A/N: Meyer owns Twilight, as you all know. But we all wish we did…
I'm so sorry about the massive delays, I've had loads of assignments and they have slowly piled up. Therefore my writing took a bit of a back seat.
But anyhow, here's the next chapter…
Btw….HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Bella didn't think she had ever been so nervous. In fact, she could not remember the last time she was. Not counting the flittering memory of her waiting for James to come home, wondering what would happen when he walked through the door. She quickly pushed it away. Refusing it to make her panic. She had got better at that lately, calming herself down. Taking deep breaths and slowing her heart rate to a nice steady pace. She never imagined herself as someone who would be so tranquil. Usually she was always on the ball, her mind constantly working unable to shut off. Focusing solely on her job and the way she used to carry herself. Head held high and cold eyes. She'd be lying if she said she had not noticed the subtle softness that was beginning to show through. She wasn't so hard. Not as intimidating. It was nice for a change. To let herself relax and her hands unclench from the control.
Her date with Edward was tonight. It would be an interesting experience. She had already planned for the date everything she had to do and was going to. She couldn't help it. It was a habit that she couldn't turn off. The to do list she had wrote was stuck up on her fridge so every time she walked past she saw it. She had even written the times next to it when each task should be started. Being organised was something she would probably never left go. The last date she ever went on was with James. When he was courting her and she thought that for once she had got lucky in life.
James was something that still niggled at Bella. Now that she had agreed to try at this with Edward she wondered how she would approach the subject when and if it rose. He was bound to ask about her parents at some point. The lack of photographs that contained no family, just scenery. She was not sure how to answer him. How can you explain to the man you like that your parents treated you like shit? She knew it couldn't be avoided and eventually she would have to open up more. Maybe it would be good for her, she thought. It also didn't help that it looked like Edward had a great rapport with his family. Something she never had. The topic was guaranteed to come up at some point. That was the whole part of the process wasn't it? You go on a couple of dates, then it's meet the parents. Bella hoped Edward never met hers. She was not entirely sure she would be comfortable with meeting Edward's family. Then again, there was the whole issue with the wedding invite.
Bella glanced at her list and saw she was still on schedule. Angela had gone shopping with her in the day to help her choose a suitable outfit. She suggested something a bit more formal since Edward was taking her out and they were not just going to coffee shops and walking down streets. It was nice to spend time with Angela though, just the two of them. It took her mind off her worries about the shop and her nerves about the upcoming evening. She had no idea where Edward was taking her, but she had given him her address which was a big step for her. He could now find her whenever he wanted. That proved more than anything the effect he was having upon her. Having him in her home would be another step. Only Angela had been inside. For him to walk into her private space spoke volumes that she did not want to admit to herself just yet.
She was right on schedule. A couple of minutes in front of her detailed plan. Just the way she liked it. Her dress ended just below her knees and was a dark blue. The neckline was not too low but enough to suggest what lay beneath and it clung to her curves, accentuating every dip in her body. She made an effort with her makeup and styled her hair more. For once, she felt like she could actually pass off as being pretty. Her nerves had calmed somewhat throughout the day, but now that the time was nearing she felt them flutter up again. She felt like a young girl again. The one who believed in first love and crushes on boys. God, she was so naïve back then. She was determined not to make the same mistake. Once was enough. Twice would be taking it too far. But Edward was different. She could not really explain why. She just did. It was in the way he looked at her. The things he said and the way he carried himself in her presence. Something was bubbling beneath the surface. She could feel it. It tingled underneath her skin, waiting for something to happen.
The door buzzed loudly shaking her from her thoughts and with a deep breath she picked up the phone.
"Hey, it's me." Edward replied. Without answering she let him up and replaced the phone. She could hear his footsteps on the stairs as he approached closer.
Shortly after he tapped softly on the door, Bella looked quickly over her apartment. Satisfied she smoothed down her dress and opened the door hesitantly. He was standing there nervously, one hand rubbing the back of his neck. He looked smart. She could tell he had made the effort as well. It made her feel warm inside and she felt the corners of her mouth turn up slightly. She felt even warmer when his eyes cast over her outfit.
"You look lovely." He said with a smile and she looked away bashfully before awkwardly stepping aside to let him in.
"I got you these…I wasn't sure what you liked." He handed her a bouquet of mixed flowers and again she blushed.
"You didn't have too. I'll just go find a vase…" she trailed off and they stood there for a moment smiling at each other.
"Make yourself at home. I won't be long."
Edward sat down on the only sofa she had whilst she disappeared into the kitchen to put the flowers in some water. They weren't extravagant, but to her they might as well have been. She admired them for a moment before returning.
He was looking around her apartment curiously, his eyes casting over the pictures and her furniture. The smart décor and neatness of the place screamed control. He said nothing though. She stiffened slightly at the thought of him asking about family.
"Shall we go?" she asked. He nodded and stood up. He looked too handsome to be standing in her apartment. He seemed to brighten up the place and make it look even smaller. She was putting her faith into something unknown. There was a still a glimmer of hope. A fraction of fear deep seated. She hoped Edward didn't give a reason for her faith to be shattered.
Like a true gentleman he helped her put her coat on and opened the door to let her go first. Unwillingly the thought of James popped into her head again. Their mannerisms were alike. The chivalry. The way he treated her with respect. It reminded her so much of when James courted her. The effort he had always put in. But that had all been a show. She could not help but wonder if Edward was doing the same. These thoughts plagued her and she could not shake them off no matter how hard she tried.
They walked in silence down the stairs and outside the building where a shiny car was parked out front. A sliver Volvo. Bella's eyes widened at it.
"Is this yours?" she asked in awe.
Edward uncomfortably shifted from one foot to the other. "Yeah…I guess."
Bella raised her eyebrow at him, "You guess?"
"Ok yes it's mine." He replied reluctantly. He didn't look thrilled at the admittance.
"Wow." She replied flatly. Edward obviously had money.
"You don't mind do you?" He asked nervously.
Bella shook her head slowly, "No. I mean…I guess I'm just not used to travelling in style. I'm more of a public transport girl."
Edward glanced at his car then back to her again. "Do you…do you want to –"
"No, no. This is fine."
Edward nodded and proceeded to open the car door for her. She bite her lip nervously and as gracefully as she could, sat on the plush passenger seat. Edward walked round the car and swiftly got into the driver's seat.
"Put your seat belt on," he instructed softly, and I connected the belt loudly. The tires then squealed as he pulled from the space onto the road, accelerating much too quickly for her liking. He raced down the road, barely under the speed limit but still somehow avoiding being caught.
"I hope you don't find it terribly rude of me to say, that you drive like a maniac." She said flatly.
Edward chuckled and swerved the car round a corner with the ease of a pro. Bella gripped the seat tightly as she titled to the side.
"Do you want me to slow down?" He quickly glanced at her panicked face.
Without hesitating he slowed down to appease her. She immediately relaxed her grip on the seat and promptly clasped them in her lap.
"You nervous?" he asked after a moment of silence, turning another corner more softly this time.
"A little." She admitted as she stared out the window as the car flew past people braving the cold.
"Don't be. It's only me." He changed gears and went slightly faster than before, but it was tolerable.
"Exactly." She said looking at his profile. He continued to keep his eyes on the road but he smirked in reply.
"Where are you taking me?"
"Just a small restaurant. One of my favourites, it's not far."
He carried on driving without saying much else. Bella sat in silence, looking out the window as the world rushed by. He turned onto another street and began to slow down. He turned smoothly into a space illuminated under a street light and parked comfortably. He had parked so that her door opened onto the pavement and his onto the road. She looked out the window to see a restaurant, the name Bella Italia lit up. She had heard about this place, known for its Italian cuisine. Before she had the chance to get out the car, Edward had already switched off the engine and was opening the door before she knew it. Pleasantly surprised she quickly grabbed her purse and stepped out into the cold. She huddled her coat tightly round her as Edward locked the car with a flick of his keys. He guided her gently to the restaurant, one hand resting lightly on her back. She wondered if his fingers would leave a heated imprint on her skin. Before she reached the door he quickly opened it first and let her in first.
It was much warmer inside and the place was brightly lit. Candles had been placed on tables casting a glow over other seated guests. It was not busy; there were a few seats near the back which Edward requested for to the hostess.
"Is this ok?" Edward asked once they had been seated.
"It's perfect." She replied quietly and promptly picked up a menu to still her shaking hands.
"I just love this place and well, the name is an added touch." He said with an attractive smile.
"So, do you come here often then?"
"Didn't know you were one for trying to chat me up Bella." He teased and Bella quickly looked away in embarrassment.
"I'm only joking Bella," he said concerned he had upset her.
"I know. I did walk into that one didn't I?" She smiled weakly and he nodded towards her menu.
"Know what you want?" He asked, picking up his own menu careful to avoid the candle.
Bella quickly scanned over the menu. "I think so."
A waitress quickly appeared at their table, a small pad and pen in her hand ready.
"What can I get you two to drink?"
She was blonde, tall and attractive but Edward hardly looked at her. She immediately felt insecure, automatically comparing herself. I bet she found it easy to smile.
"Bella?" Edward asked tentatively, stirring her from her thoughts.
"A glass of red would be fine thank you." She said quietly, fingering the napkin placed on the table nervously.
"Just bring the bottle please."
The waitress smiled at Edward but he was too busy looking at Bella. "Great, I'll bring it over!"
Without thinking, Edward reached across the table and placed his hand on top of Bella's that was fiddling with her napkin still.
"Hey, are you ok? We can go if you want…"
"No I'm fine, just be patient with me. It's…..been a long time." She managed eventually. Her hand felt warm underneath his and strangely she felt comforted. His thumb rubbed over her hand soothingly.
"Me too." He said quietly. Bella looked up and met his eyes. Something bubbled inside her, making her stomach clench uncomfortably. The thought of Edward with someone else pained her. She was jealous of a woman she did not know. She could not help but wonder what had happened.
The waitress then chose to ruin the moment causing Edward to let go of her hand abruptly and move back into his seat.
"Here you go," she said cheerfully placing two glasses on each side and a bottle of red. "Are you ready to order?"
"Bella?" he asked.
"I'll have the Pesto Genovese." The waitress quickly noted it down and turned to Edward.
"The Pollo Pizzaiola, thank you."
The waitress quickly disappeared again and Edward carefully opened the bottle of wine and poured her a generous amount.
"To our first date." Edward held up his glass and they toasted. The wine tasted delicious and she enjoyed the sweet burn on her tongue.
Bella nodded and continued to sip her wine. It relaxed her and she found herself calming the nerves.
"You still nervous?" he said sheepishly with a smile. She felt herself flush as she shook her head.
"I feel more…comfortable with you than I did before." She admitted and Edward eyes lit up with hopefulness.
"That's good. I don't want you to ever feel uncomfortable around me…ever." He said firmly and his eyes bore into hers.
"I'm getting better, I promise."
The waitress appeared with our food and set the dishes in front of us. It smelled delicious and she suddenly realised how hungry she had become. She had not been able to eat much throughout the day due to nerves. They began eating their food in silence, occasionally glancing at each other in between bites.
"The wedding is not that far away now by the way." He said in passing and Bella almost choked on her pasta. She coughed and quickly gulped some of her wine.
"Are you ok?" He asked concerned and moved to get up out of his seat.
Bella quickly held her hand up to stop him, "No, I'm fine honestly."
"Sorry. I should have remembered that is a touchy subject." He apologised and looked as if he was feeling guilty.
"How far away is it?"
"About a month or so. Alice is really excited I don't think she can wait any longer." He spoke fondly of her and Bella could not help but smile.
"I can imagine."
Edward continued to look at her as he eat. How is it possible for a man to make the art of eating so seductive?
"You still think it is inappropriate for you to go with me?" He questioned her and Bella chewed thoughtfully for a moment before answering.
"Not as much as when you first asked me."
"Will you go with me then?" He pressed, leaning forward in his seat.
"Don't you think it might be slightly rude to turn up to a wedding without me ever meeting your family first?"
Edward frowned briefly, "Yeah probably…"
Bella started to panic. She had accidently mentioned family, meaning the topic was bound to land on her. She started to chew her lip and her fingers clenched under the table. Charlie and Renee was the last thing she wanted to discuss on her first date. It was not exactly a great start.
"Why don't you meet them then? Then you won't feel so impolite…" he suggested.
"Um…yeah I guess" she replied distractedly, fiddling with her pasta.
"You don't seem so sure about that…"
"No, I'll meet them." Bella said determined. She wasn't going to let her past hold her back anymore. She needed to push aside her fears. Somehow, she had to get over her aversion to weddings. It wasn't going to be easy.
"I just don't usually like weddings…"
Edward raised an eyebrow, "You don't?"
"No. Avoided them for a few years now."
"Why's that?" He asked, obviously curious and confused. She didn't blame him.
"Let's just say I had a bad experience and I see weddings in a completely different light." Bella said stiffly. She had already divulged more than she wanted too, but Edward had this way of making her talk and say things. She could confide in him without fear of judgement. He just seemed to understand.
"Oh right." He said frowning, "Do you want to talk about it?"
Bella looked down at her food as if it was the most interesting thing in the room. She twirled some pasta on her fork in a bid to distract her hands. "No, not really."
"Thank you anyway."
"What for?" Bella asked confused, eating a piece of pasta.
"Being honest. Letting me know something else about you. Your life." He shrugged.
"I know I'm not exactly the most forthcoming person…"
"And that's ok. Whenever I get a piece of you, it's more than I could ask for. I kind of like it in a way, figuring you out. You're….interesting."
Bella gave a small smile, "Not a word I've been associated with before but I'll take it."
His eyes were warm as he finished off his pasta. He rubbed his stomach tenderly and drowned the rest of his glass.
"You had a good night then?"
Bella finished the rest of her pasta and sipped her wine, feeling comfort in the wine. "Yes I have thank you, yourself?"
"Of course. And it's not over yet." He said, his eyes twinkling.
"It's not?" Bella asked confused.
"Not by a long shot."