A/N –Many thanks to my incredible beta, PrincessFerdinand, and my other beta and bff, ! You guys are awesome and should read their stories! Also, special thanks to my guest beta, Music of the Wind. Thank you so much for your support!

1Eric and I had made a pact. If one of us hooked up with Bella Swan, then the lucky guy would do his best to set the loser up with Jessica Stanley. Needless to say, we were both fighting for Bella. Now, it seemed more like a contest than a promise. When Eric announced his surprisingly sensible plan for asking her out, I began to get worried. But when school ended, I could see his depressed expression and I knew there was nothing to worry about. Bella was a very bright girl, and could obviously see that I was the much better looking of the two of us.

Eric slumped next to me on the sidewalk after school and groaned. I put on my finest sympathetic face. "No luck?"

"She said she would rather die then go out with me."

"Really? That seems a tad harsh for her." It was hard to believe sweet, innocent Bella would say something like that.

"Well, she didn't actually say those words," he admitted. "But the intent was clear, even if she was too polite to say it." He stared dejectedly at his worn Reeboks.

My mouth shaped itself into a frown, but inside, I was rejoicing. It seems my date was safe after all.

Later that day, I went to ask her to the Beach Party planned for that Saturday. Thankfully, she'd agreed to go, and my mind had gone into overdrive creating a plethora of visions of her and I together, holding hands…cuddling against the chilly wind on the beach…maybe even a kiss. I shivered with glee as I imagined what she would look like with her clothes off. Seeing her in a bathing suit would be almost as good.

As I approached Eric, I couldn't stop a grin from spreading over my face. From the passenger seat of my car, he glowered at the steering wheel. A few months ago, we had started carpooling to save gas, but sometimes it caused some tension. I hoped now wouldn't be one of those times.

"She said yes." He did not word it as a question, but as a statement. I nodded.

"But it's not over yet. We still haven't officially hooked up." I said this to encourage him, but it was for purely selfish reasons that I did. A competition with a man that had already given up was no fun, and Bella and I were as good as a couple. In my mind, there was no danger of Eric's enthusiasm ever being able to change that. Eric brightened up at those words and I immediately regretted them. Even if she was as good as mine, he could still damage things. I moodily slumped in my seat.

"You're right!" he said enthusiastically, as I pulled into his driveway. "I still have time. Thanks, bud." And with that, he thrust open the door of the car and sprinted through the pouring rain, leaving me to my thoughts.

I had originally belittled Bella's acceptance of my invitation of the beach trip to stop Eric's moping, but now, I wondered if that was the best idea after all. What if he came up with another brilliant plan like the one he put into play today? he was the body-surfing Junior Champion of 2002. What if he impressed Bella so much that she chose him? What if this little contest wasn't as great as I had originally thought?

I was torn between loyalty to my best friend since kindergarten, and my lust for Bella. It seemed like I could not win. If Bella chose me, then I was not sure Eric would be very happy with me, but if she chose him, then I was not sure how the two of us could remain friends. Though my mind was telling me my long friendship with Eric far outweighed what I may wish for with Bella - bros before hoes and all that - my heart was telling me to go for it, to leave Eric far behind me and pursue my relationship with the girl of my dreams. Being from the big city, she would be the only one who understands my love of sun and sushi in a way that none of the other girls would.

My phone suddenly beeped, indicating the presence of a new text message from Eric.

Hey, it read. I got my plan already in place. I hope Jessica likes Sushi.

My blood boiled as my indecision was forgotten. At that moment, I was no longer the wuss who was afraid of confrontation. At that moment, I was willing to do anything it took to get the girl I wanted. Jessica did not like sushi; I knew that for a fact. So I needed a girl that did. Maybe for our first date, I would take Bella to my favourite restaurant, Aji Sai. I bet she would enjoy that.

I did not bother messaging Eric back. Instead, I sat plotting at my desk all night.

ooOOoo

The weak sunlight warmed my face as I waited for Bella Swan. Of course, I was nervous. She said she was coming, but would she? She had been skeptical of the weather forecast, claiming that the day Forks saw sun would be the day that pigs flew. On the other hand, I had watched her talk to Cullen on Thursday. Would the lack of her presence be more related to another male than to the weather?

I needn't have worried, because within a few minutes, I started to hear the faint clunk of her truck's ancient engine approaching. As she clambered out of the cab, I had to stop myself from running to her side.

"You came," I called to her, making sure she could see my happiness. "I said it would be sunny today, didn't I?"

"I told you I was coming," she said teasingly. I grinned at her.

"We are just waiting for Lee and Samantha," I informed her. Suddenly, I realized that she might have an ulterior motive for coming with us. "Unless you invited someone else," I added nervously. If Cullen showed up, there goes my brilliant plan.

"Nope," she said brightly, but either I was just getting paranoid, she looked guilty all of a sudden. I forced my mouth into a satisfied smile.

"Will you ride in my car? It's either that or Lee's mom's minivan."

"Sure," she grinned at me and I could feel an answering smile spread across my face. This proves she likes me. The bet was in the bag.

Suddenly confident, I offered her shotgun and she accepted. However, her extremely generous nature came into play when Lee brought two extra people and Bella graciously let Jess sit in the front seat between us.

I have known that Jess has had a crush on me for a while now, but I wasn't sure exactly how much until today. The whole time we were driving, she kept moving just a bit closer to me until I was crammed right up against the side of the vehicle and her thigh was pressed against mine. On the other side of the car, Bella was looking at me with an apologetic look on her face. Oh well, at least I could spend more time with her once we got to the beach.

I accompanied her down to the place where logs had been set up for bonfires. She watched curiously as I started assembling various pieces of driftwood on the logs.

"Have you ever seen a driftwood fire before?' I asked her.

She shook her head fractionally. "No."

I grinned at her. "You'll like this then," I placed the lit branch against the teepee of wood. "Watch the colours."

"It's blue!" She gasped, her eyes growing wide with wonder. Looking into those deep brown orbs reminded me of the first time I saw a driftwood fire, back when I was twelve and my family had first moved here. I had sat, mesmerized by the many colours for hours, and I was convinced it was magic. I fell asleep that night staring into the flames.

I spent the next half an hour chatting with Eric, Jessica, and Bella. Though the sun was shining weakly, the wind was whipping down the narrow beach and making Bella shiver uncontrollably. I kept hoping she'd lean into me for warmth, but no such luck. When Tyler suggested going hiking along the beach, I counted myself in before realizing that Bella probably wouldn't want to go. In fact, considering her gym record, I would bet anything she wouldn't go. Eric, realizing my predicament, volunteered to stay behind. As I waited with the hiking group, the sneaky punk winked cheekily at me and sidled closer to Bella.

I guess Jessica won't be so bad after all, I thought. No, Bella, but at least she isn't albino. Therefore, I was totally surprised when Bella moved to join our group. Eric tried to join us once he saw where Bella stood, but as soon as Bella joined the group, he was accosted by a gaggle of younger La Push girls. He shot me a frustrated glare as we started off. While walking toward the tide pools, I kept an eye on Bella and was disheartened to see that she soon fell behind. I would have slowed my pace to match hers, but just then, Jessica chose that moment to come up beside me and start chattering annoyingly. I looked over my shoulder to find her, but we had already rounded the next bend and she was out of sight.

As soon as we reached the tide pools, Jessica dragged me out to a deeper pool with pink and orange anemones. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Bella join us and station herself near a shallower pool filled with blue starfish. Like me, she seemed to be fascinated with them and I wondered how much we really had in common. Surely much more than she had with Eric.

After about an hour, the other guys voted to go back and eat, and I kicked myself for blowing my big chance with her. Jessica was still hanging onto my every word, and out of consideration to her, I hadn't left her to be with Bella. While Jessica was extremely pretty and the most popular girl in the school, I still preferred Bella's calm silence. Although, Jessica's outgoing personality would have its merits. I doubted Bella would be very amenable to the idea of PDA.

Finally, I had an excuse to leave Jessica. I stole the tray of sandwiches and sodas from where Tyler was taking them over to lauren and headed over to where Bella and Angela sat by the fire. Sam, the oldest of the Quileute boys, was introducing his group to Bella. Every once in awhile, I saw that his eyes would flash to my face and I suppressed a shiver. That kid was creepy in the same way that the Cullens were. The girls took the sandwiches with a nod of thanks, and I suppressed the urge to sit down beside Bella. The night was still young and there would be time for that later.

"Oh, crap!" Eric's voice startled Bella, and she jumped. He came racing up to me.

"Did you remember to bring the marshmallows?'

"That was your job."

He groaned dramatically. "I know, but I forgot." Bella was looking curiously in my direction and I jumped at the opportunity to make myself known as the responsible gentleman.

"Have no fear, Eric. I'll dash up to town now and get some." Before he could argue, I started jogging toward the cluster of lights in the distance. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bella glance at me admiringly before turning back to Angela.

My heart rejoiced.

oooOOOooo

I rushed back with the marshmallows to find Eric sitting on a log. My heart soared.

"Where's Bella?" I asked, carefully keeping my voice casual. He groaned.

"Over there talking to that Black kid. You know, from the rez?

I looked over to where he gestured and sure enough, Bella and a younger boy from the reservation were sitting together on a large piece of driftwood. I had seen this boy hanging around and had never harboured any ill-will towards him, but now the green-eyed monster inside my chest roared in anger. He was staring at Bella and gesturing wildly with his hands, and Bella was leaning towards him, clearly engrossed in his tale. I felt my teeth clench.

"It looks like the Cullen kid wasn't the problem after all." I spun around to face Eric.

"You aren't giving up, are you?" He shrugged.

"Why not? It is so obvious she prefers that kid to us."

"Just you wait," I vowed. "I will get a date with her if it is the last thing I do."

Eric looked up from his shoes to smile bitterly. "You need to find out sooner or later, Mike. Girls are cruel."

oooOOOooo

Eric and I were bored. Our dates had already ditched us and there was nothing to do but sit on one of the benches lining the gym and watch. Eric's eyes were on his date, who was currently chatting with a few of her girlfriends by the punch. I however, had eyes for a different female.

"Mike, quit it." Eric groaned. "She is dating Cullen. You need to move on."

"How could she," I moaned in response. "She was hooking up with that Black kid, I swear."

Eric shrugged. "I told you before and I will tell you again. Women are cruel. I am going to go talk to Paige again." He stood up, awkwardly fixed his tie, and then headed over to the group of giggling girls. I was left alone.

All of a sudden the song changed to a slower, lamenting song. Bella and the Cullen kid were barely swaying to the music now. I heard heavy footsteps behind me, and felt Eric sit down again. He groaned and put his head in his hands.

"This song bugs the hell outta me."

I listened carefully to the song that was playing. The lyrics that the DJ had chosen rang out through the loving and contented silence.

In the night I hear them talk

The coldest story ever told

Somewhere far along this road, he lost his soul, to a woman so heartless...

How could you be so heartless?

Oh, how could you be so heartless?

I smiled sadly to myself. Even Kanye West sometimes got things right.

A/N – I apologize to those of you who may be offended by the last comment; I didn't mean it as a jab. I am not going to beg you to review, but if you visit my profile, you will see my views on the subject. Please, take a few minutes to read the notes there and pasted them onto your profile if you agree. We want to be a safe and happy place for new writers as possible. Until next time!