A/N: For those of you who read the one-shot, you don't really need to read this again. I did change a few things, namely Bella's section is now told in first person, rather than third, and I added a little bit more to her thoughts after her mystery man leaves. Otherwise, it's the same.

Chapter 1: The Party

"Do you really think I have a chance with him?" I asked again doubtfully, quite possibly for the twentieth time this afternoon. Staring at my reflection in Alice's vanity mirror, I scowled at my own presumption.

An exasperated huff sounded from the other side of the room. "Bella, don't make me throw something at you," Rosalie warned. Alice chuckled from behind my head where she was putting the finishing touches to my hair.

My gaze shifted in the glass to look at the gorgeous blonde standing with her arms folded over her full breasts. Rosalie looked as annoyed as she sounded.

"How many times do we have to say this? James has been panting after you since you first arrived, and now that he and that skank Victoria are a thing of the past, there's no question who he wants to hook up with." Rosalie stepped closer and peered at my face reflected back at her. "And let's face it—even if he wasn't interested in you already, once he sees you tonight, he won't be able to resist." Rosalie's hard stare melted into a seductive smile, then she winked at me. "Cuz girl, you look hot."

"She does, doesn't she?" Alice agreed, stepping back and admiring her handiwork.

It was Halloween, and the three of us were at Alice's house preparing for the party being held at Rosalie's boyfriend's. Emmett, captain of the football team, had apparently thrown a Halloween party three years running, and each year's event was wilder than the last. Everyone was expected to come in some sort of costume; if you didn't, the tricks were on you. By this time, it was pretty much guaranteed that no one would be showing up without a costume—much to Emmett's disappointment. He derived far too much mischievous pleasure from torturing the losers who didn't.

I stood and moved over to survey myself in Alice's full-length mirror, the other two girls on either side of me. I was stunned at what I saw, barely recognizing the plain girl I'd been when I'd arrived in Forks just over two months ago to live with my father Charlie after Mom's remarriage.

Much to my surprise, in the small town of Forks I've found two amazing friends in Alice Brandon and Rosalie Hale and the kind of social life that I'd never enjoyed in Phoenix. In the city, I had blended into the background—quiet, shy, average-looking, I'd gone through years of school, unnoticed by girls and boys alike. But my arrival in Forks seemed to have catapulted me into overnight celebrity; seemingly every girl wanted to be friends with the new girl from the big city, and seemingly every guy wanted to get to know me better. Well, almost every guy.

Alice and Rosalie had immediately taken me under their wing. They were the two prettiest and most popular girls at school, and I was still at a bit of a loss to understand why they had decided to befriend me. Certainly Rosalie's friendship was still a bit of a mystery; the blonde bombshell had a prickly exterior and no patience for weakness. Alice, on the other hand, a petite dark-haired bundle of energy, exhibited a kindness and generosity not commonly seen in adolescents from wealthy families, at least not among the ones I had encountered in Phoenix.

Immediately upon learning that I hadn't left a boyfriend behind, Alice decided it was their mission to find me one in Forks—one sanctioned by her and Rosalie, of course. It wasn't a matter of class, money, or "cool" factor where the two girls were concerned, as much as it was hotness, how well he'd treat me, and how well he'd get along with Alice's and Rosalie's boyfriends, Jasper Whitlock and Emmett McCarty. (Rosalie had her own criteria as well that had everything to do with sex, but she usually kept that to herself.)

The first three boys to approach me—on my first day, no less—were quickly ruled out. Eric Yorkie, though friendly enough, simply wasn't hot; Tyler Crowley, who had wholesome good looks and got along tolerably well with Emmett as a fellow football player, had a bad reputation for "loving them and leaving them"; and Mike Newton, the most persistent of the three (as several weeks later he was still pursuing me, despite my shooting him down several times), was also just not good enough. He was a boyishly cute blond and was seemingly eager to please, as well as relatively liked by the female population of Forks High (especially one Jessica Stanley, I soon learned). Nevertheless, Emmett had absolutely no tolerance for him. Even laid-back Jasper didn't much care for him, mumbling something about "a puppy needing to be housetrained" when asked his opinion. Plus, according to Rosalie, he had a "teeny weenie." I didn't ask how she knew that.

After the first couple of weeks, I had had a chance to survey the males of the species at Forks High and come to my own conclusions. From looks alone, I knew who my first choice would have been for a boyfriend. In fact, I couldn't help but notice him my first day, since I shared my three advanced placement classes with him.

I hesitated to mention him to my girlfriends at first. To begin with, the whole idea about finding me a suitable boyfriend was just a bit overwhelming. I didn't admit it to Alice and Rosalie, but I'd never actually had a boyfriend before and couldn't imagine why any of Forks' "most desirable" would even be interested in me anyway. I'd never even been kissed before. I preferred to be realistic about myself and my chances in the field of romance, and though I knew I wasn't unattractive, I just didn't see anything about myself that I considered worth noticing. Certainly in comparison to Alice and Rosalie, both of whom were beautiful enough to be models, I was only plain at best.

But with the obvious attention I'd been receiving from the opposite sex so soon after my arrival, I'd been forced to reassess. Certainly some boys found me attractive, so perhaps I'm not as undesirable as I'd thought. However, the boy who first caught my attention, as well as the other one I was interested in now, were in a different league altogether as far as looks were concerned, which is why I'd been so reluctant to bring them up.

But at lunch during the second week of school, Alice nudged me with her elbow.

"So, any thoughts on who you might like to get to know better?" and she wiggled her eyebrows at me with a grin.

I shook my head and dropped my eyes to the table in front of me. But when I heard Rosalie's disbelieving snort across from me, I knew my stupid blush had betrayed me again.

I looked up to see Rosalie gazing at me expectantly with one eyebrow cocked. A glance to my left showed me that Alice's eyes were twinkling. "Fess up, Bella," she teased. "Who's caught your eye?"

I sighed and felt my cheeks burning hotter. I debated whether or not to keep it to myself, but at the insistence of the girl bouncing in her seat next to me, I finally nodded my chin in the direction of a tall boy with disheveled copper-colored hair, sitting alone two tables away with his nose stuck in a book.

From her position next to me, Alice could see at once whom I'd indicated, and she pursed her lips in thought. Not exactly the reaction I had hoped for, but at the same time, considering my unbelievable presumption, I couldn't say I was particularly surprised. I was sure any minute now my friends were going to tell me he was already taken, even though I'd never actually seen him with a girl.

Rosalie, her back to the boy, had to turn to see. She looked in the opposite direction first, then towards where both Alice and I were now almost conspicuously not looking. When she turned back to face me, both eyebrows were raised, not in surprise, but in disdain.

"Edward Cullen? Uh, no," she said dismissively.

Ooookay. I wasn't surprised at the answer, but I was a bit hurt by the tone in Rosalie's voice. Sure, Rosalie wasn't one to pull her punches, but weren't we supposed to be friends? Yes, Edward Cullen was the most beautiful boy in the school—heck, he was the most beautiful boy I'd ever seen—but did Rosalie have to shoot me down quite so fast? But then I heard Alice questioning Rosalie's reaction.

"Why, Rose? What's wrong with him? Jasper seems to think he's okay, even though he doesn't know him well…"

What? I looked up first in surprise at Alice, then at the girl sitting across from her. Alice assumed Rosalie meant there was something wrong with him?

Speaking in low tones so as not to be overheard, Rosalie explained. "Edward Cullen is a stuck-up, know-it-all, antisocial jackass." Alice sniggered at Rose's description. "Plus, I've heard he's…unsatisfying," she added with a note of disgust.

My eyes widened at this, my blush returning, while Alice gasped, then giggled. "Where did you hear that?" Alice wanted to know. Rosalie, who was never actually seen gossiping with other girls, nevertheless always seemed to know everything about everybody.

"You know that party at Ben's last spring? Well, Lauren, that skank, dragged Edward into a closet and went down on him. Not only did he not cop a feel, at all, but apparently he didn't even finish. Pushed her off and ran away." She looked over at me apologetically. "No disputing he's hot, but hell, he might actually be gay."

"Well, to be honest, I don't blame him for running away from Lauren," Alice chuckled. "Probably afraid he'd catch something." We all laughed at this. I hadn't even been there a week before knowing all about Lauren Mallory's reputation as a slut.

Once the laughter subsided, Alice turned to me again. "Sorry, girl," she said sympathetically.

I just shrugged, looking down at my hands. "Never mind," I said. "I didn't really expect anything to come of it. Plus, he seems to kind of hate me anyway…"

"What do you mean?"

"Well…" I hesitated, taking a moment to glance discreetly in Edward's direction. I sighed. "I have three classes with him. I've never done anything to make him angry. Not that I know of, anyway. I haven't even spoken to him. But every time he looks at me, he just glares like he's angry. I mean, what did I do?" I shrugged in defeat.

"See?" Rosalie responded. "Antisocial jackass." She folded her arms and leaned back in her chair, case closed.

Alice frowned in confusion. "If you don't mind my asking, Bella, what do you see in him? Besides the fact that he's cute."

"Cute?" I muttered just loud enough for the others to hear. "He's freaking gorgeous." Alice grinned. "Well, he's smart, for one." Rosalie snorted. "And he's quiet like I am." Rosalie rolled her eyes. I scowled across the table. "Oh, I don't know," I said with some exasperation. "I just thought maybe we'd have something in common."

Alice put an arm around my shoulders. "Never mind," she said, giving me a little squeeze. "We'll find you the right guy. Don't you worry."


A couple of weeks later at the beginning of October, the three of us were gathered in Rosalie's living room, talking and half-watching TV after school. The same question came up as before, and Alice and Rosalie waited expectantly for my answer.

Once again, I felt that I was being horribly presumptuous, and I was expecting another dismissal. James Hunter was tall, handsome, and a member of the baseball team. Blond-haired and blue-eyed, he seemed to be very popular with the girls at Forks High. Again, completely out of my league.

"Oh, he's definitely doable," Rosalie purred. "And I mean that in every sense of the word."

"Rosalie!" Scandalized, I threw a pillow at her, my blush spreading across my cheeks.

"What? It's the truth," Rosalie defended herself. "Okay, he may be with Victoria at the moment…" My shoulders fell in disappointment; of course he was already with someone. But Rose held up a hand to stop me. "At the moment," she repeated, "but I've heard they're on the outs."

"Good thing, too," Alice joined in. "She's another skank. He could do so much better."

Rose nodded, looking at me significantly. "Yes, plus he's a nice guy, and Emmett has hung out with him a few times, so I know they get along."

"And he's hot," Alice added.

"Mm-hmm. But best of all…" Rosalie trailed off, her expression growing thoughtful as she looked at me. "You know, I'm really glad you mentioned James yourself, because if you hadn't, I would have. I've seen the way he looks at you, Bella." She smirked.

"The way he looks at me?" I repeated with a puzzled frown. "What do you mean?" I thought about the way Edward Cullen still looked at me, always glaring.

Rosalie rolled her eyes. "What do you think? He looks at you like he wants to lick you all over."

My blush returned and I looked away.

"What?" Rosalie chided. "If I were a guy, I'd do you."

Alice shrieked with laughter and fell on her back from her seated position on the floor. I gasped in shock, my blush deepening almost painfully; grabbing our empty drink glasses, I fled to the safety of the kitchen. I had to get away from the two of them for a few moments to give myself a chance to think about what all of this actually meant, all the feelings I had stirring in the pit of my stomach. The idea that a cute guy might think those kinds of things about me had my thoughts going in a direction they had barely dared to go in before.


The next few weeks were spent with one goal in mind: getting James Hunter to be my boyfriend. As Rosalie said, his relationship with his current girlfriend Victoria was failing, and Rosalie worked on seeing if there were any way to speed that along.

In the meantime, Alice continued to work with me on my wardrobe. Alice, self-appointed member of the fashion police, found it hard to understand how someone from a city the size of Phoenix could have so little fashion sense, but she seemed to think I was desperately in need of help. Truthfully, I didn't see much difference between my clothing choices and those of most of the other girls in school, but Alice was a perfectionist, and she found jeans she said were cut better to suit my figure, shirts and sweaters that enhanced my bust line, and colors that flattered my pale complexion. Alice rarely attempted to strong-arm me into wearing things that made me uncomfortable—I wasn't overly fond of skirts, for instance—as Alice said she didn't want to change my overall sense of style. After all her help, though, I did feel more confident about my wardrobe.

She also helped me with my hair and make-up. Alice said I had beautiful skin and didn't really need much more than a little eye shadow to bring out the color of my eyes. With my hair, Alice taught me how to style it differently, depending on what best suited what I was wearing. My dark brown hair fell in natural waves past my shoulders, but on occasion Alice insisted that it would look better straightened, or perhaps pulled back in a ponytail or braid. I wasn't completely convinced it was worth the extra effort, but I agreed to humor my friend since it seemed so important to her. A surprise trip to the day spa, however, was not something I'd had in mind. I ended up going through with it, but damn, that had hurt. And it had been horribly embarrassing.

In the end, Rosalie didn't need to do anything to help along the breakup between James and his girlfriend. Victoria managed that perfectly well on her own. Details were fuzzy, but the rumors said that one weekend in mid-October, James walked in on Victoria riding a local high school drop-out reverse cowgirl. Some people were even saying Victoria had laughed at James and offered to suck him off while she was still riding the other guy's dick. It didn't matter how hot Victoria was; few guys blamed James for walking out on her without taking her up on her offer. I didn't want to believe it; how could someone really behave like that?

Halloween, and consequently Emmett's annual party, was in just two weeks, and Alice and Rosalie both agreed that would be the perfect time for me to make my move—that is, if James didn't ask me out himself before then. All the signs seemed to point that way: James was being far more attentive than he had been previously, smiling at me when we passed in the halls, or coming to our table during lunch, ostensibly to talk to Emmett and Jasper, but always stopping to say a few words to me before he left. I wouldn't say I was getting used to the attention, but I was certainly starting to enjoy it.

The party was just over a week away when Alice announced her costume idea to me and Rosalie.

"Go-go dresses?" Rosalie smirked. "I think I like. Show me what you've got in mind."

We were in Alice's room, and she pulled up a Web site on her computer. Rosalie and I peered over her shoulders to see.

"Perfect," Rosalie purred. "Emmett won't know what hit him."

"Uh, Rose," I hedged. "Won't you be cold?" I looked dubiously at the skimpy little two-piece outfit Alice had selected.

The girl smirked back. "Not if Emmett has anything to do with it."

Alice chuckled as she clicked a couple more times, showing us the cute little red sleeveless dress with a white belt that she had chosen for herself. Finally, she brought up a page showing a third dress, this one white with a pink floral design and long, flared sleeves. "And for you, Bella, I thought this would be just the thing."

I saw the price tag and visibly blanched. Before I could say anything, Alice was already defending it. "It's a great color for you, and don't worry about the cost. It's my treat. It's part of Operation Get Bella a Man." Rosalie chuckled at the title.

I lay a hand on Alice's shoulder. "That's very sweet of you, Alice, but I can't let you do that." Alice opened her mouth to protest, but I cut her off. "Besides, I think I already have a dress. And boots." I grinned and winked at her. Surprising Alice like this was a rare treat.

Alice's eyes grew wide in shock, while Rosalie took a step back to give me a hard look. "Who are you, and what have you done with Bella?" she quipped.

I laughed. "I said I think I have a dress. I'll have to check with my mother, but I remember seeing a dress similar to what we're looking at in my grandmother's closet. And I know she had a pair of white go-go boots. I'm just not sure if Mom still has the dress or whether the boots will fit me."

Alice still looked stunned and sat staring at me for a few moments more before snapping out of it. "Well, what are you waiting for? Call your mother!"

The phone conversation with Mom was a bit embarrassing from all the questions she threw at me, but in the end she was all too happy to send me the dress to wear to the party. The boots, however, were the wrong size, and Alice pouted and pleaded until I gave in and allowed her to buy new ones, which made Alice all the more happy since all three pairs of boots would now match.

And now here we were in Alice's bedroom again, on Halloween, where the three of us were surveying ourselves in costume in the mirror.

"This isn't me," I protested quietly, noting how short the dress was and wishing I could either stretch the thing halfway down my thighs, if not back out of the party entirely. What was I thinking when I'd agreed to this? Rosalie rolled her eyes while she made a quick adjustment to her top.

Alice slipped a reassuring arm around my shoulders. "You'll be fine. Plus, he said he'd meet you there, didn't he?"

"No," I corrected. "He said he'd see me there. Subtle difference."

Rosalie groaned. "Look, Bella. Knock it off. You say this outfit isn't you—well, isn't that kind of the point? It's Halloween, for fuck's sake, and you're wearing a costume. And this is your chance to take a chance, do something you wouldn't normally do. If that means being brave enough to put yourself out there for a guy, then do it. This is what we've been working toward all these weeks. You want James? Go get him, tonight, and stop worrying about it, because believe me, Bella, he's not going to say no."

Alice looked across at Rosalie. "Here endeth the lesson," she joked, winking at me to take any potential sting out of Rosalie's words.

I took a deep breath and stood up straighter, taller. "Right. You're absolutely right, Rosalie. I'm going to do this." At least until I chicken out again…

"Atta girl," Rosalie smiled at me, then hip checked me. I bumped into Alice and we all laughed.

"Wait, though," I said as we filed out of Alice's room, an important detail I'd missed suddenly occuring to me. "Do we know what he's dressing up as?"

"Emmett mentioned he overheard James say he was coming as Zorro. You know, black mask, black shirt, black pants, black boots, black black black…"

"Okay, cool. Just so I know what to look for."


The zombie that opened the door for us greeted us with a wolf whistle. Rosalie smiled as she stepped inside, and pushed the zombie off her when he tried to plant a wet kiss on her lips.

"So help me, Emmett, if you get any of that nasty ass face paint on me…" she threatened with a smirk.

Alice bounded right past him and jumped into the arms of a tall, blond Confederate soldier. He looked amazingly authentic. It turned out Jasper was a bit of a freak when it came to the Civil War. Meanwhile, the zombie opened his arms wide to welcome me.

"Damn, Jelly Belly, you look good enough to eat!"

"Sorry, Em, I need my brains," I giggled as I dodged Emmett's embrace.

Jasper pried himself away from Alice's lips long enough to give me what looked like an admiring glance. "You look great, Bella," he said with his quiet smile. I reddened, thanking him for the compliment. Now if only another hot blond guy thought the same thing…

"Would you believe that dress belonged to Bella's grandmother?" Alice said. Jasper swallowed thickly, then coughed, while Emmett paled beneath his zombie make-up, muttering something about "hot grandmothers."

Rosalie smacked the back of Emmett's head. "Has Zorro arrived yet?"

"What? Um, no, not yet. I'm sure he'll be here soon. He hasn't missed one of these parties yet." Emmett motioned toward the living room where a sizeable crowd had already gathered. "Why don't you check out the keg. I'll take you ladies' bags upstairs and join you in a minute." Emmett's parents were away for the weekend and we three girls and Jasper were going to spend the night here to help Emmett clean up after the party.

I was amazed at the transformation that had taken place in Emmett's house. All the furniture had been draped in black fabric; lights had been dimmed or covered with colored gels, creating an eerie atmosphere throughout the rooms; cobwebs grabbed at passersby, while candles and gothic furnishings completed the look.

"Did Emmett do all this himself?" I asked Rosalie as we headed toward the kitchen.

Rosalie scoffed. "Seriously? Most of this was done by the Energizer Bunny," she answered, nodding ahead of us in the oversized living room to where Alice was already dancing with Jasper to the pounding music, a plastic cup in one hand.

"Where did she find the time? She's been with us almost all day…"

Rosalie shot me a look that said, She's Alice, you figure it out, while we helped ourselves to beer from the keg. Being the daughter of the Chief of Police, I felt a twinge of guilt, but I figured one beer wouldn't hurt, and it might just help calm my nerves.

I spent the next couple of hours dancing with my friends and dodging advances from Tyler dressed as a cop, Eric Yorkie dressed as Clark Kent ("I'm not sure that counts as a costume since he writes for the school paper," Emmett commented darkly), and Mike Newton as a cowboy. He kept calling me "little lady," like he thought he was John Wayne, and if it weren't so funny it would have been pathetic.

It was close to midnight when Jasper took pity on me, dragging Mike away, and I was finally enjoying a moment of peace off to one side where the music wasn't quite so loud. Alice was dancing in her own little world, while I could just overhear Rosalie in the kitchen dressing down a sophomore who'd had the nerve to smile at Emmett the wrong way. I was surveying the rest of the crowd, wondering if James was ever going to turn up, when I felt someone step in close behind me. I started to turn around to see who it was, but firm hands at my right hip and left shoulder kept me from moving.

Warm breath tickled my ear as whoever it was leaned down to whisper. "You look as if you're waiting for something," he breathed, turning to skim the tip of his masked nose against the line of my jaw.

A warmth that had nothing to do with the small amount of alcohol I'd had spread throughout my body, pooling between my legs. Though my heart was pounding and I could feel the heat glowing on my cheeks, suddenly I felt emboldened with a confidence I hadn't known I had. Rosalie's words from before repeated in my thoughts. If this were James, and the person behind me was certainly tall enough, now was my chance. And I hadn't even had to go in search of him; he had come to me.

As his gloved fingers trailed slowly down my arm to my wrist and then back up underneath the wide sleeve, leaving a tingle in their wake, I turned halfway to look at the man standing behind me. My suspicions were confirmed; it could only be James looking down at me from behind his mask. He was covered in black from head to toe; only the almond-shaped cutouts for his eyes, a thin line across his cheeks between his mask and the cloth covering the lower half of his face, and a small triangle of his chest peeking out from the top of his shirt could be seen.

With my new-found resolve, I smiled up at him coyly. "Perhaps I was waiting for you?" I suggested, and I let my hand drift to where his rested at my waist.

At my words, the fingers tracing gentle patterns against the skin of my arm ceased their movement, and his chest rose and fell with his quickened breaths. He leaned in toward my ear to whisper again, sending another blast of heady warmth across my cheek.

"You have no idea what you do to me," he breathed against me.

I closed my eyes briefly under the onslaught of feelings I was experiencing. Did I dare suggest what was raging through my mind, what I'd been thinking about now for weeks? Dare I act on the desire he awakened in me? I was embarrassingly inexperienced, but the want, the need I felt was making me brazen.

I turned to him again and looked in his eyes. "Why don't you show me? Upstairs, in private?" I tried to speak calmly, but I could hear my voice tremble, as much with nerves as with excitement.

His eyes widened in surprise and he swallowed thickly, his grip on my waist tightening. "Are you sure?" he whispered, inclining his head toward me, his eyes gazing at me intently.

It was my chance to change my mind, and for a brief second I considered it. Was I being foolish, doing this? If he wanted to take it so far, was I really ready for sex? My head was spinning, and I didn't have an answer to that question yet; all I knew was I wanted to find out.

I gazed unflinchingly back at his burning eyes and laced my fingers with his against my waist. Then turning deliberately, I led him by the hand past the revelers, oblivious to all else around me save the heat of his hand grasped in mine and the knowledge that he was following me toward the stairs, up to the second floor and down the hall, and behind the closed door of a bedroom.


I couldn't believe I was standing here in a bedroom, alone with Bella Swan.

I had been lurking in the darkest corners of the room for over an hour, watching her from a distance. I had thought the sight of her during school hours was distracting enough, but to see her dancing in that short-as-hell dress that barely covered her ass, revealing those shapely thighs…

I bit down hard on my bottom lip to bring my thoughts under some kind of control. Fuck, who was I kidding? It had been torture standing there watching those barbarians paw at her all night, especially Newton. He made my blood boil—couldn't he tell she wasn't the least bit interested in him? The cretin. And yet, he had the courage to talk to her, to stand close to her…

I took a deep breath, trying to both calm myself and strengthen my resolve. Wasn't this why I was here tonight instead of at home studying? Wasn't this the whole purpose of this exercise? This was the one night when I'd be able find the courage to approach her, talk to her, perhaps even dance with her—and God help me, hopefully allow me to put my obsession with this girl behind me so I could get back to what was important—my studies.

But I'd never get a chance if Newton didn't fuck off. I was just trying to work out some plan to get him out of the picture when I saw Whitlock almost forcibly drag him away, leaving Bella on her own for once and looking tremendously relieved. I saw her glance around the room again, much like she'd done several times since I'd arrived, and wondered again if she was expecting someone.

She was finally alone, the moment I'd been waiting for.

My mask gave me courage I wouldn't have felt otherwise. I couldn't believe that I'd actually leaned in and whispered into her ear, breathing in her scent. It was weakened somewhat by the scarf covering my nose and mouth, but it was still intoxicating, floral somehow, making me want to bury myself in her long, brown hair.

My senses were so filled with her presence that I barely registered that she'd responded to me—fuck, I couldn't even remember what I'd said to her. When I realized she'd spoken, I froze momentarily, trying to work out what to say or do next. Her effect on me was indescribable, and I think I must have voiced my thoughts out loud, because she shocked me to the core when she suggested we go upstairs. I couldn't believe what I was hearing…she wanted to—what exactly did she want?

This was so far beyond what I'd been expecting—fuck, more than I'd hoped for. I couldn't honestly say I hadn't dreamed of something like this; she occupied all my thoughts, starred in every fantasy I had these days whenever I jacked off. My wanker fantasies had never had a face before, but now it was always, it was only, Bella.

But this just didn't match what little I knew of her. She didn't seem like the kind of girl who'd do something like this… Sure, she was friends with Alice Brandon and Rosalie Hale, neither of whom were innocent. At least they seemed faithful to their long-term boyfriends, and didn't have reputations like some of the other girls. But she was new here; maybe she hadn't had time yet to…

Fuck, how experienced was she? What was she expecting from me? Suddenly my nerves returned with a vengeance, warring with the heat building inside at the thought of being with Bella that way. I tried to stall for time by asking her if she were sure about this; fucking hell, as much as I wanted her, I wasn't sure—wasn't sure I was up for the possible humiliation I'd land myself in—and for a moment as I leaned in to gaze in her eyes, she seemed to waver. But then she took my hand and turned, leading me slowly up the stairs.

And now here we were, alone together. As I locked the door behind us, Bella turned slowly to face me, and tugged gently on the hand she still held to pull me closer. The only light in the room came from the moon shining through the window. It was just a day or two away from full, for once not hidden behind clouds, and it illuminated her pale skin and gave her an otherworldly glow. I stepped in close, taking her other hand in mine, and drew both her hands to my cloth-covered lips. I wondered if she could hear my heart hammering in my chest over the pounding of the bass from the music playing downstairs.

I felt frozen in place as we gazed at each other. My instincts longed for me to wrap my arms around her, pull her in close, feel her body next to mine, but my mind ran riot with questions and self-doubt. If she hadn't freed her hands from mine and reached up to remove the scarf covering the lower half of my face, God knows how long we would have stood there unmoving.

Instantly I snapped back into focus and grasped both her wrists, stopping her. She inhaled sharply, looking at me in surprise.

It occurred to me then to wonder who she thought I was; whatever assumptions she had made, surely my name was not on the list of possible suspects. Or did my identity even matter to her? I quickly shut down that idea; I couldn't bear thinking about what that might mean.

I shook my head at her once, chiding. "You don't get to see my face," I told her, remembering to whisper.

She answered me with a frown. "But you can see mine."

I smiled back at her; I hoped she could see it in my eyes. "Your costume didn't come with a mask," I reminded her. Her eyes widened slightly and she shivered, though she gave me a timid smile; I lowered her arms back down to her sides, then lightly gripped her shoulders as I guided her backward toward the bed. As we were here, I thought, we might as well make use of it. She seemed not to mind, at any rate, and the longer I was near her, the more I wanted to give in to the urges screaming at me to touch her, kiss her, claim her.

When the backs of her legs hit the edge of the bed, she lowered herself to its surface and eased herself into the middle, her eyes never once leaving mine. I followed after, crawling onto the bed like a cat stalking its prey. I let my nose skim just above her frame as I made my way up her body, my eyes boring into hers until I hovered directly over her. My knees straddled her hips, my hands either side of her face.

Fuck, she was beautiful. Her chest rose and fell with her rapid breathing, her lips parted slightly, her eyes dark, her long hair spread like a curtain across the bed. I leaned down and buried my nose once more in her hair just below her ear, drinking in her scent. I began to nibble at her flesh, my lips still covered by my mask, down her jaw line to her chin, to her throat, the dip between her collarbones, while one of my hands curved to cup her cheek.

"Take off your gloves," she breathed, and I stopped where I was, my mouth poised at the neckline of her dress where it dipped toward her breasts. I looked up at her, and her eyes snapped open to find mine, silently pleading. I sat up, resting my weight on my heels, and kept my gaze locked with hers as I loosened each finger of my gloves slowly, before finally pulling them off and tossing them to one side. Then slowly, I reached forward with my left hand, my now bare fingers going to the flower-shaped cutout that adorned her waist. We both gasped as skin met skin for the first time, a current of electricity arcing between us. The feeling went straight to my cock, already hard, but now straining against the fabric of my trousers; I had to be closer to her, and I lowered myself to her once again, both hands now travelling up her rib cage, my lips returning to her neck.

Almost timidly she wrapped her arms around my back, pulling me in closer. Emboldened, my right hand fisted in her silky hair, while my left found the soft mound of her breast, cupping it gently before pressing more firmly. I began to rub my thumb back and forth, when I found her nipple and brushed across it. Bella gasped again, letting out a breathy moan, her back arching underneath me. It was too much; I had been subconsciously holding back, but at her movement I dropped my hips down onto hers, grinding my erection against her. She moaned again at the contact, my lips trailing once again down to her chest, where my other hand had joined the first and was kneading her other breast. My mouth blew heat over her hardened nipple, and I nipped at it with my teeth, protected beneath three layers of fabric.

The girl underneath me shuddered and moaned again. "Please," she begged, a whimper of need. My self-confidence spiked, knowing the effect I was having on her.

"Please what, Bella?" I rasped, thankful that my arousal added an unfamiliar note to my voice, as I temporarily forgot to whisper.

"Please… I need… I need…" she stammered, writhing underneath me. I nipped at her again, and pinched her other nipple.

"What do you need?" I demanded as I ground against her once more. Fuck, I wanted her.

Her hands grasped at my shoulders, pulling me back up to face her. "I need to feel your lips on me," she whispered.

I stilled, my eyes roaming her face as she lay beneath me. She was so fucking beautiful. How could I deny her what she wanted? A idea began to form in my mind; if only she'd agree…

"You know I can't allow you to see me, right?" I asked.

She shut her eyes in disappointment and frustration. "Please," she begged again. "I need you to kiss me…" My breath hitched. I wanted, needed that, too—to feel her lips against mine, to taste her sweet mouth, wrap my tongue around hers.

As much as I wanted this, as much as she apparently did as well, I hesitated a moment before answering her. "I can't let you see me. That's against the rules." Where was I coming up with this shit? "I'd trust you to keep your eyes shut, but we both know that accidents happen." Her eyes opened to regard me, hope and desire staring back at me in equal measure. Her hands clutched again at my shoulders. I paused once more before continuing, watching for her reaction.

"I'll have to blindfold you," I told her, mentally crossing my fingers. Please, God, let her say yes. Her eyes widened, I don't know if it was in surprise or anxiety, but after a moment during which she teased her luscious bottom lip with her teeth, she nodded quickly, a breathy "OK," barely reaching my ears.

I exhaled with relief and excitement as I sat up again on my heels, then reached down and removed the scarf from her hair. She propped herself up on her elbows, allowing me to wrap the cloth around her; it was longer than I'd expected, and I was able to pass it over her eyes twice before tying it closed at the back and easing her back down to the bed.

If the lights had been on in the room, she might have been able to make out my form through the light-colored fabric, pink to match her dress, but in nothing but the moonlight, I knew my identity was safe. But I chose to warn her one last time.

"Don't remove your blindfold. If you do, I'll leave. Got it?"

She nodded again, accompanied by a whispered "Yes." She looked so innocent and vulnerable, lying there with her eyes covered, so trusting. So fucking hot. Who did she think I was that she would allow this? I swallowed thickly, briefly cursing myself for taking advantage of her like this, but I couldn't stop myself. I reached up and finally removed the bottom half of my mask, tossing it aside to rest next to my discarded gloves.

The cool air on my face was a relief, but I didn't stop to savor it; instead I dove forward and buried my nose once more in her hair, her scent finally reaching me unobstructed. It was heaven and I drank it in, my nose tracing the shell of her ear before I reached out and gently pinched her lobe between my teeth, the tip of my tongue just grazing the tender flesh.

Bella gasped and one of her hands flew to my head, holding me to her while I licked and sucked along her jaw, while the other pulled my left hand back over her breast. I squeezed and kneaded her soft flesh, while she panted heavily in my ear. Finally, my lips found hers and stilled for a moment as we traded breath; my tongue flicked out to steal the briefest taste, and her lips parted in surprise. Instantly I pressed my advantage, my tongue invading her mouth, stroking against hers.

I was acting purely on instinct, but I must have been doing something right, as I was rewarded with Bella's moans of pleasure as she kissed me back. It was heaven; I'd never dreamed that kissing someone could feel, could taste, this good. My hand tangled in her hair, then made its way down to her shoulder, where I pulled and tugged at the fabric of her dress. When I had to break away from the kiss for air, my lips traveled down her throat, to her chest, to the skin newly bared by my hand. Bella understood what I was after, and she helped me work the neckline down to free her breast. Only one thin layer of pink lace was left, and I licked along the edge of it as I once again teased and pinched at her nipple with my fingers. And then I just couldn't wait any longer, roughly pulling the final lacy barrier out of my way and latching onto her tit with my hungry mouth. Bella cried out as my tongue grazed against her hardened peak. My knee moved between her thighs, and I ground my ever-hardening erection against her hip. Bella arched her back again underneath me, pushing her tit into my mouth. I continue to nip and suck on her flesh, and she curled her freed leg up over my ass, the heel of her boot digging in. I suddenly found my hand stroking up the outside of her thigh and up under her dress, stopping to tease and pull at the elastic of her panties.

"James," she groaned wantonly as my fingers bit into the flesh of her ass. And then my teeth bit into her tit, eliciting a hiss of pain mixed with pleasure.

For a second I froze. James? That's who she thought I was? That motherfucker. That bastard didn't deserve this girl, not in a million years, and she thought I was him?

Fucking hell. Could I continue to do this, knowing that she truly thought I was someone else, especially considering she thought I was him? As much as I hated to think that she'd do something like this while not giving a shit who I was, I think I almost preferred that to outright deceiving her. And what if that dickhead had already fucked her? The anger and jealousy that coursed through my veins nearly blinded me, but I pushed it away roughly as I returned to licking and sucking at her skin—though I moved away now from her nipple as it had to be sore from where I'd bitten it. There was no guarantee he'd actually fucked her, and even if he had, there was no doubt in my mind I'd treat her better than he had. I knew it was wrong of me to continue deceiving her, it was completely fucking selfish, but fuck it, this was probably the one and only chance I'd ever have to be with this—fuck, this goddess, and I wasn't about to pass this shit up.

My mouth found hers again, while my hand moved to cup her sex. I could feel how damp she was through her panties, and I groaned into her mouth, my tongue curling around hers. I began to stroke her through the cotton, and she moved against my hand, whimpering. But I needed more, and I slid my fingers underneath the elastic and down to her pussy.

Jesus fucking Christ. She was bare. I couldn't believe she was fucking bare, and my cock throbbed painfully in my trousers at the thought. The skin of her mound was silky soft, but nothing prepared me for the feel of her pussy under my fingers as I slid them down between her lips. I'd never felt anything like it.

"Christ, you are so wet," I breathed, her juices coating my fingers as I stroked them gently up and down from her clit to her entrance. I had no idea a woman would get this wet without direct stimulation, and it was such a turn-on knowing that I'd done this to her.

I had to see it with my own eyes, not just touch it, and slowly I began to drag myself down her body, still licking, kissing, sucking as I went. When I had scooted down far enough, I brought both hands to her hips and started to pull her panties down her thighs. Bella stiffened beneath me, her breathing, once loud and harsh with her excitement, now silenced. I stopped what I was doing, looking up to see that she'd lifted her head as if to look at me through her blindfold.

She dropped her head back down in frustration, her breathing picking up again, sounding anxious. "I… I've never… I'm still…" she stammered.

Instantly I understood, and my feelings for her softened again. She hadn't slept with that motherfucker. She hadn't slept with anybody. She was still the innocent girl I had thought she was, though what she was doing with me here now, regardless that she thought I was someone I wasn't, was still a bit of a mystery. But I knew then I couldn't fuck her; I wouldn't. This was no longer about me; I couldn't do that to her for her first time, thinking I was someone else. I resolved to give her as much pleasure as I could without going that far… but even more, I suddenly discovered I was resolved to find some way in the near future to be with her honestly, openly. Without secrets, without masks.

"Shhh…" I tried to calm her. "Just trust me." I stroked her thigh soothingly with one hand, my thumb rubbing small circles on her skin. I saw her pull her lip between her teeth nervously, and her hands clenched on my shoulders. "It's okay," I whispered. "Let me make you feel good." I hoped that I could; obviously I'd never done anything like this before, but fuck…I'd been reading up on this shit. If any seventeen-year-old guy was going to get this right the first time, it'd fucking be me.

She whimpered again but she nodded her assent, and as I started pulling her panties down again, she lifted up her ass to help. Freed from her underwear, she was now bare to my gaze, her knees spread to either side of me where I knelt between them. My God, she was beautiful, and I told her so as I leaned in closer to the heaven between her thighs.

The delicious scent of her arousal assaulted my senses, and it was intoxicating, even more than the natural perfume of her skin. I could see her juices glistening along her delicate folds, and I was overwhelmed with the desire to taste her there, to have her in my mouth.

I leaned over her, kissing and licking up her inner thigh, while I gently stroked her other thigh with my fingertips. When I reached the apex, I inhaled deeply, drinking in her heady aroma before I placed a tentative kiss right above her clit. Bella gasped, a little squeak of surprise escaping her lips, and I smiled before reaching forward with my tongue for my first taste.

I moaned with pleasure as her taste hit my tongue, and Bella mewled with pleasure. Her essence was tangy, a bit salty, and I needed more. I parted her lips with my tongue, dragging it back up towards her clit, where I circled a couple of times before making my way back down again. Bella writhed against my face, and I continued lapping at her, drunk on the taste of her and the sounds she was making. I rolled my tongue and flicked at her entrance, pressing the tip inside, and I felt her hands gripping the back of my head. More of her juices spilled from her and I licked at them greedily, then turned my attention back to her clit. Wrapping my lips around it, I flicked it several times with the tip of my tongue. Her cries grew louder as I brought my fingers to her entrance and slipped one finger inside. I pumped in and out several times before adding a second, and started sucking gently on her clit. Her hips were rocking back and forth now, riding my hand, and her breath was coming in ragged gasps. I reached up with my free hand and pinched her bare nipple at the same time that I both curled my fingers inside her and nipped at her clit with my teeth. A wordless cry escaped Bella's mouth and her walls clenched around my fingers, her body shuddering violently as she came. I slipped my fingers out of her gently and I lapped up her juices as they poured out of her, not missing a single drop.

I pulled myself back up to hover over her cloth-bound face and smile down at her, even though she couldn't see. She was breathing heavily, coming down from the high I'd brought her to, and I had never seen anything so beautiful. I leaned down and kissed her tenderly on the lips, not wanting to push things further as I didn't know how she'd react to the taste of herself in my mouth. But she pulled me down to her and opened herself to me, forcing my lips apart with her own. She seemed momentarily startled by the foreign taste, but she continued to kiss me passionately, and who was I to stop her?

When we parted for air, she pulled my ear down to her lips. "Thank you," she breathed against me, and I chuckled. Once again I traced her ear with the tip of my nose, and she trembled happily.

"You are an amazing, beautiful, sexy woman, Bella Swan, and it was my pleasure," I whispered, before placing a chaste kiss on her cheek. I wanted to explore every inch of her, kiss her, touch her, make her come again and again—but I knew it was time for me to go. If I stayed any longer, I ran the risk of her discovering who I was, or even simply who I wasn't, and I couldn't have that. Not yet, anyway.

I reached for my gloves and my mask, anxious to return the latter to its place at least before it was too late. She must have sensed what I intended, because she asked me so sweetly to stay. I was torn—how badly I wanted to, even if all I did the rest of the night was hold her in my arms. But I couldn't.

"OK, baby, just give me a minute," I lied, and I scooted quickly off the bed. I shoved my gloves in the top of my boots and hastily tied the scarf back over my face as I made my way as quietly as I could to the door. I silently turned the knob and slipped into the hallway without a sound. I felt like a complete shit leaving her like that, but I had to do it.

The party was still going strong downstairs, but I didn't stop, heading straight for the door and outside to my car. It wasn't until I got home and started peeling off my Dread Pirate Roberts costume that I realized that I had snagged Bella's panties along with my gloves. Part of me grimaced at the idea that she'd think I'd taken them on purpose as a souvenir, while part of me was glad I had one, just in case I never got that close to her ever again.


At first I felt hurt when I heard the noise from downstairs grow louder with the opening of the door and realized James was leaving instead of staying with me like he'd said he would. But in retrospect, I should have realized he wouldn't stay, since he seemed so ridiculously set on keeping up the illusion of mystery. He could have stayed until I was asleep, I reasoned; but I wasn't going to hold it against him, certainly not after the way he'd taken care of me, and not pushed me too far. He had made sure I had come, and hadn't insisted that I reciprocate. I had been convinced I would have to give him a hand-job at least; how sweet of him instead to make my first sexual experience all about me. James really was something special, and I was both stunned and proud of myself for having taken the chance.

Seriously? This was not just my first sexual experience. I'd never even been kissed before. And what a kiss. And… Oh my god. I couldn't believe what had just happened, what I'd just allowed to happen. I felt my cheeks burning with the memory of his lips on my skin, my breast, my…

I was flooded with warmth once again as I thought about how he'd made me come. It was so erotic, but at the same time I was shocked that he would have wanted to do that to me. I wondered if Alice or Rosalie had ever… I bit my lip and blushed again, thinking about it; I could never ask them something like that. But to be so exposed to him, in such an intimate way… I was suddenly very grateful to James for being such a gentleman; if it had been anyone else, who knows how far things might have gone, whether I'd wanted them to or not.

However, a moment later I was annoyed and even more embarrassed when I realized that James had stolen my panties. It seemed in direct contrast to the way he'd otherwise treated me, but he was a teenage boy after all. I had briefly considered running after him, or looking for Alice or Rosalie, but the absence of my panties solidified my resolve not to return downstairs; besides which, after what had just happened, I felt far too warm and relaxed. Moving at that point was no longer an option, and I soon fell asleep, despite the noise that still drifted up through the floor.


We all slept in the next morning, so we were more than a bit disoriented when we remembered that the clocks had turned back the night before. The five of us moved sluggishly as we cleaned up the house in the wake of the previous night's festivities, but fortunately, other than a few suggestive looks and teasing remarks from Rosalie and Alice, both girls left me in peace until we were able to get away from the boys after breakfast.

Back at Alice's house, however, they pounced on me. Unable to keep from smiling widely and blushing furiously, I only told them the bare minimum. Yes, James had found me; yes, we'd found some privacy; yes, it was amazing—but exactly what I thought was amazing I wasn't about to elaborate on, regardless of how much my two friends begged and pleaded for details. But when Rosalie's probing questions started embarrassing even Alice, the topic was abruptly closed. After lunch I finally made my way back home, saying I needed to prove to my father that I was still alive.

Monday morning before classes started, a shadow fell over my shoulder as I exchanged books between my locker and my knapsack. I turned to find James standing a few feet away, looking at me hesitantly, hands stuffed in the pockets of his jeans.

"Hey," he offered, sounding unsure of my welcome.

"Hi, James," I smiled quietly back at him, feeling the blush creep up my cheeks at the thought of when we'd last been together—and what we'd done.

"So… where were you Saturday night?" James asked me, watching for my reaction.

My face grew redder at the reminder and I dropped my gaze for a moment. I smiled bashfully as I looked back up at him, not meeting his eyes. "You know where I was," I mumbled so low he could probably barely hear me.

"Um, no?" he responded, his brows creasing in a puzzled frown. "I got to the party late, and I didn't see you anywhere."

My eyes snapped to his in surprise, which I immediately attempted to hide. At his cocked eyebrow, I knew I'd been unsuccessful. "What did you come dressed as?" I asked, trying to sound merely curious, but a knot was starting to form in my stomach.

"Zorro," James answered. "You know, black mask, black cape, sword…" He playfully moved one hand in an extended zigzag motion, as if he were whipping a rapier's blade back and forth.

My eyes widened, and once again I tried to hide my reaction to his words, but his puzzled expression as he watched me told me I'd failed again. I'm a horrible actress, and a terrible liar, but I had to give it a shot before he asked any questions.

"Oh, right!" I exclaimed, trying to sound convincing. "I think I saw you right as I was leaving to go lie down upstairs. I was really tired…" I paused, flustered, and just managed an apologetic look. "I'm sorry we missed each other." I turned back to my locker, throwing one last book in blindly, hoping that he'd leave it at that. I had to find Alice and Rosalie.

"Not as sorry as I am, Bella," James said, his voice dropping low as he leaned in behind me, one hand going to my hip. I stiffened, and then asked myself why I was suddenly so anxious about his close proximity. He wasn't the one who'd misled me. But still, I felt strangely uncomfortable.

I shut my locker noisily and turned to leave, disconcerted at how close he was standing to me. "I'm sorry, James, but I've got to go," I rushed. "I just remembered I need to give Alice a book before first period." I flashed him a weak smile and brushed past him, walking quickly away down the hall.

Moments later, I spotted my girlfriends standing together at Alice's locker, where she was just working the combination to open it. Rosalie noticed me approach, nodding and smiling at me, prompting Alice to turn around.

"Hey, Bella," Alice greeted me cheerily, and then she lowered her voice and looked at me suggestively. "Have you seen James yet this morning?" She grinned widely at me, and instead of blushing for a change, I actually blanched. Both Alice and Rosalie's teasing expressions changed to concern as they saw the growing panic on my face.

"Alice, Rosalie, I have a problem."