Story Title
Point Release

Summary
Edward Cullen is a young Ski Patroller. When a young woman comes into his life he is ready to do whatever it takes to keep her. But life is as unpredictable as Mother Nature is harsh. Written for the Burning Hearts contest. ExB.

Rating
M

DISCLAIMER

Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.

The organizers of this contest and the authors of the stories submitted intend no copyright infringement.

ANONYMITY DISCLAIMER

This story is the work of its author and not of this contest. It has been submitted under the With a Burning Heart pen name for the purposes of this contest only. It remains the work of its author.

A/N: This is dedicated to all the men and woman and dogs, who risk their lives to save people in the back-country.

February 9, 2010

The noise was deafening as we neared our target. The sounds from the blades grew louder as they echoed off the mountain. "We're almost there. Are you boys ready?" Emmett yelled.

I simply nodded, but Jasper was a bit more enthusiastic. "Hell yes! We're always ready."

Emmett nodded and then yelled, "Intended target is two miles ahead; suit up."

I turned my attention back to the landscape. Mountain terrain was harsh and unforgiving, and this was no man's land; if you took it for granted, it would chew you up and spit you out. This was the reason we were in a helicopter headed up the mountain, too many inexperienced people trying to search out the holy grail of powder. For some, the cost was their lives.

"Edward, pay attention, we're almost at the drop site." Emmett shouted.

I groaned loudly.

"And don't give me any of that bullshit, we have six missing skiers to find."

I glared at him. "My attitude is just fine thanks. "

He raised his eyebrows in disbelief.

I continued anyway, "Ever since the Olympics were announced, we've had more human triggered avalanches and the death toll is getting fucking ridiculous." Emmett shook his head, "I agree with you, but it's our job to find those morons and bring them home alive."

He turned away from me, concentrating on the job. "Jasper, what are the conditions?" Jasper looked up from his computer, "Temps dropping, though the wind is fine for now. We should be okay for at least eight hours."

Emmett turned to me and then to Jake. "You ready, Jake?" Jake gave a loud bark. I patted his head and he calmed immediately. The helicopter always excited him. "Hell yes you're ready! You're the best rescue dog on this continent, you've never failed to recover."

Emmett was immensely proud of this fact. Though I had trained Jake from the time he was pup, I always felt he was special. He had an amazing nose that was able to sniff out just about anything. I adjusted his pack and loaded him into the harness. We always lowered Jake, not wanting to risk any injury from jumping from a helicopter.

I looked at the pilot, "James, hover about fifteen feet and try to hold it steady this time." I shouted at him. Last time he had us feeling nauseous from too much side to side motion.

"Whatever Cullen, just don't face plant when you jump out." He sneered.

I glared at him; James was always trying to get under my skin. Even though he was just as much a part of this team, it still pissed me off when he acted like a jackass. "One of these days I will have the pleasure of watching you do just that, if you had the guts to, that is." Emmett intervened. "Dude chill out. And James, we have a job to do, I'll deal with your attitude later."

The chopper hovered over the snow, bobbing up and down slightly. I looked down the bowl and saw nothing but white. Every tree, every rock, was covered. We lowered Jake down first, and then one by one jumped out of the chopper. I waited until it was all clear and then jumped. It was going to be a long day.

~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~

Completely exhausted, we walked into the lodge to grab some food and a beer. I was hoping to just go to bed and sleep for the next twelve hours but Emmett wouldn't take no for an answer.

"You're part of this team, so come and have a drink with us. None of us need to be at work until tomorrow afternoon." He pleaded but his tone said the matter was decided.

My whole body was sore and tired but the lodge offered comfortable chairs and decent beer. We took our usual table and immediately found the first round placed in front of us. I picked up the beer and drank slowly, listening to the conversation at the table. It was all about today's rescue; I really had no interest in reliving it yet, so I turned my attention to the room, studying the occupants.

It was busier than normal, but that was to be expected with the upcoming Olympics. Nothing of interest seemed to stand out as I viewed tourist after tourist. It was always the same. The wealthy elite on holiday dressed in too much fur which was more for fashion than to actually stay warm. I chuckled to myself when I spotted a woman dressed from head to toe in dark brown fur. She could have been mistaken for a very anorexic bear. She even had boots and a matching hat. He husband was no better, dressed to the hilt in 'Spider', I made a silent wager on which one of them I would be pulling off the mountain in the toboggan for pulling a muscle.

I continued my perusal but seeing no else of interest, I turned my attention back to the conversation at the table.

"Are we taking on anymore rookies this year?" Jasper question Emmett.

"I doubt it. The last two were more than a disappointment, they were a fucking nightmare."

I groaned, remembering 'the incident' as I liked to refer to it.

"Yeah, Edward, they were like your own personal fan club." Jasper laughed.

I rolled my eyes, "Well I wasn't the one that hired them, so what does that say about you two?" I grinned before continuing, "I mean, it's not everyday that the skiers here at Cyprus get to see two ski patrollers tangled up in their own ropes, together, in their own toboggan sliding down the mountain."

Emmett shook his head, "Man, I still don't know how they managed to do that."

Jasper was laughing so hard, he had tears rolling down his face. "Do you remember when they..."

I had no desire to go down memory lane. Mike and Tyler had been a first rate embarrassment, even the ski school felt bad for us.

I went back to my perusal, hoping for something entertaining. In the far corner of the lodge, a woman sitting next to the fire place caught me eye. She was alone, her table cluttered with papers and a laptop computer. The scene was unusual and definitely not what I expect to see tonight. She was busy pouring over her notes as she glanced at her laptop. She appeared to be small and her hair, from what I could tell was a dark brown, the light from the fireplace was messing with the color. I tried to focus on her face.

"Man, are you even listening?"

Huh?

"That's what I thought." Emmett loved to provoke me, it was a special gift of his.

"What, Emmett? I came here, if I want to zone out, I damn well will."

"Man, you are one cranky dude tonight. We were talking about how great Jake was today."

That got my attention. "Yes, he was, I think it would have taken us longer to pull those people out had Jake not found them so quickly."

We had been able to locate the victim's approximate location with the help of their avalanche beacons. The team had been probing strategic points hoping to find them. Jake was able sniff them out and began digging furiously. We ran to the location and pulled three of the six from the snow; they were lucky they were so close to the surface and had been able to find a pocket of air, any longer and they would have suffocated.

Emmett and Jasper returned to their conversation and I was once again free to continue my observations.

I found her again, though she moved her computer and papers to the edge of the table and a plate of food sat in front of her. I watched as she took small bites, I knew I was being a creepy son of a bitch, but I couldn't bring myself to look away. I felt drawn to her, it was as if I never had a choice. She picked up her glass of wine and brought it to her lips. As she sipped, she turned and faced in my direction. I was finally able to see her profile straight on and I was blown away with what I saw.

She was absolutely beautiful.

She held the glass to her lips for a moment, focusing on nothing in particular before she returned to her meal. I turned back toward the conversation at my table. I needed to think. How could one look have such a huge impact on me? Was I that desperate for affection? I frowned as I struggled to remember the last time I had been with a woman; Emmett would swear I was a damn monk.

I stole what glances I could without being obvious. She was finished with her meal and had returned to her work. She would pick up her notes, reading from the pages, before picking up a pen and holding the end in her teeth, her lips parted slightly.

She seemed to repeat this often, and I suddenly felt a pang of jealously...because of a pen.

I looked away, disgusted with myself. What the hell was wrong with me?

Maybe I could to talk to her.

I mentally debated with myself for seemed like forever. Would she talk to me? What if she was with someone? What if she told me to get lost? Emmett and Jasper would never let me hear the end of it.

"Edward we're going to head home. Rosie's waiting and I'm pretty sure Alice is as well." They stood up and Emmett threw some money on the table.

"Go get some sleep Cullen, you look like shit and I've never seen you so distracted."

"Thanks, Emmett." I drawled.

They both headed out and I didn't know where my courage would come from, but I was going to talk with her. I stood and took a swig of my beer, more for courage than anything else. The liquid would also insure my voice didn't give out.

With renewed confidence, I turned and headed toward the beautiful brunette, hoping she would talk to me.

I looked in her direction but all I saw was an empty table.

~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~

February 16, 2010

"Have you ever seen anything like that?" Jasper asked in awe.

"No man and I have seen some crazy shit." Emmett added.

The three of us had been assigned to the Aerials venue. The majority of the mountain had been closed until after the Olympics for the safety and security of the athletes. It was our job to provide assistance in the case of any accidents, which was mostly a formality; all the teams had their own doctors.

We stood and watched skier after skier fly down the ramp and perform mind-boggling acrobatic moves. It was their ability to totally let go of their fear that amazed me.

"Hey Edward, you going to lighten up or are you still sullen about your missing dream girl?"

I groaned. "I should have never told you guy's anything, you've been nothing but a pain in my ass."

They both laughed, "At least we're getting some ass." Emmett taunted.

Suddenly I heard a 'smack' and Emmet's head went flying forward.

Rosalie.

"A piece of ass?" she asked her voice as cold as ice.

"Aww fuck." Emmett groaned and instinctively covered his balls.

I started laughing so hard I doubled over; tears were falling down my cheeks.

"I've told you to leave him alone, you could be helping him, but no, you have to be jackass."

"Come on Rose, you know we were just teasing."

"We?" she asked

"Yeah, Jasper and I." He answered Rosalie.

What he didn't see was Alice standing right behind Jasper, her arms were crossed and she looked pissed.

Jasper turned to see what I was smirking at, "Shit Emmett, not cool."

She didn't say anything, she didn't have to. He knew she was mad.

I grinned, it was sweet vindication and I was going to enjoy every minute of it.

After a while I turned my attention back to the jumpers, ignoring the argument going on behind me.

A girl from the US team was next; she went down the ramp hitting her target perfectly. It amazed me how graceful she was in the air. As she came out of her flip, she straightened up to hit the snow. As she hit the hill her ski caught an edge causing her to wipe out hard.

Instinctively, I ran towards her. In these situations it was not uncommon for there to be an injury to the neck or back. Reaching her quickly, I was able to visually assess the situation. I knelt into the snow and asked if she was okay; she responded that she was fine. A crowd had gathered quickly, but I was oblivious to them. I proceeded to remove her skis by popping her boots out of the bindings.

"Miss, can you tell me if anything hurts?"

She sighed, before fumbling with her helmet and goggles.

"No; back feels fine, neck feels fine. Legs feel fine, too. You can let me up now." She said sourly.

She was a stubborn one.

"Look, I know this isn't what you want to do, but I can't let you up until I know you're going to be okay."

She threw off her gloves, in a disgusted huff and reached for her goggles ripping them off, she then went for her helmet.

"Look buddy, I don't know who the hell you think you are, but I've been doing this long enough to know the difference between when I'm hurt and not, okay?"

I knew she was talking because words were forming at her mouth but I was unable to concentrate on anything other than her face.

It was her.

"Are you deaf?" she yelled.

That did it. I shook my head clearing the haze.

I had a job to do. "Miss, I need to place you on the board and we will get you to the hospital to be checked out."

"What? Are you crazy? There is nothing wrong with me." She punctuated each word.

Seeing I was not going to relent, she changed tactics, "Look, that was my last jump of the day, I promise to go home and relax."

I shook my head, she was definitely stubborn. "It's Cyprus mountain policy that you are checked out by a doctor before we can release you."

Emmett and Jasper both appeared with the backboard; we carefully positioned her onto it and strapped her down.

She glared at me the entire time, daring me to say anything.

Stubborn with a touch a fire.

Cautiously, I positioned her head before placing the straps over her forehead. I looked in her eyes, needing to know if she was in any sort of distress. Expecting her to glare at me, I was surprised when her expression softened. While we stared at each other, I placed the last strap over her chin.

"Ahem." Emmett cleared his throat and the moment was over, her eyes again went hard and I sighed, moving back. We placed her into the toboggan and headed down the mountain towards the waiting ambulance. When we arrived, paramedics were ready to load her into the ambulance.

"Who's going with her?" One of them asked.

"I will!" I immediately volunteered. Emmett and Jasper exchanged a shocked look. The paramedic seemed confused as he looked around for someone, "Do you know where the team doctor is?" Emmett spoke up, "You mean the smart ass who was trying to interfere with our job? I told him to get lost before I banned him from the mountain."

The girl, who had been silent up until now, spoke up. "What do you mean you wouldn't let him through? He's the team doctor." She cried in disbelief.

"Yeah, but he was interfering with our job. We are liable until you are boarded, assessed and released by an approved physician." Emmett answered and she fell back silent.

The paramedic loaded the gurney into the ambulance, "Well, let's get going." I jumped into the rig and we headed to the ER. We arrived quickly and the paramedics unloaded the woman. I still didn't know her name, but I would soon. They went through routine of getting her situated in a room and started her paper work. I glanced over at the paramedic who was filling in the nurse on her situation. The nurse turned and asked her what her name was. "Bella Swan", she replied simply.

Bella.

I stood in the back as the nurses came and did their job. Bella would answer their questions with an exasperated yes or no, and I wondered if she was still angry with me. Occasionally she would look my way, and her eyes would harden.

Yep, she was still mad.

Though she didn't know it, the fire in her eyes only drew me in more. I couldn't explain it, but I want to know more about this woman. Her passions, her dreams, everything.

The nurse finished her initial assessment and left us alone.

At first Bella was silent, I assume she was trying to ignore me. I stood in stony silence awaiting the doctor whom I hoped wasn't my dad. Carlisle was on call, so the likelihood that he would be here was slim.

"Why are you still here?" She asked calmly.

Because I want, no need, to find out more about you.

I sighed, "It's the policy of the resort that we accompany all injured clients to the hospital."

She gave me a suspicious look, before she stretched her neck forward looking at something.

"Edward is it?" I nodded, "Well Edward, I have been to many different resorts and this is the first time I have been personally escorted to the hospital by one of the patrollers. So forgive me if I don't buy your story."

I rubbed my temples, this was not going how I wanted it to at all.

"I felt protective of you, I needed to know you were safe." I looked up and saw her stunned expression.

"Well son, that's good to know." I spun around, almost too fast. I nearly fell into my father, who had a damn smirk on his face.

Oh no, I groaned. Could this be more embarrassing?

"You're his father?" Bella asked pointedly.

Yep, it really could.

"Why yes, I am. My name is Carlisle Cullen. Let's see how you're doing, shall we?" He turned and smiled, but it was knowing.

I was so screwed.

He ran through the procedures, asking her what had happened and if anything hurt. After manipulating her leg and finding she only had mild discomfort, he pronounced that she would be fine, and just to rest for the remainder of the day.

"Exactly what I told the overbearing man over there." She pointed at me and glared.

Carlisle laughed. "You need to understand my son better to appreciate his motives. He has a tendency to overreact. That being said, I also feel it is important to point out he has never accompanied victims to the hospital before."

My mouth hung open, he had just sold me out, the traitor. I closed my mouth and glared at him.

"Thanks dad." I muttered

"Well, you're free to go Bella, do you have transportation back to your hotel?"

She hesitated momentarily, but that was all the invitation my father needed. "Edward, will you make sure Bella gets back to her hotel safely? She can contact who she needs to when she arrives."

I glared at him, and then looked back to Bella who just looked shocked. "Um, that's not necessary...Dr. Cullen, I can find a ride."

He looked up and in his most nonchalant voice replied, "If that is what you would prefer, I'm sure Edward wouldn't mind though."

This was a nightmare, right? I asked myself. Um, no...shit.

Damn him! My dad knew exactly what he was doing. Knowing I wouldn't just let Bella find a ride home, I gave him a look that said I was not happy at all.

I turned to Bella, "It would be no problem for me to take you, I have to pick up Jake anyway."

"Jake?" she asked inquisitively.

"My dog Jake is an avalanche rescue dog."

"Really?" She seemed excited. "I love dogs, can I meet him?"

"Does that mean you'll let me give you a ride back to the hotel?"

She looked away, embarrassed, "Yes."

I was thrilled, and left her to get dressed and collect her belongings. As if on cue, my father was waiting outside to ambush me.

"So did she agree?" he asked hopefully.

"What's going on dad? Why are you pushing me so hard, usually it's mom that's so persistent?" I muttered.

"Edward, your mother just wants to see you happy, I saw something different in how you engaged Bella." I shook my head. "Don't try and deny it." He admonished.

I hung my head in defeat, there was no use denying it. "Dad, she's the woman I saw at the bar and I've been trying to find her for weeks. I lost my chance then because I was too cowardly to go over and talk to her."

I groaned at my cowardice, fueling my anger at myself further.

"I had to do something, Dad! I wasn't ready let her go and possibly never see her again." My father put his hand on my shoulder, "Edward, just tell her how you feel. I'm sure everything will work out as it should. Besides, your mother will be very pleased with me." He winked at me and I groaned, disgusted. "Ugh, thanks for that."

I heard a tiny cough behind us and turned to see Bella standing, dressed and ready to leave. I smiled down at her but when she looked up at me, she was shy...and hesitant.

Huh.

"Tell mom I said hello." I would be getting a phone call later.

"Thank you again, Dr. Cullen." Bella reached out to shake my father's hand.

"It's Carlisle, and you're welcome." He smiled.

"Dr. Cullen, they are waiting for you upstairs." From the looks of my father's surgical nurse she had been looking for him for quite a while.

"Thank you, Heidi. I'll be right there." She nodded and then left.

"Well Bella, goodbye for now, and good luck on your upcoming event."

He turned and walked towards what I assumed was another surgery. I admired my dad, but there was no way I could be stuck inside all day, putting people back together. Bella seemed lost in thought as we exited the hospital. I didn't want to pry, but wanted to know she was okay.

"Why does Carlisle Cullen sound so familiar?" Her voice was soft, I almost thought she was muttering to herself. "I've heard that name before, but I just can't place it." I bit my lip, this was too funny.

"Oh...Oh, is he Dr. Cullen the Orthopedic surgeon?" She asked in awe.

I laughed a bit. "Yes, he is."

"Wow, he has repaired the knees of a few of my friends. Edward, your dad is a world renowned surgeon. I thought he had decided to retire not too long ago?" She finished with a confused expression.

I laughed, "As long as I am skiing or doing other "dangerous" activities according to my mother, he is to be ready to put me back together." She started laughing as well.

Her laugh was beautiful.

We walked toward my car, which Jasper had dropped off earlier.

"Wait, didn't you ride with me in the ambulance? How is your car here?"

She was observant, I'd give her that.

"One of the guys brought it over after I left, Carlisle gave me the keys."

"Oh...Okay,"

I helped her into my car, careful not to put any stress on her knee. We drove in silence back to Cyprus Lodge. I didn't know what to say to her. And being the coward that I am, I kept my mouth shut. She was staring out the window, apparently lost in thought.

Finally she broke the silence. "Edward, what did you mean when you told your dad you didn't have enough courage to talk to me before?"

Oh, shit.

"Um...you heard that?" Ugh, that sounded so stupid.

"Yes, sorry, I shouldn't have been listening but in my defense I did hear my name." I parked and turned to her, "A few weeks ago I saw you here at the lodge eating dinner. I wanted to talk to you but by the time I got enough courage to, you had left. Then I tried looking for you but never saw you again, until today." I finished feeling completely awkward and stupid.

She didn't say anything, but continued looking at me shocked.

"I'm sorry if I'm freaking you out, but I wanted to be honest with you. Don't worry, I won't bother you again." I was trying to save face, I felt stupid for opening up to the woman who seemed to have such a strong hold on me.

"Um...I wouldn't mind some company tonight for dinner." I must have looked surprised because she quickly backtracked. "Or not, I understand if you are tired or have things to do." She opened the door, muttering something under her breath about being stupid, and practically fell out of the car. I got out quickly and got over to her before she could get away. "Bella, I would love to, and no, I don't have anything planned. I was just surprised, considering your reaction to me earlier."

She blushed, "I know, I wasn't very nice. I guess my only excuse is that I don't do well when people try and force me to do things I don't want or need to do. I'm sorry I was rude."

I laughed, "Spitfire is more the word I'd use." She laughed again.

"Let me help you in and then you can go clean up, I need to pick up Jake and run him home. He's probably driving the guys over at the Patrol Shack nuts by now."

She paused a moment, "Well why don't we go get him? I would love to meet him."

"Really?" I was surprised.

"Sure, I really don't feel like being bombarded with questions from my coach yet."

I was suddenly concerned, "Does he know where you are? I don't remember seeing him when you were injured."

"No, it's okay; Aro understands, he's probably working with the other girls right now anyway. I will call him and let him know I'm okay." She assured me. After studying her for a moment I relented and helped her back into the car. Bella called her coach who seemed unconcerned with her condition. I was going to have to have a chat with him. She told him she would take it easy and would be back on the slopes in the morning. He seemed more interested that she had been seen by my dad than the fact that she was injured.

Yep, definitely a chat.

The Lodge was just adjacent to the resort and the Shack was just behind it, although it wasn't a shack per-say, the name had stuck long ago. I parked and went in to get Jake who, as I had suspected, was driving everyone crazy. "Jake! Damn it, calm down and stop trying to mooch from my dinner." Emmett held his plate up higher. I started laughing as I walked into the room, Jake ran over to me immediately looking for attention. "Hey boy," I greeted him, giving him a good scratch.

"He was trying to steal my food! I think he needs to eat." Emmett said in between bites.

"Well if you didn't feed him then I'm sure he's starved. I'd better tell Rosalie, this could be a precursor to your parenting skills."

He went rigid and looked up, fear in his eyes. "Don't you dare man, that's cold. She will drag me to every parenting class known to man."

Laughing I said "I know...wait, what? Is Rosalie pregnant?"

"Yes, and if you say anything she will kill me. She seems to think if we tell anyone before the third month, she'll miscarry or some ridiculous shit, but how am I suppose to keep my mouth shut for another six weeks?"

"Congratulations for starters, and good luck."

"Thanks, Edward, on both counts, now get the hell outta here and go feed that dog." Jake was looking straight up at me and whimpering.

"Okay Jake, let's go." He followed me out to the car and hoped in the back where his pillow was. I climbed into the front seat where Bella was looking back at Jake, who was looking at her.

I was glad I put in that dog barrier, certain Jake would have lept over the seats and licked Bella 'til she ran screaming from my car. The fact that he wasn't growling showed he liked her.

"Bella, this is Jake." She smiled and greeted him, which only made him whimper louder to get out. I didn't live far from the resort, it made it easy to get back and forth from work. Heavy snows often led to road closures, which would be a disaster when I needed to be in at four am for avalanche control. I pulled into my garage and helped Bella in before I released Jake. "The living area is through there, I pointed in the direction of the couches. Please, make yourself comfortable while I go get Jake." I said awkwardly.

"Okay, thank you, Edward." She said softly. I nodded and went back in the garage, Jake was sitting in the back, impatience written on his face. I opened the back hatch and he bounded out the back.

"Jake! Heal!" I admonished. He stopped instantly and sat, turning his head in my direction.

Walking back toward the door, Jake was by my side. No sooner had the door opened, Jake ran toward Bella who was seated on the couch. I ran after him but was too late. Jake had jumped on the couch and was sniffing Bella curiously. I grabbed his collar and yanked him off of her.

"Bella," I was breathing raggedly, "I am so sorry." I turned to Jake who was laying on the floor his eyes pleading. He knew he had just broken several rules. "Let me go feed him and then maybe he will behave better." I laid out his food in the kitchen and then called Jake to eat. It didn't take a lot of encouragement, he was hungry.

I walked over and sat on the adjacent couch by Bella, she looked tired. "I'm sorry, Bella, I shouldn't have dragged you to my house, you look exhausted."

She yawned softly. "No, it's okay. I haven't been sleeping very well. Nerves I think."

"I understand completely, you wouldn't be human if you didn't have those emotions." She laughed, "This is so out of the ordinary for me. This is something that Jane or Victoria would do, not me." I must have had a questing look on my face. "Jane and Victoria are the other girls on the team. They are much braver than me," she amended.

"How so?" I wondered what she meant. I would think anyone that did what she did, would be brave enough for anything. "Um, oh this is so embarrassing." She hid her face in her hands. "I don't date, really, and would never be able to approach a guy. So me being here with you, is a leap of faith, so to speak. Um...not that we are here on a date or anything. I just..." She trailed off, her cheeks burned bright red.

"Bella." I scooted closer and grabbed her hand. "Please don't feel uncomfortable, I'm happy you wanted to come." Just then Jake made his presence known, he wandered up to Bella and waited for someone to give him attention. Bella reached out and pet his head lovingly. "He's such a pretty dog, I've never seen a dog with such dark, midnight fur before, and look at those eyes! They're amber!"

I chuckled, "He's always getting all the attention." I feigned hurt. "Oh, I'm sorry Edward. You know you're pretty handsome yourself." She stopped suddenly, slapping her hand over her mouth. "I can't believe I just said that."

I pulled her hand from her mouth, "Bella, you have no idea how happy I am that you decided to come to my home. And for the record, I think you're beautiful."

He mouth parted slowly and her eyes stared longingly at mine. I wanted to kiss her. I wanted it more than anything, but did she?

Why would she be staring at your mouth stupid? My inner thoughts challenged and I had to agree.

Slowly, I leaned towards her, giving her the opportunity to tell me no if this was not what she wanted.

She's not moving or slapping me, this is good right? Yes! My brain shouted at me, now shut up and kiss her.

Our lips connected and at first it was hesitant, like we were trying it out to make sure it was okay. Then Bella did the unexpected. Her fingers threaded through my hair as she pulled my mouth to hers, hard. Her lips parted and I felt her tongue sweep across my lips. A strange noise filled the room; it took me a moment to realize it was a soft growl, and it was coming from me. The sound only seemed to spur her on. I lost track of time as we sat there exploring what the other was willing to give. She allowed me to break the kiss and explore the plains of her face, jaw and neck. The noises she was making only fueled the fire pumping through my veins. Soon the urgency began to fade and sense started to return. I pulled back to look at her face, she looked dazed but happy.

"That was..." I couldn't find the words.

"Perfect." She said.

"Yeah," the silence that followed was deafening. It was as if we had so much to say but didn't know how.

Awkward much?

She decided to break the silence first. "Tell me about yourself."

"Okay, well I'm a Patroller, have been since I graduated from University. I didn't know what I wanted to be so I took some time off. I have always loved skiing and was pretty good at it. The resort had an opening and I applied. Emmett hired me and the rest is history. What about you?"

She laughed. "Surprisingly similar, except I'm just about to graduate. I'm not sure if I want to pursue my major. I love to ski, and I live for an adrenalin rush. Aerials fulfill both of those."

We talked for the better part of the evening and I looked out the window to see it was now dark. "Bella, are you hungry? I am so sorry I didn't think, I've kept you here way too long." I admitted feeling stupid.

"No, that's okay. I probably need to head back to the hotel anyway." She looked disappointed.

I hesitated wondering if this would scare her off. "Bella, would you let me take you to dinner?"

She looked up surprised, "You mean like a date?"

I was worried since I couldn't read her reaction. "Yes a date, if that's okay. I don't normally kiss a woman unless I want to see more of them."

I instantly froze realizing what I had just said.

Nice...That was smooth genius.

Bella started laughing which made me feel like a pervert.

"I'm just going to shower, I'll be out in a minute." I mumbled, maybe I could drown myself while I was at it. I went into my room and shut the door, banging my head against it. How could I be so stupid? 'I want to see more of you?' Ugh, she was going to think all I wanted was to get her out of her clothes, which I wouldn't mind nor would I stop her. Because it really had been a long time.

Wait… that just sounded sad.

I stripped off my work gear, being in them all day had caused me to get sweaty. Definitely would need to do some wash tonight. My shower was my favorite part of the house. Since I spent so many hours in the cold, I often came home frozen and sore. The multiple jets felt good on my aching muscles.

I opened the heavy glass door, and stepped inside. The hot water hit my body and I immediately relaxed, it felt so good against my skin.

I thought about Bella sitting on my couch and of the kiss we had shared. Moaning, I remembered how good it felt, the way her lips yielded to mine. I hardened immediately; thinking about taking care of my problem but knew that would be rude.

She was waiting for me and was probably starving.

I allowed myself to linger over what it would be like to have her touching me. I leaned forward placing both of my hands on the wall and let the water run down my head. I was so immersed in my fantasy that I started to feel a hand move along my back tracing up and down my spine. Ahhh...it felt so good. The hand moved around to my stomach tracing the planes of my abs. Slowly, the hand moved further down, teasing my skin, as it left a trail of fire in its wake.

I'm going to come and this is only a fantasy.

The hand grasped my cock and slowly provided the friction I needed. I let myself get lost in the sensations, I was so close.

I looked down and realized there were long slender fingers touching me.

What the Hell? Wait. This is real?

I straightened up and spun around quickly. Too quickly. My feet went out from under me and a mass of tangled bodies fell onto the tile floor.

I looked through the water that was separating us, I shook my head trying to make sense of what I was seeing.

That's when it dawned on me. Bella was in my shower...naked...and she was touching me.

Uhhh.

I untangled myself and stood back up. I reached down and helped her to her feet. Looking her over, I wanted to make sure she was okay. I was pretty sure my legs broke her fall, my ass was going to have a nice bruise tomorrow. "Bella...what...?" I questioned her, but she put a finger to my lips silencing me.

"Do you want me to stay? If you're not comfortable, I can leave." She smiled, letting me know she wanted this. It wasn't just me.

That's all I need to know.

I picked her up wrapping her legs around me and attacked her mouth. She moaned when she felt my hardness against her folds. I looked at her, "Bella, I don't..I don't have anything for protection."

"Mmmm," she hummed "I put one on the soap dish."

Oh, okay then.

I turned and retrieved the foil packet. Ripping it open and quickly rolling it on before turning and lifting her up and pinning her against the wall, she jerked back in surprise when her back hit the cold tile. "Holy shit that's cold!" She squeaked.

I smirked, before bringing my mouth to her breasts. At first I kissed and nipped at them gently but the moans coming from her lips caused me to lose all sense of tenderness. I voraciously attacked each one, marking her beautiful skin. I was so hard it was physically painful.

"Are you ready?" I gasped out breathlessly.

"Yes...yes." She chanted lost in the sensation

Bringing her down in one swift motion, I was buried inside of her.

Ahhh... the feeling was incredible.

We held onto each other both in a desperate need to sate this feeling and because we were wet and slippery. Our union was a violent release of passion as I thrust upward using the wall as leverage. I came faster than I wanted but not before Bella reached her own. We held each other, limp and spent from the experience.

We cleaned up and got out of the shower.

I made us dinner and it felt like a comfortable routine. Like we had been doing this forever instead of for the first time.

I hoped there would be another time.

I drove her back to the hotel. "Bella, can I see you tomorrow after my shift?" She nodded excitedly, "Sure, when do you get off?" I looked outside and saw the heavy flakes of snow falling. Tomorrow would be a control morning, which meant I would be up at four. "In the afternoon." I replied.

"Oh okay, I don't think I have anything planned that late. I'm supposed to do something with the team in the morning, but after that, I'm all yours." She grinned wickedly.

"I'll hold you to that," I grinned to match hers. "Goodnight, Bella." I kissed her goodnight and she stumbled out of my car and into the hotel. I watched her until she was out of sight not yet ready to part from her.

We had exchanged numbers and she promised to call me before she went to bed. I drove home slowly still trying to process everything that had happened today.

It was impossible, had all that really happened?

When I got home, Jake seemed put out that I had left him. I shook my head; it seemed my dog liked Bella better than me. I laughed because I didn't care, I had no clue where this was going but that was something I would worry about later.

~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~I~

Heavy snows had fallen through the night. I had gotten a call at three-thirty letting me know I was needed at the resort ASAP for avalanche control. We had gotten a large accumulation of heavy wet snow, couple that with the melt and freezing temperatures as of late and it was a disaster waiting to happen.

I met Jasper and Emmett, we loaded our gear and headed up to where the cannons were. Loading the shells, we strategically shot rounds into the mountain creating avalanches. By triggering them we could ensure the guests of the resort would be safe. It took longer than usual, but because of the Olympics we were being cautious. I looked behind me on the platform towards the east, the sun was peaking over the mountains. Casting a rose hue on the newly fallen snow.

I smiled, this was my idea of heaven.

A helicopter broke through the tranquil landscape disturbing my musings. I looked up and saw it was James. Where the hell was he going this early? I filed it away, I would find out when I got back to the shack. Avalanche danger was at extreme for the back-country, he wouldn't be stupid enough to take any skiers out. Would he?

We loaded up and headed down. The resort was set to open soon, with only a portion of the resort open to the public there wasn't much terrain to cover, making our jobs much easier.

When we arrived at the shack, I followed Emmett in and not wanting to worry about James anymore, I decided to ask him later. Jake ran up to me, we settled in for what I hoped was a fast shift. I couldn't wait to see Bella again.

"Dispatch, do you copy?"

A muffled distress call came through the radio. Emmett sat up and went to answer. "This is dispatch, copy."

"We've had a major slide, northeast on the upper bowl... Three skiers are buried. I repeat there are three victims, do you copy?"

"We copy, is James en route now?"

"Negative, we are sending a life flight helicopter, it will arrive in five minutes."

What the hell? Where was James?

"Dispatch, do you have any idea of what caused the slide?"

"The EMT in the chopper will give you that information once you're airborne. Time is critical, the victims are reportedly members of the US Ski Team."

I can't explain what happened, but my blood ran cold. I contemplated calling Bella just to make sure she was safe but didn't have time. Emmett was running out the door, calling in all the back up he could find. The resort could not afford that kind of press. Even if it wasn't on Cyprus Mountain, it would still look extremely bad, and Emmett would bear the brunt.

The chopper was waiting for us at the landing pad, I lifted Jake and helped load up the rest of the gear. Emmett was all business. "Okay, boys, who wants to tell me why the fuck anyone was heli-skiing today?" He was definitely mad.

The pilot handed him his phone. "A heli-pilot who said his name was James took a group of three women to the bowl to ski, the women skied a couple of rounds just fine and then on the third," He looked uncomfortable, "Just look at the video."

Emmett turned on the film, and it showed three women skiing down the bowl, the powder was new and they were the first to make tracks. On the third run, when the third woman jumped out, you could see the point release. As if in slow motion, the ground gave way, swallowing everything in its path. "James knew better than to take anyone up there today. What the hell was he thinking?" Emmett yelled.

I was too stunned to think. Three women...no it couldn't be. Bella wouldn't do that. But I couldn't escape the gnawing feeling of dread that was creeping into my heart. The chopper was nearing the site, but we didn't need to be close to see the destruction. There was nothing. It had covered the entire bowl.

"Mr. McCarty." Emmett looked up at the pilots. "We just received a message that the missing women are members of the Women's Aerials team. Their names are, Victoria, Jane and Bella."

My brain shut them out as I looked out the window in panic. NO! My Bella was buried out there! No...No...No.

"Edward..." Emmett shook me. "Get your shit ready, we're here."

"Did they have beacons on?" I asked methodically, it seemed my brain had turned off my heart and was in survival mode. I couldn't lose her, I had just found her.

"I'm picking up three signals." Jasper said. I thanked whatever Deity was up there.

We hovered for a moment, I wondered where James was. When I saw him next I didn't think I would be able to control my actions. I harnessed up Jake, speaking softly to him. "Bella's out there buddy, we need to find her." He whimpered in response. I really wished I had something with her scent.

We lowered Jake down and jumped out, one by one.

After landing we surveyed the site. I couldn't see anything that would give us a starting point. Jasper was working furiously with the GPS to give us an approximate location of their whereabouts. After locating them, we made a quick grid and went to work probing the snow, hoping to find them on the surface. If they were buried any deeper chances are they had already suffocated. Jake ran back and forth sniffing for whatever he could find. He dug out several items, gloves, hats, goggles. One in particular seem to make him go crazy, I ran over and saw it was Bella's hat. I was getting frustrated; she could be anywhere, but at least we had something.

"Edward, I got one." We all ran over to Emmett who had located a very blonde woman, she was barley conscious. I still had hope that Bella was close.

Emmett and Jasper carried the woman to the waiting chopper.

Jake and I continued searching. I was probing even faster, desperate. Every minute a victim spent buried, the survival rate plummeted. My pole hit something and I knelt down digging with my shovel as fast as I could. Jake joined me and soon we uncovered some red hair.

It wasn't Bella.

Jake and I freed her, she was still breathing. I debated on leaving her for Emmett and Jasper to take to the chopper, I needed to find Bella. Jake started barking not far from where we were. I told the woman I would be right back. I ran over to Jake and saw what he had in his mouth.

It was a beacon.

Bella's beacon.

I wanted to break down and scream and yell all the obscenities I knew, but I also knew that wouldn't do a damn thing for Bella. I knelt into the snow, "Jake we gotta find her," I pulled out the hat and had him sniff it. "You remember her? She pretty damn special to me, we need to find her. Can you do that boy?" He barked and ran off sniffing.

I went back over to the red-headed woman and helped Emmett pull her out. Emmett must have sensed my mood because he handed her to Jasper and took a hold of my shoulder.

"What the hell is wrong with you, Cullen? You're acting like someone died."

My mouth fell open, fuck no, Bella could not die. It would kill me.

"Emmett, do you remember the mystery woman?" He nodded. "That was Bella, and she spent last night with me. We were supposed to go on a date this afternoon...and...and," I was babbling.

"Shit, Edward, I'm sorry. We'll find her." He went in the opposite direction of me, we called and probed and looked for any sign.

I looked at my watch. It had been forty minutes. My heart broke, this was not good.

I stepped up my pace. Hope was my lifeline. Jasper had joined us in searching. I called for Jake, but he was on the far end of the bowl.

What the hell was he doing way over there?

I squinted trying to focus on what he was doing. I heard him then, barking, his nose pointed toward the snow. I ran toward him, shovel in hand. My legs burned with the effort but I didn't care, seconds not minutes mattered here.

As I neared I could see a hand poking out of the snow. It wasn't moving.

"Bella!" I yelled, praying for a response.

Jake moved when I got to where she was. I went to work removing snow as fast as I could. Jasper and Emmett, who were right behind me, went to work. We got her uncovered, hoping she was still breathing. I was shocked by her color.

She was blue. Was this from the cold or from not breathing? I couldn't think of that now; I needed to save her. We pulled her from the snow and I quickly assessed her vitals. She wasn't breathing.

Shit!

I opened her mouth which wasn't full of snow, and started CPR. Her pulse was faint but it was still there. I breathed into her mouth a couple of times and she gasped for air. I was hoping she would open her eyes, but she was still unconscious.

I needed to see her eyes.

We wrapped her in blankets and loaded her in the sled. I was practically running toward the chopper. "Emmett. I need to go with her." He nodded. "I'll keep Jake and take him on the next chopper." I thanked him.

We rigged up the sled so the EMT's could pull her up. After she was safely on board, they dropped the line and I fastened the carabiner to my harness. They pulled me up and I took a seat close to Bella.

The ride was a blur. I watched as the guys worked on warming and stabilizing Bella. She had yet to regain consciousness. I remembered she had seized once, no doubt due to her body's temperature. Hypothermia was something she most certainly had. No doubt most of her vital organs had begun to shut down. We arrived at the hospital, Bella was unloaded and taken up to intensive care. I followed as far as they would let me. When we reached the unit, I was directed to the waiting area.

I was pacing.

Waiting.

I hated waiting.

"Edward, calm down. You're going to collapse if you don't sit down." Emmett came over and helped me sit down. "I can't Emmett, what if I lose her? I just found her."

"Edward, she'll be fine, she was breathing when we got her off the mountain. You know there is a very good chance she will live."

"Son?" My father came running in. "I just got a page that you were here, what's wrong?"

I looked at my dad and I couldn't say it, I buried my head in my hands trying to block out the memory of Bella's cold, lifeless body.

"Dr. Cullen, I don't know a lot of what happened but Bella was a victim of an avalanche earlier, we just pulled her out. They are treating her in ICU now."

I heard my father mumble something to Emmett and then heard his footsteps as he went to, what I'd hoped, check on her condition. This was one of those times I was grateful for his status as a doctor. I kept my head down and no one talked, by now I was sure they had a better picture of what I was going through.

"Hey man, is everyone okay?"

I knew that voice...it was James.

"James! What the fuck are you doing here? I can't believe you would have the balls to show up here after the stunt you pulled." Emmett yelled.

Something flipped in my brain, I was beyond angry. I stood up and walked straight over to him. I brought my fist forward and watched as it collided with his face. He crumpled to the floor holding his nose and whimpering loudly.

"You son of a bitch! You knew the danger level was at extreme. Why would you take them up there today?" I yelled at him.

He remained on the floor clutching his nose, blood was oozing through his fingers.

"Victoria wanted to go, she begged me. I didn't think they were in danger." He attempted to talk though his hand.

Emmett strode over and picked up dragging him from the room. "Dude, if I don't get you out of this room, Edward's going to kill you and I won't stop him."

I turned my back on them, physically willing myself to not follow.

"Edward." My father's voice got my attention.

"Dad..." I whispered. "Please tell me she is going to be okay."

"She's going to be fine, Edward. They are trying to warm her body slowly. I know you are aware of the procedure so I won't waste you time with that." He paused. "She will be okay." He walked over and took my hand; I didn't realize it was still clenched in a fist. "Go son, she's awake and asking for you."

I didn't need to be told twice. I went through the doors and paused when I saw Bella. She was wrapped in several white warming blankets. Machines surrounded her bed. I walked over to her side. Her eyes were closed as I looked over her face, she had regained much of her color. They had her on oxygen so I wasn't able to see her whole face. I pulled the chair over to her bed and sat down grasping her free hand, I held onto her.

"Bella, you can't get rid of me that easily." I tried to tease but it felt hollow.

"Who says I was trying to get rid of you?" She rasped.

I looked up and was met by two sad eyes. "I'm so sorry, Edward."

"Shh, Bella it's okay, you're going to be okay."

She chuckled softly, "It sounds like you're trying to convince yourself. Don't worry, I'll be a better patient this time." We sat there talking until the nurse came and kicked me out. She knew everything about me, I held nothing back. I had never had someone I really wanted to confide in. And I guess she felt the same. I was by her side until she was released from the hospital two days before her competition. Bella finished in the top ten, and although she wanted more, she was grateful to be alive.

The experience had helped both of us rearrange our priorities. Bella decided to take some time off from school and see where our relationship would lead.

I had no problem with this; in fact, I was pretty sure I wasn't ever going to let her go.