This chapter is dedicated to Camila, a nurse who helped care for my lovely friend Mina when she was in the hospital. Thank you so much for taking such good care of my girl. It tickled me to no end to hear you were reading our Surfsper!

I know it has been absolutely forever – I'm not going to bore you with excuses. All I can say is, going forward, I will write when I can. Two of my kids have surgeries scheduled in the next month and a half, and my graduate work for school is beastly. I'm trying, but I make no promises as to when updates will happen. Snuck home in between family events so I could post this up. Hope y'all enjoy having Surfsper back.

When last we saw our couple:

Knowing I needed to head home, but reluctant to leave, I closed my eyes, allowing myself to enjoy the restful pleasure of being in her presence. After dozing off several times, I couldn't put it off any longer. Sliding my arm under Bella's shoulder, I eased my legs out from under her and moved to a kneeling position. Then, placing my other arm under her knees, I rotated, ignoring the screaming protests of my ribs while I lifted her onto the sofa. Settling her sleeping body onto the cushions, I covered her with the throw that had been draped across the back. I sat up on the edge next to her, then reached under the table and pulled out my shoes, stifling the groan elicited by my movements. Once I had them on, I leaned over to give Bella a kiss good night. Pausing, I smoothed her hair away from her face, then brushed a light kiss over each closed eyelid before bringing my lips to rest against hers. Sleepily, she kissed me back, a soft sigh escaping when I pulled away. Her hand drifted up my side, then down my arm, coming to rest on top of my hand. Her whispered words pierced the darkness of the silent room.

"You don't have to go. Stay with me, Jas, please."

Chapter 21

Blue Skies


Looking down at Bella – her eyes heavy with sleep, hair tousled on the sofa pillow, the hopeful smile that teased her mouth – I struggled with the reasons why I felt I needed to leave. My body and heart screamed at me to stay, while my mind knew there was no way in hell I was ready for where that might lead.

"Bells, I don't think-," I began, only to be cut off by Bella standing in front of me.

She rested her hands on my chest, and leaned up on her toes to place a kiss on my jaw, before whispering in my ear, "I promise to leave your virtue intact, but I would like to wake up in your arms again, without both of us being cramped into a three-foot wide space." She laid her head on my shoulder, her fingers brushing through the waves of hair on my neck. "Besides, it's late, and it's Friday. The bars will be making last call soon, and the roads will be full of idiots who think they'll never be a statistic. If you stay, I don't have to worry about you making it home safely." I slid my hands up her back to her shoulders, prepared to take hold of her hands and step away, until she added, in a soft whisper, "Please."

My resolve shattered, and with a groan I ducked my head to capture her mouth with mine. I kept the kiss gentle, fighting the temptation to give in to the desire that had simmered under the surface all night long. Cradling her face with my hands, I tasted her, the wine from earlier assailing my senses when my tongue slid across hers. Bella sunk into me, her fingers trailing down my spine to the hem of my shirt. She was a siren, and I suddenly found myself powerless in her hands. Digging deep, I mustered every last bit of restraint I had to pull away.

"Fine, I'll stay – to sleep." Taking Bella's hand, I inclined my head toward the hallway. "You have to be up early for work; lead the way."

The hint of a victorious smirk played at the corners of her mouth, but she wisely didn't vocalize her thoughts. After double-checking the locks on the front door, she led me to a closed door at the far end of the hall. Only the faint glow of a cloud-shrouded moon illuminated the silent room, latticing the bed in its wavering light. Releasing my hand, she walked over to a tall chest of drawers and pulled my sweatpants out of the center drawer.

"Here. These will be more comfortable than your shorts." Bella handed them to me with a caveat, "Just remember, you told me I could keep them, so don't think you're running off with them in the morning."

Opening another drawer, she rummaged around and pulled out an oversized football jersey. She excused herself, and I took advantage of her absence to change into the sweats. I laid my clothes over a chair in the corner, then stood staring out the window in an effort to divert my attention from the bed that occupied the center of the room.

I hadn't slept in the same bed with anyone in almost three years. The instances when I'd given in to my body's demands, I'd deliberately avoided taking the fuck buddy du jour back to my hotel room. Afterwards, I'd also made a hasty retreat from wherever we ended up. The exacting schedule of the tour had made it easy to escape any type of entanglement – until Bella.

The soft sound of the door latch catching broke through my inner musings, but I still didn't move from my silent vigil at the window. Arms encircled my waist and she pressed a kiss between my shoulder blades.

"Come to bed, Jas."

Swallowing hard, I looked down at the delicate fingers folded across my stomach. Taking one hand in mine, I turned around to face her. Bella's hair tumbled about her face in a riotous mess, her skin pink from having just been washed. The football jersey she wore fell to mid-thigh, and seeing her dwarfed by it had my body tightening in response, even as a pang of jealousy pricked my heart. Whose jersey was it– an old boyfriend's? If so, had he meant so much that she'd kept the shirt even after the relationship ended? Not for the first time, I let doubt flood me, and I wondered if I was making a colossal mistake.

Bella stepped backward, not releasing my hand until we reached the foot of the bed. Then, she walked to the side of the bed, pausing to remove the necklace I'd given her. Taking the time to straighten the cording, she laid it on the nightstand next to a small stack of books and the alarm clock. Bella bent to make sure the alarm clock was set, the hem of the shirt riding up to reveal a hint of skin at the top of her thighs. I ducked my head, wanting, needing, to look anywhere but at the tantalizing sight. Straightening, she pulled down the covers to slide into her side of the bed. What the fuck? Her side of the bed? It's the first time you've slept with the woman, what do you mean her side? Christ! I'm in so far over my head. My brain whirled, bombarding me with a myriad of thoughts and emotions. Unable to focus, I stared at the pillows while I fought to harness the stampeding thought in my mind. When I didn't make a move, Bella hesitated.

"Do you have a preference? I can sleep on the other side," she offered, easing herself toward the middle of the bed.

"What?" I looked up, giving myself a mental shake for being an emotional freak. "Oh, uhm, no, either is fine."

Fucking move, you moron! I bit the bullet and walked around to the other side. Honestly, could I be anymore fucked up? A beautiful woman, one I could easily fall in love with, invited me into her bed, and I stood around debating the merits of the idea. Love? Where the hell did that come from? I needed a cigarette so bad I could already taste it, but I knew if I walked outside for a smoke, I would keep going. The thought of how much that would hurt Bella ended up being the only thing that stopped me.

Pulling back the covers, I eased my way into the bed, waiting for some karmic bitch slap to occur for even daring to take another step toward letting go and moving on. When the world didn't end, I relaxed, sinking in to the pillow. I felt the bed shift when Bella moved, and I rolled on to my side to face her. In the moonlight, her eyes were luminous, the lids fighting against the lure of sleep while she cautiously rested her head against my chest. Her foot slid between my calves, tangling our legs together. Lifting my hand from where I'd clenched it at my side, I released the inadvertent fist and brushed her hair away from her face. Her lashes fluttered against her cheeks, while a contented sigh escaped her deep rose lips. I traced the line of her jaw, then slipped my fingers under her chin to tilt her face toward mine.

"Night, darlin'," I whispered before gently brushing my mouth across hers.

Bella nestled closer to me, her hand resting over my heart that beat a wild tattoo against my ribs. I laid my chin atop her head, before wrapping my arm around her waist to draw her closer. Her slow, even breaths fanned across my neck as sleep quickly overtook her, and her body relaxed even more into mine. While I couldn't deny the obvious sexual attraction I felt for her, the profound sense of rightness that filled me while holding her was inescapable. Something in me twisted, then released, and the weight that had long hung over my heart lifted. Fates and karma be damned, I'd never felt more alive than I did with Bella in my arms. I'd suffer the hounds of hell if it meant I could keep her close forever.


The sound of the alarm dug into my subconscious, interrupting the incredible dream I'd been enjoying – one about falling asleep with Bella in my arms. Before I could react to the intrusive noise, the blanket of warmth on my chest disappeared, the bed shifted, and with a muffled curse, the blaring beep shut off. Grateful for the respite, I tried to slip back into my dream, when the warmth returned, and soft lips pressed against my throat, bringing a sudden onslaught of awareness.

It hadn't been a dream.

My eyes flew open at the same moment I realized that, if Bella moved much closer, I'd be unable to hide exactly how much I'd relished spending the night with her. I angled my hips back, twisting my lower body to press my morning wood into the mattress, stifling a groan at the painful pressure. Bella leaned back when she heard the muffled sound, her soft eyes meeting mine.

"Mornin', Cowboy," she whispered.

Mindful of the fact that I hadn't brushed my teeth the night before, and knew my breath had to be rank, I brushed a kiss across her forehead. "Mornin', darlin'. Sleep well?"

"I did. You're a very easy bed companion. You don't hog the covers, you don't snore, and you're a constant source of warmth." Bella grinned, then nuzzled into my neck. "You're better than a teddy bear, too, because you cuddle back."

Amused at her teasing words, I feigned a growl and slid my hand to her waist. Careful to keep my erection out of bounds, I trapped her leg under my knee, then set to tickling her. Bella gasped and wiggled, trying to break free, but I used my size to my advantage, and managed to pin her shoulder under my chest.

"Jas… wait… let me go!" Her words were broken by peals of laughter that left her breathless.

"Not until you apologize," I persisted, adjusting my weight to keep her in place. "Yesterday I was pretty; today I'm a teddy bear. My ego has taken all the hits it can stand." I buried my head into her shoulder, trying to hide my smile.

"You're not really trying to pin me down are you?" She shifted her head to glare at me in mock indignation. "Didn't ending up on your ass yesterday prove I can get free if I really wanted to?"

Easing my weight off Bella's shoulder, I leaned over and kissed her. "Duly noted." Then, pulling away, I shoved her off the bed, roaring at the look of shock on her face. "Now – go get ready for work! I'll make coffee."

Bella leveraged herself to her feet, then grabbed her pillow and threw it at my head. Laughing, I caught it before it hit me, and hugged it to my chest.

"Fine," she huffed. "I want breakfast, too. There's eggs and bacon in the fridge, or pancake mix in the cupboard." Bella pulled some clothes from her dresser. "Well, come on – get moving! Shove me out of bed; I damn well better smell fresh-brewed caffeine when I step out of the shower."

Bella paused at the side of the bed and bent down, brushing her lips across mine. "Thank you," she whispered, before walking into the bathroom and pushing the door closed behind her.

By the time Bella emerged from her bedroom thirty minutes later, I'd managed to change, grab a quick smoke, rinse the layer of film off my teeth, and field a call from Emmett wanting to know where the hell I was. Ignoring his locker room humor when I mentioned I'd stayed at Bella's, I told him I'd see him at home in an hour or so. While we talked, I'd kept my hands busy cooking breakfast for Bella, allowing the conversation to distract me from the implied intimacy of the situation.

I was cooking . . . for Bella . . . after spending the night with her.

And despite my anxiety over the situation the night before, my chest didn't feel like a lead balloon had settled around my heart. I'm sure Dr. Charles would call it progress – I just considered it a fucking blessing that I never wanted to go away. As if on cue, the source of that comfort walked up behind me, wrapping her arms around my waist.

"Mmm, it smells delicious," she hummed, giving me a squeeze before stepping around to pull a coffee cup out of the cupboard. "Looks like you found everything alright."

Bella leaned against the counter, cradling her cup in both hands, while she watched me move around her small kitchen. I slid the omelet I'd just finished onto a plate, then opened the oven to remove the other omelet and bacon I'd put in there to keep warm. Buttering the toast when it popped up, I placed it on the plates and, with a glance at the time on my phone, waved Bella toward the table. She slid into a chair, accepting the plate with a murmured "Thank you", waiting until I'd settled before she started to eat.

"So, I know where I'll be all day. Do you and Emmett have any plans?" she asked, in between bites of food she washed down with the coffee.

Grimacing, I replied, "Normally, we'd be surfing, but since Carlisle put a moratorium on it for at least another week, I don't know." I shook my head. "I'm not going down to the strip, though. It'll be a zoo with all the tourists getting in their last big hurrah for the summer." Tearing my toast in two, I took a bite while I thought. "I'll probably just do some reading for school; maybe hang out on our beach."

I chuckled, "Of course, knowing Emmett, he has some elaborate plan I know nothing about. We do need to do some grocery shopping, I guess, too. Emmett said he talked to Edward and we're having that cookout on Monday." Suddenly nervous, I hesitated. "You're going to come, right? Emmett's new friend will be there." What I left unsaid, but clearly implied, was that everyone would be coupled off.

"Of course I'll be there."

Bella's tone assured me there was nowhere else she'd rather be, washing away the cloying anxiety that had crept up on me. Smiling in relief, I offered to drive her to work again.

"Are you sure? Then you're going to have to drive back in beach traffic to pick me up this evening, too."

I answered on impulse, not stopping to weigh my words first. "Well, maybe you could stay at the beach house tonight, and we can head out earlier to the stables tomorrow."