Disclaimers: The characters are not mine, I'm just having fun playing with them. General story idea based on Beverly Sommers' The Meaning of Sisterhood.
Author's Notes: I'm sorry this has taken so long. Illness, deaths in the family, major cutbacks at work, and some serious changes/delays in moving plans have taken all of my time and energy for the last few months. I sincerely appreciate every single one of you who has read, reviewed, or signed up for chapter alerts. I really hope you will enjoy this chapter!
For libbybelle for kindly nudging me back into this mindset with her review. And as always for my sis, Elise, for holding my hand from the other side of the world every time I worried something in the chapter wasn't working and reading over the finished product. Love you, sis!
Special Note: This is where the "M" rating really comes in. You have been warned.
Bella walked toward the bathroom holding a pile of clothing and knocked lightly on the partially open door before pushing it open without waiting for an answer. Edward stood before her, clad only in wet jeans that clung to his body, his eyes blatantly raking over her form as she stood in the doorway.
She was wearing only her Henley and a pair of panties but instead of trying to cover herself up, she boldly walked into the room and stood right before Edward. Dropping the pile of clothes onto the counter, she stepped even closer, reaching out her right hand to gently trail her fingers down his bare chest.
Her fingers continued their exploration downward as a low moan rumbled from Edward's chest and she looked up and saw his face, that beautiful face, contorted in an expression of pleasure. He suddenly grabbed her hand, stilling it, and lifted her up, setting her down on the bathroom counter before attacking her lips with his own. He then slowly trailed his lips down her throat as Bella gasped for breath and she could both hear and feel him murmuring her name against her neck.
She had just reached her hands down to begin undoing his jeans when her alarm went off and she awoke sweating, her blankets tangled around her legs. The throbbing between her legs was so intense that even a particularly cold shower didn't help much.
All that Monday morning, she dreaded lunchtime. Edward had been appearing in her dreams almost every night for the past week since she had walked in on him in the bathroom. The dreams had been innocent enough at first – she had initially only dreamt about the encounter as it had actually occurred – but they had begun getting more intense and more intimate over the past few days.
Her waking fantasies had gone awry as well. Now, when she pictured herself somewhere romantic and exotic, she would turn to her companion and instead of dark hair and blue eyes, she saw bronze hair, gorgeous green eyes, and a smile meant only for her.
Maybe I need to switch to a lower hormone birth control, she thought fleetingly as she slowly made her way to the cafeteria.
Her recent dreams had her a little on edge and she was relieved to see that Edward was not yet at the lunch table when she took her seat next to Alice. When he did finally join them a few minutes later, Bella focused her attention on her lunch, barely glancing up to greet him as he slid in across from her.
She tuned in to Alice's stream of chatter next to her, wincing when she realized Alice was once again talking about Jasper and his visit and all the things they would have to do together when he was there. Bella had watched Edward carefully when Alice had first announced Jasper's visit to see how he would take the news, figuring he was most likely not going to be happy about it. However, he'd only smiled like everyone else and said he was looking forward to meeting him. You know he's a good actor, she reminded herself. He even had Rose thinking he was interested in you at one point, remember? You could stand to learn a thing or two from him. Bella was a dreadful liar and she wasn't much better at concealing her emotions. Generally, whatever she was feeling or thinking about showed plainly on her face. As it was, she was almost certain that if she dared to make eye contact with Edward, he would know about his starring role in her most recent dreams in a heartbeat.
Alice was in the middle of planning a day trip to Seattle for the group during the weekend after Thanksgiving when Jordan Rivers passed their table. Though he came within inches of her, he never even spared Bella a glance. Rose and Alice exchanged a look but Bella only shrugged when they looked to her. She could practically see the wheels turning in her cousin's head but Alice didn't question her on it, instead returning almost immediately to her planning.
Bella let out a silent sigh of relief. The strange behavior of Jordan Rivers was not something she felt like getting into any time soon. However, listening to Alice continue her planning, she almost wished her cousin had started grilling her, if only to spare Edward the pain of listening to Alice go on about Jasper.
She caught herself with a start. The hell? She definitely didn't want to become the center of attention, no matter what else Alice might be talking about instead. And just where on earth was this sudden urge to protect Edward's feelings coming from?
It's all an act, remember? He's still the same jerk that made nasty comments and stuck a snake down the back of your shirt. Unfortunately, this line of thought didn't help much as snakes down her shirt led to thoughts of snow down her shirt which brought images of half naked Edward to mind – both the real shirtless Edward and the one from her dreams. She wondered if his skin would feel as smooth under her fingers as it had in her dreams, if he would moan when she touched him, would whisper her name with the same intensity…
"Bella?" Bella came back to herself with a jolt, her eyes widening as she realized Edward was speaking to her.
"I, um, have to go, uh, talk to Mrs. Callanan," she blurted before gathering up her bag and her mostly uneaten lunch and practically fleeing the cafeteria.
Bella stood in front of her dresser and had just picked up a pair of pajama pants when there was a sharp knock at her door and Edward stepped into her room, shutting the door behind him. He was dressed only in a pair of boxers and took a moment to look her up and down before walking to her side.
"You're not going to need those," he told her, his voice low and husky as he took the pants from her hand and dropped them back into the open dresser drawer. "Trust me."
Bella shivered as Edward's hand came up to cup her cheek and he pulled her to him, meeting her lips with his own in a forceful kiss. Her lips parted willingly beneath his and she gripped his bare shoulders as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her flush against his body.
His hand slid beneath the hem of her shirt and Bella shivered again as his warm fingers trailed over the soft skin there, dancing teasingly along the waistband of her panties. After a few moments, he broke the kiss and pulled back to look at her. He took one of her hands from his shoulder and guided it down to the front of his boxers where a very prominent bulge twitched under her hand.
"You feel that?" he asked, watching her face as she cupped his erection. "That's what you do to me, Bella. You and no one else."
He released her hand but Bella didn't pull back, instead beginning to stroke him gently through his boxers. He groaned, leaning into her touch as she continued, his eyes closed in pleasure. Bella increased the pressure of her hand and in a flash of movement, Edward scooped her up in his arms and brought her over to her bed where he laid her down.
"Don't want the fun to end so soon," he said from where he knelt above her on the bed.
She rose to balance on her knees, their faces only inches apart. Then, keeping her eyes locked with his, she reached down and grabbed the hem of her shirt, pulling it over her head and throwing it to the side in one quick movement.
Edward's eyes darkened as his hands came forward to cup her breasts through her bra, his thumbs tracing tiny circles on the exposed flesh above the cups. Bella dropped her head back with a moan and Edward's arms came around her waist to pull her tightly against his body.
"I'm sure you can be louder than that," he said, his lips traveling down her throat to the base of her neck where he nipped playfully at the skin there. Bella moaned again as Edward continued nuzzling her neck and she swore she could feel him smile against her skin. "That's better," he murmured.
With one arm still wrapped around her to support her weight, he leaned her back until she was lying flat on her back once more. Bella reached up to pull Edward down with her but he caught her hands in his and laid them back on the bed. "Patience, Bella," he teased with a smirk.
He released her hands and lowered his head to her breasts, his fingers brushing back and forth across her nipples through her bra while his tongue trailed across the tops of her breasts and then down between them. His finger left her breasts then, trailing slowly down Bella's stomach, causing the various muscles in her stomach to clench at the slightly ticklish sensation.
His finger continued its downward journey and he began to stroke her through her panties with one long finger, eliciting a loud gasp from her as her hips reflexively bucked forward. "Oh, God. Please. Please, Edward."
As Bella watched through heavy lidded eyes, Edward began trailing kisses down her stomach to the top of the panties. As he reached the waistband, he paused to look up at Bella, a wicked grin on his lips. "More?"
"Yes," Bella said breathlessly. "Yes, Edward, please!"
He hooked his fingers on either side of the waistband and began oh so slowly to drag her panties down her hips. Bella arched her back slightly, her head falling back onto her pillow as she moaned quietly. He was so close, she could feel his breath on her skin. So close…
A high pitched beeping suddenly invaded her dreams and she awoke abruptly with Edward's name on her lips, her skin tingling from his phantom touches. As the haze in her brain began to clear, she reached a hand over to her night stand, smacking her alarm clock so hard that it fell to the floor. Her breathing ragged, she pressed her legs together to try to relieve some of the pressure but it did absolutely nothing to ease the pulsating between her legs and she began the day with yet another icy shower.
She skipped the cafeteria entirely that day.
After last period, she made her way to Alice's locker to wait for her cousin and Rose. Alice had convinced the two girls to join her on a Port Angeles shopping trip, telling them she needed to pick up some "things" for Jasper's visit. Bella thought it was best not to ask for details.
When Rose and Alice joined Bella, the three walked out to Alice's car in the parking lot. Bella was relieved when neither one of them brought up her absence at lunch and she slid into the back seat as Alice started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, hoping the shopping trip would take her mind off her recent issues with members of the opposite sex.
"I think there's something wrong with me
I think I got a problem
Because every time you do the things you do, I wanna bite you
It could be the way you look at me
Or maybe your aroma
And the only reason I could give to do it is 'cause I wanna
And you know it doesn't matter to me
I know that you're inedible
Your neck, your ears, your lips would be incredible!"
Bella groaned to herself. Normally, the upbeat punk of the Dollyrots, who Alice was so fond of blasting in her car, could put her in a good mood. This particular song at this particular moment, however, was doing nothing to help the increasing turmoil in her brain.
"Alice, could you turn that down? Or off?" Her tone was sharper than she'd meant it to be and she saw Rose and Alice exchange a look as the blonde reached over and turned the music off.
"So, Bella, are you ever going to tell us what's bugging you?" Alice asked.
"Nothing," Bella said automatically. "It's just kind of loud back here."
"You know, Bella, you don't have to skip lunch just to avoid him," Rose said, ignoring Bella's answer.
"What?" Bella's jaw dropped for a moment before she could collect herself. "I'm not avoiding him," she protested weakly. She should have known they would have figured out something was going on with her. And now her friends were going to know about her embarrassing dreams. Her face flushed. Had Alice heard her call out Edward's name that morning? Shit!
Alice sighed. "Bella, you are a terrible liar," she advised her cousin. "You know you can tell us anything. We were both there when he walked right past our table, remember?"
What? Oh! Bella let out a small breath of relief. Jordan. Right. While she certainly wasn't looking forward to talking about him and their strange encounter, it was definitely better than talking about Edward and her dreams. Talk about the lesser of two evils.
Still, she paused. She really wasn't looking forward to Alice and Rosalie's reactions when she told them what had happened with Jordan. The whole experience had been extremely weird and more than that, Bella was embarrassed. She had absolutely zero experience with boys and dating and she was certain she had done something wrong. Rosalie and Alice never would have let Jordan get away with not talking to them or with avoiding them later at school.
"Bella, I know you said he kissed you, but he didn't try anything else, did he?" Alice asked with a worried look in the review mirror when her cousin remained silent.
Bella shook her head. "No, it was nothing like that," she reassured her friends. "I mean, yes, he kissed me but it was all, well, I don't know."
"Bella, please," Alice said. "You know you can tell us anything."
Alice somehow managed to give Bella a perfect puppy dog pout in the review mirror and Bella sighed, knowing when she was beaten. "Fine." She told her friends the entire story, starting with Jordan appearing in the coffee shop and ending with his current avoidance of her at school. "I just, I don't know. Was I supposed to say something or do something? I don't exactly have a whole lot of experience here," she finished miserably, looking down at her lap.
"Bella, it is absolutely not you," Rose said firmly, turning to face her from the front seat, waiting until Bella raised her head to look at her before continuing. "You did nothing wrong. He is the one with the problem. He's just another kid who's read one too many "philosophical" authors and now thinks he's above everyone around him. Trust me, he's in for a nasty wake up when he gets out into the real world."
Alice could see that Bella didn't want to discuss Jordan anymore so she quickly changed the subject and she and Rose spent the rest of the drive chatting between themselves, leaving Bella to stare out the window, lost in her own thoughts.
Alice's preparations for Jasper's visit didn't stop with one shopping trip, of course, but Bella found herself grateful for her cousin's energy and the distraction the upcoming visit provided. With all of the planning, shopping, cleaning, and late night talks about Jasper's impending arrival, Bella went to sleep the next three nights too exhausted to even dream.
Friday afternoon at lunch, Alice decided the five of them should go bowling that night at a nearby bowling alley so after a quick dinner with Charlie that evening, Bella and Alice met up with their friends at the alley at the agreed upon time. Rose had already gotten them signed up by the time they got there and they each grabbed a pair of bowling shoes before heading over to their lane.
Bella knew she wasn't what anyone would call a good bowler, but she also knew that with this group, her lack of skills wasn't terribly important and she was looking forward to an entertaining evening. As she straightened up from tying her shoes, her gaze landed on Edward and she couldn't help staring at him for a moment. Had his cheekbones always been so defined, his lips always so full and incredibly kissable looking? Bella shook her head sharply. What the hell was wrong with her, where were these thoughts even coming from?
Almost as if he could hear her thoughts, Edward glanced up and caught Bella staring at him. Feeling the blush rising in her cheeks, Bella quickly turned away, walking over to the ball feeder and picking up the lightest ball she could find.
"You're up first, Bella," Rose called from where she sat behind the scoring screen. Bella nodded, approaching the end of their lane as she tried to focus her attention solely on the pins at the lane. Her brain, however, found it wanted to focus on other things and she ended up haphazardly flinging the ball down the lane where it quickly went into the gutter and disappeared.
Rolling her eyes at her gutterball and telling herself to calm the hell down, Bella turned back to the ball feeder to wait for her ball to return. As soon as it did, she grabbed it and straightened up, almost dropping the ball on her toes as she came face to face with Edward.
"Need some help?" he asked with a smile.
"Uh, sure," she mumbled awkwardly, walking back to the foot of the lane with Edward right behind her as she took her place. His right arm came around her to guide her arm as his left hand helped hers steady the bowling ball and her she felt her body automatically tense as the scent and warmth of his body surrounded her.
"Relax, Bella." Bella shivered as Edward's breath brushed against her ear and she only managed a nod, trying to force her body to listen to his instructions as he guided her arm back. As he brought it forward again she only just remembered to let go of the ball and stood watching as it rolled quickly down the lane, trying not to focus on the fact that Edward's arms were still around her.
Alice cheered as eight of the pins went down and Bella finally stepped away from Edward. "Thanks," she mumbled as she walked past him and took a seat next to Rose as Alice hopped up to take her turn.
Bella managed to bowl the rest of her frames without Edward's help and at the end of the game, she and Alice had each done fairly well with Edward scoring only a little higher than the cousins. Rose and Emmett, however, left them all in the dust. Rose had beaten Emmett by three points and he challenged Rose to an immediate rematch. Alice was all for another game but between the long week and the possible stress of Jasper's upcoming visit, Bella was worn out and she asked Alice if she could just get a ride home with the others and let her take Alice's car home now.
"I'm pretty tired, too, actually," Edward said. "So I was going to head out. I can give you a ride."
Bella hesitated a moment. She hadn't been alone with Edward since her dreams about him had come and gone but she was exhausted and there was really no way to decline his offer without awkwardness ensuing so she somewhat reluctantly accepted and said her goodbyes to the others before following him out of the alley.
Though Bella was anticipating an awkward ride home, the soft music coming from the car's speakers combined with the arm air blowing from the heater and even Edward's presence instead quickly combined to ease Bella's mind and she actually found herself dozing off a couple of times. For his part, Edward spent the entire drive perfectly content to steal glances at Bella as she napped while reliving how it had felt to have his arms around her under the guise of "helping" her bowling game.
He shook his head in irritation at the direction of his thoughts. He didn't want to pretend anymore or have to make up reasons to be close to Bella. He wanted her to know how he really felt and he wanted to know if her feelings toward him had changed. Their interactions over the past few months certainly seemed to indicate they had but he wanted to know for certain. Most importantly, he didn't want to keep lying to her.
He frowned at the thought. He wasn't lying exactly, was he? Alice clearly knew her cousin better than he did and if she thought it was the only way to let Bella see the real him, then he would have to trust her advice, right? His frown deepened. He was rationalizing and he knew it but he couldn't bring himself to do anything to sabotage this new tentative friendship he and Bella had struck up.
Still, the thought that he was not being completely honest with her continued to weigh on him and he only hoped he wouldn't have to keep the charade up much longer.
Alice and Bella drove to the airport early Sunday afternoon to pick up Jasper after Alice insisted that her cousin would not be intruding and she really wanted her to come with her. With the way Alice drove, they were there in plenty of time and after leaving the car in a parking garage, the two girls headed inside to wait for Jasper's flight to arrive.
After about half an hour of browsing through the various gift shops, they finally headed to the arrivals area to wait for Jasper. It was another ten minutes before his plane even landed, and Alice rocked on her heels impatiently while they waited.
Bella was just wondering if it would even be worth it to try to get Alice to calm down when suddenly, she felt her tiny cousin still beside her, her entire body tense. A moment later, a tall handsome blond guy stepped into view with the crowd of other arriving passengers. Alice moved so fast, Bella swore she never saw her go. One moment, her cousin was standing by her side – the next, she was several feet away and in the arms of the attractive blond. The two held each other close and Bella looked away to give their reunion some privacy – or as much privacy as a couple could get in the middle of a busy airport anyway.
A few moments later, Alice and Jasper joined Bella and she let her gaze focus on them again. "Bella, this is Jasper," Alice said needlessly.
"Bella, it's very nice to meet you," Jasper said as he shook her hand. "Thanks for letting me stay."
Bella smiled back, something about Jasper putting her immediately at ease. "Hi, Jasper. It's good to meet you, too. I'm glad you could come."
Jasper had no luggage other than the backpack he had with him so the three were able to immediately head to Alice's car in the parking garage. On the drive home, Jasper caught Alice up on the happenings at their old school and their mutual friends and acquaintances while Bella observed the pair from the back seat. Jasper's calm, laid back vibe provided the perfect balance for Alice's hyper energy and the two often seemed able to communicate through looks and subtle touches. The depth of their feelings for each other was obvious and while Bella was happy for her cousin, she couldn't help wondering just how Edward was going to feel when he saw the happy couple together.
To Bella's surprise, Charlie and Jasper seemed to hit it off right away and the four of them had an early dinner before the three teenagers headed out to meet Rose and the Cullens for a movie.
Bella found she was practically holding her breath as Alice introduced Jasper to the group but he and Edward, Emmett, and Rose all got along immediately and she allowed herself to relax slightly as they left the coffeeshop and headed to the theater.
As they walked the short distance to the theater, Bella tugged Edward's arm, letting the others pass them before she whispered urgently to him, "Jasper seems pretty intuitive. Don't you think he's going to realize you want to date his girlfriend?"
Edward smiled and threw his arm around her shoulder. "Guess I'll just have to pretend it's you I'm interested in, then," he told her with a wink. She allowed herself a moment to enjoy the warmth and weight of his arm around her before she tensed.
He's just trying to make sure Jasper doesn't figure out it's Alice he really wants, she reminded herself sharply, trying to ignore the way her stomach clenched at the thought. Not that it would make any difference, though. She had seen the way Alice was with Edward and the way she was with Jasper and there was no comparison – she and Jasper were truly in love; Edward didn't have a prayer.
For a moment, Bella almost felt bad for him. This feeling didn't last long, however, as irritation at Edward, Alice, and the entire charade filled her and she shook Edward's arm off of her shoulders, wishing for the millionth time that Edward's little game would end already.
Alice had taken Monday off to spend the day with Jasper but quizzes in English and French caused her to be back at school with her friends on Tuesday. She was glancing over a few pages in her French textbook when she heard Emmett ask Bella about their plans for Thanksgiving and she looked up in interest, wondering what her first holiday in Forks was going to be like.
"I don't really do anything much," Bella admitted. "My dad likes to work on Thanksgiving so he can take off Christmas without feeling guilty. Usually, I'm on my own for Thanksgiving, it's no big deal. I'm sure we could figure something out if you guys want to get a turkey or something," she added, looking over to Alice.
"You guys should come over to our house," Edward suggested. "We always do a big thing and my parents make way too much food. It'll be fun. Rose is coming."
"My parents are going down to San Diego to see some aunts and uncles," Rose explained when Bella looked to her. "I don't really get a holiday vibe from that place anymore."
Bella started to decline the offer, not liking the idea of intruding on another family's holiday and, quite frankly, hating the thought of subjecting Edward to having to see Alice and Jasper being all coupley yet again, but Alice spoke up first. "Oh, that sounds wonderful," she said with a big grin. "I love how everyone gets together on Thanksgiving. My mom stopped doing that after my dad died but it was my favorite holiday when I was little."
Bella's mouth snapped shut. No way to say no now without looking like the biggest jerk in the world, she thought unhappily. Why on Earth would Edward subject himself to that? He really is just too nice for his own good.
The following day was a half day at school for the Thanksgiving break and Jasper insisted on driving the girls to school, telling them he would meet them in the parking lot when classes were over for the day. As Alice had made plans for the six of them to head to Port Angeles after the last bell, Bella met Rose and Emmett at Rose's locker after fourth period. Edward joined them shortly thereafter but when Alice was still nowhere to be seen after ten minutes, they headed outside to see if she and Jasper had already made their way to the cars.
The four had just exited the school when Bella spotted Alice across the parking lot. Jasper was with her and as the others watched, Alice shrieked at the top of her lungs and launched herself at Jasper, wrapping herself in his arms. Rose looked to Bella questioningly but Bella only shrugged and they moved to join the couple by their cars.
"He's staying!" Alice cried with an enormous smile on her face as soon as the others were close enough to hear her.
"I'm transferring," Jasper explained in response to everyone's confused expressions. "I spent yesterday and today talking to principals, guidance counselors, and coaches at both schools and all the paperwork is being done and sent right now. When the next semester after Christmas break starts, I will officially be a Forks High Spartan."
"Th-that's great," Bella stammered as the others voiced their approval as well.
"Isn't it amazing?" Alice said happily. "So now he just needs somewhere to live. He could stay with us, couldn't he, Bella?" Alice looked to her cousin expectantly, her tiny body practically vibrating with excitement.
"I don't know," Bella said uncertainly. "Our house is kind of small." Their little house was in fact already pretty much filled to capacity as it was. The addition of someone else, not to mention a male someone, might not sit so well with Charlie, no matter how well he seemed to get along with Jasper.
"You could always stay with us," Edward suggested when Alice's face fell. "We have plenty of room and our parents are pretty cool."
Bella had been avoiding looking at Edward during the entire exchange and her jaw dropped at Edward's words. What the hell?
Jasper looked surprised. "Would that be okay?"
"Sure, why not?" Emmett said with a huge grin. "Alice here tells us you're a pretty bad ass shortstop and we could definitely use one of those come Spring. Be pretty sweet to have a third of the starting rotation in the same house."
Outwardly, her expression was calm, but inside, Bella was freaking out a bit. The guy who was Alice's boyfriend moving in with the guy who wanted to be her boyfriend. This could not end well.
They spent a few hours at Frankie's Fun Park and then walked around downtown Port Angeles for awhile until Rose said it was too damn cold to be wandering around outside and suggested they stop at Itty Bitty Buzz to warm up. Alice made a beeline for the bathroom while Edward, Emmett, Rose, and Jasper joined the line at the counter to get hot chocolates for everyone, leaving Bella to stake out seats for the group.
She found a free group of several overstuffed chairs and a couch and dropped her things on the couch before taking a seat in one of the chairs. She settled herself comfortably in the chair, closing her eyes for a moment as she let her thoughts drift to the events of the day. Jasper was staying in Forks. Or coming back next semester, whatever. The point was that he was going to be here with the rest of them. And he was most likely going to be staying with Edward and Emmett. Staying in the same house as the guy who wanted to date his girlfriend and who would be forced to watch the happy couple every day for the better part of the next year and a half, wishing every moment that he was with Alice instead of Jasper. Convinced the situation could not get any weirder or any worse, Bella sighed and opened her eyes.
And froze, a feeling of déjà vu creeping over her as she saw Jordan Rivers standing beside the chair opposite her. Forcing herself to remain calm, Bella met Jordan's gaze head on.
"Hello, Bella. Would you like a ride home?" he asked, his posture confident as if he was certain what the answer would be.
Was he serious? Somehow, she managed to internalize her shock and keep her face blank. "No, thank you," she replied.
"My car's right outside," he continued, seemingly oblivious to her rejection.
"That's nice," Bella said evenly. "But I'm here with my friends and I don't need a ride, thank you."
Alice stood a few feet away, out of site of the pair but still able to hear everything that was said, and she had to bite her tongue to keep quiet. Was this guy for real? After everything Bella had told her about the strange car ride home, after Alice had seen him blatantly ignore her at school, he was just going to waltz in here and expect Bella to drive off with him again? She figured they probably would have preferred some privacy at the moment but after the weirdness that had occurred last time, there was no way she was leaving Bella alone with him.
Jordan raised an eyebrow. "Bella, you can't really want to be here with these people. You're better than that."
A hot flash of anger spiked in Bella to hear him speak about her friends like this yet again and her expression went cold. "I don't know who you think you are, but don't presume that you know me or my friends. I listened to your narrow minded, ignorant judgments once, I'm not going to do it again."
"Goodbye, Jordan," Bella said with finality.
He stared at her for a moment, almost seeming to deflate before Alice's eyes, but when Bella did not say anything more, he finally turned and left. Alice felt like clapping for her cousin as she sat down on the couch across from her but when Bella looked over to her with a worried expression, she merely grinned and gave her a subtle thumbs up as the rest of their group rejoined them.
They went to Westside Pizza for dinner after they'd finished their drinks and then, figuring Alice and Jasper probably wanted some time alone to celebrate the news of Jasper's impending move, Bella accepted Edward's offer of a ride home as the other two couples split off to do their own thing.
As Bella got ready for bed later that night, her thoughts drifted back to the ride home with Edward. While the ride certainly hadn't been as awkward as her ride home with Jordan had been, there had still been a slight undercurrent of something that left Bella feeling a little uncomfortable. After the drama with Jordan and the news of Jasper's impending move to Forks, Bella was far too tired to deal with any kind of conversation and instead had pretended to sleep for the majority of the ride.
Several times when she peeked at Edward from beneath her lashes, she caught him glancing over at her with a frustrated expression on his face. She knew it couldn't be easy for him to have to watch Alice and Jasper together and that it was probably selfish of her, but she really just didn't feel like talking to and comforting him about the situation at the moment.
With a sigh, she climbed into bed and turned off her bedside light, snuggling down under the covers and trying to get comfortable. Whatever issues were going to be raised by Jasper staying in town, there was no point in worrying about the situation now. Now, the only thing she needed to focus on was sleep.
Alice was supposed to be sleeping in her room while Jasper was there but as she and her cousin knew full well that Charlie would be gone before anyone got up the next morning and that he'd never actually check the bedrooms, Bella knew Alice would be spending the night in her own room. This turned out to be a lucky thing for Alice as Bella found it very difficult to fall asleep that night.
She lay there for awhile, thoughts of dinner at the Cullens' the next day keeping her awake. What is something went wrong, what if she said something stupid, what if what if what if? She shook her head, annoyed with herself. Why on earth was she so worried? It was just another day hanging out with her friends. And it wasn't like she'd never met Dr. and Mrs. Cullen before.
Still, she spent most of the night tossing and turning, finally giving up at 7 and heading downstairs. She made a big breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits, and hash browns for Charlie, Alice, and Jasper but found herself unable to eat more than a few forkfuls of eggs. Charlie was surprised but grateful for the large feast and he ate heartily before heading off to work, telling Bella to have a good time and to remember to thank Carlisle and Esme.
Bella wrapped the food up to keep it warm until Alice and Jasper joined her and then began pulling out ingredients for an apple pie. She certainly didn't want to show up for Thanksgiving dinner empty handed and this was a good way to keep her mind off of the upcoming afternoon.
A short while later, Jasper padded barefoot into the kitchen. "Morning, Bella."
"Hey Jasper," she replied, looking up from the apple she was currently peeling. "I made breakfast if you want any. I put it in the microwave so it wouldn't get cold."
Jasper smiled. "Thanks. I'll go get Alice up for breakfast in a bit – I know she'll want to see at least some of the parade. In the meantime, what can I do to help?"
"Um, I'm good on the apple pie; how do you feel about making a pumpkin?"
Jasper nodded. "I can do that." Bella pointed him to the supplies he'd need and the two spent the next few minutes working in companionable silence.
Bella was just putting the top crust on her pie when Jasper broke the silence. "Thank you, Bella."
Bella looked up, puzzled. "For what?"
"For taking Alice in and being her family," Jasper said, looking up to meet Bella's gaze.
Bella was quiet a moment before she responded. "When Alice first got here, she told me that being here with me was like getting her sister back," she told Jasper. "And she was right. You know, Charlie and I got by all right before, but Alice being here has really made us into a family again."
Jasper smiled. "And I know that she feels the same way." He brushed his hands off on his pajama pants and looked down at the pumpkin pie before him. "And I am done with this pie here so I'm going to go wake Alice up so we can all eat some of that delicious breakfast you made and watch enormous balloons float down the streets of New York."
Bella smiled back. "Sounds good," she said as Jasper headed back upstairs to wake her cousin and she put the two finished pies into the oven to bake.
Alice and Jasper joined her a few moments later and the three spent the rest of the morning lounging around on the couches in their pajamas watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
They arrived at the Cullens' house around four o'clock that afternoon where Mrs. Cullen cheerfully ushered them all inside.
"Oh, Bella, it's so nice to see you again," she said as she wrapped Bella in a warm hug. "It's been ages. And look at you," she said, pulling back and smiling at Bella while she held her gently by the arms. "You're all grown up and beautiful."
Bella blushed scarlet and she ducked her head. "Thank you for having us, Mrs. Cullen," she said.
"Please, call me Esme," she said, still smiling. "How's your dad? Remind me, you'll have to bring some turkey dinner home to him."
Before Bella could respond, Esme gave Bella's arms a quick squeeze before releasing her and turning to Alice and Jasper. "And these must be your cousin Alice and our future tenant, Jasper."
"Really? Oh, thank you so much, Esme, that's so incredibly wonderful of you!" Alice bounced forward to hug Esme, a bright smile on her face. "And thank you so much for having us," she added, almost as an afterthought, as she stepped back.
Esme laughed as Jasper shook her hand. "Thank you, Esme," he repeated. "I can't tell you how much this means to me and to Alice."
Esme waved her hand. "Honestly, we're very glad to have you," she said with a smile.
While Esme took the pies to the kitchen, Alice, Jasper and Bella made their way to the living room where Esme had told them everyone else was watching television. Edward and his father both stood as they entered the room and Rose waved from where she sat. Emmett, sprawled on the floor in front of Rose's chair, held up a hand in greeting but never took his eyes off the football game on the TV in front of him. "Bella, it's nice to see you outside of the hospital," Dr. Cullen said with a smile.
"Hi, Dr. Cullen," she said with an embarrassed smile. At Alice and Jasper's puzzled looks she explained, "I fall down a lot. Dr. Cullen usually gets stuck putting me back together."
Alice giggled, remembering some of Bella's less than graceful moments that she had witnessed, and Carlisle smiled. "Carlisle, please," he said, shaking hands with Alice and Jasper. "Please, have a seat," he said, gesturing to the extremely comfortable looking couches and chairs in the room. "We were just watching the Ohio State/Michigan game."
"Oooh, great," Alice said, plopping gracefully down on the couch nearest to her, pulling Jasper down with her.
Bella stood looking around uncertainly for a moment until Edward motioned for her to come join him on the loveseat. Bella took a seat, trying to ignore just how close she and Edward were sitting and focusing her attention on the game.
However, for all of the sporting events Charlie watched at home, Bella had never really paid attention to the football games and she was lost and a little bored as the game continued. Edward noticed Bella looking puzzled after a play that had everyone else in the room cheering and he began to quietly explain what was happening on the field to her. He didn't dumb it down for her but he didn't provide her with information overload, either and by the end of the game he and the others had been watching when she arrived, she felt like she actually had a good grasp not only of the rules but the whole point of the game as well.
In fact, by the time the next game started, Bella was involved enough to pick a team to cheer for and found she was actually enjoying herself. Late in the second quarter, the game was tied and Bella was practically on the edge of her seat. As they watched, number 21 on the red team raced down the field, evading defenders and even breaking a tackle as he ran 65 yards into the end zone. As this was the team Bella had decided to root for, she couldn't help giving a little 'whoop' of excitement.
"Big cocks fan, huh, Bella?" Emmett asked with a wicked grin.
Bella almost choked on the cider Esme had brought out for everyone at the start of the second game. "What?" She glanced around the room, noting that thankfully Esme and Carlisle were engaged in conversation with Alice and Jasper and hadn't heard their eldest son's question.
"South Carolina. The red team," Edward explained quietly to a blushing Bella. "They're the Gamecocks."
"Made a good choice there, Bella," Emmett said, still smiling at her. "Go Cocks!"
After making sure Esme and Carlisle were still occupied, Bella turned back to Emmett, smiling sweetly at him as she gave him the finger. Rose and Edward cracked up and Emmett looked stunned a moment before a big grin spread across his face and he joined in the laughter.
"What's so funny?" Alice asked from the other side of the room.
"I think Bella's just learning how to deal with Emmett's sense of humor," Edward replied, winking at Bella.
Bella's face felt suddenly hot and she quickly looked away from Edward, trying to focus her attention on the football game once more.
A few minutes after the South Carolina/Tennessee game ended, Esme called Carlisle into the kitchen to carve the turkey. Fifteen minutes later, she announced that dinner was ready and asked everyone to take their seats in the dining room.
The conversation flowed easily at dinner and they all remained seated at the table when they had finished, talking and laughing as Edward and Emmett cleared the dishes. It was another half an hour before anyone could even think about dessert but as soon as he'd gotten the ok, Emmett practically jumped out of his seat to follow Esme into the kitchen.
"These pies look delicious," Carlisle said as Emmett set the apples and pumpkin pies on the table.
"That was all Bella and Jasper," Alice said with a laugh. "When it comes to food, I'm good at eating it, that's about it."
In addition to the two pies Bella had brought there were also brownies, cookies, and a red velvet cake that Esme had made earlier that day and despite the large dinner they had all just had, everyone dug into the desserts like they hadn't eaten in a week.
As Bella lay in bed that night, she acknowledged that her concerns about the day had been totally unnecessary. Everyone had seemed to have a really good time, the food had been amazing, and Esme and Carlisle had made her feel right at home. All in all, she realized as she settled back against her pillow, it had actually turned out to be the best Thanksgiving she could remember.
When Bella awoke the next morning, she stretched languidly, reveling in the fact that she had the entire day to do whatever she felt like doing. Charlie had left early that morning for his annual post-Thanksgiving weekend long fishing trip with his friend Billy and Bella knew Alice was planning on taking Jasper sightseeing in Seattle so she was looking forward to spending a lazy day hanging around in her pajamas, not doing much of anything.
And not much was exactly what she did. She watched some television, downloaded some new songs on iTunes, and started a new book she had gotten out of the library a few days earlier.
Late that afternoon, she had just started a new chapter when she heard the front door open and close. "Bella?"
"I'm up here, Alice," she called back. A quick glance at the clock told her it was only a little after 5:00 and she wondered what Alice and Jasper were doing home so early.
Seconds later, Alice came flying through her open door. "Hey! Okay, time to get up and get showered, we have a party to get to!"
Confused, Bella looked to Jasper who had just entered the room.
"Emmett and Edward are having a party at their house tonight," Jasper said. "We were helping them get the house ready.
Bella stuck a piece of paper in her book to hold her place and laid the book on the bedside table. "I thought you guys were going sightseeing," she replied, still a bit thrown by the sudden change in plans.
"We were," Alice replied. "But we'd just gotten down the street when Rose called me and we ended up going over there to help plan and set up. Since Jazz is moving here now, we figured Seattle could wait for another time. And I knew you probably wanted some time to yourself so I didn't want to bother you about it. Anyway, they're telling people 7:00 but I told them we won't be there 'til around 8:00 since we all have to shower and get some dinner first. So come on, you're up first," she finished, nudging Bella's shoulder."
Bella shook her head but she was smiling as she threw off the covers and stood, stretching before walking over to her dresser to pull out a bra and a pair of panties as Jasper slipped out of the room. "I'll pick out something for you to wear while you're in the shower," Alice added.
Knowing by now when it was useless to argue with her cousin, Bella didn't even bother protesting, instead grabbing her robe and heading for the bathroom.
By the time they reached the Cullens' house a little after 8:00, the party was already in full swing, the house packed with a number of fellow Forks High students.
After the three sodas and two glasses of water she had had at dinner, the bathroom was the first thing on Bella's mind and she groaned when she saw the long line outside the bathroom door.
"What's wrong?" Alice asked, somehow hearing Bella over the loud music and numerous conversations.
"I have to pee," Bella said as quietly as she could. "But look at that line."
"Hang on a sec." Alice ducked through the crowd, quickly returning to Bella's side. "Emmett said we can use one of the ones upstairs." Grabbing Bella's arm, she steered their way through the throng of partygoers and headed upstairs.
Bella followed her cousin down a long corridor, surprised when she didn't stop at any of the many doors but instead making her way to another staircase. There were three doors to choose from but Alice walked straight into the room right across from the staircase. Bella stopped when Alice turned on the light as they entered the room. "Alice, this isn't a bathroom," she said.
Alice gave her a 'duh' look and pointed to another door inside the room. "It's Edward's room. There's a bathroom attached. Go ahead, I'll wait here."
Shrugging, Bella hurriedly crossed the room to the bathroom, not even stopping to wonder why Alice had dragged her all the way up here. Right now, all she could focus on was finally getting to use the bathroom.
After washing her hands, Bella exited the bathroom, pausing this time to actually take in her surroundings. The wall to her left was simply glass floor to ceiling, giving an incredible view of the forest behind the Cullens' property. A large bed sat directly in front of her, parallel to the window, and on the other side of the bed was a large built in bookcase that was practically overflowing with books.
Bella tossed her jacket onto the bed before crouching down in front of the packed bookcase and beginning to peruse the titles and authors. After her conversation with Edward about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Bella had realized that Edward did actually read outside of school assignments but she was still surprised by what she found on the shelves. A collection of plays by Oscar Wilde, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Orwell's Animal Farm and 1984, the entire A Song of Ice and Fire series, a large volume of Shakespeare's poems and plays, as well as books by Neil Gaiman, Leon Uris, Henry Miller, Pat Conroy, and many others, some she had never even heard of. Edward's comment about having taken an English class or two came back to her and she scoffed to herself. He was hardly reading according to some high school class syllabus.
Edward's voice came from behind her. "And they're not just for show – I've actually read all of those."
Bella jumped a foot and turned around to find Edward standing in the doorway of his room grinning at her. He was dressed simply, in jeans and a white button down, and for some reason, the classic combination caused Bella to swallow hard before she could find her voice.
"I, um, I'm sorry," she stammered as she stood up straight. "Emmett said we could use one of the upstairs bathrooms since the line downstairs is so long and Alice brought me up here and then I saw all of your books and, well, yeah," she trailed off lamely.
Edward shrugged. "No worries, I don't mind."
Bella cleared her throat. "Um, good. So, uh, do you know where Alice went?" she asked, trying to shift the attention away from her embarrassment at being found snooping in Edward's house yet again. "She was just here."
Edward smiled. "She and Jasper went for a drive. She said they'll be back later. I think they just needed a little alone time."
Bella winced. That had to have hurt to hear, but the look on Edward's face was relaxed. "Doesn't it bother you?" she asked. "I mean, seeing them together like that and knowing that Jasper's going to be moving here now?"
"I've known about Jasper from the beginning," Edward reminded her.
"You can't help who you fall for, Bella."
The intensity of Edward's gaze caught her by surprise and Bella bit her bottom lip nervously.
Edward groaned. "I can't do this anymore," he muttered. Before Bella knew what was happening, he was suddenly standing right in front of her. His hand came up to cup her face and his thumb gently caressed her cheek. She sighed softly, leaning into his touch, and Edward's eyes darkened slightly. "Bella," he breathed.
And then he was kissing her.
This was how she had imagined her first kiss. Edward's lips were warm and soft against hers, molding against her own as his tongue slipped out to graze her bottom lip, his hand behind her neck to gently cradle the back of her head. Bella's lips parted of their own accord and without any conscious thought on her part, she was suddenly kissing Edward back.
Edward wrapped an arm around Bella's waist and pulled her closer as her arms went around his neck, her hands sliding up to play with the soft hair at the base of his scalp as she enthusiastically returned the kiss. The hand at her waist slipped beneath the hem of her sweater and Bella shivered at the sensation of his long fingers on her bare skin, her hands dropping to grip his shoulders tightly as his other hand slid up from the back of her neck to tangle in her hair.
More! her body cried. More!
Pressed flush against his body, Bella could feel the sudden hardness in Edward's pants poking into her stomach and she instinctively rubbed herself against his thigh, a soft whimper escaping her throat as she sought relief from the throbbing she felt building between her legs. With a groan, Edward moved them backward so that Bella's back was now pressed up against the wall next to the bookshelf. Her hands dropped to his back, scrabbling for purchase through the fabric of his shirt, and she swore she heard Edward growl softly at the feel of her nails scraping down his back even as she continued rocking her hips against his, desperate for some kind of friction.
Edward could barely think straight – the feel of Bella in his arms, of her skin beneath his lips and her body pressed against his, was better than any fantasy he'd ever had. But somehow, he still managed to hear the little voice in his head warning him that if he didn't slow things down right now, there was a real possibility he wouldn't be able to stop.
With a strength he did not even know he possessed, he finally forced himself to pull back, cupping her face between his hands. Her eyes were glassy, her lips swollen, her hair in disarray from where he had been running his hand through it. That little noise she had made had been the sexiest thing he had ever heard and that combined with her current state was making it very difficult for him to not just drag her to his bed and refuse to ever let her leave and he forced his hands to his sides.
Bella looked dazed for a moment before her eyes came back into focus and she took a step back, hastily straightening her shirt and running a hand through her hair to tame it as she stared at him in shock. "Why did you do that?" she demanded shakily. Edward just smiled at her and Bella fought to clear her head. Taking a deep breath, she regained control of herself, glaring at Edward. "I don't think you should be kissing me if you're interested in Alice," she stated firmly.
"You're absolutely right, Swan."
Bella was thrown for a moment. "Then why…?"
Edward gave her the cocky half smile she had once detested but had recently begun thinking of as 'her' smile. "You're a smart girl, you figure it out."
Bella was still far too stunned to figure anything out. All she knew was that she had just shared a kiss that put all her fantasies to shame with Edward Cullen, the boy who had been tormenting her since she'd first moved to town. And not just a kiss, no. She had practically attacked him, dry humping him and tearing at his clothing in his bedroom when in reality it was Alice that he wanted. The one thing she knew for certain was that she had just made a complete and utter fool of herself.
Her head still spinning and her cheeks burning with humiliation, she turned and hurried from the room without another word.
"Bella!" She heard Edward call her name but it only served to make her move faster. She didn't want to hear that it was a mistake, she didn't want to hear that it was Alice that he really wanted, she didn't want to hear anything he might have to say at that moment.
Instead, she ran.
When she reached the first floor, the party was still going strong and she stopped short. Shit. Edward had said that Alice and Jasper had already left. Now what? She had to get out of there. From the corner of her eye, she caught sight of Ben helping Angela into her coat and she dashed over to them.
"Are you guys leaving already?" Bella asked, hoping she didn't look or sound as freaked out as she really was.
Angela blushed. "Um, yeah, we were going to head out." She and Ben exchanged a look alluding to just what they would be doing on their own but Bella ignored it.
"Could I possibly get a ride home with you? Alice and Jasper took off for a bit and I really don't feel very well all of a sudden."
Bella's face was flushed, her eyes still glassy, and Angela reached out a hand to touch Bella's forehead. "Are you all right?" she asked in concern. "You're burning up."
"Yeah, I think I just need to lie down."
"We can give you a ride," Ben said. "That's no problem."
"Of course," Angela agreed. "Do you have a coat?"
A coat. Shit. Belatedly, Bella remembered that her coat was probably still up in Edward's room. "Um, no, I forgot one," she lied. "So I'm ready whenever you guys are."
"Okay, we've already said goodbye to Emmett and Rose so we're ready," Angela said.
Bella smiled in relief, quickly glancing around the room. She saw Rose and Emmet and waved to the couple from across the room, indicating she was leaving with Angela and Ben, before turning and following her friends out the door.
Up on the third floor, Edward had finally managed to calm his body down and he immediately went looking for Bella. No one was on the second floor but when he reached the first floor, he picked Emmett and Rose out of the crowd right away.
Rose looked up and saw him signaling to them and she grabbed Emmett's arm, pulling him through the crowd to meet Edward. Between the music and the conversation of various partygoers, it was far too loud in the room for any conversation and Edward led them to Esme's office, which had been kept locked and off limits for the party.
"Have you guys seen Bella?" he asked as soon as Rose shut the door behind them.
"She just left, like, two minutes ago," Emmett said.
Edward's heart sank. "What? She wasn't driving, was she? Was she okay?"
"She left with Angela and Ben," Rose replied. "And she looked kind of freaked out." Even from across the room, she had seen the flush on Bella's cheeks and the panicked look in her eyes. "What exactly did you do?" Rose's voice was even but Edward didn't miss the warning in her eyes and he shook his head.
"I kissed her," he admitted.
"Well it's about time, man," Emmett said.
"She was kissing me back but when we stopped, she ran off. I think I just fucked everything up," he added miserably.
Edward looked completely dejected and Rose softened. "I'm sure it's not as bad as you think," she said sympathetically. "You probably just need to give her a little time and then go talk to her. I'm going to call Alice and see if she's heard from her," she added, exiting the room and leaving the brothers alone.
"Don't look so down, Eddie," Emmett said, trying to cheer his younger brother up. "You finally got to kiss the girl of your dreams. You should be happy!"
"You didn't see the look on her face when she ran out of my room," Edward said miserably. "God, I am such a dumbass."
"Well, normally I'd agree," Emmett said, hoping to lighten the mood. "But I think you're overthinking this one, man."
Anything Edward might have said in response was cut off by Rose reentering the room. "I can't get ahold of Alice," she told them. "I left her a voicemail and a text telling her to call me right away and to make sure she checked on Bella, but I don't know if she'll even look at her phone tonight."
She glanced back at the door to the room. "We should probably get back out there, make sure no one breaks anything. You coming?" she asked Edward, her tone still far gentler than Edward was used to hearing it.
"Yeah, come on, come back out with us," Emmett said. "The party'll take your mind off everything."
Edward shook his head. "I'm not really in the party mood," he said glumly. "I'm just gonna go upstairs."
Emmett protested but Edward said his goodnights and headed back up to his room.
When he reached his bedroom, he sat down heavily on his bed, falling down onto his back and staring up at the ceiling. What the hell had just happened?
You just ruined everything with the girl you want to be with, that's what happened, his brain responded tauntingly.
And it was true, he acknowledged, that was exactly what he had done. Bella had been in his arms, returning his kiss, making the most incredible sounds he had ever heard. It had been the perfect opportunity to come clean, to tell her how he really felt about her and how sorry he was for the stupid things he had done in the past.
He had instead reverted to the idiot that Bella hated, making a smart ass comment and smirking at her instead of sucking it up and telling her the truth.
Stupid, stupid, stupid! he berated himself. What the hell is wrong with you?
Bella would most likely never even speak to him again and he had no one to blame but himself.
Author's Note: There are a few things in here that I know are incorrect (Jasper would never be able to transfer high schools and play a sport the same year – they would make him sit out a season before he could start. Also, college football isn't played on Thanksgiving but I hate pro football and I wanted to keep Emmett's teasing in there!) and though they drive my anal retentive self crazy, I needed to keep them in there for the plot. Thanks for being understanding!