Chapter 21

From the moment Edward's lips touched mine, I knew nothing would ever be the same again.

Electricity coursed through me, deep and hot, sizzling every muscle, zinging every nerve. My body felt like a live wire, and the current seemed to spark hotter in the places that we touched. I had never felt this way before, never experienced anything even remotely like it and, while the foreign sensations should have probably put me on edge, they only seemed to be spurring me on, encouraging me to get closer, to touch more.

My hands roamed his body freely, starting with his scalp and working their way down the nape of his neck, across his shoulder blades, tracing his spine, caressing the planes of his abdomen. His hands seemed to have a similar idea as they ran up and down my back, pausing to squeeze my hips and knead the backs of my thighs before making their way back up again. Every moan of mine was met with one of his own, every shudder seeming to travel through him after leaving me. It was incredible. I couldn't get enough.

It was my tongue that stopped him in the end. When Mark and I had been together, he used to like to stick his tongue in my mouth. Listening to other girls talk about French kissing at school, hell, even listening to my mother prattle on about it on occasion, I knew that this was supposed to be a good sensation, pleasurable, but with Mark it had always felt like he was trying to suck my mouth out. I'd never understood why he'd want to do this, why he'd always insist on doing it... until now.

My lips against Edward's weren't enough. My body pressed against his wasn't enough contact. I wanted to get closer. I needed to get closer.

So I swiped my tongue along his bottom lip, shuddering at the exquisite taste of him, the feeling, the rush...

And then he was gone.

In true Edward fashion.

I was too dazed to hear the glass shatter, but the spray of the rain from outside caught my attention quickly enough.

He had jumped through my window.

He hadn't paused to open it.

I couldn't decide how I felt about this development. On a physical level, I missed the feeling of his body against mine, the way his fingers had felt against my spine, the way his chest had vibrated when he moaned. On a mental level, I was... well, I was useless.

I stared blankly outside as the storm raged on, idly looking down to take in the glimmering shards of glass where they lay on the ground far beneath my room, admiring the way they glittered for a moments before looking out again, watching the wind and rain tear through my tree.

My lips were tingling, my muscles twitching with residual energy. I felt like I could run a marathon, scale a building, but I seemed to have been struck dumb by his absence.

I couldn't think. I could only feel.

My phone beeped from my backpack behind me.

I brought my fingertips to my lips, remembering where his had been just moments before.

My phone beeped again.

I wrapped my arms around my stomach, resting my hands on my hips, squeezing them the way he had.

Another beep. Someone was texting me.

I reached up and wrapped my hair around my fingers, tugging it lightly, playing with it like...

My phone beeped again, just as the house phone began ringing downstairs.

Someone was trying to get in touch with me.

Oh.

Oh.

Shit... how long had I been spacing out?

Rain kept blowing through my window and a particularly violent flash of lightening had me jumping off my desk in shock, stumbling back on weak legs until I managed to catch myself on my bed. Startled, I surveyed the damage to the window, the growing puddle of rain collecting on my desk top, and, finally, the rather soaked state of my face, hair, and shirt.

Wow. One kiss and I'd gone catatonic.

My cell beeped.

Right... the phone.

Distractedly, I fumbled through the front pocket of my bag and snatched the offending item, fiddling with it as I hurried down the stairs to answer the still-ringing phone in the kitchen.

Five text messages.

From: Alice Cullen

Answer the door.

From: Emmett Cullen

Answer the door.

From: Alice Cullen

Can't you hear us? Answer the door.

From: Emmett Cullen

Dude, we've been knocking forever. Get your human ass down here.

From: Alice Cullen

You've ruined my shoes! Do you have any idea what excess water does to suede?

Surprised, I glanced out the window once I reached the living room. An enormous Jeep was out front.

And someone was knocking on the door. Forcefully.

Oops.

Blushing, I scurried towards it, unlocking and opening it quickly before rushing towards the kitchen to catch the phone.

"Isabella Swan, do you have any idea how long we've been out there?" Alice called shrilly from the front hall.

"I just have to get the-"

"It was me on the phone, Bella. How long does it take a person to answer a door?"

Shaking my head in embarrassment, I walked slowly back into the living room, looking up to find a soaked Alice and Emmett and...

"Why do you have a window?" I asked incredulously.

"To replace the one our dumb-ass brother broke," Emmett chuckled, shaking the water out of his hair. "Lead the way, little girl. Esme'd freak if she found out we'd let your desk get damaged."

With what I'm sure was a stupid look on my face, I glanced from Emmett to Alice, tilting my head to the side when she tapped her temple knowingly.

"How much did you see?" I whispered urgently to her, fighting the urge to run away and hide somewhere.

"I saw... enough," she replied cryptically, motioning for me to precede them up the stairs.

"No... You... you guys go on up," I said shakily. "I'll be there in a minute."

Emmett winked at me before hoisting up the new window and darting up the stairs and out of sight with Alice in tow.

I stood there dumbly for what felt like a really long time but was probably only a minute or so. Another loud clap of thunder brought me out of my embarrassed trance, and I stepped into the small downstairs bathroom for a moment to compose myself, splashing cold water on my face and trying not to grimace at the rather unkempt reflection I was presented with in the mirror.

By the time I made it back into my room, Emmett was drilling the last screws into my replaced window and Alice was applying some sort of wax to the top of my desk, which had been moved a few feet out from the wall.

"I'm trying to make sure it doesn't stain or warp," Alice explained as I walked into the room, not even bothering to look up as her hands flew over the surface, making the wood shine.

"Thanks," I said, surprised. "I didn't even think of that."

"Esme loves that desk," Emmett offered from behind his power tools. "She'd shit if anything happened to it."

"My desk?" I asked, confused. "Why would Esme know about..."

My brain caught up with my mouth and I suddenly flashed to a memory, a memory of my first days here, of a large Jeep pulling away from the house just as I pulled up, of Charlie telling me that Esme Cullen had finally found a suitable desk for me at an estate sale...

"I forgot," I breathed, more to myself than anyone else.

"Not like there hasn't been a lot going on," Emmett chuckled, seemingly oblivious to my distracted demeanor. It made me like him more.

"Too true," Alice agreed, making one more pass over the dark wood surface before hoisting it single-handedly and re-settling it beneath my new window.

"Jesus, Alice," I sputtered, struggling to make sense of the puzzling image she had just presented me with. "I know vamp-... vegetarians are strong, but..."

"It's creepy, right? She's like Mighty Mouse or some shit," Emmett laughed, dropping himself heavily onto my bed and bouncing a couple of times as though testing it out. "Damn, human girl, you've got one springy mattress."

He raised his eye brow suggestively at me and bounced some more as though proving his point.

"Enough," Alice tutted, seating herself daintily next to her brother. "Leave Bella and her springy bed alone."

"Fine," Emmett mock-pouted, making his lower lip quiver, "but only if Bella-boo explains exactly how her window came to be broken in the first place. More specifically, how did my dear, sweet, boring, brooding brother manage to end up on the other side of it?"

I shook my head, turning around and pretending to examine the new window in an effort to calm the blush that seemed intent on taking over my body, making even my hands feel suddenly hot and awkward.

"It was an accident," I said by way of explanation, my back still turned against my guests and my fingers pulling my locket from beneath my still-damp shirt, clutching at it like a lifeline.

Why had he left like that? Had he hated kissing me so much that he'd had to escape me by any means necessary? Had it been that bad?

At the time, I had been too distracted by the ghosts of his touch, the residual feelings still lingering on my skin. Now... now, with a new window, a polished desk, and two vampires sitting on my bed, the situation was a lot more confusing.

"Bella, since we're here, why don't you have Emmett set up your new computer?" Alice asked out of the blue.

I spun around to look at her, wondering what she could possibly mean until I saw her approach the corner of a white bag that was just barely peeking out from under my bed...

"Alice, I don't-"

"You got a new computer, human girl? Let's set that shit up!"

"Emmett, it's not-"

"Why would you keep a computer under your bed, human girl?" Emmett asked teasingly as he watched Alice pull bag after bag from beneath my bed frame, peeling the white plastic away to reveal what looked to be the entire contents of an Apple store. "Don't you know computers live on desks?"

"Emmett, Alice-"

"It's true," he persisted, smiling that boyish smile of his. "Why would you force a perfectly good computer under your bed when you could keep it in its natural habitat."

"Emmett-"

"Emmett, why don't you put the iMac on her desk, and I'll help her set-up her laptop," Alice interrupted, studiously avoiding my glare.

"Sure thing, sis. Human girl, you want this on the right side or the left?" Emmett asked, already across the room and unpacking the box before I could stop him.

"Right," Alice answered for me. "Make sure it doesn't block the window."

"Alice, I didn't want-"

"Let's get you situated on your laptop, Bella."

"I don't need a laptop and a desktop," I all but snarled, my hands curling into impotent fists at my sides. "That's ridiculous."

"Don't be silly," Alice replied, waving me off. "You need the desktop for your files. These skinny little laptops barely hold anything."

"Skinny little..." I trailed off, finally getting a good look at the piece of technology she was currently cradling in her lap.

"An Air? You got me a MacBook Air? What the-"

"I know it can't do as much as the Pro, but Edward was concerned about you having to carry it around school. Still, if you'd rather a Pro, we can get you that, too. I mean, if it was up to me, I probably would've gotten you one of those cute little net books..."

Shit... Edward. Edward had bought me this stuff. I'd forgotten about that... about why I'd shoved it all under my bed to begin with...

Edward.

The boy who had kissed me only to jump out my window.

Alice was still talking, babbling on about something computer related no doubt, but I tuned her out, looking fuzzily about the room as I took in all of the changes of my new life.

A month or so ago, I had been miserable in Phoenix, curled up in my hard bed with my head on Mark's shoulder, trying not to fall asleep so I wouldn't be faced with the evidence of my mother and step-father's lack of feeling for me.

Closing my eyes, I tried to put myself back there, tried to remember how it felt to be that Bella, but the bedroom that had been my haven there felt too sparse and cramped now, and the mere idea of physical closeness with anyone but Edward made my stomach turn.

"Bella?" Alice called from my bed, her tone heave with concern. "Is everything ok?"

I nodded, my eyes still closed, and the action seemed to appease her because the room was silent once more. And I was lost in thought again.

Knowing Edward had been a life altering experience, but touching him, kissing him, it was as if the entire universe had been flipped on its head. Up was down, black was white, and I was no longer certain of anything except the feeling of his lips, his hands, his breath...

Edward.

I felt my heart rate pick up as I thought of him, felt my chest rise and fall with now-heavy breaths.

Edward had left. He had run away. But where did he go?

Edward.

I thought about him, about the way he looked when he was thinking, or sad, or laughing...

Edward.

I thought about the way his hair had felt as it slipped through my fingers, the way his lips had tasted on my tongue...

Edward Cullen.

An image flashed behind my closed eyelids, sudden and startling in its intensity.

A beautiful boy soaked from the rain, his copper hair matted to his head, the expression on his face miserable as he sat on the two steps that led to the back door of my house.

Edward was outside, and he was in pain.

Without a thought I raced from my room, leaping down the stairs two at a time and somehow miraculously landing on the first floor in one piece. As if on instinct, my body sprinted into the laundry room, flicking the lock and gripping the knob of the seldom-used back door and yanking with my entire body until, suddenly, it gave way and he was there, standing in front of me, rain dripping down his face and sadness marring his beautiful features.

"Edward?" I breathed, my hand hovering between us, caught in a net of indecision about whether he would want me touching him or not.

"Bella, I'm so sorr-"

My lips were on his before he could finish the words.

He was here and he was sorry and, now, he was kissing me back.

I would worry about the rest later.

Big-Fat A/N:

Hello, all, and happy new year!

I hope everyone's holidays were fantastic, and I apologize for the protracted update delay, but I've been a busy bee lately.

First off, I'd like to thank IssaBissa and Hannah for being awesome betas, and welcome Hannah back into my fanfic life! It's been a while since I've worked with her, but her notes always make me smile and, of course, they were both super helpful with this chapter in particular, which went through two very divergent drafts.

Now, I'm going to try something different in an effort to keep me posting more often. Every chapter will have a question at the bottom, something I'm hoping will inspire me for future updates, and I'd love it if, in addition to (or instead of) reviews, you'd participate by answering with your own life experience. I (obviously) write this story from my own history and encounters, and I think it would be fun if I got to see where you're coming from as well.

So... the question is...: Have you ever been in love? What did it feel like?

Thanks for playing, and see ya next time!