I'm really excited about this story and hope that you will be too, the opening chapters have been sitting in my computer for a couple of months now, waiting to make their debut!
It's my first serious attempt at writing an Edward & Bella fic (Jingle Balls doesn't count ;o) ) and I just hope it's well received.
I'd love it if you'd take the time to leave a review at the end with your thoughts.
If you'd like to read Edward's back story for this fic, it's posted on here as a one-shot that I wrote for the Black Balloon Contest, and is called Unravel Me.
Thanks to my beta, Erin for helping with this, and to my friends at Edbrella for their encouragement, suggestions and pre-reading.
Chapter 1: I'm Not the Sort of Guy That Rises & Shines
I clasped the pillow tightly over my head, as the shrill and unforgiving beeps of the alarm filled the room. I reached out blindly with one hand and hit the button on top of the clock, silencing it. I exhaled in relief and emerged from beneath the pillow. Fuck, my head hurt. I tried to force my unwilling eyes open. I'd only let the slightest sliver of light in through my lids when the brightness sheared in, it felt as though it were slicing my brain cleanly in half. I winced, but even that caused another flash of pain, on my face this time.
I desperately tried to remember what had happened the night before but could only recall flashes of images. Trying to locate information in my painfully hung-over brain was a lot like trying to wade through a pond of syrup, only not as sweet.
I was just considering re-setting my alarm for ten more minutes that I couldn't really afford, when my cell started ringing. I grimaced in the general direction of the sound, then slowly reached down to the floor and fumbled in the pocket of my discarded jeans. I finally managed to pull it out and answer it. My relief at the ringing having stopped was short-lived.
"Edward. Where the hell are you?" I pulled the handset away slightly as my sister-in-law's angry voice assaulted my sensitive ears.
"I…" I tried to speak but my tongue stuck stubbornly to the roof of my mouth. I reached for the bottle of water on my nightstand and put my cell down while I half sat up, opened the bottle and swallowed a mouthful. I winced as the tepid liquid roused a stale taste in my mouth, and quickly took a couple more gulps to try and get rid of it before it made me gag.
I could hear Rosalie's voice getting increasingly irate as the sound drifted up from the phone. I closed the bottle, put the water down and raised the handset to my ear, tentatively.
"Rose, I'm home, calm down," I croaked. "I'll be right down."
I ended the call and threw the phone down onto my bed. I swung my legs gently over the side of the bed and sat holding onto the edge of the mattress for a moment with my eyes closed. I bowed my head and waited for it to stop spinning, swallowing back the bile that kept rising in my throat.
I reached down again for my jeans and pulled them over my feet and up my legs. I stood and yanked them all the way up, stumbling as I did and hitting the wall shoulder-first.
"Fuck," I muttered as I straightened up again.
In the distance I could hear loud and insistent knocking at the front door.
"I'm coming!" I yelled, instantly regretting it as the sound reverberated within my aching head like a giant bell. I lurched down the staircase, leaning one shoulder against the wall for support the whole way down.
As I unlatched the door, it burst open and I staggered back. Rosalie stood in front of me, immaculate as ever and brimming with fury.
"Edward! Where were—" She cut off as she saw me clearly for the first time, her face dropping in shock. "What the hell happened this time?" She suddenly wrinkled her nose and turned her head away in disgust. "Jeez, you reek of whiskey."
She remembered then that we weren't alone and looked down at the nine year old child next to her, so similar to her, save for my brother's dark hair color and his dimples that she'd inherited.
"Hey, Uncle Edward," she greeted me, noticeably subdued by her mother's anger and, I guessed, maybe the state of my face.
"Hey, Gracie," I replied, attempting a smile at my niece.
She turned to Rosalie.
"Can I go watch TV, Mom?"
Rosalie smiled down at her.
"Of course you can, honey. Go ahead, I'll be right through." She held her smile in place until the little girl was out of sight, then it vanished rapidly as she turned her eyes back on me.
She slammed the front door closed and pushed me roughly into the wall behind me, then walked forward until her face was inches from mine. I looked down and to the side, avoiding the venomous look she was giving me. "Don't tell me. Jealous boyfriend again? Or did she have a husband this time?"
I didn't have the energy to argue about this with Rosalie this morning. I raised my eyes to look at her.
"Don't you have to be at work?" I asked, then slid out from in front of her and turned to head for the kitchen. I'd only taken one step when she caught my arm, pulling me around to face her again, looking up at me. She lowered the volume of her voice but the anger was still there.
"I know you think it's none of my business, Edward. And you're right – except when you're taking care of my daughter. Don't think that I don't know that you pick up moms in the schoolyard, because I do know. Everyone knows; including their husbands, judging by the state of you."
I turned to glance in the mirror on the wall behind me. The extent of the damage took me by surprise and I cringed away from the sight.
"If I didn't have that suppliers meeting this morning, I'd be taking Grace out of here right now."
A light bulb went on in my head. Shit, the meeting. That's why she was here early, I'd completely forgotten about it. Rosalie lifted her wrist and looked at her watch.
"Hell, I have to go. I'm going to be late." She strode quickly down the hall to the living room, calling out as she went. "Grace, I have to go to work now sweetheart, come and give mommy a kiss." They met at the living room door and I watched as Rosalie gave Grace a kiss and a hug, then Grace returned to the TV and Rose headed back toward me. She stopped in front of me again, pointing her finger in my face and speaking quietly, yet harshly.
"Edward, this stops now. You lay one finger on another woman in that yard and their husbands will be the least of your worries, trust me." She turned and stalked out of the house, slamming the door harder than necessary behind her and causing me to flinch from the pain it created in my head. I ran one hand through my hair and then headed toward the living room.
Grace was sitting on the black leather couch with her legs folded under her and shoes discarded on the floor. She didn't look comfortable, but then nobody ever did on that damn couch. I don't know why I ever let Tanya talk me into buying the fucking thing.
Oh, wait. Yes I do. It was the blow job she gave me after our trip to the furniture store. Hmm. Well maybe it was just a shame that she didn't just take it with her then, she seemed to take everything that I wanted to keep, like the paintings I'd chosen, and the TV. I frowned as I watched the stubborn flickering line that ran across the top of the screen of the second hand set that Grace was watching. And my self-respect, I thought as another scene from the previous evening flashed through my head. Sadly it wasn't the part that I'd rather remember either.
I was standing at the foot of the stairs with…uh…Clara..Claire? I had no idea which. I'd been on my way out and taken the opportunity to push her up against the wall, pull her silky robe open again and put my drunken hands all over her as I kissed her greedily. All this despite having spent the last two hours in her bed.
I was just sliding my hand between her legs when a sound startled us both. We turned our heads toward the front door at the exact same time, to see her husband standing frozen in the doorway, briefcase in hand and jaw on the ground. He looked so ridiculous that I was unable to not let a snort of laughter escape from my mouth. Not the wisest move when you consider I was in his house with my hands all over his almost-naked wife.
She quickly straightened up and pushed me away, pulling her robe back around herself.
"Steve! Uh…" Her voice dropped to a whisper only I could hear, as she lowered her head. "Shit, this wasn't supposed to happen."
I was unsure whether she meant us fucking, or the fact we just got caught.
"Cullen," he growled as he simultaneously threw his briefcase down and lunged for me. He was sober and full of anger, while I was post-coital and full of his whiskey; it was never going to be an epic battle.
Five minutes later I was lying flat on my back on their front lawn, as the door slammed shut and their argument raged on behind it. I vaguely remembered clambering unsteadily to my feet and staggering away, but everything after I finally reached the road, was a blank.
I looked back at Grace, entranced by some crappy Disney show with annoying kids in it. Rosalie strictly limited her TV time at home. My sister-in-law had so many rules in place that I'd always maintained only one when Grace was with me – there were no rules. She was a good kid and didn't take advantage either, it made for a good relationship.
I glanced up at the clock on the wall. There were still two hours before school was due to start.
"Gracie, I'm going to go shower, ok?"
She looked up at me and smiled, her dimples appearing.
"Ok." She shifted in her seat as she turned back to the TV, crossing her legs in front of her. I smiled and turned, heading out of the room and upstairs to the bathroom.
Inside with the door locked, I pulled my t-shirt off and leaned over the basin to get a good look at myself in the mirror. My bronze hair was even more unruly than usual, sticking up all over the place. My face was a frightening canvas of various shades of reds, browns, and purples. I huffed in annoyance.
I filled the basin with warm water then pulled a clean washcloth from the cabinet on the wall. Wetting it, I began dabbing gingerly at the dried blood. To my relief, most of what I'd assumed to be injuries were in fact just smears of blood.
By the time I was through, I didn't look half so bad. My lower lip was cut and swollen, I had a black eye, and a cut high up on my forehead. The right side of my jaw was tender, but other than a slight purple bruise that you'd miss if you didn't know to look for it, appeared fine.
I showered quickly after that, longing to spend time letting the hot water soothe my aching muscles, but not wanting to leave Grace alone for long. I might be an irresponsible fucker when it came to myself these days, but I always made sure that my niece was taken care of.
I threw on clean clothes then headed back downstairs, feeling almost human again. Grace hadn't moved, still engrossed in the same show. She glanced up as I entered the room.
"You look better," she said approvingly. "You won't scare the other kids now." She giggled and I couldn't help but smile at her.
"Did you already have breakfast?" I asked her, knowing for a fact that there was no way Rosalie would let her set a foot out of the house without a nutritious, yet undoubtedly dull, breakfast inside her.
"Uh-huh," she confirmed. "Raisin bran." She mimed a gagging motion and I smirked.
"That's too bad," I told her. "I was just going to put some strawberry Poptarts in, but if you've already eaten I guess—" I didn't have a chance to finish because she'd already run out past me.
Surprisingly, I did have some respect for Rosalie's dictatorship parenting style, so I didn't do the breakfast thing everyday, but at least once a week I liked to see the simple joy that processed sugary crap could bring to my niece. I always enjoyed seeing her happy, but today it was like therapy for my sorry ass.
The school run had become the highlight of my dull days since I discovered how easy it could be to glean more than a little positive attention from the women stuck in this ground-hog day routine with me. I'd quickly noticed that they had their own groups, their own designated spaces, and they gave suspicious territorial glances to any other women wandering too close to their space. I'd also, almost as quickly discovered that, as a man I could gain a welcome entry to any of these groups with a dazzling smile as I approached. This I'd used to my full and unashamed advantage, accepting invitations for morning coffee after the school bell rang, and reciprocating with enough flirting to win me invitations into bed fairly often.
The single moms did nothing for me; I doggedly avoided them. I'd discovered to my heavy cost, that when commitment failed it took a piece of your heart with it. Well, I wasn't willing to lose another chunk of mine anytime soon, if at all, so my current lifestyle had seemed ideal.
Some slightly less screwed up individuals than myself, might question why I was targeting other men's women, when Tanya had cheated on me and I knew how it felt? The answer was simple. I wanted everyone else to suffer as much as I had; why should anyone else have a happy relationship if I couldn't? If the husband found out, so what? If your woman was going to cheat then I'm pretty damn sure you're better knowing about it. I wasn't going out of my way to make anyone find out, but if they did find out then I certainly didn't have a problem with it. She was the one cheating after all, not me.
Today as I approached the school with Grace at my side, I pulled my cap down low over my shades. I had naively thought that my conquests wouldn't be eager for anyone to know what was going on, with them being in relationships already. From what Rosalie had said though, it sounded as though that wasn't the case at all. And how in hell's name did she know about it anyway? There was no time to worry about that now as we walked through the school gates.
I'd turned up with cuts, bruises and dark glasses before today, but never had I received the looks that were sent my way this morning. They all knew. I knew they knew and they didn't seem to care. Some of them didn't even bother to keep their voices down to a whisper, which fucking annoyed me, because the kids didn't need to know. I hoped like hell that Grace didn't get any shit over this, or Rosalie would have my balls for earrings.
I tried to look inconspicuously around for Claire, or whatever her name was, wondering how she would be after the previous night's drama. She wasn't in her usual place, but I recognised her son standing with one of her friends, looking sad and worried. As I watched, the woman bent to say something to him and put her arm around his shoulder. Shit. The kid only looked about seven years old. Was he standing looking like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders because of me?
I leaned back against the building, my hands in my pockets and decided that Rosalie was right; it was time to stop. It had been fun while it lasted, but maybe enough was enough.
I vowed silently right there, that I wasn't going to touch another of the women in that school yard again, and cynically hoped my resolve didn't fade with my bruises.
A/N Thanks for reading, please leave a review and let me know what you think of this Edward :o)