Author: SaritaDreaming

Title: In the Wings

Rating: MA

Summary: A disillusioned cheerleader jumps off a cliff into the churning water below and gets more than she bargained for when she's saved by the man who's been waiting in the wings. Popularity doesn't always equal happiness. AH, Lemons

A/N: This one-shot was an original fic I donated for a fundraiser. I've adapted it to be an AH Twilight fanfic. I used a picture prompt (you can see it on my profile), and this story is what resulted. Thanks to Katsflowergirls, Keye and Sandy for the pre-read and wmr1601 for the beta job.

~In the Wings~

I move through the scrubby vegetation, stiff, scratchy things scraping at my bare feet and ankles. This is the only direction I can go; there are voices behind me, people I don't want to face. Tears stream down my face as I stumble along, bottle of Jack in hand. Stopping for a moment, I take a swig, the amber liquid burning on the way down. A satisfying heat blooms in my belly.



And now, there's nowhere to go but up. Up the hill to the cliffs. I rush along as stealthily as I can, but the little stones and sharp plants tear and claw at my feet.

"Bells? Where are you?"

Jacob. My boyfriend—or at least he was until I caught him making out with Leah Clearwater behind one of the sand dunes during the bonfire. It wasn't the first time, either. Last time, it was that skank, Jessica Stanley. They were under the bleachers during football practice, and his head was shoved into her ample cleavage while he had two handfuls of her ass in his large palms. And those are just the two I know about. There have been rumors, and I chose to ignore them because I really cared about Jake. What does that say about my self esteem?

Another swig of Jack. It slides down easier this time.

"Bells! It didn't mean anything!" Jacob's slurred voice is louder, which means he's closer—and drunk.

It didn't mean anything.

Apparently, I didn't mean anything, either. At least when he had his head buried in Jessica's tits, I came upon them much by accident. But I was at the fucking bonfire tonight! If I actually meant anything to him, how could he take the chance of being caught that way?

I hear footsteps coming closer, so I duck behind some bushes. Sand goes up my shorts, and the pointy ends of the bush poke me in the back and scratch my neck, but I don't care—it's preferable to dealing with him right now. He's drunk, and he's hoping he can bamboozle me. I'm so done with his shit.

I can hear him scrabbling up the hill to the cliff top. Boy, am I glad I didn't go up there yet. When he comes down—sure that I'm not up there—that's exactly where I'm heading.

More Jack trickles down my throat and coats my belly. My limbs start to feel warm and tingly, and a giggle bubbles up my throat as I hear Jake stumbling around, calling my name, and spewing his foolish platitudes about how 'it meant nothing to him' and he 'made a terrible mistake.' Aw, poor baby. I giggle again.

By the time Jake shuffles back down the hill—with me jamming a fist in my mouth to stem my giggles—half the bottle of Jack is gone, and I'm feeling pretty damn good.

I wait about ten minutes to be sure he isn't coming back, and then I make my way up the hill until I'm standing at the apex of the cliff. It's dusk, and as the sun dips lower and the shadows grow longer, I look out over the water. It's a dark blue, swirling, living thing—and it's calling to me.

My mind whirls around—as well as it can under the influence of alcohol—and I think about how badly I've fucked up my life. Jacob isn't a good boyfriend. We made a 'good match' because he's on the football team, and I'm a cheerleader, but those are logistics—not necessarily criteria for a healthy relationship. The way he's blown off his past transgressions is lame, and the fact that I've allowed him to snow me causes anger to bubble inside me, burning like acid. Most of the anger is self-directed.

Shuffling forward, I draw closer to the edge of the cliff. I look down at the roiling water, watching the waves breaking against the rocks, creating frothy white sprays of foam. The sudden urge to jump into the churning water below hits me hard. I have no desire to harm myself; I just want to feel free, to do something crazy. I need to let go—of Jacob, of my self flagellation, of my concerns that I'll lose my place within the ranks of the popular crowd if I'm no longer dating the star quarterback of the football team—and the water is calling to me. The JD makes me braver than usual, breaks through the barrier of my fear. I stand at the highest part of the cliff, and the liquid courage coursing through my veins prompts me to go up on tiptoe with my arms straight up above me. And then I fall into a graceful swan dive, screaming with joy all the way down.


"Bella? Bella, please..." The voice is low and soft—desperate.

What the hell is going on? The last thing I remember, I was at the top of the cliff with a bottle of Jack... Oh! I jumped into the water. I remember screaming all the way down, and then... blackness as I hit the cold, churning water.


I feel a chill over most of my body... at least the parts that aren't being touched right now. Slowly, sensations seep in.

I feel a cool, wetness,... goosebumps pebble up on my skin, and a shiver runs through me. Warmth presses against my side, and warm hands caress my freezing face.

Twitching the fingers of my right hand, I come up with a palmful of sand—cold, wet, and gritty—which tells me I'm lying at the edge of the water. As if to confirm this, I can hear the surf nearby, rushing in over the sand with a hissing sound that reminds me of peroxide when it's poured over an open wound.

And, God, is my wound open.

It all rushes back to me, and my left hand clenches around nothing, looking for the bottle of Jack I must have lost on my way down.

"Want my Jack," I mumble.

"Bella? Are you all right? Who's Jack?" That melodic voice again. Who does it belong to? It's very familiar to me, but I can't quite place it.

A laugh bubbles up from inside me. "Jack Daniels."

"Never heard of him."

"No, not a person. JD, Jack Daniels... whiskey. Must've lost the bottle on the way down..." I mutter.

Warm lips press against my ear. "No, baby. You lost it when you tried to kill yourself over that asshole boyfriend of yours."

Kill myself! Oh, no, no. I was freeing myself—loosing the ties that bind. Making a statement.

My eyes crack open, and I find myself looking into the eyes of Edward Cullen. His piercing green eyes are scared and wild looking. His face is so close to mine.

"What the hell are you talking about? I didn't try to off myself!"

"You didn't?"

"No! If I was going to kill myself, I'd go for a sure thing."

His warm hands are still on my face. Edward and I haven't spoken often, just casual chat in the hallway or in a class. We don't run in the same circles. I'm a cheerleader, and I hang with the popular crowd. Edward is a musician and has his own band. He hangs out with kids that smoke a lot of weed and hit six packs in someone's garage while they jam together. It actually sounds kind of cool, but I've never been invited into their circle—it would be taboo within the social hierarchy.

Edward is easily the best looking guy in school; reddish-brown hair that always looks artfully mussed, intense green eyes that always appear thoughtful, a strong jawline usually covered with just the right amount of scruff to be sexy, and full, red lips that often turn up into a quirky smile that makes you wonder what he's thinking of. He's tall and leanly muscled, unlike the meaty guys on the football team. Yes, I realize that to notice this much about him meant I had some sort of... crush. And how embarrassed was I right now? Well, I wish the ground would open up and suck me in—and that I'd find my bottle of Jack down there.

"What were you doing then?"

"Saying goodbye –"

"But you said you weren't trying to kill yourself!" he interrupts, his eyes growing more intense.

I'm lying on the sand at the edge of the water, and Edward is half on top of me. Dusk is fully upon us now; it's almost too dark to make out his handsome features in the bluish light, but I can still see those hypnotic eyes of his boring into mine.

"You didn't let me finish. I was making a statement, saying goodbye to blindness, and to being Jake's arm charm. The last thing I plan to do is kill myself over him," I say with derision.

"What were you thinking, Bella? If I hadn't pulled you out, you might have died tonight."

"Really? I – I don't remember what happened after I jumped..."

"I was walking along the edge of the water when I heard you screaming as you fell from the cliff. When you hit the water, you just went under and didn't come back up. I jumped in and pulled you out. You weren't conscious." His voice lowers to almost a whisper, and his fingers caress my cheek. "I was so afraid for you."

"You were?"


"Well, why?" I understand why he would want to save a person that might be drowning, but why was he afraid for me?

Edward sighs, his warm breath ghosting over my face. I breathe him in, and he smells like menthol and musk. The warmth of his body on mine and his fingers lightly touching my cheek is intoxicating.

Oh, my God... am I really thinking about how good Edward feels and smells after he just pulled me out of the water? Yes, I am.

"You have no idea, do you?"

"Edward, that's why I'm asking. I'm confused..."

He swipes his hand over my forehead, smoothing back the tangle of wet hair snarled there. His touch is gentle, caring. Again, confusion floods through me, and I wonder why I'm not upset with his familiarity... why I'm actually hoping he keeps his hands on me.

His lips find mine, and then I know. His kiss is soft and tentative, as if asking permission. He brushes his lips back and forth lightly across mine, and my insides grow warm—much warmer than when the liquid fire of the JD was doing the heating. The feeling flows through me until I'm no longer cold, and the goosebumps that erupt over my flesh are borne of desire.

I've always found Edward physically attractive, but now I realize that there's more to it than that. A part of me lusted after his group of friends—hanging out in someone's garage, jamming with the band, drinking beer, and smoking joints—because of him. I wanted to be where he was.

"God, Bella, I'm sorry," Edward says breathlessly, pulling back from my lips. "Shit. That was so out of line."

His eyes close, and I miss their intensity already.

"You're sorry?"


"Oh." I allow my disappointment to seep into my voice. "I guess some skanky cheerleader isn't good enough for the likes of you then, huh? Some dip-shit that almost gets killed jumping off a cliff to send herself a message because she's too bubble-headed to get it in a traditional way..."

I push against his chest, trying to wriggle out from under him, but Edward suddenly resists. Now I'm pissed off. I want him off me, so I can get away as soon as possible. Mortification floods through me despite the alcohol steeping in my veins. First Jake fucks me over, and now Edward kisses me then regrets it. I keep my eyes closed; I don't want to see the pity in his.

"Jesus, Edward! Get off me!" I hiss.

"No, wait." He tries to hold me still, pressing me harder into the sand. "You believe I don't think you're good enough?"

"Oh, my God! Now you want the chance to rub it in? How did I get so lucky? I run away from one sadistic asshole only to jump off the cliff into the arms of another!" I start squirming for all I'm worth, and I can feel more wet sand working its way up my shorts. Gross.

"No! Bella, stop! You don't understand. You've got it all wrong."

"Oh, I know that. I just need to swear off the lousy male gene pool around here," I mutter, pushing up against him again, but despite the fact that he's lean, he's still able to easily hold me down.

"Bella..." The way he whispers my name is different this time. His voice is low and husky, and my breath catches.

Opening my eyes I glance up, and what I see in his eyes has nothing to do with pity. He wants me.

Before I can say a word, his lips come down on mine. This time his kiss is much more aggressive, and his fingers tangle in my hair. He parts his lips slightly, and I can almost taste him as his mouth moves over mine.

Oh, this is what I've been missing with Jake—with anyone I've ever kissed. Maybe it's just the strange circumstances and the adrenaline that sends this rush of sensation through me when his lips touch mine, but somehow I don't think so. This is all us.

A violent tremor runs through me as the effects of being cold and wet settle into my bones. Edward lifts his head to look down at me with concern in his eyes. "Are you all right?"

"Yes. Just c-cold."

"I'm sorry." He looks mortified, and immediately jumps to his feet, holding a hand out to me. "Come on."

"I – I can't go back there..." I shake my head as I stand next to him and brush the damp sand off my legs, then wiggle my ass in an attempt to dislodge what's caked under the edges of my shorts.

"We can go somewhere else. Please... I want to talk to you." His fingers entwine with mine, and my body is on high alert, tingling all over with pleasure even as I shake with the cold.

I look up at his handsome face in wonder. This isn't a spur of the moment make out session—he's thought about me before tonight—I can see it in the tight set of his jaw, in the nearly desperate yet vulnerable look in his eyes. He has something riding on my response; he's going to be hurt if I say no.

His fingers tighten subtly on mine. "Bella, please? We'll get warm and dry, and after that... if you want to go, I won't stop you. I'll take you home; I promise." His voice is soft and wanting.

I wonder why I've never seen him looking at me the way he is right now—did I just never notice? Was I so absorbed in my 'popular girl' life that I never really looked him in the eye? His eyes are beautiful pools of jade green—such a stunning contrast against his hair.

"Yes, okay."

Edward pulls me along a circuitous route, avoiding anywhere we're likely to come upon any of our classmates. It takes a bit longer this way, but I'm grateful for the privacy; the last thing I want is to have to explain myself. I must look like a drowned rat, the word has probably started to spread about Jake and me, and I'm not up to answering uncomfortable questions—there will be time enough for those later.

By the end of the week, I'm likely to be persona non grata for breaking up with Jacob. Even though he was the cheating, lying bastard, I'm the one that broke the stupid popular crowd code: the 'beautiful people' stay together, even if they aren't completely happy, and you don't have unpopular friends or date below your station. It's ridiculous, really. Most of the popular kids back-stab one another, only pretending to be friends. I would rather have a real friend that I know I can count on. When I rifle through the people I know in my head, I realize that the number of true friends I have has dwindled down to a big fat zero. I used to have nice friends—ones that I could trust with my deepest secrets, that I truly enjoyed being with—but it was hard to hang onto those friendships once I was accepted into the in-crowd. It was frowned upon to fraternize with 'losers,' and at the time, I thought being popular was all I ever wanted. I heard somewhere that the real world wasn't much like high school. All of this was going to fade away. I realize that I want to be something, be someone—an individual, not a mere sliver of the whole. Being popular reminds me of being part of the Borg Collective from Star Trek, where creativity and individuality are lost in the quest to belong.

Deep inside, I don't think I have it in me to continue the charade. If my social life could come to a grinding halt because my boyfriend cheated—and I called him on it—then there was a serious problem. I vaguely note trees going by as I allow Edward to lead me by the hand. I'm pretty sure when I refuse to act like a good little automaton and forgive Jake, my spot on the cheering squad will be made extremely uncomfortable—to the point that I'll have to quit. There won't be any more parties or shopping trips. In a way it hurts, but as the reality of it hits me, I understand that anything at all could have knocked me off the shaky pedestal I was perched on.

"Here we are." Blinking my eyes, I notice we've reached the parking lot from a different direction, and thankfully, it's at the far end from most of the other cars. Edward opens his trunk and pulls out a blanket to wrap around me. "There, that should help."

"What about you?"

"I'll be fine. Besides, I have to drive, and that would be hard with a blanket wrapped around me." He winks at me, and I smile back shyly.

After we're out of the parking lot and driving along the winding road that hugs the coastline, I come out of my fog and start to wonder where Edward is taking me. "Where are we going?"

"My place, if that's all right."

"Your parents won't mind you bringing home some stray, soaking wet cheerleader?"

"They're out for the evening, for one. But I have the room over the garage, so they really don't know what I do. My parents really aren't the nosy types."

"Oh." I'm not sure how to feel about this. Is he just hoping to score on a cheerleader? Have I been misreading him?

Edward glances over at me, and his hand reaches out to cover mine. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"Why are you bringing me back to your place?"

"So you can get warm and dry, and so we can talk." Edward's eyes slide my way again before returning to the road. "Oh, I get it. You think I'm a loser, and I'm just trying to get in your pants, right?"

"No! I'm not sure. I mean, no... I don't think you're a loser, but I'm not sure about the rest. What's your angle? You've never shown any interest in me before."

"You just never noticed," Edward said quietly as we pulled into a driveway. There's a large, modern looking house with a beautiful rolling lawn dotted with lush trees. The drive continues past the house to a three car garage. Edward pulls in through the only open garage door and cuts the engine but doesn't move to get out of the car. He rests his head against the steering wheel with a deep sigh. "Bella, you really don't know, do you?"

"Know what? That's the second time you've said that."

He shakes his head. "Let's get you upstairs. I'll give you some sweats to throw on; you can even take a shower if you'd like. I'll make us some hot chocolate, and then we can talk."

"Okay." What have I got to lose that I haven't already lost? Right now, Edward seems to be the only one interested in my well-being, and he's so very handsome. If I'm honest with myself, the only reason I never went after him was because I was a cheerleader—but I'd noticed him. It would be hard not to.

I also envied Edward because he never worried about what others thought of him. He was popular among his group of friends, and he did his own thing without having to answer to someone else. I had Meredith Johansen to answer to—the captain of the cheering squad and queen bitch of the popular crowd. If Meredith said you were shit, you were shit. I imagine she'll soon be choosing among the peons, searching for my replacement—because it was that easy. I saw it happen to Kimberly Cresley last year. I took Kimberly's place, and I was so damn smug about it, too. Paybacks are a bitch.

I follow Edward up a stairway that opens into a cavernous room. The ceiling is high, and it's open and spacious in here. For some reason, I expected a garage apartment to be tiny, cramped and smelly, but this takes my breath away. I would give my right arm to have a space like this all to myself—it's not at all like my cramped little room at home. The walls are a simple white, and there's a skylight set into the angled ceiling. I bet in the daytime this place is beautifully light and airy. When I investigate further, I realize this is an apartment, not a bedroom. There's a worn but perfectly usable couch and loveseat grouped around a coffee table and a huge rack against the wall with a TV, stereo, DVDs, and CDs all neatly organized. Edward's guitar leans against the loveseat, and I wonder if he was playing it earlier—if he plays it every day. There's a kitchenette in the far right corner with a breakfast bar, next to which is a doorway leading to what I assume must be his bedroom.

"Wow. This is amazing, Edward."

"I like it." He smiles at me, and I feel dazzled. He's so handsome even though we were just in the water... Oh, my God! The water! What I must look like!

"Can I use your bathroom?"

"Sure, right through here."

He leads me through the door to the bedroom, which is a nice size, as well. He has a queen-sized bed, a dresser, and a rocking chair in the corner that has another guitar leaning against it. We go through another door into a large bathroom with one of those awesome shower enclosures where the spray comes from multiple directions.

"Wow." I feel like a dolt. Apparently, 'wow' is the only thing I can say now.

"Be right back." Edward is gone for less than a minute and returns with a t-shirt and a pair of sweats. After explaining how to work the shower, he says, "Take your time. There's no rush." He winks on his way out. Swoon.

When I look in the mirror, I'm horrified. My long, dark hair is in a snarl about my head, and my make up has run. Scrubbing my face, I remove the mess, leaving me rosy cheeked. The hair is hopeless, so I decide to wash it in the shower—it's already wet, after all.

I stay in the shower too long. For one, it's the most awesome shower I've ever taken... ever. For two, I'm avoiding. I'm scared to go out there and face Edward—knowing that he feels something for me, knowing that I feel something for him, and being fairly certain that my life as a cheerleader is over, I don't want him to think that's why—it was simply the catalyst that helped me realize it. I don't mind so much not being a cheerleader or being surrounded by phony people—I'm just afraid that nobody will want me after what I've done and the way I've treated those I considered 'below me.' Frankly, I'm ashamed of myself.

Eventually, the hot water runs out, and I have no choice but to towel off. The sweat pants are just not possible for me to wear—they're way too long for one thing, and I can just see myself tripping and falling on my face. I opt to wear the t-shirt alone, which is so long on me it's more like a dress. I root around in Edward's vanity until I find a comb, and I run it through my now-clean hair, slicking it back. Well, it's not my best look, but it's a hell of a lot better than the bird's nest that it was.

I notice that my clothes are all missing, and I wonder what he's done with them. That means I'm going completely bare under his t-shirt... Get your mind out of the gutter, Bells!

Padding out to the kitchenette, I spy two cups of steaming hot chocolate. I don't immediately see Edward, but I hear him. It turns out he's sitting on the loveseat playing his guitar and singing softly. It's not a song I've ever heard, and I surmise it belongs to his band. It's nice, and I'm drawn in by it, forgetting to be shy. I head over to the couch, tucking my legs under me, and lean on the arm rest, chin on my hands. Edward's eyes are closed, he's in his own world, and he doesn't immediately notice me.

As the last notes of the soulful song reverberate through the air, he opens his eyes, and they're looking straight at me. I feel slightly discomfited—how did he know where to look?

"Hey." He smiles.

"How'd you know I was here?"

"I sensed you." He says this as if it's the most normal thing in the world. "I usually know when you're around." He ducks his head, his cheeks turning pink.

"God, you must think I'm such a self-absorbed twit. And you were nice enough to take me home with you..." I shake my head, appalled at my own behavior... shocked that although I was aware of Edward, it apparently was nowhere near the extent he was aware of me.

"Not at all, Bella."

"How can you say that? I've barely given you the time of day! I've treated all my old friends like dirt... I deserve whatever I get."

"You're not like them, Bella. You're not one of them."

"Sure I am—or was until I ditched Jake."

"I've always seen something else in you. You may have been hanging with them, trying to be one of them, but you're just not. You're so much better than that. You just needed time to discover it for yourself." He smiles at me gently; his eyes say that he's speaking the truth.

"So you were..." I drift off. Wouldn't it be really conceited to ask him if he's been waiting for me? Hell, it is really conceited to even think it's a possibility.

"Waiting. For you to realize the truth." He answers what I didn't dare to voice, and I'm floored.

Resting the guitar against the side of the loveseat, Edward moves to sit beside me on the couch. I sit up straighter, turning to face him. His hands cup my face gently. "You're beautiful, Bella, inside and out."

"I'm not, though! I've done some things that aren't very nice—I've gone along with things I knew were wrong to be part of the crowd." I shake my head, tears filling my eyes as I realize just how far down the wrong road I'd been heading.

"The fact that you know it was wrong speaks for itself. You wouldn't be so tortured over this if you were really one of them." He pulls my face closer to his until our lips are just a hair's breath away from touching. My heart picks up speed, and I can barely breathe.

Leaning forward, Edward captures my lips with his, calloused fingers caressing my skin. His touch is so gentle and loving—nothing like Jake's.

Jake was rough and aggressive, usually plundering my mouth with his tongue. Sometimes he didn't even bother with foreplay—or even undressing—he'd just unzip himself and bend me over, lifting the skirt of my cheerleader uniform and shoving my panties aside. He was a selfish lover; once he got off, he lost interest.

Edward's lips move slowly over mine, never rushing. Pulling me in closer, he runs his large hands over my back, and I slide my arms around his waist to roam over his lean muscles. It feels good to actually feel instead of being used. And that's exactly what Jake has been doing—using me for various things. I realize just from the brief moments I've spent with Edward tonight that I've been missing out on a lot. As hard as I try to stop it, a tear slips down my cheek, and of course, Edward notices.

Pulling back, he wipes the tear away with the pad of his thumb. "Hey... are you okay? Did I rush things too much?"

He asks if he rushed things too much? Is this guy for real?

"No, not at all. It's just... I'm not used to this."

"To what?"

"To a guy who cares how I'm doing. Jake just... takes."

"What?" Edward's eyes are blazing. "Has he hurt you?"

"No, nothing like that. I just didn't know it could be... different. Nice." I explain briefly how things have been with Jake—the way he treats my body as though it was meant to be used as he saw fit, purely for his own pleasure.

With a sigh, Edward rests his forehead against mine, and I can feel his warm breath on my face when he speaks. "Oh, Bella. You deserve so much more than you've been getting. He has no right to treat you like... like a possession." He seems genuinely upset about this, and I'm deeply touched by that.

He slips his hand behind my head, absently rubbing the back of my neck, and although I would expect the calluses on his fingers to irritate my skin, they actually elicit pleasant shivers up and down my spine. His lips come down on mine again, this time a bit more passionately. The sensations I feel from his fingers and his lips cause me to melt inside. Fleetingly, I wonder about the amount of Jack I've consumed, but I feel pretty damn sober right now. Between the jump into the frigid, churning water and the hot shower I just took, I don't think I'm impaired—I'm just realizing there's something so much better out there for me besides Jake and a bunch of fake, plasticky friends.

Edward leans me back on the couch so we're reclining with him hovering over me as he continues kissing me. One hand is still behind my neck, and the other is rubbing light circles over my hip. Lifting the hem of his t-shirt, I allow my fingers to explore his back. His bare skin is softer than I expected, but I can feel the raw power of his lean, hard muscles beneath, and it excites me.

"You're so beautiful," he whispers between kisses.

In answer, I dig my fingers into his skin and press my body up toward his to get closer. I'm not sure who initiates it, but our tongues meet somewhere in the middle, playing off each other. With a moan, Edward slips his tongue into my mouth, deepening our connection. Desire floods through me, and I cling to him. He slides his hand slowly up my thigh, the t-shirt I'm wearing rising with it, his touch branding my skin. When he reaches my hip, he stiffens—the realization that I'm not wearing anything underneath hits him hard. He lifts his head to look down at me, and his expression registers surprise, but his eyes darken.

"I'm sorry... I didn't –" He starts to pull his hand back, but I grab it and hold it there, my eyes meeting his boldly.

"Please don't stop."

His eyes are dark and hooded, and I feel a flood of arousal coursing through me. If he lets go of me now, I might just turn to cinder. I want him so much—I never felt like this with Jake.

"Bella... if we're going to stop this, it has to be now." His lips travel over my skin in gentle nibbles, his tongue peeking out to taste my skin. He breathes raggedly into the crook of my neck, and although his hand has stilled on my bare hip, he hasn't removed it yet. We're frozen in place, his warm breath on my neck, his hand on my hip.

Do I want this to stop? Edward makes me feel like I matter. Even if he never wants to see me again after tonight—which I hope isn't the case—he can help to erase some of the hurt and disappointment left behind by Jake. No, I most certainly do not want to stop.

"I – I don't want to stop. Touch me, Edward. I want you to."

With a strangled groan, he picks me up off the couch, his hands lifting me by the backs of my thighs as our fronts press together. My arms wrap around his neck, my legs around his waist. Our lips connect again, sparks shooting through me as he stumbles his way into the bedroom. He can't really see that well with our lips mashed together, and his shins hit the side of the bed, causing us to fall onto it in a tangle. We both laugh as we scoot up the bed, trying to get comfortable.

I lay back on one of the fluffy pillows, and Edward comes down over me. His hands roam over my body, learning every curve and ticklish spot, but I never feel as if he's selfish or demanding. His touches are meant not only to explore but to please me. Edward's hands are roaming beneath the t-shirt—squeezing my hip, trailing his fingers over my navel, sliding them under my low back to pull me in closer—but he doesn't touch me where I'm throbbing for him yet. When his fingers roll one of my nipples, I feel a twinge in my abdomen, and I can't hold back a soft moan.

"I want to take this off you," he whispers, fingering the edge of my—his—t-shirt, but he doesn't push. Leaning up, he reaches back to pull his own shirt over his head, tossing it away. In the scant light from the doorway and the moonlight streaming through the window, his lean muscled chest looks as good as I imagined—I was never really into the burly types like Jake. Edward's skin is pale and gleaming, and as my gaze travels up to his handsome face and penetrating stare, I realize just how much I want this—want him.

Wiggling around, I willingly tug the shirt up and over my head. I'm a little shy because it's the first time I've been naked in front of Edward, but I'm on the cheer squad, so I'm fit and toned. And just stacked enough, according to Meredith, who sizes up the boobs of every potential cheerleader. She claims to subscribe to the 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' rule of boobage... not too little, not too big, but just right.

I lay back down, and Edward's hands roam over my skin, light as a feather, drawing out tingles and shivers. "You're so beautiful..." His Adam's apple bobs slowly as he takes me in, and I can tell he's not just saying this because he's supposed to. His eyes follow the trail of his fingers... across my collar bone, down my chest, over my nipples, across my navel to... oh, God. When his long fingers touch me where I've been throbbing, I draw in a gasping breath.

Edward still has his jeans on, and he kneels beside me, leaning his head down to drag his lips over my skin. He starts with the hollow of my neck, moving down to take a nipple into his mouth and swirl his tongue around it. I arch my back, pressing my flesh further into his mouth, but he quickly moves on, licking a trail down my stomach, nibbling around my navel. His hands grip my hips now, and he nudges my legs apart so he can kneel between them. Edward's lips travel from one hip across to the other before focusing his attention on my thighs with little licks and nips.

"Mm-mm, Bella..." he groans just before his mouth kisses me right there.

The warmth of his lips, his tongue snaking out to flick at the sensitive nub... nobody has ever done this to me before. I'm frightened but elated at the same time when he holds me in place by my hips and his mouth moves over me. Sensations start to build up quickly—I've had orgasms, so I'm well aware of the signs—but this is beyond anything I could ever imagine.

"Oh..." My mouth forms an 'O,' and I involuntarily grip his hair in my fingers.

Tingles race through my body, the heat culminating in an explosion that bursts from between my throbbing thighs, and rushes through my entire being. Panting, I call his name over and over again. My vision goes celestial—I actually see pricks of light sparking behind my eyes—and as I come apart, I have no idea of time or space.

"Oh, my God, Edward... that was..." My ability to speak coherently returns slowly.

Edward moves up my body and smiles down at me. "That good, huh?"


He captures my bottom lip between his own, sucking on it gently before slipping his tongue into my mouth. I can taste myself on his tongue, and it turns me on. He rocks his hips against me, and I can feel the roughness of the denim against my bare skin. Why is he still dressed?

"Why do you still have your pants on?"

"Control. So I could concentrate on you."

"I want you, Edward. I need to feel you inside me."

I don't have to ask him twice. He shimmies out of his jeans and boxer briefs—so hot—and hovers over me bearing the brunt of his weight on his forearms. His fingers ghost over my face, smoothing my hair back. "Are you sure, baby? We don't have to..." When his eyes meet mine, I can tell it isn't just a line—he means it.

"I'm sure." Reaching up, I take his face between my hands. "Edward?"

"What is it, baby?" Even in the midst of desire, he's concerned about me, not just getting off.

"I noticed. I was just too afraid to do anything about it, and I'm so ashamed of myself." Tears prick at my eyes.

"Shh... It's okay. I knew this day would come."

"You did?"

"You're my forever, Bella." He says this simply as if he never considered another possibility.

"I – but – I can't..." Flustered, my words get stuck in my throat, and I can feel my skin flush.

Edward places a finger against my lips. "Shh... I know you don't feel that way about me right now."

"How long?"


"How long have you... been interested in me?"

"Two years."

My mouth falls open. That's a long time to pine after someone. Now that I think about it, I've never seen Edward with a girlfriend. My heart swells, and I pray that I can live up to what he deserves.

"Love me, Edward," I whisper.

Kissing me tenderly, he enters me slow and steady. I feel so full and loved. He looks into my eyes as we move together, and I know I've never been made love to before. At the realization, tears leak from the corners of my eyes, and he soothes them away with his lips.

My fingers dig into his shoulders, and I wrap my legs around his hips as we draw closer to the edge of bliss. A bond is forged between us as we ride the waves of ecstasy, and I pray that it will be strong enough to survive what I know is ahead.

It is.


~Twenty Years Later~

A door slams loudly from upstairs. Startled, I jog up the stairway to investigate and am faced with Lexi's bedroom door. The sign hanging on the doorknob—which she adjusts to fit her frequently changing moods—says 'Go away.' I'm about to turn away, because I try to respect her right to teenage mood swings, when I hear a quiet sobbing.

"Lex?" I knock lightly. "Can I come in?"

After a few seconds the door opens, and my beloved daughter appears, her face red and puffy from crying. She launches herself into my arms, and the sobbing begins in earnest.

We sit on her bed holding each other, and when she's calm enough, she tells me how her boyfriend dumped her for a girl who would 'put out.' Not only did he ditch her for someone else, but he went around telling everyone she was frigid.

Kids are the same everywhere throughout time—they have an amazing capacity for cruelness that never fails to leave me in shock. Although I've experienced it myself, I'm always disappointed when it continues to happen.

"I'm so sorry, baby. Let me tell you a story about when I was in high school..."

I recount my adventurous cliff diving night, and by the time I'm done speaking, Lexi is staring at me in awe. Her face is still wet with tears, but she's no longer sobbing, and there's a perkiness to her posture.

"You jumped off a cliff? You were a cheerleader?"

"Uh huh."

"You really survived being shunned by the popular kids?"

"I did, and so will you, Lex. It's never worth selling your soul for a bunch of phonies. I know it seems like the end of the world now, but you'll make it past all this stronger than ever."

"There's something missing from the story, though." She cocks her head, pinning me with her piercing gaze.

"Like what?" I ask innocently.

"Don't tell me he just took you home after you talked. I know you two got busy, Mom." Lexi rolls her eyes.

Before I can protest, there's a chuckle from across the room, and I look up to see my husband leaning against the doorjamb.

"What are my two favorite girls talking about?"

"Mom was telling me this story about when she jumped off a cliff. The way she tells it, the guy who saved her took her home after they 'talked,' but I think there's a lot more to it."

"So do I..." He cocks his head the way our daughter did just a moment ago, a mischievous look in his eyes.

"Why would you..." I give him my best 'shut the hell up' look.

"Yeah, Dad. I'm kinda surprised you would participate in the corruption of a minor," Lexi deadpans.

"Well, I was there, after all. Your mom is totally leaving stuff out." My husband smirks.

"Damn it, Edward!" I glare at him, but I'm having a hard time holding the smile back now.

"That was Dad you were talking about?" Lexi's mouth hangs open.

"It was. Right, Mr. Cullen?"

"Right, Mrs. Cullen, and you're more beautiful than ever."

After all these years, he still makes my heart beat fast.


A/N: The picture prompt I used, inspired this entire story. If you're familiar with my writing, you know it's a challenge for me to write a short story, LOL. This one wasn't too bad; it was under 8K.

'I Want It Painted Black' is the featured story of the week on TwiFicDatabase this week. If you'd like to read the review and my interview, the link is on my profile. I'm also hard at work on the next chapter of IWIPB, and a teaser is posted on my blog. www . saritadreaming . wordpress . com

I also have an entry in the TWCS Original Fiction Contest, and I'd love it it you'd stop over and take a peek!

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed.