UNTIL FFN GETS SORTED...I'LL POST THIS TWILIGHT STORY HERE.

Name: MIRAGE

Author: Sdfreeze

Disclaimer: Characters belong to Stephenie Meyer

This story was last published on 6/18/10.

This is the link for the TWILIGHTED forum for THE CUBE story.

http: / / www(dot)twilighted(dot)net/forum/viewtopic(dot)php?f=44&t=11931

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Name: Mirage

Author: Sdfreeze

Chapter 1 to 10

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Chapter: 1

Cross Country

The BMW pulled into the dusty lot of the old gas station covering me in plumbs of cloudy grit. I traded my extended thumb for my middle finger and watched the man laugh in my direction. I dug through my pocket and pulled out a couple of one dollar bills and headed toward the gas station pop machine.

"Sorry," he called out to me and I nodded in irritation.

I pushed the Coke button and a small light signaled it was out. I tried the Dr. Pepper, but another light shined at me as I sighed in exasperation. I hit the Sprite as a last hope and began kicking the machine when it produced another empty light.

"Hey," the man at the pumps called out to me.

"What?" I yelled back without looking at him.

"I have a cooler, you can grab a drink if you want."

I finally turned to look at him and had to cover my eyes with my hand to block the sun from my eyes. He was leaning against his car with a cocky smirk that made me instantly hate him, but I was so damn thirsty I hesitantly headed towards him.

He chuckled and used his remote to pop the trunk. It was too organized and made me snort in disapproval. I opened the small cooler to find some bottles of Pepsi and some wine coolers.

"You have to show me I.D. if you take the wine," he said seriously.

"You a cop," I asked.

"No, but you are obviously a minor," he pointed out.

I rolled my eyes at him and challenged, "If I prove I'm not a minor do I get it for free?"

His eyes widened and he laughed. "I'm not charging you for the drink, take it, you look like you need it."

I reached for one of the wine bottles and he cleared his throat, "Not that, take a soda."

"I'm almost twenty," I said angrily.

"Sorry, the law is over twenty one, not almost twenty, which I seriously doubt," he said as he lowered his sun glasses to get a better look at me.

I grabbed a Pepsi and tossed the two bucks on top of the cooler and walked away. I walked back to the road and put my thumb out again. He watched me closely and I kept him in my peripheral vision. He paid for the gas and walked back to his car and stopped to watch me again.

"Hey," he called out.

"Bella," I yelled.

"What?"

"My name isn't Hey, it's Bella," I clarified.

"Okay, Bella, where are you headed?"

I dropped my thumb and seriously hoped he was offering me a ride. I didn't tell him I was trying to get to Virginia, completely on the other side of the country, but I would go as far as he was headed if he was heading East.

"East," I yelled to him.

"That's vague," he laughed.

"Are you offering me a ride or not," I asked as a semi passed and possibly an opportunity.

"Sure, why not."

I walked over to his car and tried to size him up. He didn't appear to have serial killer written on him, but neither did Ted Bundy. I glanced inside the car and saw a small pillow and a folded blanket on the seat and a briefcase on the floor.

"What's in the briefcase?" I asked.

"Government secrets," he said with a smile.

"No knife or gun?"

"No, those are in the glove box," he laughed and climbed in the drivers seat.

I hesitated so he leaded over and opened the glove box, "All good," he laughed.

I finally opened the door and got in. The soft leather was heaven to my tired body and I sunk down into the seat. He started the engine and pulled onto the road. I leaned my head against the window and closed my eyes.

"Can I ask a favor?" he said.

"I knew it," I yelled, "I'm not blowing you for a ride."

He stared forward in shock and said, "Oh my god, do I look like the kind of guy who would do that?"

"Well….what favor?" I asked with suspicion.

"You look tired, I just want you to put the bottle in a holder if you're going to fall asleep."

I felt my face blush and I mumbled an apology and sat my bottle in the holder attached to the center console.

"You can grab the blanket if you want," he said as he laughed to himself.

I pulled it into the front and spread it over me. He put on some soft jazz music and I was out in seconds. I was stunned when I felt the car come to a stop and I opened my eyes to see it was dark. He was stopping for gas again and I quickly sat up straight.

"Shit, what time is it?" I asked.

"You hungry?" he asked instead of answering my question.

I turned to see a Subway attached to the gas station. I got out of the car and stretched and headed to the bathroom.

"Hey," he yelled to me and I turned to glare at him.

"Sorry… Bella. You're not some weird vegetarian tree hugger are you?"

I raised my middle finger again and turned back to continue on to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror at my tired eyes and washed my face with cold water in the sink. I pulled a comb from my pocket and tried to run it through my thick hair the best I could.

When I came out of the bathroom I saw him purchasing food in the Subway. I didn't want him paying for me, but I really hoped he was. I needed my money to last as long as possible and I had only budgeted for one meal a day.

I went back to the car and leaned against the trunk to wait for him.

He walked out with a big smile and I felt my mouth automatically smile back. I blamed my good mood on the nap and looked away from him. He popped the trunk and grabbed a drink and motioned for me to take one.

"Mine's not empty," I said and nodded to the front of the car.

"It was warm, I threw it out," he said and handed me his cold bottle before taking another one for himself.

"I would have still drank it," I told him.

"What kind of host would I be if I made you drink warm Pepsi?" he laughed.

"Host?" I laughed, "you think this is some kind of kinky road party?"

"I offered you a ride to keep me awake, but that didn't pan out," he said as he got back in the car.

"Where are we?" I asked as I sat next to him.

"Headed East," he answered and it made me weirdly uncomfortable.

"Exactly where are you going?" I pushed.

"D.C." he answered and I automatically looked at the briefcase again.

He handed me a sandwich and I asked him if I could pay him back but he just tilted his head and said, "I'm assuming there is a reason you're hitching and not sitting on a bus or a plane, so don't insult my intelligence."

"You don't know, maybe I'm a rich heiress looking for a way to pay it forward."

He laughed and started the car, "I'll drive while you look."

I dug into the sandwich and I saw him wince. "Whaa..?" I asked with my mouth full.

"Um…can you spread out some napkins…in case the dressing leaks?"

I sat the roll back down and finished chewing before saying, "Now I get it."

"Get what?" he asked as he watched me lay out the paper napkins.

"Why you are driving to D.C by yourself. Why you drive a car like this and look the way you do, but have no ring on your finger."

He gave me an uncomfortable look and asked, "Enlighten me."

"Wait, are you gay?" I asked, thinking I had missed something. I really hoped he said yes, I would feel safe and not guilty for sticking with him as long as possible for free food and the company.

"Driving a BMW makes me gay?" he asked.

"No, but stressing over crumbs and playing 'host' kind of does," I emphasized.

"I'm not gay," he said angrily.

"Okay, then you are way too uptight."

"No, I'm not," he professed.

I ran my finger through the dressing in my sandwich and reached up to wipe it on his mirror.

"What the hell are you doing," he screamed and pulled to the side of the road.

I let my head fall back in laughter and reached over and ran my finger down his cheek. The look on his face was priceless. He acted like he just contracted the Ebola virus.

"Gross," he yelled and leaned over me to open the glove box and pull out some wet wipes. He quickly wiped his face and then handed me one.

"What are you, a mother?" I teased. "Who carries wet wipes outside of a diaper bag?"

"Don't mess up my car," he warned as he cleaned the mirror. "I admit I am OCD about my car."

"I have a feeling it is more than just your car," I laughed.

"I wasn't raised in a commune, like you," he said accusingly.

I stopped laughing and stared at him, "Why do you do that?"

"What?" he asked still working on the mirror.

"Why do you assume I'm some uncouth hippy freak. You don't know me at all."

He stopped cleaning and looked at me. Our eyes locked and I looked away so he couldn't see my tears. He took a deep breath and extended his hand to shake mine.

"I'm Edward Cullen, I'm a lobbyist for the insurance industry and I live in Seattle and work in D.C."

I stared at his hand for a moment and then reached out with mine. "I'm Bella Harris, I was a student in Seattle and I'm looking for my birth mother who lives in Virginia," I lied.

We shook and he began driving again as I began to eat my sandwich. "Are you going to eat?" I asked him.

He looked at the subway bag on his lap and finally nodded yes. I grabbed the bag and pulled out the napkins and spread them on his lap. It wasn't a provocative move, but it somehow made me a little uncomfortable. I opened the sandwich and sat it on the paper.

"Thanks," he grinned at me.

"I don't have to feed you, do I?"

"Hummm…." He said as if deep in thought.

"Of course not, Bella," I said trying to use his deep voice. "I'm a man and I can eat like a man."

"You're making fun of me aren't you?" he asked.

"A bit slow on the draw," I accused.

"Smart ass," he said before taking a bite.

"Say it again, with your mouth full, I dare you," I challenged him.

"Schmar ash," he said with a laugh.

"There's hope for you yet," I laughed.

We ate the rest of our food and I saw him cringe when I finished my chips and wiped my fingers on my jeans. I grabbed a wet wipe to make him happy and wiped my fingers one at a time very methodically.

"I planned on spending the night in Salt Lake City and I don't mind getting you a room," he said uncomfortably.

"I don't mind sleeping in the car," I suggested and then remembered his unhealthy obsession with his car. "Oh, um…if there's two beds, I don't mind sharing a room. But can we find a cheap place."

"My room is covered as a business expense. I'll get two beds and it won't cost you a dime," he offered.

"Thanks," I said looking down at my ratty clothes and hoping we didn't have to walk through a ritzy lobby.

He pulled into a Best Western and went in to register. I looked at his tall lean body and wondered why a gorgeous guy with a great job was still single. His clothes were casual but still screamed money. He moved with confidence and seemed a little intimidating as he drew looks from both men and women.

He came back out and drove to the side of the hotel before pulling into a space right by a door. "Do you have a swimsuit?" he asked.

"No, why?"

"I swim laps every night," he said. "We'll get you one tomorrow."

"I don't know how to swim," I told him with fear.

"Seriously?" he laughed.

"Yeah, I'm terrified of water."

"Okay that will be our goal, by the time you get to Virginia you will be able to swim," he said and got out of the car.

"You are not listening," I said as I followed him inside. "I am terrified of water."

"You bathe don't you?" he said smugly.

"Yes, I bathe, you ass."

"If you bathe you can swim. I'll go swim and you go bathe," he said as he grabbed his suit from his duffle bag.

"Why, do I stink?" I yelled after him.

"I have shampoo and conditioner in my bag," he yelled back to me.

I pulled a strand of hair to my nose and took a whiff. He was just teasing me….I hoped.

I pulled out a dopp kit from his bag and opened it to find expensive salon shampoo and conditioner. I wondered why a guy would use conditioner and began to think he was indeed gay after all. I also grabbed a razor from his bag and jumped in the shower. I was clean, smooth, and smelling great by the time he returned from the pool.

He headed right to the shower and came out wearing just a pair of pajama pants. To be fair I was only wearing a big t-shirt, but he looked a lot more sexy in his pants than I did in my shirt. He spent almost half an hour in front of the sink and I laughed at him when he came over to his bed.

"You're so pretty," I teased.

"What's that supposed to mean," he said in confusion.

"Nothing," I laughed as I walked past him to brush my teeth. "You're a pretty princess."

I looked at him through the mirror to see if he was angry, but I was surprised to see him looking at my legs and ass.

I blushed and moved out of his view to brush my teeth. When I moved back to the sink to rinse he was lying in his bed.

"Can we switch," I asked him nervously as I looked at the window by my bed.

"I just got the bed all warm," he complained.

"Forget it," I mumbled and climbed into my bed and turned away from the window.

"Your going to sleep with wet hair?" he asked.

"Why not?"

"It will get your pillow all wet."

"And?"

"It breeds bacteria."

"Oh my god, you are so freaking irritating," I said as I climbed out of the bed and headed to the sink to blow dry my hair. "And stop looking at my ass."

Splash

I woke up in the middle of the night to find the room completely dark. I had fallen asleep as he watched television and forgot to ask him to leave a light on. I was frozen with fear and terrified to get out of the bed. I could feel the window behind me and closed my eyes tightly to stop imagining someone reaching for me.

"Edward," I called with a shaky voice.

I could hear his steady breathing and called a little louder. He didn't stir at all.

I scooted to the edge of my bed and could make out his form on the far side, so I quickly took one step on the floor and climbed into his bed. I tucked into the fetal position completely under the covers and snuggled up to him as close as I dared.

I soon fell back asleep.

The ringing telephone woke me up and I was shocked to feel Edward up against me with his arm draped over my waist. I grabbed the phone and was told it was our requested wake up call. I wasn't aware Edward had wanted one and turned over to look at his surprised face.

He pulled ear plugs from his ears and said, "Why are we in the same bed?"

"Why do you wear ear plugs?" I asked.

"I think my question was more important," he said as he scooted away from me.

I sat up and pretended to be sad, "You don't remember the wild sex and asking me to marry you."

He chuckled and headed to the bathroom. "I would have remembered the wild sex, and I could be drunk off my ass and I wouldn't propose."

I grabbed my jeans and pulled them on quickly before stripping off my shirt, expecting him to be in the bathroom for a long time. He walked back into the room right as I pulled on my new shirt. I usually didn't wear a bra, why not enjoy the breasts of a teenager while I could.

He kept his head down and pulled some clothes from his bag and took out the hotel ironing board.

"You are so gay," I said as I dug for some clean socks.

"My shirt is wrinkled," he defended.

"Yeah, who would want to sit in a car and drive all day with a wrinkled shirt that is just going to get wrinkled?"

"I don't cut down your grooming habits," he said with offense.

"You told me I stink and my hair was full of bacteria," I reminded him.

He laughed and it made me mad so I added, "But you didn't mind pressing your morning wood into my stinky, bacteria ridden, body."

His laughter faded and he went back to his ironing in embarrassment. His cell phone rang and he picked it up to see who was calling and then put it back down.

"The wife?" I asked.

"Ex-wife, and no it wasn't her."

I looked at him with surprise and was sure his nit picking must of driven her away. "You aren't going to answer?" I asked him.

"Nope, it's a business call."

"Aren't you on business?"

"Yep," he said and continued ironing.

"I'll wait outside if you need to talk to someone," I offered.

"I'm good," he smiled.

I sat quietly and it became extremely uncomfortable so I finally said, "I'm afraid of the dark, so when I woke up to a dark room I crawled into your bed."

He looked at me and nodded. "I travel a lot and the different time zones mess up my sleep, so I use ear plugs and keep the room very dark to fall sleep."

It was quiet again and I wondered if we were going to start keeping a light on or sleeping in the same bed. I was biting on my lip when he walked over and put his finger on my mouth to stop my annoying habit.

I looked up at him and felt my heart speed up so I moved to start packing up my bag. I waged an inner war with myself to stop finding the guy attractive. Getting involved with someone was the last thing I needed, especially someone like him.

When he opened the trunk I tossed my back pack into it and noticed how he pulled it out and placed it carefully next to his duffle bag. I rolled my eyes and climbed in my seat to wait for him. His phone rang again and he pulled it from his pocket, looked at it, smiled, and put it back in his pocket.

Once we were on I-80 and heading east I asked him about the calls.

"Why don't you answer your phone?"

"I'm arbitrating two opposing sides," he said and then looked at me like I would need further explanation.

"Usually arbitration means talking and coming to a consensus, why are you ignoring them," I said to assure him I knew what arbitration meant.

"Because if they can't reach me, they have to talk to each other. I'm really quite a genius," he laughed.

"So you take money to ignore people?"

"It isn't ignoring them, it is manipulating them…and that is worth a lot of money."

"Man, you do work in D.C.," I said in disgust.

"What is it you do?" he asked.

"I'm a student," I said and regretted bringing up the subject.

"Of what?" he pressed.

"English," I said and moved uncomfortably in my seat.

"I didn't mean to pry," he said noticing how I squirmed.

"It's okay," I said softly and stared at the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

"So," he started slowly, "why are you afraid of the dark?"

"Now you're prying," I said without looking at him.

"Can I ask how old you are?" he pressed sensing he may have a runaway on his hands.

"I told you the truth, I'll be twenty in September."

He raised is eyebrows in disbelief and it didn't surprise me. People always thought I was a kid when I didn't wear make up or heels.

"How old are you?" I asked to take the focus off of me.

"I'm twenty eight," he said bluntly.

"Shit, you're old," I laughed.

"It would seem that way to a minor," he laughed.

"Believe whatever you want, you're nothing to me."

We rode in silence all the way to Rawlins, Wyoming where he pulled over for gas and something to eat. "There's not a lot to choose from but what place sounds good for breakfast?"

"A dollar menu," I said as I looked around at the various fast food places just off the interstate.

"I'll make you a deal, don't eat in my car and I will pay for the food."

"You have serious issues with your car, but what the hell, it's a deal," I said in relief. It made me relax to know I could roll into town with some money in my pocket as long as Edward didn't dump me along the way. I decided to make an attempt to be nicer to him.

We ate a quick breakfast and I tried to look at the front page of the newspaper a man in the next booth was reading, without looking conspicuous. Edward looked back at the man so I said, "He looks familiar."

Edward stared at me for a bit and I tried to act casual. He finally said, "So are you going to learn to swim?"

"I told you, I'm afraid of water."

"Why?"

"My dad was a commercial fisherman and died at sea," I lied.

"You can't die in the shallow end of a pool," he pushed unwilling to let trauma be an excuse.

"Why do you care if I can swim," I asked with a furrowed brow.

"Every teenager should know how to swim," he said with a grin. "You want to be normal don't you?"

I grabbed my small wallet from my pocket and pulled out my license. I covered the name with my finger before shoving it in his face. "I'm not a kid," I said angrily.

"Okay, calm down, all the more reason to know how to swim. It will build my ego if you let me teach you," he admitted.

"Because the beamer isn't enough?" I challenged.

"I think you are the one with an issue with my car," he said as he turned to look at it through the restaurant window.

"Okay, tell me about the ex and I'll let you give me a lesson."

He looked at me for several minutes and his fingers drummed on the table nervously. "Forget it," he said softly.

I smiled feeling like I had won but he turned his head and I could see the pain in his eyes. I felt awful for hurting him and worried about losing my sweet deal I had working for me.

"One lesson, no swimsuit," I offered.

"In exchange for what?" he asked.

"Nothing, you're a nice guy, so I will let you play hero," I laughed.

"You're going to love it," he said with excited eyes.

"That's what all the guys say," I grumbled and gathered my stuff to toss in the trash.

We stopped somewhere in Nebraska at a Holiday Inn and I was getting nervous about the lesson. I was going to try to beg him into letting me wait a bit when he came out of the bathroom in his swimsuit, but he turned on the news.

Officer Charles Swan and his daughter Isabella are presumed dead….

I hit the off button and said, "Are we swimming or not?"

"Bella, your shaking. If you are really that scared…"

"Come on, I'll watch you swim and then decide," I offered.

"You can't swim in clothes," he pointed out.

I grabbed a tank top and turned around and pulled off my shirt.

"Jesus, Bella," he chuckled nervously.

"You were married, I'm sure you've seen tits before. And I did turn around," I pointed out.

I put on the tank and grabbed a towel before heading to the door.

"What about your jeans?"

"I'll take them off at the pool," I informed him.

"We're buying you a suit tomorrow," he said definitively.

The place was empty and the windows were all fogged over giving the room a spooky feeling. Edward dove in and began swimming laps, so I pulled off my jeans and sat on the steps in my blue bikini underwear and tank top.

I tried to move onto the second step but his splashing was making small waves crash against the sides and I immediately got back up onto the first step. I watched as his long arms moved effortlessly through the water propelling him forward at such a fast pace. He flipped under the water and glided to the top heading in the opposite direction. It was beautiful.

He finally finished and swam over to me so I jumped out of the pool.

"I'm not going to hurt you," he said as he moved his wet hair out of his eyes.

"I don't like splashing," I said like a five year old.

"Come here," he demanded with his hand out for mine.

"Seriously Edward, I'm very afraid."

"I know, and I promise not to scare you or splash on you, trust me," he said earnestly.

If I could only trust somebody, but that was no longer possible. Bella Swan had to be dead and I could only hope Bella Harris wasn't next.

I stepped into the water and took his hand lightly, ready to pull back at any second. He was standing on the bottom step and pulled me gently to meet him.

The water rose to my ribs and I inhaled in fright. "I've got you," he said gently.

He stepped with me off the last step and when the water hit my chest I grabbed for him and threw my arms around his neck. "No more," I cried.

"Look Bella," he said calmly trying to get me to look at him. "You can stand and the water won't touch you face. I won't splash I promise."

I let my feet touch the bottom and I backed up just a step, ready to latch onto him at any second as I lifted my chin high to avoid any possibility of touching the water.

"See," he smiled at me. "You're in the water. It's not so bad is it."

I let my eyes move to look around me, but my head stayed firmly in place facing Edward.

"Now, I'm going to hold your hand and step away from you," he said.

I gasped and grabbed onto him tightly, "No, don't leave me."

"I'm not leaving you, I will hold your hand the entire time," he said into my ear.

"Can't we just stay like this," I asked as I began to shake from fear.

"Okay, we'll stay like this," he said as he began to move.

"No, don't move," I cried out.

He chuckled and said, "It looks pretty suggestive if we just stand here glued to each other."

"I don't care if it looks like were humping sheep, don't move."

He laughed louder and took another step away from the stairs, "We're in Nebraska; we can't look like we're humping sheep or they'll think we're locals."

I closed my eyes tightly and tired to ignore the feeling of his legs moving in the water. He walked for several steps and I never felt the water get deeper so I opened my eyes. He was walking back and forth in the shallow end and I began to relax.

"That's a good girl," he said and patted my back.

I began to enjoy the buoyant sensation and let my legs come up and wrap around his waist. He stopped for a second and I began to tense.

"No, it's okay," he said and began to walk again. "It just surprised me."

"Can this be enough for today?" I asked feeling a bit embarrassed.

"Sure," he said, "But I want you to take my hand and walk with me to the stairs. We'll go slow so there is no splashing.

"I'll try," I said and let my feet go back to the bottom.

His hands came to my waist and I held tightly to his wrists and turned around. I was shocked to see how far we were from the stairs and jumped backwards into his arms.

"You're fine," he whispered with his chin on my shoulder. He left his arms wrapped around my waist and I began to walk with his legs right against mine.

I knew it was nothing to be proud of, but just getting into the water was huge for me. I stepped onto the decking and turned to smile at him. His eyes immediately went to my chest and quickly back to my eyes. I was too excited with my accomplishment to care.

He took my hand and led me to a hot tub. "Just sit on the step and it will warm you up," he said as he climbed all the way in.

I was so confident I actually sat on the second step and sighed with pleasure as the warm water surrounded me to my waist.

"Can I turn on the jets?" he asked and I moved up to the top step. "Never mind, come back into the water. I won't turn them on."

We sat for several minutes and he finally made my day by saying, "Let's go back to the room and order pizza."