My apologies in advance for the super long author's note!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. The original plot and storyline of Never Enough and Enough to Hope, however, belong to me. Please be nice and don't copy or translate without permission. Thank you.
My beta, Iadorepugs, is more fabulous than I could ever tell you all in words. Were I Shakespeare, I'd write sonnets to her genius and soliloquies to her grace, humor, and beauty. Alas, I am not the Bard, so I hope my simple THANK YOU for all she does will suffice. Love you so much, bb!
This is not going to be a complete retelling of Never Enough from Edward's point of view. These are outtakes from portions of Never Enough where Edward had a strong enough voice to speak to me about what he was thinking and feeling at the time. There were several times where his POV came first, and it allowed me to write Bella's story around it.
This first outtake takes place the night Edward and Bella meet at Maria's (Chapters 3 and 4 of Never Enough). However, there are spoilers if you have not read through Chapter 21 of Never Enough – you have been warned.
God, I wanted a cigarette in the worst way.
I had been smoke-free for nearly six years now. It was a habit I had given up when Heidi and I decided to get married and I knew I would have a preschooler in the house. Heidi had nagged me the entire time we dated to give up 'that filthy habit,' refusing to kiss me if she even suspected that I had taken a hit of a cigarette. It hadn't been easy for me to give up. I'd spent too many years smoking at the clubs I played, having a cigarette along with my beer, or sharing a smoke with a pretty girl at the bar as we flirted. But for Heidi, and more importantly for Chelsea, I gave it up.
I had considered starting up again when I left Heidi, just because I could. Hell, I had even gone so far as to purchase the cigarettes and was prepared to light one up, when Peter snatched it unlit right out of my mouth and reminded me that since I had given up smoking, Washington had gone smoke-free in its restaurants and bars. By the time I made it outside, the urge to rebel had passed, and I tossed the fresh pack to one of the young musicians in the house band and went back inside. So despite the fact that the women that inspired the change were gone from my life, I remained smoke-free. It didn't change the fact that whenever the nerves attacked, I craved the calm a cigarette used to bring me. And I had an amazing case of nerves tonight, courtesy of my sister-in-law.
Emmett had cornered me in my office this afternoon and told me that we were expecting a new face at the table tonight because Rosalie was bringing along a friend. He had gone on to share that this friend, Bella, had just finalized her divorce this week, and that this was going to be her first solo outing in more years that he could count. I remembered Rosalie mentioning Bella, how her long-term marriage had ended when her husband took up with a younger woman. Rosalie had been frustrated, worrying that Bella was being too nice, too forgiving. It was so rare for Rosalie to exhibit such strong feelings about a case that I had paid attention to the details. If Bella was indeed as soft-hearted as Rosalie said, I was glad she'd had Rosalie on her side in the divorce, fighting for her and her kids.
When I started to protest the setup, Emmett was quick to reassure me that Rosalie was not trying to play matchmaker. Rosalie knew better than anyone, even my older brother, what I had gone through in my divorce with Heidi. Not to mention what she was still putting me through with Chelsea. Rosalie was the one who intervened when the phone calls and text messages from my ex-wife became too much. Things had been quiet from Heidi recently, and although it killed me to stay away from my step-daughter, I knew that it was for the best, at least for now.
Rosalie had been such a godsend. I never would have made it through the divorce with my sanity intact if it weren't for her unique brand of cool professionalism. I never doubted for a minute that she cared and that it killed her to help sever the ties with the woman whose child had been a cousin to Rosalie and Emmett's daughters. But Rosalie's ability to remove herself emotionally from the situation, to help me to see the best course of action for myself and Chelsea, was absolutely invaluable.
Emmett knew this reassurance was absolutely critical if they expected me to stay. He had tried on more than one occasion to set me up with a woman, including the entirely too friendly waitress that always seemed to end up at our table, no matter how many times we changed. We finally decided to just stick with our regular table, and I endured the waitress's attention with as much grace as I could muster. Emmett thought it was absolutely hilarious and teased me about it endlessly when he heard her going on to her friend about my 'sex hair' and my 'ripped bod.' I often wondered if going bald and developing a beer gut would turn her off. Her obvious touches and overt passes reminded me why I had been single for so long before Heidi, and why I intended to stay that way now.
Although I usually ate and drank with Rose and Emmett plus Alice and Jasper before the show, tonight I hung out near the bar, nursing a beer and watching the crowd. I had no desire to make Rosalie's friend uncomfortable, and at the same time I needed to psych myself up for the meeting. Set up or not, I knew how it was when two couples invite two singles to spend the evening with them. We were essentially a couple for the evening. I wondered if Bella was as uneasy with this as I was.
I caught sight of Rosalie as she entered the bar. My stunning sister-in-law always stood out in a crowd, her statuesque height and her honey blonde hair obvious above the rest of the people. I could see a smaller, dark-haired figure at her side and swiveled in my seat, half hidden behind the bar, watching them approach our regular table.
Bella was a surprise, although I'm not exactly sure what I had expected. Someone older, for one, if she had been married as many years as Emmett said. The woman at Rosalie's side appeared to be younger than my own thirty-six years, although I could have been mistaken at this distance and in the diffused light of the bar. She stood about a head shorter than Rosalie, with brown hair that curled around her shoulders. Her body was curvy, her hips swaying in an unconsciously provocative manner as she followed Rosalie across the floor. She was built exactly the way I admired, with lush breasts, full hips, and soft curves. Heidi had been obsessed with her weight, counting every single thing that went between her lips, to the point where eating out with her had been a nightmare.
Pushing the unwelcome thoughts of my ex-wife from my head, I watched as Rosalie and Bella ordered their drinks. Bella seemed nervous at first, glancing around them apprehensively, watching the singles and couples alike. As she sipped her wine I watched her relax while she and Rosalie chatted. Her smile was simply stunning, and I found myself wishing I could hear her laugh. Would it be high pitched and delicate, or low and husky?
I watched Bella tense again when Alice joined them. I watched her lips move, then her eyes widen with shock and embarrassment. I was hit with an unprecedented urge to rise from my chair and go protect her from whatever had happened to cause that look. Alice spoke, and Bella started to laugh, and I found myself relieved that the two of them seemed to hit it off. A few minutes later, Jasper and Emmett joined the three women, settling in at the table and leaving an empty space next to Bella that she glanced at from time to time as they ate, her expression sad.
I knew exactly how she felt. How awkward it was sitting at the same table with Rosalie and Emmett, and Jasper and Alice – sitting with them, but not really with them. The solo person in the clutch of couples. She had a sad little smile on her lips as she raised her wine glass, trying not to watch my brother maul my sister-in-law. I recognized the pain in her eyes, having seen it in the mirror more times than I could count. The anguish of failure, the heartache of lost love, and the loneliness of being a single in a world of couples.
I had been so intent on watching Bella that Peter startled me when he walked up behind me and clapped a hand on my shoulder. "Edward my man!" he said. "Ready to go on tonight?"
I took one last swig of my beer and set the bottle down on the bar. "Sure. Thanks again for letting me take the stage, I really appreciate the opportunity."
Peter nodded. "I just wish you'd do more than one or two songs every couple of weeks. I get people asking about you all the time. Hell, the band would kill to have you sing with them."
I shook my head. "Nah, I'm done with all that – too much stress to do the band and work for a living as well. But I do appreciate it."
"You're welcome. Go on up there and wow the crowd. You know your favorite waitress will be waiting when you're done," Peter joked, tilting his head toward Lettie, who was clearing away bottles from a nearby table. When she caught my gaze, she smiled and waved. I smiled weakly in response, hiding the grimace when I realized that my inadvertent stare was only going to encourage her more. As Lettie headed in my direction, I quickly escaped through the crowd in the opposite direction to take the stage.
Emmett saw me take the stage and raised his beer in salute, but I noticed that Bella was still staring off in the distance. I watched her out of the corner of my eye, noting her pale, creamy complexion and how the blue shirt she wore complimented it perfectly. She took her bottom lip between her teeth, nibbling in an obviously unconscious nervous habit. She looked so lovely, but so forlorn. I didn't even know her yet, but I wanted to make her feel better – I wanted to make her feel hope. Hell, I wanted to feel some of that myself, but I wasn't sure if I knew how any longer.
As the house lights dimmed and the spotlight shone, momentarily blinding me, I made a split-second decision to change my song choice. Originally, I was going to sing a Kings of Leon song I had been working on. Instead, I strummed a few cords as I tuned my guitar, ghosting through the chords I would need for the song I had in mind. I ran the lyrics in my mind, the side of my mouth lifting in a half grin as I considered that I was going to sing to a woman I had never even met, and she would never even know.
I chanced a glance up again, startled to find her eyes on mine. Even in the darkness of the bar, I could see the blush stain her cheeks as she quickly glanced away, taking another sip of her wine. I grinned, enchanted by the shyness in her expression as she looked back up at me before dropping her eyes once again. I strummed the guitar more forcefully, hoping to entice her to look up once again. The action caused the audience to quiet, and I leaned forward to speak into the microphone. "This is called 'I Was Broken', and it's by Marcus Foster."
I was broken
I was tied, but now unbound
My head is off the ground
For a long time I was so weary
Tired of the sound, I've heard before,
The gnawing of the night time at the door,
Haunted by the things I've made
Stuck between the burning light and the dust shade.
As I sang I thought about all that had happened over the last twelve months. Who was I to sing of hope to someone else when it felt like I had lost all of mine? The moment I had found out that Heidi and Felix were involved again...no, still involved, was the moment my hope had died. Even if the child had turned out to be mine, the family I had longed for was gone. I would never trust Heidi again, and I could not stay with someone I couldn't trust.
I said now I used to think the past was dead and gone,
But I was wrong, so wrong, whatever makes you blind
Must make you strong, make you strong,
In my time I've melted into many forms
From the day that I was born, I know that there's no place to hide
Stuck between the burning shade and the fading light,
I was broken, For a long time, but it's over now
I chanced another glance at the table where Bella sat with my friends and family. She was staring up at the stage, and I don't think she realized I was looking back at her. I could see tears shining in her luminous brown eyes as she looked at me – looked through me. I only hoped that the lyrics were sending her the message I intended.
Yes and you, and you,
well you walk these lonely streets that people send, People send.
There are some wounds that just can't mend, I do pretend, pretend,
I am free from all the things that take my friends
But I will stand here till the end, I know that I can take the moon,
In between the burning shade and the fading light
I was broken, for a long time, but it's over now
I was broken, for a long time, but it's over now
I repeated the last line several more times, softer and softer, my eyes locked on hers now. She needed to know that it wouldn't always hurt like this. I needed to know that. That it was possible to be whole again. Gazing into Bella's eyes, I felt the first stirring of hope my frozen heart had felt in longer than I could remember. It was reassuring and alarming all at the same time. My fingers strummed the chords one last time, and we were both startled from our connection by the sound of applause. Rosalie put her fingers to her lips and let loose a wolf whistle that made Bella cringe back, and I scowled at the loss of her gaze. I stood and accepted the applause. Waving to the crowd I hopped down off the stage and headed towards my brother's table, accepting the back slaps and handshakes on my way.
When I got to the table, there were two empty seats. In front of one sat a half-empty glass of wine, and the only extra seat was directly next to that one. I looked around surreptitiously for Bella, but didn't see her in the small crowd around the table. There was a jacket draped across the abandoned chair, which led me to believe that she hadn't left for the evening. I accepted a handshake from Jasper, and a fist bump from Emmett before taking my seat. The waitress brought over my favorite beer without me even having to ask. I guess there was at least one positive attribute to her unwelcome attention.
I watched Alice suddenly hop up from the table and weave her way through the crowd. Despite her height, I was able to easily follow her progress across the bar, and I felt my pulse accelerate when she found Bella amongst the throng and started leading her back to our table. I watched their progress across the room, sipping my beer.
"Edward! Yo, are you listening to me?" Emmett shouted next to me, and I shot him a glare.
"Yes, Emmett. I'm sure half the bar is listening to you now, you loudmouth," I growled, setting my beer down on the table next to the wine glass and leaning forward to listen to his question about the project I was working on in Portland. I couldn't wait to be done with the damn thing and be finished with Portland all together. There were too many reminders of my past every time I had to travel there for business.
When I reached for my beer again, a petite hand was reaching for the wine glass and our fingers collided. I found myself admiring her slender fingers, tipped not with brightly colored talons like so many women, but with neatly trimmed, unadorned nails. Even though I knew I would not spot a wedding ring, my eyes strayed to her ring finger. She wore a mother's ring in place of a wedding ring, similar to the one Emmett and I had given Esme a few Mother's Days ago. There were two pearls on the ring, indicating that her children shared a birthday month with me.
I heard a sharp intake of breath and looked up into a very pretty face with wide brown eyes and expressive brows. "Oops, sorry!" she said, her lilting voice carrying over the noise of the bar, and I found myself wanting to hear her say more just so I could listen to her voice. She looked surprised that I was sitting with them, and I wondered if Rosalie had mentioned that I would be joining them.
I was unable to look away from her, and I realized I must have looked like an idiot, gaping at her with my mouth open. I raised my hand and ran my fingers through my hair, cursing the nervous habit I'd had since I was a kid. Her eyes followed my hand, watching as I tugged on the roots of my hair and then returned to my face, a blush coloring her cheeks. I didn't know that women did that any more, and the sight of her red cheeks made me grin.
"Bella, right?" I said to her, and my voice sounded low and raspy like I'd been singing for hours instead of for just one song. She nodded at me, so I continued. "Rosalie mentioned she was going to try to get you to join us tonight. Nice to finally meet you. I'm Edward Cullen, Rosalie's brother-in-law." Finally? Shit, Edward, why not tell her that Rosalie's told you everything about her divorce and pathetic ex-husband?
I held my hand out to her for a handshake. As she slid her hand into mine, her fingers stroked across mine and slid sensuously across my palm. I held her fingers in mine, my eyes going wide at the sensations her mere touch sent ricocheting through my body. Her fingers moved within my grasp and it didn't take much for me to imagine her hands on my body. Within moments my jeans were becoming uncomfortable, and I fought the urge to shift in my seat to alleviate the pressure now settling between my legs.
The harsh sound of guitars from the stage made both of us jump, and I reluctantly released her fingers. Bella reached for her wine, and when she spoke, her voice was husky and musical. My body hardened even further in response. "Nice to meet you as well, Edward. That song you sang, it was beautiful." She had a small, private smile on her face when she took a sip of her wine, and I found myself wanting to ask her what she was thinking about.
"I don't remember you performing that song before, Edward," Alice piped up from across the table. Damn, I had forgotten that there were other people there with us. "I thought you said you were going to do that Kings of Leon song tonight. But that one was amazing – so raw, so heartfelt."
I couldn't very well tell them I changed my song choice at the last moment for the woman I had just met sitting by my side. I took a long draw on my beer, ignoring Alice's comment until it was apparent from her expression that she wasn't going to let it drop. "Yeah, I've been working on that one for a while. It never felt like the right time, but tonight I was inspired." I snuck a look at Bella out of the corner of my eye. Unfortunately, Alice saw me do it and looked like the cat that ate the canary.
"Do you play with the band as well?" Bella asked, gesturing toward the stage where the house band was warming up.
I peeled the label of my beer bottle, afraid that if I left my fingers to their own devices, I would reach for her hand again. "Nah, Peter just lets me play a song or two on the weekends when the spirit moves me. That's enough." I noticed that Bella's wineglass was empty and looked around for the waitress. I groaned internally when Lettie saw me looking for her and then gestured for another round of drinks for the table. I tried to shrug away when Lettie rested her hand on my shoulder and brushed her breasts against my arm, gritting my teeth and disguising it as a smile. I thanked her, hoping it would make her leave quicker. Bella was engaged in conversation with Alice and Rosalie, and I wasn't sure why but I hoped she hadn't noticed the waitress's blatant flirtation.
The house lights dimmed and the band's warm-up came to a stop. The lead singer stepped forward and thanked everyone for coming out to support them tonight, and on his signal, the band broke into song.
Normally on nights like tonight I was able to lose myself in the music and ignore everything around me. Hell that was usually the reason for going out. I tried to do that tonight, tapping out the rhythm against my thighs, fingering the chords the guitarist played. I even tried singing along with my favorite lyrics, hoping all the while that I would be able to refocus. But none of it worked, not a bit. I was completely, utterly distracted by the brunette at my side.
We sat only inches apart. If I had moved my elbow even the slightest bit, it would have rubbed against hers. I was aware of every intake of breath, every sigh, and the way her eyes would dart from the stage, to my face, to my fingers, and then quickly away with a blush. It appeared that whatever strange connection made me so hyper-aware of Bella had the same effect on her. Every time I shifted in my seat, she shifted in hers, and vice versa. It was like magnets, or gravity.
I watched her signal for the waitress, grateful that it wasn't Lettie that brought her soda. I switched my order as well, knowing I needed to keep my wits about me as Bella stole them away bit by bit.
It was almost a relief when the band was done for the night. I was content to sit back and listen to the conversations around me, and it appeared that Bella felt the same way. Neither one of us contributed unless we were asked directly. I knew from the frustrated look in Alice's eye she wasn't going to let Bella evade for much longer.
Alice pulled her in with her next comment. "So, Bella, now that you've managed to put 'The Dog' out, what are your plans?" I wanted to laugh at the dig at her obviously clueless ex-husband, but I was worried that Alice's trademark bluntness would upset her.
Rosalie was angry enough for the both of us. "Alice!" she hissed, casting a worried glance at Bella.
Bella took it in stride, laughing as she responded, "Flea bomb the house and shampoo the rugs to get the pet stains out?" I smiled and bit back a chuckle when her flip response actually made Emmett choke on his beer. "Actually, I don't know what I'm going to do yet – I'm a woman of leisure at the moment. I helped run Jacob's business, but I don't have a lot of other practical work experience. My college degree is largely useless. English literature," she said in response to the unanswered question. "So, if anyone has any brilliant ideas, I'd love to hear them."
I found myself speaking before I even realized I intended to. "Well, what would you like to do, if you could do anything at all?" I leaned forward to make sure I caught her answer, and couldn't help but smile when she blushed at my attention.
Bella bit her lip like I had seen her do earlier, and the sight made my body jerk in response. "If I had a place, and the know-how, I think I'd open a bookstore. It drives me crazy that I have to order stuff online, or trek three hours to Seattle to have a decent choice of reading materials. It would have a coffee shop with pastries and maybe soups and sandwiches, and Wi Fi access throughout. I'd offer story time on the weekends for the kids, and host book clubs, author events and book signings. You know, the kind of place where you can sit and read and meet friends, with great windows and lighting…" Her enthusiasm was contagious, and I found myself trying to picture what she was describing.
My concentration on Bella's words was broken by the sight of Alice bouncing in her chair, a huge smile on her face. "Jazz, does CWC still own that corner building downtown? The two-story one with the storefront on the bottom level?" I tried to picture the location Alice asked about as Jasper nodded. Alice turned to Bella, "Bella, that's the perfect place for a bookstore! It's right in the middle of everything, with lots of foot and motor traffic. It's kind of a mess right now, but the renovations wouldn't be too complicated, and I know just the perfect furniture that we could…"
Bella held up her hands laughingly in protest, obviously not realizing yet that it would be easier to tame a tornado than stop Alice in the middle of an idea. "Whoa, whoa, Alice! Edward asked what I'd do if I had any option, and that was the first thing that popped into my head. I really don't know anything about properties and renovations, or even anything about the bookselling business." The sound of my name on her lips was enough to send my imagination into overdrive, creating scenarios in which she would speak, mumble, moan or scream my name.
I was surprised when Emmett picked up the conversation. "Bella, I've got to agree with Alice. That building would be perfect for a bookstore, and I don't think the renovations would be too difficult or costly. We could work on the details of a lease and improvements, and of course we'd cut you a break on the labor." Her look of confusion was obvious, and I tuned out the rest of Emmett's words to study her expressive face. "Think about it, and call us if you want to see the space." The slow smile that appeared then made me resolve to do whatever I could to bring it to her face as often as I could.
I heard Alice groan. "Jazz, one more drink, then we've got to get home to the kids." She flagged down the waitress with her raised Cosmo glass, and I had to endure another round of dodge-the-waitress with Lettie as she handed Alice her drink. I focused my attention on the conversation between Bella and Alice when Bella asked Alice about her children.
I couldn't help the feelings of jealousy that flared when Rosalie and Alice teasingly complained about the lack of babysitters. Rosalie shot me a sympathetic glance, knowing better than anyone around the table how much I missed Chelsea.
Bella was looking oddly at Rosalie when she was talking about Lillian and Madison. "How old are your twins?" Bella asked.
I knew that Bella had children of her own, but was surprised to find that one of them was old enough to work as a camp counselor. Surely she meant junior counselor. I laughed when Bella offered her daughter Sarah a babysitter, and watched in fascination as the blush colored her face again when Alice planted a noisy kiss on her cheek.
I was in no hurry to end this evening, and groaned quietly when Rosalie announced she and Emmett needed to leave. I wanted to offer to drive Bella home, but was unable to get a word in edgewise before they decided who was riding with whom.
I fought the surprising feeling of disappointment that I wouldn't be able to spend more time with Bella tonight. I reminded myself that the poor woman had just finalized her divorce a couple of days ago, and that last thing she needed or wanted was the romantic attention of a virtual stranger. Shit, given the bitterness I still felt regarding my own divorce, it was really the last thing I needed either. Bella needed friends more than anything, and I vowed then to be one to her.
I grabbed her jacket from the back of the chair and held it out for her. She looked surprised by the courtesy that my mother had drummed into me from a very early age, and it simply reinforced my impression that her ex-husband was a complete moron. I grinned at her as she slipped her arms into the sleeves and then I indulged in the desire to touch her again that had only been building since we shook hands hello. I unnecessarily rearranged the collar of her jacket and tugged on a section of hair that was caught, the strands chocolate silk between my fingers. Her cheeks warmed with a blush again, and I wanted so badly to ask what she was thinking! She made me as nervous as a high school boy with his first crush.
"Bella, it was a pleasure meeting you tonight," I told her, loving the sound of her name on my lips. "I expect that we'll be seeing a lot of each other, if Rose and Alice have their way." She looked startled by my statement, so I started to stammer an explanation. "I mean, now that Alice and Rose plan to monopolize your daughter's babysitting services, I expect that we will be going out more often. As a group, of course." Jesus, Edward! Ramble much?
Did I imagine the disappointment in her eyes just then? "It was nice meeting you too, Edward. Thanks again for sharing your beautiful song."
I quickly put on my coat and pulled my cap on my head, not wanting her to leave without me walking her out. I casually placed my hand against the small of her back, touching her under the pretext of guiding her through the packed bar.
I kept my hand on her back as we crossed the parking lot to Emmett's jeep. I offered my hand to Bella so she could step up into the monstrous vehicle, reveling in the warmth of her touch. "Thanks, Edward," she said, and I tried to ingrain her voice saying my name in my head.
"You're welcome, Bella," I replied, lingering by her side for as long as I could. When Emmett started up the jeep and gave me a meaningful look in the side view mirror, I knew my time was up. Despite my promise to myself to not pursue her, I blurted out, "I hope to see you again soon. Be safe." A friend could say that, right? I closed the door to the jeep and mentally rolled my eyes. Real smooth, Edward, I berated myself. I walked across the parking lot and started my car, hoping that my parting words could be true and that I would see her again soon.
So there you have it – what Edward was thinking when he first met our fair Bella. I'd love to know what you think of being inside his head, and if it gave you some insight into his character or the storyline. Also, I'd love to know what else, if anything, you'd like to hear in his POV. I can't promise that he'll speak to me on each and ever request, but I'd be happy to question him a bit if there are specific chapters/events you'd like to hear in his voice.
As always, if there's anything that made you smile, laugh, sigh or even growl with frustration, I would love to hear about it. Please consider leaving me your thoughts!
Thank you so much for reading!