Fun With Your Clothes On One-Shot Contest

Title: The House on Maiden Lane

Author: SophiaAnne

Characters: Bella/Edward

Rating: M

Disclaimer: Bella and Edward and all things Twilight are the creation and property of Stephanie Meyer, and are borrowed for amusement rather than profit.

To see other entries in the Fun With Your Clothes On Contest, please visit the C2 page:

http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/Fun_With_Your_Clothes_On_Contest/79678/

###

His steps echoed like rifle shots on the battlefield, sharp and precise as he ran up the stairs, not bothering to skip the third one from the top that squeaked. The door to her room stood open. He stopped, cradling his aching arm.

It was empty, just as he'd known it would be. His mother's words from moments before still rang in his ears.

"That little tart got herself in the family way. She took sick and lost the baby. Died the next morning, upstairs no less. Such a mess for us. They buried her a few weeks ago. I knew hiring a local girl of that sort as help was a mistake."

He stepped into the room slowly. The bed was neatly made, with a threadbare but clean coverlet pulled tight, and the wavy mirror his mother had deemed sufficient for a maid's room still hung over the chipped washstand.

But she was gone, as if she'd never been. He shut the door behind him, walked over and sank down onto the thin mattress. Pulling out of his pocket the crumpled piece of paper he'd clung to for weeks, he smoothed his fingers over her words. In her lopsided handwriting she'd poured out the news of their child, her fears, her hopes, her undying love.

Her undying love that was buried in the churchyard. He knew only one way to reach her now. He fumbled with his good hand for the holster at his side, part of the uniform that had taken him so far from her, and slowly withdrew the sidearm. He closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and pulled the trigger.

###

The ringing door bell woke her. Bella rolled over, fumbling for her phone and squinting at the display that read 9:02 a.m. June 1. The chime repeated and she tossed the sheet off, staggering to her bedroom window to look out into the yard. There was a minivan parked there, and a few seconds later a girl stepped off the porch, covering her eyes as she peered up towards Bella's window.

Her dad had mentioned some new families in town on the drive from the airport last night, part of the recent population boom generated by a new plant opening and an expansion wing on the hospital. The new hospital chief of staff had a daughter, a real nice girl about her age he wanted her to meet, he'd earnestly explained. She'd teased him about setting her up a play date.

Guess her play date was an early riser. Strike one for her.

Bella watched as the girl surveyed the house and spotted her, waving her hand and gesturing wildly as she mouthed something. Oh. She wanted her to open the window.

She sighed and flipped the latch. This had to be that girl, and she seemed persistent, which at the moment wasn't a particularly endearing trait. Strike two. Bella hoisted the creaking window up and leaned out.

"Hi there!" the girl below called. "I'm Alice, Alice Cullen. Your dad told me you were coming yesterday, so I thought I'd come by and say hi." She raised the paper bag in her hand. "I brought breakfast. Doughnuts from the diner."

Which just happened to be her favorite breakfast food in Forks. She wondered if her dad had told Alice, or if she just had good taste. Swing and hit, Alice.

"I'll be down in a second." She shoved the window back down, latched it, then grabbed a pair of jeans and a t-shirt out of her still packed bag and threw them on. Hastily shoving her hair up into a ponytail, she hurried down the steps.

###

"So tell me about yourself," Alice demanded, after the doughnuts were distributed and glasses of milk poured.

Bella chewed thoughtfully and shrugged. "Not much to tell. My dad and mom split when I was little, and my mom's a rolling stone who likes the sun. We've lived all over the southwest; we're in Phoenix now, and she just got remarried. I spend some time with Dad each summer. The last few years I talked him into meeting me somewhere warmer, but he's in the middle of this big case now and can't leave, so," she shrugged, taking a sip of milk, "back to Forks it is."

"Oh, yeah, the hiker hacker. That's what they're calling the killer." Alice shivered. "My parents have totally banned us from hiking in the Park now. My brother hates it."

"Yeah, my dad gave me the same lecture last night. Which is fine, I guess. I don't know what I'm going to do this summer though. Forks has always been a little too slow and dreary for me."

Alice nodded. "I hear you. It was definitely an adjustment, and I haven't even had a full winter here yet. We moved here in March from Chicago, which isn't exactly the good weather capital, but I've never seen this much rain before – it's like the sun never shines. But I have found some things I like here."

"Like what?" Bella asked.

"Jasper Whitlock," Alice replied, her gaze dreamy. "He moved here this spring too, from Texas, and I knew the minute I saw him that he was the one."

Bella tried to hide her disbelief. "Really?"

"Absolutely," Alice replied. "Don't you believe in love in first sight?"

"I'm not sure I even believe in love," Bella replied.

"Oh, why am I surrounded by cynics?" Alice asked. "You sound like my twin. Anyway, you should come hang out with us. There's kind of a group of newbies that have bonded since the Forks natives seem weird about letting us play in their sandbox."

"And Jasper's one of your group?" Bella asked, almost laughing as Alice zoned back into a misty-eyed state.

"Oh yes," she replied. "And now you are too. Friday night we usually hit the movies in Port Angeles or whatever. Lame, I know, but it's better than sitting at home." She crumpled her napkin and stood. "You have plans for today? Mom's letting me repaint my room and I was going to pick out colors. Want to come with?"

Bella glanced around the quiet house and shrugged. "Sure."

###

The Cullen house was nice, set off at the end of a cul-de-sac in a new subdivision just outside of town that Bella didn't recall existing the last time she'd been to Forks. Alice led her up the stairs to her room, chattering about a throw pillow she wanted to take to the paint store to match. She stopped beside a half-opened door and knocked. "Hey, Edward."

Bella peered around her into the room, taking in the guy stretched across a half-made bed wearing a set of large stereo headphones, eyes closed as his head nodded in time with the beat only he could hear. She'd been expecting someone who looked more like Alice, but there was little resemblance. He was long and lean, where his sister was petite, and unlike her dark locks, he had a tousled reddish-brown shock of hair.

Alice walked into the room and snapped his stereo off, crossing her arms as he abruptly sat up, disoriented.

"What the hell, Alice?"

"Just wanted to say good morning, twin. This is Bella, Chief Swan's daughter."

Bella gave a small wave, feeling awkward as his eyes brushed over her. She was suddenly aware that she hadn't showered, had a lopsided ponytail, and wore an old t-shirt that proclaimed "Bowlers Do It With Their Minds In the Gutter," left over from her mom's short flirtation with a bowling league.

He gave a brief dismissive nod, uttered a, "Hey," then reached past Alice towards the stereo. "Mom said you're supposed to start dinner tonight, pipsqueak."

"I thought you were supposed to," Alice replied. "It's your turn."

"Dad said I can start the afternoon shift at the hospital lab today. So it's all you." He put the headphones back in place, flopping back on the bed and shutting his eyes, effectively dismissing them.

"Ass," Alice muttered, turning her back as he calmly flipped her off without opening his eyes. "You're lucky you don't have siblings, Bella. C'mon, let's get out of here."

As they moved down the hall, Alice apologized. "Sorry about that. He's been so emo since we moved, just sulking in his room all the time. He wanted to stay in Chicago for senior year and Mom and Dad wouldn't let him."

She opened the door to a room that was all girl, full of bright pastels and complete with unicorns stenciled on the walls. Bella bit her lip to keep from laughing.

Alice blew out a breath. "I know, I know. It's terrible, isn't it? Like Lisa Frank hurled on the walls. You see why I've got to paint over this. It's giving me freaky dreams." She grabbed a pillow off her bed. "Okay, let's go."

Edward stepped into the hallway as they passed by his room, shoving keys in his pocket and adjusting smaller headphones, still in his own world. Alice marched past him without stopping, flicking his arm before skipping down the steps. He halted and gestured for Bella to go ahead of him. She gave him a small smile of thanks as she moved by him. Their eyes were the one resemblance between the twins, she realized, though his were a shade darker green than his sister's, with gold flecks in their depths. Suddenly aware that she'd actually stopped walking to stare in his eyes, she ignored the heat rising in her cheeks and hurried after Alice.

###

On Friday night, she found herself in the front passenger seat of the Cullen minivan, wondering if she should have turned down Alice's invitation after all. It might be lame to spend the weekend watching baseball with her dad, but it had to be better than this awkwardness. Somehow in her talk of a group hangout, Alice had neglected to mention the pertinent fact that, aside from Edward and herself, the other members of the group were couples. Seriously coupley couples.

She ventured a quick glance over at Edward, who was driving and completely focused on the road, and then looked up again into the mirror affixed to the visor. The row behind held a big guy, Emmett, whose mom was a real estate broker lured by the new housing boom in Forks, and Rosalie, an icy blonde whose father was the head of the new plant. The pair had been making goggly eyes at each other all night.

The back row held Alice, currently snuggled in the arms of her Jasper. There was no question about their status. Bella had thought the color Alice picked for her bedroom was cool, a blue shade that made her think of stormy seas, but not what she would have pegged for Alice, until the first time she met Jasper. And then she realized Alice had painted her walls the color of his eyes. That girl was gone over Jasper, and the feeling seemed to be mutual.

Which left her and Edward. He hadn't been rude to her per se, just . . . aloof and oblivious to the fact that his twin sister was trying to pair them off.

At least, that's what she assumed Alice was doing. Maybe it wasn't that big of a deal. Aside from the prepackaged pairs, everyone had been friendly enough and laid back.

"So, what are we watching tonight?" Edward asked, as they turned into the movie theater parking lot, pulling her from her thoughts.

"Oh, whatever, for me," she replied. "I don't go to the movies much; I'm sure I haven't seen what's playing."

He glanced in the mirror as he pulled into a space and yelled over his shoulder, "Alice, I can see that, and I may tell Mom."

"Shut it, Edward, or I'll tell her what's under your bed."

Bella raised an eyebrow as she caught a faint blush coloring his cheeks before he moved on. "Rose, Em, what about you?"

"Didn't that Face Punch movie come out?" Emmett asked. "That looked good."

"Eww," Alice popped up. "You always want the boy movies, Emmett, and you picked last week. Let's go up and see what's playing."

Five minutes later, they were back in the car.

"I can't believe Face Punch is sold out," Emmett said glumly.

"I can't believe there's nothing else playing that we haven't already seen. We need something new to do on Friday night," Jasper said.

"We can go back to our house," Edward offered.

Alice vetoed his suggestion. "No, we can't, Edward. Remember? Mom and Dad were doing that 'date night' thing at home? We so do not want to witness that."

He grimaced. "Ugh, no, you're right."

Emmett snapped his fingers. "I've got it. How do you guys feel about haunted houses?"

Rose sighed. "Seriously, Emmett? It's the middle of the summer. There aren't any haunted houses right now."

Emmett shook his head. "No, Rosie, I'm not talking about the fake Jaycee crap. I mean the real thing. I know where there's one, and I can get the key to it. We're going to the house on Maiden Lane."

###

Bella shifted nervously from foot to foot, watching as Edward and Emmett rummaged in the back of the minivan and hauled out flashlights, passing them around. She stared up at the house. It probably didn't look so scary in daylight, but with just the headlights from the car illuminating it, the sagging front porch and faded paint on the old Victorian gave it the air of Miss Havisham's wedding cake, the overblown opulence decayed and neglected.

"Are we sure this is a good idea?" she asked.

Emmett jiggled the flashlight in his hand, grinning as the light flashed on. "Sure, Bella. Look, from what my mom said, this house has been on the market for years now. Nobody wants it, and they're probably gonna tear it down and clear this place out for a new development. So we're not hurting anything – just doing a little exploring." He held the flashlight directly under his face, Blair Witch style, and intoned, "Are you afraid of the ghosts, Bella?"

Rose knocked him on the arm and took the flashlight away from him. "Stop it, Emmett. You know there're no ghosts in there."

He laughed, swinging his arm around her and leading her towards the door, gesturing for the others to follow. "Yeah, but if you get scared, feel free to snuggle up, Rosie."

Bella took a deep breath as Alice handed her a flashlight.

"Bella, you don't have to go in if you don't want to. I'll stay out here with you," Alice reassured, even as her eyes followed Jasper and Edward as they headed up the steps of the porch.

Bella shook her head. "No, no, it's fine. I just don't want to get in trouble for trespassing, you know? I don't think my dad would be very happy about that."

Alice laughed. "Who's going to be out here at this time of night? It'll be fine. C'mon." She grabbed her hand and pulled her along, hurrying up the porch steps behind the others.

Bella paused at the door, fumbling with the catch on her flashlight, and shivering a little as a cold chill settled over her. She wished she'd brought a jacket. The flashlight clicked on, and the beam of light swung through the near darkness, showing a wide staircase that took up half the entrance hall, flanked by open doorways on each side that led into other rooms.

"In here, Bella," Alice called, her light arcing from the room to the right.

She shone her light on the floor, picking her way carefully across the scuffed hardwoods, the tracks of the others visible now in dust that lay thick and heavy everywhere. When something large and white moved in her peripheral vision and a low whoooo sounded in the room, she jumped and tossed her flashlight in the air.

"For fucks sake, knock it off, Emmett." She felt a warm hand on her arm and turned, surprised to see Edward standing there, holding her flashlight out to her. He aimed his light at the white object, and Emmett emerged from under the sheet that she could see now was one of the dust covers for the fussy, old-fashioned furniture that sat about the room. Alice waved her over to sit beside her on one of the long couches, and she found herself watching Edward as he pulled the sheet off a smaller side chair and sat alone.

Emmett claimed a love seat and pulled Rosalie down beside him, then fished a silver flask out of his pocket. He unscrewed the lid and took a deep swig, before tossing it over to Jasper, who drank as well. Bella paused for a half second when it reached her, then put it to her lips. One sip couldn't hurt, could it? She wrinkled her nose at the harsh bite of the liquor that burned down her throat, then leaned back on the sofa, unsure what they'd do now.

"So, Emmett, who told you this place was haunted?" Rose asked.

"My mom," he said. "Well, not exactly haunted, just the old dude who owned the place died out here by himself, couple of years ago now, and people get freaked about buying a place that someone died in."

"Did someone kill him?" Edward asked.

"Nah, I think he was just really old."

Edward had his flashlight off and his voice, though disembodied, was calming to listen to Bella thought as she closed her eyes, feeling suddenly tired. "Em, old people die at home all the time. It's not that big of a deal."

"I don't know, man, my mom just said nobody wanted to buy the place."

"It's probably just because it's old and in bad shape. Nobody lives out on this side of town anyway." Edward's tone was firm. "It's not really haunted."

"So you don't believe in ghosts, Edward?" Jasper asked.

"No, of course not. Do you?"

"You never know. There's some weird shit out there," Jasper replied. "Back home, there was this place down by the railroad tracks. If you went out there on real cloudy nights, like tonight, sometimes you could see this light appear, just out of nowhere. They said it was this old guy who'd worked for the railroad his whole life. He got hit by the train one night and it took his head off. So now he comes back, swinging a lantern, looking for his head."

"So you saw it?" Edward asked.

"I saw something one night I thought was it."

"We had a place like that back in Tennessee," Emmett said. "There was this bridge, and they say this couple was coming back from the prom or something and crashed, went off the side of the bridge and both of them died. So now, if you drive out there and stop in the middle of the bridge and turn off the car, one of them will get in the car with you, and you can tell, because they leave a wet spot on the car seat."

"Shut up," Rosalie said. "You're telling me you did that?"

"Do I look stupid?" Emmett laughed, as he took another swig off his flask. "Hell, no." He stood up. "Eddie's right though. This place is just a junk heap. We should take a look around, see if we can find anything. We'll start upstairs, check the bedrooms." He pulled Rose up with him as she giggled, and the pair sauntered off out into the hallway and started up the stairs.

Bella turned towards Alice, only to find that her friend was now sitting in Jasper's lap. She stood up hastily and noticed a tall form on the other side of the room. His flashlight clicked on, and Edward waved her over.

"Why don't we go elsewhere?" he suggested, giving an annoyed look to his sister, who was now full on making out with Jasper on the couch. Bella nodded and followed him back into the entryway.

"Do you want to go back outside, wait in the car?" he asked.

"Are . . . are you going out there?" she asked.

He gave a half shrug. "I thought I'd look around a little."

She shook her head, all the missing hikers flashing through her mind. Sitting in the dark car alone seemed as bad as staying in the house. "If it's alright with you, I'd rather just stay in here." With you, she added silently, hoping he'd pick up on that.

"Alright. I'm going to check out the back."

Before she could make a move to follow him, he'd disappeared down the hallway. She sighed and directed her own light up the stairs, hearing the distinct sound of Rose's laugh and Emmett's deep voice from above. She started to climb.

The landing held several doorways. Rose and Emmett were behind a closed one, clearly enjoying themselves, and she walked past, stopping in front of another, smaller flight of stairs that ascended to the third floor. The thought of going higher by herself should have scared her, but she found herself slowly climbing, jumping slightly as the third stair from the top gave a low groan when she put her weight on it.

This landing was smaller, with just a few half-open doors. Her light caught an object in the one to the left, and she moved forward, following the cold beam through the darkness.

The room was narrow and spartan, with a single metal twin bed covered by a sheet in one corner, and a small washstand along the opposite wall. The wavy and discolored mirror that had caught her light hung over the washstand, and a single straight-backed chair, the caning in the bottom half torn away, stood in the corner. The chill she'd felt earlier that the alcohol had chased away returned. Bella wrapped her arms around herself, dropping her flashlight in the process and knocking out the light. She closed her eyes against the darkness and knelt, fumbling to find it on the floor, when she heard his voice.

"Are you alright?"

A wave of warmth washed over her as she rose and turned, opening her eyes.

It was as though the dark room was now bathed in candlelight, the strange glow burnishing the reddish highlights of his hair as he leaned against the doorframe. She finally found her tongue.

"I didn't think you'd come up here," she said.

"You want me to leave?" he asked.

She felt her lips move, as though someone else was speaking. "Come in and shut the door before anyone sees you."

He did, and the glow remained as he crossed the room to where she stood. "You looked so beautiful tonight," he said, reaching up to touch her cheek. "All evening I've been waiting for this moment, when I could be alone with you. Take your hair down for me."

She felt herself moving as if through water, her limbs heavy and languid yet sure as she pulled the band from her hair and let the length cascade around her shoulders. She could hear his sharp inhale of breath as he gently curled a lock around one finger.

"So soft." He moved closer, and she could feel her heartbeat pounding rapidly, a steady tattoo that moved faster than everything around it. He threaded his hands in her hair, tilting her head back to meet his eyes.

"Please let me?" he asked. His eyes were trained on her lips and there was something deep in her brain that didn't understand what was happening here, but she found herself nodding into the feel of his strong hands and long fingers cradling her as she closed her eyes in acquiescence.

Soft and warm, his mouth brushed hers with a caress that made her shiver, and she could feel his lips curve against hers in a smile.

"More?" he whispered. The touch of his mouth against hers as he spoke broke down any shred of resistance. She pushed up on her toes, pressing her lips firmly against his, not sure if what she was doing was right, but needing the contact, the connection, overwhelmed with the sudden feeling that if she didn't kiss him, she might die.

His hands slid from her hair and pulled her to him, their lips now fully engaged as she gripped his shirt, finding herself rocking towards him, wanting him to consume her, to let her consume him, to somehow entwine themselves so that no one, nothing, could part them.

His hand slipped lower, the feeling of his fingers splayed against the small of her back both exhilarating and protective at the same time, and she tried to get even closer, her own hands seeking purchase as she caressed his arm, his chest, curled around his neck and into his hair.

He gave an appreciative moan and their tongues tangled as they stumbled backwards. She felt the edge of the mattress at her knees, envisioned him falling beside her, his hands moving down her body, as she tugged lightly on his shirt with one hand in urgent invitation.

The noise of clattering steps on the stairs intruded as a voice called, "Edward? Bella? Where did you guys go?"

She felt his hands leave her and she jerked herself away just as swiftly, tripping backward over her own feet as she stumbled into the washstand. Catching herself, she steadied against the sturdy wood as she glanced up into the faded mirror.

Her reflection in the wavy glass froze her. It was her, but wasn't. Long dark hair falling in a mess around her shoulders, brown eyes, pale skin, lips dark and a little bruised. But her mirror image was wearing a dress, stiff and formal, dark with a white apron neatly tucked over it. Edward was caught in the reflection too, half turned from her. His reddish-brown hair was disheveled as usual, but instead of his t-shirt, he had on a suit jacket of some kind of dark tweed, with a tie now loose around his neck. Blinking, she turned around to find Edward in the same black t-shirt he'd been wearing all night. She looked down at her own familiar faded jeans and blue shirt, as she hastily pulled her hair back up into a ponytail.

"Bella?" She glanced up and their eyes locked for a moment, a silent agreement passing between them before Edward gave a nod and turned away.

"We're in here, Emmett," he announced. The door swung open, plunging them suddenly into darkness, the soft glow dissipating as Emmett's flashlight cut through the room.

"What are you two up to in here?" Emmett asked, tilting the flashlight up so they could see his eyebrow wiggle. "Cosy little spot, huh? Ah, and dude, you found a bed!" he exclaimed, sweeping his light around the room again. Bella was grateful that he seemed distracted.

"Bella dropped her flashlight, and the batteries are getting low in mine," Edward said smoothly. He grabbed Emmett's light and shone it around the floor. "There it is."

She reached down and plucked it up, clicking it on to add to the beam from Emmett's. "Thanks. We should go now, I think."

Emmett nodded. "Yeah. Rosie's got to be home before midnight, so we need to head out. We'll have to do this again though."

Bella swallowed hard and said nothing as she walked past Edward, noticing that he closed the door to the small room behind them carefully as they started down the steps.

She found herself quiet on the ride home. Edward dropped her off first, and though his eyes met hers in the glow of the dashboard while she unfastened her seatbelt, neither of them said a word about what had happened. She called her goodbyes to the others and slipped inside the house, walking quietly past her father who'd fallen asleep in front of the still playing television. She clicked it off, covered him with a blanket, and headed up the stairs.

She gave her teeth a cursory brushing, washed her face, and left her blue jeans and bra in a heap on the floor as she climbed into bed in her t-shirt and underwear, too tired to even change. She felt overwhelmed, exhausted yet wired by what had happened.

That house. That room. She closed her eyes, trying to picture it again, plain and barely furnished, but the only thing she could see was the reflection of herself in that dress and Edward in his suit. She touched her mouth, still tender from the kisses he'd given her. Rolling over, she stared out the window at the moonlight that had finally broken through the clouds and drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

###

She saw Edward again on Sunday afternoon when she came over to the Cullen house to give Alice her opinion on a color chip for some sort of decorative accent she wanted to paint on the wall. It was a gold shade that matched Jasper's hair almost exactly. Bella just nodded her approval as Alice enthused over design motifs and symbolism, fully expecting to find a life sized mural of Jasper in place of the unicorns the next time she came over.

On her way out, she noticed that his door was open. He sat at his desk, his headphones in place, hunched over a book as he scribbled something on a sheet of paper. She watched him for a minute, hand raised to knock, and then lowered it. What would she say? Why did you kiss me like that? Why did I kiss you? Who were we?

She didn't know the answer to the second question, and she doubted he knew the answer to the first. But she was certain that neither of them knew the answer to the last. Unless she'd imagined the whole thing, which she sometimes thought was possible.

###

When the next Friday rolled around, and Alice called to invite her, she went along, aware of his presence, but studiously avoiding his gaze. By default they ended up next to one another in the movie theater as they all filed in for the 7:00 pm showing of Face Punch. She carefully kept her arm inside the arm rest, and bought her own small container of popcorn to eat. She noticed he did the same. The movie was terrible, and her attention soon wandered as she looked around the theater. She glanced to the side and found that he was watching her instead of the film, his face solemn as he studied her. A blush swept over her face and she looked away. She kept her eyes on the screen for the rest of the movie.

###

The torrential rain and frequent cracks of lightning the next Friday night made The House, as she'd come to think of it, look even more frightening than normal. Emmett hunched over the lock fiddling with the keys as they stood on the porch, shaking out their umbrellas.

Finally he gave a victorious fist pump when the stubborn lock opened. "Let the games begin," he said.

"What are we doing here again?" Edward asked.

"Going to the movies was boring. This is our spot now," Emmett replied.

Bella perched on the sofa, watching as they all gathered around as before. Emmett's flask made an appearance and she took a nervous sip, glancing at Edward, who'd been staring at her all night. He wouldn't be doing that if she'd imagined everything, would he?

"We should light a fire," Emmett suggested, standing in front of the hearth, his bulky form just visible in the dark room.

Jasper shook his head. "That chimney probably hasn't been used in a while. Could be dangerous."

Emmett pouted for a second, then bounced back. "We could try to do a séance. Hold hands and shit, see if we can summon something."

"You can do whatever you want," Edward announced, standing suddenly. "I'm going to go look around some more." He paused beside her seat for a brief second, and in the darkness she felt the brush of his hand against her arm before he disappeared out the door.

Had that been an invitation?

She took one last pull off the flask, and rose, handing it back to Emmett. "I think I'm going to look around some more too," she said, clicking her flashlight on and walking out of the room with determination, even as she heard the whispers and giggles pairing her name with Edward's behind her back. She mounted the steps quickly, headed straight to the top.

The room was still dark and she stepped inside, waiting, as she flicked off her light. Rain pelted against the windows, the constant patter breaking the silence, and then footsteps sounded outside the room. She closed her eyes, listening to the door shut, and then opened them to the same warm glow as before.

He moved towards her, and she found her heartbeat quickening as though she were coming alive when he touched her.

"You shouldn't be up here. Your father-" she protested, but he cut her off, pulling her to him and kissing her lips.

"This is none of my father's business," he said, pulling the pins from her hair, letting it fall around her face, loose and wild. "You shouldn't have to wear your hair this way. You shouldn't have to wear these terrible gowns, and aprons that hide how lovely you are."

She pushed away, walking to the mirror and watching him in the watery reflection. "It's my job, Ethan, And you know I can't afford to lose it." She looked at her hands, the nails ragged and chipped. "We can't do this anymore."

"What do you mean?"

She forced herself to look up at him. "Steven Abbott. He's . . . he's begun to call on me on my day off."

"The hell he has." He stepped forward, his eyes blazing. "Beth, why? I thought-"

"You thought what?" she demanded. "You thought I should just wait here, like some little play thing for you to steal kisses from when you come home from school? That if you just were patient enough, I'd open my legs up, like my mother the whore, and let you have your way?" She turned away, her voice catching in her throat. "Leave, Ethan."

"No." His voice was harsh as he stepped closer. "Is that what you thought I was doing? Playing with you?" She could see his face in the mirror, eyes closed and jaw set.

"Beth, don't you understand?" His touch was gentler now as he brushed her hair away from her shoulder. "I love you."

She stilled for a moment, the words foreign and unfamiliar in her brief life. "What did you say?"

He turned her to face him. "I love you. I have since I was a boy, and regardless of what my father says, I want you as my wife." He glanced down nervously. "That is, if you'll have me."

She stared at him, almost in disbelief, then launched herself, forgetting control for once as she laced her arms around his neck, letting the joy flood through her. He loved her.

"I thought-"

"That I would want to marry one of those 'fine young ladies' from back East my mother's always going on about?" he interrupted. "Oh Beth, I've only had eyes for you since I came home last summer and saw you, all grown up and more beautiful than ever."

"I love you, Ethan," she replied. "I've always loved you."

He swung her around, his low chuckle a pleasant rumble against her, then sat her on the bed, kneeling before her and carefully removing the stiff leather shoes his mother insisted the staff wear.

She laid a hand on his shoulder, trying to stop him. "You don't have to do that," she said softly.

He shook his head and continued his task. "You deserve someone to care for you, Beth." He massaged her instep, his fingers firm as they traced the worn wool of her stocking, circling her ankle. "So tiny," he murmured, his fingers gently caressing her calf. She pressed her hand to her mouth, trying not to whimper at how good such a simple touch felt. Until the day he first kissed her, she hadn't realized how starved she was for even the simplest contact, and she'd grown addicted to his careful caresses.

He rose on his knees, nearly eye level with her despite her perch on the edge of the bed. Raising her hand to his lips, he kissed each finger in turn, unfazed by her worn and reddened hands. "Just a few more months until I graduate from college and I'll be able to take care of you as you deserve."

She caught his face in her hands, hungry for his mouth, for the feel of his body against hers. He pulled her closer to him, lifting her until she was in his lap, her skirt hiked higher than proper as she reveled in the feel of him against her. "Say it again," she whispered.

"I love you," he replied, his lips raining kisses across her face. She whimpered and pulled him tighter as he shifted them, turning her so that she lay beneath him on the bed as he found the tender spot beneath her ear and nuzzled there, making her giggle and pull him closer, feeling lighter than she'd ever felt in all her eighteen years.

A flare of lightning shattered the solitude of the room, the crack and hiss of a hit on something nearby followed by a scream from down below.

"Bella? Bella, where are you?"

Bella sat up, feeling suddenly dizzy as she pulled away from Edward, who stared at her with an equally dazed expression.

"Alice," she managed to say, and he nodded, helping her off the bed. His touch felt electric in her hand, and she stepped away, her mind a jumble of memories and emotions that didn't belong to her.

She stumbled to the door and opened it. "I'm up here, Alice. Everything's fine." But she still felt a presence in the room, and she wasn't sure if her words were entirely true.

###

She'd found a summer job at the library that her father had approved since it was two doors down from the police station and thereby deemed safe. Miss Garland, the town librarian who'd insisted immediately that Bella call her Becky, was energetic and easily distracted, flitting from one thing to the next in her passion for hauling the antiquated Forks Library into the twenty-first century.

Her mornings were spent shelving and working her way through the children's collection that Becky was tagging to create an electronic catalog. Afternoons were slower, when she manned the circulation desk while Becky organized and ran book clubs and children's reading circles.

Perched behind the desk, she positioned herself in front of a fan that barely moved the warm air that had settled like a wet blanket over Forks, as she idly perused the Forks Daily for the fifteenth of June. The lead was another variation of everyone's favorite topic of conversation, the hiker hacker. Her father was more stressed which each passing day, seeming to take it personally that he hadn't been able to find the killer, even though he wasn't the only jurisdiction investigating the murders.

Flipping past to the second page, which comprised the "business" section of the thin paper, a name caught her eye and she skimmed to the article below the fold. Lynn McCarty. That had to be Emmett's mother. She'd been interviewed about the planned groundbreaking for a new development to happen over the weekend of the Fourth. Affordable luxury, spacious floorplans, the usual sales pitch about another row of cookie cutter houses. Bella frowned as she read the last paragraph.

Sunrise Gardens will develop the section of Forks known as Maiden Lane, an area once home to one of Fork's wealthiest residents, the reclusive Hiram Moore. Recent efforts by the Forks Preservation Society to raise funds to save the historic home, which has fallen into disrepair, have proven unsuccessful. The Masen House, named after the original owner, one of the first founders of Forks, will be removed prior to the groundbreaking.

It was The House, it had to be. She glanced up, startled as Becky let herself behind the circulation desk, fanning wildly.

"So hot, Bella. Though I suppose you're used to this heat, down there in Arizona."

"It can get hot there," she replied absently.

Becky leaned over her shoulder, glancing at the article that had her attention. "That Sunrise Gardens development again. Why some people have no sense of history, I'll never understand."

Bella looked up. "What do you mean?"

Becky tapped her finger on the newspaper. "This. Tearing down that beautiful old house. It's one of the few remaining examples of Victorian architecture in Forks, and it has such rich historical significance for the town, but they're still going to just rip it down and put in another one of those overpriced developments."

"What kind of historical significance?" Bella asked.

"One of the town founders built the house." Becky turned and started digging around on her cluttered desk. "Wait, here it is." She held up a bound document triumphantly. "The Forks Preservation Society asked me to do some research back in January to try to support their petition to get the house designated as a historical landmark."

"Could I maybe read it?" Bella asked.

"Absolutely. I didn't know you were interested in local history, Bella."

She shrugged. "I don't know much about Forks, even though I was born here. And this house sounds . . . interesting."

"Oh no, you've heard the rumors, haven't you?" Becky chuckled.

"What do you mean?"

Becky waggled a finger at her. "That the house is haunted? Am I right?"

Bella ducked her head, clutching the document Becky had handed over. "Maybe."

"There's nothing to them. Hiram Moore, the older gentleman who last lived there, was something of an eccentric and liked to keep people away from the property. I'm sure he started most of those tales. They're the same old nonsense you hear about all 'haunted houses.'" She air quoted the last phrase, clearly amused. "Let's see, what have people said? Strange lights and figures silhouetted against the windows, I think that's the usual complaint."

"So, no mysterious deaths there? Tortured spirits?" Bella asked.

Becky laughed. "I don't think so. The Masens did have a son who died while they were living there, and they moved away not long after that, but he'd been injured in World War I and died from complications, I believe. So while tragic, not really a mysterious death. The real horror is losing that beautiful old house, but it looks as though the developers are going to get their way."

"Yeah, that's a shame," Bella said. "Could I borrow this for a few days, just read over it?"

"Sure, keep it as long as you need. I have other copies."

###

The document turned out to be more than just a history of the house; Becky had been through in her research, painting a vivid picture of its residents as well. Ezra Masen had been a rags to riches story. Poor but ambitious, he'd moved from New York and left his wife, Abigail, and their baby boy in Seattle, while he headed north and joined the Klondike Rush. A major strike in 1898 made Masen suddenly wealthy, and the family moved back to New York briefly, but soon settled in Seattle.

Bella flipped a page, only half listening to Alice as she babbled about the new curtains she was considering in her ongoing room makeover.

Masen was convinced to fund a new logging operation with a man named Jim Robinson, and the company of Masen & Robinson built their base of operations in a place called Forks, which began to grow rapidly with the influx of workers and their families. The town flourished as the company grew, and Masen was instrumental in opening the first school in Forks in 1902, where his son, Ethan Masen, was in the first class.

She caught her breath. Ethan. It had to be him. So who was Beth? She read on.

Ezra Masen broke ground on the house on Maiden Lane in 1905, the same year he was elected to his first term as mayor, and lived there until 1919, when the logging company ceased operations and the Masens moved away from Forks. A Jeremiah Moore purchased the house from the Masens, and it remained in that family's hands until the present day, although it was primarily used as a summer home until the reclusive Hiram Moore moved into the house in the late 1990s until his death.

"Hello? Earth to Bella, do you think this shade will match?" Alice said, and Bella blinked, looking up at a scrap of fabric that seemed to be similar to Jasper's skin tone. "What are you reading over there, anyway?"

Bella flipped the report shut. "Nothing. Just something Becky, Miss Garland, gave me on the history of Forks."

Alice rolled her eyes. "History. Boring." She jumped on the bed next to Bella. "Let's talk about the here and now instead. You're in for Friday night again? We're going back to the house. Emmett wants to try a séance."

Bella's eyes flickered to the hallway and Edward's room. "I don't know if that's such a good idea."

Alice laughed. "It's not real, Bella. It'll be fun. You'll come, won't you?" She smirked a little, leaning forward as she singsonged, "Edward will be there."

Bella moved off the bed. "Isn't he always?"

Alice cocked her head to the side. "What's going on with you two? He was upstairs with you last Friday, wasn't he?"

Bella shook her head. "It was nothing, Alice. Don't worry about it."

Alice snorted. "Funny, that's what he said too. Don't be such a lone wolf, Bella. I may call him an ass, but my brother's a good guy. I think you two would make a cute couple."

"It's not like that, Alice."

Alice laughed. "Whatever. But you still have to come, okay?"

"Fine. I'd better go, my dad'll be home soon. Can your mom still drop me off?"

Edward appeared in the doorway as if by magic. "I told Mom I'd take Bella home."

Alice raised an eyebrow as she looked between them, then shook her head. "Denial. Look it up, you two. See you, Bella."

###

The interior of their mom's car, sportier than the minivan the twins had inherited, seemed smaller than she remembered from the last time Mrs. Cullen had given her a ride home. His hand sat loosely on the gear shift, inches from her own fingers clutching her knee. It was the first time she'd been alone with him since the past weekend.

"Am I going crazy?" he asked abruptly.

"If you are, than so am I," she replied.

"What was that, Bella, in that room?"

"I don't know for sure, but, I think that we were . . ." She trailed off, reluctant to say it aloud.

"Possessed. We were possessed by them, weren't we? Ethan and Beth."

"I think so."

"So who are they? What are they?" he asked.

She opened her bag, pulling out the report. "You should read this. I think Ethan was the son of the guy who built that house. He died there."

He pulled into her driveway, still empty of her father's car, and turned off the ignition. "So what do you think it means?"

"I don't know," she replied. "What do you remember?"

"I've never felt anything like that," he said, looking away. "It was like, like he couldn't bear to have her with that other guy, with anyone but him. He wanted to take her away from it all, and it was killing him that he couldn't yet."

"I know," Bella replied. "She couldn't believe he loved her like that, but she wanted him to. She'd never thought he would."

They sat silently in the gathering twilight until Edward turned to her and spoke again. "Did it hurt you?"

She shook her head. "No. It wasn't painful. It was just," she paused, searching for the right word, "overwhelming, I guess. I've never felt anything like that either. That kind of passion." She swallowed hard. "I didn't know that could be real."

He leaned closer, his gaze dropping briefly to her mouth. "Neither did I."

She moved towards him, eyes locked with his, when a beam of headlights arced between them. She jerked back, fumbling with the seatbelt as she watched her father exit his black and white.

"Thanks for the ride, Edward," she managed, before she was out the door.

###

The next Friday night found her pacing, hands clammy as she stopped in front of the window and nervously adjusted the straps of her white sundress. It was girly, not her usual style, but more like something she would wear.

Beth. She'd found herself thinking about her all week. At night, when she curled in bed and listened to the rain, she remembered the emotions she'd experienced secondhand when Ethan told Beth he loved her, when he held her so delicately, like she was something precious and cherished. Bella wondered if she'd ever find someone who would look at her that way.

The Cullen minivan moved down the street, and the memory of Edward's eyes as they'd sat outside in the car together rose in her mind for a moment before she pushed it away and ran down the steps.

The drive to Maiden Lane was short, and Bella could see the changes in the landscape already. Trees were felled and cleared on the road where it turned off the main highway and a large sign announced the coming development. But The House itself was still untouched, standing alone in its small circle of shady trees.

Emmett popped out of the car, racing up the steps. "Are we going to do it tonight?" he asked. He hefted the large bag he'd been carrying. "I brought stuff."

"What have you got?" Alice asked. "Let me see."

She started digging through the bag as he moved to unlock the door, cursing loudly as he dropped the keys.

"What's the matter, babe?" Rosalie asked.

"I think I broke the lock or something. The key snapped off."

Edward stepped forward, shining his light. "I think you jammed it, Emmett." He tried the knob. "But it's still opening. I guess we're meant to go in."

Alice bounced forward, lugging the bag. "Where did you get all these candles, Emmett?" She started to set them up haphazardly around the living room floor, tossing a lighter to Jasper as he followed her and lit the wicks.

"My mom has tons of them, figured she wouldn't miss a few tonight. You set'm up in a circle, and then I think we're supposed to hold hands and try to talk to them." He held up a round container and Bella squinted, trying to make out what it was in the dim light.

"Is that salt?" Jasper asked.

"Hell, yeah," Emmett replied. "Haven't you ever watched Supernatural? It's how you get rid of the demons, just in case we summon the wrong thing."

Edward moved to where she stood by the door and she felt his hand grasp hers. When he gave a small tug, she followed him, slipping away from the others and up the now familiar stairs. The noises from below faded as they moved towards another reality.

They paused on the third floor landing together, and he let her hand go. "You sure you want to do this?"

She nodded and he gestured towards the door. "You go in first then. I'll follow." He caught her hand again as she started to walk away, stopping her for a moment. "Bella, I . . . I wanted to tell you. You look really nice tonight."

The color filled her cheeks and she nodded. "Thank you."

Bella entered the room and shut the door. She moved to the mirror, closed her eyes, and waited as she felt herself start to slip away.

She opened her eyes and stared at her too pale face in the mirror, eyes bright with unshed tears. Tomorrow he'd be gone. The thought ricocheted in her head, harsh and unrelenting in its starkness. She pinched her cheeks, trying to add some color. Smoothing the thin cotton of her nightdress, plain with only a tiny ribbon at the neck, but the best she had, she carefully arranged her hair loose around her shoulders the way she knew he liked it.

The door opened and she didn't waste a second, running across the room and throwing herself into his arms, crushing her lips to his. He caught her, like she knew he would, his hands tangling in her hair as he kissed her, the restraint evaporating between them.

"Beth, Beth, sweetheart, we need to talk," he murmured, finally breaking the kiss, and she gripped him more tightly when he tried to pull away.

"No, we don't," she insisted. "There's nothing left to say, Ethan."

"I want to marry you before I go, Beth. If something happens-"

"No." She cut him off, her voice determined. "Nothing is going to happen to you. You're going to go, you're going to fight, and you're going to come back to me, whole and safe and sound." Her voice broke as she pulled him towards the bed. "I will not marry you because you think you're going to die, Ethan Masen." She took a deep breath, swallowing the nervousness she felt as she reached for the ribbon at the top of her nightdress. "But tonight, I want you to stay with me, as if I was your wife."

He caught her hand. "Beth, you don't have to do this."

She steadied herself and pulled the bow loose. "I love you, Ethan. And while you're gone, I want you to remember me." She reached for his hand and, sliding the fabric away, placed it over her heart. "I want you to remember how my heart beats for you."

She knew her hand was trembling, but she guided his lower to cup the weight of her breast, her flesh tightening as if to bury itself in his palm. "I want you to remember how my body reacts to you, and only you." She stepped closer, trapping their joined hands between them as she whispered, "Love me tonight, Ethan. And I'll wait here for you to come back, as long as it takes."

He kissed her then, his lips sealing a gentle promise on hers as they stumbled backwards to the bed. She winced at the squeal of the springs, but forgot the thinness of the mattress as he settled his body over hers. She gripped his shoulders, fumbling for his jacket and pushing it away as she let herself touch him as she'd always wanted to, running her hands down his chest, feeling the solid weight of his thigh beneath her legs. His arms felt strong and safe as they tangled themselves together, as if neither was content to let anything separate them tonight.

Soft kisses on her neck plied ticklish skin so sensitive it made her arch against him as his own hands roamed. She gasped into his mouth as his fingers swept up and under her nightdress, caressing the tender flesh behind her knee. Flushing at the feel of his fingertips brushing against her bare thigh, she curled her leg higher around his, the roughness of the wool of his trousers only heightening the sensation as she moved against him.

He was hard, and she found herself rubbing wantonly against that part of him, wanting him to touch her there. She slid her hand down, cupping him through his trousers, surprised at her own boldness, and he hissed her name in encouragement. His hand found her hip, guiding her as they rocked together in a rhythm all their own, and she found her breath growing shorter as something curled low in her belly.

His breathing was harsher too, as though he'd just run the length of the road to the house. He slipped the thin fabric that covered her breasts from her shoulders, and she inhaled sharply as his mouth closed over her breast, the tug of his lips on her bare skin a counterpoint to the sensation of his hips rolling against her, sending jolts of pleasure through her that made her toes curl.

She felt his hand slide back to her hip, inching up her nightdress again, his hand caressing her thigh before sliding to the top of her drawers and tracing the top of the fabric there. He dipped beneath, causing her to shudder as the pads of his fingers slid over her stomach.

"Ethan, please," she begged, suddenly impatient with the layers still separating them. She pulled at his shirt, frantically trying to undo the buttons as he leaned back, his hands grappling with the fastenings of his trousers.

"Edward, Bella, we need to get out of here." The pounding on the door was loud and insistent. "There's a light out in the woods, someone's coming up here."

Edward paused mid-fumble, his hand on his zipper, and Bella froze at the look on his face before she realized that her sundress was gaping open and he could see her breasts fully exposed. She crossed her arms, trying to do up the buttons as he moved off of her and towards the door, holding it shut.

"You alright?" he asked.

She gave a final glance down, knowing she looked rumpled and tumbled, but nodded anyway. She held her head up high as she and Edward walked past Jasper and Alice, who stared at them both with smirks on their faces. They wouldn't understand.

They all hurried down the steps and out the door, driving back down the lane slowly with the lights off until they reached the main road. The others were excited, laughing about their mock séance and whoever had almost caught them, but Bella sat quietly, her head jumbled and her body flushed and aching.

When Edward pulled into her drive, she got out of the minivan quickly with a quiet goodnight, and started for the door. She turned when he called her name and found Edward jogging after her, the others expectantly watching through the windshield behind him.

"Bella, we need to talk," he said, his hand hovering towards her, but not quite touching her arm.

"I know," she said. "But we have an audience. I'll call you."

He nodded and let her go.

###

She watched as he crossed the cemetery the next day, moving quickly toward where she sat among old tombstones worn with age and covered with lichen.

"Bella?" he said, kneeling beside her. "I didn't expect you to call me here. What's wrong?"

She looked up, and wiped away her tears. "I found her. I found them both."

The headstone was small and unassuming, with minimal text. Elizabeth Jenson. September 15, 1899 - August 15, 1918.

"Beth?" he asked.

She nodded and stood, leading him a few rows to the left. "And this is Ethan."

His headstone was larger, with a death date of August 31, 1918. Edward reached out and touched the text. "What happened to them?"

Bella held up a small book, the cover faded from its original crimson.

"I went to The House this afternoon."

He laid his hand on her arm. "Bella, you shouldn't go out there by yourself."

"Don't you wonder though? What happened to them? Why they're still there?" she asked. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about them since last night. So I went back this afternoon. It looks different in the day, Edward. It's faded, but not frightening. I went upstairs."

His fingers tightened around hers, and she squeezed back. "I'm alright. It was just a room. I sat there on the bed for a few minutes, and there was nothing. Except this." She held up the book. "It was lying on the floor by the bed, no dust on it or anything. I think I was meant to find it, Edward. It's Abigail Masen's journal."

"Ethan's mother," he breathed.

She nodded. "She was a bitch. She and Ezra were obsessed with Ethan being what they couldn't. They wanted him to go to the best schools, marry into some society family back east, and be respected in a way they weren't back home, even with all their money. She knew Ethan was in love with Beth, and she hated her because of it." Bella walked back to Beth's tombstone and sat beside it. "Ethan was just finishing college, and he got drafted. Beth was pregnant, but I don't think she knew until after he was gone. Abigail's journal makes it sound like she was trying to hide it."

She touched the granite. "She must have been so scared. She lost the baby and never recovered. Abigail rants on for a couple of pages about God punishing her for being a whore. Ethan got injured pretty quickly and was sent home. He got there just a few weeks after she died. He shot himself in her room the day he came back. The Masens covered it up; they didn't want people to know."

Edward knelt down next to her. "She was his reason for living," he said. "He didn't want to be in a world without her."

"Can you imagine loving someone so much that it seeps into a place where it'll be felt for almost a century?" she asked.

He shook his head. "No, but sometimes I'm starting to think I can." He touched her cheek. "Bella, I know this has all been strange and surreal, but I think they chose us for a reason. I . . . I don't just feel things for you when I'm in that room."

She turned her head. "Me either."

He leaned towards her and their lips brushed together gently. She pulled back, her eyes opening slowly as she smiled. He pulled her closer and kissed her again, harder this time, tangling his hand in her hair. They continued to kiss for several minutes, their hands roaming and moving in familiar but new patterns, and then Bella pulled away, a determined look on her face.

"Edward, they're going to tear The House down in just a few days."

"I know," he replied.

She glanced at the two tombstones so close together and yet so far apart. "I think they deserve to be reunited one last time."

###

Dusk was falling as they drove down Maiden Lane. In the distance they could see the bulldozers and equipment that had begun clearing the fields and forest. The fading light was kinder to the old structure than daylight, and something of the house's former glory shone through as they parked, and stepped out of the car.

Bella glanced up at the third floor window, wondering if the silhouette of a couple she saw there for just a moment was only her imagination. Edward came up beside her, following her gaze. "I saw them too," he said softly.

"What do you think will happen to them?" she asked. "All the lives that made this house, just gone."

"I don't know. But for tonight, at least, we'll help them be together again. Are you ready?" he asked, holding out his hand.

"Yes," she replied.

Hands clasped, they walked into The House, the door swinging shut behind them.