AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Please be advised that this is a story about rape, it's effects on a high school relationship, and the beginning steps of recovery for both the victim and her significant other. I have already written this story in its entirety (I will update weekly) and can assure you that there are no scenes of gratuitous violence or graphic sexual assault. The topic of sexual assault is handled realistically, but with upmost sensitivity. Still, if rape is a topic that is especially upsetting to you, you might want to read another story.

All Twilight references belong to Stephenie Meyer. Original material belongs to this author.

CHAPTER ONE

**Bella**

My first meeting with Edward was pure coincidence. Others might call it a twist of fate or a stroke of luck, or maybe the universe just happened to be in perfect alignment. No matter how you put it, both of us happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I learned later that he'd stayed after baseball practice to run a mile—he'd shown up late for warm-ups, go figure—and I, like an idiot, had managed to lock my keys in my car. I paced the asphalt of the school parking lot, trying over and over to reach my parents, but neither was answering their phone. Seconds after my last failed attempt, my own phone rang. I answered with a frantic, "Hello?"

I'd been hoping for my dad, but instead I heard an unmistakably cold voice, still capable of sending icicles up my spine after nearly three months. "Bella, it's Riley."

I stayed silent, my tongue twisted up in terror.

"Listen to me," he demanded. "I miss you, Bella. We belong together. I'm going to find a way to see you—"

With trembling hands, I snapped my phone shut and shoved it deep into my bag, as if that might keep it from ringing again. I tried to work through the fear, to calm myself down, and at the same time figure out how serious he might be. I hadn't heard from him in a few months. Stupidly, I'd thought the restraining order and the move south had been enough. I should have known better than to underestimate Riley Biers.

Rolling my shoulders, I tried to loosen the sharp claws of anxiety that dug into me. Riley was far away, still in Chicago. He didn't know where I was.

Despite the deep breaths of early spring air I sucked in, my heart continued to pound an alarmingly irregular beat. I cupped my hands and peered through my car window at my keys, lying uselessly on the leather passenger seat. A gust of wind blew through and I shuddered, dreading the time I was about to spend in the darkening parking lot with nothing but the echo of Riley's voice to keep me company. Tears pricked my eyes. I wanted to go home.

The roar of an approaching engine startled me. I spun around to see a silver Volvo pulling up behind my car. The driver's side window slid down and the vaguely familiar face of a boy around my age emerged to assess me. "Hey," he called over the hum of his engine.
I clasped my still-shaking hands behind my back and snapped, "What?"

He recoiled slightly, like he wasn't used to being spoken to so harshly. "Uh, I wanted to see if you were okay."

"I'm fine," I said with a roll of my eyes.

He leaned further out his window and surveyed the parking lot. "Then why are you standing out here in the dark by yourself?"

I exhaled and pushed my shoulders back, hoping to exude confidence I didn't feel. "I locked my keys in my car. It's hard to go anywhere without them."

"Do you need a ride?"

He must have been crazy. Like I'd accept a ride from a stranger. "I don't know you."

Oozing cockiness, he chuckled in a way that instantly irritated me. "Well, letting me take you home would be a lot safer than standing around alone in the dark."

"My dad will be here soon. He's going to bring me the spare key." Not that it's any of your business.

He turned his own key, cutting the hum of his Volvo's engine. "I'll wait with you."

"That's not necessary."

"Yeah, it is. When's your dad coming?"

Damn it. I wanted to tell him my dad was coming any minute, that he could fire his engine right back up and go, but he was staring at me expectantly, wide eyes assuming I'd give him an honest answer. "I don't know," I admitted, feeling a little sheepish and very annoyed. "I can't reach him."

"Oh, perfect… so, what, you were just going to sleep out here?"

"No! He'll be home soon. I was going to call him again in a few minutes."

He got out of his Volvo and walked to my BMW, then glanced through the tinted driver's side window while I stood by, watching with apprehension. He took his time, his eyes raking brazenly over the interior until I started to feel exposed— as if he were judging me. "This is a fancy car for a teenager, don't you think?"

My jaw dropped at his audacity. I was tempted to argue, but there was no point. My car was ridiculous. The day my father brought it home, brand new and glossy black, I'd quietly accepted it for what it was: a consolation prize for being uprooted in the middle of my senior year, for the life and friends I'd left behind in Chicago. I glanced over at his glossy Volvo. "Like you can talk," was my weak retort.

He laughed again, and I wondered if he was always so arrogant. I'd seen him before, but I couldn't place where. Tall and lean, he had an athlete's build, solid upper body filling out his t-shirt. His eyes were meadow-green, his hair like a shiny penny, mostly hidden under a red and white baseball hat.

I averted my gaze as he made a show of pulling his phone out of the back pocket of his well-worn jeans. He looked at the time on the digital display, then at me. "So, what are we going to do now?"

I sighed at his persistence, his assumption that we were in this together, though in truth, I was angrier with Riley and myself than him. "We aren't going to do anything. You're going to get back in your car and go home."

His face finally fell. "You know, you could at least pretend to be appreciative. Who knows what might happen if I left you alone out here in the dark. At least now you've got pleasant company."

"Pleasant?"

My blatant mockery must have exhausted the last of his patience because he crossed his arms over his chest, all the warmth gone from his eyes. "Has anyone ever told you you're overindulged and unappreciative?"

"Has anyone ever told you you're smug and presumptuous?" I fired back.

"Look, you're crazy if you think I'm going to leave you out here all alone. What kind of person would I be if I did that?"

"What kind of person would I be if I climbed into a car with a stranger?" And there it was—chivalrous or not, I didn't trust him.

"I don't think I qualify as a stranger," he said with a new gentleness. He gestured toward the red brick buildings across the parking lot. "We go to the same school."

I looked at him then, really seeing him for the first time. Recognition and then humiliation registered as my cheeks went hot. He was in my fifth period class. I'd been sitting a few rows in front of him all semester. "You have Math with Mrs. Cope, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do," he answered, obviously satisfied by my embarrassment. He stuck out his hand for me to shake. "I'm Edward Masen."

I couldn't find my voice right away. Despite my bitchiness, he was introducing himself—politely, no less. He should have left me in a cloud of exhaust five minutes ago, but now he was grinning and extending his hand as if he wanted to know me.

I slipped my hand into his. "Bella Swan."

"It's nice to finally meet you."

"Likewise." He'd known who I was all along. It would've been nice if he'd clued me in, but I couldn't fault him. If Riley hadn't called, if my keys hadn't been locked in my car, if I'd been paying more attention, I would have recognized him, too. Edward played baseball—well, apparently. I'd been hearing his name on the morning announcements since the season started. I'd even seen his picture in the local paper a few times. We'd never talked, but then, I didn't really talk to anyone other than Rosalie.

"It's kind of cold tonight," Edward said. "Maybe we could sit in my car while we wait for your dad to come?"

"You're really going to wait?"

"Yeah, I am. Unless you do the rational thing and let me drive you home."

I bit my lip, weighing my options. He seemed like a decent enough guy. He'd put up with me this long, and I really didn't want to wait around for my parents to get home.

"All right," I said, bending to pick my school bag up off the ground. I followed him to the passenger door of his Volvo and failed to hide my surprise when he opened it for me. "Thank you."

He moved out of the way so I could climb in, but I didn't miss the way he looked me up and down as I stepped up onto the running board. "I know I'm a stranger and all, but I'm not really all that scary," he pointed out once I was seated.

I cracked a small smile. He didn't seem scary, but neither had Riley—at least not in the beginning. "I'll try to remember that."

He slammed the door and walked around the back while I did a quick survey of my surroundings. The Volvo was a mess, cluttered with clothes and baseball equipment. There were CDs laying loose on the dash and papers I tried not to step on all over the floor. It looked like he lived out of his car. I buckled my seat belt, wondering what I'd gotten myself in to.

"Where to?" he asked once he was settled. I gave him my address as he steered onto the main road from the parking lot, glancing quickly at me to ask, "How long have you lived here?"

"A few months, we moved here right before Christmas."

I'd hated Tennessee at first, hated everything about Ridgeville, but then, without my permission, the South started to grow on me. I found that I enjoyed sweet tea and chess pie, and I couldn't help but smile in the grocery store when I overheard someone refer to a shopping cart as a buggy. How could I not appreciate a town so charming it actually had a tree-lined Main Street?

"Where'd you live before?"

"Chicago."

"Really? White Sox or Cubs?"

Was that some kind of riddle? "Um… what?"

"White Sox or Cubs? You know, Chicago's baseball teams? Who do you follow?"

"Oh." Obviously. "The Cubs, I guess. My dad likes the Cubs."

"You're not much of a baseball fan?" He sounded surprised… disappointed.

"Sure." He glanced over and I smiled so he'd know that at least I was a good sport. "It's America's past time, right?"

He laughed for the first time, a deep, pleasant sound that made my stomach do the most unwelcome flip. "Why'd you move here?"

My mood darkened automatically, a dark cloud passing over the sun. Because my first and only boyfriend was the picture of dysfunction and my dad thought moving was the only way to keep me safe. An involuntary shiver rushed through me as I tried to come up with a less risky answer.

"Are you cold?" he asked, his eyes skimming quickly over my thin shirt and cropped jeans. He cranked the heat, then rooted blindly in the backseat until he unearthed a red sweatshirt. "Here."

I eyed him warily; putting on a piece of his clothing was far more intimate than I was comfortable with. Besides, my shiver had nothing to do with the cold.

"It's clean," he told me as I held the sweatshirt at arm's length.

"That's not what I was worried about," I mumbled. Against my better judgment, I pulled it over my head, hoping if I could appease him on this issue, he wouldn't think I was a total nut job. I had to admit, the soft cotton felt good against my skin.

"Are you going to tell me why you moved to Ridgeville?" he asked again as I rolled the sleeves of his sweatshirt up over my hands.

"You're very inquisitive, Edward. Do you always interrogate people you've just met?"

"No… not really. You don't have to answer if you don't want to."

"It's okay, I guess. My parents wanted a bigger house and more space. It was crowded where we used to live." A half-truth, the best I could do. "How long have you lived here?"

"My whole life."

"I figured."

"Did you? Is it that obvious?"

"Yes. You're very helpful. People who grow up in big cities usually aren't." Plus, he had a cute lazy drawl—a dead giveaway.

"That's too bad. The world would be a better place if people were more considerate."

I studied him, amused. He was smiling again, like maybe he didn't hate me quite as much as he probably should have. What I knew so far of Edward was mystifying—a messy, idealistic jock with adorable dimples and good manners.

"What now?" he asked, his eyes finding mine.

I whipped my head forward, embarrassed to have been caught admiring him. "Nothing!"

I played with the beaded bracelet on my wrist, trying to get my thoughts together. He was dangerously charming. I knew nothing about him, but I could feel myself sinking easily into his trap. I'd fallen for it before—handsome, gracious, easy to talk to. It had all been a sham. Edward was exactly the type of guy I'd run from a few months before, exactly the type of guy I'd been trying to forget.

"What were you doing at school so late?" he asked, rolling to a stop at a red light, one of the few traffic signals in town.

"Tutoring."

"Who do you tutor?" He was relentless with the questions. It was hard to tell if he was interested or just filling the quiet.

"Whoever shows up needing help with math, mostly sophomores and juniors."

"How often?"

"Twice a week, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It's a volunteer thing, something I did in Chicago, too. You know, good to put on college admission applications."

"Do you know where you're going next year?"

"Watkins. It's an art school in Nashville." Watkins was a new development. I'd been slated for The Art Institute of Chicago, but my father had refused to allow me to go anywhere within one-hundred miles of Riley. Watkins it was. "What about you?"

"Belmont. I'm going to play ball there."

"Speaking of which," I said, more than ready to turn the questions on him. "What were you doing at school so late? Doesn't practice let out before dark?"

He frowned. "Yeah, usually. Coach Cullen wanted me to run a few extra laps."

"Why? Aren't you one of the best players?" I said it frankly, like I didn't care one way or the other, but I knew he was.

"It's a long story," he sighed before turning left onto the narrow road that led to my house. As we reached the top of the hill, the trees became sparse and then we pulled onto the too-grand-for-Ridgeville circular driveway. "This is where you live?" he asked, unable to keep the awe from his voice.

I hated being judged, especially on things like my house and car. That was one of the reasons I liked spending time with Rosalie, the closest friend I'd made in Ridgeville. She was usually so absorbed in herself that she missed all the odd little things about my life I liked to keep tucked away.

"Yes. Thanks for the ride. I appreciate it." If it weren't for him, I would've spent half the night sitting outside in the dark, worrying Riley would call back.

"Anytime."

I moved to take off his sweatshirt, but he stopped me. "Keep it. It's cold tonight."

"But you might need it."

"Nah, you can give it back to me at school."

I stepped down to the driveway, slung my bag over my shoulder, then headed toward the house. As comfortable as I was in Edward's sweatshirt, I was glad to be free of his deep gaze and disarming questions.

"Bella!" he called from behind me.

I turned and took a few steps back toward his idling Volvo. "Yes?"

"Do you have a way into the house?"

"Oh, yes. There's a keypad on the garaged door."

"All right." He grinned, wide and unguarded, his eyes crinkling slightly at the corners. He was very cute. I needed to get inside before my blush betrayed me.

"Thanks again. Have a good night."

"Yeah, you too. I'll see you in Math tomorrow?" It sounded like a question, like he wasn't sure if I'd go back to ignoring him during fifth period. As much as I wanted to, as much as I knew I should, I wasn't sure I'd be able to.

"Sure, thanks again for the ride."

I turned again toward the house, feeling kind of dazed and much better than I had all day.

A/N - Thanks for reading. As you probably noticed, I've changed some of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight details - namely the setting, Bella's car, the fact that Bella's parents are together, and a few other things that will become apparent in the future. These details are crucial to this storyline. Hopefully it won't bug you too much that I've made some adjustments. I would greatly appreciate any feedback you might be willing to offer, so please click REVIEW when you're done here.

Chapter TWO will post this time next week. :)