Fan Fiction, Sex Gods and Single Girls
A/N: I love hearing from you, even though I suffer from bouts of reply-fail. Between editing this, writing Indelible, and enjoying the summer, I just need a few more hours in my day. But I'll try to do better. :)
Back to Bella's second day of work...and her truck's last day...quite possibly.
Chapter 56: The Trucker
When Edward arrived home from Bella's on Wednesday morning, he didn't quite know what to do with himself. He'd made it into the house, remembered to shut the door, and had made it down the entryway hall, but that was where all progress ended. He stood at the junction of the living room, great room and kitchen, and all he managed to accomplish was a radiant, verging-on-goofy, somewhat wistful smile, as he thought about the girl of his dreams who was in fact the girl of his new reality.
Christ… She's incredible. Everything about her is incredible and she makes me feel incredible. Last night was incredible and this morning was…fuck…this morning was incredibly incredible.
You're incredibly repetitive, Cullen.
He sighed, wishing it were the weekend. He would have loved to continue their morning, lying about—languidly and deliciously—delving into the dynamics and mysteries of their brand-new relationship. A lot more. Like for an entire, uninterrupted weekend. Or a week. With no contact from the rest of civilization.
You want to hoard her and hide her and keep her to yourself?
Like some kind of prisoner, in shackles and bonds?
Wait…What? No! Well…
So which is it?
No…not really… I mean, I want to hoard her but I don't want to hide her. I want everyone to know she's with me…that she's…mine. I want to take her places and show her off, hang out with friends and family as a couple, bring her into work and introduce her as my girlfriend, and maybe even sneak over to Fawkes and see her at work.
Edward blinked, realizing he'd been standing there daydreaming. Rolling his eyes at his smiling self, he headed for the kitchen.
He lost his train of thought twice while measuring coffee grinds into the filter and had to start over both times. Then he leaned against the counter, waiting for the coffee to perk, smiling because he'd given up trying to wipe the smile off his face, thinking about the previous evening and their brief time together this morning.
After a few minutes he remembered to turn on the coffeemaker to start the brew cycle.
This is just amazing. I spent almost twelve solid hours with her since last evening, I left her just minutes ago, and I can't wait to see her again.
Sounds like a craving.
What's not to crave? Think of everything that happened since yesterday! Hell yes, I crave her! She's MY perfect girl!
Of course Edward was interested in the prospect of additional sexual delving. But more than anything, he craved knowing her and sharing pieces of himself until they both knew everything there was to know about each other. He contemplated the joys of a real relationship; things he'd never contemplated before: simply talking and touching, cuddling and caressing and just enjoying a real intimacy with someone who really mattered, whether or not it led to actual love-making…though that would certainly also be an acceptable and quite welcome end-result.
Once he realized the coffee had perked and the pot had been sitting there, ready and waiting, Edward poured himself a cup. He looked out the window as his mind wandered back across the street, cherishing his every encounter with Bella. She was a delightfully unexpected, crave-worthy, lung-filling breath of blushing fresh air.
As he sipped his hot coffee, a scintillating thought stole through his mind on tiptoes.
What if she's…"the one?"
After a long moment he rolled his eyes at himself. It was an absurdly presumptuous thought after just eleven days. A preposterous thought. It took time, surely, to get to that point with a significant other, navigating the ups and downs of a relationship together, and meshing two lives into one. He was being ridiculous, he knew.
Still…everything starts somewhere. What if this is the start of that?
He shook his head. There were undoubtedly too many endorphins swirling through him, due to this morning's manual wake-up call. He had to take this thing with Bella one day at a time and not let his mind run amok.
Polishing off his coffee, Edward set the empty cup down and headed upstairs to change for a run. A couple miles in the fresh morning air would help clear his mind before he had to head off to work.
Returning downstairs a few minutes later, dressed and ready for his run, Edward grabbed a spare house key and stepped outside. A sudden horrendous KER-POW and a monstrous KA-BLAM, followed by the automotive aftershock of a loud metal clang, sounded in Bella's garage. Edward took off like a shot, certain Bella's truck was about to somehow explode and the girl of his dreams would go up in smoke.
Bella sat in the driver's seat, heart pounding furiously from the thundering blasts and metallic crash beneath her truck.
"NO! Don't DO this to me, goddammit!" she suddenly screamed, smacking the steering wheel and inadvertently honking the horn—and then jumping at that startling sound. "Don't pull this kind of CRAP on me, you trucked-up mothertrucker!"
She was so caught up in the truck's catastrophe and her personal cacophony, that she hadn't noticed fleet-footed Edward sprinting across the street and into her garage.
"GAAAAAGHH!" she shrieked as her driver's side door was suddenly flung open. She shrank back, pressing her hands over her heaving heart, as larger hands began reaching into the truck to grasp her.
"It's me! Bella! It's just me!" Edward shouted. Looking into her wide and wild, frantic eyes, he realized he'd just scared the shit out of her, after she'd already had the shit scared out of her by her piece-of-shit truck with its shitty exhaust system.
"Sorry! I didn't mean to frighten you," he apologized instantly. "I just… I was about to go for a run and I heard the noise and I… Christ... Are you all right?!" His eyes searched hers.
She nodded mutely, removing her hands from over her heart, reaching for him as her eyes turned glassy with tears of relief that he was there, and tears of frustration that her truck had chosen this highly inconvenient moment to erupt.
"My truck…!" she moaned with a quivering lip, looking into his sympathetic eyes.
Edward helped her out of her Chevy Health-Hazard and into his protective arms. "I know…I heard…obviously," he commiserated, rubbing her back.
"Do you think maybe it just needs a jumpstart?" she asked in a thin but hopeful, quavering voice.
Edward looked down, gaping at her. She couldn't be serious, could she? But then he took in the pleading expression on her face and the tears in her eyes. She wasn't serious, she was just grasping at straws.
"Uh…no, Bella…I'm certain a jumpstart won't help," he said as gently as he could. "Your muffler and exhaust pipe are lying on the floor of your garage…your truck isn't going anywhere…at least not legally. And I could never let you drive off in a vehicle that was shedding major parts. So, grab your things."
"What?" Bella blinked.
"I'll drive you to work." He glanced at his watch before looking back at her. "If we leave now, I can get you to Fawkes in plenty of time for your first class."
"But what'll I do about my truck?"
"I'll get it towed," he said, leaning into the still-open driver's side door and then turning to hand Bella her purse, keys and coffee thermos. "I've got a good mechanic. I'll call Alec after I drop you off and let him know I'm having your truck towed in." He ducked back into the cab, looping her tote bag over his shoulder and grabbing up her lunch bag. "Where's your… Oh, here." He turned back to face her, waggling her garage door opener before her eyes. "This will simplify things." He smiled. "I think we're set. Let's get you to school."
"Edward, are you sure about this?"
He was tempted to roll his eyes. Of course he was sure about this—he was sure about her, after all.
"Let's go, Bella, or you'll be late." He put his hand to the small of her back, ushering her out of the garage and closing it behind them. "You don't want to be tardy and be the sole teacher serving detention after school with all the undesirable children, do you?" he asked, cocking a brow at her.
Bella couldn't help giggle at the ridiculous thought. "I've never in my life served detention!"
"And I'm sure you wouldn't want to start now, at the beginning of your illustrious teaching career." He reached for her hand as they hurried across the street.
Moments later they were roaring up Stardust Lane in the Vanquish. As Bella was removing the Chevy's key from her keychain, to hand it over to Edward, a thought occurred to her.
"Won't you be late for work?" she asked anxiously.
Edward shrugged. "That's the beauty of being my own boss. I only have myself to answer to." A stern expression stole across his face as they stopped at a red light. His brows knit together and he pursed his lips, speaking in a gruff voice…to himself. "Mr. Cullen! You're late!" he barked. His expression relaxed into a lazy smile and he waved an unconcerned hand in the air. "Pffft! Piss off, Edward!" He turned a wide smile and a cocked brow on Bella. "See how easy that is?"
She giggled at her lovely boyfriend. She knew he was trying to distract her from her truck disaster. He had come to her rescue and taken control of the situation before she could even really begin to flounder. She reached over and placed her hand on his leg, giving it a squeeze.
"Thank you, Edward."
His hand covered hers as the light changed. "I'm just thankful this happened in your garage, and not when you were driving on the freeway." He shook his head at the frightening thought and his hand squeezed hers more tightly.
"Do you think your mechanic might be able to fix it today?" Bella asked, worriedly beginning to chew her lip.
"I don't know." Edward shrugged. "I'd like to have him check it out thoroughly. I refuse to let you drive an unsafe vehicle, taking your life in your hands every time you get behind the wheel."
Bella frowned. "You make it sound like I've been driving around in a ticking time bomb."
Edward was tempted to point out that Bella's Chevy Ticking Time Bomb had just exploded in her garage a short while ago.
"How old is your truck?" he asked instead.
"It's a 1953, so it's…"
"Over sixty years old," Edward finished. "You know…maybe it's time to think about a new car—or a newer used car. Something more comfortable and reliable." He looked over at her. She nodded but didn't seem convinced. He watched her for a moment, but she just stared out the window with a glum expression on her face. "Well, something to consider anyway," he said more gently.
They drove in silence, with Bella considering her options. She really couldn't consider buying a car right now—new or used. She wouldn't get her first paycheck for a month and much of that money would go toward the mortgage payment on her condo and other bills. She refused to ask Charlie to help pay for a car—he'd footed the bill for most of her education. And Renee and Phil had just given her the down payment for her condo, so she wouldn't ask them either. It had really been Phil's money, after all, and he'd already been more than generous. A new car would have to wait. Her truck would just have to be repaired. It was the only option.
Looking over once again, Edward saw that she was chewing her lower lip. As they stopped at another red light, he rested his arm along the back of her seat, threading his fingers through her hair, rubbing the nape of her neck soothingly. He wanted to distract her. He didn't want her worrying.
"Don't think about your truck right now. Let's see what Alec says after he looks at it. Maybe the muffler and tailpipe can be fixed. We'll just wait and take it from there and figure things out. I'll call and let you know what I find out, and I'll pick you up this afternoon, okay?"
"Okay," Bella sighed, wondering just how much this would cost. She didn't have very much money stashed away in her meager savings account, especially after buying things for her new home.
Edward smiled as he picked up his phone. "Music?" he offered.
"Sure." Bella nodded, watching him as he scrolled through his music, hunting. His sculpted lips pursed and Bella thought about what it was like to kiss those sculpted lips…and touch his beautiful face…and feel his perfect body against hers.
Her voice was wistful as she spoke. "This morning was so much nicer before we got out of bed." She blushed as the words left her lips. It was a statement she'd never uttered to anyone before.
Edward peeked up at her face and smiled, thinking for the thousandth time how lovely she looked when she blushed. "I couldn't agree with you more." He looked back at his phone, finally selecting a song as the light changed.
"So…with this morning in mind…I think I found a rather appropriate musical distraction." He reached for her hand, lacing his fingers through hers and pulling it over to his lap as the music began.
We'll do it all
On our own
We don't need
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Bella recognized Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars and she smiled, certain he'd picked the song for its title as much as it's content. But if Edward Cullen were truly posing the question in the song's chorus, her answer was a definite and resounding "yes."
I don't quite know
How to say
How I feel
Those three words
Are said too much
They're not enough
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Bella had to admit, lying in bed with Edward Cullen and just forgetting the world was a very tempting concept. Even after the song ended and two others played out, Bella kept thinking about how much there was to appreciate in the handsome man next to her. And he might not see those things within himself, but luckily she did. For that reason, she couldn't wait for her next opportunity to lie there, wrapped around Edward Cullen, just forgetting the world.
She was startled out of her thoughts a short while later, realizing they were already pulling into the faculty parking lot at Fawkes High. She glanced at the clock. Despite the time-consuming upset of her now-defunct truck, Edward had made up for lost time. She hadn't noticed how fast they'd been speeding along in his sports car. Luckily, she still had almost a half hour to collect her wits before she had to face her first batch of students.
Edward pulled up along the curb outside the school's main office and cut the engine.
Alice Brandon was inside the office. Through the dark glass of the main entrance, she had caught a glimpse of a black Aston-Martin custom-convertible. It was an unusual vehicle for a high school faculty parking lot, and as the car pulled up to the curb she could clearly see her brother's face within, smiling at Bella, seated next to him.
Alice slapped a hand over her mouth to keep from squealing. Of course she stayed to watch. The office windows were tinted, after all.
Edward exited the car and came around, helping Bella out. Then he opened the rear door and handed over her tote bag and lunch bag after Bella got her coffee thermos and purse situated. Then he smiled, his hand drifting down, his fingers catching the fingers of her free hand for a moment as they exchanged a few words. Alice watched as Edward ducked his head and gave Bella a quick kiss. She blushed and smiled and seemed a bit flustered as her eyes darted about, probably checking for students—but she was safe, Alice noted, and this was the faculty lot. Edward just grinned and walked back around to the driver's side, saying a few more words to her as he did so.
Alice smiled at their romantic little display.
How cute are they?
As Bella turned for the main office, Alice's eyes remained on her brother. His eyes lingered on Bella and his smile lingered on his lips even as he climbed into his car. Alice thought he was so refreshingly un-broody-looking these days.
Bella looked up as she entered the office, seeing Alice standing there with a big beamy smile on her face. Bella flushed in surprise. But before either Alice or Bella could say a word, a familiar nasally voice spoke up just behind Alice.
"W-o-w! What a way to arrive at work! Didn't you say you and Edward were just friends, Bella? That was quite the friendship display out there. Though who wouldn't want a friend who looked like that?" The braying laugh accompanying the innuendo made Alice clench her teeth and she turned abruptly, speaking with exaggerated sweetness.
"Good morning, Jessica! I didn't hear you hovering behind me." Her voice softened as she turned sparkly eyes on Bella. "And isn't it wonderful? Edward and Bella are actually dating now! And they're perfect for each other!" Bella smiled at Alice's enthusiasm for their budding relationship.
"Really?!" It was hard to tell whether Jessica was surprised they were dating or that Alice thought them perfect for each other. "Well…congratulations on that," she said, perhaps slightly grudgingly. "Edward certainly is hot. And of course he would drive a totally hot sports car. That must have cost..." Alice looked like she might be mentally counting to ten as Bella interrupted.
"Um…Edward's car belonged to his grandfather, Jessica. Edward and his grandfather were very close and when his grandfather passed away a couple years ago, he left the car to Edward. I think he drives it mostly for sentimental reasons…although it is a nice car."
Alice was relieved Bella had taken the reins of the conversation and impressed by Bella's knowledge and perception of her brother's sentiments, and the relationship he'd had with Grandpa Masen. She linked her arm through Bella's as the three of them headed for the teachers' lounge and mailboxes.
"So how come Edward gave you a ride to school today?" Jessica asked, the curiosity getting the better of her. "Did you spend the night with him?" Her voice dropped, thankfully, at her next question. "Was there additional riding involved?" She giggled. It was the bray of an ass.
Alice whirled in irritation as Bella blushed hot pink. "Jessica!"
Jessica ignored Alice, still looking at Bella expectantly, waiting for answers.
"No, I didn't spend the night at his house," Bella replied, ignoring the "additional riding" question and forcing a tepid smile at Jessica. "My truck broke down this morning. Edward heard it backfiring just as was about to go for a run, so he offered to bring me to work. He's going to get my truck looked at today."
"OMG... He's totally hot and chivalrous to boot!" Jessica gushed. "He's like your knight in shining armor…or maybe more like your knight in stretchy athletic gear." She snorted a laugh at her wit as they exited the main office building.
Alice rolled her eyes, exhaling heavily. And then she spotted Mike Newton walking up from the parking lot. "Look! There's Mike. And isn't that Darleen Benjamin's new student teacher he's talking to? She sure is a cute little thing, isn't she?"
Alice thought Jessica's head would snap off her neck for how quickly she turned to look.
"Oh…it is Mike…and that…girl..." Jessica frowned. "I think I'll go say hi. See you at lunch!" she called over her shoulder as she hurried away.
Bella turned and looked at Alice, snorting a laugh when she saw Alice's eyes crossed in exasperation. Alice refocused on Bella as they approached the Language Arts building and sighed.
"You know, Bella, one of these days I'm going to slap her. Repeatedly. And it won't be my fault. Jessica, Rose and I all were all hired the same year, and because we were all new, we started to hang out together. I had no idea what that would entail in the long run. I'm just glad she didn't meet Edward sooner, or I'd probably already be locked away for involuntary manslaughter." Alice's bright smile and twinkling eyes reappeared. "But at least now Edward is taken."
Bella felt her cheeks warm up as she nodded. "Yeah, I think he is."
Alice laughed as they stood in the hallway between their classroom doors. "Don't think it; know it! Good heavens—it was written all over his face and eyes and goofy grin and body language when he dropped you off! He's so into you, Bella!"
Bella gave Alice a bashful smile. "I'm pretty into him as well, Alice. He's really a wonderful man."
Alice hugged herself happily as they got to their classrooms. "You have no idea how happy I am to hear that. I just may make it through today's painful review of the subjunctive mood with my French 4 students."
Bella laughed as they waved goodbye to each other and entered their classrooms.
First and second period went smoothly. During third period—Bella's free period—she checked her phone to see if Edward had called with an update on her truck. There was a text, sent just minutes earlier, during break.
Call me when you get the chance. xo –E
She called him back with a smile on her lips, and his familiar, warm voice answered halfway through the third ring.
"Hey, lovely Bella."
Bella hugged herself at his thrilling words. "Hi, sweet Edward," she replied with a soft smile. "I got the chance…so I'm calling you…as per your text." She heard his low chuckle. She could well picture the curve of his smiling lips and amusement shining in his bright green eyes.
"Well, aren't you the exemplary little direction-follower! Must be the teacher in you. This is your free period, right?"
"Yes. Are you at work now?"
"Yeah, I just got here a while ago. I thought I'd call and let you know what's going on. I met the tow truck at your place and the guy towed it in to the shop. Alec hasn't had a chance to take a real look at it yet. He's pretty busy today and won't be able to really check it all out until later this afternoon. He did say the muffler would definitely have to be replaced, though, at the very least."
"Oh, gosh…" Bella sighed helplessly.
"I know. But I figured you'd want to know what was going on even though not much is going on."
"Yeah, I was wondering. I hope taking care of my truck didn't mess up your morning."
"It was no big deal. I just moved one appointment to early this afternoon, but I'll still be able to pick you up after work."
"Okay. But take your time—I can stay here and work if you need to stick around there. Don't worry about rushing to pick me up."
"I'll text you later or give you a call after school to let you know I'm on my way, all right?"
"That's fine. Thank you again, Edward. Have a good rest of the day at work."
"You too, love."
Even after the call ended, Bella sat there cradling her phone to her ear. He'd said it again. It hadn't just been a slip of the tongue this morning, or a ruse to distract her when he'd pulled off her blankets. She didn't think it a very common endearment. It seemed a little old-fashioned for someone his age, but she quite liked it. It spoke of impending possibilities.
At lunch there were several announcements made in the faculty lounge. Principal Green commended the staff on a smooth start for the school year. Coach Clapp introduced Mike Newton as his new assistant varsity football coach. Mike, in turn, invited the staff to the Fawkes Hawks' football season opener against the Issaquah Eagles, Friday night. And Alice, as faculty club president, invited the staff, their families and guests to participate in the season-kick-off tailgate party and fundraiser, prior to the game.
When she sat back down at the lunch table she looked around at the group. "Are we all in?" she asked. "We'll eat first at the tailgate party and then go to the game?"
"I'll be there for the tailgate," Mike replied. "At least until I have to head over to the locker room to meet with the team. But I want to thank everyone who shows up to support us."
"I'll certainly be there, Michael," Jessica cooed, batting her eyelashes. "I can't wait to see how your team does." Mike puffed his chest out proudly.
"I was thinking I might just skip it," Jasper drawled. He began chuckling immediately at the look on Alice's pretty face. "I'm just kidding, Allie! Of course I'll be there. I'll be there with bells on."
Alice flashed him a smile. "You can skip the bells, Jazz, but you should definitely consider wearing those snakeskin boots."
"If that's what your little heart desires," Jasper replied with a wink.
"Count me in," Rose said. "And I'm bringing Emmett. He wants to see some games."
"What about you, Bella?" Alice inquired. "You could bring Edward."
"Itvsounds like fun. Do you think Edward would want to come?"
Alice nodded and smiled knowingly. "He's come to games in the past and I'm certain he'll come if you ask. Our parents will be there, too. Mom and Dad always come to the first game of the season."
"I'll ask him this afternoon," Bella said with a nod.
"How about you, Ben?" Alice asked, moving on.
Ben shook his head. "I can't. I'm going to be in Olympia for the weekend."
Alice moved on to ask Eric Yorkie about his plans but Bella was no longer listening. Her eyes were on Ben. When he looked at her, she cocked a brow, and his face broke into a broad grin. Bella smiled. Angela lived in Olympia.
It appeared Ben and Angela were going to be getting some this weekend.
The last two classes after lunch went smoothly. But at the end of the last class of the day, with only a few minutes left, a student on the far side of the room raised her hand.
"Yes, Samantha?" Bella asked, checking her seating chart to make sure she had the name right.
"Um, Miss Swan, there's someone outside the door."
"Oh." Bella blinked and looked toward the door, but she couldn't see anyone. "Is it an office aide?" she asked the girl.
Samantha shrugged. "I'm not sure. I couldn't see too clearly."
Bella wondered why the student hadn't come in. She walked briskly to her door and opened it. Waiting just outside was Bree, from her second period sophomore English class.
"Oh, Bree, hi! Are you waiting to see me?" Bella asked.
"Yes, Miss Swan, but I didn't mean to disrupt your class. I was trying to see the clock. I spilled a drink on my homework handout at lunch and need to get another copy."
"Oh, come on in. Class is almost over anyway and you'll just get trampled out here." Bella stepped back, holding the door open.
"Thanks, Miss Swan," Bree said as she stepped into the room. "Oh…and Miss Swan...?" Bella looked back up at her, but she didn't speak, she just pointed her index finger wordlessly and insistently back toward the open doorway.
Bella frowned and opened the door a bit wider, sticking her head out into the hall. Outside the French classroom and leaning against the wall—looking more like a Greek god than anyone had a right to—was Bella's boyfriend.
"Edward!" she squeaked in surprise.
His eyes lit up. "Hi," he replied in a hushed tone, his lips curving into a crooked little grin. "I got here earlier than I expected. Go," he said, waving her back into her room. "Finish up. I didn't mean to interrupt."
Bella nodded. "Okay. We're almost done." She turned back inside to address her waiting students, feeling warm but hoping they were already focused on the afternoon ahead, and not curious about her sudden blush.
"Class, we'll call it a day! The bell is about to ring. Make sure you all have a copy of the homework assignment and don't forget to take your book home so you can actually do the assignment. Any questions?" She scanned the group, but apparently not.
Bella led Bree over to her desk just before the bell rang. Students hurriedly filed out of the classroom, chatting and laughing as Bella found a copy of the sophomore English assignment and handed it to the waiting girl.
As she took it, Bree peeked back over her shoulder. The man from the hallway was entering the now-empty classroom, his gorgeous green eyes fixed on Miss Swan. Bree turned back to her teacher, and leaned closer.
"Miss Swan?" she whispered. "Is he your trucker?"
Bella looked beyond her student and she frowned. Edward didn't look anything like a trucker. He looked like a successful businessman…or a lanky model dressed as a successful businessman…in his white shirt, cuffs unbuttoned and rolled up his forearms, navy tie knotted at his neck, and medium gray trousers draping neatly down narrow hips and long legs.
Bella caught herself before she sighed audibly at the sight of Edward Cullen.
She looked back at Bree with a little frown of confusion, wondering what the girl had meant. "I'm sorry…my trucker?" she asked.
Bree nodded. "You know…the one who sent you the little blue truck with the flowers... Is he your trucker?"
"Oh!" Bella smiled. Then she leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially. "Actually, he is."
Bree broke into a big grin as she whispered back, "Your trucker is a hottie, Miss Swan!"
Bella glanced back over at Edward, with his hands in his pockets, waiting patiently and looking about the room. "He is, isn't he?" she agreed with a smile.
Bree nodded, smiling. Then she gestured with the handout she held and spoke up in a normal tone of voice. "Well, thank you for this. I'll see you tomorrow, Miss Swan."
Bella nodded. "See you tomorrow, Bree." She watched as the girl exited, passing by Edward who gave her a little nod and smile, before fixing his dazzling gaze on Bella.
"I really like what you've done with the place since the last time I was here," he said with a smirk as he strolled closer.
Bella laughed. "Of course you do! They're mostly your posters!"
Edward chuckled as he neared her. "That must be why it feels so homey in here." He smiled down at her as he stood before her. "Are you ready?" he asked in a low voice, the tip of his tongue wetting his lower lip.
Bella's brain was focusing on that little lip-thing he'd just done, so his words didn't really sink in with any real meaning. "For what?" she asked, locked in the gaze of those mesmerizing green eyes, breathing in his scent, sensing the heat of his body beneath his clothes. She caught the amused little twitch of his lips and the sudden glimmer in his eyes before his gaze moved down to her mouth and he stepped closer.
Neither of them heard the door open, but there was a sudden clearing of a throat in the doorway. They turned to see Alice smiling broadly at the two of them.
"Hello, my dear brother," Alice said cheerily.
"Hey, Pix." Edward moved away from Bella, sighing internally at his sister's untimely interruption. He would have liked to kiss Bella. She'd looked so flustered and inviting.
"I just stopped by to see if Bella needed a ride home," Alice explained. "But I can see everything's under control…barely." She snickered. "Just don't forget there are still impressionable children on campus. Oh, and Jessica usually leaves in about fifteen minutes and she'll come through this way, in case you'd rather avoid that interaction."
Bella's eyes widened at the memory of Jessica's nosy prying about Edward this morning. "Oh, thanks, Alice." Bella looked up at Edward. "We probably should get going." Turning back to her desk, she began scooping her things into her tote bag.
"Don't forget to tell Edward about Friday night," Alice reminded her. "I'll see you tomorrow, Bella. Bye, Edward. Have a good evening, you two." She gave them a fluttery little wave and then ducked out the door.
"What was she saying about Jessica?" Edward asked, knitting his brows together as he plucked up Bella's tote and empty lunch bag.
Bella rolled her eyes as she picked up her keys and locked her desk. She gathered up her coffee thermos and purse. "Jessica can just be a little...grating...sometimes."
Edward nodded. He'd noticed that at the barbecue. He followed Bella to the door, waiting as she locked up.
He thought about her slight embarrassment this morning when he had kissed her outside the office, and he leaned his head closer to her as they headed outside. "Is it okay for me to touch you?"
Bella looked up at him, arching a brow and blushing before the words even left her mouth. "Appropriately or inappropriately?"
Edward's eyes widened and a short laugh burst from his lips. "Well…I know which I'd prefer…and thank you for giving me food for thought…but what I meant was, would it be okay if I held your hand or put my arm around you here at work?"
"Either would be nice," Bella replied with a smile; he was her boyfriend after all.
Edward slung his free arm around her shoulders and walked her out to the parking lot with an equally happy smile on his face.
"Where's your car?" Bella asked, looking for the Vanquish as Edward came to a halt mid-way through the lot.
"It's at home. I took the liberty of getting you a rental for the time being."
"What?!" Bella asked in shock, spinning to face him.
"This is what you're driving for the time being," he said, patting the fender of the vehicle next to him.
Bella gaped at it and him. "Edward, are you serious?!"
He nodded, feeling slightly less sure of himself.
"You rented me a truck?!" she sputtered.
"Yes…? It's a Ford F-150." He hesitated, hoping he hadn't done the wrong thing.
"You didn't have to do that!"
"I know I didn't have to, but it would have taken me a lot longer to walk here if I hadn't," he said with a little smirk. "I rode in with the tow truck to Alec's shop and there's a car rental lot nearby. I remembered you saying you'd never driven anything other than your truck, so I thought you might be more comfortable with a truck than a car, and this would be safer than a small car anyway. So I stuck with my previous theme: A blue Ford truck." He grinned meaningfully at her, waiting for her to make the connection.
It took a moment before Bella did, and then she promptly burst into cackles of laughter.
Edward watched her in confusion as she laughed. He'd thought she'd get a kick out of him renting a truck that matched the truck from the flower arrangement he'd sent her, but her reaction seemed a little overboard.
"Oh…my…God! You... You are my trucker!" she gasped between giggles.
"I'm your…what?" Edward's brows lifted at her strange comment.
"Oh good Lord!" Bella finally managed to breathe. "That student who was in my room after school asked if you were 'my trucker.' I didn't know what she meant, until she asked if you were the one who had sent me the little blue truck filled with flowers. So I told her yes. And now—come to find out—you really are my trucker!" Bella gestured at the life-sized rental truck next to them.
"Oh," Edward laughed. "I guess I am your trucker…or maybe you're mine...since you're the actual truck driver." He ushered Bella over to the driver's side door, unlocked it with the remote, and handed her the keys.
"Aren't you driving?" Bella asked in surprise as he deposited her belongings inside.
"Nope. Despite being your trucker, this is your rental and I want to make sure you're confident driving it. Hop in." He held the door open, helping her into the big, shiny blue truck.
"Gosh, it smells so new!" she exclaimed as she settled into place and Edward shut the door.
But by the time Edward rounded the truck and climbed in on the passenger side, Bella had turned to face him, with a clearly worried look on her face.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"This!" she said, gesturing at the interior of the truck with a sigh. "I didn't even think to ask how much it costs to rent something like this. And I don't even know how much the tow truck cost this morning."
Edward waved a hand, giving Bella a reassuring smile. "Don't worry about it. I've got you covered."
Bella's mouth dropped open and she blinked at him. "Yes, I'll worry about it! And you're not paying for all of this, Edward!"
"I already did. I can afford it."
"But they're not your costs! They're mine!"
Edward nearly rolled his eyes but then considered that might not be helpful. Instead he tried more subtle begging and cajoling while simultaneously making a few valid points.
"Bella, please let me do this for you. I want you to be safe and you need decent transportation in the meantime. Just enjoy it and don't worry about the cost. I could take you out to a nice restaurant and buy a good bottle of wine and that meal would cost more than this. And I'd also happily do that, by the way."
"Well, I'm still going to pay you back," she said obstinately.
Edward sighed. "When it's all over, if you still want to settle up, we'll talk about it."
She relaxed and smiled and held out her hand for the key. "Okay. We'll just run me a tab," she said decisively.
Edward shook his head in exasperation. "Fine." He handed her the key and then rested his hand along the top of the bench seat, tickling the back of her neck. "But I want your tab paid off by the time you retire."
"Done," Bella agreed as she put the key in the ignition. She looked over at him with a fond smile as the engine turned over. "You know, you can be kind of pushy sometimes."
Edward laughed, looking at her equally as affectionately. "I know. Only because you can be kind of stubborn sometimes."
Bella smiled and nodded as she cautiously began backing out of the parking space. "I know."
On the way home, Edward filled Bella in on the state of her truck. Her Chevy Apocalypse was still in limbo. Alec had just begun checking it out but it probably wouldn't be until late this afternoon or tomorrow before he got back to Edward. Which didn't much matter; the truck wasn't going anywhere without a new muffler and tailpipe. In the meantime, Bella would just have to drive the new shiny blue Ford rental truck.
They also discussed Friday's football game and pre-game tailgate party. Plans were firmed up and Edward had to admit it gave him a rush to know she wanted to be out with him as a couple, among friends, his family, and her co-workers.
By the time Bella pulled into her driveway, she was all smiles. The truck Edward had rented was incredible. It handled easily with a smooth, quiet ride—certainly quieter than her old Chevy. The interior was roomy and comfortable and unexpectedly luxurious. The sound system was insane—so much better than the radio and inexpensive speakers Jake had installed in her truck. As she removed the key from the Ford Dream Truck's ignition, all she could think was that this rental was really going to spoil her.
She looked over at Edward in the passenger seat. He wore a cocky smile, obviously quite pleased with himself and the choice he'd made.
"So..." Bella began, "I was just thinking maybe I could take you out to dinner tonight? You know, my treat? I could start chipping away at my tab."
Edward smiled. "I'd really like to, Bella, but I'm afraid I can't." He looked at his watch. "I've actually got to get back to my office for a little while, and then I have a business dinner scheduled."
"Oh." She nodded, obviously a little disappointed. "Okay…well…"
"What about tomorrow?" he suggested, running a knuckle along the soft skin of her cheek.
Her smile was back in place. "Tomorrow would be great."
She scooted closer, leaning across the seat, placing a hand on his cheek and looking at his perfect face for a moment. She pulled him close, kissing his beautifully sculpted mouth as his arms wrapped around her.
When they finally pulled apart, Bella looked at him with her big, brown, lovely eyes. Her gaze dropped to his mouth and she ran her thumb lightly across his lower lip, her eyes following the movement as she spoke.
"You have no idea how much I appreciate everything you did for me today, Edward."
When she looked back into his eyes they were a soft, glowing green.
"You have no idea how much I appreciate you letting me do things for you, Bella."
Bella changed into comfortable clothes and busied herself with schoolwork that afternoon. She looked over papers she'd collected, getting a better handle on whom, exactly, she had in her classes.
The evening was a quiet one—a fairly boring one—compared to the event-filled prior evening with Edward. She read updates on a few fanfictions she'd been following. She watched a cooking show on TV while she cooked rice and stir-fried vegetables and chicken for dinner, packaging up leftovers for lunch tomorrow. After dinner she called Angela, to do some catching up.
She told Angela about her truck problems and everything Edward had done for her today, since that was foremost in her mind. But then she backed up, filling her in on the previous day: Edward seeing her off to work, the delivery of flowers to her classroom, and the texts and phone calls during her free period, when she'd somehow become his girlfriend and he'd become her boyfriend.
She went on to tell Angela about the pizza dinner last night and the bizarre and at-first-upsetting revelation that Edward had been reading her story. She was surprised that Angela wasn't surprised about that situation—or the fact that Edward was also Stardusted.
But then the truth came out…
"You knew, Ange?! You knew he was reading? And that he was writing to me as Stardusted? Why didn't you tell me?!"
"B…I just couldn't tell you! He was adamant about wanting to be the one who told you and I could see how serious he was about you when he said that. And I respect him for wanting to set things straight himself—that was very responsible. But I did give him a deadline—I told him I'd tell you if he hadn't done it within a week. But I'm so glad he did it himself. Edward seems like a really good guy for you."
When Bella went on to tell her she'd invited Edward to spend the night—and he had— Angela had been stunned. But she was just impressed once again that he seemed to be letting Bella set the pace.
"Edward's going to be the one, Ange; I want him to be my first. It's strange to say this, but he could be my one and only, you know? I just feel this connection to him—and I know he feels it too—as if it's kismet." Bella blinked. "Oh. My. God! Angela! I didn't tell you about the sweatshirt! Or Port Angeles! You'll never believe this!"
There followed a quick and crazy conversation until finally, at Bella's urging, Angela dug out an old photo album and hunted down a few photos from that night in Port Angeles years ago. Bella heard the exact moment when Angela spotted the photographic phenomenon in the background of that one particular picture. There was a series of shrieks and shouts from the other end of the phone line.
"Holy crap! B! That's them! Bella…they were there! Oh holy crap! Edward is staring right at you in that photo! Oh my god…look at Ben! Look at what a skinny kid he was! And Edward…with his long hair and glasses! Oh, B…this is priceless! And you've been wearing Edward's sweatshirt all these years?! How freaking crazy is that?!"
"Incredibly freaking crazy, right?!" Bella agreed.
"Did you tell Ben?! Does he know?!" Angela asked excitedly.
"No, I completely forgot about it. I was too focused on my truck problems."
"Promise me you won't say anything to him. I want to tell him and show him the photo when he comes down this weekend. Oh, Bella, this is amazing!"
After finally saying their goodbyes, Bella spent some time reading reviews and writing replies on her laptop. She'd even begun composing a reply to Stardusted, who she now knew was Edward. But then she'd gotten up to get a snack, and was just returning to the living room when Stardusted himself called.
"Hi, Edward," she said, smiling into her phone.
"Hey, Bella." His voice was like a caress. "What are you doing?"
He laughed when he heard her reply. He hadn't expected her to say, "Eating Twizzlers."
"Is your meeting over?" she asked, looking out the window toward his still darkened house.
"Yeah, it's over. Listen, I spoke to Alec again this afternoon, and I was wondering… Can I see you? I mean, if it's not too late?"
Like I would tell you no. Ludicrous much, Edward?
"Sure. It's not too late. You can come…"
The doorbell suddenly rang, interrupting her. "Hang on…there's someone at my door."
When she peeked through the peephole all she saw were two bright green, smirky-smiling, curly-lashed eyes.
Edward heard her laughter through the door before she even opened it.
"You called me from my doorstep?!" she cried upon opening her door, noticing his car parked on the street, just up from her driveway.
Edward shrugged as she waved him inside. "I tried to go home, but your lights were on and that just made you too tempting. I was hoping you'd say I could stop by."
Bella laughed. "Especially since you were already on my doorstep!"
Edward nodded. "My self-control hangs by a thread," he admitted with a crooked grin.
Hearing that was certainly worth a blush.
"So, what did Alec say about my truck?" Bella asked as she led him over to the living room couch.
Edward's expression grew serious as he reached for her hand. "It's not good. Besides a problem in the exhaust system that blew a hole in your muffler and screwed up the tailpipe, the transmission is nearly shot, too. Replacing the transmission is a very expensive repair. And there are a slew of other minor things that aren't problematic yet, but they will be if they're not addressed, so they should be taken care of, and those costs will add up."
Bella exhaled a heavy breath and slumped. "Oh, no."
"How...attached...are you to your truck?" Edward asked, searching her eyes.
"I figured it would get me around for another year until I could afford to buy a new car—well, at least a decent used car. But it doesn't sound like I have a year..."
Edward shook his head. "No. If you really want to have the truck fixed up, it will be rather expensive and it would take some time to round up the parts and have the work done. Alec thinks he might be able to find a collector who would buy it off you to restore it. You'd probably get somewhere between five hundred and a thousand dollars for it—as is."
Bella nodded. "Gosh… Can I think it over for a day or two? In the meantime I can start doing a little research on used cars?"
They were quiet as Bella digested the news.
Edward watched her as he rubbed soothing little circles into the back of her hand with his thumb. After a moment he cleared his throat and spoke up.
"I have something else I need to tell you, Bella."
"About my truck?"
He smiled slightly. "No. It has to do with my business dinner this evening. I'm just not sure what you'll think…"
"Oh." Bella wondered why he would be concerned about her thoughts on his business ventures. "What is it?"
"I put in an offer to buy the Starlighted fanfiction site this evening."
A/N: There's some food for thought.