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Thanks to robbsweetangel, our Twilighted beta. We love you hun! XO.

Apologies for the extensive wait. RL issues and priorities can be a pain in the ass!

The wait is over and we are back on track, things are about to get interesting around here.

Thanks to all those reading and reviewing. Come, join us as LSW continues.

Chapter 9


I can't wait for this fucking night to end.

The Lone Star is packed, not that I should complain, and like an idiot, I had to go and give Bella the night off. Her presence over the last few days has slowly been making things run a lot smoother than I had anticipated. She caught on fast once she learned the difference between table five and fourteen. Unfortunately, for my sorry ass, tonight is her "date" with James.

I've been on edge all fucking day.

I offered this morning to drive Bella to the restaurant in order to meet up with James. I plead insanity on that, and shake my head as the memory of the conversation we had before we left for the restaurant drifts back to me.

She was typing away on her laptop in the kitchen, looking very much at home when I got out of the shower and wandered down for a drink.

"Sparky, shouldn't you be getting ready for your hot date?" I called out to her, masking my sarcasm.

"I am! Geez, I just have to finish this up." She waved her hand dismissively at me over her shoulder.

"Don't women need like three hours to get ready? You better move your ass." I chuckled as I opened the fridge to get a bottle of water.

Bella has been working her spectacular ass off since she arrived in Jacksonville—at work, on the computer, and evidently, in my life. She is completely dedicated to getting started on her transfer, and I admire her for that. The stars must have been aligned when we drove down to the college to get her registered. The application fees were the only roadblock standing in her way, so I slid my Visa to the plastically enhanced clerk behind the transfer desk, and added the amount to Bella's "tab" as she calls it. Mind you, I would never make her pay any of it back, but she doesn't have to know that part.

I could hear her mumble under her breath, as she closed up her laptop and huffed toward the stairs. "Relax, wingman, I won't be long," she called, disappearing to the second floor.

Wingman. I rolled my eyes as I opened the bottle of the water. I've essentially pushed her right into James' eager arms. He is great guy, mind you, has managed to fix her beast of a vehicle, and I could tell he was instantly attracted to Bella at the garage. You'd have to be an idiot not to be. She needs a man that can give her a relationship and stability and all that shit. James certainly can do all of that.

So why am I so fucking irritated?

Irritation is what I've decided to call it, because I can't really describe what it is. This feeling has been gnawing at me since James phoned this morning to tell Bella her truck was fixed then promptly asked her out. The feeling started in the pit of my stomach and crept its way up into a lump in my throat where it has decided to lodge itself.

I hate it.

I have no fucking right to feel anything as far as Bella's dating life goes, so my plan is to push it all down and hope to hell it disappears.

While Sparky gets ready for her "date," I cringe and decide I may as well get ready for work. The restaurant doesn't really have a dress code, per se, unless you call jeans, a plaid shirt, and a cowboy hat, if you're Jasper, a dress code, but it attracts the customers and keeps them drinking, which will lead to their hopefully eating.

It's a win-win for us.

I grab my usual bartending clothes; my worn-in button-fly jeans and a short-sleeved plaid shirt over a black t-shirt. Nothing special, but the ladies love it. I may have heard a few of them whispering to each other from time to time about the way I look.

I try to tame my hair, but with a mind of its own, it doesn't work. Once I'm satisfied with my appearance, I grab my leather jacket and Doc Marten boots and head out to wait for Bella in the living room.

Sitting on the couch, I lay my head back, closing my eyes and trying to calm my irritation. I already know this is going to be a long night.

I don't have to open my eyes to know that Bella's in the room, I can just feel her presence.

The corner of my mouth rises in a smirk. "Are you enjoying the view?" A cocky move, I know, but she's the one that's stayed silent.

I hear her clear her throat. "I, um… I'm ready now, if you want to go."

I open my eyes and look at her, my eyes scanning as they typically do whenever she's near. It's a fucking good thing I'm sitting because she looks so goddamn sexy. She has on this little black dress that plunges low in the front and is really short, exposing her legs. Licking my lips, I follow said legs down to her delicate feet that are encased in these black, high shoes that I want to see her parade around in… naked.

She looks so unsure of herself standing there, and I just can't take my eyes off of her. "You look…" I cough, trying to find the words. "You look gorgeous, Bella." And she does, along with ravishing, beautiful, sexy, just fucking perfect. James is a lucky son of a bitch, and I'm the biggest idiot in history for ever having the ridiculous thought to get them to meet.

She looks down shyly, smoothing out the fabric of her skirt against her thighs. "Thank you, Edward."

This time it's my turn to clear my throat, my eyes moving back to hers. "I guess we should leave."

"Are we taking the bike?" she asks.

I can't hide my smirk. "How else are we going to get there, Sparky?"

"But my dress…" she starts.

"It's a good thing you'll be wrapped around me then, isn't it?" I tease, quirking my brow.

Just the thought of her body against mine causes my dick to rise. Every time I think of her and how perfect she feels wrapped around me on the Ducati, I'm plagued with a constant hard-on.

Because I have shit for luck, my cock makes itself known through my jeans. There's no way Bella won't be able to see the bulge in my pants. I watch as her eyes narrow and take in my desire. I should be embarrassed but I'm not. I just sit there and let her look at me.

"Bella?" I prompt, grinning as she lifts her eyes back to mine.

"Yeah?" she breathes.

"You ready?"

She wets her bottom lip. "Mmm hmm."

I stand up and adjust myself, walking toward her. Her eyes widen, flashing up to my face once more, and I grin. What else am I supposed to do? Try to hide it? I couldn't even if I tried. I can see through her dress that her nipples are hard as rock. "We should leave now," I murmur as I brush past her, making my way to the door.

She takes a deep breath and turns to follow me outside, muttering to herself.

"You might want to bring your jacket; you look like you're cold," I suggest over my shoulder as I hold the door open. Now I'm just fucking with her, but I want her to know that I noticed her chest.

I know she isn't cold.


The open road, wind in my face, and two of the sexiest legs that are close to being wrapped around my waist. Life couldn't be better.

Too bad I'm facing the wrong fucking way.

Getting Bella on the bike without flashing the world was a task but she did it; problem is, now I can feel her heat against my back as she squirms against me. She's driving me crazy and doesn't even know it.

James fucking owes me for this.

Again, the darkness creeps up inside and it takes every ounce of my will to push it away. I accelerate the Ducati faster than I know I should, trying to leave my thoughts behind. She tightens her arms around me, burying her cheek between my shoulders. So much for leaving it behind.

The Lone Star is packed when we arrive, dinner crowds are gathering, and Rose has a line almost out the door to deal with. I follow Bella inside with my hand on the small of her back.

I can feel her shudder as my hand makes contact with the silky material of her dress. Just a few more inches lower and I could grab a handful of her ass. Fuck, I want to touch her ass, but I refrain. Instead, I lean down so my lips are next to her ear. "Go sit at the bar. I'll make you a drink while you wait."

She nods and makes her way to one of the stools, oblivious to all the males that have whipped their heads around to look at her. Not wanting to see the shameless eye-fucking, I make a hasty retreat to my office, unlocking the door and hanging up my jacket. I need a moment to collect my thoughts before things get out of control out there. James had better treat her right tonight; she doesn't need some man taking advantage of her.

Like you, Cullen?

I run my hand through my hair and try to divert my train of thought before it gets the best of me.

Get yourself together!

Fortunately, Emmett's off-key and extremely loud singing drifts to me, effectively bringing me back to the task at hand. Taking a deep breath, I make my way back to the bar, resolved that I'll at least try to act like a normal human being.

"Eddie, it's gonna be a busy one tonight, and the ladies that frequent table three were asking about you," Em greets as he moves behind the bar with a crate of glasses.

"Great," I mumble to myself, getting situated behind the bar. Of course, my eyes immediately drift to Bella, sitting at the end, toying with a napkin as her eyes dart to the front door. She's nervous, I can tell.

Slinging a red plaid towel over my shoulder, I lean against the bar in front of her. "So, what will it be, Sparky?"

She diverts her eyes from the door, letting out a big breath and straightening up on the bar stool. "I'll have vodka and orange please… make it a double."

"A double, before dinner?" I question, grinning as lift a brow.

She's clearly not impressed and narrows her eyes at me. "Just pour the drink, Edward."

"Yes, ma'am."

Turning from the bar, I pull a highball glass down, pouring the vodka, twisting the bottle in my hands like a pro. I can see the fan club over at table three watching like horny housewives that haven't seen a member of the male species in years. I smirk at them for good measure. Got to keep the customers happy, right? Who am I kidding? I want Bella to notice that the ladies are gawking, not that it'll change anything.

Her gaze follows mine while she turns in her seat, looking taken aback as her mouth forms the perfect O, but she quickly recovers and turns back, clearing her throat.

"Classy," she mumbles.

"What was that, Sparky?" I ask, placing the drink down, dropping a ripe red cherry in as I slide it towards her. I really am an ass.

"Nothing," she huffs. "Nothing at all."

I quickly become immersed in filling never-ending drink orders, and checking on Bella a few times before James shows up twenty minutes later dressed to impress. I can tell that he's excited to see her, and I swallow back the ugly feeling that creeps up… again. I focus all my energy into repeatedly rubbing the same spot on the bar with my towel over and over again.

Bella turns in her seat and smiles shyly as he approaches, returning his wave while he weaves his way through the crowd at the door. I really don't want to be a witness to this shit, so I decide to just cut my losses. Leaning across the wooden bar, I raise my voice above the boom of the country music that engulfs the restaurant. "Have a good night, Bella. You really look beautiful."

She offers me a vague smile, and I nod to James, putting on the perfect mask of nonchalance before focusing my attention on making yet another round of Mudslides for the freshmen girls who've planted themselves at the opposite end of the bar.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see James greet Bella as I pour Kahlua into a glass. He leans down and kisses her cheek, pulling a daisy out from behind him. Bella's eyes light up as she takes the flower and thanks him, her eyes drifting down the bar to where I'm standing.

I turn my back on her, sliding the Mudslides down to the giggling freshmen before realigning the bottles that line the back of the bar for the fifth time since I arrived. I need to control myself, because right now all I want to do is beg her not to go, beg her to just come home with me. I want it to be my hand that trails down her back as we walk out of the Lone Star.

I am royally fucked.


It's close to twelve when it eventually dies down.

After a close call of being sexually harassed by the fan club at table three, and another near mishap in the kitchen with Eric, I make my way back to my office. The silence that this room provides is exactly what I need. No one shouting their demands at me, no cleaning up drunken spills, and no orders to correct in the kitchen.

Although being busy gave my mind a break from wondering about Bella and James, I sure as hell don't feel like being here anymore. Everywhere I look, I see her. Every single brunette morphs into the woman that has taken over my mind.

I need to get the hell out of here.

I track Rose down in the kitchen, talking to Alice. "Hey, Rosie, I'm going to head out. You can handle closing up, right?"

"Everything okay, boss?" she asks, the skeptical look on her face alone calling me on my bullshit.

"Yeah, everything is fucking fantastic. I'll see you guys tomorrow."

I start to head to collect my jacket, but a hand grabs onto my wrist.

Fucking Firecracker.

"Yes, Alice?"

"Seriously?" she chides me. "You think I can't see what's going on?"

"I have no idea what you're getting at, but I can bet that you're wrong."

"Never bet against me, Edward. You won't win." She huffs. "This…" she waves her tiny hand in front my face. "… shitty attitude you've had all night is all about her isn't it?"

"This…" I wave my hand back at her, "…is none of your fucking business, Alice."

She simply crosses her arms and stares at me. She can call my bluff, but doesn't utter a word.

"You're not going to let this go, are you?" I ask.

She shakes her head, lifting a brow.

"Well, I hope you enjoy disappointment."


Usually, when I get on my bike and ride, it feels like everything that weighs a thousand pounds on my shoulders melts away. However, because Lady Luck is clearly not on my side, I feel like shit.

I know that I like Bella more than I should. My attraction to her can light a fire, it's so strong. Everyone can see it, everyone except for Bella. I know I do a good job of hiding it. I have to, and it's for her own good. I don't want to hurt her. Her ex did enough of that for the both of us.

After driving for a while, I pull up to the familiar parking lot of Fly's Tie Irish Club. Fly's is a tavern that I've been going to since I was able to get in legally. It's a small pub with good drinks, great music—not that trendy club shit—and they house open mic nights.

The atmosphere is exactly what I need—a place to let go and not be the one serving the drinks. I take a seat at the corner of the bar and order a Jameson on the rocks.

I take in the music from the house band and down my sixth or is it my eighth drink. I think I've lost track. I'm pretty sure I'm close to being really intoxicated when I notice the cutest little brunette sitting at the opposite end of the bar. She bites her lip and slides off her barstool in a classic move that I recognize even though I'm wasted.

The room is spinning as she makes her way over to me, I know that she isn't Bella, but my eyes and my hardening cock really want her to be.

"Hey, handsome," she breathes in my ear. "Want some company?"

I chuckle because I've dreamed of Bella saying those words to me almost every night while I lie in bed… shower… jerk off... you get my drift.

"What did you have in mind?" I slur.

"Follow me," she whispers as she tugs on my arm and leads me, stumbling, out the back door of Fly's into the dark, quiet night. I can't even catch my train of thought before she pushes herself up against me.

"You looked so lonely sitting there, handsome," she murmurs as she trails her lips across my neck.

Bella… heaven.


She nips at my ear, tugging on my earlobe as her hands begin the trail of seduction up and down my chest, over my stomach, creeping just enough underneath my shirt to comb her nails through the hair above my jeans.

"What d'ya say? Feels like you're up for it," she mutters as she palms my erection.

"Fuck, Bella," I groan with my eyes screwed shut tight.

"Bella? Are you fucking married, asshole?" the tiny brunette shrieks.

"What? No…" This shit cannot be happening to me. Seriously, this is crazy already. If it wasn't painfully obvious before, it is now.

I want Isabella Swan.

My attraction to her, my need to have her is stronger than it ever was with Kate, and being the fucking idiot I am, I basically handed her over to James.

"Fuck!" I shout, startling the nameless woman.

Instead of sticking around, she scurries back to the door, mumbling under her breath. The door slams shut as she enters, and I'm once again all on my own.

I don't know who the hell I'm trying to fool anymore. With shaky hands, I pull my cell out of my jacket, dropping it on the ground and having to bend down to pick it up from the gravel. Everything spins when I stand back up, and I lean against the cool brick of the bar while I fumble through my saved numbers.

I contemplate just calling Emmett or Jasper, and having one of them pick me up, but this is just too fucking embarrassing for words. There's no way I can drive myself home tonight; I'm completely shitfaced. And so, I manage to find the number for the cab company, and stagger around to the front waiting for my ride home.


The house is dark when I spill out of the cab and stumble up the driveway to the front door. Either Bella's home or in bed, or worst case scenario, she isn't back yet. Isn't there a standard time that a lady should be dropped off at home? Nah, just my drunken mind going overboard again. I can wish, though.

I somehow manage to unlock the door after dropping the keys more than once and push through into the hallway, the door clicking shut behind me. I've enjoyed every minute of living alone until now. My house is dark and empty.

I run my hands over my face and sigh, dropping the keys onto the side table and shrugging out of my jacket. I'm not really sure where it lands as I make my way to the kitchen.

Well, no time like the present to pour another drink. Pulling down a glass from the cupboard, I take the ice cube tray from the freezer, reaching for a half-full bottle of Jameson's.

Cracking the cubes from the tray proves to be trickier than it looks, and I end up with more on the floor than in the glass. Abandoning the mini mess I've just created, I grab the glass and bottle, and make my way over the living room couch. Falling back onto it, I pour myself a drink, sit back and wait for Bella to come home… to me.



I throw my head back, laughing as James finishes his story about failing to be the football star his father always dreamed of.

"It was pretty clear after being hit in the head with the ball ten times in a row that I was better as a water boy… or a mascot," he adds, laughing and carrying my shoes while we walk along the sandy beach outside of the restaurant.

"I'm sorry it didn't work out for you," I say sincerely as the water laps gently against my toes.

It's been one of the best dates I've ever had. Not that I have a whole lot to compare it to. My entire dating experience rests with Jake, where a trip to the movies to see the latest bang-'em-up-shoot-'em-up film once a year was the extent of the excitement. I was lucky if I got to share a bag of popcorn with him.

"I'm not sorry," he says firmly. "If I had been any good, I probably never would have met you."

I feel the heat rise in my cheeks and I shake my head, brushing my hair back while the light breeze from the ocean causes a strand to drift in front of my face.

"I've had a really great time tonight," I admit, glancing up at him and taking in his ruggedly handsome features highlighted from the flickering lights of the restaurant behind him. James is attractive, there's no denying that, and he definitely knows what he's doing when it comes to dating… at least I think he does.

"Me too." He grins, holding his free hand out to me. I take it gladly and without hesitation. He squeezes my hand gently, swaying our arms as we move up the beach, back toward the restaurant.

It's a sweet gesture, much like everything he's done tonight. The daisy, which is currently taking up residence behind my ear, the restaurant on the beach which was perfectly warm and inviting, holding my shoes while I dip my toes in the ocean. Everything has been perfect.

So why do I feel this nagging sense of guilt?

Sadly, I think I know the answer. As much as James is a very sweet guy, who I'm obviously attracted to on some level, he doesn't produce the intense and, quite frankly, dangerous draw that a certain other man who obviously knows how to push my buttons does.

My thoughts drift back to Edward as they've been doing all night… well, since I met him, actually. There was definitely an edge to him at times today, like he was irritated about something. I hope everything is okay with the restaurant. Judging by how busy the Lone Star's been, I'm sure it's raking in a lot of money, and he seemed perfectly happy flirting with the never-ending cycle of freshman girls who flock to hang on his every move. At least he's consistent with his mood swings.

As we move back up the beach toward the restaurant, my toes sink into the warm sand and I lose my footing, causing James to tighten his hand around mine.

"You okay there?" he asks, grinning as I lean against him to prevent myself from falling.

I laugh, heading to a bench just behind the restaurant. "Yeah, just getting used to the sand." James nods, motioning for me to sit, keeping a firm hold of my hand as I sink down to the wooden seat.

"I'll need those back," I say, smirking as he stares down at me, still holding my stilettos in his free hand.

"Right… yeah," he says after a beat. "I guess you will. They aren't my size anyway." He chuckles, suddenly sinking down in front of me, setting one shoe down and gingerly lifting my right foot, sliding my shoe on, his fingers trailing lightly over my ankle.

Goosebumps break across my skin, and I take a shaky breath in at the contact. It's an intimate gesture that he repeats slowly as he slips my other shoe on, glancing up at me, his blue eyes piercing.

I'm not going to lie; it feels pretty damn good to have someone look at me like he is. Jake sure as hell never looked at me this way. James rises slowly, extending his hand to me. Our eyes stay locked as he pulls me gently from the bench, his torso pressing against mine along with something else... something extremely hard that's currently straining against his trousers and pushing against my thigh.

My eyes widen while my heart races and I take a step back, onto the boardwalk beside the bench, feeling the need to put some distance between us before I do something really stupid. As tempting as James is, I know it would be a colossal mistake to take this night any further. I'm only just beginning to try to put my life back together and starting to work on the background for my thesis.

I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew with wanting to examine the evolution of relationships, which is precisely why I need a thesis advisor, stat. With Edward paying for the initial transfer fees to get the process started, and my meeting with the Dean scheduled for next week, things in my life are finally settling into place.

Staring up at James, his intense gaze never faltering, I know I need to be careful. It would be extremely easy for me to fall back into a relationship, and right now, that's the last thing I need.

"Let's get you to your truck," James suggests, his voice low.

I'm thankful for his well-timed suggestion. "The beast, you mean?"

"Beast? It's a classic!" he says happily, lifting my hand to kiss the back.

I smile at his enthusiasm. "Try telling that to Edward. He thinks it's on its last legs," I mumble, rolling my eyes.

"It just needs a little TLC... some care and attention," he murmurs, placing his hand on the small of my back, guiding me down the boardwalk to the parking lot. Somehow, I think he's talking about something other than my beloved truck.

I smile up at James as we make our way through the parking lot, thinking back over the evening. I suppose in a way, my research has already started. I remember the conversation Edward and I had on Amelia Island where he told me he was "the nice guy." I wonder what category he would put James into. To me, James seems like a poster boy for the perfect nice guy. He's attentive and has been nothing but respectful—a true gentleman. I think Charlie would have really liked him.

My heart constricts thinking about Charlie, but I manage to keep my emotions in check. The last thing I need is to break down in front of James. That would just be a lovely way to end a perfect evening; with me a blundering, sobbing mess.

We arrive at James' jacked-up, white Chevy Suburban, and I scowl at having to try to get myself into this thing again. I've never understood why anyone would want to lift up their vehicle to the point where you practically need a step ladder to get into it. I'm silently regretting my choice of a dress tonight. I hardly ever wear them, but it's the one and only nice piece of clothing I brought with me.

As James leans forward, opening the passenger door for me, his lips dangerously close to mine, the scent of spicy cologne drifts to me, reminding me of one thing and one thing only. He's not Edward.

My wayward thoughts stir in my head as I size up the distance I have to hike my leg up to in order to climb into the seat. Judging from the look on James' face, I think he's thoroughly enjoying the whole thing.

Refusing to be defeated, I lift my foot to the gleaming chrome step bar, my shoe sliding forward as I push myself up. I slide onto the seat and miraculously manage to not give him an eyeful in the process. Finally situated, I cross my legs as his eyes drift back down to my shoes.

I lift a brow when his gaze finally moves back to mine, and he smiles, shaking his head as he shuts my door. I pull the seatbelt around my hips, clicking it into place while he moves around to the driver's side. It seems easy for him to slide behind the wheel, and he quickly slips the key into the ignition and starts the engine.

With a smirk, firmly planted on his handsome face, he glances over at me. "Pink, huh?"

I feel the color drain from my face. Holy fuck! He's seen my underwear. So much for my assessment of him being a gentleman. And here I thought I was being all stealthy when I climbed into the passenger seat. Well, two can play this game, James. "At least I decided to not go commando tonight," I fire back at him playfully.

His smirk fades, his mouth dropping open for a moment before he starts laughing. "I guess I deserved that."

"Yes. You did."

"It was a lucky guess on my part," he offers, his grin returning as he pulls out of the parking lot and into the street, taking my hand once more and giving it a gently squeeze.

It's really hard to stay mad at him.


I'm practically bouncing behind the wheel of my truck as James leans against the frame of the driver's side window, watching me with an amused expression.

"It works!"

"Of course it does," he says, sounding slightly wounded.

"Thank you so much! You have no idea how much this means to me. This truck is…" I shake my head, turning to look at him. "Just thank you."

His smile widens. "You're welcome. It was great to work on a classic like this."

"As soon as I get my first paycheck from the restaurant, I'll be able to start payment." I glance at him nervously. "I hope that's alright."

He lets out a long breath, raking his hand through his hair. "Hmm… I don't know, Bella. I think we need to come up with something better than that," he says seriously.

My face falls and I try to swallow down the lump in my throat. Shit! I guess I could always dip into my reserve fund, even though I swore I would only use that as a last resort. "Um…"

He laughs, his hand reaching through the open window to cover mine over the steering wheel. "How about I cook dinner for you. Maybe tomorrow night? And we can discuss payment terms."

"Are you trying to bribe me?" I ask, returning his playful smirk.

"Would I do something like that?"

I level him a stare. "I don't know. You tell me."

He leans further into the cab of the truck, his lips dangerously close to mine. "Yes… yes, I would." His sharp blue eyes lock to mine. "Say yes, because I really want to see you again."

I take a sharp breath in. "Yes." The word escapes before I even have time to stop it.


It's after twelve-thirty when I turn off the highway following James' handwritten directions. It's a good thing I have them, or I'm sure I'd be lost in the middle of nowhere of Jacksonville by now, and that would not be a good thing.

The stereo hums and I sing about seeing the rain with CCR as I gaze at the now familiar neon blue lights of the bridge off in the distance. A few days ago, I was convinced that those lights had lied to me, but maybe there's hope for me after all.


Shutting off the truck and sliding out of the driver's seat, I lock the door, looking up apprehensively at the house that's ensconced in darkness. I take the stairs to the door, turning the knob and finding it open. My heart warms for a moment thinking maybe Edward left it unlocked, not wanting me to have to fumble to find my keys in the dark.

Stepping into the hallway, I see his leather jacket strewn haphazardly on the floor, my brow furrowing as I pick it up. I've never seen him leave his jacket just lying around, and I'd be lying if I said it doesn't make me just a bit nervous. Of course, his unique scent has to wash over me from the jacket as I turn to hang it up in the closet. I close my eyes, humming to myself.

On a certain level, I think I'm not being fair to James accepting his invitation to dinner when I clearly am starting to feel something for Edward. But I also know that Edward and I can't cross that line—the line we decided to draw of being 'roomies' and 'friends.' And therein lies one of the many complications with navigating relationships. Can you be attracted to more than one person at the same time? This thesis is going to kill me.

Moving down the darkened hallway, my eyes have a hard time adjusting as all of the lights are turned off. I feel my way along the wall, stopping in my tracks when I step into the living room, the muted light from the hazy moon outside illuminating the crazed hair and chiseled jaw that have occupied my thoughts since I laid eyes on him.

He's leaning back on the sofa, a large bottle of liquor between his thighs, a glass of amber liquid dangling from his fingers as he sways it slowly back and forth. I take another step toward him, my heart racing. Fuck, he's gorgeous, and I know instantly my attraction to James doesn't hold a candle to what I'm starting to feel for Edward.

"Edward?" I squeak out.

He cocks his head to the side, his eyes narrowed before he breaks out the smirk that I know is designed to torture me. "The one an'only," he slurs, his heated gaze fixed on me.

"Are you alright?"

He swirls the liquid in the glass before raising it to his lips. "Why wouldn' I be, brown eyes?"

I try unsuccessfully to hide my laughter. "You sound like you might be drunk."

"Mmm…" His eyes sweep over me from behind his raised glass. "You catch on fast, Sparky." He slams his hand on the cushion beside him. "Come tell me 'bout your big date, roomie," he stammers.

"Um… do you really want to know?"

He narrows his eyes, his grip tightening on the glass in his hand. "He didn' try anything, did he?"

I roll my eyes, moving to sit beside him, the smell of whiskey hitting me hard as I sink onto the sofa. I glance at the almost empty bottle between his legs. That's a massive mistake as my eyes trail over his button fly jeans with the pronounced bulge. Jesus. A low chuckle rumbling from his chest causes me to snap my eyes back to his.

"No, he was a perfect gentleman." I stare back at his cloudy, clearly intoxicated eyes, wondering just how much of this bottle he's had to drink.

"Mmm…" He nods lazily, draining the rest of the liquid in his glass. "I'll bet he was… Smooth fucker. Where did you guysgo? The movies…mmmdinner?"

I shake my head in amusement. It's like the first night when he tried to pry information out of me—granted he wasn't completely wasted and slurring his words together then. "What's with the twenty questions, Agent Cullen?"

"Gotta have my roomie's back," he says, peering into the bottom of the empty glass.

I reach for the glass, slowly pulling it out of his hand as he pouts at me.

"Wasn' done," he complains, leaning back onto the sofa and turning his head to me.

"Oh you're done, Cullen. How much have you had, anyway?" I motion with my head to the bottle between his legs.

"Why don't you come find out, Sparky?" he challenges, the patented smirk replacing the pout as his eyes rest hungrily on my shoes. What is it about men and these shoes?

I kick them off, leveling him the Swan bitch brow before slowly reaching between his legs and pulling on the mouth of the bottle. Don't look at the button fly… don't look at the button fly. But, of course, I do, feeling the heat rise in my face and stifling a groan. He tightens his thighs, making it harder for me to extract the bottle, but I somehow manage to, holding it up to the light filtering through the window as I examine it.

"Please don't tell me this was full when you started," I admonish, looking with concern at the remnants swirling in the bottom of the bottle.

I set it down on the coffee table and turn to see him pulling his thumb and index finger across his lips like he's zipping them.

"What am I going to do with you, Cullen?"

He performs the motion of unzipping his lips, his tongue darting along the corner of his mouth. "Anything you want."

Oh, you have no idea the things I want to do.

I shake my head, extracting myself from the couch and holding out my hand. "Bed, Cullen."

He grins. "But we haven' e'en made out yet or anything." Still cocky even when he's wasted.

"You're completely trashed and you need to sleep." I reach for his hand, sliding mine into his. "Come on."

I tug hard and he clumsily tries to push off the sofa, laughing at his repeated failed attempts until finally, he rises. He closes his eyes, listing slightly to the side as his head lolls back.

"Shit! Edward!" I move beside him before he falls, wrapping my arm around his waist as he leans slightly into me, closing my eyes to the feel of his body tucked next to mine. "Maybe you should crash down here," I suggest as he starts shuffling forward, his arm sliding around my waist.

"No," he almost whines, causing me to laugh. "I want my bed and you in it."

Suddenly, I'm not laughing anymore. I focus on the stairs, pushing his drunken words aside as we sway our way slowly across the floor.

"You should wear more dresses," he announces, tightening his hand over my hip.

I chuckle, looking up at him. "That's your advice? That I should wear more dresses?"

He nods, his tongue sweeping over his bottom lip as he blatantly looks over his shoulder, his eyes drifting down my back as he lets out a low groan. "Mmhmm… your legs… just… dresses."

"Thanks, oh fashion guru. I'll keep that in mind."

He sways slightly as we stop in front of the stairs while I seriously question whether I'm going to be able to get him up them.

"The first step is the deepest, baby, I know!" Edward's drunken singing voice fills the darkened staircase and I look up at him, laughing at just how smashed he is.

"It's the first cut is the deepest, you moron." He grins down at me, his eyes sweeping to my chest as I take in his stubbled jaw and drunken smirk; his black t-shirt taunts under his open plaid button down. It really should be illegal to look this fucking hot, particularly when you're as drunk as he is.

"Singing really isn't your thing, Cullen. Don't quit your day job," I say, both of us laughing as we move at a snail's pace up the stairs.

Somehow, we manage to make it to the landing at the top without falling over, and he tries to turn for my room. "Your room is this way." I nod toward his open door, feeling his fingers easing across the nape of my neck, under my hair.

As I start for his room, his warm breath waves over my cheek. "The hallway is confusing," he whispers.

My face flames at the memory of being caught in the hallway, listening while he did… whatever it was he was doing the other day. Like you don't know what he was doing, Bella!

He stops at the entrance to his room, leaning down once more, his lips close to my ear, causing an involuntary shudder. "I was jacking off," he breathes, his voice low and husky and landing firmly in a place it really shouldn't.

"Jesus," I murmur, trying to move us forward into his room and get that particular visual out of my head. He really needs to get into bed and sleep this off.

"I was thinkin' 'bout you," he continues, his hand stroking my hair as I will my racing heart to calm. "You have pretty hair."

"Mmhmm," is my quipped response as we reach the side of the bed.

He buries his face into my hair, breathing deeply. "Mmm… Bella…"

Taking a shaky breath in, I slip my arm reluctantly away from his toned waist. "Okay, sleeping beauty. In you go." Turning to flatten my hand up his chest, I push him gently until he falls onto the bed, his laughter filling the room as his back presses to the mattress, his long legs dangling off the side.

I grab his ankles, swinging his legs up, shaking my head at the fact that he still has his Doc Martens on. I release the laces, listening as he groans. "Mmm… start there."

"You're really going to feel this in the morning, Cullen." I pull one boot off, dropping it to the floor, before starting on the other.

"I want to feel it righ'now," he slurs.

I shake my head, wiggling the boot until it slides off his foot, placing it on the floor beside the bed with the other.

He stretches his arm out, waving his long fingers in the air. "Come 'ere."

I push off the bed, trying really hard not to laugh at him as I move forward. He's going to have a massive hangover in the morning. "Time for you to sleep it off."

His hand darts out, closing around my wrist, tugging me back to the bed.

I furrow my brow, my heart jumping again. "Stay wi' me," he says roughly, blinking up at me, looking all rumpled and extremely inviting.

"And get puked on? No thanks."

I try to slide my arm away, but he's having none of it, tugging harder and causing me to fall back, my ass hitting the mattress beside him.

"I never puke, Sparky," he slurs, his hand trailing up my arm, leaving a heated trail in its wake.

"Famous last words," I mumble.

"Please?" I make the mistake of staring back down into his drunken, pleading eyes, and any shred of willpower I did have quickly vanishes.

"Move over," I relent, shaking my head at him.

He flashes me a grin, trying to sit up slightly, his upper body swaying in the process. "Whoa… spinning," he mumbles, shifting his body over before dropping back to the mattress.

I laugh, stretching out beside him, trying to calm my racing heart.

He turns on his side to face me, the scent of whiskey hanging thickly in the air. "Is there gonna be a date number two?" he asks, his eyes slowly closing as he drops a heavy arm around my waist.

"Yeah, there is," I answer quietly, my eyes settling on the unique features of his face.

"Mmm… relationship territory," he mumbles, his breathing starting to deepen.

"It's just dinner," I whisper, my fingers hovering over his face, ghosting across the faint stress line on his forehead.

He hums, his warm, whiskey-laden breath fanning over my neck as his arm tightens around my waist. "Cuddling… much better," he murmurs, his head dropping slightly onto my shoulder.

How can I argue with that?

Chapter end notes:

A drunken Lonestarward? Hmm… thoughts?

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