So, this update took way longer than expected...I went out of town and attended a funeral and just got back a couple of days ago. Sorry if I didn't respond to your reviews, I wanted to get this posted as soon as I could.

So, this is it folks - I know, I know, only three chapters, how lame. I wanted to put my A/N here so the end is just the end, because, hurts. Sorry again.

Bella shook out the umbrella before turning around to hand it back to Edward, and thank him for his kindness. While she thought he was grody scum, she couldn't deny that he'd helped her. As she turned around, he gave her a quick wave and peeled out. She shrugged and leaned the umbrella against the wall beside her front door. She let herself in and immediately pulled off her soaking wet cardigan. The books seemed to have stayed somewhat dry, but she was soaked to the bone. She ran upstairs and changed quickly into a thick flannel nightgown before pulling he hair down and shaking out the water trapped in the strands.

Once Bella stopped shivering, she thought over what happened that afternoon. Edward appeared, taunted her and followed her, but he did try to help her. The look on his face as he begged her to take the umbrella was almost enough to convince her that a real, breathing human lived under that slimy skin of his.

Charlie arrived home shortly after Bella did, so she got to work quickly on dinner.

"Already in your pajamas, honey?" he asked as he walked into the kitchen.

"Yeah, I got rained on earlier and was cold," she replied as she stirred the marinara sauce heating on the stove.

"That's too bad," he said. He seemed to be in an okay mood, so Bella wasn't about to tell him about the run in with Edward Cullen. There was no need to taint the evening with a story that meant nothing. Because nothing really happened.

Sure, Bella took the opportunity to actually look at him for once and was loathe to admit how dreamy he was. His voice was like warm butter on a baked potato, and she understood why so many girls gave into him. But Bella wasn't those other girls, and she couldn't be fooled like that. He was only looking for one thing, and since he'd gone through almost all the other girls in town, he needed to claim her before he could move on. Bella wasn't about to play backseat bingo with Edward Cullen.

He sure did have a nice car though.

After dinner, Bella finished her homework and went to bed early. She rolled her hair, said her nightly prayers, and lay down, wishing thoughts of Edward right out of her head. She couldn't be thinking of him like that, regardless of how good-looking he was.

The next afternoon, as she was walking home, she heard Edward's V8 coming around the corner, and felt a flutter of excitement. She cursed inwardly at herself for feeling like that, but she couldn't help it. She told herself he was just scoping for chicks. She told herself he wouldn't talk to her. She told herself that, but she couldn't deny the pleasure it gave her when the car slowed beside of her, and she heard him say her name.

She faced forward, refusing to give in to his game, but greeted him.

"Hello, Edward," she said disinterestedly.

"I wanted to make sure you felt alright. I'd hate for you to catch a cold," he said in his smooth voice.

"I feel fine, thank you for asking. I suppose I should return your umbrella to you," Bella said, catching the curious stare from Alice beside of her. "I tried to return it yesterday but you floored it."

"Yes, I…hadn't realized how late it was," Edward said nervously. Bella finally turned her head to look at him and saw that there was something a little different about him. He still wore that cocky grin, but he looked…different. She didn't want to take the time to study him too closely, lest he think she was interested in him.

"Are you headed home?" She nodded. He cleared his throat. "I was thinking…since you refuse to get in my car, maybe I could meet you somewhere. Like, the diner…or the library. If you were going and I showed up, too, you know…."

Bella looked back at him once more, a little astounded at both his forwardness and the way he was trying to get her to agree to go on a date with him. Even if he posed it as an almost accidental meeting.

"I don't think that's a good idea, Edward," she told him truthfully.

"Why not?"

"Because," she answered succinctly.

"Because why?" He rolled his eyes at her a little.

"You're not going to get what you're looking for from me," she said.

"What if I just want to get to know you?" he pushed.

"You don't want to get to know me. I know what you're doing, but it won't work. You can't make me think you're really interested in me just to try to sweet talk me into your backseat," she argued.

"Maybe that's not what I'm asking you for," he countered. He and Bella had both stopped moving forward, and she stood just three feet away from his window. People were watching them closely, and trying to overhear.

"I can't, Edward," she said again. "I just can't."

"Is this about your dad?" he asked after a moment of contemplation. Bella almost looked pained as she nodded.

"I'm sorry. Thank you for the umbrella," she told him before turning and walking toward her home. She almost felt guilty for turning him down; he'd seemed so eager, so…not like the Edward Cullen that had been cruising around town for the past month. She imagined that he just drove around the block and found another girl to take a ride, but it didn't help.

She sat around her empty home that afternoon, feeling oddly depressed. While she thought a lot of things about Edward, most of them not nice, she still felt attracted to him. That only made her feel guilty, and made her remember that she told her dad she'd stay away from him. She only hoped it didn't get back to him that she'd talked to him two days in a row.

On Friday night, Alice and Jasper invited Bella down to the diner for milkshakes and fries. Bella agreed and dressed in her usual skirt and sweater combo. She pulled on her white socks and saddle shoes and was ready to go. Alice sat down next to Jasper in the booth, leaving Bella on her own for the first time since the three started coming to the diner together. Alice kept her arm threaded through Jasper's as she spoke, and Bella couldn't help but feel a little lonely, despite being surrounded by people.

Midway through her milkshake, a warm body slid into the booth next to her, smelling like cigarettes and leather. Edward smiled at her as he leaned down to take a pull from her straw. Alice and Jasper were both silent as they watched the peculiar exchange with their mouths gaping open. Bella scoffed quietly before pulling her milkshake back in front of her and reclaiming her straw. Edward's eyebrow rose almost seductively as she placed her lips where his had just been.

Bella felt a shiver run through her; it was like they almost kissed, and she'd never been kissed before. Before she could say anything, Alice finally snapped out of her trance.

"What are you doing here?" she asked coldly.

"I saw you guys through the window. I thought I'd even the numbers a little bit, and keep Bella company," he responded as he ran his right hand back against the hair above his ear, flattening it down.

"Bella has us to keep her company," Alice asserted. Bella felt strangely trapped. While she felt a little uncomfortable with Edward sitting next to her, she wanted to kick Alice in the shin and tell her to be quiet.

"Well, if you're going to sit here, you'll have to get your own milkshake," Bella interjected haughtily. Edward read the subtext and knew she was giving him permission to stay. He rose from his seat and went to the counter to order a chocolate shake before coming right back and pressing his arm against Bella's in the booth.

"So, Edward," Jasper said loudly. "Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?"

"What do you want to know?"

"How old are you?" Jasper asked quickly.

"I'm about to turn twenty-four," he answered.

"Do you make it a habit to hit on seventeen-year-olds?" Alice piped in.

"Only the ones that intrigue me," Edward responded, grinning slyly at Bella. "What can I say, Bella's a beautiful girl, and she seems to hate me. I have to give it a shot."

Bella had to laugh a little at his assessment. Edward's milkshake arrived and Bella tried not to watch his mouth as he drank it down. There were lots of things she was trying not to notice, like the cut of his jaw, how rough his hands looked, and how good he smelled. She was failing miserably and couldn't stop blushing, and conversation at their table hit a lull.

Edward gave her another secret smile, pleased that she hadn't told him off yet, but the moment was over quickly. The bell rang above the door to the diner as another patron entered, but it was the chief. Edward's face immediately fell, and Bella, upon noticing him stiffen, looked up to see the enraged face of her father.

"Bella, come with me, right now," he said in a voice she'd never heard him use before. Bella sat paralyzed, stricken with absolute fear, and opened her mouth but couldn't speak. "Now!"

Charlie's raised voice caught the attention of everyone in the diner, and the place grew hushed as they watched the interaction. Edward slid out of the booth to let Bella stand, but she was slow to move. Charlie stepped forward and grabbed her arm roughly, nearly dragging her out and causing her to grimace in pain.

"I told you to stay away from him!" Charlie growled as he gripped her arm impossibly tighter. Edward made the mistake of touching the chief's shoulder in an attempt to calm him down.

"Hey, cool it, man! It wasn't her fault; she was already here and I came over and sat down," Edward started to explain, but he wasn't able to finish. Charlie grabbed his hand and twisted Edward's arm behind his back, causing him to cry out. People jumped out of their chairs to make room in case there was a fight.

"I'm taking you down for assaulting a police officer," Charlie said menacingly. Edward's eyes were squeezed shut as the pain shot through his shoulder.

"Daddy!" Bella finally cried, tears filling her eyes. "Don't!"

Charlie saw the terror-filled face of his daughter and managed to regain his senses. He released Edward's arm and watched in delight as the punk struggled to stand. He leaned heavily against the side of the booth and looked at Bella with what looked like an apology in his eyes.

"Let's go," Charlie said, wrapping his arm around Bella's shoulder and leading her outside. She barely got the chance to look back before her father was pushing her into the cruiser. "We'll discuss this at home."

Bella stared out the window dejectedly. She was mortified that her father did that to her in front of everyone. Her arm was tender and probably bruising. And the look on Edward's face…Bella didn't ever want to see that face again. She had a feeling Edward wouldn't be coming around her anymore, so she probably didn't have to worry about it.

They pulled up outside their house and Charlie stomped up the front steps with Bella following quietly behind. Once inside, he turned on the lamp and started yelling.

"I can't believe that you would do this! I've only asked you one thing—one thing, ever! I give you as much freedom as I can, I don't hover, I'm not that strict…I just ask you to stay away from one boy, and you can't! You deliberately disobeyed me!" he shouted. "And you lied! You told me you'd stay away from him, and that you'd tell me if he talked to you. I can tell from what I saw tonight that that wasn't the first time you two have spoken!"

"I didn't lie, Daddy," Bella begged. "I just…it was like he said, I was already there, and he showed up."

"And you expect me to believe that you didn't tell him to meet you there? Do you think I'm stupid?" he asked as his nostrils flared. Bella looked down at her feet.

"I swear, I didn't tell him. I'm sorry, but I didn't…I'm not lying," she whispered. "I'm sorry, Daddy."

Charlie turned and sat down in his recliner. He faced the front window as he spoke. "I tried to be a good father. And then…this one thing comes along…one thing that could ruin the entire life you have here. You can't see him again. I don't care what you have to do, you will ignore him until I finally run him out of town."

Bella didn't know what to say. She wasn't sure that she could agree with his demand, but she knew that refusing it would only bring down more of his wrath.

"I-I'm sorry," she said again. She hoped it would be enough.

"You're grounded. For the rest of the weekend, and the next," he told her. Bella nodded even though he wasn't looking at her and made her way up to her room. Once she got there, she allowed herself to cry the tears she'd been trying to hold back. She cried for Edward and for her and for her father…and for the mess they were in. She cried because she didn't know what the right thing to do was. She cried because she was afraid that the right thing was to ignore Edward, and she didn't want to.

Bella took a shower and rolled her hair before sitting down on her bed. She tried to read, but she couldn't focus. She turned on the radio and listened to the words of Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Lee Lewis before reclining and shutting her eyes.

A tapping sound woke her up from her light sleep, and she looked around the room, trying to figure out where the sound was coming from. She crept to her bedroom door and opened it, hearing her father's snores down the hallway, before walking back over to her bed. She heard it again and realized it was coming from her window. She walked over and peered out, seeing Edward standing there under her tree.

Her eyes widened and her heart started to race. She didn't know what to do. She knew her father was asleep, but it was a terrible idea to even attempt to talk to Edward from her window. And she wouldn't dare try to sneak out. She finally opened her window and Edward smiled. He held something white it his hand, and as he tossed it up, she saw that it was a ball of fishing line. It bounced off the tree limb closest to her and fell back down, so Edward tried again. This time it sailed over, effectively unrolling as it went.

Edward tied something to the free end he'd been holding and then started tugging on the other side to raise the message. Once it got close enough for her to reach, she stretched out and saw a piece of paper tied to the string. She pulled it out, being careful not to accidently cause the yarn to lose its spot on the limb, and opened the note.

Are you okay? I was so worried.

Bella smiled a little at his concern and turned around to grab a pencil.

I'm okay. You shouldn't be here.

Bella tied to note back on and helped Edward lower it when the line snagged on the tree branch. He opened the note and she saw his shoulders slump slightly. He went through the process again.

Why? I really like you. Do you like me?

Bella sighed before writing out her answer.

It doesn't matter either way. My father will flip if he knows I'm even talking to you. And who knows what he'll do to you? He wants to run you out of town.

Edward thought for a moment before responding.

Is that what you want? For me to leave town?

Bella felt her heart ache a little at the thought, even though she knew it was stupid. She shouldn't want Edward around. She knew she should just support her father and hope Edward moved on. But somehow, the little glimpses she'd seen of who she thought was the real Edward were enough to keep her hanging on.

No. I think you're a good man inside. But this won't ever work. And I don't want you to get hurt.

Edward wrote quickly and lifted one last note to her before running off as she read it.

I won't give up.

Bella fell asleep that night imagining a future where she and Edward could be together and her father would be happy. She knew that wasn't a future she could actually have, but it felt good to dream. It felt good to pretend.

School was winding down, and all was quiet on the Edward front. She knew from overhearing her father talking that he hadn't been messing around with any girls anymore. From what she understood, he was rarely ever seen by anyone…apart from her.

Edward met her two or three times a week at the library. It was easy for them to hide there, and her father never questioned why she went so often. Edward told her a little more about himself, about his parents and how they passed away, about college and how he thought about going back. He told her about how he really cared for her. He told her he was trying to be good so maybe her father would cool down, but Bella didn't have any hope in that. She knew her father wouldn't let go of his preconceptions easily, and she reminded Edward that he had been purposefully trying to get at the chief often.

"Well, I'm paying for it now, ain't I?" he asked. "I can't even see my girlfriend outside of the library."

Bella looked down at the book in front of her immediately. She couldn't believe Edward called her his girlfriend. She'd grown much closer to him over the past few weeks, and she felt like she was really getting to know him. And she liked who she was getting to know.

"Bella, please…come to my house," he asked for the third time. "I won't try anything, I swear. I just want to be able to see you not surrounded by books and librarians and having to whisper. I won't try anything, I swear."

Bella could easily see that he was telling the truth. She'd learned to read his green eyes, and what she saw there now was honestly and hope.

"If we get caught," she began. "I'll never see you again."

Edward weighed her words heavily before responding. "We won't get caught."

Bella stood and followed him outside, sliding into his Chevy for the first time, and praying to God that no one saw them. Edward quickly started the engine but drove at a respectable speed. When he wasn't changing gears, he reached over and held her hand gently, causing Bella to blush. As they neared the corner where the police station sat, Bella leaned over and ducked, hoping her father wasn't outside. Edward's V8 was so recognizable, she wouldn't put it past her dad to be on the lookout the second he heard it.

"I think it's clear," Edward said with amusement. As much as he liked having Bella close to him, it didn't look like the most comfortable position to be in. She sat up slowly, smoothing her ponytail and glancing around before finally relaxing.

Within ten minutes, they were pulling into the driveway at Edward's house. He hopped out and ran around the car to open Bella's door for her before escorting her inside. He gave her a tour of his home before offering to make her a cup of coffee. Bella sat on the small settee in the living room, her knee bouncing relentlessly, waiting for Edward to come back.

He appeared with two cups of coffee and a pack of cigarettes.

"Can I bum one of those?" she asked, nodding toward the cigarettes.

"Sure. Have you smoked before?" he asked as she positioned the cigarette to be lit. Bella nodded just before he opened his lighter and watched her inhale as the flame smoldered on the end.

"A few times," she said as she expertly exhaled the smoke. The pair sat quietly as they smoked and sipped at their coffee. The cigarette helped calm Bella's nerves, and Edward peeled off his leather jacket and leaned back comfortably. He eventually wound his arm around Bella's shoulders and held her close to his torso, just enjoying having her near him, in his house, in his life.

She asked him what he was planning on doing with the house, and as he detailed his thoughts, she snuggled up against his strong chest. He smelled so good and felt so warm and she'd never been so relaxed before. Being with him was comfortable but exciting at the same time.

So when Edward leaned in to kiss her for the first time, she felt both right at home and scared out of her wits. His lips pressed firmly to hers and stayed there for a second before starting to move. Bella didn't know what she was doing so she followed his lead, and soon the pair moved in sync. Edward opened his mouth and Bella did the same, but was still surprised when she felt his tongue sweep across hers. She gasped a little but didn't pull away.

The couple kissed languidly for several minutes, embracing and loving but not going any further. Edward eventually slowed the kiss and pulled back enough to look into her eyes. He nuzzled his nose against hers once before whispering.

"I'm in love with you, Bella."

She froze. Her muscles completely locked up on her, her eyes were trapped on his, her mouth was still slightly pursed from kissing him, and she was lost. In a second she drowned in everything that had to do with him, but then she emerged, feeling new. Feeling different and alive. She took a few mores seconds to think before replying.

"I'm in love with you, too."

Bella floated around her room, feeling lighter than air. She'd been kissed—and what a kiss it was—and she was in love! She had to figure out a way to make everything work out, but she just wasn't sure how. She would focus tomorrow on devising a plan, and for tonight, she would just allow herself to feel good. To feel loved. To feel happy.

Her father knocked on her door. "Come in," she called.

"Honey, I just wanted to talk to you for a minute," he said immediately. She felt the hair on the back of her neck rise. Had he seen her with Edward? "I know I've been hard on you lately, it's just that…I want what's best for you. I want you to be safe, and happy, and…respected. And provided for. I don't want you to make mistakes now that haunt you for the rest of your life. I just wanted to tell you that…everything I've done, I've done out of love. I hope you know that."

Bella felt a tine of guilt in her gut but managed to smile anyway. "I know, Daddy."

Charlie stepped toward her and gave her a small hug. He could smell cigarettes and leather in her hair, and something else…there was a musk of some sort on her clothes. It was masculine, definitely, and he'd smelled it before. He couldn't place it, but promised himself he would try later. He stepped back and pretended he didn't notice before wishing her a good night.

Bella went back to ironing her skirt, humming to herself, as Charlie walked down to his room and shut the door. As he changed and brushed his teeth, he racked his brain. As he turned off the lights in the house, he thought and thought. It wasn't until he lay down that he figured out what that smell was. Hair grease. He'd gotten a nose full of it the night he'd grabbed Edward. Charlie sat straight up in bed.

He had no idea what to do. He feared that forbidding Bella to see Edward again would just cause the opposite to happen. He needed to be smart about it without tipping her off. He had a hard time sleeping that night.

After a week of torturing himself, he made the choice to drive out to the Cullen house. He knocked three times and waited for Edward to appear. The punk looked very surprised to see him, but invited him in promptly like they were old pals.

"To what do I owe the honor, Chief?" Edward asked with a cheeky smile.

"I need to talk to you, boy. About Bella. I know you've been seeing her," he said. There was no point in beating around the bush. Edward's eyes flickered with some emotion but he didn't say anything. "And it has to stop."

"And if it doesn't?" Edward asked through gritted teeth. He was instantly tense, instantly ready for a fight.

"It will. I don't know what you're playing at here, but you won't get my little girl involved. I told her not to see you and that didn't work, so I'm here, telling you to stay away from her," Charlie declared.

"Why do you think I would listen? Why don't you just yell at Bella some more? Or, are you afraid that if you make her choose, she'll choose me?" Edward taunted. He couldn't believe that the chief had the gall to come into his house and order him around. "Bella will be eighteen soon. She can decide for herself, then."

Charlie glared at the young man standing in front of him, wishing he'd go back to the deepest pit of hell where he was sure Edward came from. He was like a demon, sent there to drive him mad. He wanted to hit him or maybe kill him, or at the very least finally arrest him. But he had no probable cause. He was just an angry old man.

"Over my dead body," he warned and was unable to say anymore. He backed out of the Cullen house, his eyes staying on Edward until he started his cruiser and drove away. Edward let out a deep breath as he tried to calm down. His muscles were tensed and flooded with adrenaline. He didn't know what to do about it.

Charlie had every intention of rushing home and locking Bella up, but when he got there and saw her doing her homework in front of the couch, he couldn't. He wanted her to still be his little girl, but she wasn't. She looked up and smiled sweetly at him.

"Hi, Daddy," she said. "Let me go start dinner."

Charlie watched her walk away, padding in her socked feet like she was still a child, but with the poise and stature of a woman.

"I'm going to go get cleaned up," he said gruffly before walking upstairs. Charlie sat on the edge of his bed and let a tear fall. She was practically grown already, and soon, she wouldn't be his anymore.

Edward knew he was taking a big risk, but he had to do it. He waited for the cruiser to pass by his hiding spot before zooming down the street to Bella's house. He didn't know if Charlie said anything to her last night or not, but he had to make his move.

He ran up the front steps of her house and walked in without knocking. "Bella?" he called.

"Edward! What are you doing here?" she screeched as she ran down the stairs quickly. She was dressed and ready for school and she looked so lovely he could hardly stand it.

"We can't—we have to go, baby," he said quickly. "I can't stay here."

"What are you saying?" she asked with dread settling quickly in her stomach.

"I have to leave Forks, and I want you to come with me," he pled. He dropped down to his knees and gripped her hands in his. "Please, say you choose me."

"Edward, I-I can't leave," she started. "I have school, and…I can't just leave right now."

"The school year's practically over, and you'll be eighteen soon, and we just…we can't have a life here, and I need you…you are my life." He knew he sounded more desperate than a man looking for water in the desert, but he couldn't hold back what he was feeling.

"Edward," Bella said again, her eyes flitting across his face as she thought. She wanted to go with him. She wanted to run away. But she couldn't. She just knew she couldn't. "My dad—"

"Your dad will never accept me! This is the only way. Either you come with me and we can be together, or you stay, and you'll never see me again. He won't let you be with me, I know he won't," he pointed out. Bella saw the glimmer of hope in his eyes. She felt her own fill with tears and she didn't want to crush him.

"You know I want to be with you," she said. "But I…I can't leave like this. There's one man who's been there for me since I was born. One man that loved me and cared for me and protected me. He's a good man. I can't break his heart."

"So you're breaking mine instead?" Edward asked as his vision blurred. He blinked rapidly, but the tears fell anyway. A sob burst from Bella's throat and she couldn't speak. She didn't want to break his heart. She didn't want to break her own, but she could feel it cracking into a million pieces as he stood up and backed away from her.

The last time she saw him, he was angrily wiping his tears away as he started his car. He laid a huge patch of rubber right outside her house, a permanent mark to her and her father both that Edward had been in their lives once.


Charlie walked into the kitchen, strapping his gun into its holster, and greeted his daughter good morning.

"Mrs. Brandon is taking you to school, right?" he asked. She nodded. She just nodded, nothing else.

It had been four months. Four months since he caught wind that Edward left town. Four months since he found his daughter curled up on the living room floor, crying her eyes out. Four months since that cherry red Chevy burned rubber outside his house.

In the last four months, he watched the light in his daughter's eyes flicker out. She stopped joking with him and teasing him. She stopped kissing his cheek when she saw him and telling him she loved him. She was turning into a shell of her old self, and he didn't know what to do.

He couldn't help but wonder if there could've been a better way. Another way. A way that kept his daughter happy and in Forks and no longer a zombie, but it was too late.

"I'm heading out, sweetie," he said softly.

"Bye, Daddy," she said with her back turned. She stared out the kitchen window and saw her father's form leaving the room in the reflection. The front door shut, and she was alone.

She was eighteen now. And she wanted, more than anything, to hear that bent eight roaring up the road to take her away. She thought she'd done the right thing, but it hurt too much to have been the right choice. She regretted it. She wished she'd said yes and gone with him. She prayed every day that he'd show back up.

Charlie started his cruiser and drove down to the diner for an apple turnover. Life in Forks had been quiet and dull since Edward left, a fact that pleased Charlie in one way, and tortured him in another. He'd never stop wishing he'd done something else. He didn't want to lose his daughter, but she was gone anyway.