Stephenie Meyer owns these characters... I just wanted to play a bit. No copyright infringement intended. I don't own Twilight and everything here is fictional.

Those of you that help me with this …you know who you are…Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

How about a little Bella? Anyone? As a sidenote... if you haven't seen the banner, this Bella does not have brown hair. Just in case you are a traditionalist regarding certain aspects I didn't want you to be surprised when you find out... but her hair is still long if that makes you feel better! The banner can be found on my blog!

Chapter 3

Bella's POV

The first few days at the lodge were very emotional. I spent a great deal of time sorting through my mother's personal belongings. It was a heart wrenching task, but one I knew I had to face. In doing so, I experienced bittersweet moments of remembrance as well as painful feelings of regret. I was assaulted with the reality that we had missed so much in our lives as mother and daughter. I would never have the opportunity to make up for so many lost years. That fact only strengthened my determination to move forward with preparing the lodge for life again, in honor of my mother.

I stepped into her suite on the first floor and Quil followed me in, quickly making himself at home on the large bed and curling himself directly in the middle to take a nap. I opened the glass patio doors to allow the fresh breeze to cleanse the sterile space and let more of the bright sun in. Days like that were rare and I wanted to take advantage. Looking around I realized that everything was just as my mom had left it that day. The main suite overlooked a patio and a view of the lake. I imagined Renee enjoyed relaxing out there with a book during a quiet afternoon. I had slept in one of the smaller suites upstairs as I wasn't quite ready to claim my mother's former room for myself. I resolved to move in there before the first guests arrived. The king-size bed on the far end of the room took up a large area as did her wall of bookcases. The room itself was fairly basic, nothing fancy but it was comfortable and homey…just like my mom was.

I carried a small box over to the shelves to empty some of the titles that I knew I wouldn't read. Renee's collection reflected her eclectic taste in books and hobbies. Though it was rare for the lodge to ever be empty, she was, in essence, alone. While she enjoyed visiting with and getting to know her guests, she always respected their privacy during their stay. She filled her free time with reading, sewing and cooking.

I scanned my mother's photographs on the shelves and discovered one from my college graduation. She and Charlie actually traveled together from Washington for that occasion and both stayed in my tiny apartment with me. It was truly a memorable and wonderful weekend. I ran my thumb on the glass over her beautiful, peaceful face. She had actually closed the lodge for a week to make that trip, the first and last time she ever did that. I placed the frame back in place on the shelf where I intended to leave it.

My thoughts were soon interrupted by the sound of my cell phone. The COPS theme song filled the room and I giggled to myself as I remembered Charlie loading it.

"Hi Dad."

"Hi Bells… Happy birthday!"

I cringed before responding. "Thanks Dad, I guess I didn't realize it was the 13th today. The past few weeks have been kind of jumbled together."

"Well, I hope you're doing something fun today or planning to anyway."

"If you call painting the porch fun, then yes, I absolutely am going to have some fun!" I laughed.

"Come on Bells, I really wish you would let me come over there and help you out. I could be there in a couple of hours you know."

"Dad, I know you could help me out and I do want to see you, but I'm really trying to do as much as I can myself. You can understand that, right? I promise I'm making a special to do list for you when you come up on Friday. I do plan on making you work."

"Oh and Dad, I found some information in Mom's paperwork about a local guy named, Jake. I think he helped her on some odd jobs and projects around here. Anyway, I left him a voice mail last night asking if he could come out and take a look at a few things."

He chuckled softly, "Just don't overdo it. I don't want you to get hurt."

"I'll be careful. Other than the painting right now, I'm really just working on getting organized in a way that works for me. The reservations are clear for two weeks, which gives me plenty of time to get the place ready."

"Well… Happy birthday Bells." He paused… "I love you, you know that, right?"

"Yeah Dad, I do know it. And you know I love you too."

"Yeah… Ok… Your old man needs to get some sleep. I just finished working the overnight shift and I'm beat. I'll call you in a couple of days and see you on Friday but let me know if you need anything at all before then."

"I will, I promise. Bye Dad."

Charlie was truly a thoughtful man behind his stoic exterior. It was obvious, even after their divorce; he never stopped loving my mother. While the details of their divorce were never really clear to me, it was proof that sometimes love just isn't enough. My mother had an idea about her future and she followed her heart. I knew Charlie was hurting for many years afterwards. Now that I was back in Washington, I vowed to not leave him out of the important things in my life.

I continued with my packing and purging. I thought carefully about the items that I should save and those I could donate. I put together a special box of important keepsakes and took them to the attic. I knew I could pore over them more carefully in the future. I needed to get to the painting while the sun was high and bright. Before heading outside, I moved through each of the three upstairs suites and opened the windows. All of the suites were a similar fashion, but with varying color schemes. Each contained a king-size pillow top bed with down comforters and 600 thread count sheets. A fireplace and flat-panel TV were also in each room. The suites had private full baths with oversized Jacuzzi bathtubs. Renee had a full stock of natural and organic soaps on hand and I remembered her telling me she purchased the products from a small boutique in Seattle. She was so pleased that the owner was able to give her a reasonable deal on her bulk order.

Taking in the view and breeze from the second story window, I was aching to take a walk with my camera. I planned to accomplish some painting and then treat myself to a lazy walk on one of the trails later in the afternoon. It was my birthday after all.

I made my way into the kitchen for a light snack before I started my work. The lodge kitchen was slightly dated and small for the amount of cooking my mother enjoyed. That was the one element of owning the place that she loved the most. Cooking was a passion for her and she loved experimenting with gourmet dishes. Each morning she provided a breakfast buffet and in the evenings she set out hors d'oeuvres and wine for the guests. While I was no expert chef, I certainly picked up a thing or two over the years. I thumbed through a few of her cookbooks and smiled at the notes she had made in the margins. She took great pride in everything she did at the lodge. She had maintained the majority of it on her own, the cooking, cleaning, laundry and minor projects. The entry hallway was covered in plaques from the awards and high ratings she'd received over the years. She had a well respected reputation in the community.

I made my way out to the large wrap around porch wearing an old ASU t-shirt, a pair of black yoga pants, running shoes and my hair pulled on top of my head in a messy bun and got to work. After a couple hours of painting, I had completed the rails and most of the floor. I decided to take a short break as my legs were getting a little sore and my back was tightening up. This was an unwelcome reminder that it was indeed my 32nd birthday and I wasn't getting any younger. My body was obviously in need of regular stretching, despite the ten months… with Riley. I quickly excused those images from my head and sat down on the oversized porch swing. The last time I came to visit so long ago, Renee and I curled up on that swing together with her favorite hot tea and had a wonderful talk. She was always so compassionate with her words and advice. My eyes burned with tears as I recalled the image of our last heartfelt conversation.

I threw my paintbrush in the bucket and pulled the hair tie out of my hair. I wiped my tears and shook my head to loosen my hair. I assessed the remainder of my painting task and decided that I had done enough for one day. I started to hammer down the lid to the paint can and clean up my materials when I heard the sound of tires on gravel. I slowly stood up out of my crouched position and watched a dark SUV approach the end of the driveway. I walked down the stairs anxiously to greet my surprise visitor.

The engine shut off in the black Jeep Cherokee just before the driver side door opened slightly. I moved even closer to the vehicle anticipating who might be inside. The door swung wide open and I noticed a hint of bronze hair. The man suddenly leaned back inside towards the passenger side to grab something; then he finally emerged. I saw a gloriously tall man step out onto the gravel, shut his car door and smile in one fluid motion. My heart raced and my breath hitched. I was quite certain I'd never seen such a handsome face. He pushed the dark sunglasses he was wearing up through his hair revealing the most breathtaking green eyes I'd ever seen. He towered over me; had to be at least 6'2". He was dressed in a worn grey hoodie jacket with a black t-shirt underneath, jeans and a pair of Converse tennis shoes. I forced myself from the spell this man's appearance had me under and spoke first.


The stranger shook his head. "No, Edward. Sorry for showing up like this. I mean, I don't have a reservation or anything." His voice was like liquid velvet. It was strong, deep and unintentionally sexy.

He shifted his weight, seemingly as flustered as I was. I suddenly remembered my filthy attire and wild hair. I crossed my arms across my chest and smiled.

"So, Edward… what can I do for you?"

"Actually I was hoping you might have a vacancy for the week. I hate to do this last minute, but I just got into the area and your lodge came highly recommended."

I was mesmerized by his strong jaw as he spoke.

"Oh. Well, I just came into ownership here and I really wasn't expecting anyone for a couple of weeks. I mean, we aren't closed or anything…" I trailed off realizing I was babbling nervously.

I felt his eyes roaming over me head to toe and I reactively tugged the front of my fitted t-shirt.

"I'm just looking for a place to relax for a few days, get some writing done. If it's a problem, I can look for something else but I had to at least come see the place. Even the car rental clerk raved about the lodge. Well… I can see you're not ready for guests." He said as he looked over my shoulder at the paint can and brushes.

He turned to get into the Jeep and I unintentionally shouted, "No!"

"I mean, no, it's alright. You're welcome to stay here. I'd just need a few minutes to get a room ready for you."

He moved closer to me, blowing out a deep breath through his plump, perfect lips.

"Are you sure?"

Was I sure? Unconsciously, I ran my tongue along my lower lip and gazed back at him. He certainly didn't look like he'd be much trouble and I figured it might be nice to have someone to practice on. The next guests wouldn't even be there for two more weeks. Biting my lower lip between my teeth I considered the answer for a long, weighted moment. After staring into his endless green eyes, I knew I couldn't possibly say no. I would just lock my bedroom door and not tell Charlie. Ever.

"Absolutely… It won't be a problem, but you'll have to bear with me. I hope you don't mind being a guinea pig." I chuckled lightly. "I'm new at this and just getting settled in. Hope that's not a problem."

"Not at all." He smiled a reassuring smile. My heart was beating so hard, I worried he could hear it. "Like I said, I'm just looking for a place to relax, and this looks perfect."

"Grab your stuff and follow me then Mr…"

"Cullen. Edward Cullen. Please, just call me Edward though."

"Well, Edward… Welcome to the White Swan Lodge… And please, call me Bella."


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EPOV coming up next... I know how we all love him. :)

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