AN:

First, I own none of it. Wish I did. I only own my plot, Haley, and Emmalie.

Second, I want to thank my team for their patience. Korry, Emily, Lindsey, and Mella are fabu! Mella is new to the team and has already done so much for me. With her help, I am editing chapters one through eight, so be on the look out for cleaner versions.

Third, to my readers, thank you so much for your patience. You are all amazing. I promise I am making it up to you with this chapter.

That is all for now. Hit "Review" when you are done and let me know what you think. I know I have not been responding to them because of RL getting so crazy, but I do read and love every single one of them. Please keep it up.

Happy Reading.

~SGR


Last time on Ancient History:

Jasper turns to walk back down the hall, leaving Em alone with me.

"Sleep tight Bells. I'll lock up behind us."

He leans down and kisses the top of my head while pulling the covers up. With such a simply gesture, I know how lucky his girls are. I hope they never have to go through what I did with Edward.

Emmett turns out the light and shuts my door behind him.

I am so exhausted that I fall asleep before I even hear him close the front door.

Today was a rough day. Being sick and talking to Edward are tiring enough individually, but when you put them together, they are hard to get through. I have no idea how I made it through today, but I did, and I am hopeful for what tomorrow brings.


I wake up the next morning and still feel awful. I end up going to Charlie's doctor and find out for certain that I have the stomach flu. Doctor Webber told me that all I could really do was try to stay hydrated. I drink as much water as I could, but throw up almost as much as I drink.

A week passes and I'm finally starting to feel better. It's a good thing too—I have roughly one week before meetings and training start for the next school year.

I've been eating a lot of soup and crackers during my week of recovery. Charlie has eaten a few meals at Emmett and Rose's because I haven't been feeling up to cooking. In fact, he even made me soup a few of the nights that he stayed home. I was shocked—Charlie always took care of me when I was sick, but it normally involved ordering food from the diner and either bringing it in or having it delivered.

Emmett and Rose come over to check on me regularly, and I talk to Jasper at least once a day on the phone, but it's mostly about how I'm feeling, and the upcoming meetings. It seems that he really does want to be my friend, and wasn't just saying it to say it. He is really planning on proving that this weekend, however.

Our meetings start on Monday, and all of my stuff is still at Edward's house. Charlie wants to go with me to get all of my stuff, but he has to work all weekend. So, Emmett and Jasper have volunteered to go with me.

The week flies by, and now we're on our way up there in Jasper's truck. I hope that it is big enough to get everything, but I'm willing to leave things behind if it means being done with Edward. I am still counting down the days until the divorce is final. He still has not signed the papers, so there's no telling when that will be.

I'm brought out of my thoughts by Jasper and Em's banter in the front seat. It takes me a second to realize that they are talking about the guy they hired to be the assistant coach.

"Em, I can't just hire James on to be the assistant coach. He has to have an actual teaching position or the district wont pay his salary."

"Are you kidding me? So you will have to create something for him to do all day, when all we really need is someone for a few hours before and after school?"

I just sit back and listen for a little bit, as I really have no say in any of this anyways.

"Yes, that's exactly what I am saying. So I'm thinking about adding shop and home econ. I know that we won't have enough kids taking either to fill more than a couple classes a day, but I was hoping that you would switch off with him. We can have shop during the same blocks as your health classes and you can switch at the end of the semester. First semester you teach health and James will teach shop and then swap for second semester, and he can be your assistant during the phys ed classes."

"Jasper, you genius! There's only one problem with that. Who is going to teach home ec? It sure as hell ain't gonna be me!"

"I was actually hoping that Bella could take that one for us."

That got my attention.

"Wait—you want me to teach baking and how to budget the grocery money? Please tell me I am not going to have to make them carry around an 'egg baby' for the whole semester, or pair them up and make them run a household together."

At that Emmett and Jasper are laughing so hard that Jasper has to pull the truck off to the side of the road.

"Oh, Belly, that is classic!"

"Actually Bella, your curriculum is up to you, but I have a feeling that stuff is way too old fashioned for these kids. I was thinking more along the lines of a little basic cooking skills, but mainly things like building a résumé, good interviewing skills, money management, business management, and job skills. We could call it something other than 'home economics' if you want."

I am intrigued. That actually sounds like it could be really fun.

"Wow. How about we call it 'economics'? Hopefully it wont be all girls either. I am actually kind of excited about this. When would it be?"

"Let's see. Your yearbook group meets during the last class of the day, every other day. And you have journalism the first two classes of every day. So, how about we do econ opposite yearbook and that way you will still have third period as your free period every day?"

"Belly Bean, you are so lucky! My free period is during first period, but I still have to be there early in the morning because of practices."

Em actually pouts like a little kid about that. Well, he pouts until Jasper tells him about his new plans.

"Actually, Emmett, I think that is going to change too. I am rearranging your schedules to allow you, James, and Bella to all have third period off every day. Since you and James will be there early and staying late because of the teams and Bella will be coming early and staying late during the second semester because of the yearbook, I thought it would be nice it you all could have an extended lunch break. And I also thought that you and James could use the same break time to plan or you and Bella could use it just to have lunch together or whatever."

"Wow! Tthanks, Jasper. I guess I can put up with Em for a little while in the middle of the workday."

Jasper and I both laugh while Emmett pretends to be hurt by my words.

"Belly Bean, you wound me. You can put up with me?"

He finishes his act with a very over dramatic huff while crossing his arms over his chest and looking out the window.

Once he realizes that neither of us are buying it, he brings the conversation around to the task at hand.

"Bells, what should we be expecting when we get to Edward's? I mean, he does know we're coming, right? Is he going to be there? Is he going to be alone?"

"Honestly, Em, I have no idea. I told him that we would be coming today and I called him while I was walking down to your place, but I don't know what it will be like when we get there. I do know that there will be a police officer there to help control the situation."

Esme had suggested that we request to be met there by the local police because of Edward's violent nature. I mentioned it to Charlie and he immediately agreed. I know for a fact that he would have loved to have been that officer, but since we are several hours from home and he has no jurisdiction here, I had to get someone else.

"Bella, I really am glad that you did that. I know that Emmett and I will be more than happy to protect you if we need to, but it is best that the law enforcement is there. Hopefully, he won't try anything, and we can get your stuff and get out without incident."

"Thanks, Jasper. It really means a lot to me that you are both giving up your Saturday to come up here with me. I don't know if I could have faced him again on my own."

"Sure you would have, Bells! We come from the same family tree and it's a very strong tree. You would have been fine. However, I am still glad that Jas and I could come with you."

Just as Emmett says that we pull into the town, and I give Jasper directions on getting to the house. When we get there, I notice three things.

First, the police officers are not there yet. Second, all of my stuff is bagged up and sitting under the carport, and third, Edward is sitting on the front porch with his arms crossed over his chest and his shotgun leaning up against his chair, smoking a cigarette.

I sigh and bury my face in my hands, completely embarrassed by the fact that Emmett and Jasper know I was married to this cretin. I never wanted anyone to know that this is what my life was like.

We pull up into the driveway and Jasper turns off the engine.

"Guys, if you wanna just stay in the truck, I can take care of all of this. I'm sure that he's gonna make an ass of himself and there is no need for you to be subjected to it."

"Belly, are you kidding me? Do you really think that either one of us came all the way up here just to be a chauffeur? No! So stop talking like that. We are going to get out of this truck and we are going to load your stuff up. Before we put anything in the truck, however, the two of us are going to walk you through the house to make sure that there is nothing still there that you will want. Deal?"

I see no way out of it. I know that they're about to see what I was subjected to for the last few years. I sigh in defeat.

"Okay, Emmett. You are right. Let's get this over with, guys."

We open the doors and step out of the truck, only to see Edward stand up and grab his gun. The next thing I know, we are staring at the business end of a double barrel.

I put my hands up in the air and try to diffuse the situation.

"Jasper, Emmett, why don't you guys start putting stuff in the truck, and I'll talk to Edward for a moment?"

Both of the guys protest, but eventually cave and do as I ask. I turn my attention back to Edward and see that he still has the shotgun in his hands, but has at least lowered it.

"Edward, I think you know that this is unnecessary. Please, put the gun down. Talk to me. What's with the hostility?"

"Seriously, Bella? You come up on my property with guys I don't even know and you don't expect me to defend what is mine? What did you think would happen? Who are they anyways? Is one of them the guy you were cheating on me with? Did you leave me for one of those tools?"

I cannot believe that we are about to have this argument again. I take a deep breath and try to calm my nerves before I respond.

"No, Edward. First of all, you know Emmett. He is my cousin. You met him at Christmas last year. If anything I should be upset by what little effort you obviously put in to getting to know my family, if you'd think that he's someone I would cheat with! Second, Jasper is my new boss, so don't even go there. He was one of my high school teachers and now he's the principal at the school. I already have a job there. Speaking of which, how is your job search going?"

I know it's petty, but I find myself rubbing it in that I already have a job and he has yet to find one that he can stay at more than a week or so. He totally ignores my question.

"Right—why would your boss want to come up here and help you get your stuff if you weren't giving him something in return? I know what a whore you really are. Don't try and tell me that you're not paying him back by sleeping with him!"

I am shocked by what I am hearing, and clearly, so are the guys. Just as I open my mouth to say something in return, Emmett and Jasper head over to us. Emmett starts yelling at Edward before he even gets to where we're standing on the porch.

"HEY! Watch what the Hell you say to her! We get that you don't like what's going on and don't want us here, but there's no reason to talk like that to her. She did nothing to you."

That really gets Edward fired up.

"Really? REALLY? She did nothing to me? How about she lied to me every day when she told me that she loved me? Or when she married me and promised to be there for better or for worse til death do us part? She's not dead and I sure as Hell ain't dead either! Although one of those might be able to be arranged!"

At that, Jasper grabs me by the arm and pulls me behind him as he steps between Edward and myself. I'm slightly stunned, but I'm pulled out of if when Jasper addresses Edward.

"Like Hell! You lay one hand on her and you're gonna wish you were dead. I swear to God! Bella did nothing wrong. I haven't known her that long, but I can already tell you that she doesn't deserve to be treated like this. And if this is what your marriage was like—ha! No wonder she left your miserable ass! Now, if you would be so kind as to step aside and let her go in to the house—"

Edward is not having any of it.

"She has no reason to go in there. All of her shit is out here. There's nothing left for her in myhouse."

At this point, Emmett steps from beside me to in front of me to stand next to Jasper. I feel like I have my own personal bodyguards. If the situation weren't so awful, I would laugh.

When Emmett speaks, his voice is surprisingly calm.

"Edward, man, just let her walk through the house and make sure that nothing of hers is still in there. If you don't trust her, go in with her, but know that if you go, so do we."

"Fine. Let's go. I can't fucking believe this shit! I have to fucking escort you around my house. MOTHER FUCKER!" He kicks a chair and sends it flying across the porch, but leads us in to the house.

He stops in the living room and I walk around looking at everything. I go through the DVD's and see that a couple of mine are still in there. I know that it was an accident, because I know that he would not intentionally keep Chicago and RENT. As I move in to the kitchen to go through the cabinets, he follows, muttering obscenities under his breath, and Jasper and Emmett follow him.

We make it all the way through the house and have only found a few things that had been overlooked by Edward. The whole time we are going through the house, he is following me and trash-talking me under his breath. He calls me all kinds of names and tries his hardest to get a reaction out of me, but I just ignore him and keep my mouth shut.

We get back outside just in time to see a police cruiser pull into the driveway behind Jasper's truck. Emmett goes to talk to the officers while Jasper puts the rest of the stuff in the truck. I turn around and speak to Edward for the first time since he called me a whore.

"Edward, have you signed the papers yet? If they're ready, I'll just take them and you won't have to mail them. It will make the process faster too."

"I can't fucking believe this. Yes, I have 'em—let me get 'em. Don't you dare come back in my fuckin' house."

He turns around and walks in to the house. While he is inside, Emmett comes up and stands next to me. I look up and see that he is trying his hardest to control his emotions at the moment. None of us want Edward to know how much his actions and words are getting to us.

Edward comes out of the house with an envelope in his hand. He hands it over to me and scoffs as I open it to see if everything is done. Once I made sure that everything is in order, I put the papers back in the envelope.

"Thank you. I guess there's nothing left to do. Oh, wait—you need your key back."

I start to pull his key off of my key ring when he stops me.

"There's no point. Do you really think that I would keep the locks the same and let you be able to get into my house after you left me? Fuck that! I changed the locks the day after you left."

"Fine Edward, but that was really unnecessary. So, now there really is nothing else. Goodbye, Edward. I hope that things work out for you, I really do. I just wasn't the right person. Good luck. Goodbye."

"What the fuck ever, Isabella. Fuck you and your nice life. I don't give a damn about what you hope for. Get the fuck off my property!"

Emmett is shaking with anger, but controlling himself quite well. I did, however, have to grab his arm and pull him back to the truck.

"Guys, let's just go home. I'm so done with this place—and him."

As we get in the truck and the cruiser pulls away, Edward starts yelling again.

"Run away again you stupid little whore! That's all you're good at anyways. Don't fuckin' come back. You aren't welcome here anymore. Fuckin' run home to daddy with your new little fuck buddy. How much does he pay you to fuck him?"

He's still yelling as we pull out of his drive and down the street. The last thing that I hear is something about how Jasper can't pay much because I am not worth much. I am trying my hardest to hold the tears at bay, but I'm not very successful. It doesn't help that I can tell Em's upset too.

"Jas, pull over."

"No."

"Come on, man. Someone needs to shut him up."

"No, Emmett. I am not going to lose my best coach and best friend because you stooped to his level."

"Please Jas, I won't do any permanent damage."

I know that he just wants to defend be because he loves me so much, but I have had enough to this day already and all I want to do is curl up in my bed and be invisible until work on Monday.

"Guys, can we just go? I just want to be away from here. I'm ready to be home."

"Sorry, Belly. Jas is right. And Doucheward isn't worth it anyways. Let's get you home."

The guys start talking about something and I get lost in my thoughts. Thoughts of Edward, our marriage, how awful he is, and the things he said. The next thing I know I am crying. Jasper notices it and gives me a sympathetic look in the rear-view mirror. He turns on the radio and turns up the volume a little to give me some sense of privacy with my thoughts. I end up crying myself to sleep in the back seat of the truck while they listen to music and talk. When I wake up, we are diving down the street that Em and I live on.

Charlie steps out of the house as we pull into the drive, and the guys start to unload everything as I get out of the truck. I walk up to my dad and he puts his arms around me, giving me the biggest hug I have ever received from him. We stand for a while just holding each other. It's exactly what I need after dealing with Edward.

The guys get everything unloaded and are about to head back to Jasper's place. Emmett tells me that he will call me later as he is getting in the truck. I am about to go in the house when Jasper comes up to me.

"Bella, I meant what I said to Edward. I know I am just getting to know you, but you really do deserve better than him. And if the next guy you date treats you like that, Emmett, Charlie, and I will take care of him ourselves."

He chuckles as he says is, but the tone of his voice tells me that he is totally serious about what he just said.

"Thank you, Jasper. Thank you for everything. Thank you for coming up there today, for defending me, for not prying when you saw me crying, just … for everything."

"Anytime, Darlin'. That's what friends are for. Come here."

He holds his arms out and pulls me into an embrace that tells me that he really does want to be there for me. It is nice and I feel comforted and comfortable in his arms. As we pull away he looks into my eyes, and I feel like he is gazing into my soul.

"Call me if you need anything at all. I'll be here in a nanosecond."

"Thank you, Jasper. I think I am just going to go to bed. I'll see you on Monday."

I wave "bye" to Emmett, head inside, go upstairs, and crawl into bed. I don't even bother changing clothes. Just as I am staring at the ceiling, trying to clear my head to sleep, I hear a knock on my door.

"Come in."

"Bells, I just wanted to check on you and see if you felt up to talking with your old man for a bit."

"Thanks Dad. I'm okay, just emotionally drained. I think I just want to call it a night. Can we talk tomorrow? I'll make dinner and we can talk when you get home from work."

"That sounds perfect, Bells. Get some rest and I will talk to you tomorrow. I love you Kiddo. Don't you ever forget that."

"Thanks Dad. I love you, too. Good night."

Charlie closes the door behind him and goes about his business. I roll over and drift off to sleep.

I get up the next day and shower and lay around the house until it is time to start cooking. I make dinner, then Charlie and I eat and talk when he gets home from work. He is upset by Edward's behavior, but glad that Emmett did not do anything that would get him in trouble.

I am so tired of thinking about Edward and my past, so I go to bed vowing to only look towards the future.

I wake up Monday morning and get ready for work. As I am walking out to my truck, Emmett drives by in the Jeep.

"Hey Belly. Mornin'. Wanna ride in with me?"

"Mornin' Em. Sure, that sounds great. Thanks."

I get in the Jeep and we head to the school for our our preparatory meetings.

When we pull into the parking lot, I see Jasper's truck and several other vehicles that are familiar from around town. Emmett parks next to Jasper and we head in to the building.

The first session of the day is a "get to know you" session. Jasper has planned icebreaker games and all sorts of fun ways for us to meet all of the faculty and staff without it feeling like an hour of speed dating. Fortunately for me, I'm not the only new faculty.

During the first game, we have the options of charades or win, lose, or draw. The only problem is we have to decide on how we're going to get the rest of the staff to guess what we did over the summer. If we decide to draw, we are the only ones up there. If we act it out, we're allowed one person to help us.

I am not about to draw out divorce papers, or a truckload of my stuff and Edward sitting on the porch with his shotgun. I go to Emmett to try and figure out what I should do.

"Em, what am I going to do? I really don't want everyone knowing my sob story the first day, or ever, for that matter."

"Bells, don't worry about it. I have your back. We'll do charades and act out that we went on a road trip together. It's partly true—they don't have to know the rest of it. And, it will serve for both of us instead of just one of us."

"Thank you so much, Emmett. That's a fantastic idea."

When it is our turn, we go up there and act like we are sitting in a car. I hold my arms out like I am holding a map. It's funny because we look like we are in a Flintstones car, running all over the stage.

James, Emmett's new assistant coach, is the first one to guess it, but now everyone wants to know why we went on a road trip together, so we tell them that I'm Charlie's daughter, and all of a sudden, I'm a celebrity.

I can't get back to my seat fast enough; I hate being the center of attention and it seems that I have become exactly that. Fortunately for me, James stands up and announces in his best coach voice that he wants to take his turn. As he walks past me to head up to the front of the room, he stops at my chair. I get a chill running down my spine as he leans forward and whispers in my ear.

"You can thank me later, Beautiful."

When I turn around and make eye contact with him, he winks at me and flashes me a toothy grin. I notice for the first time all morning that James is rather attractive. He is about the same height as Emmett and Jasper, but has a thinner build than Em. I guess he and Jasper have about the same build, muscular, but not bulky. He has light brown, crew cut hair and beautiful blue eyes. He has a strong jaw and perfectly straight teeth.

He must be aware of my gawking, because he chuckles as he turns to continue up to the drawing board. He's a horrible artist and it takes forever for someone to guess that he moved over the summer. Thankfully, that makes him the new shiny toy, and takes the heat off of me.

The rest of the morning is filled with more games and fun. By the time lunch comes around, I'm famished. I grab some of the pizza that Jasper has provided for all of us and stand in the front of the cafeteria looking for a place to eat. All of a sudden I feel like I'm back in high school. I turn around and start to walk outside. I would rather eat under a tree, alone, than deal with the embarrassment of standing there with nowhere to sit.

Just as I reach the door, I hear my name from a few feet behind me. I turn around and see James standing at a table by himself. He holds out a chair and motions for me to join him.

"Bella, please join me. I don't know anyone and I don't want to eat alone. You can consider this payback for earlier."

I think about his offer and look around for Jasper or Emmett. I don't see them anywhere, so I know that it is either sit with James or sit alone.

"Sure."

I take the seat that he has pulled out for me and fall into easy conversation with him. He knows nothing about me and I know nothing about him, so that makes finding something to talk about a breeze. We discuss what it was like for me to grow up here and attend this high school and I feel a presence behind me.

I turn around and see Jasper watching me with curiosity in his eyes. I motion for him to join us, and before he starts to come our way he looks over his shoulder and gets Emmett's attention. He points to where I am seated with James and they both head our way. When they get to the table, Jasper and Emmett set their lunches down on either side of me, causing James to have to scoot his plate and chair over some, and I can't help but chuckle at the way it feels like Em and Jasper are staking their claim on me.

"Hey guys. Glad you could join us. James was just asking what it was like to go to school here."

At that, the three of us start laughing and it only gets worse when we see the look of confusion on James's face. Jasper is the first to speak up.

"Actually James, Bella was one of my first students. I taught her history. But she was not the woman you see before you today."

"Right! Our little Bells was a little bit shy. She had a thing ..."

I realize that he is about to tell them that I had a thing for Jasper back when I was a student. I decide to distract them.

"Emmett! If you are going to tell on me, at least let me do it! I had a thing about studying. I was the second in the class and when it was time for our final exams, my senior year, I could have skipped them all and still had an 'A' in every class. I was a nerd, but the only time I talked to anyone was when I was answering a teacher."

I kick Emmett under the table and give him a dirty look. I don't know if he understands or not, but I do know that he won't bring up my crush on Jasper again. I really don't know how I feel about Jasper now, but I don't want to risk our friendship or my job to find out.

We all talk a while before we have to go back into meetings. We have speakers all afternoon. At the end of the day, Emmett and I leave and I am so drained. Who knew that sitting in meetings all day could take so much out of you?

Charlie and I are eating dinner, later that night, when he tells me that he is leading our Tuesday in-service. It is all about sexual harassment in the workplace, sexual assault on the students, and reporting physical and sexual abuse in the homes of the children. Apparently that is why he had to work this weekend. He had to make sure that he had tomorrow off.

Tuesday morning comes and Charlie and I ride to school together. The morning passes by with sessions on our behavior towards each other as coworkers. The gist of the lecture is it is okay to date a coworker, but not okay to make a coworker uncomfortable with advances that they do not return.

Lunch is similar to yesterday, only Charlie is sitting with us this time. He keeps shooting weird looks back and forth from Jasper to James. I don't quite understand what that is about, but I just let it go. I will ask Dad when we are alone, at home. Well, I will if I remember, that is.

After lunch the meetings take on a more somber tone. It is one thing to talk about how we treat each other, but it is totally different to talk about the kids being abused. It is not an easy topic to discuss at all.

Charlie makes it even harder by showing us videos and slideshows. At one point, we are looking at slides of common bruising and how to differentiate between the stages of bruising. The videos we watch are on how to recognize an abused child by their behavior. It really is sad and disturbing. The more I see this stuff the more I just want to run up to Charlie and hug him for being such a great dad.

By the time we all go home, we are emotionally drained because of Charlie's presentations. I feel bad for him that he had to do that research and come up with the stuff to tell us, but even more so, I feel bad for the fact that we have to have that. Abuse happens every day and I am just glad that we are now equipped to do what we can to stop it.

The rest of the week goes by rather uneventfully. Friday gets here a lot faster than I thought that it would. We actually manage to get more done than we had planned and we are able to finish the training just before lunch. Instead of ordering something for our lunches, Jasper just lets us all out early. After he bids us a happy weekend and we all make plans to come up the next week to work in our classrooms, he walks up to where Emmett, James, and I are standing. Just before he gets to where we are, James turns to me.

"Bella, Would you care to join me for lunch? I don't know many places to go and I figure a native would have some better ideas than a transplant."

Just then, Jasper steps into our small circle.

"Actually, I was gonna ask Bella and Emmett to join me at the diner. Would you like to join us too, James?"

A sneer flashes across James's face, but as quickly as it is there, it is gone.

"Sure, Jasper. Thanks."

We head for the parking lot and I start to follow Em to the Jeep. I stop when I feel a tug on my arm. Turning around, I see James standing behind me. Jasper and Emmett have stopped walking and are turning around as well.

"Bella, I don't know where the diner is…"

Jasper interrupts him and begins to give him directions.

"Take a left out of the parking lot…"

James squares his jaw and flares his nostrils.

"Actually, I was just hoping that Bella would ride with me. It would make it a lot easier."

"Oh, okay... I don't see anything wrong with that. I'll see you guys over there."

As we walk to the car, I can see Jasper and Emmett talking and watching us while they head to their vehicles. I guess they're just looking out for me—we haven't known James all that long, after all.

James and I talk about a few trivial things on the way to the diner. We don't have too long to talk, because we don't have that far to drive.

When we arrive, Jasper and Emmett have beaten us there. They are seated at a square table and are sitting across from each other, forcing James and me to sit across from one another as well. Through out the meal, I find that there seems to be some sort of pissing contest, if you will, between the guys. I have never been in a situation where the guys were not already all friends. So, I guess this is just how it goes for them.

Even though James offers, Jasper insists on treating everyone to lunch. When he is up at the register paying, Emmett steps to the restroom. James seizes the opportunity to slide into Jasper's chair and talk to me alone.

"Bella, I know that you and I are still getting to know each other, but I was wondering if you would like to go to dinner with me tomorrow night, just the two of us."

"Like a date? I don't know. My divorce isn't even finalized yet."

"I know that. And I am not going to force you to do anything that you don't want to do. I just really want a chance to get to know you without all of the usual interruptions. How about you come over to my place tomorrow night and just have a casual dinner with me, no pressure, just friends."

Just as I am about to respond, I look up and Jasper is standing to the side of the table. He makes eye contact with me and shakes his head slightly. I am confused and clearly it shows on my face, because before I can answer James, Jasper intervenes.

"Hey Bells, can I talk to you for a second. I'm sorry to interrupt, James. I just really need to ask her a question. Will you excuse us for just a moment?"

I get up and walk off with Jasper. We step to the restrooms just as Emmett is coming out. He joins us in our hushed conversation.

"Bella, why was James asking you over to his place?"

"He said that he wanted to bet to know me better. He asked me to come over tomorrow night for dinner."

"Belly, do you think that is really smart considering you are still married to another man?"

"Thanks for pointing that out, Emmett. I know that I am still married and I am not planning on doing anything other than having dinner with the man and talking about myself a little bit. There is nothing wrong with that. And do I have to remind you that I am a grown woman and I can make my own decisions? I hope not, because if I do, I'll just call Rose and let her remind you for me."

With that, I turn away from them and storm back to the table. When I address James, I make sure that I 'm loud enough for all three of the guys to hear me.

"James, I'd love to have dinner with you. Call me tomorrow and tell me when and where. I'll see you then."

I write my number down on the napkin and make my way out of the restaurant. I rode to work this morning with Emmett, but I'm so frustrated with him at the moment that I'd rather walk home than deal with him. Fortunately for me, it's only a few blocks.

I can hear an engine pulling up behind me when I get to the end of the block. Jasper pulls up beside me and rolls his window down.

"Bella, please let me take you home. You don't have to walk. I was out of line, but I was only looking out for you. Please, get in."

I look over at him and see sincerity in his caring eyes, so I get in the truck and let him drive me home.

"Jasper, why does it matter if I have dinner with James?"

"I just don't want to see you get hurt again. We don't know much about James other than what I learned in the interview. For all we know, he could be just like Edward. And I don't want that for you. You deserve so much better than that. I just …"

He opens his mouth to continue, but stops himself.

"What Jasper? You just what?"

"Nothing Bells. Don't worry about it."

"Okay Jas. Well, we're here. I guess I'll talk to you later."

I go to get out of his truck when he places his hand on mine. The contact sends a shudder through my body. I turn to look at him. His eyes are look almost pleading.

"Will you please call me when you leave his house tomorrow night? I just need to know that you're fine."

"Um … sure Jas, I'll call you. I'll talk to you then. Goodbye."

I don't know why he needs me to call him, but something in me likes the idea of Jasper wanting to make sure that I'm okay after leaving James's place. I get out of the truck and head to the house.

Over the course of the rest of that day and the first half of the next, I ignore phone call after phone call from Emmett. I do call Rose and talk to her. She agrees one hundred percent with me and finally tells Em to stop calling me. She tells him that I'll call him when I'm good and ready to talk to him.

I get a text from James around noon asking if four that evening is all right and telling me his address. I respond that it's fine and that I'll see him there.

Just before I leave my house to head to James's, I receive a text from Jasper.

Bella- Please be careful tonight. Call me if you need anything, even if it's just a ride home. And please call me when you're leaving. I want to know how it goes. -Jasper

I quickly text him back before I leave.

Jas~ Thank you. I'll let you know if I need you, otherwise I'll talk to you after. ~Bells

I get to James's house and knock on the door. When he opens it, I'm immediately thrown off course by the lit candles and soft jazz music playing in the living room.

"Hello there, Beautiful. Please come in."

I notice that instead of having the table set, there's a blanket on the floor with the plates and glasses sitting on it. On the counter, there's an unopened bottle of wine. After taking in my surroundings, I realize that this isn't at all what I thought. It seems Jas and Em were right. I just hope that James doesn't try to push this further than I want it to go.

I step inside and set my purse down on the table by the entryway, able to fully take in my surroundings now. His house is small, but not cramped or crowded. It's minimally furniture, but it allows more space in the small rooms.

I realize that my phone's still in my purse, so I turn around and take it out. After putting it in the back pocket of my jeans, I leave the foyer and step into the living room.

"Would you like a glass of wine? I have a red out, but could grab the blush or white if you prefer those."

What I'd really prefer is a beer, but I don't want to sound picky.

"Red is fine, but only a small glass please."

"Sure. Have a seat and make yourself comfortable. I thought maybe we could just chat for a bit and then eat. I fixed us a romaine and salmon salad—I hope that's okay"

"That's fine. I happen to love both romaine lettuce and salmon. Thank you."

He hands me a glass of wine before he sits on the other end of the couch. We have our backs resting on the arms so that we're facing each other.

I sit nervously. fidgeting with the hem of my jeans. After what seems like forever, James speaks first.

"Wow. I have to admit that it's been a while since I've dated anyone, and I'm kind of nervous. I'm sorry I'm not a better host."

I let out a nervous chuckle.

"It's fine. I'll admit I'm a little nervous as well. I haven't dated anyone since my husband—I mean ex-husband. Well, almost ex-husband. See? I'm a mess. Are you sure you want me here?"

"Bella, there's no one I'd rather have here right now. Let's just enjoy this wine and the company and relax. There's really nothing for either of us to be nervous about."

"No, you are right … unless you have plans for me that I don't agree with."

I laugh, but part of me is totally serious. I really don't know James that well, and am slightly bothered by the fact that Jasper feels the need to have me call him as soon as I'm done. As the daughter of the Chief of Police, I was taught to never let my guard down, especially not when my gut's telling me that I need to be on my guard. So, it's hard for me to totally relax, but I try my best.

"How about I show you around, and hopefully that and the wine will take the edge off for both of us."

"Sure, James, that sounds like a good idea."

We walk through his small house. He shows me the guest room he's converted into a mini gym, the bathroom, and the hall closet. My nerves are just starting to go away when he walks up to the only door left in the hallway.

"This is the master bedroom. I'd like to say that this is where the magic happens, but that'd be a lie. There hasn't been any magic happening since before I moved here."

And with that one statement, my nerves are back. I thought that I'd be coming over here just to hang out as friends. I had no idea that this would be a candle-lit dinner date.

I try to laugh as if he just made a joke, but it gets tramples in my throat by the butterflies trying to escape from my stomach. Most of the time, butterflies are a good thing, but I've yet to determine if these are good or bad.

The sheets on his full size bed are not made. I can't tell if he's sloppy, or if he just wanted his bed to look inviting. I'm still unsure about the whole situation. Just as I start to try and figure it out, James pulls me out of my thoughts and inner ramblings.

"Come here, I want to show you the best part of the whole house."

He grabs the hand not holding my wine glass and pulls me deep in to his bedroom. When I realize that he's pulling me towards his bed, I tip my glass up and guzzle the wine that's in it. I hope that it'll calm my nerves. If this turns ugly, I will call Emmett, Dad, or Jasper. Any of them would be more than willing to come get me.

James, still holding my hand, turns and sits on the edge of his bed. I take my hand back from his and reach to my back pocket to grab for my phone. I can't believe that the best part of the whole house is his bed and that he's tricked me into coming into his bedroom. I'm so angry at myself. I'm normally more level headed than this!

Once again, he pulls me from my thoughts.

"Bella, what's wrong? Did I say something or do something to upset you?"

"Well, yes you did. I came here to have dinner with a new friend, not a date and next thing I know, you're inviting me into your bed. I'm not that kind of girl, James. And even if I were, you have to remember that I'm still married! I know that Edward and I aren't together anymore, but that in no way means that I'm just going to climb right into bed with you!"

When I stop ranting, I notice that James is smirking at me. The nerve of him to smirk and laugh at what I was just saying!

"Are you done Bella?"

"What? What's wrong with you?"

"Bella, turn around. Look in the bathroom."

I huff, but do as he asked. I hadn't even noticed that there's a doorway on the wall parallel to his bed.

I step into the bathroom to see what he's talking about while he chuckles at me from the bed.

What I see before me stuns me. The rest of the house was nice, but worn, old. The master bathroom, however, is state of the art amazing. The counter top is marble with two deep sinks set in. The shower is double headed, one on each side. The toilet is one that will flush when you move away from it, but also has a manual flush, just in case. As I turn around to leave the bathroom, I am stopped by a gorgeous sight. The bathtub is not a bath tub at all, but it's a five person hot tub. I've heard of Jacuzzi tubs being in master bathrooms before, but never a hot tub. I'm running my hand over the edge of it when James steps into the door way.

"Like what you see, Bella?"

He chuckles as he comes to stand next to me. I'm overcome with embarrassment.

"Oh my God, James I'm so sorry. I can't believe that I thought you were trying to get me into bed. I feel awful! Can you forgive me and pretend that it never even happened? Please?"

"Pretend that what happened? I don't know what you're talking about."

He looked at me with a proud smirk and laughed out loud.

"James, I don't mean to insult the rest of the house, but how is it that this bathroom is so amazing?"

"Well, I put myself through college by working for a construction company. We did remodels, so it gave me the experience to be able to do my own remodel. I'm planning on re-doing the entire house, but wanted to start with the bathroom. Do you really think that it's amazing?"

"Yes, it's fabulous. I can't believe that you did this all yourself."

"You should've seen your face earlier, Bella. It was classic. I can't believe you thought I was just trying to get you in my bed."

James starts laughing at me and he's laughing so hard that I can't help but to join him. I'm slightly embarrassed, but this is exactly what we need to break the tension that was so thick earlier.

When we finally compose ourselves, we go back in to the living room. I sit on the couch while James goes to fix our dinner. He comes out and I move down to the blanket he has set out on the floor for our picnic.

He sets a salad bowl in front of me and grabs my wine glass to refill it. When he comes back, he joins me on the blanket.

"This looks delicious. Did you also go to culinary school while you were learning how to remodel your own bathroom?"

"No. If I tell you my secret, you have to promise not to laugh at me."

He waits for me to agree.

"I promise, your secret's safe with me."

I motion like I'm zipping my lips and locking them, handing him the key.

"I watch Food Network all the time. I also watch a lot of HGTV."

I try my hardest not to laugh, but I just can't help it. It starts out as a slight snicker, but quickly becomes full-blown, can't catch my breath, tears rolling down my face, hysteria. I make eye contact with James and he's trying to glare at me. He has to bite the inside of his cheeks to keep from smiling. His eyes are slightly squinted, but the corners are turned up, showing the smile that the rest of his face is trying to hide.

I finally get myself under control and have to excuse myself to the bathroom. I use the facilities and wash my hands. I also notice that my face is read from laughing so hard, so I splash some cold water on it to bring my normal color back.

I'm startled when I open the door and James is standing in the doorway with his hands on the doorframe.

"You ready to eat dinner and finish that wine, or are you gonna laugh at me some more?"

I can tell by his tone that he's joking, but something about it has me ill at ease.

"No, I'm sorry. I'm done laughing at you, but it's only fair that I had a turn since you laughed at me earlier."

"You're right, Bella. I'm sorry. So I guess we're even. Let's go finish our drinks and dinner."

I'm really enjoying his company, but I'm not so sure if I like the fact that he keeps pushing the wine on me. He may not be trying to get me into his bed, but it does seem that he's trying to get me drunk.

I follow James back in to the living room where we sit and eat our meal. Over the course of the meal, we talk about our families and our childhoods. He tells me what made him move here and asks me why I moved back. I'd avoided talking about Edward as much as possible, but I know that people are going to want to know.

By the time I finish telling him about my relationship with Edward, leaving him, and going back last weekend to get my stuff, he's upset. He's not as angry as Emmett, Charlie, or Jasper, but he does express that he's not happy with Edward's behavior.

"I can't believe he treated you like that. You deserve so much better. I'm so sorry that you had to deal with that for so long. I do have to say though: you leaving when you did worked out to my benefit quite well."

"It was definitely not the marriage or relationship that I'd hoped for. However, it did make me stronger. And hopefully I'll be able to recognize that behavior if I'm ever subjected to it again."

"Yes, I hope you will, too, Bella. You don't have to worry about that with me. I mean—I know that we're only just getting to know each other, but you'll never have to worry about me treating you like that."

"Thank you James, that's good to know."

At this point we've finished eating and are on our third glass of wine. I am starting to feel a little lightheaded and know that it's about time to leave. I get up and bid James farewell.

"Thank you for a lovely evening. I really did have a blast. And don't worry; your secret's safe with me. Thank you for having me over. I guess I'll see you at work on Monday."

"That sounds great Bella. Thank you so much for coming over tonight. Next time I'll take you out."

He says that with a huge grin on his face. I did have fun tonight, so another date wouldn't be that bad.

"I think I can handle that. See you later, James."

I walk out to my truck and stumble slightly just before getting in. Fortunately, James doesn't see that. I get in my truck and start it just as my head starts swimming. I can't believe how quickly I went from slightly buzzed to drunk. I should know by now that wine sneaks up on me; it always does. I know I can't drive home like this. I also know that I can't walk home like this. I have to call someone. It's too late to call Emmett's house, and Charlie's at work. I take a deep breath and pull out my phone. I know what I have to do. I call Jasper and listen to the ringing as I wait for him to pick up.

It goes to his voicemail. At this point, my truck's spinning around me. I slump over in my seat and lie down, trying my hardest to leave a message, and just hoping that Jasper can understand what I'm saying.

"Jasperrrr, I drank… I drank toooo much wiiiiiiiiine. I had two, no I had three. Yeah I had three wines. Um, I can't, I can't drive. So I'm juuuust gonna sleeeep here. I'll jusssst call you tomooroooow."

The truck is still spinning around me, and I can't really form words anymore or open my eyes. My hand falls away from my head and my phone hits the floor of the truck. I am vaguely aware of it ringing over and over again, but don't have the strength to move, much less get it and answer.

I have a dream that someone is playing a drum next to me and shaking what I'm lying on. When I finally open my eyes I see that I was wrong. Jasper is standing outside my truck, shaking it and banging on the window.

I go to sit up and almost fall off of the seat of the truck. So, I decide that instead of sitting all the way up and scooting over to the driver side door, I'll just lift my hand and unlock the passenger side. Jasper sees what I'm doing and runs around to that side of the truck.

He opens the door and slides in with me. He scoots me over so that I can rest my head on his lap. I feel the warmth of his hands on my face and immediately lean in to his touch. I can't help the slight moan that escapes my lips at the comforting feel of his hands. I guess the wine has totally taken away all of my normal barriers.

"Bells, Darlin', how much did you drink tonight?"

"Jus … three."

I try to hold up three fingers, but I'm still having a hard time controlling my hands and arms.

"Three whats? Three glasses or three bottles?"

"Noooooo … threeee ... glasses."

Jasper shakes his head and chuckles at me. He's so cute. I still can't get over how good he looks after nine years. Once again, the wine takes over and next thing I know, verbal diarrhea, all over the inside of the truck.

"Jas, you're soooo cute. D'ju know that? I member in school, you're soooooo hot. I alwayzzzzzzzz hada crush… buyou nevrr saw me."

I feel Jasper wipe a tear away from my cheek. I make eye contact with him and he looks almost … sad? I can't quite place the look in his eyes.

Jasper shakes his head and slides out. I feel him lift me with ease and carry me to his truck. He places me in the back seat and goes back to mine for a little bit.

When he gets back in the truck, he's playing on my phone. He finishes whatever he was doing and places it with my purse on the passenger seat of the truck. I fall asleep on our way to wherever he is taking me.

I wake up and am immediately aware of several things. First, I have no idea where I am. Second, I don't remember anything after walking out of James's house, and third, I'm not in my clothes anymore, but boxers and an over-sized t-shirt instead. Fourth, I have a killer migraine from hell, and the sun coming through the window is making me feel nauseated because of the pain in my head.

I groan and roll away from the window. I'm trying to piece together the missing details of last night and this morning when I hear three male voices in the other room. I get up slowly and make my way out of the bedroom. I hope that whoever it is in the front of this house can answer my questions and put the puzzle together for me.

When I step in to the living room, I gasp at the sight in front of me. I'm mortified by the fact that I'm standing here in this strange house in just a t-shirt and boxers. I don't know what's worse, not knowing whose clothes and house I'm in, or not remembering how I got here.

I look up and see all three sets of eyes trained on me.

Oh, crap!


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