This was originally written for the "Rosalie's a Bitch" contest. I would like to thank IhateCleanBreaks for beta reading this for me since my beloved Adrena is super busy with nursing school, and my sexy Canadian luvr Marny because this version of Rosalie and Edward were originally meant to be in our co-authored story called "A Rock and a Hard Place." Maybe someday we'll get around to writing it:)

Oh, and I don't own these characters. And for the record, I don't think Rosalie's a bitch, she's just misunderstood. :)


I took advantage of being the only one in the shop by turning on Depeche Mode. If Edward were here, we'd be listening to The Cure. I took my time, laying out my station exactly the way I preferred it. The new girl Bella usually did it for Edward and me, but I still liked to do it for myself when I had the time.

The thought of the new girl made my lips clench in a tight line. Edward was turning into a fucking sucker for her, and it made me want to howl. I'd known Edward long enough that I could see the signs of his fascination with her, and I couldn't believe how stupid he was. She was just a kid, a wide-eyed innocent from the easy life.

Edward and I definitely weren't wide-eyed innocents from the easy life. No, we'd had it much harder growing up. I'd met him when I was fourteen and he was sixteen, and we'd stuck together ever since. I watched his back, and he watched mine. He was one of the toughest motherfuckers I'd ever met, and yet he was turning into a big softie over some girl. It made me sick just thinking about it, because I knew that if he actually allowed himself to be vulnerable to her, she'd just chew him up and spit him out without ever realizing it.

There was a knock on the door and my head shot up, irritated that my small pocket of peace was interrupted. It was a few minutes to noon on a Tuesday, but the customers knew we didn't open until 12:30. I scowled as I crossed from my station and lifted the pass-through on the counter to get to the wide glass doors. Due to some signs posted on the doors, I could only see parts of the person outside, but it was enough to tell me that whoever he was, he didn't dress like the type to come down and get inked during his lunch break.

I briefly wondered if I should just ignore the guy, but business was business and I hated to lose a customer. I quickly unlocked the door and pushed it open to reveal a clean-cut man who looked like he'd never been inside a tattoo shop in his life. He had brown hair and dark eyes with a charming grin that immediately set my teeth on edge, and he wore a light blue button down dress shirt with khaki slacks. I tried to hide my scowl, but I knew no matter what, the mask of indifference wouldn't budge. "Can I help you?" I asked.

His smile deepened even more and I saw dimples peek out from his lean cheeks. He was built like a bodybuilder, but his smile made him look completely harmless. I wondered if he was one of those grass-fed farm boys who moved to the big city. "Yeah, I'm here to see Bella. I wanted to take her to lunch," he answered in a surprisingly sexy voice. It was deep and just a touch rough, and I felt it rub against my skin like a promise. I shuddered and clenched my jaw; this guy looked exactly like someone the little goody two-shoes counter girl would let touch her no-no places.

"She's not here," I replied a bit sharply.

His shoved his hands in his pockets and rocked back on his heels. "Oh, that's too bad. I wanted to catch up with her."

I didn't say anything, and we stood there for a moment in awkward silence. The sunlight was bright and it reflected off the sidewalk. I clenched my eyes as I wished for this boring mama's boy to leave so I could get back to Michael Hutchence and my solitude.

Once he realized I wasn't going to say anything else, he pulled his hand from his pocket and reached out as if to shake my hand. I stared down at the offering with an incredulous look. I wasn't some businesswoman in a skirt suit with power pearls, I was a tattoo artist. I didn't fucking shake hands. Still, when his brow wrinkled, I felt myself reach out and grip his hand in mine. I almost expected him to grip and squeeze in a show of dominance, which was something I was used to by now, but his hand merely cupped mine firmly. After a moment, his warm callused hand slid against mine and he smiled again. "Okay, well, could you tell Bella that her brother stopped by? I'll try to call her later, I guess."

"Sure, no problem," I muttered. I internally chastised myself for making snap judgments about this guy. Now that I knew his relationship to the newbie, I could see the similarities. Still, however much their coloring was alike, this guy looked like he could throw people around. If he wanted to, anyway.

"Well, it was nice to meet you...," he trailed off, in an obvious invitation to learn my name.

"Rosalie," I admitted grudgingly.

He grinned and stepped away from the door. "Nice to meet you, Rosalie. I'm Emmett. I guess I'll be seeing you, since my sister works here now."

I barely checked the urge to bare my teeth in a snarl. He was too nice. It made my skin itch. Nobody could be this nice; well, at least no guy could be this nice. I guess it made sense though, seeing as how Bella practically pranced around as if she were some fairy tale princess dumped in the real world. You could almost see the helpful sparrows twittering around her head, ready to sew her a dress. It would follow that her brother would be cut from the same cloth.

He turned to walk away and I watched him go, hoping he was wrong. I didn't want to see him again. Guys like him were dangerous. They took you in with their charming smiles, only to show their true personality as soon as you let them fuck you.

As he disappeared around the corner, I ignored the little voice inside my pants that said I wouldn't mind getting fucked over by him, just for a chance to see what a guy like that was like in bed. I huffed and turned to stomp back into the shop, angry at the way this morning was shaping up.

Not even Michael Hutchence's dark, sexy voice could save me from the dark mood I was in now.

About five minutes after Emmett left, Edward and Bella strolled in together. I clenched my teeth and turned away until I could get my shit together enough to greet them without spitting razorblades. The way Edward held the door open for her and looked down at her all soft and dewy-eyed whenever he thought she wasn't looking made me want to vomit all over my pristine station.

"Hey, Rose. You ready to finish that sleeve today?" he asked with a friendly smile that was at complete odds with the hard warning flashing in his eyes.

I stretched my face into an uncomfortable smile and answered, "Yeah. Did you have fun at the club last night?"

My olive branch was flimsy at best, but it was all I was willing to give. I knew Edward had gone to the club down the street last night to watch Bella perform at the open mic night. I would have gone if he'd made me, but I was quick enough to find an excuse at the last minute.

He grinned as he switched Depeche Mode over to The Cure. "Yeah, it was cool."

Bella disappeared into the back room and I dropped my careful facade. My eyes narrowed into slits as I planted my hands on my hips and hissed, "You're gonna be so fucked, Eddie."

He scowled at me. "What the hell are you even talking about?"

I grumbled and advanced on him, closing the distance so I could shout at him under my breath without letting Princess overhear. "She's just some stupid kid. You're a man. She doesn't know anything about what we've been through. I've seen the way you look at her," I accused.

His face took on the appearance of a thundercloud. "You're fucking insane," he hissed back.

I went toe-to-toe with him and got right up in his face. With my heeled boots, we were almost eye level with each other. "The fuck I am, Eddie boy. She's going to rip you apart, just like that bitch did when we were kids," I growled.

He grabbed my arm and it almost hurt. "Listen to me, and listen good: Bella is nothing like Jessica and you'd better fucking snap out of this bitch fit before I really lose my shit."

I felt the sense of betrayal run down my throat and expand through my chest like a hot explosion. "Don't forget that I know you, Ed. Do you really think if you open up to this girl that she won't run as fast as she can in the other direction? Or have you forgotten everything we've had to do to get where we are today? I'm sure she'd just love to hear about how you..."

His grip on my arm tightened and he pushed me away. "Enough! You don't know everything, Rose. Stop trying to transfer all your bullshit on to me. I don't want to shut everyone out just because I went through some shit when I was a kid. I'm all grown up now, and guess what? I can't keep blaming the past for things that I can't change, but I can sure as hell learn from them and move on. I, for one, am ready for a little peace in my life. I'm done clawing my way out of the gutter, only to roll around in the filth."

We stood facing off against each other as I tried to reject the censure behind his words. "Fine," I said through clenched teeth just as Bella returned from the back room with her arms full of supplies. I shot him one last look before I retreated back to my station and sat down to finalize some sketches.

Edward and I didn't talk for the rest of the day, but Bella made an effort to engage me in conversation a handful of times. I wouldn't be baited, but I managed to relay the message from her brother before shutting her down completely.

I stayed at my station and told myself I wasn't hiding, but the brutally honest part of me knew that I was. I was shocked and angry that Edward would side against me. It was a completely foreign feeling after all that we'd been through together, and I didn't like it at all. It felt like there was a huge angry knot in my stomach, but I forced myself to ignore it as I went about finishing one of my regular's sleeve tattoo and did a couple of other pieces throughout the day.

When it was time to go, Edward pulled me into the piercing room and held my hand loosely. He still looked a little bit angry, but he also looked apologetic. "Listen, Ro, I don't like it when we're mad at each other. I know you're only worried about me, but I'm fine."

I sighed and dropped my head against his solid chest. How many times had I leaned on him like this, needing the comfort that I could only accept from him? He was my rock, my only safety in this world. I couldn't bear to lose him. "I know you'll be okay. I just don't want to see you lose it like you did before," I said quietly against the black cotton of his t-shirt.

He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me close. We rarely hugged, or showed any sort of affection for each other like this, so it always felt slightly awkward. His chin rested against my temple and he sighed. "That was a long time ago, sis. Jessie was just weak. I could blame her parents, but what would that matter now? It wasn't her fault, but it wasn't mine either."

When I'd first met Edward, he'd run away from home because he was in love with Jessica. It was a pathetically predictable West Side Story type of romance. Edward was from the wrong side of the tracks and Jessica was the debutante daughter of one of the richest men in our small town. Their plan had been to run away together, but Jessica's parents had found them and ordered Jessica to come home with them. She went, but Edward's parents wouldn't let him go home, so he'd ended up homeless and even more worthless in the eyes of Jessica's parents. When he'd tried to convince her to leave with him again, her parents locked her in her bedroom and guarded her like a criminal.

Being young and tragically foolish, Jessica had taken her own life. By the time Edward heard about her death, her funeral had already taken place and the girl he'd hoped to be with forever was cold and stiff beneath eight feet of the best dirt her parents could buy.

After that, he'd had nothing holding him to the town. We'd met on the only bus headed toward the big city, and the rest was history.

I wrapped my arms around my closest friend, my brother in heart if not blood, and sighed miserably against his chest. "I'm sorry for being such a bitch."

He chuckled against my ear and patted my back heartily. "It's okay, I'm used to it," he said brightly.

I shoved back from him and punched his bicep. "Hey, dick! I'll show you a bitch," I grumbled as he rubbed his arm and laughed at me.

"Sure, sure. Whatever. What d'you say we go get a drink?" he asked, and just like that the air between us was clear once more.

A few weeks passed with the usual business, but that was how I liked it: simple and uncomplicated. Things with Edward were still tense whenever Princess Bella was in the room and I was forced to watch him slobber over her like an eager puppy, but a part of me was happy to see him interested in something outside of the shop for the first time in a long time, so I tried to be cool about it.

To my intense dismay, her brother Emmett returned several times to take her out to lunch or stop in for a chat. He always smiled at me in a friendly way, even though I couldn't be bothered to speak to him. I would have expected him to look like a fish out of water inside the shop, but he never did. He just stood there comfortably leaning against the counter whenever he came in.

Today was no exception as he smiled at he chatted with Edward across the counter while Bella ran to get her things. I told myself I wasn't watching him, but my inner Bitch of Truth wasn't letting me bullshit myself. I had my stool positioned so as to allow a perfect view of the counter and the broad shouldered man meat on the other side. Thankfully Edward wasn't blocking my view.

He must have sensed me looking (staring) at him, because he suddenly turned toward me and smiled with the dimples. Those fucking dimples! They made me wet and angry at the same time. My pussy felt like a kitten tossed in the river. I wanted to jump this guy, but I didn't want to want to jump this guy.

"Hey, Rosalie!" he called out in a friendly voice. Well, as friendly as a voice like his could be. It vibrated over my skin like a thousand fingertips. I shot him a filthy look and returned to the sketch I was pretending to work on.

Edward turned toward me and smiled a bit too knowingly for my taste. "Hey Rose, why don't you come keep Emmett here company while I go find out what's taking Bella so long?"

His sly smile didn't fool me for one fucking minute. I bit off the curse that blistered my tongue and stood up, tossing my pencils down onto my station. Out of spite, I switched The Cure to Cursive when I got to the counter and flipped off the back room as if Edward could see me.

"Classy," Emmett said with a chuckle. I spun around to glare at him and he raised his hands up in surrender. His brown eyes widened in mock innocence and I wanted to sit on his face so that I could hide that mischievous smirk that flashed across his lips. "Sorry! Just making conversation," he rushed to say.

I rolled my eyes and leaned against the counter, unconsciously mirroring his body language. "So what's the deal with you and Princess back there? You two spend an awfully lot of time together for a brother and sister. You sure there's not some Flowers in the Attic action going on around here?"

His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open in shock. "Are you...did you just accuse me of incest?" he choked out.

I raised my eyebrows to hide the feeling that I'd taken the teasing too far. I'd obviously crossed the line. I instantly decided the only thing to do was brazen it out, even though I felt totally fucking awkward now. "Hey, y'know what they say: keepin' it in the family," I drawled, emphasizing the slight Southern accent I'd tried to rid myself of when I'd left home. Though I wasn't from the South myself, my mother was, so I'd grown up with it anyway.

His cheeks flushed and I watched in fascination until the shock in his eyes gave way to something more akin to consideration. He eyed me in an analytical way that made my skin feel entirely too tight. Those eyes made me believe he could search out every secret I had until all the dark corners of my mind were revealed. I wanted to squirm uncomfortably, but forced myself to stay still under his intense scrutiny. Hell, I'd been interrogated by the cops plenty of times for the things I'd had to do to survive; this guy couldn't intimidate me.

Finally, his stare got to be too much. "So what do you do, Emmett?" I blurted harshly.

He seemed to back off in an instant as if he'd known I was ready to bolt. "I'm a counselor," he said softly. "I work with at-risk youth, mostly runaways and teenage mothers."

My heart froze in my chest and I stood up sharply, afraid that he would be able to see my past written all over me. I didn't want this guy to see things that I hid from everyone except Edward, my partner in survival.

His eyes and smile were gentle as he looked at me. "You have a lot of tattoos. Is that a peacock?" he asked, indicating the head and bottom of the bird that could be seen around my black leather vest. The head was just behind my ear, and the bird ran all the way down to my hip. The large plumes covered most of my back while the body ran against my ribs.

I smirked, feeling more at ease now that we were back in my comfort zone. "Yeah, it is. Wanna see?" I asked, realizing I was flirting a little as I pretended to reach for the zipper on my vest.

"Uhh, I', that's okay," he stuttered as his eyes landed directly on my chest. I smiled darkly as I confirmed my belief that he was just like every other guy. He was no Boy Scout; I knew he'd have been down for a peep show if he hadn't been waiting on his silly little sister.

Edward and Princess came from the back room and Emmett took off with her tucked under his arm. Once they were gone, Edward turned back toward me with a knowing smirk. "I'm beginning to suspect I'm not the only one with a hard on for a Swan sibling," he teased with a cocky wink.

I growled. "So what? My dick's bigger than yours," I huffed as I walked back to my station.

He laughed and shook his head. "You'd better be careful Rose, or you'll end up watching chick flicks and sighing over puppies and kittens," he jibed.

I tossed my hair over my shoulder and ignored him. He switched Cursive back to The Cure and "Friday I'm in Love" pumped from the speakers. I hunched over my desk space and dug into the paper so hard that my pencil lead broke. I cursed and shoved it into the automatic pencil sharpener with a vengeance.

Edward retreated into the back room and called out to ask what I wanted for lunch. Dick.

After that day, Emmett came to the shop at least twice a week to hang out during his lunch hour. Sometimes he even returned after he got off work, and it was those times when it got increasingly difficult to ignore him. He looked a lot different out of his work clothes. His casual clothes mainly consisted of band t-shirts and dark jeans, but instead of the scrawny physique usually hidden by band t-shirts, his shoulders strained against the fabric. He always wore a black beanie and Chucks, and it drove me nuts slowly but surely to watch him lounge around behind the counter as if he'd always belonged there.

It looked like he and Edward were becoming friends, and that chafed a bit. Instead of just the two of us going out for beers after work, we'd become a foursome. Bella begged off occasionally to hang out with her friend Alice, and those times were even more awkward.

I tried to keep our conversations to a minimum, but he was almost relentless in his quest to get me to talk. He'd ask me about my tattoos, my piercings, and my past. Sometimes I told him about my ink, but I rarely explained anything beyond when I got it and who did the work. I never told him anything about my past. It just wasn't something that needed to be brought up. Ever.

That day had been particularly good because the Princess was visiting her friends in another state or some shit. She'd be gone for a couple weeks, which was a good thing for me because it meant Emmett wouldn't be hanging around the shop while she wasn't there. I wouldn't have to avoid his uncomfortable probing into my psyche and my vagina wouldn't have to go into lockdown every time he flexed those big muscles of his. All in all, I was a happy camper.

My mood plummeted as soon as I saw him swing through the door, however. We were a couple hours away from closing time and it was a particularly slow night. Neither Edward nor I had any appointments, and the walk-ins were few and far between during the weekdays. I tried to hide my frown as I stood up from my station to find Edward and clobber him for making friends with this threat to my sanity.

"Heya, Rose. How's business?" he asked as he leaned over the counter and smiled at me with the dimples. I was beginning to hate those dimples. Maybe my thighs should do the world a service and hide them from view. He could fell a colony of horny women with that fucking smile.

I sighed and walked to the counter with an air of indifference. "It's fine," I answered shortly.

"Where's Eddie?" he asked, still grinning.

I flipped my hair over my shoulder and watched in satisfaction as his eyes skimmed down my torso before coming back up to meet my eyes. "He went to get some dinner. Why are you here? Isn't Princess visiting some pile of sticks in the woods somewhere?"

I realized a moment too late that I had let my nickname of Bella slip. I pressed my lips together and hoped he wouldn't notice. Unfortunately, his eyes widened a bit before he chuckled. "'Princess,' huh?"

I stayed silent.

He leaned forward and rested his chin on his fist against the counter. "I'm surprised at you, Rosalie. You've never taken the time to get to know Bella, and yet you've got a little nickname all picked out for her," he said as he looked at me with a challenge in his eyes.

I rolled my eyes and played with the stereo to avoid his perceptive gaze. "Whatever," I answered lamely. So, so lamely.

He stood up and drummed his fingers on the counter top. "You don't like me much, do you?" he asked. His tone didn't hold any hurt or censure, merely an open curiosity.

I gripped a plastic jewel case in my hands so hard that I feared it might crack. "I don't know you," I replied through clenched teeth. Why did he always have to push and prod? Why couldn't he just get the fucking hint and leave me the hell alone?

He reached out and pulled the case from my death grip. "Well I'd like to get to know you, so maybe you could help me out a bit," he suggested.

My eyes met his and I saw the patience in them. I'd never seen that look before. It seemed to say that he would give me all the time in the world if I'd just give him something to go on.

It made me intensely uncomfortable.

He watched me in silence, but his gaze wasn't challenging or threatening in any way. Finally, I couldn't ignore him any longer. "What do you want from me?" I snapped.

Emmett put the jewel case down on the counter and reached out for one of my hands. He pulled it toward him and wrapped his warm palms around my damp, icy fingers. "I just want to be your friend."

He said it so simply, as if that really was all that he wanted. No guy had ever said anything like that to me before, and I tried to ignore the traitorous thump of my heart in my chest. I tried to force the mask of indifference over my face, but his expression was so open and earnest that it made my confidence falter.

Maybe this guy was for real.

"Guys never just want to be my friend," I said with a hint of accusation in my tone.

He squeezed my hand between his and took a deep breath. He looked as if he had something he wanted to say, but he couldn't decide if he should or not. Eventually, his eyes met mine again and I saw how gentle they were. "Well, I do. You're a beautiful woman, Rose, but I'm sure you already knew that. That's not why I want to get to know you, though. I want to know what makes you tick. I want to know why you feel the need to push everyone away. I especially want to know why you're so suspicious of everyone and everything, including yourself."

His words stunned the hell out of me. I tried to snatch my hand from his, but his grip tightened and he eyed me warily as if he were afraid I'd attack. In my current state of shock, he was probably smart to be so careful. Who knew what I'd be capable of once I broke out of this frozen state?

I gaped at him until he spoke again. "I'm a counselor. You know the kind of kids I work with. I recognize the signs, Rose. I'm only telling you this because I want you to know that you can trust me. You can tell me anything. I promise I won't be shocked."

My mouth was dry and my hands were shaking. Hell, my entire body was shaking. He didn't stop looking at me with that damn tender patience, however.

"Look, you don't have to say anything. I just want to get to know you, to talk to you and understand you," he finished. He gave my hand one last squeeze before pulling away. Luckily, Edward walked in with our dinner and the tension in the air dissipated as he greeted Emmett heartily.

I tried to stay at my station for the rest of the night, and I was thankful to the little girl who came in for an ankle tattoo. Edward passed her off to me because she'd taken one look at him and started stuttering. The girls were always taking one look at him and losing their brain power. It was what it was, I supposed.

In any case, the last hour passed slowly but surely and I didn't have to speak to Emmett again. The things he'd said kept bouncing around in my brain, making me restless and edgy. I didn't know what his game was, but there could only be two reasons for his behavior: either he wanted to get in my pants, or he actually meant what he said.

The latter possibility was by far the more frightening one.

Once I finished tattooing the girl and giving her the aftercare instructions, I cleaned up my station and got ready to close down the shop. Edward and I worked comfortably together while Emmett watched and carried on a conversation with him. When everything was done, we locked up the shop.

"Are you coming out with us, Rose?" Edward asked. He slung an arm around my shoulders and pulled me close, but I stiffened against him and looked at Emmett out of the corner of my eye.

I shrugged. I'd just call Royce and see what he was up to tonight. At least with him, I always knew what to expect. A drink and a quick tumble in the dark, scratching an itch that would inevitably leave me with a feeling of deep-seated disgust. Still, at least I knew what he wanted. I didn't have to wonder what his game was. "Yeah, I guess. For a bit. I'll probably meet up with Royce," I replied noncommittally.

I heard Edward sigh, but what really confused me was when Emmett frowned. He looked disappointed. Whether he was disappointed in me, or just because I wasn't planning on hanging out with them all night remained to be seen.

I flipped open my phone and sent a text to Royce as we walked down the street to the club. Emmett walked ahead of us with his hands in his pockets. I watched the muscles on his back shift and strain against his shirt. I wished that things with him could be as simple and clear-cut as it was with pretty much every other guy I'd met, but it just wasn't. He saw me too well, and he asked for too much.

I couldn't be his friend. Edward was my friend, and he was the only person who held that place in my life. I couldn't even imagine adding another person to that part of my heart, because I was always ready at any moment to lay down my life for Edward and that feeling went so deep that at times it felt like a dull knife in my chest. I'd do anything for him, but that was manageable so long as he remained the only one I felt that way about.

We got to the bar and Emmett ordered the first round. I thanked him as civilly as I could and watched as he tipped back the bottle. His throat was just as sexy as the rest of him, not that he let on that he knew how hot he was. He was just so...comfortable in his own skin, so easygoing and natural with everyone. He never looked like he was second-guessing himself. I envied that sense of self.

Royce replied to let me know he'd come down and pick me up, and I settled into my stool to drink my beer. It was cold and yeasty, just the way I liked it. Edward and Emmett started talking about cars, and I tuned out. I watched the people around the club and tried to sit still so that no one could see my discomfort.

"You okay, Ro?" Edward asked.

I fidgeted with the label on my beer bottle and nodded shortly. "Yeah. Royce is gonna be here soon," I told him. Royce and Edward didn't get along very well, but since he was pretty much a casual booty call, they didn't often have cause to be in each other's company. That suited everyone all around.

Emmett was seated on the left side of Edward while I was seated on his right, but he bent forward and looked at me with those curious brown eyes I was beginning to dread. "So who's Royce?" he asked casually.

I shrugged. "Just some guy," I replied indifferently.

He nodded and took another drink of his beer. "I see," he said. His tone implied disapproval, which irritated me to no end.

I slapped my bottle down and leaned over Edward, who quickly got up and announced he needed to use the bathroom. Emmett and I stared at each other and I clenched my jaw. "What, or who, I do is none of your business, guy. I'll do what I want, when I want," I hissed.

He looked dumbfounded. "I never said..."

"Your tone was pretty clear, bucko," I interrupted.

He pulled back and shrugged. "I can't stop your assumptions about me, but I can tell you that I was just making conversation."

"Whatever," I seethed.

Edward returned and Royce walked up a moment later. He gripped my neck and brought my mouth up for a kiss. I threw myself into it to make a point for my nosy audience, and Royce pulled back with a lecherous smile on his face. "You ready to go, babe?"

I grabbed my coat, finished my beer and stood up. "Thanks for the beer," I said dismissively before I walked off.

If Emmett's face was anything to go by, I'd say he was feeling mighty peeved by the whole situation, for which I was inordinately pleased.

The next morning, my mood was foul. Usually I left Royce feeling relaxed and renewed, but this time I just felt like I needed a shower and a drink. I wasn't so sure I liked feeling this way. We'd always had fun before, but last night just made me feel dirty and wrong. I was really glad that the shop was closed today so that I could get my head straight.

I made the long drive without any music or noise of any kind. I was agitated and most definitely not looking forward to the coming interaction, but part of me knew it had to be done. I needed some answers, and I knew this was the only place to get them. The time had come to get some closure on my past. I stiffened my spine and drove on, watching as the city slowly gave way to suburbs and then countryside. The interstate was dead this time of day, which suited my mood perfectly.

I pulled up in front of the trailer I'd grown up in and noted the increasingly shabby appearance of the double-wide. It looked better than in previous years, because at least there weren't any empty beer cans or broken down cars out front, but that was mostly just due to the fact that my mom was in between men at the moment.

After parking my car, I walked up and knocked on the door with a lump lodged in my throat. I couldn't tell who was more surprised when my mother answered the door: me or her. She looked a thousand times better than I'd ever seen her when I was growing up, but she still had the appearance of a woman who'd worked too long and too hard to ever be beautiful. Her eyes widened when she realized who I was, and her mouth dropped open in shock. "Rosie baby, is that you?" she choked out.

I nodded and fought back the tears that threatened. We stood looking at each other for a moment before she let go of the door and reached out to pull me into a tight hug. "Oh baby, I can't believe you're here," she cried against my shoulder.

I hugged her back tentatively and wondered why she was so welcoming when she hadn't ever bothered to contact me in all the time I'd been gone. Hell, almost fifteen years had gone by without a word from her.

Then again, I supposed I was the one who ran away. It wasn't like I'd left a welcome mat out for her to contact me.

Once she released me, she ushered me inside and I looked around at all the differences. The stained, shabby furniture had been replaced with slightly faded, but surprisingly feminine pieces. The interior of the trailer was clean and smelled like potpourri, which was a far cry from the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke that used to be the fragrance du jour.

She gestured me to the couch and I sat as she walked over to the small stove and put a pink tea kettle on. "Want some tea?" she asked. I nodded and she turned around to pull down a box of cookies. "Are you hungry? Can I fix you something to eat?" she asked, sounding eager.

"No thanks, I just ate breakfast," I lied. The truth was, my stomach was in knots and I wouldn't have been able to eat a thing. I watched her face dim a little in what I realized was disappointment, and my heart clenched in my chest. "I just came to see you. I wanted to talk to you," I said.

She came over and took a seat in the overstuffed chair next to the couch. It had huge cabbage roses against a dusky blue background, and it was so feminine and frilly that I wondered who my mother was now.

"What did you want to talk about?" she asked cautiously.

I sighed and stared at my hands in my lap. "Everything is so different from when I was here," I began. I didn't just mean the new furniture, and she understood that.

She smiled a bit and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. "I know, I know. The truth is, after you left, I kicked that no-good Randall out and decided to start making some changes for myself."

I was shocked at this news. "You kicked him out?"

Her mouth tightened and I saw her knuckles whiten as she clenched her hands into fists. "After what that bastard did..."

I held up my hand to stop her. I didn't need to relive the experience of my step-daddy trying to feel me up. "What happened then?" I asked. When I'd left, I was so sure that she wouldn't have believed me over the man who shared her bed, but maybe I'd sold her short. I'd always just figured that everyone else in the trailer park thought I was some slut just because I'd started getting lustful looks from all the men, so my mom would have believed anyone over me. Apparently, I'd been wrong.

"I told him to leave and decided to turn over a new leaf. I wanted to be a good mom for you when you came back. I worked really hard to save up and clean up the place so we'd have a nice home. I was tired of the endless string of deadbeats," she said quietly. There was such a tone of regret and sadness that it washed me in guilt. I'd never come back. Until now.

She gave me a small self-conscious smile. "When Bevlynn got ready to retire, I asked her if I could take over the beauty shop. I bought it from her and I've done pretty well for myself."

I was amazed. "Then why'd you stay here?" I asked. I was afraid I wouldn't like the answer.

Her mouth pinched and I felt my stomach drop a bit more. "I wanted to stay where you could find me. Truth is, I could afford a much nicer place, but this will always be my home. I like it here now. And anyway, it looks like I was right to stay," she said with a shard of hope in her eyes when she looked at me.

I shifted around on the couch and felt a tug of overwhelming guilt and shame. "I'm sorry, Mama. I should have come back sooner," I said in a strained voice.

The tea kettle whistled, so she jumped up to pour the hot water over the loose leaf tea. She looked like she needed a moment to collect herself, so I stayed silent until she returned with two large steaming mugs. "I knew you would, sooner or later. At least I hoped you would, anyway."

I accepted the mug and wrapped my freezing hands around its warmth. "So you haven't been married or anything since then?" I asked cautiously.

She grinned. "No, not as such. I've been seeing a very nice man, though. He owns the vacuum store across from the beauty shop. He's not much to look at, but he's always a gentleman and he takes really good care of me," she said with warmth and affection in her voice.

I was stunned once more. My mom had always gone for the bad boys, the bikers with good looks but bad personalities. Randall, the groping stepfather, had belonged to a local chopper club. "That's...that's great, Mom," I choked in amazement.

Her cheeks pinked up and she looked like she was a young girl in love for the first time, rather than a fifty-year-old divorcee. I took a sip of the scalding tea to hide my shock.

"Thank you, baby. I really like him. He's so different from anyone I've ever met," she said.

I smiled at her and relaxed a bit. Obviously things were going really well for my mom, and I was truly happy for her. I vowed not to ignore her for another fifteen years. I wanted to know this woman, to learn from her. She was happy, and successful, and that was amazing to me. She'd come so far from the woman I'd run away from as a teenager. "What changed?"

She looked surprised. "What do you mean, what changed? My only child ran away from me and my bad choices. If that's not a wake-up call, I don't know what is!"

She didn't look angry, but I wanted to apologize anyway. "I'm sorry..."

She interrupted me. "Don't you apologize, baby girl. As much as it hurt me, it needed to happen. It made me realize how much I needed to change in my life. I wanted to deserve you, to be a better person so that I could be good for you. After a while, I realized that it wasn't just for you, but also for myself. I wanted to be better, and I like to think I am. I can't imagine what you've been through all these years, and I would have searched for you if I'd thought for one minute you would welcome it, but I can only hope that you're as healthy and happy as I've prayed you would be if I ever saw you again," she rushed out.

I choked back the lump that lodged in my throat once more. "I've been okay," I told her, which was about half truth and half wishful thinking.

Her shoulders relaxed a bit but I saw the no-nonsense gleam in her eye. "Are you taking care of yourself? I see you covered in tattoos and I have to wonder if you're happy or not," she said honestly.

I set the tea down and sat back on the couch. "I'm a tattoo artist. My friend and I own a tattoo shop in the city, and we do all right. I have an apartment and a cat. I don't do drugs, I don't drink that much, and I stay out of trouble. I pay my taxes and floss every night."

She smirked. "Do you take vitamins?"

I smiled back. "Nope, but I drink plenty of orange juice."

She laughed softly and set her tea mug down as well. "Do you have a boyfriend? You only mentioned a cat."

I shook my head. "I'm not much on relationships," I told her honestly.

She laughed heartily. "Well you didn't get that from me," she said. "When I was your age, I couldn't go a day without a man."

We sobered a bit as we both realized the significance behind her words. "I guess not," I murmured.

She sighed and reached out to take my hand. Her skin was warm and dry, and I felt a connection with her immediately. The bracelet on her wrist jingled a bit when she squeezed my fingers. "Someday baby, you'll meet a man who will turn your world upside down and make you question everything you know about love. He'll treat you right, you mark my words. The first time I met Bob, I thought he was so dull! He's got a bald spot and a big belly, but he's got an even bigger heart. He makes me laugh, and what's even better is that he's never made me cry."

I was touched by the happiness on her face and the hope in her words. I wasn't quite so sure I agreed with her, however.

"I don't know about that, Mama, but I'm glad you found someone. You deserve it," I said with a watery smile.

She stood up and sat down next to me on the couch. Her arms wrapped around me for the second time since I'd arrived. "I know that you probably think you don't deserve a good man, and God knows I probably taught you that from my example, but I want you to know that that's baloney. You deserve a good man every bit as much as I do. Don't worry, he'll find you," she said comfortingly.

I shook my head against her chest. "We'll see," I said noncommittally.

We spent the rest of the afternoon catching up, and by the time I left, I'd given her my contact information and made a date for her to come to the shop and see where I worked. She scolded me a bit for covering myself in tattoos, but she wore a smile as she did so. I felt more comfortable with her now than I ever remembered feeling back when I was a child.

Her hopeful words filled my mind and kept me company on the drive back to the city. I pulled out my phone and noticed two missed calls from Edward, but I wasn't ready to share my day with him yet. I wanted to bask in the reconnection with my mom for awhile yet.

That night I dreamed of Emmett. He opened doors for me and held my hand. When I woke up, my pillow was wet and my eyes were red.

It was Friday night, two days after my visit with my mother, and Emmett was grinning at me from across the shop.

Edward had excused himself to go get some coffee, and I was staring down the goof. He'd crack sooner or later, and then I'd know the truth. It had to be in there somewhere.

"You're staring at me," I snapped. Man, I was feeling bitchy tonight. His grin deepened and the panty-slaying dimples came out. I gritted my teeth and glared at him. "That choir boy smile isn't going to help you," I warned.

He gave me a look of mock innocence. "Who, me? I've never been in choir," he protested, missing the point entirely.

I rolled my eyes and stood up to stomp across the shop to where he was seated behind the register. "Listen up, buddy, I don't know what your game is, but I'm not gonna play, okay?"

The smile dimmed and his brow furrowed. "I don't play games, Rose. You should know that by now," he said quietly.

I was towering over him now, trembling with the effort to hold myself back. He was sprawled in his chair like he owned the place, and I wanted to shake him. "Everyone plays games," I hissed.

He stood up and I retreated back a few steps. Now he was the one towering over me. It was an unfamiliar feeling, because I was so tall. "Not everyone. I don't know what happened in your past, but I have heard some stories from Edward, so I can only guess. I don't know what you think you know about me, but I've already told you the truth: I just want to get to know you."

I looked up into those warm brown eyes and decided to test him. Without warning, I gripped his shirt and pulled him down toward me. I laid my mouth on his and kissed him hotly, throwing everything I had into the kiss. He stood stock still against me and I wondered if I was going crazy, because everything I'd ever known about men was suddenly being called into question.

When I pulled away, his expression hadn't changed. He still looked at me patiently, quietly. I felt a surge of anger and embarrassment. So he didn't want me, huh? If that was the way he wanted to play it, then I'd just stop tolerating his presence altogether. I glared at him and tossed my hair over my shoulder. "I see how it is," I hissed as I turned to go to the back room so I could break some shit. If I was wrong and he didn't want me for sex, then what the hell was his stupid game?

He grabbed my arm as I retreated and spun me back around. "You don't see anything beyond your own perfect nose," he accused as he yanked me back up against his chest and leaned down to kiss me.

Instead of the hot demanding kiss I'd expected, his lips were soft and thorough. He brushed his mouth against mine, coaxing and teasing. My racing heart couldn't decide if it wanted to slow down or speed up. His taste was sweet and minty, and his arms were warm and solid around my waist. I'd never been kissed like this in my life. Ever.

His tongue was soft and sexy when it met mine. He deepened the kiss until my knees buckled and I fell against him, wondering what the hell had happened to my spine. He was telling me something with this kiss, and it scared the shit out of me.

When he raised his head, I felt like the room was spinning. Everything felt like it was upside down. He smiled down at me so gently as he ran his fingers through my hair. "I like you, Rosalie. I like you a lot, even though you don't like me."

I pushed weakly against his chest. "I thought you just wanted to be friends," I mocked, even though I felt anything but mockery.

He grinned and the dimples winked out at me. "I do. I want to be your friend. It seems wise to move slowly, don't you think? You've been through a lot. I want to be the guy who surprises you, Rose. The guy who makes you wonder...and want..." he said as he laid his open mouth over mine for another delectable kiss. When he pulled back this time, his chocolate eyes had grown languorous.

I swallowed against the lust demanding release. "So you're just gonna tease me, huh?" I said grumpily. If my voice was just a bit weak and my tone was slightly less convincing than I'd planned, then so be it. So much for playing it cool.

He pulled away and put some space between us. "Oh I never said that," he replied. "I just said that I'm going to take my time on this. I'll wear you down, no matter how long it takes."

My eyes narrowed and I put my hands on my hips. "What about what I want, huh? Didja ever think about that?" I griped.

He chuckled and reached up to scratch the back of his neck. I refused to find it endearing. "Sure, but like I said, if I left it up to you, you'd probably only give me one night before you kicked my ass to the curb. I don't want that."

I gaped at him. He smiled in return.

"You're a jackass," I hissed. I was losing this battle and I knew it, but that didn't mean I wouldn't fight to the death.

He laughed outright at that. "You'll get over it," he said with a cocky smile.

I choked and stuttered. "Yeah fucking right!" I finally shouted.

He shrugged and pulled me back in, kissing me until my toes curled in my shoes. How this man could reduce me to a puddle of pussy juices, I had no idea, but my body didn't seem to mind. Only my brain protested.

"We'll see. Come find me when you're ready to talk," he said as he let me go and sauntered to the door. When he reached it, he turned around and gave me a mock salute. "I'll be seeing you," he said before he disappeared.

I seethed from then up until the time I fell asleep, and started seething again the moment I woke up because I'd dreamed of his fucking mouth all night long.

I didn't see him for the rest of the weekend. I tried to tell myself that I wasn't pissed off, but I wasn't one to lie to myself. Edward bore my bitchy mood well, but then I suspected that he knew the reason behind it. He was smart enough not to tease me about it, though.

When Sunday night rolled around, I finally admitted defeat and called Edward to find out where Emmett lived. He told me, and though I could hear the smile in his voice, he didn't ask me any questions. I was grateful.

I took my time getting ready. If he wanted me to talk, fine, but I'd show up dressed to kill. Let him try to focus with my tits in his face, I thought darkly. Men were men, and nothing could distract them better than a nice rack. Fortunately, my rack was superior.

I knocked on his door and adopted an expression of nonchalance as I waited for him to answer. When he did, my jaw just about dislocated. Not only was he shirtless, but he was sweaty. My hoohah sat up like a dog eager for a treat.

He wiped a towel down his face and smiled in surprise. "Well look who showed up," he said.

I flipped him off. This wasn't going well already. I wanted to fall to my knees and worship his body with my tongue. Fuck.

He laughed and opened the door wider so I could step inside. "Come on in. I was just working out," he said unnecessarily. I noticed the bar in the doorway leading to his kitchen, and I tried to stop the vision of him doing those upside down crunches. If this shit didn't stop, I was going to be so wet I'd have to explain myself.

I wandered into his living room and stood there awkwardly as he brushed past me. "Make yourself comfortable while I go take a quick shower," he said. "There's wine on the counter and the glasses are in the first cupboard on the left."

I nodded and he rushed into his bedroom. I vowed not to think about him naked and soapy in the shower, but as soon as the water started up, I was a goner. I could just see him getting naked, and I had to physically clench my legs together to keep from running after him. Maybe he'd need help soaping his back.

With a disgusted grunt, I clipped into the kitchen on my stilettos and rejected the wine in favor of the beer I saw in the fridge. I found the bottle opener and popped the top before taking a deep swallow. The water was still running in the bathroom, crashing against the walls of the shower. I felt like I had x-ray vision, my imagination was running so rampant.

When the water shut off, I heaved a sigh of relief. I walked back into the living room and looked around, trying to get a hint of the guy who lived here. He had pictures of his family and friends everywhere and there were even pictures of him with some kids that I assumed he worked with. From what I'd seen of the apartment so far, he was a tidy person. It looked comfortable and lived in, but not messy or cluttered by any means. He had a big flat screen TV suspended above the fireplace and there was even a brown leather recliner, but it didn't reflect an overly cheesy bachelor pad feeling. There was an old afghan on the back of the couch that looked like a throwback to the 70s. I felt myself grin against my will when I walked back toward the kitchen to nose around some more.

The refrigerator was decorated in hand-drawn notes and appointment cards. He had some silly little magnets and a birthday card from his grandmother. I felt sneaky, but I read her note at the bottom written in spidery handwriting anyway.

The man who lived here was a good man, from what I could tell. Emmett was who he presented himself to be. That knowledge impressed me beyond measure as I waited for him to return from his shower.

I didn't know how much longer he'd be, so I sat down in his big chair with a smirk and flipped on the television. I turned it to Sports Center and settled in.

He emerged from his bedroom a short two minutes later looking fresh and sexy. I wanted to get him dirty all over again. He eyed my beer with a grin and went to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of wine. When he returned, he dropped down onto the couch and spread his long arm out across the back of it. "So...," he said with raised eyebrows, inviting me to tell him why I was here.

I finished my beer in one gulp and set it down on the coffee table. It was showtime. I stood up and crossed over to climb onto his lap. "So," I said with a lascivious look at his lips. I arched my back and thrust my chest out toward his.

He sat up and gripped my hips in his big hands. "You're not going to rush me, Rosalie," he warned.

I scowled at him. "You're no fun, you know that?"

He grinned and the dimples made an appearance. "Oh, I can be plenty of fun when I want to be, but right now I'm more interested in why you're trying to avoid the real subject here."

I huffed and he pushed me off his lap onto the other end of the couch. I tugged my short black micro mini down as far as it would go and cursed myself for coming on too strong. If I'd meant to distract him, I'd failed. "What do you want?" I whined a bit.

He smiled and reached for his wine glass. He took a sip before he set it back down. "I want to know about you."

I bit my lip and wondered if he really knew what he was asking of me. "I don't think you really want to know," I warned weakly.

He simply rested his arm against the back of the couch and leaned back to settle in. "I've got all night, Rose. It's up to you how you'd like to use it. You can either open up to me now and we can get to the 'fun' later, or you can continue shutting me out. Only one way is going to get you what you came here for," he said with a wink.

I wanted to smack that sexy look off his face. "You're going to hold sex over my head?" I asked in shock.

He chuckled and took a slow, leisurely sip of wine. I shifted on the couch and tried to ignore the throbbing between my legs. He was such a bastard. A sexy bastard, but a bastard nonetheless. "It's a test, Rose. If you want to be with me, you're going to have to open up. I know what you came here for tonight, and believe me, I want it too. However, until you show me that you trust me, I can't let this go any further." He arched one challenging eyebrow at me and waited.

Finally, I growled and turned away to break his patient eye contact. "Fine. I'll tell you. What do you want to know?"

He smiled, but it wasn't smug. It was soft and encouraging. "When did you run away from home?" he asked.

I brushed a hand through my hair and stared at the fireplace as I answered. "I left when I was fourteen. My stepdad thought he could use me for a good time while my mom was busy working two jobs to support his deadbeat ass," I said.

Emmett's face pinched in a look of empathy for the girl I'd been. He must've heard a thousand stories like this by now. That comforted me a bit as I began to hope that he wouldn't go running when I spilled my past to him. It wasn't pretty by any means.

"What did you do after you left?" he asked softly.

That was the hard part. "I stole some money from his wallet to buy a bus ticket to the city. That's how I met Edward. He'd run away too. We decided to stick together. Things were never easy, but we survived. He got a job, but it wasn't enough to support us. I wasn't old enough to work legally, and we weren't old enough to rent an apartment or anything, so we ended up in the homeless shelters a lot. We lied about our ages and did a lot of shitty things to survive."

Emmett turned toward me on the couch and waited a beat to make sure I was done before he prodded for more. "What'd you have to do, Rose?"

I bit my lip and stared down at my lap. "We stole a lot. We had to eat. We did some other stuff, but it's not all my story to tell," I said honestly.

Emmett nodded. "Edward told me most of it. I know about the cock fights and the street fighting."

I heaved a sigh and looked away from him again. "There was more. I was a pretty kid, you know. Men wanted me."

I felt him tense beside me. "I never hooked, if that's what you think. I didn't have to. But I wasn't far off. We made it until I was 18, but it was all on Edward until then. When I turned 18, I decided it was time to pull my own weight, so I got a job stripping. It paid good money, and I won't lie, it helped us save up enough to buy the shop. One of my regulars gave Edward a job at his shop and he apprenticed for him for a few years. Eddie taught me everything he learned and when we had enough, we opened up our shop."

He relaxed against the back of the couch and I hesitantly turned to look at him. "Now you know," I whispered.

"Now I know," he confirmed softly.

I didn't breathe until I felt his hand run through my hair. "So what do you think?" I asked in a strangled whisper.

His face was serious and gentle at the same time. "I think you're amazingly strong. I think you deserve everything you've worked so hard for. You've come a long way, and knowing what I know from my line of work, I personally think it's a miracle that you've turned out as well as you have. Most runaways never make it half as far as you have. You're successful, you're strong, and you don't have any crippling addictions to fight with."

I swallowed hard and met his soft eyes. "You're not freaked?" I asked in a small voice. Please, I begged, don't run away now that I've opened up.

He smiled and bent down to lay a kiss on my cheek. "I'm not freaked in the least. My heart hurts for the girl who had to fight to survive, but I'm entirely impressed with the woman you are now."

His words sent a shiver down my spine. He was just too much. It scared me. "Are you sure about that?" I asked hesitantly.

With a grin, he leaned toward me and laid his mouth over mine. His kiss was just as soft and sweet as before, but I still felt it all the way in my toes. "I'm sure," he said as he pulled back to smile down at


He pulled me into his arms and we rested on the couch. He reached over and turned on some mindless television, but the sound was muted. We didn't talk, but we didn't need to. His arms were comforting and strong, and his presence settled me.

Eventually, I remembered why I came here in the first place. I wasn't sure if Emmett was still in the mood, but I knew I was. I decided to test the waters by stroking my hand along his upper thigh. My test came back positive when he nipped at my earlobe and chuckled.

I felt my skin tingle in anticipation. "So what now?" I asked breathlessly.

He grinned. "Now I fulfill my end of the bargain, I suppose." With that, he stood and pulled me up next to him. Without a word, he led me to his darkened bedroom and I followed with a thousand butterflies in my belly.

I knew instinctively that this would be different from any experience I'd ever had before. He was different.

He stopped me at the end of the bed and went around it to flip on the bedside lamp. The room was filled with a mellow glow. I thought I might hyperventilate. Why was I acting like such a terrified little virgin? I'd been a stripper, for God's sake!

I watched him smile and sit down on the bed. He patted the spot next to him and I climbed onto the bed with wide eyes. "Scary, isn't it?" he asked with a reassuring smile.

"What's scary?" I snapped, feeling entirely too awkward.

"Caring," he said simply.

I felt my shoulders slump. "How do you do that? How do you know exactly what I'm thinking?" I asked helplessly.

He pulled me onto his lap and wrapped his arms around me. I buried my head in his strong shoulder and breathed deeply, appreciating the spicy scent of his soap. "It's my job to be observant, Rose. We don't have to do this if you don't want to," he added.

I gripped his ears and pulled him down for a sound kiss. He smiled so sweetly that I thought I'd go into sugar shock. "We're doing this, mister. I didn't shave my legs and strap myself in this getup just to talk."

He laughed and I felt his hand on my thigh. It was exposed thanks to my extremely short skirt. "Well, I'm glad you did. This is some outfit," he said with a devilish grin.

We kissed slowly, and it was so sweet. He undressed me in the soft light and I watched him carefully, wondering if he would like what he saw. I was so different from him, covered in tattoos and other signs of my hard life. He didn't show anything but pure fascination, however. He kissed every scar and asked me the story behind it. He stroked over every tattoo and wanted to know what it meant to me.

He let me undress him and my suspicions were confirmed when I saw that he had no tattoos himself. I wondered if he'd ever let me change that, but for now it was enough to simply enjoy his taut muscles and warm, smooth skin. He was beautiful, and he made me feel beautiful under his warm brown gaze.

He held me close, kissing me until my head spun. We pressed against each other, giving ourselves to the feeling of skin against skin. He was hard, and so big. His erection pressed impressively against my abdomen, and I couldn't wait to feel him inside of me.

I took my time exploring his chest and tried to expand my exploratory mission to his delectable-looking cock, but he pulled me back up and kissed me soundly without letting me get that far. I actually felt a bit gypped, but I didn't complain because he spent a considerable amount of time cruising over my curves after that. His hands, his mouth, and his body brought me to a slow and steady fever. I felt warm and excited all over. Never had a man taken such time with me, to prepare me and give me such pleasure.

When the time came, he reached over and pulled out a condom. I helped him roll it on and gave him a few enticing strokes before he covered my mouth with a hot open-mouthed groan. "I want this to last," he said gruffly.

I batted my eyelashes at him and positioned him at my entrance. I was so slick and ready, I knew there'd be a wet spot when we were through. I wrapped my legs around his waist and pushed my hips forward. He thrust against me and I felt stretched around him. My body accepted him easily, but my heart stuttered and stopped when he looked down at me with so much tenderness. "Are you okay?" he asked softly.

I nodded and he pulled out to thrust back in. It was the most amazing feeling I'd ever had. He filled me so completely, I could barely stand it. I could do nothing but hold on for dear life as he moved against me, inside me.

He leaned back and changed the angle of his thrusts, but he maintained eye contact with me. I cried out when he pressed his hand against my heart and smiled down at me. "You're beautiful, you know that?"

I knew then that he was making love to me. To me, Rosalie Hale, teenage runaway, ex-stripper and tattoo bitch. He was giving me comfort, peace, and love with every move he made and every word he spoke.

It was too much. The tears slid quietly down my cheeks as he continued to hold me. My body was excited, so close to breaking apart from all the stimulation, but my heart felt full and heavy. With one look, he could bring me to my knees. One word and I'd lay down my life for him. He'd gotten past my defenses, and that was that. He'd be a part of me always.

Our movements eventually became quicker and more insistent. His face was flushed and his lips were swollen from all the kissing. I felt my body close to the climax I knew would blow my mind. I held him close, so close, as I cried out his name. My body clenched down on his and I felt the tremors begin. He buried his face in the crook of my neck and shouted his release.

He collapsed against me and we breathed heavily until our hearts slowed down. I wanted to say something, but my mind was completely blank.

After a time, we moved apart and he went to the bathroom to clean up. I used the bathroom once he was done, and spent a moment freaking out in front of the mirror, trying to figure out how to proceed from here. I no longer had any real walls where he was concerned, and I wasn't sure how I really felt about that yet.

Eventually, I knew I'd have to face him, so I wrapped myself in a towel from the folded pile on the floor and walked back into the bedroom. He was sitting on the bed with a relaxed and happy expression on his face. "Welcome back."

"Thanks," I said with a slightly embarrassed grin. He held his arms out to me and I went to him.

He held me quietly for awhile, and for once I stayed silent. I didn't have anything significant enough to say in those moments. I felt so different than I'd ever felt, and it was disconcerting, to say the least.

"Will you stay?" he asked quietly.

I nodded. "I don't have anything to wear though," I said as an afterthought.

He kissed my shoulder and stood up to cross over to his dresser. He opened a couple of drawers and tossed me a clean shirt and a pair of plaid boxers. I put them on as he pulled on a pair of flannel pajama bottoms. "How about I feed you, and then we can relax on the couch?" he suggested.

"Okay," I said. My stomach fluttered as I looked back at the bed before following him to the living room.

Two months later...

"Stop being such a baby," I said as I pressed the transfer paper onto his hip.

Emmett squirmed and looked over at Edward for help. "Dude, this is gonna hurt, isn't it?"

Edward smirked and nodded. "Don't worry. If Bella can stand it, I'm sure you can, tough guy."

Bella scoffed and tried to hit Edward, but he grabbed her up and kissed her forehead. "I should get you for that," she huffed.

I rolled my eyes at their antics and looked back at my man. "Hey, if you don't want this, just say the word. But just know that my street cred will be severely diminished if it gets around that I'm hanging around a guy with virgin skin," I said with a challenging look.

He leaned back in the chair and grinned at me. "Okay. Go for it."

I leaned over to lay a big smacking kiss on his lips. "Don't worry baby, you won't regret it. And if you're a good boy in the chair, maybe I'll let you get me in the chair after hours," I said with an arch of my eyebrow.

He groaned and rolled his eyes to the ceiling. "Fantastic. Now I'll have to suffer a boner in addition to the pain," he complained with a smile.

With one last warning, I started the tattoo. After a month of working on the design, he was finally satisfied. It was a Celtic knot used for protection and following the right path, and it looked really nice on him.

He flirted with me and talked to Edward through the whole process. I watched him carefully, looking for signs of discomfort, but I didn't see any. He was so strong. I admired him in so many ways.

I knew that whatever happened between us, Emmett was a significant person in my life. He'd shown me the value in opening up to people and trusting them. He'd given me a safe place to be myself.

I couldn't have asked for more than that, but he gave me more anyways. He made me laugh, and he never made me cry. He'd turned my world upside down and I was truly grateful for it.