2nd Annual "For My Valentine"

A Twilight Love Story Contest

Title: White Chocolate Lemon Cake

Rating: M for language

Pairing: Bella & Edward

Summary: Bella is tired of playing the game of love. She doesn't want to get involved with anyone, but a coffee shop barista she's known for years manages to pique her interest. Resistance is futile.

For more information please see contest details at http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/~formyvalentinetwilight

A/N: Thanks so much to Project Team Beta for helping me clean this story up.



"No weepy love stories, please!"

Jacob laughed as he looked back at me before walking over to the drama section of the video store.

"I know, I know, I'm not an idiot."

"No romantic comedies, either!"

"Do you honestly think I'd pick a romantic comedy?" he asked as he turned to face me completely.

"Well, no, but I don't want to be surprised or anything," I told him. "No happy endings either, come to think of it! Give me, like…death or famine or tragedy. But not that poetic-justice-kinda-tragedy, okay?"

I looked around idly, surveying the science-fiction films to my right before meandering to stand behind Jacob as he held two cases up, comparing them.

"This one is about mass genocide in Rwanda and this one is about a somewhat mentally disabled person who, well…I won't ruin the ending for you, I've seen it though. It is definitely not happy."

"Excellent choices, my friend. Let's watch genocide tonight. Save the other for next week," I told him as I grabbed the case out of his hand.

"Wanna stop for some chocolate chip cookies? My sister ate the ones we got last week," Jacob asked once we got into his car.

"Sure. You got milk at home?"

"Yup, new gallon for you."

Ten minutes later we pulled in Jacob's driveway. He still lived with his dad and younger sister while he finished college, but I didn't hold it against him. His sister was a bit on the skanky side but his father was pretty cool.

After we got settled in his bedroom, the attic of the house, we chatted for a while before we put the movie on.

"So, what's happened since last Tuesday? Anything of importance?"

"Ugh, I don't even want to think about it," I said as I stuffed an entire cookie in my mouth.

"What? You gotta tell me now," he told me as he poked my side. After spitting half a mouthful of crumbs on his couch, I caved.

"Fine…well…ugh, Mike told Angela that he liked me. He sent her to see if I liked him. How grade school, huh?"

"Mike? Angela's bro? You hang out with those guys all the time, right?"

"Yeah. Well. I used to."

"You had no clue he liked you?"

"No! I mean, he was nice to me, but apparently that doesn't mean anything anymore. Eric was nice to me. Remember? He used to give me free coffee cake at Daily Grind. I thought it was because I'm in there so much, he thought I should get, like, rewards points or something—but, noooo. There was an agenda!"

"Eric…remind me? What happened after the coffee cake?"

"He stalked me online, remember? Called me Isabella—just refused to say Bella. It was like, his thing, saying my whole name." I shuddered as I remembered when he 'just happened' to drive by my apartment and catch me walking from my car to my door. He leaned out the passenger side window and sang-shouted my name. Thankfully I managed to blow him off that night and proceeded to never accept another free pastry from him again. He eventually got the hint.

"Ha! Oh yeah, I totally forgot about that little weasel. I see him still when I go in there, too, it's great. Remember when he saw us together that one time and puffed his chest out and tried to look intimidating? It came across more like…constipated, but whatever. Ah, what an asshole."

Jacob kept chuckling to himself while he drank his milk. One thing I loved about our Tuesday night hang-outs was that he supplied the cookies, but never ate them.

"You have to admit, though, Bella, you do have a terrible track record with guys. Besides Eric, and now Mike, there was, um…that musician. The one that told you he loved you then freaked out and moved to Kansas? What was his name?"

"Blech! His name was Tyler. Please, don't bring that up again…" I feebly protested, but Jacob continued anyway.

"Oh, yeah, Tyler, and he asked you to go shopping with him, claiming he needed a 'friend's opinion', on everything, and then on instant messenger later told you he was looking at you differently and it was too hard for him," he said along with what could only be described as masculine giggles.

"And, and then, whooo, ah man, what a douche, then he said, what, was it two nights later?" Jacob didn't even need me here for the story. Why he was telling it to me, when I knew it first hand, I didn't know. "Yeah, two nights later and he says he's in love with you, and then, oh man, then the next day he emailed you and took it back, and asked you not to tell anybody."

Jacob hooted with laughter as I sat quietly, chewing my remaining cookies. I didn't remember clearing an entire row of the pack, but I was trying to comfort myself as I thought about the headstones filling up my "friends of the opposite sex" graveyard.

I'd begun to think that it could never happen, but Jacob managed to sneak in and steal part of my friend-heart. He declared he'd never want to date someone who didn't believe in higher education; I had never gone to college, worked a full-time customer service job, and didn't have any plans on going to school. He liked tall girls, I happen to be a respectable five-foot-two. He didn't like small-town life, and I was totally prepared to settle down in Forks, Washington for the rest of my life.

I wasn't anywhere close to being his type, so I felt safe around him. Whenever we were together, I marveled at how much I enjoyed his company without all of that weird attraction and affection getting in the way. He quickly became my go-to for all my troubles.

"I gotta say, Bells, if I were you, I would've been a little insulted by that. Saying he loves you but wanting to make sure you kept it a secret? Then moving halfway across the country just to escape? I knew he was hard for you, but I didn't know what a pipsqueak he'd turn out to be."

"I know, I know, don't worry. I was up for at least three consecutive nights wondering what was so embarrassing about me that I had to keep it all a secret, but whatever. I'm glad he moved. One less person to avoid in this tiny town."

I stole a glance at Jacob, hoping he was done reminiscing. He was quiet for a moment, staring off into space, before he laughed aloud and spoke again.

"And remember Garrett? Man, he didn't waste any time, did he?"

"No, he didn't; why are we even talking about this?" I was beyond annoyed.

"It's too funny not to, honestly. I wish we could relive all of this every week," he said, "but I know you'd kill me."

I cracked a smile, and Jacob winked at me.

"But really though, he waited, like, three weeks after you broke up with Felix, then swooped in. It's kinda creepy, really, considering you guys were friends for so long, and he hung out with Felix so much. He must've just been biding his time…creepy fuck. And then he was so wishy-washy, 'I like you, I don't like you, I love you, you're not a musician, I like musicians, come watch a movie, don't call me, make out with me on your birthday, I can't talk to you anymore'…I mean, grow a pair, for real. You never were really interested in him, were you?"

I looked at Jacob, realizing he was actually serious.

"Well, no, I mean, it's always flattering to have an admirer, but…he definitely wasn't my type, or…not even that, he just wasn't for me. At all. Sometimes I think there might not be anybody for me, really," I said, looking at my lap. I hated how quickly my insecurities flared up, making me question my appeal.

Clearly, there was something about me that attracted guys, but usually, if I was actually interested in them, they lost interest in me as soon as I showed it. I had to think that there was something about me that turned them off, like maybe the person I projected to strangers and acquaintances was a better version of myself, and the real me, the one I showed people who got close to me, was just…less than.

"Bells…" Jacob began, but I didn't want his pity.

"But, yeah, Garrett…God, he was too tall, and his head was gigantic anyway, I looked like his ventriloquist dummy when we were together," I said with a smirk.

Jacob had a knowing look, but he didn't push me on it, and instead laughed louder than my joke warranted.

"So, whadya say we watch some bloodshed, huh?"

Later that week, I made my daily evening stop at Daily Grind, longing for some caffeine and one of those delicious slices of marble loaf cake. I walked in to find it fairly empty, but I recognized a couple of the other patrons. Regulars, like myself.

"Hey, Bella, what's up?" I looked up to see Edward working, as usual. He was here nearly every night--always nice, always attentive.

"Ah, not much, Edward. How's work been?"

"My shift just started, so…pretty damn good, huh?" he said with a soft laugh.

"Shoot yeah. So you're closing?" I asked as he grabbed a slice of cake for me from right in the middle of the loaf, where it was the best. He set the plate on the counter and turned to get my coffee. I was greatly appreciative that he somehow always knew what I wanted when I came in.

"Yep, as usual. You're here a little early today," he said, waving my cash away when I tried to pay.

"Well, I will probably stop by again later, but I've got to go to this little…dinner thing, for my dad, so, I thought I'd stop by now," I said, trying to force him to take the money with narrowed eyes.

"Dinner? Should I have not gotten you cake, then?"

"No!" I nearly shouted, then blushed. Edward smiled. "I mean, I was planning on getting it anyway. I don't know what they're having at the dinner, so, better to be safe then sorry, eh?"

Edward had resorted to ignoring the money in my hand, and I huffed in annoyance.

"Take the money, Edward!"

"No, honestly, Bella, you're in here two or three times a day. I'm not going to charge you every single time, so just deal with it," he said as he folded his arms across his chest. It was then that I noticed a tattoo peeking out from underneath his shirtsleeves that were pushed up. I tried not to stare, but he caught me.

"Ah, whoops," he said and pulled his sleeve down.

"What? It looks cool," I told him.

"Yeah, but we're not supposed to show them at work. That's why I never wear short sleeves," he explained as he unlatched his watch. "See, I have one under here, too."

His outstretched arm showed what appeared to be something written in Hebrew on the top of his wrist.

"That's really cool, what is it?"

"A, uh, Hebrew proverb, nothing special," he said while quickly covering it back up. I noticed his discomfort, and couldn't help wondering why he showed it to me in the first place.

"Oh, cool. Um, so, how many tattoos do you have?" I asked, hoping that he wouldn't clam up more than he already had.

"Uh, four," he said, adding a fork to my plate and absentmindedly rotating it.

"Oh, where?"

Edward sighed, and I hoped I wasn't getting on his nerves. It was unlike me to be so nosy, but for some reason this late afternoon found me genuinely curious about Edward.

I'd known him, technically, for almost two years. The coffee shop opened the summer before last, and he'd worked here since the start. I was a regular, perhaps even the most regular-regular, so I'd seen him hundreds of times, but other than his name, I really didn't know him at all.

If Edward was reluctant to tell me more, he fought it back as he pushed both sleeves up again. He turned his left arm up so I could see more of the tattoo that intrigued me earlier. A bleeding heart. Interesting. It was situated on the same arm as the Hebrew proverb.

On his left arm was another symbol on the inside of his wrist; it looked like a cross, but the proportions were slightly off. I was afraid to ask. Further up his arm, on the backside, at his elbow, was a single star, filled in with a serene blue-green color. I wanted to reach out and touch it, but I didn't know why.

I settled for smiling broadly.

"Wow, those are beautiful, Edward," I told him genuinely.

"Do you have any?" he asked, looking into my eyes for a split second.

"Not yet, but I can honestly say that it's something I've thought about for a long, long time," I replied.

"What's stopping you?"

"Money, mainly. Money and a lack of knowledge. I wouldn't even know where to go."

"Well, if you get the money worked out, you can go to my guy," he said, looking up as the door opened, and another customer walked in. "In the meantime, put your money back in your wallet, consider it your tattoo fund."

Edward's crooked grin set butterflies off in my stomach. He'd never had such an effect on me before, and I decided then not to let him be too nice to me. That never turned out well for me.

I shrugged, stuffed my money into the tip jar, and raised my eyebrow, daring him to say something. He looked like he might protest, but was resigned to the fact that he wouldn't win this battle.

I took my coffee and cake and went to a nearby table, purposefully sitting with my back to Edward. I didn't want to be tempted to sneak any peeks at his tattoos, muscled forearms, unruly brown-red hair, crooked grin, perfect nose, sculpted jaws, apple-green eyes, or anything else regarding him.

Oh my. When did I catalogue every feature on Edward Cullen?

Maybe I was in more trouble than I thought.

Of course, I wasn't blind. I knew he was incredibly attractive, and, admittedly, when I first started coming here, I almost developed a crush on him. So did every other female in this town, my friends included.

The individualist that I am shunned all fads and trends, including the new "it-boy", so I never gave any inclination of attraction, and was, at best, cordial with him, especially when my friends flirted.

But earlier this winter he was gone for a little over a month, and I did wonder about him—where he was, when he was coming back, what had happened. He was gone just long enough to become old news as my friends and most of the other girls in town moved on.

So, when he came back, and wasn't the center of attention anymore, I may have let my eyes linger on him a bit longer, my conversations probe a bit deeper, but that was it. I had no interest in Edward Cullen, or anyone, for that matter. Life was complicated enough without getting involved with someone--especially the provider of my coffee and cake.

"Happy early Valentine's Day, Edward!" a chipper voice sang, pulling me from my reverie. I looked away from my half-eaten cake to see the tiny, black-haired fairy like girl lean over the counter and kiss Edward on the cheek. She slid a small heart-shaped red box across the counter to him, and then waved as she skipped back out the door. Edward caught me looking, so I averted my gaze quickly, turning back to my treat. I suddenly wasn't very hungry.

Not only was I reminded that Valentine's Day was approaching, which was like my personal kryptonite, but I kind of hated that stupid pixie. She was in here constantly, always kissing Edward's cheek, hugging him, calling out to him in that weird singsong voice and dancing around like she was in a fucking ballet.

Granted, she was graceful enough to actually be a ballerina, but girls like that, attention hungry girls, grated on me. I sighed, and accepted the fact that I wouldn't be able to finish my marble loaf. I stood up and carried my plate up to the counter so Edward didn't have to come clear the table after I left.

"Leaving?" he asked, then saw my plate. "Was it not good?"

He actually looked worried. It was extremely uncommon for me to leave any marble loaf on my plate…typically I practically licked up the crumbs.

"No, it was great, but you were right, I shouldn't eat before I go to dinner, so…halfway through I just stopped eating, I guess," I told him, my voice sounding glum even to me.

"Oh, okay. Well…see you later, Bella."

"See ya," I replied, sneaking a glance at his face one more time. He wasn't looking at me.

Six days until Valentine's Day. Ugh. I'd have to see if Jacob wanted to do something. I hated celebrating it, but the gushy, fairy-tale reading young girl inside of me usually broke down on Valentine's Day, wishing I had someone special. It's like my darkest day of the year, but if anyone could make it better, Jacob would.

Later that same night, I stopped back by Daily Grind to meet up with Angela and Rosalie. I had tried to get out of meeting them, but they claimed they hadn't seen me since last week and I had to make an appearance.

Edward was still working when I came in, but he looked pretty busy so I didn't say hi or stand in line to get something.

Rosalie and Angela both scolded me for ignoring them, and Angela apologized again for the entire Mike situation.

"I should've told him to screw himself, really. I never should've agreed to tell you. I don't know what I was thinking," she explained.

"It's fine, Angela. Thanks for apologizing, but there's no need. As long as he knows I'm not interested, that's all that matters," I told her. The way she avoided my eyes told me that maybe she hadn't relayed that message to Mike after all.

"Angelaaaa…did you not tell him I didn't like him like that?" I whined, employing my best goat impersonation to draw out her name.

"Gah, he was just so, so excited, I don't know, I couldn't bear to tell him, but I will, I promise-"

"No worries, chica, I got this," Rosalie interrupted.

She put her phone up to her ear, Angela and I watching with bated breath.

"Mike, it's Rose. Yeah. No, listen, I'm here with your sister and Bella. Yes. She knows, and she is not interested, okay? No, not at all. Don't call her. Don't text her. Don't look at her, and don't stalk her Facebook. I'll know if you do. No! You're like…belly button lint, Mike, totally useless and annoying, but persistent. Let it go," Rose told him firmly. "Just ask what's-her-face out, she likes you. You know. Fucking pig nose. Yes, Jessica. Ask her out, she'll go. Alright. Okay, bye."

"Well?"

"He's gonna take out oinker instead. Must've not liked you that much, I guess. Lucky girl," Rose responded, self-satisfied. She looked over my head and smiled. I turned to see what she was looking at, and came face-to-face with Edward's seemingly flat stomach. I looked up at his face, but his body was positioned so close to me, and a light was directly above him, so his features were obscured. His hair, however, was glowing like there was a halo around it. He did look rather ethereal.

"Bella, you're back," he said in an amused tone.

Instinctively I leaned back, trying to get a better look at him.

"Yeah, I had to meet the girls here, you know, catch up, and whatnot," I said in a rambling rush. I realized my heart was beating faster than normal, and the telltale blush was heating my cheeks.

"Good to hear it, unfortunately it's ten. Gotta close up, but I'm sure I'll see you tomorrow?"

"I'm sure you will," I replied. He grinned, then looked at Angela and Rose and nodded goodbye. They were both standing, their coats already on, before I managed to get out of my seat.

I watched Edward head to another table to let them know the store was closing, and I couldn't help but take note of how well his pants fit him, or how his black shirt stretched perfectly across his broad shoulders.

I needed to stay away from Edward Cullen, that much was for sure.

In the parking lot, the three of us talked for a bit more before saying goodnight. I glanced in the window of Daily Grind and saw Edward sweeping. He looked up at me at the exact same moment, so instead of gawking I gave a polite smile and small wave.

Edward froze as though I flashed him, but recovered quickly enough to wave back before I got into my car.

I called Jacob and explained that in addition to our usual Tuesday night hang- out, I needed company for Valentine's Day as well. He agreed happily, saying we could make it a slasher-film night, the perfect antidote to the holiday.

After a twenty-minute phone call to Jacob, I drove to the only place open after ten o'clock, the video store. I was wandering aimlessly through the foreign film section when I saw a familiar bronze-haired fellow pass by. He hadn't seen me yet, so I took advantage of the situation and did a little spying. I noticed he mainly picked up obscure indie flicks, but when he walked by the action section, he glanced around as though he didn't want anyone to see him. I crept up behind him silently and caught a look at the cover of the movie he had picked up.

It most certainly starred an actor by the name of Steven Seagal.

I snickered, and Edward spun around to face me, his face turning several shades of red before he even spoke.

"Uh – uh, hey, Bella, what's up?" He held the movie down to his thigh with the cover facing him, trying to hide it.

"Ah not much…just thought I might be in the mood for some good ass-kicking action scenes…maybe some mixed martial arts along with gunfights a la Steven Seagal?"

Edward stammered, so I jumped in before he could look any more mortified.

"It's okay, Edward, we all have our guilty pleasures, no need to be embarrassed," I told him, and he looked relieved.

For the next half-hour, we strolled through the entire store, pointing out different movies we'd seen, debating opinions, and making a list of ones to rent. Everything went smoothly until the very end.

"It's just that, I think you can judge a person by what movies they watch, or what books they read. Go to their house and check out their DVD collection and their bookshelves, and you can pretty much guess what they're like," he tried to say.

"That's bullshit, Edward. There are much better ways to figure someone out, like, say, getting to know them instead of trying to instantly categorize them. Ask them questions; listen to what they say, and what they don't say. A fucking movie collection won't tell you anything. If I had a huge porn collection, that doesn't mean that I'm only interested in fucking and nothing else, does it?"

Edward's face flushed, whether for being called out, or for my speaking of an imaginary porn collection in my possession, I wasn't sure. After a minute, his shoulders relaxed, and he exhaled loudly.

"You're right, Bella," he said, watching my face intently. He could've said more, but he didn't. His sincere words hung in the air between us until I grew uncomfortable.

"Well, I should get going," I told him, edging towards the door without even renting anything.

"Yeah, I guess so…hey…thanks for busting my balls. I need it every now and then," he said, his crooked grin out in full force.

"No problem, Edward. Don't worry, I'll take care of your balls."

His eyes widened and I cursed myself internally for not thinking before I spoke.

"I meant, not take care of your balls, like, take care of them, but you know, I'll bust them, you know, I mean…see you tomorrow?" I asked, hoping to not discuss or think of Edward's balls any longer.

"Yeah, tomorrow. Sweet dreams, Bella."

I strolled into Daily Grind the next afternoon, simultaneously hoping I was going early enough to avoid Edward and late enough to run into him before his shift started.

The night before put more conflicted thoughts in my mind. Edward was incredibly pleasant to be around, regardless of where we were, and he was clearly intelligent and engaging, even if he did like B-movie action films. He was so easy on the eyes that mine wouldn't leave his form at all. I couldn't drag them away from him at times, watching the way his mouth shaped his words, his brow furrowed as he read movie titles, and he motioned with his hands as he spoke. It was like watching an Adonis; he was bordering on too perfect.

He was also ridiculously nice, which meant that trouble was ashore. As soon as he hooked me with his nice-guy routine, I'd show him some attention, and he'd get bored and call the whole thing off. I needed to keep my distance, at least that way he wouldn't lose interest, and we could both just remain intriguing mysteries to one another.

I wavered in my decision, however, when Edward walked in. He noticed me immediately and walked over, sitting in the unoccupied chair at my table. He propped his elbow up on the table and sat his chin in his hand and stared at me before speaking.

"Mind if I join you? I don't have to clock in for fifteen more minutes," he explained.

"Sure," I replied curtly, trying desperately to stay aloof.

"How was the rest of your night?"

"Oh, fine. You know. Slept. Then this morning I woke up," I told him sarcastically.

"Very interesting," he said with narrowed eyes.

He seemed subtly flirtatious, but I couldn't be sure.

"What are your plans tonight?"

"Um, well, I don't really have any. I'll probably try to finish this crossword here, then just waste some time watching TV since I have to work tomorrow," I responded, my eyes flickering all around him but never settling on his face. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to look away.

"Hmmm…would you wanna come watch TV at my place? Bring Rose and Angela if you want, and Mike can come, too," he offered. "I don't really, um, have that many friends, you know, outside of work, so…it could be cool. We can just take it easy, order pizza, whatever."

I had to look at him then, if nothing but to study his face, and try to determine if he had an agenda, too. He just looked expectant, and slightly nervous.

"Sure. But no Mike. We're not talking to him now," I said with a laugh.

"Oh, we're not? I'll remember that when he comes in, then," he said with a wink. My heart skipped a beat. Was this a mistake? Should I have accepted on Rose and Angela's behalf, or even on my own?

Could I be trusted around Edward Cullen?

"Well, I should clock in. You guys meet me here right after closing, and we'll head over," he said, stealing a furtive glance into my mug.

"Cool," I said, struggling to be nonchalant.

I watched Edward walk away and wasted no time snatching up my phone to text both Angela and Rosalie.

Angela responded immediately.

Sounds good. See you then.

Rosalie made me sweat for four minutes.

Are you crazy? I have to get up at five tomorrow for work!

--I have to get up early, too.

You don't go to work until eleven, slut! Fine, I'll be there, but I will not stay long.

--Thank you, thank you, thank you!

BTW, you will have to tell me why this is so important.

I knew to take Rosalie's threat very seriously, so in the next five hours I would have to figure out what to tell her without giving too much away. Rose was perceptive, and relentless. If I wasn't careful, she'd get it out of me, then probably embarrass me horribly in front of Edward.

A full mug of coffee appeared in front of me as my empty mug was taken away. I looked up at Edward to see him grinning at me.

"Everybody in?" he asked, nodding towards my still-lit-up cell phone.

"Oh, yeah, they're in, though Rose will probably bitch all night since she has to get up early tomorrow, but what's new?" I shrugged, and tried not to lick my lips at the sight of his widened smirk.

"So true. And look here, brain food. To help you with your crossword," Edward said as the hand behind his back came around to reveal a slice of lemon cake with white chocolate frosting. A personal favorite of mine, but they rarely had it anymore.

"Ohhhh! This is my favorite, oh my God! You guys haven't had it in like three weeks or something!" I exclaimed, and I could feel my eyes sparkling as I gazed up at Edward. "Thank you, so much, Edward!"

The smile on his face was almost radiant, and as I reached out to take the plate from him, my fingers brushed his, and I felt a spark of warmth that spread throughout my entire hand. I watched his reaction to see if he noticed, too.

He gasped quietly and looked down at the plate that was hiding our hands, and I knew he felt it. He looked back up at me, still smiling, but with a new reservation in his eyes. He nodded once and let go of the plate.

I couldn't take my eyes off of him, and despite my initial concern over the shock I received from him, I was smiling like a goofy teenager, smitten over a piece of cake.

"I, uh," he cleared his throat, "I remembered you saying it was your favorite, so…."

Edward trailed off, then backed away slowly.

"Say goodbye before you go, alright?"

I nodded and watched a flicker of excitement in his face.

I wondered what he was thinking about.

I happily ate my cake, savoring every bite, and thanking the gods of dessert for creating such a lovely dish. And I thanked Edward again and again in my mind for bringing it to me, for refilling my coffee, and for smiling at me like that. I felt like we were sharing a secret, somehow. My cynical side tried to thwart my good mood, but my optimistic side was too loud.

The chirpy bell-voice interrupted my moment of contentment, and I looked at the counter to see the raven ballerina up on her tiptoes, leaning towards Edward as she spoke in a low voice. Edward didn't look as happy to see her as he usually did, and the pixie's face was drawn with sorrow.

Something she said sparked Edward's anger, and he barked at her to go, and told her he'd talk to her tomorrow. She sighed, but acquiesced.

I looked back at what was left of my cake. I had no idea who that girl was, or what she wanted, but I told myself that I was the one Edward invited over that night, not her; I ate the last bite of cake, and it tasted of victory.

I sat in my car at five 'til ten, waiting for Rose and Angela, and subsequently, Edward.

I didn't know why all of sudden, after two years of being around him, I felt so drawn to him. I'd never wanted to know about his tattoos and why he got them and who the black-haired girl was and whether he wears boxers or briefs or boxer/briefs. Now I wanted to know where he went back in December and where his parents live and what he wants to be when he "grows up." Edward Cullen had become an enigma to me in the span of a few days.

I wanted to figure out that enigma.

A honk alerted me to the arrival of the two girls. They had ridden here together, so I got out to talk to them as they parked a few spaces down from me. We all pulled our coats tighter around our bodies to protect against the winter chill.

"So, Bella, tell me now, why oh why was it so desperately important that we were able to hang out with you and a certain green-eyed dreamboat tonight?"

I knew Rose wouldn't give me an inch.

"I just didn't want to hang out alone with him. You know guys…they'll read into anything, so this was just safer. I don't think he really has any friends, so this should be fun, you know," I said, trying to sound confident.

"So he wanted to hang out with three girls at his apartment?" she asked, watching me closely with her hawk-eye.

"Well, he said we could invite Mike, but there was no way I was going to let that happen."

Rose inspected me in silence, and then nodded her head, accepting my performance.

"Ladies," a formal voice said to my left.

My head whipped around faster than I wanted it to, and a smile plastered itself on my face.

"You wanna follow me?" Edward asked, his gaze passing between the three of us.

"Sure, I'll ride with you guys," I said, looking at Angela.

"No, drive separate. I might leave early, after all, since I have to get up in, oh,,, less than seven hours!"

I winced at the volume of Rosalie's mini-rant, but agreed. I looked at Edward and smiled.

"Alright then, let's go," he said, and I nodded emphatically, still smiling.

Unfortunately, I looked up to find Rose watching me with a suspicious look on her face. I needed to be more careful around her.

Our convoy arrived at Edward's house a mere eight minutes later. Edward led us inside and placed an order for pizza, though Rose and Angela both said they couldn't eat that late. I looked at Edward and shrugged.

"I can most definitely eat this late, don't worry about me!" Edward laughed his appreciation, and the four of us headed to his living room.

Edward had a couch and loveseat arranged around his flat-screen TV, and Rose and Angela plopped on the couch immediately at either end, stretching their legs toward the center. Rose raised an eyebrow at me, a challenge.

I smirked at her and proceeded to plop down on the loveseat without looking.

Edward had apparently been trying to move a pillow out of the way, so I sat directly on his arm, trapping him and pulling his torso down close to me. I shrieked and jumped up, apologizing and making sure his arm was okay.

"Bella, it's fine, you weigh like fourteen pounds, really," he said as he placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. I could feel the heated spark through my shirt, but tried not to show it.

He held my eyes for a beat too long, then looked away uncomfortably.

"I am going to go change, actually, I smell like burnt coffee," he offered as he threw the remote control to me. "Pick whatever you want to watch."

As soon as Edward left the room, Rose's steel-grey eyes turned to me.

"I won't say anything now, but you just know that I know, and you can't hide from me," she said almost menacingly. Angela looked at me sympathetically.

"Bella, is there…something going on with you and Edward?" she whispered, her eyes warm and inviting.

"No, nothing, I just…I just get flustered around him, that's all."

Footsteps approaching from the hallway interrupted us. Edward called from the kitchen, asking if we wanted beer. We managed to all agree on a terrible reality show that was on a cable channel, and had a good time making fun of all of the characters. The pizza arrived and was quickly eaten--Rosalie and Angela forgetting that they couldn't eat it as Edward and I shared a conspiratorial eye roll. I couldn't help but steal glances at him as we watched the show; I liked the way his whole body propelled forward when he laughed, and the way his jaw clenched when he chewed his food.

I had to look away when he placed his lips on his beer bottle so I wouldn't attack him.

We'd barely finished one episode when Rose declared loudly that she had to go and demanded that Angela leave, too. I sat up, not ready to leave, but not sure if I should stay. I looked at Edward, who looked slightly disappointed. The two girls left so quickly, I hadn't even stood up when they shut the door.

"Well…" I started.

"You don't have to go, do you?" Edward asked in a vulnerable voice.

I took a minute to evaluate how I was feeling. I was hesitant to be alone with him like this, but the larger part of me couldn't stand the thought of leaving now.

"No, I don't have to go, I've got all night," I answered, immediately regretting my choice of words.

"Great."

Edward was unfazed by my inadvertent innuendo.

We were quiet while we watched two more episodes of the terrible show, then he gave me a tour of his house.

It was a small cottage, but it was obvious that he was proud of it. I noticed a few pictures in his room, and asked who they were. He shifted his feet, looking unnerved, but finally answered.

"Those are my parents, um, my real parents. They died when I was five," he stated, and I gasped and turned to him, instinctively reaching out for his hand. He pointed to another photo with his free hand. "Those are my adoptive parents, Carlisle and Esme, and their daughter, Alice."

I peered closer at the photo, and realized that the young girl with long hair was in fact the now shorthaired pixie dancer that visited Edward at work. I smiled, satisfied momentarily for solving that mystery, but still clouded with sympathy for Edward.

"I'm sorry, Edward. How long have you lived in Forks?" I questioned, hoping I wasn't pushing my luck.

"Well, I lived in Seattle with Carlisle and Esme until three years ago, when I moved here. I didn't really want to live in the city anymore," he explained. I felt a tug at my heart, knowing how much I loved living in this small town, even if I grew claustrophobic at times.

Our conversation turned lighter as we made our way back to the living room, seating ourselves on opposite ends of the couch. Our bodies were angled towards each other as we continued to talk for hours. Edward asked about growing up in Phoenix with my mom, and what it was like going back and forth between my parents. I told him of how I had fallen in love with Forks and chose to stay when I was in high school. I told him how I met Rose and Angela, and the rest of our old friends.

He told me about living in Seattle, adjusting to his new family, and then moving into this house. He told me about taking some online courses but how he wasn't ready to pursue anything completely yet. We talked about our thoughts on movies some more, and moved to music, celebrities, dream cars, religion and everything in between.

Edward confided that he had toyed with the idea of maybe hosting an open mic night at the coffee shop, and hopefully performing some of his own songs. I begged him to play something for me, but he blushed and said maybe next time.

Next time. I wanted so badly for there to be a next time, but I didn't know if I was ready to get my hopes up. Edward was probably a few conversations away from dropping me. I couldn't afford to dream for more.

A glance at the clock revealed that the night was turning to morning. I shot up out of my seat.

"Oh my God, it's almost four! I have to go, I'm sorry, thanks for having me over, I-I had a really good time, Edward, honestly, thank you," I told him as I rushed to put my coat on and grab my purse and keys.

"Anytime Bella, you can come over anytime. Hey, uh, can I get your number? You know, just…in case?" he asked, looking nervous.

"Sure, um, hand me your phone, I'll put it in."

"Here, I can put mine in yours."

"Uh, yeah, here you go," I said as I handed my phone to him. I smirked as I put my number under "White Chocolate Lemon Cake", wondering how long it would take him to find it.

We traded phones back, and Edward walked me to his front door. There was an awkward pause, but then Edward leaned forward and gave me a hug. His warmth seeped right through my thick winter coat, and I had to restrain myself from dipping my face into his neck and inhaling him. I finally pulled back, reluctantly, and said goodbye. I watched him watch me in my rearview mirror until he was out of sight.

I was definitely in trouble.

Two nights later, on our traditional Tuesday, Jacob and I were driving to the video store when my phone rang. My breath caught in my throat when I saw Edward's name on my screen. I smiled and answered, ignoring Jacob's questioning looks.

"Hello?"

"Well, hello there, white chocolate lemon cake. Imagine my surprise yesterday when I couldn't find your name in my phone…I had convinced myself you tricked me, and finally this morning I saw this entry. Clever, very clever."

He was laughing.

"I thought you'd find it sooner, honestly. How are you?"

"Oh, fine, just enjoying my night off. How about you?"

"I'm good, I'm just headed to the video store."

"Really? I'm actually at the video store now. I guess I'll see you in a few minutes. Do you want to rent something for tonight? We can go to my place."

"Um, I can't, I'm, um, hanging out with a friend tonight. I'm sorry, Edward, rain check? Maybe tomorrow night?"

"Oh, yeah, sure. Tomorrow night. Who…who are you with? Rose?"

"No, um, Jacob? You've seen him, he comes into the Grind sometimes…."

"Oh yeah. I know who he is. Cool. Well, I'll still probably see you in here in a minute, so. I'll let you go."

"Alright…bye, Edward."

"Bye."

I tried to tamper down my disappointment, but couldn't. I looked over at Jacob, but didn't say anything. He watched me for as long as he could, then put his eyes back on the road.

"Who was that?"

"Edward. From Daily Grind."

"Pretty boy with the red hair?" Jacob asked in an accusatory tone.

"He's not a 'pretty boy', but yeah, the one with red hair," I told him as I leaned my head against the window. "He's at the video store, so you'll see him."

We pulled in and parked, and I slowly walked up to the doors, scanning through the windows for him. I saw him at the counter, and even though I was let down that he'd called and I couldn't hang out with him, I was excited just to see him for a minute. I went into the coffee shop earlier hoping to catch a glimpse, but now I knew why he wasn't there.

When Jacob and I got inside, he took off without saying a word. I walked over to Edward, smiling shyly. I patted his arm as a greeting, and he returned my smile, though I could tell he was feeling a little let down, too.

We didn't say much, just stood by each other, looking around.

"So, do you work tomorrow night?"

"Yeah, um, I close, so…I won't get out until after eleven. Is that…is that too late for you?"

"No, not at all. I can meet you in the parking lot again, or I can just go to your house if you want."

"I'll call you when I'm leaving work, and you can meet me at my place. If that's alright," he said, glancing at me sideways. The air around us was uncomfortable, but with a tension that wasn't entirely unpleasant.

Suddenly Jacob appeared before us, having already checked out.

The boys gave each other the guy nod.

"You ready?"

"Uh, sure, what'd you get?"

Jacob didn't answer, but held up the movie he'd told me about last week with the mentally handicapped kid. I saw that Ryan Gosling was in it, which piqued my interest a bit.

"Ah, that's really good, I saw it last week," Edward offered.

"Yeah I know, I've seen it," Jacob responded abruptly.

"Well, we should go. See you tomorrow, Edward," I told him, giving him a commiserating smile. He returned it, and nodded.

Jacob and I struggled through the night. I could barely eat my chocolate chip cookies, and he didn't tease me once. The movie ended up being very good, but it was a bit of a downer. Amazingly, though last week I'd wanted a depressing ending, it felt wrong this week.

I felt too light this week.

Jacob finally broke his silence as we watched the credits roll.

"So you and Edward…what's up with you guys? You're going out with him?"

"No, not going out, just hanging out, that's all."

"Have you hung out with him before?"

"Well, yeah," I began, but then Jacob glared at me, effectively cutting me off.

"What the hell? Were you planning on telling me, or were you gonna wait to send out the wedding invitations?" he asked, his nostrils flaring.

"Don't 'what the hell' me, Jacob, I should be asking you that. We hung out the other night, for the first time, no big deal. I've never had to check in with you before when I was hanging out with friends, and you've never told me what you do the rest of the week away from me. What the fuck?" I asked as I stood up, looking down on him for once as he stayed seated on the couch.

"I don't hang out with anyone else, Bells, only you," he replied.

"Why the hell not? I didn't ask you not to, Jacob, what's wrong with you? We're not dating, it shouldn't matter!"

"I know—I know that, okay? I'm sorry I got so upset, I—I thought you were…I just thought you were keeping something from me, okay? Let's just…drop it. I'll take you home, we both need to calm down," he said, but avoided my eyes. I turned and headed to his door, wanting to get away, wanting to get back home, and wishing that…wishing that somehow I'd been with Edward instead.

The drive home was quiet until Jacob pulled onto a side road, leading us nowhere except deeper into the forest. He stopped the car in front of old train tracks, still not speaking.

"Jake…what are you doing?" I asked in a whisper.

"Bella, I have to…I just wanted to say that, um…I can tell you're interested in this guy, and, if I don't say this now, I might not have the chance to, so—"

I knew immediately where this conversation was going. I didn't want it to happen, and I thought for sure Jacob wouldn't do this to me.

"Don't. Don't say it, Jacob, and we can just pretend, okay? Just don't say it," I pleaded.

"I have to. I'm—I love you, I'm in love with you," he started. My entire body tensed before my muscles started twitching with anxiety.

"No, listen, I know I told you I wouldn't fall in love with you, but you…you made me, Bella. Everything I thought I wanted in someone was wrong and I found that what I really wanted was you, please, listen to me, I love you, and I think we could be really go—"

"No. No, Jacob. Please, take me home now," I interrupted in a low voice. I didn't look at him, but I could tell he was watching me.

I didn't want to break his heart, and I didn't want to be so cold towards him, but suddenly I just couldn't deal with it. I knew I'd have to eventually, but I just couldn't right then. I didn't want to think or feel; I just wanted to get back to my place, get in bed, and escape into my dreams

The drive back was eerie in its silence. I gave Jacob a polite nod as I got out of the car, but he didn't look at me. The door shut with finality, and he pulled away before I made it to my door.

I hoped our friendship wasn't lost forever, but I also knew Jacob would only be hurt it I continued the way we were while knowing how he felt about me.

I was in a sour mood for the first half of the next day, cured only by a pit stop to Daily Grind. Edward wasn't in yet, but I was desperately looking forward to seeing him that night.

Sleep had granted me a reprieve from Jacob, but Edward had starred in all my dreams. Most of them were nonsensical, but I couldn't help but feel giddy when I thought of him. I wanted to fight the feeling back, but I knew it would be futile.

I met Edward at his house around 11:30, just as the sky started to release snow. Edward changed out of his work clothes and joined me on the loveseat instead of sitting on the couch. He watched my surprise for a moment before he leaned forward, whispering in my ear.

"I—I missed you, Bella," he said. My breath caught in my throat, and my pulse quickened. "I'm probably not supposed to say that yet, but…I did miss you."

Edward pulled back slowly, and like a magnet, I followed him. By the time he'd sat back in his seat, my face had inched closer to his own. I whispered back to him, but didn't move away from his mouth.

"I know what you mean," I said simply. I watched Edward's lips part slightly, and before I could stop myself, I leaned in and gently brushed mine against them.

The kiss was short, sweet, juvenile almost, but it sent a flash of heat throughout my entire body. I kept my eyes close and just savored the moment. I finally opened them to see Edward's emerald eyes shining, and his lips curving into a smile.

Nothing was said as we both watched our hands tentatively creep closer together. Eventually our fingertips touched, and both our bodies jolted from the spark. I looked up to study Edward's reaction, and saw that he was watching me just as closely.

"It's really coming down out there now, huh?" Edward said to break the silence, but the spell cast over us was intact. He was glancing out the window the loveseat was set against.

I leaned up on my knees and rested my elbows on the windowsill. I watched the ground being blanketed by white for several minutes. I spoke, and I knew he knew I wasn't referring to the snow.

"I didn't expect this."

"Neither did I."

We watched the snow in comfortable quiet, until Edward looked around, and jumped off of the loveseat.

"Hang on, I'll be right back," he exclaimed.

I waited a few minutes as he puttered around in his kitchen. When he emerged, he carried something in his hand.

"Happy Valentine's Day, Bella," he said as I stole a look at the clock on the wall. 12:44 AM, Valentine's Day.

The plate held a large slice of my very favorite white chocolate lemon cake, and Edward had sliced up what looked like a few strawberries to shape a perfectly imperfect heart. My eyes watered over his silly thoughtfulness, his genuine demeanor, his kiss, and his presence in my life. I recognized that the craving I felt for him was only growing stronger, and I didn't want to fight it anymore.

I looked up into his eyes and could tell he was nervous.

"I know, it's kinda…stupid, or what—"

"No, Edward, it's perfect. Thank you. Happy Valentine's Day," I told him as I pulled him down next to me and offered to split my cake with him.

Maybe this year would be different.