Disclaimer: All Twilight related characters belong to S. Meyer.
A/N: Well well well…look what we have here! EPOV? I believe some of you asked for this, non? Now that we know a little bit about his past, I feel comfortable enough letting you into his mind. But only a little! Let's not get ahead of ourselves. I have thoughts for more EPOV chapters, but let's see how you like this one first.
Much love and thanks to my beta, Kerazy, as always. She makes sure my commas are always in the right place ;) Enjoy, loves!
Chapter 1 EPOV
The sharp snap of Emmett's cleats hitting the floor beside me shocked me out of my trance. I was staring blankly at the back of my mahogany locker stall, trying my best to remember my objectives for the game today. My thoughts were elsewhere, which wasn't unusual. Not lately anyway.
We have a real shot at the championship this year if we could just stay focused for the rest of the season. I have a chance at having my best season to date if I could keep my head out of the clouds for more than one game. I sighed heavily and rubbed my face with my hands.
It had been six months since she left. Six months to the day. It was a relief that she was gone but being alone was the hard part. It had been two and a half months since I'd moved into my condo, lovingly designed and furnished by my mother and sister. It wasn't home yet but it was getting there. Better than sleeping on Alice's couch, that's for sure.
Although, having my own place again meant I was still alone. At least I had someone to talk to at Alice's, even if I had to listen to her and Jasper sometimes.
Some days I felt angry, some days I felt like a failure and some days I felt like complete shit. Today was different. Today I felt like things needed to start changing. Emmett and Rose were talking about having another kid, Jasper and Alice were planning their wedding and I was stuck in the past.
It was my turn to be happy again. She was happy again.
At least, that's what People Magazine had said when they showed her walking around Chicago with James Smith. Manwhore extrodinaire.
I heaved another large sigh and pulled my warm up jersey over my head. Enough. There had been a crisp bite to the air today when I left my condo to drive to the ballpark. The fog was supposed to come in tonight for the first time in a few days. I'd taken a deep lungful of it as I'd walked from my car into the park.
I pulled my cap over my hair and brushed the bill with my fingertips.
I followed Jasper and Emmett out of the locker room and through the clubhouse to the dugout. I could hear the white noise of the stands over the tandem sounds of our cleats hitting the cement floor. The sound of the fans in their seats was comfortable and familiar. It was petty to use baseball as a coping mechanism but it meant more to me than most things. I could count on it more than I could count on anything else.
Besides my family.
Emmett and Jasper jogged down the first base line towards left field and I followed blindly, taking in the smell of grass, garlic fries and the bay. I let the comforting feel of my cleats sinking into the lawn calm my wandering thoughts. Our coach met us in left field to lead our stretches.
I lost myself in our sprints, pushing my legs to carry me across the outfield. I beat Jasper and Emmett by twenty feet, which wasn't saying much since Emmett ran about as fast as a lumbering bear.
AKA, faster than most but not fast enough.
I slapped his ass as I ran back towards left field.
When I finished my warm up routine, I wandered over to the low wall next to the bullpen to sign autographs. Interaction with the fans was an easy way to get my head back in the game. I liked talking to the kids and shaking hands with their dads. I liked knowing that my team was making people happy and that we were actually part of something bigger than playing games every day.
It was humbling.
"Your play last night was fantastic," a fan said as I signed my name on her offered baseball.
I grinned, "Thanks." I handed the baseball back to her and caught her excited smile. I could tell she was a fan. Her Giants hat was at least ten years old, frayed and faded. "Enjoy the game," I said with a nod. She thanked me and I bowed my head in return as I turned to face the next person along the wall.
For a moment, I wondered if Emmett had sucker punched me in the gut, or if Jasper had flung a pitch at my head. I froze, near paralyzed and I felt as though a fog had appeared all around me. It engulfed my body and the field behind me and there was nothing left but the girl before me. I couldn't see anything, hear anything or feel anything except for her.
What the fuck?
She was gaping at me, mouth bobbing, eyes wide, but I barely noticed. All I could see were her perfect, pink lips and her beautiful, warm chocolate eyes. She was plain, and yet she wasn't. The wisps of her mahogany hair whipped her cheeks and forehead in the wind and she batted them away uselessly, tiny hands caressing her face. I wanted to be closer to her, even if it was merely to see her better.
She was beautiful.
I heard a crack from a bat connecting with a ball at the plate and the fog evaporated at once. I felt the setting sun at the back of my neck and heard the lull of the crowd around me.
The fan with the baseball nudged the girl, obviously her friend, closer to the wall. She stumbled and I heard her knees make contact with the vinyl draped over the padding. "Um, I don't have anything for you to sign," she said. Her voice was small but it rang loudly in my ears.
She obviously wasn't a fan. Not that it mattered.
For her it didn't matter.
I felt oddly desperate to sign something for her, to leave something for her. Even if I never saw her again, I wanted a record somewhere that I'd met her. "Ticket?" I offered hopefully, suggesting the default autograph item.
She blinked, brown eyes still wide. "What?"
I could see the thin strip of cardboard sticking out of her back pocket. I made sure that was all I saw of her back…anything. "I'll sign your ticket."
That was a lie. I saw everything. Damn.
She followed my gaze and saw what I was referring to, then snapped back up and grabbed the ticket from her pocket. "Oh, ok." She handed me the slightly bent piece of paper and I nonchalantly eyed the seat number. Bleachers. Damn. I definitely wouldn't be able to spot her from there.
Well, that changed things. I needed to know something. Anything. Something to set her apart. Something for me to remember.
"What's your name?" I asked, attempting to sound as innocent and nonchalant as possible. I couldn't help the nervous swallow that followed as I waved the pen over her ticket, waiting. I tried not to look at her. I wanted to look at her.
She was so beautiful.
I chanced a look and had to bite my cheek to keep from chuckling. Her mouth was bobbing again, obviously at a loss. Good grief. Had she never met an athlete before?
Her friend was staring at her, scandalized and I bit back another laugh. When it was obvious the brown-eyed girl wasn't going to respond, her friend looked up at me with a withering look and said, "Bella."
All clichés aside, I couldn't think of anyone more deserving of the name Bella. I gave up trying to hide my smile and quickly signed the ticket with the Sharpie. "To Bella. Edward Cullen." Although my signature looked more like scribbles, at least her name was clear.
And now I knew her name.
I handed the ticket back to her, pretending not to acknowledge the sadness I felt at ending our contact. I wasn't ready to let Bella go. Not yet. "Enjoy the game, Bella," I said, hoping desperately for a reaction, but settling with the pleasant feeling in my gut as her name fell from my lips.
I liked saying her name. Probably a little too much.
"T-thanks," she replied, smiling back.
Aha, reaction. Victory!
I heard another smack from the bat and watched the noticeable surge of fans in the stands following the trajectory of the ball. I heard someone yell, "HEADS UP!" and swiveled my head to track down the ball dropping from the sky where we were standing. Most people moved out of the way, but Bella turned the opposite direction, falling into the masses of people. As she jerked to avoid them, her knees backed up against the low wall and with a shriek, she toppled backwards.
Her friend reached for her but she missed her hand and without even thinking, I took one step in her direction and gathered her in my arms.
It was like a bolt of electricity had shot up my body at our contact. I froze for a moment, shocked into stillness by her proximity. I could feel everything.
She was light, like a feather and warm against my fingers. She was bundled in layers and layers of jackets and sweatshirts but it was as though I could feel every bit of her. Both my hands were clamped around her upper arms, supporting her weight from my side of the field. It all happened so fast and yet I wished I had a reason to hold her longer.
That wasn't normal.
I had to let go of her.
Let go of her, Edward. Let go.
I held back a sigh as I tipped her back upright and set her on her feet. She remained still, even as she stood on her own. I kept my hands on her for good measure.
Hah. Good measure. Nice one.
I bent my head low next to her ear to speak but was distracted by the scent of her hair at my cheek. Strawberries? Freesia? It was amazing. "Are you alright?" I managed finally, feeling selfish for putting her concern after my disgusting obsession with the scent of her hair.
She turned her head to meet my eye. Hers were wild and excited.
"I'm fine, thanks," she assured me and I was pleased that she didn't try to pull out of my grasp.
This was getting ridiculous. I needed to bring this down a level. I needed to make sure I was able to play in an hour. I released her arms. "You should bring a glove next time," I said lightly, adding a wink to the mix.
A wink? Are you fucking serious? What the hell was that?
She pursed her lips and looked like she was about to fire back when I noticed a pair of heavyset security guards behind her. One of them grabbed her arm roughly and my heart fell.
By falling onto the field Bella had broken one of the main rules of the stadium. It was a zero tolerance policy. No fans on the field at any time.
They were speaking tersely to each other and I was too distracted to catch every word. Bella's voice was frantic as she gestured to her friend. Could I intervene? Was it a good idea? Was I sacrificing my manhood for intervening with a security guard?
Screw manhood, I was protecting Bella.
I'm done for.
"She was knocked over. It wasn't her fault."
Had I just said that out loud?
The guard's head snapped up. He was pissed. I didn't give a shit. "I'm sorry Mr. Cullen, you know the rules. There are liability issues and insurance policies. It's not my decision."
He's bored and is enjoying not dealing with drunk people. I crossed my arms over my chest.
Possibly flexing some muscle.
"It was an accident," I said, teeth clenched. "Just let her go, man."
We shared a tense glare for a moment or two before I saw his fingers release their grip on Bella's arm and he took a step backwards. I sighed in relief and watched as he lectured Bella on the etiquette of the stadium.
I heard my name being shouted and I turned toward the dugout. Emmett was gesturing to me. Practice was over. Time to suit up.
I wasn't done yet. We weren't done yet. She was in the bleachers, I wouldn't see her again. Possibly ever. I hadn't felt this way about someone since…
I hadn't felt like this about someone ever.
That had to mean something, right? I looked back over at Bella. She was nodding at the guard and looking like a scolded child. She was adorable. Emmett called my name again and I cursed under my breath. I took a step away, then another, jogged backwards for a few steps until I finally turned around fully and made my way to the dugout. I could feel the tension stretching between us and I didn't like it.
These things had a funny way of working themselves out. Right?
The feel of Bella's warm body between my fingers burned my skin like a tattoo.
They had to work out.
I looked back over my shoulder to see Bella staring after me. It took all my strength to keep from falling on my face. I smiled over my shoulder at her.
She smiled back and I knew.
I think I found my change.
Or maybe it had found me…
A/N: Don't forget how wonderful reviews are…just saying :) You guys always make my day with your reviews! Thanks so much for reading. Until next time!