AN: First, thank you to everyone who's read and reviewed, you guys make this all worthwhile for me. Next, thanks for the well-wishes regarding my back. It wasn't too bad this week and my Xrays came back clear. I have an appointment next with a Sports Medicine Doctor because they're leaning towards Sciatica at the moment. Fun times.

Chapter 12: Hands Down

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Hands down, this is the best day I can ever remember
I'll always remember the sound of the stereo

The dim of the soft lights
The scent of your hair
That you twirled in your fingers

And the time on the clock
When we realized it's so late
And this walk that we shared together

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Hands Down by Dashboard Confessional

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With the radio cranked as loud as it would go and the Washington scenery flying past, Bella and Edward drove up to Seattle in his truck. She sang along with Nicki Minaj, a grin splitting her face as Edward drove, watching her with amusement, out of the corner of his eye.

..
Shawty, I'ma only tell you this once, you the illest
And for your lovin' I'ma Die Hard like Bruce Willis
You got spark, you-you got spunk
You-you got something all the girls want
You're like a candy store and I'm a toddler
You got me wantin' more and ma-ma-more of
Your love, your love, your love
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Edward burst out laughing when Bella started to roll her shoulders and dance in her seat.

"Something funny, Edward?"

"No, not at all. You just look really cute rapping. I thought I'd seen it all."

She smacked him lightly on the shoulder and laughed. "Yeah? Wait until I find some way to duet with Eminem. Then you'll see."

He raised an eyebrow. "Really? Eminem doesn't really seem to fit into Izzy Dwyer's style."

She turned towards him, sliding a leg underneath of her bottom. "Oh really? How do you know so much about Izzy Dwyer's style?"

A blush worked its way across his cheeks. "Uh, I may have bought your cd."

She smiled widely, both at his flushed face and the fact that he wanted to connect with her. "Which one did you get?"

"All of them," he replied, shooting a quick glance her way.

Warmth flooded her chest. He really was too good to be true.

"That's got to be one of the sweetest things that anyone's ever done. Thank you," she replied sincerely.

He shrugged, as if it wasn't a big a deal. "I wanted to understand you better. Your most recent is my favorite, by the way."

"Out Of This Cage? Why that one?" she asked. Most people would've picked her debut album.

"I don't know, it just feels like there's a lot of you in it. If that makes any sense."

She bit her lip and nodded. "It totally makes sense to me. I wrote three quarters of the songs on there. It's the most I've ever been allowed to use. When the time comes to re-negotiate my contract, being able to have full control will be one of my requests."

"If they say no?"

She shrugged. "Not to sound arrogant, but I'm Izzy Dwyer, their cash cow so to speak. There are dozens of other companies that would snatch me up. Money isn't important to me, having artistic control is. I'd gladly go with a smaller paycheck to have it."

"Why not start up your own, like some other artists have done?"

She pursed her lips in thought. "I've never really thought of doing that. It's something to think about, that's for sure."

She turned to gaze out the window, mulling over thoughts of what life would be like once she returned to L.A. The main word that kept popping up was lonely. After being around her friends and family these past few weeks, going back to the hustle and bustle of her solitary life as Izzy didn't really appeal to her much.

With a small sigh, she banished those thoughts and shifted her mind back to the man sitting across from her. No matter what happened in her future, she could see herself with him, loving him and coming home to him after a hectic day. But she wasn't sure if he'd even want to be a part of her life as Izzy. He was a simple man and happy with his life in Forks, he'd said so himself. Not wanting to dampen the mood of their first official date, she made a mental note to talk to him about it later.

"So, Mr. Cullen, all I know for this date of ours is that we're heading into Seattle and spending the night. Having Alice pack my overnight bag was pretty devious, by the way. Can I at least get a few hints?"

He smiled and shook his head. "Well, I have a full day planned for us and I'm sure that we'll be beat by the time it's over, so I figure that we could spend the night at my apartment. It's a few blocks from my office and there's two bedrooms, so you don't have to worry about your virtue."

She bit her lip and turned her face towards the window so he couldn't get a glimpse of her own blush. It wasn't her virtue that she was worried about. It was his.

Taking her silence as discomfort, he started to backtrack. "But, if that's not something you're comfortable with, we can grab a hotel room downtown. It's not a problem."

She looked at him in surprise. "No, I have no problem staying with you, I know you're a perfect gentleman."

He shot her a smirk. "I think you're giving me too much credit."

She bit her lip and smiled. "I hope I am."

He swallowed and looked back at the road, his cheeks slightly pink. She wondered briefly if he'd always blush like that or if it was something that he'd grow out of the more comfortable they became with each other. And there was no doubt about it, she definitely wanted to be closer in every respect of the word.

"Okay, so we're staying the night at your place, but what's happening between now and then?"

"You're a hard person to keep a surprise from, aren't you?" he asked cheekily.

She laughed. "Why do you say that?"

"Because you don't give up. You're just going to keep asking over and over until I crack, aren't you?"

She thought for a moment, before nodding. "Yeah, I'm kind of annoying that way, sorry."

He smiled widely, his eyes still glued to the road. "Don't be sorry. That's just something that makes you uniquely you."

She giggled. "That's sweet to say, thanks."

A few minutes passed in silence, then Bella spoke up again. "You never answered the question."

He barked out a laugh and shook his head. "Fine, I'll compromise. We're going to hang out and do something fun. Then I have reservations for dinner tonight."

"Okay, but-"

"How about we change the subject and take your mind off of it?" he cut her off, before she had the chance to ask again.

She sighed playfully. "If we must. What would you like to talk about?"

He glanced at her nervously, before eying the road again. "Tell me about your life as Izzy."

She groaned lightly and laid the back of her head against the door's window.

"I mean, if you don't want to tell me-"

"No, it's not that," she replied quietly. "I just don't want to ruin the mood."

"Bella, I promise that whatever you say, it's not going to "ruin the mood" or change how I feel about you."

She swallowed and nodded. "Okay. I don't really know where to start though. What do you want to know?"

He smiled kindly. "I want to know everything, so why don't you just start wherever you're comfortable."

"My life as Izzy is hectic. Most days, I wake up and workout, then head into the studio or somewhere for an interview. Unless I'm on tour, then there's practice, sound checks, fittings, signing autographs and performing. I barely have a personal life and when I do get a chance to do something non-music related, it's always hush-hush so the paps don't catch wind of it. There's always someone with a camera to follow us around and a sensational rag to spin a story to help sell their shit."

"What about dating?" he asked tentatively.

She snorted. "That's a joke. I can't remember the last real date I've actually been on."

He cleared his throat. "What about James Tillman?"

She raised an eyebrow. "Somebody's been using Google lately, haven't they? Or was it the girls?"

He chuckled nervously. "Alice and Rose never said anything, but I did Google you, I must admit. Uh, a lot of people seem to think that you two are a couple?"

"That's what I mean about them spinning stories to suit whatever they want to believe. Neither James nor I have ever said we were dating. The media inferred that. He's probably one of the only 'real' friends I have in L.A." She sighed and ran a hand through her hair. "Even hanging out with him is a rare occasion. He's an actor and our schedules rarely coincide for us to have more than a day here and there to hang out. Plus, the paps follow him even more than they do me. It's tiring and exhausting. Nowhere near as glamorous as movies make it out to be."

"It sounds pretty lonely."

"It is. I have no idea how I'm going to be able to deal with that again," she murmured, gazing out of the window.

Edward pulled the truck onto the shoulder of the road and turned off the engine. She looked up at him, his eyes swirling with emotion.

"You're not going to have to go through that again."

She blinked in confusion. "What do you mean? Not going back isn't an option."

"No, I mean the being alone part. You have all of us. Mac, Emmett, Rose, Alice, Jasper and me. You can't get rid of us now."

She smiled sadly and pulled her feet up on the seat, hugging her knees to her chest. "I wish it were that easy. Your lives are in Forks, mine is in L.A. I can't go public with who all of you are, the paparazzi would eat you alive. They'll over run the town and dig through everyone's past to find some scrap of scandal, then twist and turn it until it's something completely bogus. Sure, they'll get bored after awhile, but in the meantime, they'll harass and interfere with your lives. It sucks and it wouldn't be fair to put everyone through that."

He reached out and gently caressed her fingers, pulling them loose from their grip on her legs. She turned her body towards his and pleaded with her eyes for him to understand.

"Remember what we talked about before? You can't make decisions for other people, Bella. If dealing with some annoying assholes is the price I have to pay to be with you, I'll buy a one way ticket. I'm standing by you."

She sniffed and leaned over the console, throwing her arms around his neck in a tight hug. "I don't know what I did to deserve you, but I'm so thankful," she whispered.

She felt him smile against her temple. "The feeling is mutual, trust me."

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Bella gazed up at the giant sculpture made of guitars in awe. After they stopped for a quick lunch, Edward took her to the Experience Music Project & Science Fiction Museum, figuring that she'd be able to appreciate at least the musical aspect of it. She wandered through the various exhibits, taking a particular interest in the Jimi Hendrix one. Turning toward Edward, she smiled.

"Did you know that while he used multiple kinds, his favored guitar was a Fender Stratocaster? The man could make a guitar sing like no other."

Edward folded his arms and leaned against a wall as she gazed over the various memorabilia. "Is that the kind you play?"

She glanced at him. "A Fender? No. Well- I mean, I can. But my baby is a Gibson Les Paul."

"Not to sound ignorant, but what's the difference?"

She paused her perusal and furrowed her brow in thought. "Hmmm, I'd assume that's like asking what's the difference between a Phillips and a Flathead."

He cocked an eyebrow and motioned for her to continue. "How so?"

"Well, they're both screwdrivers, but are specialized to work with different types of screws. It's similar with guitars. The size, shape and make-up all determine the type of sound that is emitted. A Les Paul is heavier, with a set neck and a stop tail bridge. It produces a warmer, crunchier sound, whereas the Strat comes off cleaner and more metallic. I also prefer the rounded body of mine."

He nodded thoughtfully. "That makes sense. Thank you for the explanation."

"Anytime." She winked and continued to look around.

Two hours later, they found themselves on opposite ends of an air hockey table at the Seattle Waterfront Arcade. After beating him twice in a row, Bella smiled as Edward started to pout.

"Oh, come on, you big baby!" She laughed, tugging him through the small crowd of people. "You pick the next game."

She began to understand why he chose to drive up here on a Thursday. Not as many people were out during the daytime, so there was less of a chance of her being recognized.

Meandering past an indoor carousel, he pulled her towards a photo booth by the prize counter. He gave her a cheeky grin, climbing inside and pulling her onto his lap. After making his selection and sliding money into the slot, he shifted their bodies so they were both facing the camera. Right before the first picture was taken, he quickly turned and kissed her cheek. A few funny poses later, their last shot was of the two of them looking into each other's eyes. He smiled and kissed her sweetly, then stepped out of the booth and reached for her hand. He pocketed the pictures and they made their way to the exit.

"Okay, so," he said as they bundled back up into their coats. "We'll need to head back to my place soon to get changed for dinner. Don't worry, your dress is in your bag with instructions from Alice on how to quick steam any wrinkles."

She rolled her eyes playfully and slid into the passenger seat when he opened the door for her. "Okay."

He quickly jogged around to the driver's side and turned the ignition to let the truck warm up. "Do you mind if we swing by my office? It's just a few blocks from my apartment and there's a file I need to grab."

She nodded. "Sure, I don't mind."

The office for Cullen Construction was on the top floor of a four story building, on the outskirts of the city. He asked if she'd like to come in and she readily agreed, curiosity getting the better of her. A woman around fifty sat at the receptionist desk and greeted them enthusiastically.

"Good Afternoon, Edward. I didn't expect you to be in today."

He smiled and waved as he passed by her desk. "Hey, Heidi. Just showing my girl around town today. Won't be but a minute to grab the Mallory file."

Bella felt warm and fuzzy at the mention of being his girlfriend. It never failed to make her feel special. The older woman eyed her with a grin.

"You must be Bella. It's a pleasure to meet you. You were all that Edward whined about last week."

"He was?" Her eyes widened in surprise, shooting him a questioning look. His blush seeped slowly on the apple of his cheeks.

Heidi laughed and shook her head. "Let me rephrase that. He was complaining about having to be in the office while you were back in Forks. For a minute there, I thought he was going to tell Mr. Mallory to stuff it."

"I almost did," he grumbled, as he stepped into his office.

Once he was out of sight, Heidi quickly walked over to Bella and gave her a swift hug. "I've never seen him so happy and in love before," she whispered. "He deserves it." She pulled back and looked into Bella's eyes, offering her a kind, motherly smile. "You're good for him, I can tell. I wish you two the best of luck."

"Now, Heidi, who is this pretty lady and why is she being kept waiting?" a male voice called from somewhere behind Bella.

She turned to see a tall, stocky man around her age, walking towards them. His brown hair was disheveled and his hazel eyes were friendly.

"This is Edward's Bella."

Bella felt giddy at the title and couldn't help a giggle at how comically the man's face fell. "Go ahead, laugh," he joked. "I can see that Ed's sense of humor must be rubbing off on you already."

"Be nice, Riley," Edward replied, as he walked out his door and came to stand next to her, wrapping an arm around her waist.

"Bella, this is my right hand man, Riley Biers. As you've already heard, Ry, this is my girlfriend Bella."

Riley reached out for her hand and kissed the back of her knuckles. "It's an honor to meet you, Madam. Anyone who keeps this one out of my hair is a friend of mine." He winked at her and leaned in to give Edward a one-armed hug. "As for you, it's nice to see you when you're not scowling, Ed."

Edward shoved his friend playfully. "Okay, okay, we've gotta be going." He motioned to the manila folder in his hands. "I'll look over the changes and give you a call this weekend."

Riley nodded and smiled. "Sure thing, boss. Dick's just being, well, a dick."

Edward smirked. "He's very aptly named, I'll give you that."

Riley laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. "Have fun and don't do anything I wouldn't do."

"That doesn't leave out a whole lot, Ry."

Riley nodded. "This is true." He turned to Bella and offered her a warm smile. "It really is nice to meet you, Bella."

"You too, Riley," she replied softly.

Edward took her arm and they walked quietly back to the elevators.

"They were nice," she commented quietly.

He smiled widely. "They're the best. I've known Riley since college and Heidi is actually a friend of my mom's."

Bella looked back towards the office thoughtfully. "Yeah, I can see her and Esme plotting behind your back."

Edward groaned. "Trust me, they have. And I'm sure it won't be the last time."

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Dinner was a quiet affair. He'd made reservations at a restaurant called El Gaucho and they chatted inanely as they ate. The food was delicious as soft strains of Jazz danced through the air from a man playing the piano upstairs. All too soon, they found themselves back at his apartment with a sense of awkwardness creeping in.

He tossed his suit jacket on the back of a chair and ran his hand through his hair, making parts of it stand up on end. "Would you like a glass of wine?" he asked nervously.

"Sure, that sounds good," she replied with a smile, hoping to ease the tension.

As he disappeared into the kitchen, she slipped off the three inch heels that Alice had packed with the spaghetti-strapped black dress she was wearing. She'd been in too much of a rush to check earlier, but she really hoped that there was something more comfortable for her to wear back home tomorrow.

Edward returned after a few minutes, handing her a glass of red wine before taking a seat next to her on the couch. She took a sip and swirled the burgundy liquid around her tongue. She leaned forward and placed it on the coffee table, sitting back against the couch and closing her eyes.

He reached over and gently moved some hair from the nape of her neck, laying a gentle kiss there before beginning to massage her lightly. She sighed and leaned into his touch, the tension slowly dissipated from her body. She groaned softly, causing him to chuckle.

"Does that feel good?" he asked huskily.

"Yes," she moaned as his fingers kneaded a particularly stubborn muscle knot, "it's been a long day."

"I'm sorry," he murmured.

She pulled away and turned her body to face him, smiling. "I didn't mean it negatively. Yes, it was a long day, but it was the most fun I've had in years. Thank you for traipsing me around Seattle."

He smiled shyly and tucked her hair behind her ear. "Thank you for letting me traipse you around Seattle. And agreeing to stay the night here with me." He cupped her cheek, kissing her softly. As he began to move away, she reached for his tie and pulled him back, grazing her lips across his cheek and running her nose along his own.

"Not so fast, Cullen. You called the shots all day, it's my turn now."

Her heart began to speed up, encouraged by the way his eyes darkened and his hand slid down her neck.

"Then what do you want, Ms. Swan?" he whispered. "Whatever you want, it's yours."

She pressed her lips softly against his in a quick kiss. "I only want you," she whispered back.

She felt his lips curl up into a smile. "You already have me. Do with me as you please."

Their mouths moved together, sweetly yet passionately. One of his hands skirted down her side, brushing against her breast and causing her to gasp into his mouth. Attempting to illicit that reaction again, he ran his hand back up, this time gently cupping her breast instead of just brushing against it. His lips broke away from hers and trailed small, hot kisses down her jaw as her fingers weaved their way into his hair.

"Edward," she sighed.

He brought his eyes to hers and she was sure that she saw her own feelings mirrored there. "Bella, I-" He swallowed thickly. "I think we should slow down."

Disappointment washed over her. "Oh," she murmured, "okay."

He sat back and scrubbed his face with his hands. She watched him, confused for a moment and wondered why he wouldn't meet her eyes. She reached down and picked up her glass, quickly downing the contents before standing.

"Well then, since we're done here, I'm going to get changed for bed," she spoke up, her voice slightly wavering. She made her way quickly into his bedroom, where her bag sat in the middle of the bed and changed in his bathroom, thankful that Allie had packed her a cami and yoga pants to sleep in. After brushing her teeth and tying her hair up in a ponytail, she returned to his room to find Edward sitting on the bed, waiting for her.

He smiled apologetically and reached out his arms, to which she walked into willingly.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "It's not that I don't want you. Trust me, I do. I just- I want to go slow with you. Do things right."

Her eyes darted between both of his, trying to find anything that would make her feel like he was lying, but she found none.

"I'm not a virgin by any means, but I've only been with two other women. To me, sex is a serious step. I can't- I don't think I can cross that line with you until I know in my heart, that you're not going to disappear on me."

Her heart ached at his vulnerability, but she could see his point of view. "I completely understand. I don't blame you for being cautious with me." She looked down and his fingers were instantly under her chin, bringing her gaze back to his.

"I'm not saying never, Bella. I'm just asking for some time."

She smiled sadly. "I don't know how much of that we have left."

He sighed and dropped his hands. "That's exactly what I mean. I've told you over and over that I want to be with you, crazy lifestyle and all. Going back to L.A. won't change how I feel. I'll still want you, this doesn't have to end. The parameters will just be changed."

She closed her eyes and clenched her hands into fists, not sure what she could say to assure him. "Edward. I-"

"Ssh, let's not hash it out now. I'm tired and I'm sure you are as well. We can talk about it more tomorrow."

She nodded glumly and turned for the door. She hadn't gotten two steps away, when he grasped her arm, pulling her back and laying a gentle kiss upon her lips.

"This may be too forward of me, but I'd like you to stay. Here with me tonight. I promise to be a gentleman; I just want to hold you in my arms."

She looked up into his hopeful, earnest eyes and nodded. She wanted nothing more than that herself.

"Okay, I'll get changed and you get comfortable."

He walked over to his dresser and took out a pair of sleep pants, before making his way to the bathroom.

"Um, which side do you sleep on?" she called out.

"I usually sleep in the middle, so it doesn't really matter to me," he replied.

She climbed up onto the soft, king-sized bed and slid underneath of the covers. A couple of minutes later, Edward switched off the light and she felt the bed dip beside her as he settled in for the night. His arms reached out for her and she nestled against him, laying a kiss on his chest.

"Good night, Edward," she whispered.

"Good night, Princess," he returned, kissing her on the top of her head.

Sleep found her quickly, as she was lulled to sleep by the comforting thrum of Edward's heartbeat.

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AN: Chapter song: Hands Down by Dashboard Confessional / Song used at the beginning of the chapter: Your Love by Nicki Minaj

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Dude, did she really just cockblock us? Yes, yes I did. Would it make you feel better to know there will probably be a lemon in the next chapter?