Disclaimer: All characters, plots, and settings related to Twilight are the property of Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended by the author.

Chapter One

I Have a Proposition to Make

I avoided stares. The diner was crowded for lunch, and that made me more anxious to leave. I stared at the lone clock hanging on the dull yellow wall, watching the second hand move. Waiting for my date, I wondered how long I could get him to leave.

Precisely two minutes and fourteen seconds after I took my seat, Edward Cullen appeared in front of me, gracefully sliding in my booth. He looked at me as his right hand raked over his hair. "So..."

I stared at him blankly.

"You're the Chief's daughter."

I nodded. Nice. He wouldn't even say my name.

He didn't bother introducing himself. He glanced at the empty table between us. "Have you ordered anything yet?"

I shook my head. I haven't even looked at the menu.

"Do you want to eat?"

I shrugged, letting him make the decision. If it was all up to me, I wouldn't even be here.

"Do you ever talk?"

I shrugged again. It was quite obvious he was getting pissed, his brows knitting together as his eyes narrowed. "Are you doing this on purpose?"

I gave him my most innocent smile.

He gave me a smile of his own, probably amused, though I can't understand why. "You're intentionally pissing me off, aren't you?"

I shrugged again.

"Damn it! You do that one more time and I swear I'll..."

I'll...? Go on.

He seemed to have caught himself and immediately stopped. He took a deep breath.

I pointed at the door, and finally spoke, "Door's that way."

He smirked. "Finally! She speaks! Here I thought you were a damn mute!" He didn't seem to hear what I said.

"You may leave now. Don't worry. I won't take it against you."

I expected him to grab this golden opportunity. I mean, who does allow themselves to be strung along through a blind date? Unfortunately for me, Edward Cullen was one of them. He moved alright, but he just leaned against the back of his seat. "Sorry missy, but if there's anyone leaving today, it will be you. One wrong move from me and it's buh-bye to my car. Got it?"

So the car's the bribe. I frowned at him.

"You don't like me," he pointed out.

I snorted. "Obviously."

He nodded, not a bit insulted. He must have felt the same. So I was a bit perplexed when he grabbed a copy of the menu and started skimming through it. My jaw dropped, my head going uh-oh. "We're really going through with this?" Why can't we just part ways?

He shrugged, not tearing his eyes away from the menu. "It's just lunch, anyway. Once you get home, you can tell your mom we just didn't click. Don't forget to add that I didn't bail out on you." Before I could say something back, he added, "And that I was a gentleman."

I snorted again.

He looked up at me. "Do you a better idea?"

Let's just go home, please, and end this pathetic excuse of a date! But I knew it wasn't any better. I would lose my sanity with Renee's sermons if I do just that.

When I didn't say a word, Edward Cullen smirked at me once more and raised his hand to the waitress. "Good. Let's order."

I went straight up the stairs when I came home. Drenched from the rain, I decided I would take another bath. As expected, Renee came hovering over me as soon as I entered the front door. "Well, how was the date?"

I paused to give her a short glare. She didn't mind it one bit, probably used to my sour mood. "How was he? Was he nice? Was he cute?" She giggled.

Ugh. Edward Cullen? Nice? Cute?No comment.

I badly wanted to close my bedroom door before my mother could come in after me, but decided against it. I was too filial to do something that disrespectful.

"Bella, you weren't rude to him, were you?"

Okay, that was hurtful. "No, mom." I was never rude, I was just not friendly.

"Did you sulk all throughout the meal?"

This was really getting unfair, and infuriating. "I do not sulk." I think.

I was taking my wet jacket off of me when I heard my mother sigh. I know, mom. We're having this conversation again.

"Did you have fun, at least?" I could hear the sad and hopeful tone in her voice. I knew she only wanted my happiness, but she was doing it all wrong. "Bella?"


I grabbed my towel and my bag of toiletries before dashing out for the bathroom. "I'm going to take a bath." I didn't wait for her to ask me more questions.

When I was finally alone in the small enclosed space of our second floor bathroom, I let out my angry tears. I wanted to drown myself in my bath water if that was possible.

The date I had earlier was Renee's fourth attempt in finding me a "real man". At each attempt, she made it sure to mention that Jake wasn't a "real man".

Jake. I angrily slapped the surface of the water with my hand as the name echoed in my head. This was his entire fault. I leaned my head against the edge of the tub, contemplating the right emotion for Jake: anger, for leaving me behind; envy, for moving on without me; or sadness, for a love that didn't have its happily ever after.

Then there was self-pity. I was being pathetic, still thinking of him after two years.

He's an ass, and I was wrong about him! I told myself that over and over as I scrubbed myself hard and finished my bath.

"Is he gorgeous?" Trust Alice to ask this question.

"He's okay," I replied. I didn't really assess my date earlier, but I supposed he wasn't an eyesore.

"Well, that's fine. I really didn't want you to like him."

"Really?" I was doubtful of that. If there was anyone more determined to see me in a relationship than my mother, it would be my best friend Alice.

"Yes. I wouldn't trust the male population there in Forks. It is wiser to look here in Seattle," she stated with that perky voice of hers.

I groaned. "Alice, I do not trust the male population in general, and I am not looking." With that, a change of topic was called for. "So, how's your summer vacation?"

I could tell she was smiling from the other line. "It's very productive. I've already made a very compromising list of guys that would compliment you. We can start with..."

A change of topic, indeed."Hey, I have to go. Bye, Alice. Love you." I ended the call.

I was really expecting to have another date with another guy. That was the supposedly my mother's game plan: anyone Bella didn't like, he's out. So for the first time in years, I had a date, not a blind date, since I've already met this guy.

My fingers tapped the linen-covered table, my patience wearing thin. He's late! I had been in the restaurant for thirteen minutes, and was thinking which would be better - for Edward Cullen to finally arrive, or for him to not show up at all. I have never been stood up on a date before, and although this was not a serious one, I found myself humiliated sitting alone waiting.

Another minute and he finally showed up, looking ashamed and quite guilty, to my surprise.

He avoided my gaze. "I'm sorry I'm late."

I knew I should have tried to be less hostile, but then I remembered why I was with him for the second time. "Some great plan you have." Sarcasm coated each word.

His eyes immediately met mine. "Hey, it's not my fault my mom is being a big pain. I'm telling you, I'm stuck at this." He ran his right hand through his hair, "Why don't you walk away? Even if you'll lose that monster of a truck of yours, it won't be that much of a loss."

I ignored the insult on my truck. What did he know? "I'm stuck at this too. If this doesn't work out, my mom will surely find another pathetic single guy who could be threatened by the thought of losing his car."

I clearly struck a nerve since his smile faltered, but then he smirked, his eyes impish, "Your mom has to threaten a guy to go out with you? That's sad."

Damn this man. I frowned.

Silence loomed over our table for a minute, and then he sighed. "Look, you know I only act like a jerk because you're being all snotty, right?"

I nodded. I considered that as a truce.

We gave our orders then, not minding each other. After our server left, Edward surprised me once again with a question, his tone curious and not insulting this time. "Can't you tell your mom to stop this nonsense?" He seemed to be pleading with me.

"I did, but she just wouldn't quit. It feels like I have to wait until I've dated every single guy here in Forks before she stops." I didn't bother telling him about Alice. That was another problem.

"Just how many guys have you gone out with?" he asked.

"You're the fourth." This was getting embarrassing.

"Better you than me," he muttered under his breath. He looked quite embarrassed as well. "You're my seventh."

Seven blind dates? What is wrong with him? "What is wrong with you?"

"There's nothing with me," he said, getting defensive. "My mom is just having delusions of me settling down."

"Settling down? You mean, we were set up together to settle down?" This was getting worse. Who said anything about marriage? Why am I still here?

"No! It's not like that. She just wants me to have a girlfriend."

That was when I finally took a good look at Edward Cullen. Saying he just wasn't an eyesore was the understatement of the century, so what was the problem? "You never had a girlfriend before?"

"That's not the case. I had lots of girlfriends..." he started.

Lots. Huh.

"...although my mother disagrees with the terminology. She said they were more of just mere acquaintances with a little touch of intimacy." He snorted.

Our food arrived, interrupting me from voicing out my thoughts. My date obviously had some issues... commitment-wise, probably.

Then an idea started evolving in my head. Maybe not a brilliant one, but I was positive it would work.

If I came home swearing I'd never see Edward Cullen again, Renee would surely set me up with another stranger, starting the whole outrageous process all over again: the pep talk before the date, meeting the new guy, the date itself, messing up the date, telling my mom how I messed up the date, the sermons and tears, the hopes and dreams, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Then when summer ends, I would be able to get away from Renee only to be stuck with Alice before the holidays, and I would then again be tortured with blind dates from the university.

So what if I do go out with Edward Cullen? That would cease all these blind date terror.

I cleared my throat before speaking. "I have a proposition to make."

His brow raised in question.

"We could make this work," I motioned my hand to the two of us.

He looked confused at first, before understanding came slowly. "So you just decided I would be the lucky guy you'd stick with?"

"Well, I didn't exactly decide that. Don't you want to make this work?"

He was silent for a while, contemplating. "No offense, but I don't. I'm just not interested in being in a relationship right now."

I didn't take offense, just as he asked. I was relieved, "Exactly."

"What? I thought..."

"I have a plan. A proposition, as I've said. We can make it look like we're going out, but we're actually not."

He quickly got it. "A pretense..."

I nodded, giving him time to think it through.

After a minute, he smiled. "Okay...so I just basically have to act like your boyfriend, right?"

"Right. Then your car is free. No more threats and blind dates and yacking of you being a pathetic single man."

His smile got wider. "That sounds good."

I smiled too, "But of course, there are conditions."

That got him, "Conditions?" A brow rose up again.

"Well, we have to make this long enough to convince everyone it's a real deal." I was pretty sure a couple of weeks would be laughable to Renee.

"How long?"

"Six months," I decided. If I could prove that I was capable of being in a relationship that long, my mom and my best friend wouldn't feel the need to worry about me anymore.

"Six months? Are you serious? I've never been with a girl that long, or even half that long! A month is like an eternity of hell. I'd surely suffocate..."

Woah. He obviously has some major problems. "It's not like we have to be together everyday. We don't even have to have dates. We just have it make it look like we do. Plus, once summer is over, I have to head back to Seattle, so we won't be seeing each other by then."

That calmed him down. "Six months. So it ends before the New Year."

I nodded. It was mid-June.

"How will this end? It better not be my fault..."

I thought it over for a second. "Well, we could say we just fell apart, with school and everything else. That sounds like a reasonable explanation." It didn't escape my mind that this was exactly what Jake had said when he suddenly decided to leave me.

Edward looked doubtful then, probably having a decision-making discourse inside his head. He swirled the pasta round and round his fork.

Our food was getting cold due to my plan making, but if he would agree, it would be worth it.

I looked up from my own plate when his swirling stopped. Edward was looking back at me, smiling. "I would love to pretend to be your boyfriend, Bella."

That was the first time he said my name. "Then you have yourself a fake girlfriend, Edward."