Fan Fiction, Sex Gods and Single Girls
A/N: Back to Sweatshirtella and Dartmouthward...
Chapter 53: Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt
Upon Edward's remark, that she was wearing a Dartmouth sweatshirt, Bella's eyes shot down to look at herself. She'd forgotten she'd changed out of the green sweater she'd been wearing earlier.
After her hasty and humiliated retreat, she'd scurried up to her room and found the sweatshirt lying on her bed, right where she'd discarded it before leaving for Edward's house. The sweatshirt had remained there, as if awaiting her return, knowing she'd have a difficult evening ahead of her. And so she'd sought refuge in the darkness of her bedroom and the comfort of the well-worn, still-cozy, oversized article of clothing. A gift of sorts from an unknown chivalrous boy years ago, the sweatshirt had more recently made her feel connected to Edward.
And now he'd seen it and mentioned it.
Don't let him know how ridiculous you are, Isabella Marie!
"Um…yeah…I'm wearing a Dartmouth sweatshirt," she said looking down, grasping the sides of the sweatshirt, and more or less parroting his words. Adjusting to the light of the bedside lamp, Bella's eyes swept back up over the man who had spooned and caressed her as they'd shared secrets in the dark.
Edward had shifted back to his side, propped up on an elbow as he leaned towards her. His feet were bare, she noticed. And large. And well-formed. One long jeans-clad leg was bent at the knee, the other stretched nearly to the foot of her bed. His sleeves were still pushed up, his forearms bare, and as he flexed the fingers in the hand nearest her, sinuous muscles and tendons moved beneath his skin. Bella's eyes traveled up his body to his chest and broad shoulders and perfectly beautiful face with its slightly quizzical expression, and she had the strangest thought.
Someone has tossed a male model onto my bed…and they're sure as hell not getting him back.
"Bella?" Edward's lip curled slightly with amusement. "Are you going to answer my question?"
Bella blinked, realizing he must have asked something she hadn't heard or that hadn't sunk in, while she'd been taking her visual tour of his body…and face…on her bed.
Gah! He's on my bed! What a glorious sight for sore eyes!
Or red-rimmed, bloodshot, raccoon-like, mascara-smeared eyes. You must look like hell, Isabella Marie!
Bella quickly raised her hands, sweeping her fingertips beneath her eyes as she spoke, hopefully erasing any lingering smears and smudges.
"Oh. Um… Sorry. What did you ask me?"
He grinned as he slid his arm forward to place his hand on her knee, fingers flexing, as she sat cross-legged next to him.
Where the hell does she go in that mind of hers? And how do I get in there?
"It was actually an easy question," he said with a little smirk. "Why do you have a Dartmouth sweatshirt?"
"Oh… Well, why not?" She shrugged as she looked at him, shoving the sides of the sweatshirt forward, folding the Dartmouth name in on itself as if she could perhaps bury it and make him forget it so he wouldn't pursue the question. She looked down feeling the warmth of a blush, knowing Edward would be relentless because of it. And smirky. And just so irritatingly sexy she'd probably cave and tell him the whole embarrassing truth.
I'm Isabella Swan and I'm a loser. I've been pretending this sweatshirt is yours.
This very afternoon I toyed with the idea of hunting down Prédateur men's cologne online just so I can spray it on this…the better to pretend it's yours. Or that it's you. Cuddling me. While I sleep.
Just shoot me now.
"Well, it's just that I went to Dartmouth," Edward said, completely unnecessarily as far as Bella was concerned. She already knew that.
"Yeah, I remember you telling me that." Bella nodded, looking up at the puzzled expression on his face.
"But you didn't go there," Edward persisted. "You told me you attended U-Dub. Did you visit Dartmouth or something? Were you hoping to go to school there?"
"No, I've never been there. Or applied to go there. Why? Is there something wrong with me having a Dartmouth sweatshirt?"
Edward chuckled. "There's nothing wrong with you having a Dartmouth sweatshirt. It's just a little odd, I think."
Bella's arms moved to loosely surround herself in a slight self-hug.
Perfect…he thinks having this is odd. Pretending it's his would be at the far end of the Spectrum of Odd.
"Edward, lots of people have sweatshirts from schools they didn't attend. Why is my having this one so odd?"
And please don't ask me if I put it on because you went there.
"It's just that…Dartmouth is on the other side of the continental United States. It's about as far from the State of Washington as you can get. And it's not like they have major televised sports events you would follow. Nobody out here follows the Dartmouth Big Green unless they went there. Where would you even buy a sweatshirt like that out here?" he asked.
Bella shrugged in bewilderment. "I wouldn't know."
"You didn't buy it?" he asked, his eyes narrowing.
"No, it was given to me," she replied.
Edward frowned at her answer, but then he suddenly smiled in understanding. "So it was a family member's? Or a friend's?"
"Not exactly." She shook her head, wondering why he was wondering.
Edward's smile faltered as he suddenly realized the probable reason she was being so evasive and why the sweatshirt was so very large on her very small frame.
"Was it…a boyfriend's...sweatshirt?" he asked in a low voice, not caring for that thought one bit. The thought that she'd come home and put on a sweatshirt belonging to a past boyfriend was definitely an unpleasant one.
Bella's mouth dropped open in surprise, finally realizing where the conversation was going in his head.
He's jealous? Really? How cute is he?
Oh, Edward! You have no one to be jealous of!
She smiled as she slid her hand beneath his, resting on her knee. She turned her hand over and watched as Edward automatically laced his long fingers through hers. When she glanced up at his face his expression remained an uncertain one.
"No, Edward. It wasn't a boyfriend's sweatshirt. It was just...some boy's." She shrugged and smiled. "I didn't even know him."
Edward just looked all the more perplexed. "What do you mean?"
Feeling slightly exasperated, Bella sighed.
Seriously, what is the big deal? How jealous can he be?
"A boy gave it to me…in a movie theater. We bumped into each other and I spilled a drink all over myself. He gave me his sweatshirt because my shirt was soaked and I didn't have anything else to put on. It happened a really long time ago."
Edward's eyes were suddenly ablaze with a strange look of excitement and incredulity as he stared at Bella.
"You're kidding me!" he said, sitting up abruptly and leaning closer as a broad grin flashed across his face.
Bella shook her head uncertainly. "No, really. That's what happened. Why?"
"When you said it happened a long time ago…do you mean…" He paused, thinking for a moment. "Like nine years ago?"
Bella thought for a moment and then she looked up, her brows knitting in surprise. "How did you know?"
"It was Signs!" Edward announced, grinning meaningfully from ear to ear.
But his meaning was lost on Bella. She blinked and frowned further, a small pucker forming between her brows as she looked at him in confusion, wondering what the hell that was supposed to mean.
"Signs of what?" she asked, totally bewildered.
"M. Night Shyamalan's Signs! With Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix!"
Bella was clueless as to what he was babbling about so excitedly. "What are you talking about?"
"Signs! That was the movie! It was the blockbuster hit of the summer of 2002! You saw it at a movie theater in Port Angeles!" He began laughing, his sparkling green eyes wide with disbelief.
"Wait… What?" Bella's eyes widened and she gasped. "Oh my God! You're right! That's when it happened! And I was in Port Angeles! How did you know?!"
Edward just stared at her, one eyebrow quirked, barely containing himself and grinning wildly, waiting for the penny to drop.
And then it did.
"OH MY GOD! That was YOU?!" Bella shrieked, reaching out and clutching his arm as Edward nodded, erupting with laughter. "Holy CRAP! This was YOURS, Edward?" She gaped at him, grasping his arm even more tightly as she grasped a handful of sweatshirt in her other hand.
Edward grinned widely at the look of utter astonishment on her face. "Yep! That was me! That was mine!" He tilted his head toward her fistful of fabric.
"Oh my God! Seriously? I mean… That was us?!" Bella asked in amazement.
Edward burst into a fresh round of raucous laughter at her absurd question.
"Well, I'm pretty sure that was me, that evening," he said, chuckling. "And obviously that was you…you have the sweatshirt to prove it. Honestly, Bella, how many other people do you think had that same experience nine years ago at a cinema in Port Angeles? Do you think there was an outbreak of teens crashing into one another that night? Teenage boys donating their college sweatshirts to sodden girls?"
Bella began giggling at his words. "No! I just meant… Are you positive? How bizarre would that be?!"
"It IS bizarre! Pretty damn bizarre!" Edward agreed, laughing again. He folded his legs to sit cross-legged opposite her. "Come here...come closer," he urged, his hands circling her hips and scooting her towards him as she squeaked in surprise. He leaned close, just inches away now, one hand reaching behind her neck.
"What are you doing?" Bella asked, looking up at his lovely, excited face, so close to hers. He gazed shifted to hers.
"Just checking something, looking for proof positive. Look down. Tip your head down a little," he ordered, gathering her hair together gently and pulling it to the side, over her shoulder. Bella felt the slight tickle of his fingertips sliding along the top of her back, along the inside edge of the sweatshirt's neckline.
"I'm just wondering…" he murmured, pausing as he leaned even closer, his scent enveloping her as she feel the heat of his body. The warmth of his breath on her neck made her shiver.
"You're wondering if what?" she asked as she remained in place, head tipped down. Her eyes focused and she realized with a start that she was staring directly at his crotch.
Holy crap! I'm like a foot away from his package of manly goodies!
She blushed, grateful he was otherwise occupied and not watching her face go up in flames as she tried desperately to ignore the proximity of his groin…with little success.
She tried to focus back on his actions. "Edward, what are you doing?!"
"I'm checking to see if it still has the tag…I found it but it's all curled up. Hang on."
A moment later he shifted backwards slightly, his hand sliding around to the front of her neckline and under her chin, his fingers tilting her head up to look at him. His eyes were twinkling as he looked at her.
"Did you ever notice what's on the tag?" he asked with a little grin.
"Um…I don't know. If I did, I don't remember. Why? What's there?" She looked at him curiously.
"Well, the tag is all worn and rolled up like a little tube, but if you flatten it out you can still read what's on it."
"What does it say?" Bella asked, trying unsuccessfully to pull the neckline around to look at the little tag. She gave up after a moment.
"The letters are very faint; they've faded over time. But there's an "EC" written in laundry marker. And it's definitely my mom's handwriting. She bought matching sweatshirts for herself, my dad, and me before I went away to school, and she always put my dad's and my initials on our tags so she could tell our things apart in the laundry. So there's your proof, beyond a shadow of a doubt." He grinned proudly at her.
Bella looked up at his smiling face, shaking her head in amazement. "I don't remember if I've ever noticed that. If I did, I never gave those initials much thought." She broke into a broad grin. "I've been wearing your sweatshirt all these years."
Edward nodded, an expression of wonderment on his own features. "I can't believe you still have it."
"I can't believe it's yours! I mean…it's really yours. I have your sweatshirt!"
Edward chuckled, nodding. "It's really mine. Well, it's yours now, but it was really mine."
"Oh gosh…" Bella's smile disappeared as she looked at him earnestly. "Do you want it back? I mean, it's still in good shape, if you do. There aren't any stains or holes. And whenever I washed it I always turned it inside..."
Edward burst into laughter, finally reaching out for her, pulling her up into his lap, and wrapping his arms around her. He chuckled against her neck, kissing her there before pulling his grinning face away to look at her. She looked adorably perplexed by his reaction.
"Sometimes you say the craziest things, Bella." He leaned in to kiss her cheek. "I assure you, I do not want my sweatshirt back. I want you to keep it. I think it's extraordinary that you have it and that you've had it all this time. That's unbelievable. The soggy girl I gave it to turned out to be you!"
Bella smiled. She actually felt relieved she could keep the sweatshirt…the one she liked to pretend was his…the one that just so happened to actually be his.
"That considerate boy was you," she said in wonder, reaching up to caress his cheek as she looked at his handsome face. "You know, today in class I was looking at the posters you'd given me, and it made me wonder what you'd been like as a teenager. Now I know... You were a sweet, thoughtful boy."
Edward snorted softly, his tone of voice a bit disparaging as he spoke, "If you really want to know, I was more of a painfully shy, bookish, and socially awkward, sweet, thoughtful boy."
Bella smiled at his self-deprecating comment and stroked his cheek with her fingertips. "Well, then, we would have gotten along quite well. We had a lot in common."
Edward's eyes softened as he looked at her, imagining an equally shy, bookish, socially awkward, sweet, thoughtful and absolutely lovely young girl. She was probably right, he thought.
"That was such a nice thing for you to do, Edward. I remember afterward thinking I should have gotten your name and address. I could have mailed your sweatshirt back to you. I looked for you after the movie, but didn't see you."
He smiled crookedly. "I'm glad you didn't find me. I'm glad you kept it."
Bella giggled. "Well, then, I'm kind of glad too. I love this sweatshirt; it's always been my go-to sweatshirt."
A bemused look spread across Edward's face. "Your 'go-to' sweatshirt? What do you mean?"
"I think every girl has at least one go-to sweatshirt. An oversized one you wear when you're sick, depressed, have had a lousy day, or whenever you have bad…" She closed her mouth as her cheeks pinked up.
"Whenever you have bad what?" he asked. His brows drew together, waiting for her to continue.
Bella sucked in a little breath and forged onward, her blush deepening. "Well, I was going to say 'when you have bad…you know…cramps.'"
You're talking about your period, Isabella Marie. That's not awkward at all!
"Oh." Edward nodded, looking down and feeling the tips of his ears warming up slightly. He looked back up after a moment, deciding that if she was his girlfriend, he should probably know these things about her.
"Do you get bad cramps?" he asked as he gently began rubbing his fingertips in circles against her lower back, as if she might have those bad cramps right this very minute.
She blinked at him and then shrugged. "Um…sometimes. Not very often."
"That's good," he stated awkwardly, nodding as he raised a hand to thread his fingers through his hair. "At least you have your go-to sweatshirt when you do."
Bella smiled. "Yeah," she said softly. "It's quite snuggly."
Though there's a good chance you'd be even more snuggly, Edward.
"Good," he smiled at her, at the sudden unexpected intimacy of the topic, and the fact that he'd been just the tiniest bit instrumental in soothing her when she'd needed soothing. His arms circled her and he clasped his hands together as he held her on his lap, leaning into her small, warm body. Something about her made him feel protective of her and he quite liked that. He wanted to soothe her and take care of her.
"How on earth did you remember the year?" Bella asked after a moment. "And the movie? I would never have remembered those things."
"That was a memorable point in time in my life. I had just graduated from high school and I was headed for Dartmouth that September. And movies have always been an interest of mine. There was so much hype about Signs before it was released and I was really looking forward to seeing it."
Bella cocked an eyebrow. "Did you have a movie poster for that one?"
Edward paused. And then he chuckled as a shy little smile crept across his face. "I did. I think I might still have it. Now I'm going to have to hunt in the garage for it."
Bella raised her arm to his shoulder, settling her hand at the back of his neck. Her fingers played with the short hairs there and Edward tilted his head back a little, leaning into her touch.
"Why did you see the movie in Port Angeles?" Bella asked. "Surely you didn't just drive there to see Signs?"
"No." Edward smiled as he shook his head. "Do you remember the other night at the barbecue, I told you I'd passed through Forks on a trip the summer after I'd graduated?"
Bella nodded. "Oh, yeah. With Ben and James. So you guys went to Port Angeles?"
"We ended up there after a ten-day road trip down to California and back. We camped in Yosemite and stayed with some relatives of Ben's in San Francisco. On the way back we spent a night in Portland, Oregon and tried to see Signs there on opening night, but all the shows were sold out…"
"Maybe that was a sign you weren't supposed to see Signs there," Bella said dryly.
Edward chuckled. "I think you're right. I wasn't supposed to see the movie until I could run into a certain girl in Port Angeles."
Bella laughed, tugging at the hairs at the nape of his neck, making him shiver slightly.
"So from Portland you went to Port Angeles?" she asked.
"No, we headed back to Washington along the coast and camped near La Push and spent a day at First Beach. That's pretty close to Forks, so you probably know that neck of the woods."
Bella laughed. "I do. I've spent a lot of time in La Push—that's where Jake and his dad and a lot of other family friends live. And I don't know how many bonfires I've been to at First Beach through the years. In fact, I wore a certain Dartmouth sweatshirt to a lot of them."
Edward smiled. He liked that idea, only wishing that he himself had actually been there and not just his sweatshirt.
"We had a bonfire the night before we left," he told her. "We hit the beach the next day and left La Push in the afternoon. After passing through Forks we stopped in Port Angeles for dinner and decided to try to see the movie."
"And you succeeded."
"We did. And I ran into you there. Quite literally." He chuckled as she rolled her eyes at him. "And then we headed back to Seattle after the movie."
"Minus one Dartmouth sweatshirt," Bella observed.
Edward shrugged and grinned. "Donated to a wet and worthy cause. And it just meant less laundry for my mom when I got back."
Bella giggled and shook her head at him disapprovingly. "I'll bet your mom was upset. She'd just bought you that sweatshirt."
"No, I don't remember her being upset. I'm sure she was happier that I'd been courteous after dousing you in your drink. But wait until I tell her where my sweatshirt turned up and who that girl turned out to be. She'll never believe it." He pulled Bella close and kissed her, his mouth turned up in a grin against her temple.
"You want to hear something funny?" he asked, looking at her once again.
Bella nodded at the sudden silly grin on Edward's face.
"When I mentioned driving through Forks to you the other night at the barbecue, I wondered at the time if there was a possibility that I'd maybe even passed you on the street or something as we drove through. But the reality of the situation is a million times better. You might have not even been in Forks at the time. You could have already been in Port Angeles…"
"Waiting for you to bowl me over with your charms," Bella finished blandly.
Edward burst into laughter. "Did I?"
"You did. After I got over the initial shock, at least. I thought you were quite gallant."
"So what were you doing in Port Angeles that night?" Edward asked. "Were you just there to see the movie?"
Bella thought for a moment and then burst into a big smile at the memory. "No. The movie was an afterthought. That was the day I met Angela. She lived in Port Angeles and I'd gone there for the day with my friend, Leah, and her family. Angela's dad was a reverend in Port Angeles and he was meeting with Leah's dad who was a tribal elder on the reservation. Leah, Angela and I hung out together and then we all went to dinner and afterwards the three of us girls went to the movie. Then we went back to Angela's…" She stopped speaking abruptly and looked at him with wide eyes.
"Oh my gosh! Hang on a second! Let me go get something!" she said animatedly as she struggled to climb off Edward's lap in the middle of the bed. "Wait right here," she said, as she scrambled away, her eyes alight with excitement.
He chuckled at her. "I promise I won't leave." He watched her with a grin on his lips as she scurried out of the room, turning down the hallway toward one of the other bedrooms.
He glanced around her room then, really taking it in though he'd glimpsed it the day he'd helped Jake move furniture. The comforter was a purplish color with a darker leafy design. A few pillows were on the floor, where she must have tossed them to lie down earlier. On either side of the bed were matching nightstands with mismatched lamps. A low dresser with a mirror faced the bed, and a tall dresser stood on the far side of the bed, opposite the door. A framed photo-collage hung above that taller dresser and Edward scooted off the bed, stepping carefully over pillows to have a look.
The first photo showed a serious-looking, dark-haired, mustachioed man in a police uniform and a pretty woman with streaky blondish-brownish hair smiling adoringly up at him. Next, was a photo taken at the beach; a tiny Bella with two ponytails sitting atop that same man's shoulders, both of them waving and smiling for the camera. In the third photo, a young Bella and a little dark-haired boy were playing in the mud while a smiling man in a wheelchair watched. After that was a photo of the same woman from the first photo, now in shorts and a baseball jersey, with a grinning man in a baseball uniform, his arm looped around her waist. The following picture showed a pack of shirtless, wild-looking, teenaged boys in shorts, posed at the edge of a cliff above the sea, arms crossed over their bare chests, a look of youthful bravado on each face. And then a teenaged Bella was seated at a picnic table with a tomboyish, short-haired girl, both of them smiling and squinting into the sunlight, holding some kind of greasy food. In the last photo Bella stood next to a willowy, dark-haired girl with glasses, both of them wearing high school graduation caps and gowns. Their arms were linked together and they were laughing.
Edward heard a sudden little excited shriek from down the hall. A moment later, Bella came dashing back into the room.
"Edward? Oh, there you are! You're not going to believe what I found!"
Edward turned to see Bella holding a photo album and he chuckled.
"I guess great minds think alike. I didn't know you went to get a photo album, but I noticed these and thought I'd take a look. I think I figured most everyone out."
"Oh, yeah? Well, let's see how you did." Bella smiled as she set the album on the bed for the moment and went to him. He put his arm around her, tucking her into his side as he looked back at the photo collage.
"This has to be your mom and dad," he said, pointing at the first picture. "You have your mom's smile but you have your dad's eyes. I'm glad you don't have his mustache, though. That would totally ruin your beautiful face."
Bella giggled and dug her fingers into his side, tickling him. He barked out a laugh and grabbed her hand in his.
"Yeah, those are my parents, Renee and Charlie, and the house in Forks. My dad had just made the police force." She pointed to the next photo. "That next one was taken on Father's Day when I was three. That's First Beach in the background."
"This is Jake isn't it?" Edward asked, letting go of her hand and pointing to the next picture.
"Yep, we were making mud-pies for his dad, Billy. I'm pretty sure that's Jake's muddy pawprint on my face."
Edward chuckled. "Nice. I just hope you got him back good." His voice became more serious. "So you've known Jake a really long time."
"Mmhmm. He's my oldest friend. Our dads were friends before we were born. Even after my mom and dad divorced and I moved away with my mom, whenever I'd visit my dad, Jake and I would pick up our friendship right where we'd left off. He's like a brother to me now."
Edward nodded, satisfied, and moved on to the next picture. "This must be your step-dad."
"Yeah, that's Phil and my mom shortly after they married."
"What's with all the shirtless boys here? Is this some kind of semi-naked secret society?"
Bella laughed. "That's Jake and his friends from the reservation. They go cliff-diving there in La Push."
Edward's eyes narrowed in alarm. "Did you ever go cliff-diving with him?"
"No, I just went along to watch. He was showing off with his friends."
Edward looked back at the photos. "This last one is you and Angela at graduation, obviously, but who's the girl with you at the picnic table in this one?"
"That's Leah, the friend I went to Port Angeles with that day I bumped into you. She's Jake's girlfriend. This photo was taken at a fish fry at her parents' house a few years ago. That's her mom and dad in the background, Sue and Harry. Harry passed away a couple years ago. Actually, I got an email from Jake today and he said he thinks Sue and my dad are getting friendly."
Edward looked at her carefully, wondering how she felt about that. "Would that be a good thing?"
"Yeah, I think so. It's always bothered me that my dad has been alone all this time, you know? Like maybe he could never get over my mom leaving him. But if he and Sue are getting close, I think that's a good thing. They have a lot of common history and Sue is great. I'm sure she's been lonely since Harry passed."
Edward nodded and then turned back toward the bed. "So what did you get to show me?" he asked, looking at the album she'd brought from the other room.
"You're not going to believe what I found!" She patted the bed as she picked up the album. "Have a seat!" She settled on the edge of the bed with Edward next to her and began flipping through pages until she found the one she was looking for. "Look!" she said, pointing to a photo.
It was a picture of three teenaged girls standing arm in arm. Angela on one end, the short-haired girl Edward now knew as Leah in the middle, and on the end was Bella, her hair in a ponytail, wearing the Dartmouth sweatshirt. There was a strange little knot in Edward's throat as he stared at the photo, feeling like he'd just stepped back in time.
"There you are," Edward murmured, reaching out a finger and gently tracing young Photo-Bella beneath the plasticene film of the album's page. He was surprised that the photo touched him the way it did.
"This was taken that same night in Port Angeles," Bella said softly. "Angela had one of those throw-away cameras and she wanted to finish up the film, so she'd taken a couple of photos that evening. This photo was taken right before Leah and I had to leave. Angela and I had had such a good time together that we kept in touch and she sent me copies of the photos later.
"But that's not the truly amazing thing..." Bella said slowly. "When I was looking for this photo, I found another, even better one from earlier that evening..." Bella turned the page back and pointed to another photo. "Look very carefully." She turned a secret smile on Edward as he looked down at the picture.
The photo was taken inside a restaurant. The three girls were leaning together on one side of a table, plates of pasta in front of them. Each of them was smiling and holding up a glass of soda, as if they were toasting a special event. In this photo Bella was wearing the t-shirt she'd had on before being drenched in soda. But the remarkable thing Edward noticed about the photo was in the background, just over Bella's shoulder. There were three older teenaged boys at a table near a window; one with black hair, one with dirty blond hair, and a third with dark-framed glasses and a mop of longish, coppery brown hair. In the moment the photo had been taken, that third boy had been looking in the direction of the three girls, smiling a familiar crooked grin.
"Holy shit...!" Edward exhaled. "That's us! That's me with Ben and James! And you with Angela and Leah!" He looked up at Bella, absolutely stunned. "We even ate in the same restaurant that night! And you have a photo of all of us!"
Bella nodded and grinned widely. "The restaurant is called Bella Italia, and I have proof, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we were all there that same night." She tapped the serendipitous photo with a finger.
Edward just stared at the photo, incredulous that their lives had intersected so long ago and that they were fortunate enough to find that out now. It seemed so eerily important and auspicious…as if he and Bella had been meant to connect.
"Oh my God!" Bella suddenly began laughing. "I just thought of something. Wait until I tell Jake the story about the sweatshirt! Remember when you asked when Jake and I had broken up, and I told you it was nine years ago?"
Edward laughed. "Yes. I sure remember that. I had been assuming it was just a few days earlier. I certainly never expected you to say nine years ago." Edward's eyes narrowed in understanding. "So that was right around the same time you and I ran into each other in Port Angeles?"
Bella nodded. "We broke up right before this." She tapped the photo. " The whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing didn't feel right to me, so I broke up with him, and he was upset for quite a while, wondering if he'd done something wrong, or if I secretly liked someone else. When I started turning up in this huge Dartmouth sweatshirt he was convinced it belonged to some new, hulky, older boyfriend."
Edward grinned wryly at Bella. "Well, now you're going to have to tell him the truth. He was right...in a way. That Dartmouth sweatshirt did belong to a hulky, older boyfriend...from the future. Hulky, older boyfriend…right here," he said, pointing to himself and smirking.
It was the first actual mention of the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing between the two of them. And it warmed Bella from the ends of her hair to the tips of her toes. Then again, maybe that was just a blush warming her. She laughed at Edward's smirky smugness and shoved the photo album to the side, lunging at him, and pushing him backwards, down onto the bed.
"You seem pretty sure of yourself!" she giggled, her face hovering over his, smiling down at his sexy-surprised grin as his arms wrapped around her.
"I am pretty sure…of both of us. How many times do the powers-that-be have to tell us, we were supposed to meet? "We're supposed to be together. You belong with me and I belong with you. I'm convinced it's Written in the Stars," he added with a sly grin. Bella giggled as he pulled her body on top of his, holding her in place.
"Maybe I was supposed to move here so I could bring you your sweatshirt," she suggested, snuggling into his solid warmth.
Edward snorted a laugh as he looked up at her beautiful smiling face. "Or maybe my sweatshirt was supposed to move here so it could bring me you," he countered with a lopsided grin.
"Do you really think this might have been kismet?" she asked, freeing a hand to reach up and caress his smiling face.
Edward nodded. His voice was soft. "Beyond a shadow of a doubt." His eyes traveled down to her mouth before glancing back up into her stunning dark chocolate eyes. "Kiss me, Kismet," he urged with a boyish smile.
Bella didn't need to be told twice. She leaned down, pressing her lips to his, softly at first, and then more firmly at his enthusiastic response. She felt his hand cradling the back of her head, holding her to him, his fingers threading through her hair. When he tipped his head to the side and his mouth opened to hers, she readily complied, reveling in the velvety sensation of his tongue stroking hers.
As she absorbed the scent and taste of him, the feel of his kiss, and the warmth and gentleness of his being, she knew she'd never before met anyone quite as appealing on so many levels, as Edward Cullen. She felt his body sigh into hers in contentment and she knew he was experiencing the same sense of rightness she was feeling. It wasn't as if they were trying to fit together, they just did fit together and belong together.
Edward finally rolled Bella over, covering her body with his, as the photo album thudded to the floor. There was thudding going on within their pounding hearts, as they kissed and caressed and sought and sighed.
They paused finally, nuzzling each other as they caught their breath. An unfamiliar, slight drumming noise from outside crept into Bella's consciousness.
"What's that sound?" she asked, pulling away slightly to listen more intently.
Edward turned his head, listening. "It's raining. You're hearing raindrops hitting the gutters on the eves."
He glanced over at Bella's alarm clock on the nightstand and sighed. "It's raining and it's getting late. I should probably go. You've got to be up early for school." He smiled wistfully down at her.
Bella glanced toward the window, listening to the sound of the rain again before turning back to look at Edward.
"Do you…um…" She swallowed. "Would you like to…you know…stay here?" she asked, feeling somewhat awkward and inept.
"I think I can make it across the street in the rain," he said with a reassuring smile.
Bella nodded, looking away from his eyes, and pulling her lower lip between her teeth where she began chewing at it. From her reaction, it dawned on Edward belatedly that she wasn't offering that he could stay due to the rain, she was asking him to stay, just to stay. He felt foolish, realizing she was now embarrassed, thinking he'd turned her down.
He swallowed as he looked down at her. "Do you want me to stay?" he asked gently, cupping her cheek in his hand.
Her eyes flickered back up to his. "Do you want to?"
He cocked an eyebrow as he smiled warmly. "Is that a trick question?"
She smiled and shook her head. "No."
"Then of course I want to. I'd like nothing more than to be with you."
Bella's breath hitched slightly in her throat. She'd done it. She'd taken the plunge. For the first time in her life she'd invited a man to stay the night…in her bedroom…on her bed…although at some point it would probably entail being together in her bed. Possibly naked or probably mostly so. Together. All night. And Edward had just said...
Holy shit! He said he wants to "BE WITH ME!?"
As in "BE" WITH ME?!
Ye Gods! What the fuck are you going to do now, Isabella Marie? You don't know the first thing about "BEING WITH ME"…or, um…WITH THEM…or, um, rather…WITH HIM…or anyone…EVER!
But I want to be with him. I want him. I really want him.
Ho. Ly. Fuck. Are you sure?
Well, hell, it has to start somewhere! Why not right here, right now?
Bella's cautious inner voice fainted dead away. This was so unlike her. But then again, it was so unlike her to feel about anyone the way she was feeling about Edward Cullen. He'd taken root in her heart.
She drew in a breath as she looked at his sparkling, green, inquisitive eyes, and then dropped her gaze to his chin. It would be far easier to talk to his far less inquisitive chin in this most awkward of moments. She needed to know what he meant and they probably needed to have some sort of conversation about the potential potentialities that could potentially ensue…including, of course, Edward's potential and probable potency and Bella's own potential and probable fertility.
"Um…when you say you want to…you know…be with me…do you mean…?"
But she wasn't forthcoming. She merely blushed like an overripe tomato. Edward bit his lip so he wouldn't smile as he realized what she was trying to ask.
"You mean, when I say I want to be with you, do I mean, be with you?" he gently asked.
She met his eyes and nodded ever so slightly.
"Well... Of course I want to be with you, but we had a rather tumultuous evening. Do you really want to have make-up sex for first-time sex?" He smiled, teasing her.
She looked at him in wide-eyed surprise. "How did you know it's the first time?"
Edward froze. Just like a block of ice. Or maybe like a block of frozen granite embedded in ice.
Of course he'd come to appreciate Bella's somewhat demure personality, her sometimes shy behavior and endearing innocence about so many things. Her very blush killed him as he'd come to realize that it was an indicator of her apparent feelings for him. But he never, for one fleeting nanosecond, ever expected what her question had just told him, and what he now knew beyond a shadow of a doubt…
She's a VIRGIN?!
Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Ohmygod!