AN: So this is my very first attempt at a fanfic. Please bear with me while I get into the rhythm of it. Feel free to leave any comments or reviews. I love feedback, negative or positive. But I do have to say for all those who don't like my work—tough noogies. I'm having fun and I ain't stopping till I'm done! And for all those who do like it…well, I can't fault your taste! Remember this is all for fun, so enjoy!
Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns these characters. I'm just taking them out for a spin.
I unlocked the door of my new apartment, dropping my bag just inside with a loud thud. I took a moment just to stand and absorb my surroundings. It was a nice open space. The furniture was sparse, but I wasn't too concerned about that. I didn't need much, and I could (just barely) afford a few extra items if I needed to. But there was quiet. Wonderful, peaceful quiet. That was what I needed.
I barely had time to turn between the bellowing of my name and my sudden enclosure in the biggest, warmest bear hug I'd ever received. I smiled, wrapping my arms around the solid body. Jake had been so wonderful to me these past months—the pillar of strength I'd so desperately needed to hold myself together. And now here I was, having finally made the move from Phoenix to Portland, and he was so graciously letting me share his apartment with him. The low rent fee was certainly going to help with my suddenly tight budget.
"Jake, it's so good to see you."
"Too long, Bells. You were away too long this time."
"Ah, but I'm here for good now."
He grinned and released me. I dragged in the large gulp of breath I hadn't been able to manage during his rib-crushing embrace.
"Yeah, you are, and you're all mine now. I can keep you locked up in here as long as I want."
I smacked his arm playfully. "You know this is simply a living arrangement that currently suits us both. I'll come and go as I please, buster. Once I find a job that is…."
"You'll find one, no worries. And it's not like there's any rush. I told you I'd help you out, and this place is paid up for the next couple months anyway."
"I appreciate it, Jake, but I told you I'd pay my own way. I don't want charity."
His face fell into that adorable crushed little boy look that I could never resist. "It's not charity, Bells. You've had a rough time recently. I just want to be here for you."
I sighed. "I know, Jake. Let's just get all this stuff unpacked and we can argue over the finer details later."
His grin returned. He gave me another quick squeeze then rushed down to retrieve the rest of my luggage. I shook my head. He always managed to get around me and he was much too aware of his ability. From below came the muted sounds of wrenches clanging, drill bits spinning, and motors revving up. Okay, so maybe living above an auto repair garage wasn't the most quiet place in the world, but compared to downtown Phoenix it was like a vacuum tube of silence. I reveled in it.
I turned as Jake clomped back up the stairs with the rest of my luggage. My eyes widened and I rushed to relieve him of some of it.
"Jesus, Jake, you didn't have to bring it all up at once!"
"Why make two trips when you can make one?"
I tugged at one of the cases. "You can't carry four suitcases up a flight of stairs by yourself, for Christ's sake. What if you'd fallen?"
"Stop pulling at it, Bella. I got it."
I dropped my hands uselessly and watched him dump my belongings in a heap next to the bag I'd left by the door. For the first time I noticed how large his muscles had gotten. They were practically bulging out of his shirt.
"Holy fuck, Jake! What have you been doing the past three years? Sucking down steroids?"
He shrugged, actually blushing a little. "I've taken on a lot more work in the shop, Bells. It's not exactly lightweight stuff."
Jake's dad owned the repair shop. He rented out the apartment above to his son, which was why the rent was so cheap. After Billy's accident Jake had been forced to take on most of the work himself. He practically ran the place now, as well as doing most of the mechanic work himself. And he was a hell of a mechanic.
"You don't get all that just from fixing cars, sweetpea."
He lifted another shoulder. "I've been working out a little, too."
Ah. So that was it. He was still trying to impress Nessie. I didn't say anything. We both knew that Jake had been hopelessly in love with my oblivious cousin ever since I could remember. She'd never seemed to notice his existence. Poor Jake. God knew why he was so in love with her. Nessie seemed too involved with her hair and fancy men to make time for a poor mechanic on the other side of town. He always insisted that there was more to her than I thought. Well, if there was then she hid it well. I'd known her all my life and never believed her to be more than a superficial twit. But I guess we can't help who we fall in love with. I knew that all too well.
"Come on. Let me show you your room so we can get you all settled in."
I smiled, allowing him to change the subject. "Lead on, hot cheeks."
He grinned, remembering the reference from our younger years. It was nothing sexual, of course. It derived from one summer when we were thirteen and I'd dared him to see how long he could hold a mouthful of hot sauce in his mouth without swallowing or spitting it out. He'd lasted all of five seconds and spent the rest of the day complaining that his cheeks were on fire. I'd called him hot cheeks ever since. In the same manner he had a tendency to call me Legs. I used to be all arms and legs and clumsy as hell with it. Well, I may have grown nicely into my appendages but I was still clumsy as hell.
It took us most of the rest of the day to get all my stuff situated, but by evening my sheets and comforters were stretched across my new bed, my toiletries were stored in the bathroom, and most of my bags were unpacked. I still had one bag of clothes to unload and a few boxes of books and things that were still in the process of being shipped up, but all in all I felt nicely settled in. And hungry.
I stretched my back. "You've been a great help, Jake. Let me treat you to dinner. I'm starved."
He grabbed up our jackets. "I could eat a mountain lion. Come on, I know this great little place."
Within minutes we were seated in a quaint little diner. I smiled as I took in the charm of the place. It was one of those places you rarely expected to see in the 21st century. Wooden tables and checkered table cloths. Norman Rockwell copies on the walls. Glass ketchup bottles. There was even a working jukebox in the corner. I loved it.
We sat there a while after we'd finished eating, just chatting and catching up. We'd kept up correspondence over the years but it wasn't the same thing as face to face. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed my ball of sunshine. He was such a warming presence to be in. It almost made me forget the pains of this past year.
"I still can't believe you practically run your own business, Jake. You're only twenty two!"
"It's not all that much really. Dad still does most of the paperwork and stuff. I just do the work and deal with the customers."
"And schedule the appointments, talk to insurance companies, haggle with the parts dealers…"
He shrugged it off. "How bout you? Think you might start writing again since you're kinda at loose ends?"
I grew quiet, not wanting to think about it just yet. I was just trying to take things one day at time. At the moment I'd be happy with any old job that would bring in an income and take my mind off things for a short while. As for writing, well, that part of my life might very well be over. Jacob leaned forward and grabbed my hand.
"Jesus, Bells, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. I didn't mean to bring all that up."
"It's ok, Jake, I understand. But, no, I don't think I'll be writing for a while. Who knows? Maybe this place could use a new waitress. I really like it here."
"Right. I can just see you stumbling through the aisle ways, tripping over chair legs, and spilling trays of food all over the customers."
My watery smile turned into a real laugh at the imagery. God love Jake. "Ouch, man! I'm not that bad anymore."
"Yeah, I'll believe it when I see it."
And that's how we were sitting, both laughing, Jake's hand on mine, when he walked in. He had to have been the most gorgeous specimen of male perfection I had ever laid my eyes on. Tall and lean with just that hint of strength that made you want to rip his clothes off just to see how defined those muscles were. Sensuous lips, a chiseled jaw, a straight and arrogant nose, and eyes that made me think of a wild jungle. A hot and steamy wild jungle. Then there was that shock of copper hair that topped his head in a total disarray—the kind that said he'd just rolled out of bed and not alone. I'd never seen a shade quite like it.
And I could not believe the direction my thoughts had taken. What was wrong with me? After the experience I had been through I hadn't thought I would ever want a man again, let alone so soon after the near collapse of my sanity. It made no sense that in my condition I should react so strongly to a complete stranger. But then I wasn't thinking with the logical part of my brain, was I? I was thinking with my girl bits. And they were loud and insistent. Well, they could just shut the fuck up because I wasn't interested and that was that. And still my eyes tracked the man until he sat in a corner booth to apparently await his dinner company.
"Bella? Bells? Bella!"
Jake was snapping his fingers at me. I snapped my attention back to him.
"Huh? What'd you say?"
"I asked if you were ready to get of here?"
"Huh? Oh. Yeah. Sure. Let me just get the bill quick."
"I already got it while you dazed out into your twilight zone coma."
"Jake, you bum, I said dinner was on me!"
"Don't sweat it. I know you're a little hard up right now and things have been good at the shop. You can make it up to me sometime by making that kick-ass chicken stuff you make."
"The roasted chicken with garlic sauce?"
"Yeah, that's it! And those little red potato things would be great with it!"
I laughed. "Okay, hot cheeks, you got it."
"And how bout some of that French silk pie you make?"
"You were doing well for a minute there, cowboy, but now you're pushing your luck."
"You know you'll make it for me. You love me too much."
He was right. I would end up making it for him eventually. Partly because I loved him and partly because it was the least I owed him after all he'd done for me. But damned if I was going to tell him I would. His ego didn't need any more stroking. Jake moved to hold the door open for me and I nearly bumped into the woman coming in. I stepped back, trying to keep my jaw from falling slack. She was drop-dead gorgeous. Tall and curvy in all the right places, she walked into the restaurant in her four-inch heeled boots as if she owned the place. Blond shampoo-ad hair fell in soft curls around the kind of face you only ever saw in magazines. I felt like Cinderella's ugly sisters standing next to her. Not that it took much to make me feel that way these days, but I thought even Aphrodite herself would feel insignificant standing next to this chick. She looked around for a moment before clicking her way over to the man in the corner. My girly parts were saying that figures even as my brain was telling them I didn't give a damn. Jake let out a soft whistle beside me.
"Pick your jaw up off the floor, hot cheeks. She's not only taken but completely out of your league. I think even a mechanic with your skills would have trouble servicing that one. She's got high maintenance written all over her."
He tossed me a saucy grin. "Oh, I think I could service her just fine."
I shook my head. "You're a sick man, my friend. Let's get you home before the drool starts running down your chin."
Even as I ridiculed Jake I couldn't seem to help throwing one last look over my shoulder. Mr. Perfect was rising to meet the girl, taking her hands and leaning in to kiss her cheek. They looked like Aphrodite and Adonis. And it didn't make one bit of difference to me right? I didn't even have an interest in finding Mr. Right. Mr. Perfect was definitely out of the question.