Title: The Young & The Restless
Ornery in Oklahoma
Kathie's Birthday Story
Authors: The Edge Girls (see our links in the Favorite Authors)
Rating: PG-13 (Because it's always safe when we're collaborating to go for the gusto.)
Summary: Troubled teens Edward and Bella (and who knows who else) are sent to Kathie's ranch to help work out their issues and get help while working hard with horses and chickens and who knows what-all. What they don't know is who ELSE Kathie knows, and how much trouble is following them. A collaboration by The Edge Girls for katmom's birthday.
Chapter One (by u2shay)
Bella Swan clutched her stomach and gritted her teeth as her plane made contact with the rough tarmac. The plane bounced several times before smoothing out and coming to a stop. She sighed loudly. She hated flying and this was just her first stop. Now she had to board a tiny puddle jumper that was going to drop her off in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma and she was feeling quite nervous about it.
She wished that she had a little time to explore Oklahoma City, but her next flight was boarding within the hour. Bella was a little nervous about what lay ahead. She had never met Aunt Kathie, as Charlie referred to her, before. Aunt K wasn't really her aunt, instead she was one of those people who became your relative by friendship and association and not blood. Charlie had known Kathie and her family for years; perhaps if Bella had spent more than the last year and a half in his care she would have met her before now. As it was, Bella's visit had nothing to do with a social call—this was her penance.
Bella smiled slightly as she recalled the loud crunch of Lauren Mallory's perfect nose under her fist. Lauren had made Bella's entire school career hell, constantly picking on her and putting her down. Bella didn't know what it was that finally made her stand up to the little harpy, but she had finally had enough. Too bad her stand had ended up with her being charged with assault. Bella guessed that she should have popped her one before her eighteenth birthday instead of after.
She had pled guilty to assault and Charlie had arranged for her to serve out her sentence volunteering at Aunt Kathie's youth ranch in the middle of the Washita Valley. Really it wasn't that bad of a way to spend her summer. Bella got to spend time working with horses and troubled kids, and in exchange her record stayed clean and her full-ride scholarship to Dartmouth wasn't threatened. Bella planned to become a youth counselor when she finished school, so the stay at Kathie's ranch was more of an opportunity than a punishment. She suspected that was why Charlie had arranged for her to come here.
A smile crossed Bella's lips. Her father was a good man. She was going to miss not being able to spend the summer with him before she went off to college.
Bella's layover passed quickly and before she knew it she was boarding a small, sleek jet that would take her on the last leg of her journey. She noted that she wasn't the only teenager boarding the plane. The other kids, about ten in all, ran the gauntlet from fairly straight-laced to downright scary and emo looking. Bella chose a seat next to a bronze haired boy who was sitting next to the window with his face turned away. He was wearing black, from the t-shirt that was stretched tight across the taut abs that she pretended not to notice to his dark jeans and boots. His hair was in complete disarray, falling over his forehead in places and standing on end in others. It made her want to run her hands through it and smooth it out for him.
Bella didn't know what was wrong with her. She clenched her fists before she acted on her insane urge. She sat down heavily in her seat with a sigh, her face scrunched up in frustration. Why in the world did she have such a reaction to this stranger? Her heart was pounding a mile a minute and she swore that her palms were sweating. There was something familiar about him, but she just couldn't place it.
Bella sucked in a sharp breath and her fingers clutched the armrests tightly as the jet began to taxi down the runway preparing for takeoff. She gritted her teeth, her eyes screwing tightly shut and though she hated it, a small whimper fell from her lips.
"You are afraid of flying," a smooth, musical voice said from beside her.
Her left eye popped open and she glanced at the boy beside her. He still sat facing away from her, watching the airport fade into the background through the window as the plane gained altitude.
"What was your first clue, Captain Obvious?" Bella grumbled.
She couldn't be sure, but she thought that his cheek twitched slightly, indicating what might have possibly been a smile.
Bella sighed again, opening both eyes. "Sorry, I'm just nervous. I wanted to drive, but Charlie, I mean my dad, wouldn't let me. He said that my truck was too big of a piece of sh–…well, he said it wouldn't make it." She rolled her dark eyes. "I guess I should have known when he bought it for me that it wasn't because it was a classic. No, it was because he wanted me to be stuck at home forever with a vehicle that won't drive faster than forty-five miles an hour!"
Turning fully toward him, she grinned as she saw his cheek twitch again and she was rewarded with a flash of full lips and white teeth as he smiled slightly. Bella didn't know what had gotten into her. Normally, she was painfully shy, unable to hold even the most basic conversation with a girl, much less a guy, but there was just something about him that drew her in, made her want to learn more about him.
"I'm Bella, by the way," she said, channeling the overly exuberant Jessica Stanley. Bella felt a little uncomfortable, inwardly uncertain, but something inside of her was pushing her to act outside of her norm. Perhaps it was the change of environment, the chance to become the person she always wanted to be. If this was her opportunity to be something other than mousy, shy Isabella Swan, she was going to grab it with both hands.
The boy didn't say anything. He had returned to brooding and staring out the window. Bella's heart fell. Who was she kidding? This guy wouldn't be interested in her. He hadn't even glanced at her yet. And what if he did? More likely than not, he wouldn't see anything of worth in her anyway. No guy ever had. Besides, he was probably a delinquent. She smiled a bit as she considered how Charlie would react if she brought him home. Her dad still liked to clean his shotgun whenever her best friend Jacob Black came over. Charlie had made an Olympic sport of glaring and grumbling under his breath. There was no way that Jake would ever make a move on her…not with Charlie around. And Bella seriously doubted that the thought would have ever occurred to Jake anyway. They were just buddies and he hadn't gotten the hint back a few months ago when Bella was crushing on him hard—or he had ignored it. She wasn't sure.
Bella's eyes snapped back to her aisle mate when she detected a subtle shift in his body. Automatically she adapted her posture to his, facing him expectantly. An audible gasp fell from her full lips as she beheld him for the first time. Recognition brightened her gaze.
He cleared his throat. "I'm…uh…Edward…" Tentatively, he held out his hand to shake hers.
Bella's small hand slid into his effortlessly. She never took her wide eyes off his face. A zing of electricity shot up her arm and she gasped again. His dark green eyes widened and he blinked, his gaze shooting down to their joined hands before rising to meet hers again.
"You're Edward Masen!" Bella said breathlessly.
Before her eyes, Edward's vibrant green eyes dulled and became lifeless. He jerked his hand out of her grasp, his expressive face becoming hard and defiant.
"I'm Bella…um, Isabella Swan. I go by Bella now. We went to Forks High School together our junior year." She searched his eyes for any hint of recognition. Seeing none, she sighed. She figured that she shouldn't be surprised. It wasn't like she was memorable or anything.
Involuntarily, Bella's eyes roamed his face and body. He was staring forward, his entire posture rigid and unyielding. He was much different from the well-kept and mannered boy that she remembered. He was taller now. Bella's eyes slid to his jean encased legs, from their length she guessed him to be over six foot. He had really shot up in the last year. His typically short hair was long and unstyled. Angela would call it bed hair. Bella smirked involuntarily at the thought. It was the same dark color with rusty highlights that she remembered. Edward's eyes were the same captivating emerald green that they always were, but the life and good humor that was usually there was missing now. There was the faint shadow of stubble on his jaw. Bella's eyes fell to his hands. They were clenched into fists on the armrests. Tiny white scars stood out on his knuckles. Bella knew that they had come from one thing—fighting. She caught a glimpse of a tattoo on his forearm, but she couldn't make it out. Her eyes traveled back up to his stoic face. The only hint that betrayed the emotions flowing through him was the fast tic of a muscle in his jaw. Everything about him screamed rebellion and pain.
She wondered briefly what had happened to him and then it all came back to her. Bella bit her lip and stared at him sadly. Her chocolate brown eyes filled with tears. In the middle of their junior year, Edward's parents, Edward Sr. and Elizabeth, had died in a horrific car accident coming back from a dinner date in Seattle. It had been their twentieth wedding anniversary. Everyone knew how close Edward was to his parents. After the funeral Edward's aunt had taken him back with her to live in Chicago. In one fell swoop Edward lost his parents, his home, and his friends.
She had always wondered what had become of him. The school had been rife with gossip for a couple of weeks, but then the Cullens had arrived and the fervor had died down of the tragic deaths. As it always was in a small town, the wagging tongues had been diverted with speculation about the town's latest doctor and his too perfect adopted family.
Bella glanced at him again. "I never did get the chance to offer my condolences on the loss of your family."
Edward's mouth tightened into a thin, hard line. He nodded once in acknowledgement, never taking his eyes off the seat in front of him.
She glanced away from him, her eyes falling to her lap. Edward didn't know it, but he had been her first and longest lasting crush. Her mind traveled back to the way he was in school, so full of life and laughter. He was the artsy type, spending his lunches in the music teacher's, Mr. Walters, classroom playing the piano or the guitar. Bella had secretly stalked him a bit, bringing her lunches to school and hanging out in the hallway or the classroom next door so she could listen to him play as she ate lunch by herself. It was better than sitting in the cafeteria, singled out as the school pariah and made fun of by Lauren and her crew.
He was so talented. And she had learned to judge his moods by the type of music that he played. Edward played jazz when he was feeling adventurous and blues when he was feeling sad. He would plug in the amp and play rock riffs when he was anxious and she had even caught him playing show tunes once, but she didn't know what kind of mood that indicated.
Edward had been on the drama team too. He had the lead role in the school's production of Romeo and Juliet. He had made a fantastic Romeo. Bella had dreamed of being Juliet for a month after seeing it played out on the stage. His friends were numerous and popular—like him. Edward just had a magnetism about him that attracted every beautiful and lovely in life and his kind heart was just a bonus.
She remembered once when she had taken a nasty spill in the hall by her locker when Edward had come to her aid. She had tripped over Tyler Crowley's book bag, which had been left carelessly in the walkway. Bella fell hard, her wrist snapping from the force of her impact. She had lain on the hard linoleum for a moment, fighting back tears and trying to find the strength to stand again. Her books were scattered on the floor in front of her. Tyler and his friends had just stood there, staring down at her incredulously and muttering about her clumsy ways. Lauren had sauntered by and purposely stepped on Bella's beaten copy of Wuthering Heights, twisting her foot thereby ripping off the cover and scattering the torn and wrinkled pages across the floor.
Bella was struggling to her feet, clutching her wrist to her chest when she felt a warm hand at her elbow. She glanced up to find Edward assisting her to her feet. Her face flushing bright red, she managed to stammer out a thank you. He had just smiled, flashing his perfect teeth at her and had bent over to pick up her scattered books. He frowned as he picked up her copy of Wuthering Heights.
"I think it's beyond help," he said charmingly.
Bella nodded sadly, fighting back tears once again as she watched him throw it away. Edward approached her slowly, a frown on his face.
"Are you hurt?"
She bit her lip nervously and nodded. "My wrist."
Edward set the books on the ground at their feet and reached for her hand. Bella let him take it in his without a word. He handled it gently, grimacing as he observed the swelling and bruising. "I think it's broken," he said softly. "Come on. I'll escort you to the nurse."
Bella had fought hard to control her reaction to him, but a shiver raced through her body as his arm came around her waist. She had thanked him quietly for his help when they reached the nurse. Charlie had picked her up from school and drove her to the hospital to have her wrist x-rayed and set. When she had arrived home, someone had brought by her schoolbooks, notes from sixth period biology, a new copy of Wuthering Heights, and a beautiful pink rose. She knew it was Edward. Bella had flushed furiously as Charlie eyed her speculatively, but thankfully he hadn't commented. It wasn't long after that Edward's world had fallen apart.
Bella glanced at Edward's stern profile again. "Thank you," she whispered hesitantly.
Edward turned and glanced at her curiously.
"For replacing my book and helping the day I broke my wrist," she supplied. "I never did thank you for your kindness that day."
"You're welcome," he said, his voice so low that she wondered if she had imagined it.
"I still have the book, though it's almost as beat up as the first one," Bella said. Then she shrugged and looked away.
"It's your favorite story," he said simply.
Bella's mouth fell open and she stared at him shocked. "How did you know that?"
Edward glanced away, looking out of the window again. "You were always reading it."
"Oh. I didn't think that anyone paid enough attention to me to notice something like that."
Bella felt his eyes on her. She chewed her lip nervously as her eyes met his. He was staring at her intently. For reasons she didn't understand, she blushed.
"I noticed, Bella."
A strange feeling settled deep in her stomach. She didn't know what to say and she didn't know why his words affected her so deeply. It felt like a passel of butterflies had taken up residency in her belly. She searched desperately for something to say, latching on to the first thing that jumped into her mind.
"So, do you still play?" she asked, hating the tremor in her voice. "Uh, music, I mean."
His features hardened slightly and his eyes fell away from hers. "No."
Her hands fiddled in her lap mindlessly. "Oh. That's a shame. You were really good. I used to hang around Mr. Walter's class at lunch time just so I could hear you play." Bella's eyes widened in horror and she threw a hand over her mouth. "I didn't mean to say that!"
Edward's lips twitched. "I knew you did, Bella. You should have come in, hung out."
Bella's face blanched, turning whiter than her normal pale. "I didn't want to bother you," with my drooling and foolish, schoolgirl crush, she added silently.
"Bella, you wouldn't have been a bother. I used to play for you sometimes, did you know that?" She shook her head. His smile was sad. "I'd play the blues for you when you were sad, but I decided that I would rather see you smile, so I played show tunes for you one time, just to see if it would help."
"Did it?" she asked in spite of herself.
He shrugged. "Not sure. You ran into Lauren before I saw you."
Bella's face fell. "Oh, I see."
Edward's face soured a bit. "I felt bad that she treated you that way. You didn't deserve it."
Bella's face fell. He felt sorry for her. She should have known.
"It was my fault that she treated you that way."
Bella glanced at him curiously. "Why do you say that?"
Edward glanced down, strangely reluctant. His leg bounced nervously and he shifted in his seat a little.
He let out a heavy sigh. "She…uh…had a thing for me and she rightly guessed that I had a thing for you."
Bella stared at him shocked, her mouth hanging open. Edward turned his face away from her, but she caught a hint of a blush on his face. Edward Masen had had a crush on her! A crush on Isabella Swan! She never would have guessed in a million years.
"Oh!" It wasn't very articulate, but it was the only thing that came to mind to say.
Edward glanced down at his hands. "My mother said that I should just talk to you. You know tell you how…" He stopped abruptly, his features pained and his eyes dark and glittering.
She glanced at him curiously and then it dawned on her. Edward had mentioned his mother. Bella had the feeling that he didn't talk about her too often. She wanted to reach out to him and offer him some comfort, but she didn't know what to do. She glanced at his hand, which was clutching the armrest like he wanted to crush it. Not stopping to think about it, she placed her hand on top of his. His entire body froze and then relaxed slightly.
Bella searched for something to say. "She sounds like a wise woman."
He closed his eyes and turned away slightly. It was his way of hiding the pain, she realized. His eyes were so expressive; they gave him away. They were a window into his emotions, his pain, a window to his broken soul. She didn't know how she knew, but he had spent the last year distancing himself from anyone and anything that he loved. He was hurting and afraid. Bella wanted to help him more than anything. She knew that he would never be the boy that she remembered again, but he couldn't be this broken man any longer either.
"I don't suppose you knew that I had a huge crush on you, too?" Bella said, deciding to be bold and honest.
Edward turned to stare at her, something shifting and softening in his troubled eyes. Bella blushed, but she held his gaze. He smiled slightly, his mouth going crooked. Her breath caught and he glanced down to where her hand rested on his. His fingers loosened on the armrest and his hand turned until it was resting palm to palm against hers. Her fingers slid between his and they sat like that for a few minutes neither of them saying anything.
"So, what did you do to get sent here?" Edward asked, breaking the silence.
A short laugh fell from Bella's lips and her eyes twinkled a bit with mirth and good humor. "Oh, nothing much. I just punched Lauren Mallory and broke her nose. That's all."
Bella's heartbeat faltered and then raced as Edward's lips stretched into a full smile. His emerald eyes brightened and he squeezed her hand lightly. She thought that she heard him murmur, "That's my girl," but she wasn't sure.
"How about you, Edward?"
The smile faltered and his face fell into that implacable mask once again. "I've had some issues…" he said gritting his teeth.
Bella squeezed his hand. "It's okay, we don't have to talk about it."
He nodded and glanced out the window again. Bella's stomach dropped to her toes as the plane began to make its decent and her breath began to pant out of her. She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing. The last thing she wanted to do was a have a panic attack right now.
Bella felt her hand lift from the armrest and something soft and warm brush across it. Her eyes popped open. Edward's eyes were boring into hers over their twined fingers. She gasped in shock as she realized he had kissed her hand. His mouth quirked into a small lopsided grin and his gaze held hers.
She stared at him, losing herself in the emerald depths that reminded her of the rainforests of Forks. Her breathing calmed and her heart rate slowed. She didn't even flinch at the jolt of the plane impacting with the tarmac. Everything faded away in that moment with the exception of Edward and the way he was hypnotizing her with his eyes.
The plane smoothly rolled to a stop and powered down. Edward stood when the other passengers did and helped Bella to her feet, keeping a hold of her hand. She followed him from the plane wordlessly.
Her campmates began to mill aimlessly around outside of the plane as their luggage was removed. A gray passenger van was steadily making its way toward them, kicking up a cloud of dust behind it. The day was quickly fading into dusk and Bella glanced around curiously. The first thing she noticed was that there were more trees than she was expecting. For some reason she had imagined Oklahoma to be nothing but flat plains and prairie grass for as far as the eye could see.
A large man with graying hair and twinkling eyes stepped from the van. "Hi, everyone! I'm Joe, and my wife Kathie and I run this place. Kathie wishes that she could have been here to greet you all, but she is back at the bunkhouse with our daughters preparing a meal for you all. I expect that you are hungry."
There were nods and grumbling complaints being murmured by a few of the more grouchy individuals. Bella took the opportunity to really look at the people she was going to be spending the summer with. She gasped in shock as another familiar face came into her line of sight.
He was tall and very muscular, with dark eyes and russet skin. He grinned and approached her. "Isabella, right?"
"Yeah! You're Embry…Jake's friend. What are you doing here?"
Embry held out a meaty hand toward Edward, who had neither left her side nor dropped her hand. Edward clasped his hand, giving it a firm shake and nodded. "Edward Masen."
"Nice to meet ya, I'm Embry Call. Isabella, it's good to see you! Charlie told Billy about you coming here to get out of that assault charge. And well, word gets around you know. It gave my mom ideas."
"Your mom sent you here? Why?"
He sighed and shrugged. "I've been sneaking out and hanging out with my friends a lot. You know, blowing curfew and such. She thought that coming here might teach me some respect and responsibility."
Bella laughed. "Do you think it will work?"
Embry chuckled. "Nah!"
Everyone boarded the van and found a place to sit. Bella sat with Edward and Embry sat across the aisle, chatting away and catching them up on the happenings in and around La Push. About five minutes later the van pulled up in front of massive, sprawling ranch. There were five horses in the corral and a huge red barn off in the distance.
"Those are the bunk houses. The girls are on the right and the guys are on the left."
Bella glanced up and noticed two large buildings on either side of a covered pavilion. A motherly looking lady and three teenagers were manning a grill. She breathed deep inhaling the heavenly scent of hamburgers. Everyone stood around awkwardly as Joe introduce his wife, Kathie, and his daughters, Amanda, Bethany, and Delaney.
Dinner was served up quickly and devoured ravenously, since airplane food left much to be desired. After dinner Kathie approached Bella giving her a hug and warmly welcoming her to the ranch. Bella grinned widely when Kathie offered to tell her humorous and little-known stories about Charlie Swan one evening soon. She told Kathie that she was going to hold her to it. She thought that it would be nice to have something juicy to hold over dear old dad's head to stop him when he tried to bring out the photo albums full of her naked in the bathtub.
After dinner, the girls and the guys split up going to their respective cabins. Edward walked Bella to the door, both of them chuckling over the incessant grumbling of a girl named Amy who was sure that tomorrow morning they were all going to be knee deep in horse litter and mucking out the barn.
Edward paused in the darkness, gently brushing a wayward strand of hair from her face and tucking it behind her ear. Her heart felt like it was going to beat out of her chest. She held her breath as he glanced down at her lips. Oh God! He was going to kiss her! But instead of touching his lips against hers, he brushed a soft kiss against her forehead and whispered, "Goodnight, Bella."
He disappeared into the darkness before she could blink. "Goodnight, Edward," she whispered in return, unsure if he heard her.
Bella snuggled down into her bunk after stowing her stuff. Maybe this summer wasn't going to be so horrible after all. With a sigh she pulled out the book recommended by her book club, Guarding Robert, and began to read.
To be continued...