's insane that you wore sneakers with that outfit," Edward said, his eyes watching my fingers closely as I rolled my sock down.
I shrugged. "It pissed Jake off." I pulled the sock away and set my foot on Edward's lap, ankle facing upwards.
"Wow." Edward actually sounded awed as he lowered his face to inspect the design, his warm breath hitting my skin and making it tingle like my hand had earlier. "What is it?"
I glanced down at the circular tattoo. It was a black disk with three silver swirls joined in the middle. "Celtic symbol for the triple Goddess. It represents the power of body, mind, and spirit. It also represents the whole cycle of life thing, but I specifically wanted it for the connected power symbolism."
"Why?" he asked, his fingers lightly touching the raised skin.
I pulled my foot away and put my sock and shoe back on as I explained. "As a reminder that to be a whole person, you have to take care of each part of yourself. Sound mind, fit body, and positive spirit will get you where you want to go in life. I spent a few too many years doing the whole self-destructive thing. I was just lucky I had Alice to keep me from getting too insane with my plots against myself, but I still have plenty of things I would refrain from doing if I had a second chance."
Edward nodded and then lifted his head, showing off sparkling emerald eyes and a lopsided grin. "Where to next?"
"Eager, huh?" I asked with a laugh as I got up from the sofa.
"I have a feeling that none of your tattoos will be mindless designs picked off a wall."
"I can guarantee you that," I said as we left the library and entered the hallway.
"So where to now?" he asked.
"Garage. And it'll probably have something to do with Emmett's Jeep since she owes him some revenge. He flicked mud on the Porsche the other day."
"Blasphemy," Edward said, giving a fake gasp.
"That's what she said," I replied with a chuckle.
"Okay, that was the scariest thing I've witnessed tonight," Edward said, giving me a wary look. "You just sounded exactly like Emmett."
I sighed and shook my head. "I am officially spending too much time near him."
Edward reached up and started rubbing the back of his neck, looking more like a nervous fifteen-year-old boy than a twenty-two-year-old man. "Well, if you ever wanted someone different to have coffee with at the shop, I wouldn't mind showing up."
"Thanks, Edward," I replied, more than a little shocked by his generous offer. This was the absolute most we'd ever talked in the six years we'd known each other and the first time we were really getting along.
"My pleasure, Bella." There was something about the way he said my name that was different from all the other times he'd said it, but I had no idea why I felt that way. So instead of focusing on that oddity, I put my mind toward picking rooms for Edward to find ghosts.
In the garage, Edward got to see the tiny angel wings on the nape of my neck. A little boy I'd babysat for had died at the tender age of three and I'd had the tattoo done in his honor. He'd been born with multiple heart problems and had never been given many years to live by the doctors. That had never stopped him from being the sweetest little boy you could ever want to meet. I never knew what had made his mom decide on me as a babysitter—it was well known that I was a pain in the ass, self-absorbed teenager. But around little Aaron, I couldn't help but want to be a better person. All of my crap with my mom and the stuff I couldn't deal with from her leaving never mattered around him. It was always about living in the moment and finding ways to make him smile and laugh. Even now, nearly six years later, I still shed a tear for that sweet little angel who was here for so short a time.
Edward had traced the wings with his thumb and whispered a heartfelt apology for my loss. I hadn't been sure how to feel about such a kind gesture from him to me so I'd just moved us on to the next location.
In the greenhouse, I brushed away the makeup from my chest to show Edward the Japanese symbol for peace etched above my heart. I'd covered it up for my dad, knowing his eyes would have zoned right in on it with me wearing this getup tonight. One night during junior year in high school, I'd gotten the idea in my head that having a visual reminder that I wanted peace in my heart would somehow show me the way to gaining said peace. It did help, but it was still nearly a year later before I finally let go of all the crap and found real inner peace.
Edward only nodded and mumbled something about needing to try that for himself. I had no clue what he meant, though. As far as I knew, he had a charmed life as a Cullen, a popular PSU playboy, and a future rehab specialist. He was currently interning as a sports medicine trainer with the football team, and according to Jasper, Edward was pretty good at it.
On the back patio deck, Edward discovered the flaming Phoenix rising from the small ash pile that adorned the back of my left shoulder. I explained it was a reminder that no matter how much life burns you, you can rise above it if you keep fighting. There will always be the chance that you can get burned again, but you can never fly if you never spread your wings.
He traced the tattoo with his fingers so softly and I wished I could see the expression on his face that went with such a tender touch. I parted my lips to ask him what he was thinking but was silenced by the kiss he pressed into my shoulder.
I spun toward him, wanting to know what the hell that was all about. He mumbled out some things I didn't catch and others that made no sense before asking if I thought we'd found all the ghosts. I wanted to stand there and demand a real answer, but I could see from the set of his jaw and his downcast eyes that he wasn't about to budge and open up to me.
"Knowing Alice, she put one in your room just because you've never really liked for anyone to go in there," I told him.
"Of course she would," he grumbled. He opened the back door and waved me forward.
We climbed the stairs in silence, passing a few couples on the second floor before heading up to the third and final floor. Edward's room was the last on the right and I wondered if he'd changed anything since I'd been in there months earlier during spring break.
The light flickered on as I stepped inside, finding the room as immaculate and unchanged as I'd expected. "You are entirely too neat for a guy," I told him.
Edward smiled just a little. "Emmett swears it means I'm un-masculine."
"Maybe the room on its own might seem that way, but not once you're in it." Woah! Where the hell did that horribly amazing pile of word vomit come from? It was no secret that he was a sexy male specimen, but that had always been shaded by his cold personality.
"I'm sure it has nothing on how it looks with you standing there."
I couldn't reconcile his intense tone with his neutral expression so I did my best to ignore it as I responded to his comment. "Yeah, I probably take the place from modern majestic to boringly plain in this getup. I miss my own clothes. At least they have personality."
He shook his head without his green eyes leaving my face and I blushed under the intensity and intimacy of his gaze. I also had about a bazillion questions flitting through my mind, all of them asking in one or another why the hell Edward friggen' Cullen was looking at me that way.
He seemed like he was going to move away from the door but then hesitated. We remained unmoving and staring until his eyes darkened and he crossed the room in confident strides. He stood so close to me I had to lean my head back to see his face.
"Bella." There he was again, saying my name in that weird way.
"You know what you said about your Phoenix? About trying again after getting burned?"
"What about it?"
"What do you do if you get burned again?"
"Try again and work really hard not to judge the next person I was interested in based on what the last person had done. And I would have faith. Faith in myself, faith that I deserved to be with someone, and faith in the person I wanted to be with. You can deal with a lot and do without a lot as long as you have faith."
As impossible as I would have sworn it was, he moved closer to me. A very tiny strip of air separated our chests now. "What if the person you want to be with doesn't know it? How can you have faith then?"
"You can't until you tell them and find out if they feel the same."
"And if you can't find the words?"
I shrugged, not really sure where this conversation was going. The whole night with him had been so different from what I was used to. "If you can't say it, then you have to show it."
And put his hand on the back of my neck.
And put his lips on mine.
And put his other hand on my hip, getting rid of that little strip of air that had been between us.
Did I mention he put his lips on mine?
I groaned, really not wanting to break up what was undeniably one of the best chaste kisses I'd ever received but not feeling like I had a choice. "Edward, what are you doing?"
His emerald eyes were impossibly dark as they moved down to my lips and then back up to my own eyes. His words were just a soft breeze against my face as he leaned into me. "Showing you."
For the rest of this chapter, head on over to The Writer's Coffee Shop Library and search for my penname, My-Bella. I removed the content as it might have been questionable to certain readers and ended with the story getting reported as abusive. Sorry you have to visit 2 sites, but unless and until Fanfiction gives an "MA" rating, this is the way it has to be. So if you want to be able to read on one site, then email Fanfiction today and ask that the "MA" rating be instituted.
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