A/N: Thanks to Project Team Beta for taking on this story, and for once again assigning me the very best betas in the fandom – Furious Kitten and Brianna.

Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight

. ~ . ~ . ~ .

It was during lunch when I first laid eyes on Isabella Swan.

I shouldn't have wanted to look when she walked into the cafeteria with Jessica, her big brown eyes darting around anxiously. It shouldn't have bothered me when she sat down at the table furthest from us and a crowd of eager boys surrounded her. I definitely should not have been straining my ears, trying to hear her, wanting to know what she was like.

Alice had been planting seeds for weeks, from the first moment she heard through the grape vine that the Chief's daughter would be starting at Forks High. It bothered Alice that I was single, and she wanted nothing more than to make me part of a functional couple. Just like Jasper and her and Emmett and Rose. Our so-called circle would be complete—a trio of perfect matches. I didn't need that, nor want it right now, so I'd done my best to ignore Alice and her suggestive remarks.

Apparently my best hadn't been good enough, though, because I'd still found myself visualizing what she'd look like and how she'd respond to me and my friends. And judging from my somewhat proprietary reaction to her sitting at a table full of guys just now, I guess I'd begun to imagine what it would be like to have someone just for me.

I watched as she glanced around the table, shyly greeting the hungry stares from her new classmates. She nodded politely at their inquiries, answering them while watching her hands peel the label from her soda bottle. She seemed timid, and I wasn't sure whether I liked that or not.

Beside me, Alice cleared her throat, and I realized she'd been paying very careful attention to my reaction.

"Ah, Edward. Something interesting over in Jessica Stanley's direction today?" Her smile and demeanor were triumphant.

Knowing there was no point in denying it, I responded, "You're not pretty when you gloat." Not wanting to get Alice's hopes up even further, I made sure I didn't look back toward Isabella's table.

"I'm not gloating. Not really. She was in Spanish with me earlier. Nice girl, I think. Studious. Just your type."

"Nice ass, too," Emmett added unnecessarily. A laugh escaped Jasper until Alice shot him a look. He suppressed it while Emmett grinned at me and winked.

Rose was looking over her shoulder at Bella, not caring if anyone saw her deliberate appraisal. "I don't know, Alice. Somehow I think sending that little sweet thing off with Edward would be like throwing a lamb to the slaughter." She looked back to our table, her wry grin briefly making contact with mine. She was sizing up Bella for me, and not surprisingly, she was unsatisfied with what she found.

"It's her first day," Alice answered. "I'm sure she's got a backbone in there somewhere."

I laughed at that and couldn't resist adding, "And I suppose it would be my job to find it?" My voice dripped with suggestiveness.

"Very funny," she snapped.

I kept grinning as I reached for my sandwich, enjoying the fistbump that Jasper and Emmett shared on my behalf. As I looked up to take a bite, Rosalie's eyes scorched me for the briefest moment. A look filled with hate and anger.

I didn't take my bite, instead staring at her in disbelief. Before I could ask what the hell was wrong, she was already looking away, flipping her blond hair over her shoulder as if nothing had happened. The look was so sudden, I couldn't decide if it was deliberate or not.

"You should ask her to come to La Push on Friday," Alice piped up. "Instead of coming with us in Emmett's Jeep, you could take her yourself. More time together?" she added hopefully.

My mind was still caught up with Rosalie, so Alice's question wasn't really appreciated. As I stared at my sandwich, I wondered if the look was supposed to mean something. Was she mad because I'd shown some interest in the new girl? Or was it just plain old disgust at my juvenile joke? Another part of me was trying to be more rational, telling myself that this was just the way Rose was.

Alice elbowed me softly, reminding me I still had a question to answer. Trying to be casual, I replied, "I don't know . . . don't you think her first day is a little too soon?"

Alice rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Edward. You know just as well as I do that if you ask that girl out, she's going to say yes. First day or not. And if you wait . . . You saw all those hungry hyenas around her?" She swirled her pointer finger around in the air for emphasis.

Jasper sat up a little straighter before slouching again, as though he was going to weigh in but then thought better of it. Conversations about girls when Alice and Rose were present were . . . practically non-existent. I'd hear his side later—when he was free to express his opinions without losing blowjob privileges. He was probably just going to tell me it was a bad idea.

I knew it was a bad idea.

This was not the time to get involved with some girl. Right now I didn't need the pressure of a relationship involving phone calls and dates and . . . I don't know, probably dances. Next year, definitely, but not this year.

I stewed on my thoughts for the next few minutes, occasionally catching smug grins from Alice out of the corner of my eye. She knew I was thinking about it, and that was enough for her to believe she'd made some stellar achievement. Alice, forever the optimist. Trying to rein in her sense of accomplishment, I spent the remainder of lunch keeping my eyes at our table and definitely not thinking about the possibility of dating the new girl. By the end of lunch, I thought I'd been somewhat successful. I suspected even Alice had let go of the idea.

But when I was getting ready to leave, she couldn't keep herself from asking hopefully, "Are you going to walk her to class?"

I let myself glance once more in the direction of Isabella. Maybe if I was unsatisfied with my current situation, I'd be more inclined to shamelessly chase after the new girl. Or maybe if she was more . . . impressive. Sure, she was nice to look at, and there was something exciting about the prospect of pursuing her—winning her over and beating out all the other guys. But right now, none of those things seemed to be enough. I was content to wait until I needed a girlfriend.

"I don't think so, Alice."

She gave an exaggerated pout, so I said a quick "later" to everyone and walked away before she could start whining.

"Edward, wait up," Jasper called from behind me. I stopped just long enough for him to catch up and then kept going. He didn't say anything to begin with, just fell into step beside me. When I was close to my class I stopped and looked at him expectantly, wanting him to spit out whatever it was he felt the need to say.

"You realize it would be a very stupid move?" was his grand advice.

"Did you not hear me before? I'm not interested."

"I heard you, it's just . . ." he glanced around us, like he was looking for potential eavesdroppers. Satisfied that we had privacy, he stared at me, eyebrows raised as though trying to convey some unspoken message. "I think Rosalie is right."

For a second, I panicked, thinking he'd seen the devil woman look she'd given me. But then I remembered Rosalie's definitive opinion of Isabella and I scoffed at him. As if I needed him to remind me that the timid new Swan girl was not my best match. "Don't worry about it," I said.

"Okay." He looked like he was going to leave, but then his face screwed up with indecision and he spoke. "I know how persuasive Alice can be, but I think this would be bad for everyone. And don't you dare tell her I said that."

Patting him on the back, I laughed. "How about this then: you stop trying to convince me to not hit on Isabella, and I won't tell Alice that you're interfering in her plans."

"Fine," he agreed as he rolled his eyes. "I'll see you later." He turned and headed off in the direction of his class, and I continued on to mine.

Most of the students were already seated when I got there, but my lab table was empty as usual. As Banner began writing up on the board, I perched on my stool, listening to the whispers around me. Most of it was about Isabella, and I smirked thinking how my self-important group of friends were not so far removed from the general population today.

And then she appeared.

Just showed up in the doorway.

With Mike Newton practically salivating over her shoulder.

And that's when it first occurred to me that maybe next year would be too late. She'd already have someone like him for a boyfriend. And where would that leave me? I'd have no one. I wasn't interested in any of the other girls in our year or even the younger ones. I'd probably wind up being the asshole who spent every weekend drunkenly hitting on girls he didn't like just so he could get off.

Isabella began heading toward my table, a blush spreading across her cheeks as she noticed my intense stare. She couldn't possibly know the thoughts going through my mind, but my expression was enough to make her shrink into herself. It was odd, seeing her react that way.

When she slid in beside me, I made sure to be as non-threatening as possible when I greeted her. "Hi," I said.

She peeked from behind her hair. "Hi." Her eyes lingered on my face for a moment, taking in my features, before looking back to Banner.

She seemed so quiet, but in an endearing way. There was nothing particularly earth-shattering about her; dark hair around her too pale face and wide, curious eyes. She could be any girl, but somehow that seemed to make her exceptional in a world where all the others had such strong personalities.

I wasn't wrong when I'd thought of her as unimpressive, as that's how she appeared. But looking at her now, I decided it was more a case of her being understated. Her plain, natural beauty was far more alluring than Jessica's shiny lips or Lauren's enhanced cleavage. And as she opened her notebook and began taking down Banner's notes, Alice's earlier description of her being studious came to mind.

A studious girlfriend would be a good choice for senior year.

Her eyes flicked in my direction, and I realized I was still blatantly staring at her. I dropped my gaze, not wanting to make her uncomfortable, and began to seriously reconsider my earlier decision.

The reason I wasn't really interested in having a girlfriend right now would not exist next year. Isabella would probably be the girl I'd want to date, but there was no doubt in my mind she would have someone else at that point. Suddenly, my logic in deciding that I didn't want a girlfriend right now seemed entirely flawed. It was true I didn't need one, but there was nothing really stopping me. It might piss off Rosalie and Jasper, but not in any lasting way.

Now that I was finally allowing myself to consider having a girlfriend, my mind was running with it, coming up with very sound arguments as to why it would not be a good idea to wait. Maybe Isabella wouldn't want to be my girlfriend. That was the kind of thing that I should really find out sooner rather than later, right? And there were other things, too, that took time to cultivate. If I wanted a physical relationship with someone like her, someone not overtly sexual, then the sooner we started getting to know each other, the better.

It now seemed imperative that I at least start talking to her.

I cleared my throat to get her attention, and when she looked my way I smiled beguilingly. "My name's Edward."

Her cheeks flushed a little. "I know." Her admission made me wonder if Alice hadn't already been in her ear about me. At my surprised look, she offered, "Some of the girls were pointing out people to me at lunch." She put her head down a little and bit on her lip before adding, "I'm Bella."

"Bella. That's nice." She smiled and blushed a little more, all nerves and shyness. She was sweet, just like Rose said.

And sweet might be nice for a change.

. ~ . ~ . ~ .

A/N: I had an embarrassing number of pre-readers for this, so I'll just thank one each chap.

miztrezboo – you're the number one reason this story exists. Thanks for loving on Roseward as much as I do :) (And, you know, the whole Foldsy thing, too. Ya see the titles? Haha.)

I'm going to update as regularly as I can, but I honestly can't say how often that will be. I'll do my best though, okay :)