Two in the Morning
"Um… hi?" A deep voice sounded from behind me.
With a breathless shriek I stood up quickly, gracelessly banging my head on the refrigerator door frame. The pitcher of water I held in my hand sloshed as I backed up hastily, my other hand pressed against my throat.
"W-who are you?" I asked accusingly, backing into the kitchen table. As the panic cleared from my eyes I realized I was looking, not at a burglar bent on bloody murder, but a tall, lanky, sleepy-eyed and burnish-haired student. Edward Cullen.
He rubbed his face, looking exhausted, before returning his green gaze to me. "I'm Edward. I live here?" It sounded like a question; like a little boy trying to explain why he shouldn't get in trouble. Which, given that I was a stranger standing in his house at two in the morning, half dressed, seemed rather adorable.
"Oh right, of course." I shook my head, embarrassed. "I didn't expect anyone to come in this late." Standing against the table, holding the pitcher now half full of water in from me like a shield, I took a tentative step forward. "I'm Bella Swan. A friend of Rosalie."
That fact didn't seem to register. "Are you okay?" He nodded his head, lifting his chin.
I looked at him confused. Then he touched the back of his head and pink bloomed across my cheeks. "Oh, yeah. Perfectly fine." I rubbed my hand against the sore spot where my head met the refrigerator moments earlier. There was little pain. "It happens a lot."
He smiled at me this perfect smile and his eyes grew soft. My knees and stomach reacted in kind. He was nothing like I had heard. People said he was cold, unfriendly, rude and aloof. But the man in front of me was so warm and inviting I had a hard time imagining this slice of gorgeous was the same person Jessica had referred to as a "total prick".
He nodded, assured I was okay, and stepped over the threshold before turning and shutting the door behind him. He flicked the lock and walked over to the table, dropping a heavy bag of books on its surface. "I didn't mean to scare you. I didn't think anyone would be awake this late." He looked down at this watch. "Two in the morning. Emmett pretends to be wild, but he's usually asleep by eleven."
"We got in a few hours ago. Emmett and Rosalie picked me up and allowed me to crash on your couch. They're asleep now." I bit my lip, looking up at him. He was so tall. "Sorry. I hope you don't mind."
He smiled slightly and shook his head. "Not at all. I can't imagine that couch is very comfortable, though. It has to be older than you are."
I giggled lightly, nodding. "Why do you think I'm up at this hour?"
"Good point." He stepped forward then toward me, taking the pitcher from my hands. "Here, let me get you that water." Taking a tall glass from the cabinet next to the refrigerator he filled it and handed it to me before leaning against the counter opposite me. When he got close I smelled musty books, laundry detergent and boy. I closed my eyes briefly. It was lovely. He was lovely.
People had him totally wrong. Even after knowing him for only two minutes, I knew they were wrong.
"So why'd you choose that lumpy old couch rather than your own bed? Too much to drink?"
Looking down at my bare feet on the beige linoleum, I shook my head. "Bad date," I breathed focusing my gaze back on him.
He straightened up and his eyes raked my body, over my ratty, too-big t-shirt, and my short boxers which made do as pajamas. "Are you alright?"
"Oh yeah," I waived my hand in the air, brushing off his concern. "I'm fine. It was just awkward." Silence filled the air before he spoke. He looked almost nervous.
"You can have my bed. I promise it's much more comfortable than the couch. Clean sheets and everything. You'll sleep much better." He gestured up toward the stairs.
"No, no." I looked at his book bag on the table next to me. "It looks like you haven't finished finals yet. You need sleep."
"Wrong. I need food." He turned toward the cabinets again, opening them one by one. "I forgot about dinner and now I'm starving. Everywhere on the way home was closed." Finding nothing of interest on the shelves, he re-opened the refrigerator. He pushed around a few bottles before standing up, defeated. "Emmett always eats the food, but never buys it."
I smiled and walked toward him, pushing him out of the way. "See, this is where strange, unexpected house guests come in handy. Sometimes they can cook." I made it a point to put my hand against his t-shirt and the flat of his stomach. It was hard and I shivered.
He obliged me, stepping away. "Bella, you really don't have to do that. I'm fine. Plus I doubt there's anything in there."
He was right, there wasn't much with which to work. Frozen broccoli, butter, milk, the heel of a loaf of bread, maple syrup, and a suspicious looking half a sandwich. Standing up on my tip-toes I rooted around in a cabinet.
"Ah-ha!" I whirled around with a box and the maple syrup. "Pancakes!"
Edward gave me a tired, grateful smile that made my insides do somersaults. "Can't think of anything I'd rather have. Thank you, Bella."
His voice deepened when he said my name and it was all I could do not to squirm and blush. To distract myself, I turned around and turned the stove on, setting it to medium-low heat. Then I opened the box of pancake mix and poured in some milk, smelling it first.
The pancakes cooked quickly as Edward stood behind me, peeking over my shoulder, watching me work. He was so close. I made myself stand still, lest I press up against him as my body seemed tempted to do. "How do you get them so perfect? When I make them the ends are always squidgy."
"Squidgy?" I laughed. "You must be impatient. You can't touch them for at least fifteen seconds."
Edward nodded and seemed satisfied and went to sit at the table behind us, pushing his books off to the side.
I spread a bit of softened butter between the pancakes and drizzled a generous serving of maple syrup across the top before setting the plate and a fork in front of him. His eyes glazed over and he groaned. "God, Bella. Thank you." He picked up my hand and squeezed it before digging in.
He seemed to catch himself before the fork hit the plate and looked up at me. "You're not eating?"
"Just brushed my teeth," I explained.
"Sit with me while I eat then? Unless you want to sleep?" He looked at me earnestly.
I shook my head and smiled and sat on the chair next to him. I pulled my foot up on the chair and rested my chin on my knee, watching him delightedly as he shoveled down my cooking.
"So tell me about this date. If you want to, of course." He chewed and shot me a questioning glance.
I shrugged my shoulders. "Not much to tell really." He seemed genuinely interested though and gestured for me to continue while his mouth was full with sugary pancakes. "Well, it was this guy in my Astronomy class. Nice enough kid; has asked me out a couple times. We have friends in common and he seemed promising."
Edward raised an eyebrow and didn't look convinced. But then he took another bite and his expression got decidedly more content.
"So we went to the movies, and then to this house party. We talked on the porch for awhile and I played a little purse shield."
"What's purse shield?" Edward asked. He stole my water glass then and quickly drank half of it.
"Um... you know. When you're with a guy you don't like and you get the vibe he wants to kiss you. You hold your purse in front of your body, kind of like a shield. That way it's much more awkward for him to lean in and try and kiss you. It really works."
He stopped chewing and swallowed. "Bella, if some guy throws himself at you, knee him in the groin and scratch his eyes out. No sense in being polite."
Blushing, I looked down. "It wasn't like that. He didn't really try anything."
I rolled my eyes at him and nodded. "He seemed to get the hint though. He took offense and said it was my loss and that I was plain and boring." Even I had to laugh at the playground insult.
Edward didn't laugh. He just blinked at me. "Bella. You're not plain. Bella, you're... beautiful. And ah... not boring."
I smiled dopily at the awkward and yet incredibly sweet compliment, my mood soaring. I chewed on my nail to hide it. "Um... well." I paused and tried to work up my courage. "You too."
A blush stole across his cheeks and the tips of his ears got red before he started shoveling more pancakes in. He was smiling though. Maybe it was the late hour, maybe it was the fact that I felt oddly comfortable being near him, but for whatever reason, my shyness melted away.
I decided to change the subject before I pushed my luck. "So what final are you studying for?"
Edward took up the last piece of pancake on his fork and slid it in his mouth. "Inorganic Chem. Tomorrow at eleven."
"Edward!" I said, leaning over toward him and looking at his watch. "it's nearly three in the morning. You need to go to bed." I grabbed his wrist just because I could.
I stood up and tugged on his arm, pulling him up out of the chair. He obliged and stood slowly. He didn't move forward though, so I stepped behind him and pressed on his back with my hands moving him toward the door. Too bad he was twice my size. He didn't move very far.
"Wait, what about you?" He asked, looking over his shoulder at me.
"What do you mean, what about me?"
"That couch is awful. Where are you going to sleep?" He looked down at me with an amused look on his face as I humphed and stepped back once I realized he wasn't going to move.
"Uh, on the couch of course. I don't mind it, really."
He signed, exasperated. "Whatever, Bella. Come on. Let's go sleep." He stood up from the table, pushing his hands through his hair. He strode out of the room as I called quietly after him.
"What about the dishes?"
After a moment he returned through the kitchen doorway, my over-night bag slung over his shoulder. "Don't worry about it. I'll take care of them tomorrow. Now I just need sleep. I'm so beat."
He extended his hand toward me, and for some reason my body reacted unconsciously and I put my hand in his. We both stopped for a moment, realizing how intimate the gesture of holding hands really was, but the moment of awkward understanding passed quickly as he pulled me behind him through the doorway.
I followed him up the stairs to his room, my hand in his the entire way. It was warm and firm and big and strong and reassuring and thrilling. When we entered his room, he dropped my bag on the foot of the bed.
"Going to brush my teeth. Make yourself comfortable."
"Wait, which side of the bed do you take?"
"Um... usually the right, but if being by the wall makes you uncomfortable, it's not a big deal."
He nodded. "Sure."
When he came out of the bathroom I was nestled in the far side of the bed against the wall, cozy under the covers. They smelled like him.
"Do you want me to sleep on top of the covers," he asked looking down at me. He'd washed his face and his hair was damp, sticking up in odd directions making it look darker than before.
"No, it's fine." I pulled back the sheet. "Get in."
He slid in beside me, plumped his pillow and let out a grateful groan. "I have never been so happy," he said sleepily, his face buried in his pillow.
"Wait. Don't crash yet. Set your alarm." I said, poking him in the shoulder.
"Oh right. Shit. Not something I want to forget." He got up out of bed again and fished his phone out of his pants pocket which he had draped over his desk chair. Pressing buttons, he walked back to the bed and set the phone on the night stand. I stared at his broad shoulders. "Thanks, Bella," he said softly.
"You're welcome, Edward," I responded in kind.
He slept on his stomach and I lay on my back. Our fingers brushed on the pillows. We whispered goodnight and fell asleep like that; barely touching, but touching all the same.
Morning came quickly and I was awakened by Edward's alarm. He slept soundly beside me, his hand resting familiarly on my stomach. I blushed and poked him in the shoulder. I couldn't see his face since it was buried in his pillow; all that showed were tufts of his thick auburn hair sticking up from the white sheets.
He hadn't moved so I poked him again. "Edward," I said loudly in my gravelly morning voice. He only groaned and tightened his grip on my t-shirt.
So I kicked him on the shin. He raised his head and blinked at me blankly. His hand slid from my stomach and into his hair which made it stick up even more. Adorable.
"Get up. Shower. You have a test in an hour."
He groaned again. "Good morning to you too, Bella."
I gave him my most winning smile causing him to give me a double-take before he turned away and put his feet on the floor. Obviously he wasn't a morning person.
Standing up he grabbed a towel from the shelf over his closet. Reaching caused his t-shit to lift up and I glanced at the 'V' above the waistband of his shorts. Chiseled. "Wow. I haven't slept that hard in forever. What was in those pancakes?"
I frowned at him. "You were exhausted. You really should try and take better care of yourself."
He grinned at me over his shoulder. "I promise that at two o'clock you can pamper me as much as you like." He turned around and crawled back on the bed before laying his head down on the blanket covering my stomach. "Maybe we can even take a nap together later."
I swatted at his head, secretly thrilled. Okay, maybe he was a morning person. I was charmed. "Ugh. You are such a guy." My rebuke was softened by the fact that I was running my hands through his hair.
We laid there together for a few more minutes and I felt myself drifting back to sleep, so I sat up and poked him again. "Edward. Up. Now." He shook his head and held me tighter. "I promise we can play house after you pass your test."
He raised his head and squeezed my side. "Deal." He got up and wandered into the bathroom and I heard the shower start up.
I forced myself out of bed as well, away from Edward's warmth and scent. Tragic.
Dressing quickly, I stepped into the hallway bathroom to brush my teeth. I passed Emmett and Rosalie's room on the way. I could hear Emmett's snores through the door. They wouldn't be up and about for a little while yet.
At the front door I pulled on my shoes, jogged down the steps and walked to the nearby bakery where I picked up a bag of fresh bagels, vegetable cream cheese, and two coffees for me and Edward. I also picked him up a special egg and bacon bagel sandwich. There was nothing in the house and he needed to eat, I explained to myself. I wasn't buying him food just so he would smile crookedly at me again. Not at all.
I got back to the house and wandered into the kitchen to refrigerate the cream cheese. Edward was sitting at the table, his books open and his chin resting on his hand.
He looked up quickly. "I thought you left."
He sounded genuinely concerned so I walked over to him and he wrapped his arm around my waist. I leaned into his shoulder.
Handing him his breakfast sandwich and coffee, I shook my head. "Just got you some food."
"Wow, Bella." He took my offerings. "That's amazing. Thank you."
I pushed a stray lock of hair back from his forehead, enjoying his closeness. "You'll have to eat it on the way or you'll be late."
He looked at his watch and scooted back his chair. "Oh, yeah, you're right."
"Do you feel ready?" He seemed nervous and fidgety.
"I better be. I put enough time into it. It should be fine." He packed up his books and zipped them into his bag.
"Okay," I nodded.
He turned away and started to walk toward the door, but then stopped and looked back at me with his mouth open as if he were about to say something. But then he shook his head slightly and continued walking into the living room.
I bit my lip, having no idea what happened. First he looked crushed that I might have left before saying goodbye then he got weird and acted as if he couldn't wait to be rid of me.
But then I heard the thump of his shoes on the hardwood floor, coming back toward me.
He was walking quickly and he stepped close to me, wrapped his hand around the back of my neck and pressed his lips against mine.
I was shocked and stood stiff.
His lips moved chastely over mine, warm and soft. I shuddered and clutched his t-shirt in my hands.
"I haven't even known you twenty-four hours," he breathed when his lips lifted from mine. "What the hell is going on?"
At the moment I was having trouble bringing air into my lungs, so I shrugged, honestly clueless what this weird, inexplicable attraction was between us. Like we had known each other for decades.
He looked into my eyes, as if trying to find some answers. Seeing something or nothing, the tension left his shoulders. He rested his forehead against mine and breathed as if he just gave into some inescapable pull.
"Will you meet me after my exam? It's over at two. I can meet you outside Forks Hall. Emmett already said he'd meet me, and I'm sure he'll bring Rosalie along, but I'd love it if you where there too."
He was babbling. The poor, ridiculous man was adorable.
As if I would say no.
I smiled up at him and nodded. "Of course I'll be there."
That gorgeous crooked smile came back and he looked relived. "Great." His hands slid into the back pockets of my jeans and pulled me closer. "Can I kiss you again after the test?"
Biting my lip I nodded again, grinning like a fool. "I'm looking forward to it."
He pressed his lips against my forehead. Still smiling, he backed away. "I really have to go now."
"You won't be late will you?"
"I'll be early."
"Yes. I promise."
Emmett, Rosalie and I climbed the stone steps to the quad, taking our time walking to Forks Hall. People were slowly trickling out of the building as they finished their exams. Given it was the last day of testing and most people had finished, the campus was quiet and only a handful of people milled around.
Once on the quad, we sat on the wooden bench across the lawn from the main doors. Emmett sat sprawled out with his arm around Rosalie while I fidgeted with my clothes and hair.
"What's wrong with you, Bella?" Rosalie said in her usual blunt manner. "You've been weird and distracted all morning."
I shrugged, unwilling to explain the source of my nerves. I was giddy. I could barely contain my excitement. Edward Cullen was mine. Or something. Me. Plain old Bella Swan. And for some reason he liked me. It was baffling but amazing.
Now in about two minutes he was going to kiss me again and I was pretty sure it would be amazing some more. Again. "I'm fine."
"You're not nervous about meeting Edward are you? I know he has a reputation of being a jerk, but just ignore him. No big deal," Rosalie shrugged.
"Now, Bella, don't let Edward… bother you. He's kind of hard to get to know. And if he brushes you off, don't get offended, it's just kind of how he operates," Emmett explained, acting like a big brother as he was prone to do.
Rosalie scoffed while picking at her fingernail. "What Emmett really means is that Edward is a pompous idiot who thinks he's too good for everyone." She rolled her eyes. Because obviously Rose was completely unfamiliar with that sentiment.
Emmett laughed and draped his arm around Rose's shoulder, squeezing her tight. "He's really not that bad."
I grinned. "I promise I won't get my feelings hurt."
Just then I saw him. I'd know that lanky walk and burnished hair anywhere. His bag was thrown over his shoulder and he strided quickly toward us. I stood up and started wringing my fingers. I couldn't wait to get my hands on him.
Emmett stood up too and shouted to Edward. "You're done! Finally. Let's get booze."
Edward grinned and ducked his head.
As Edward drew closer, Emmett waved in my direction. "Hey, man. I want you to meet Bella, Rosalie's friend..."
Edward kept walking quickly past Emmett, barely sparing him a smile.
His focus was on me. Entirely.
He walked directly into me.
Never losing speed he picked me up by my waist and took me with him as he continued walking.
I laughed loudly and wrapped my arms and legs around his shoulders and waist. His bright eyes met mine and I smiled and grabbed a handful of his hair.
He was smiling too, I could feel it when he pressed his lips to mine and took my bottom lip between his.
This kiss wasn't like before, it wasn't chaste. It was damp and deep and delicious. Edward pulled me tighter to him and slid his hands over my bottom, supporting me as he picked up speed and directed us toward his house. His tilted his head and kissed me deeper.
Our tongues pressed together and I swear I could feel him purr. His hands squeezed over my jeans and I clutched him tighter.
It was heaven.
From behind us, Emmett bellowed.
"So I guess you two have met?"