A/N: No, you're not seeing things...this really is an update!
From Chapter 10
"Look, Bella, I'm not going to lie and say that the fact Edward is my brother doesn't change my opinion on the matter. It's probably not for the reason you think, though. I've watched how much Edward has been suffering since you came back here. Well, he's been a moody fucker ever since that summer after high school, but it's gotten worse lately. When I made the connection between his behavior and your return, I asked him about it. At first, he told me to mind my own fucking business. After awhile, though, he finally told me everything, including finding you in his bed that night." She gave me a very pointed look before continuing. "I love you both, and I just want to see you happy. You both messed up back then. I can't watch the two people I adore most go through that again. I think you should move with him because I know you two love each other and that the love you share is deeper than what most people ever get the chance to experience. You can't let your happily ever after walk away simply because you're too scared to stop him." Her rant ended, and she looked at me as if she feared I would attack her or something. She'd definitely given me a lot to think about, but I wasn't mad at her. Not at all.
"Wow, I guess I have some soul searching to do," I said with a small smile to let her know I wasn't angry.
"I just want what's best for both of you," she responded while covering my hand with hers. I was really glad to have her back in my life.
"I know, Alice, and I really appreciate it. It's nice to know you'll tell me what I need to hear even if you think it may not be what I want to hear. I don't know what I'd do without you."
Lots of hugs, mushy words, and puddles of tears later, I found myself pacing my bedroom wondering what the hell I was going to do. Could I really leave Charlie and move all the way to LA when nothing was certain? Not that anything in life was definite. Taking this step would require me to step way out of my comfort zone, and I wasn't sure I was strong enough to take that leap of faith. I decided not to worry about it anymore for the time being and crawled into bed. My latest work assignment was due soon, and it still needed a little tweaking, so I would focus on that the next day and worry about everything else after that.
Once I was satisfied that my article was as good as it was going to get, I sent it off to my editor and hoped for the best. My concentration had been lacking ever since I returned from my impromptu trip with Edward. He'd declared his love and then told me he was moving to LA. I still wasn't sure how to feel about his impending relocation. His tattoo shop meant a lot to him, and I didn't want to come between him and his dream, but I wasn't sure I was ready to take such a big step with him. In the few days we'd been back home, he had only called me once. We'd talked for all of fifteen minutes before he made an excuse to get off the phone. Part of me realized he was probably trying to give me time to truly consider his offer to go to LA with him, but a big part of me wondered if he regretted making the offer in the first place. After all, he could have any woman he wanted. Certainly, he didn't want to be tied to plain ol' me when he made his fresh start in California. I didn't want to be thought of as some sort of ball and chain, keeping him from going after what he really wanted.
I cried quite a bit those first few nights. Even with Alice's reassurances, I was a mess. I hated that he was putting me in this position, and I hated that his actions had such an effect on my own life. My love of the man was at war with my hatred for him. I'd spent the past four years hating him, so I guessed it was natural to be confused at this point. He was everything I'd ever dreamed he would be and so much more. Even my wildest fantasies couldn't live up to the reality that was Edward Cullen. But there were definitely still times when he infuriated me. I really wanted to think rationally and make the right decision for both of us. This was one time where I knew I could not be completely selfish. Even Charlie factored into the equation. He'd been so happy about me moving back, and I didn't want to disappoint him by moving away again so soon.
There was also the fact that Edward wasn't around to talk all this over with me. His absence hurt. It also reminded me of all those times in high school when he seemed hell-bent on hurting me. I was turning back into that insecure teenager I once was, and I needed to put a stop to that right away. So, I conjured all my girl powers and decided to go out for a night on the town. Of course, Alice was thrilled with the idea, and my little get together quickly spiraled out of control. By eight that evening, I found myself in a car with Alice, Rose, and two other girls I vaguely remembered meeting once or twice. We were headed to Port Angeles because, apparently, there was no such thing as suitable night life in Forks. Unfortunately, Rose and Alice had insisted on dressing me for the night, so I was wearing a way too short for my comfort dress with a plunging neckline that left me feeling way too exposed. If Edward were to see me, I knew he would freak out about it. Not that he had been around to get his opinion.
Fueled with my anger regarding Edward being MIA, I stepped out of the car and followed the girls into the club they'd picked to stop at first. The stares I garnered helped boost my confidence, and I just let go, determined to thoroughly enjoy my night. We danced with random people but stayed together as a group to help keep the guys around us at a safe distance.
After about an hour of letting loose, I was dying of thirst. I let Alice and Rose know that I was going to the bar and got their drink requests before heading off the dance floor. The bartender was adorable and nice. We chatted for a few minutes while he prepared the beverages I'd ordered. He made sure to touch my hand while handing me a glass filled with the fruity concoction Alice had wanted.
"My name is James," he offered just loud enough for me to hear him over the music.
"Bella," I stated in return. I didn't want to be rude, and he was nice to look at, so I didn't see any harm in giving him just my name.
"Nice to meet you, Bella." He smiled and waved away my money when I tried to pay him. "These are on me. I've enjoyed watching you and your friends dance, so it's the least I can do." He gave me another sexy smile and turned to help the next customer.
I worked my way over to a vacant table and got the girls' attention. They sauntered over a few moments later, sweating and smiling happily. This night was turning out way better than I expected.
We were laughing at some couple getting way too into each other on the dance floor when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked over to see James with a tray full of replacement drinks. Rose gave him the stink eye when he told us that these, too, were his treat. I hadn't exactly told them he had given us the first round. Rose thanked him but insisted on paying. He grudgingly took her money. Instead of heading back behind the bar, however, he sat down in the chair next to me and put his arm over the back of my seat. I was instantly uncomfortable and regretted my earlier interaction with him. Alice looked as if she were about to pull the guy's arm from his body when an all too familiar hand grabbed the offending appendage and yanked it away from me.
"Edward, I swear, it wasn't what you thought. The dude is one of the bartenders. He introduced himself when I went to get drinks. I gave him my name and let him give me the drinks for free. I realize now that wasn't the smartest thing for me to do, okay? He had just sat down when you appeared. I assure you, nothing happened, and I would have taken care of it," I explained to an irate Edward after he had quickly ushered me outside. "What are you even doing here? How did you find me?" I questioned suddenly realizing he shouldn't be there at all.
"I talked to Jasper when I realized you and Alice were gone. He told me where Alice was planning on taking everyone and I drove straight here," he answered as if it was the most obvious answer in the world.
"So, you're stalking me now? I can't have a girls' night out?" I really did not like where this conversation was going. The anger that had built up over the last few days was fusing with the new frustration, and my emotions were escalating quickly.
"Why didn't you tell me where you were going? Don't I have a right to know what my girlfriend is doing?" he spat in retort. Yep, this was about to get ugly.
"You're girlfriend? Who might that be? Because I sure as hell don't remember you asking me to be yours." It was a low blow, I knew that, but I couldn't stop the words from spewing out of my mouth.
"Seriously? What, are we back in third grade? I told you I love you. I asked you to move to LA with me. Isn't that declaration enough of my intentions where you're concerned, Bella?"
"So, now you're going to insult me by calling me juvenile? I'm not the one who eavesdropped on private conversations. Nor am I the one playing fucked up mind games. You haven't spoken to me in days. I wasn't sure what the hell to think. I just wanted a nice, relaxing evening with my friends, and you ruined it." I watched as my words hit home and felt sufficiently contrite for putting such a sad expression on his face. Before I could even think about apologizing, though, his face hardened.
"I see. Well, I'm so sorry to have spoiled your fun, Isabella," he spat and then turned and made his way toward the parking lot.
I was too stunned to go after him at first, and by the time I did, he was long gone. As upset as I was, our argument validated all the concerns I had regarding moving to LA. We really weren't ready to live together, and I would definitely regret it if I moved there too soon.
That decision made, I worked my way back inside and to the girls. I briefly explained what happened and my subsequent realization as we drove back to Forks. The two other girls who had ridden there with us were catching rides back with some other girls I hadn't even known Alice had invited. I felt bad for cutting our night short, but there was no way I could stay after what had happened.
After insisting on being dropped off at home rather than going back to Alice's as we had originally planned, I said goodnight to the girls and headed straight to bed. My head was too full, and I just wanted to sleep so I wouldn't have to think for a few hours.
My head was pounding when I awoke the next morning. It took a few moments for the events of night before to remind me why I felt so horrible. The sun streamed through the window, making my head and eyes hurt even worse. I flopped back onto my bed after an attempt to sit up made me dizzy. Draping my arm over my eyes to block out the light, I replayed the fight Edward and I had when he found me at the bar with the girls, and James. He really had some nerve showing up there like that. We needed to talk. I wasn't looking forward to it, though.
I busied myself for the rest of morning by taking a nice long shower, getting dressed, and baking. By the time afternoon arrived, I had about a dozen sugary treats setting on various surfaces around the small kitchen. No way were Charlie and I going to be able to eat it all. I wondered what on earth I was going to do with these creations. They had served their purpose, though, of helping to calm my thoughts.
Just as I was returning from dropping off some of the desserts at the police station, I saw Edward's car circle the block and slow down in front of the house. He couldn't see me yet, so I stopped my car and watched him for a few moments. I couldn't really see his face and had no idea what he was doing there. We hadn't exactly parted on good terms. Typically, I was the one who had to seek him out, so I was surprised to see him. I had planned on giving him a few days to calm down before calling him and asking him to meet me somewhere to talk. I had been thinking somewhere public would be best. Apparently, I no longer had a choice. As I was debating turning around and getting the heck out of there, the silhouette of his head turned, and I knew there was no way he hadn't spotted me idling in the middle of the road.
I pulled into the driveway and hopped out of my car, hoping this didn't go as poorly as I feared. Certainly, we could find a way to make our relationship work despite all the things currently working against us. At least, I hoped we could.
"Where have you been?" Edward asked, dissolving what little optimism I had.
"Hello, Edward, I'm doing okay, thanks for asking. How are you?" I asked with a fake smile and a too sweet tone. We definitely were not getting off to a great start.
"Damn it, Bella, I'm not here to fight, okay? I was just worried because no one I talked to knew where you were." He ran his hand through his hair and kicked the gravel at his feet.
"Would you like to come inside?" I offered when I noticed the nosy neighbor lady eyeing us from her living room window across the street. I put aside the fact he had been calling around asking about my whereabouts yet my phone had remained utterly silent, knowing I would be asking him about that later.
"Sure," he replied and followed me to the door.
"Can I get you something to drink?" I called from the kitchen as I headed to the fridge. I needed a distraction while I gathered my thoughts.
"Just water, please."
He was sitting on the couch when I walked in carrying our drinks. His posture was rigid, and I could tell he was nervous about whatever was about to be said between us. I began to worry that we may not be able to fix this, and I might actually lose him.
Tears started to pool in the corners of my eyes, so I turned my face downward as I took a seat in my dad's recliner. It gave me distance while providing me a small amount of comfort. The old chair smelled like my dad and his scent calmed me slightly. I knew that if things ended badly between Edward and me, my dad would still be there for me. He was the one constant in my life and had never let me down. Not even when my mom up and put several states between us. He always found a way to be there for me, no matter what. And in that moment, I wrapped myself in that knowledge, hoping it would get me through whatever the outcome of my discussion with Edward.
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns these lovable characters. No harm intended here.
A/N: So sorry about how long this update took! Thanks so much for reading this despite my failure in updating.