All Fired Up - Chapter 1

Beta'd by the fantabulous Mynxi, who has been there through the thick and thin. Love ya BB!

Now I believe there comes a time

When everything just falls in line

We live and learn from our mistakes

The deepest cuts are healed by faith

~All Fired Up, Pat Benetar

Bella

"Hold the door, please."

Almost automatically, I pushed the hold button for the elevator even as my mind processed the melodic voice that had spoken the words. A voice I hadn't heard in well over eight years. I froze. It couldn't be.

I lifted my eyes from my Blackberry to look at the face of the man who was equally surprised to see me. "Bella?"

My phone dropped to the elevator floor with a clatter. "Edward?" And then everything went black.

XxXxXx

The day had started like any other. My alarm went off at six a.m., I did thirty minutes on the elliptical trainer while watching the morning news, and then I made myself a strawberry, banana, and yogurt smoothie. Got my shower, dressed in a pair of black tailored slacks topped with a navy blue button down blouse, wound my hair back in a chignon, and did my usual makeup routine of foundation, light shadow, subtle liner, and mascara. Finally, I slipped on a pair of black leather pumps, pulled on my black trench, grabbed my satchel with my laptop and headed out the door. I had no clue my world, which had finally stabilized after months of darkness, was about to be flipped upside down again.

"Good morning, Marissa," I greeted my assistant, as I breezed through the office.

"Morning, Bella," she replied cheerfully, handing me my mail. "Your ten o'clock just called and rescheduled for Monday, so it looks as though you have a slow day ahead of you."

I smiled. "No, it just means I can finally focus on that mound of paperwork on my desk that seems to be multiplying on its own. But if it's looking slow, why don't you plan on taking off at 3 today? Get an early start to your weekend."

Marissa grinned. "Really? Cool, thanks Bella."

I headed into my office and she followed me, grinning ear to ear. "Did you hear about the new guy who just started in Legal? I saw him this morning on my way in. Oh, my God…" She fanned herself.

I chuckled. "Down girl, let the guy get settled and moved into his desk, before you make your move on him. He may be married for all you know."

She shook her head smugly. "Nope, I already checked."

"Of course you did." Marissa was our office Welcome Wagon of One, as long the new hire was young, male, and cute. Single was also appreciated, but not always a requirement. She often strayed just shy of grounds for a sexual harassment lawsuit, at least until she got the guy to take her out and then would avoid her like the plague. She was very pretty, but she reminded me of a lot Jessica Stanley, my old frenemy from high school: a little too abrasive, a little clingy. She didn't understand why there was never the invite for a second date. I'm sure this new guy was about to suffer the same initiation as many before him had already done. "So what's this newest flavor of the month's name?"

"I think its Edmund."

"Well, go easy on poor Edmund. Don't want run the boy off on the first day."

Marissa smiled and headed back out to her desk. I settled into the stack of paperwork on my desk, reviewing projects, signing off on bids, or making notes on ones that needed further work. I had begun at this company interning during my junior year of college and after six years I had been promoted four times, most currently as procurement manager for our company's foreign business division.

Marissa popped her head in my door at noon to ask if she could bring me back a sandwich, and as I nibbled on the Reuben, I received a text from Roger. Dinner tonight?

I smiled to myself and sent a text back in reply. Yes. He responded he'd pick me up at seven. We'd been seeing each other for four months now. He was an anchorman for the local Portland evening news cast and the all-American charm he exuded on the screens of thousands carried through into his off-camera personality. We'd met during a golf tournament our company had participated in; I was placed on his team. My golfing abilities left a lot to be desired and he was all too happy to offer pointers throughout the game. By the end of the event, we exchanged numbers and made plans to go out to dinner the following Saturday. We'd been together ever since. I wasn't sure if he was the "one" or anything; I wasn't visualizing my wedding dress or anything like that, but what I did know was that he was very good to me and made me happy.

Happiness had been something tough for me to come by in the days, months, hell years, following Edward and his family's departure from Forks. Jake did a lot to pull me out of my grief; he'd been my personal sun during the darkest of days, and as a result we even dated for a while, but around the time that I left for college, he happened to imprint on one of Sam's cousins. Truthfully, it made things easier; I was hesitant to carry on a long-distance relationship and it saved me the trouble of having to break up with him. I headed to Corvallis, OR the following month and to this day have remained good friends with him and his now-wife, Erin. We didn't get to see each other except for holidays, when I went to Forks. Charlie married Sue Clearwater, so Thanksgiving and Christmas tended to be pretty big affairs now that a large portion of the Pack was present at the holiday meals. Once Charlie married into the tribe, he was made privy to the secrets they held, especially since his step-daughter happened to be a wolf. He was shocked to learn what the Cullens really were, and less than impressed to learn his daughter had dated a vampire.

College was where I made the conscious decision to break free from my past and move on. I threw myself into living the full college experience: dorms, all night study sessions fueled by shitty pizza and Red Bull, parties, bad sex during or after said-parties, and later, an off-campus apartment with two of the best people I could ever have hoped to live with, Madison and Daisy. Madison moved across the country after graduation to go to medical school in New York, while Daisy took a teaching job in Salem, so I was able to see her fairly frequently. Occasionally, Madison would fly in on breaks and we'd have a girl's night. This year at Thanksgiving, Daisy and I would be making the trip East to spend the holiday with her, something we both were very much looking forward to.

I had a good job, great friends, and a fantastic boyfriend. So, of course, that's when he had to re-enter my world.

Marissa left at 3 o'clock and I stayed about an hour longer to prep bids to review for Monday. I shut down my laptop, slipped it into my satchel, pulled on my trench and headed for the elevator. I pulled out my phone to call Roger and see where he wanted to go for dinner tonight, so I knew what to wear. His voice mail picked up, but I didn't bother leaving him one because he never checked them in a timely manner, so I sent him a quick text instead.

I stepped into the elevator as I pressed 'send' and the voice of my youth's long lost love shattered my carefully refashioned happy existence.

XxXxXx

"Bella?"

"Bella, can you hear me?"

I emerged from the darkness to find myself on a sofa in the corner of the lobby. Edward was talking to me, trying to roust me while Eric, one of the security guards was speaking into his radio.

"Ugh," I said sitting up. "Don't call anyone Eric, I'm fine. It's just been a long day."

"Are you sure, Ms. Swan?" The security guard studied me in concern.

"Really, I'm fine. Thank you, Eric."

He walked away and I looked into the face of the vampire who swore I would never see him again. He probably should have stayed out of the Pacific Northwest if he meant to keep that promise.

"Exactly what are you doing here?" I asked him quietly.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

"No, Edward I'm not fucking alright. It's like looking at a goddamned ghost right now. You're not supposed to exist anymore. Now answer the question: why the fuck are you here?"

He pursed his lips and nodded. "I deserve that, but honestly Bella, I didn't know you were here. I've been staying in Vancouver for the last six months, and decided to find something to do to pass time. I learned of the opening for an attorney here and decided to apply. I didn't know you were here until I met you in the elevator." He paused and took a good look at me, giving me a generous once-over. "You look beautiful, by the way. Time seems to have treated you well."

"Better than you treated me," I said, standing. "Look, it's not like you need this job. This is my bread and butter; I've made a life here and I've moved on, just as you suggested I do all those years ago. I think you should do what you do best and leave." He flinched visibly at my words.

"Are you married?" he asked. There was sadness in his eyes as they flickered down to my left hand. They softened to relief to find it bare.

"No, Edward, but I'm in love. He's good to me and makes me very happy. You should go." I picked up my satchel and felt my pocket for my phone. "Shit," I said. My phone's still in the elevator."

"No it isn't," he said, handing me my Blackberry. "You missed a call. Is Roger your… love interest?"

"Seriously, Edward? Love interest?" I looked at my phone and saw that Roger had left a voice mail. Because unlike him, I check those. "Yes, Roger is my boyfriend, and I'll appreciate you not snooping into my personal affairs. Just go."

I started to walk past him, but he reached a hand out and caught the sleeve of my coat. "I don't think I will go, just yet. Leaving you was the biggest mistake I ever made, Bella. Not a day has gone by since then that I haven't thought of you, wondered how you were, if you were happy. I'd like a chance to get to know you again."

"You don't deserve that chance, Edward. You gave up any right to that when you left me in those woods." My phone rang. Roger. "I need to take this, Edward. Seriously, just leave. Forget we even crossed paths today."

"Can't do that, Bella," he smirked, tapping his forehead. "Wicked long-term memory."

I snorted. "That's funny, so is mine. I have neither forgotten, nor forgiven." I held up the phone to my ear as I turned and walked toward the doors. "Roger?"

"Hey gorgeous, how was your day?"

"It's been one of those days, Rog. Did you get my message?"

"Yes, I did. Let's just do casual tonight. I was thinking Kell's tonight, sound ok?"

Kell's was an Irish pub with a low-key atmosphere; my kind of place. "Sounds perfect."

"Great. I thought I'd come a little earlier though, 6:30 ok?"

"That's fine. Love you."

"Love you too, sweetheart."

I reached my car, pressed my remote to unlock it, pulled open the passenger side door and placed my satchel inside. I turned to get in the driver's side and ran right into Edward. "Fuck!"

"Nice car," he said with a smile. "An Audi's quite the step up from that old truck."

"What do you want, Edward?" I snapped.

"Can we go somewhere and talk?" he asked, his brow furrowing. "Please?"

"Goddamnit, will you grab a fucking clue? I have nothing to say to you! Just go, Edward!" My volume rose with my level of frustration over his presence. A few passers-by looked over at my outburst. I lowered my voice continuing, "Please go back to not existing, Edward, I'm begging you. I went through… too much after you abandoned me. I don't care to revisit any of that. Just go."

His expression was crestfallen as he took a step back from my car. Without another word I got in, started the car and met his eyes as I backed out of my parking space. His lips moved to form the word "Please?" I shook my head at him and softly said, "Go," and then drove away.

My heart was pounding as I navigated the busy Portland streets to my condo in Gresham. 'How dare he?' were the words spooling around and around in my brain as I tried to make sense of the whole thing. Why now? That chapter of my life was over and done with. He honestly thought he could walk back into my life and I'd be happy to see him? Fucking absurd.

I let myself into my condo, set my satchel down and made a beeline to the kitchen. My nerves were shot. My cat, Alejandro, wove himself in and out between my feet while I poured a large glass of wine, drinking half of it down in a few gulps. "Unbelievable," I muttered to myself. My phone rang and I jumped, sloshing some of the wine onto my shirt and Alejandro, who hissed and ran away. "Fabulous," I grumbled, picking my phone out of my purse. "Hello?"

"Wow, Chica, rough day?"

"Hey, Daisy. Yeah you could say that. What's up?" I leaned against my kitchen counter and took another sip of wine.

"Are you free tonight or do you already have plans with Mr. Wonderful? I feel like movies and wine tonight." Daisy and I at least once a month had a movie and wine night, where I'd stay at her place or she'd stay at mine and we'd drink a bottle, sometimes two, and have a movie marathon, something we carried on from our college days.

I chuckled. "Yes, Roger and I are going to dinner. Sorry, hon. Rough day too?"

She sighed. "Just trying to remember why I thought teaching high school Biology was the perfect career for me. They're animals!"

I laughed. "I can only imagine. Sorry, I can't do movie-and-wine, how about tomorrow night?"

"Sounds like a plan. Your place?"

"Sure. See you tomorrow night." I hung up and drained my wine glass, and then refilled it to take to my bath with me. I thought maybe a bath would relax my nerves, but the entire encounter just kept replaying in my mind. Though he couldn't physically change, he still looked different. The suit-and-tie ensemble matured his appearance, and he was styling his hair differently. He was still gorgeous, but he was also still the bastard that broke my heart and if he thought my 'silly human brain' would forget what he did to me, he had another thing coming.

I dressed in jeans, a cream-colored cable knit sweater, and my brown leather riding boots, pulling my hair back in a low ponytail. Having refilled my glass a couple times, I had a little bit of a buzz on by the time Roger arrived. I opened the door and threw myself in his arms.

"Hey," he had time to greet me with before my lips crashed into his. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me closer to him. I deepened the kiss, curling my fingers around the back of his head. After a moment he broke the kiss, pulling away with a gasp. "Wow! It's nice to see you too." He smacked his lips. "You taste like wine."

I smiled, pulling away to get my purse. "I may have had a glass. Or three."

"Aww," he cooed. "Rough day?"

"Definitely not one of my better ones," I deadpanned. "Let's go, I probably should eat something."

Edward

I'd been drifting for the past several months, deciding to have a go of it on my own for awhile. I wasn't used to doing the nomad thing, but I needed to get away from the family for awhile. Things had changed in the dynamic of our coven greatly in the time since we'd left Bella. We scattered for awhile; Carlisle and Esme relocated to our home in Alaska, I went to South America for about a year, Jasper and Alice headed to the southwest to meet up with a couple they were friends with down there, while Rose and Emmett spent some time in Europe. We reunited after a year, but things were different than they had been before the love of my life had inserted herself so firmly into our psyches. We all acted like everything was fine, but I would still see Alice's thoughts straying to memories of her times with the human who had become her best friend. Jasper still regretted taking a snap at her, even though we all knew by then that he had suffered the effects of all of our bloodlust, especially mine, being aroused by the scent of her spilled blood. Emmett's behavior had become a little more subdued. He'd loved Bella like a true big brother and had taken the loss of her presence pretty hard. As a result, even Rose missed her, if for no other reason than knowing how much Bella had meant to him.

I moved around a couple more times over the years. At first, I spent some time in Alaska with Carlisle and Esme, not far from our friends in the Denali coven. It was there that I succumbed to the advances of Tanya, hoping she would help me heal the ache I still felt in my long dead heart. We made a go of it, but in the end she realized that I was still hung up on Bella and gave up trying to win my undivided love. We parted ways and I decided to head out on my own to the east coast and go to law school.

It was there at Yale Law I decided to try and break out of my shell a bit. I drove a flashy BMW and trolled the campus parties finding my release in the arms of drunken human girls that wouldn't notice that the texture of my skin wasn't quite right. I had flashes of disappointment that I hadn't been able to summon the courage to take my relationship with Bella to the sexual level, to make a better effort to make things work between us, knowing now that I could have controlled myself. It didn't escape my notice that the majority of these drunken women were brown-eyed brunettes.

After graduation, I decided to head back to the west coast to be near my family. Carlisle and Esme had bought a spacious home on a ranch in central Oregon but I only stayed there for a month before heading northwest to Portland. Now that I had a degree in corporate law, the idea of staying out of the school circuit and getting a job would be a good way to pass a few years. I aced the bar and began searching for work with Portland area businesses. It was Alice who called and told me to send a resume to the Cornerstone Group, saying the job was destined to be mine. I should have known something was up when Alice decided to get involved.

The interview with the director of the legal division of Cornerstone went swimmingly and the next day I was called to start work the following week. Much of my first day was spent getting acquainted with my coworkers and learning the procedures and policies of the company. Everyone had been welcoming, many of the females on the staff in particular. I could tell I was going to have my hands full with Marissa, a very forthcoming female whose mind was showing me clearly what her intentions were with me and every other attractive male who worked in the office.

Throughout the day, I would catch just a whiff of a scent that was reminiscent of one I hadn't smelled in years. I didn't know at the time it was her, but the mild freesia aroma had brought her to the forefront of my mind. I dismissed it, knowing it couldn't possibly be her. As I walked toward the elevator to head home, the delicious aroma became more concentrated. I was approaching the back of a slim brunette further down the hall. As she gracefully stepped into the elevator, her attention still focused on her Blackberry, I called for her to hold the door.

When she turned to push the button, still looking at her phone, I saw her profile and froze in my tracks. No. Could it possibly be…? I hurried to the elevator. As I stepped inside, she looked up and I stared into the deep chocolate pools that had been burned into my memory eight years ago. "Bella?"

Her heart rate accelerated dangerously and her phone slipped from her hands, clattering on the elevator floor. "Edward?" she breathed, and then her knees buckled. I caught her before she hit the ground, easily scooping her up into my arms.

"Bella? Bella, love, are you ok?" I listened to her heart rate which had slowed back down, and confirmed that she had only fainted. I rested my cheek on top of her head, holding her close and breathing in her scent. Her blood still called me; my throat hadn't burned this much in years, but I was able to quell that part of me. This was Bella. I breathed it in greedily, for the few moments left in the elevator before the doors slid open. I quickly squatted down, picking up her bag and phone from the ground, and then carried her out into the lobby.

"Oh, wow, hey is she alright?" a voice called out. He was in a security uniform, with a name tag that said Eric.

"She fainted in the elevator, is there someplace we can lie her down?" I asked.

He indicated toward a corner of the lobby where there was a small sofa and a couple of chairs. I carried her over there and gently placed her on the sofa. Her phone began to ring and, my curiosity getting the best of me, I glanced at the screen to see the face of the local television news anchorman, Roger Wixey.

"Should I call somebody?" Eric asked, placing his hand on his radio.

"Let's give her a moment before pressing the panic button," I suggested. I had no doubt in my mind she'd be mortified if she regained consciousness on a gurney with a crowd of rubberneckers watching as she was loaded onto an ambulance. We'd certainly been there before.

She began to stir and I began to speak to her again. "Bella? Bella can you hear me?"

She blinked, opening her eyes, focusing first on me. Her eyes widened again in surprise, before narrowing into disgust before flickering over to Eric who was updating his supervisor on the status of the collapsed woman in the lobby.

"Ugh," she grunted as she sat up. "Don't call anyone Eric, I'm fine. It's just been a long day."

He looked at her skeptically. "Are you sure Ms. Swan?"

She sighed, nodding her head. "Really, I'm fine. Thank you, Eric."

He walked away and she turned to look at me again, studying me with eyes that were no longer that of a doe-eyed teenage girl. No, Bella was all grown up and even more beautiful than the slip of a girl I'd foolishly left behind. She was also pissed.

"Exactly what are you doing here?" she quietly asked.

"Are you alright?"

Her eyes narrowed again. "No, Edward, I'm not fucking alright. It's like looking at a goddamned ghost right now. You're not supposed to exist anymore. Now answer the question: why the fuck are you here?"

XxXxXx

The conversation following our surprise reunion was the hardest I'd had since the day I left her. She had every right not to welcome me back with open arms, and it appeared as though she had no intention of doing so. Bella had indeed moved on with her life, was even in love with another man. Over the years, part of me had very much hoped she had done just that, but now, I wasn't so sure I still felt that way.

She wanted me to leave again. I probably should, but I had a hundred reasons bouncing in my head as to why I shouldn't. Many of them had to do with the way I had felt as she answered her significant other's phone call. I heard the love in her voice. Hearing them say they loved each other was a like a knife in my gut and she twisted it further by suggesting I leave. I wasn't so sure I could do that, now that she was back within my reach.

I paced the floor at my home mulling this in my mind, ignoring the phone that had been ringing since I walked in the door. Undoubtedly, it was Alice, and honestly I wanted to figure this out on my own. She knowingly put me in this position without the benefit of a heads-up, for something this big, and now she had advice?

I wondered what Bella was doing at this moment. Was she too pacing the floor, or was she able to easily brush off our encounter and get ready to meet up with her boyfriend? Her boyfriend. My God, the term was so bitter even in my mind. He'd suggested they go have dinner at a place called Kell's. I knew of the place, had passed by it a time or two. Would it hurt to go there and observe her with this Roger character? I didn't think it would. I'd keep my distance, and if she truly seemed happy with him, and he returned her affection, then perhaps I could back off. I could leave Portland, and Bella, behind and start anew again, couldn't I?

The phone stopped ringing. Apparently I'd drawn the conclusion Alice was going to press me toward anyway. I shook my head and went to my room to change my clothes to something more casual and inconspicuous.

XxXxXx

I arrived at the Irish pub shortly after 7 pm. I surveyed the room, spotting Bella and Roger in a booth not far from the bar, Bella's back facing the entry way. I could see Roger, and even better, I could hear him and his thoughts. More importantly, I could see and hear Bella through him. The hostess seated me at a small table about four tables away, and I proceeded to listen in. I felt slightly bad about stalking her like this; I didn't try to kid myself into believing I was doing otherwise, because it's exactly what I was doing. I needed to see for myself, talk myself into believing she was better off without me.

She was talking about a night she had planned with a friend the following evening, watching movies and drinking wine at her house. Her eyes sparkled and her face looked a little flushed; her speech was slightly slurred so it was almost certain she was on her way to being intoxicated. Roger seemed pretty sure of it too. He went from staring into her eyes to staring at her mouth. God, she's gorgeous, he thought to himself. I had to agree. I kicked myself for the three-thousandth time for leaving her. And then his thoughts took a more lecherous turn.

I can't wait to have those lips wrapped around my dick tonight. If she gets drunk enough, she might swallow. Yes! To my chagrin, his mind began to conjure images of Bella doing that very thing; apparently it was something she had done for him in the past. It was a bit of a shock for me, seeing my previously innocent, naïve Bella in such a provocative light, but I had to firmly remind myself she was no longer that girl, but a grown, extremely sexy, woman.

A waitress stopped by my table. "Hi, my name is Miranda, and I'll be taking care of you tonight." Oh, how I would love to be taking care of you tonight, her thoughts finished for her.

"I'm supposed to be meeting someone. Just a beer for now, please?" I asked, making as little eye contact with her as possible.

"What kind of beer, handsome?" She smiled at me, batting her eyelashes flirtatiously.

I sighed inwardly. "Guinness?"

"You got it," she said. "Let me know if there's anything else I can get for you."

I nodded. "Thank you," I said and resumed eavesdropping on Bella and Roger.

"More wine?" he asked her, holding up the bottle.

"Trying to get me drunk?" she smirked, holding up her glass.

"Bella, in the condition you were in when I picked you up, getting you drunk is not exactly a tall order tonight. By the way, please feel free to greet me in that manner every time I come over." His mind flashed to her leaping into his arms and kissing him forcefully as soon as her door opened.

"It was a very rough day," she said quietly, looking down into her glass as she swirled the wine around in it.

I wonder what happened. "Want to talk about it?" he asked.

"No, I really don't. If I could forget today ever happened, that would be even better." She picked up her wine glass and took a hearty sip; the knife in my dead heart twisted a little more.

"Well then, I fully intend to make you forget all about it tonight," he replied with a roguish grin.

"I'm going to hold you to that," she purred, returning his smile. What I wouldn't give for those words to be directed at me.

She stretched out her hand across the table, which he picked up and kissed. Just then, their server arrived with their meal. They released hands and began to dig into their plates. His phone chirped and he picked it up, pressing a button to read a text on the screen. It was from someone labeled on his phone as Mindy. Hey, stud, you busy tonight?What was this?

He looked up at Bella. "Sorry sweetheart, it's work, I need to respond to this."

She nodded as she chewed her bite of food, and then swallowed. "Everything ok?"

"Mm-hmm," he answered as he entered a reply on his phone. Tonight yes, free tomorrow. Call you later. He slid the phone in jacket pocket. "Yes, everything's fine. Hal just needed my opinion on something." Why would he lie? "How's your lamb?"

"Oh, it's fantastic. Want to try a bite?" She held a piece of meat on her fork and fed it to him as he leaned forward and slid it off the fork with his teeth. I could tell by the way her eyebrow raised at him that she liked the way he did that. "Good, huh?"

"Phenomenal," he moaned, chewing the bite. "Good choice."

She smiled back at him, pleased, and continued to eat as Roger dug into his steak, his eyes alternating between being locked on her mouth and then dropping to her breasts. As much as it disgusted me to see him with her and his vivid imagery, it also turned me on to see what she was capable of. I shifted in my seat to adjust myself, more than a little ashamed. "I can't wait to get you home," he said quietly.

"I can't wait for you to take me home," she replied softly.

That's all I needed to hear. He held up a hand as their server passed. "Miss, we'd like our check now."

I quickly summoned my server, for my check as well. As they stood up to leave, I ducked down in my booth, as though I was retrieving an item dropped on the floor, and remained unnoticed as they passed by. I inhaled deeply to once again savor her heavenly aroma, cherishing the burn that was once my burden, my cost to enjoy companionship with such an exquisite creature. I had some thinking to do.

I got into my car and headed back to my downtown apartment. I was at war with myself; I should leave. She had obviously moved on with her life, and even if this Roger wasn't deserving of her love, she loved him and who was I to come between them? She had survived without my interference for eight years now.

But I didn't want to leave.

My cell phone rang as I entered my apartment, Alice again. This time I answered. "Let me have it."

"I couldn't tell you why you needed to take that job, you understand that, right?" she asked apologetically.

"I'm not so sure I do, Alice. How about you fill me in? Because I'm thinking it was a mistake. She obviously doesn't want me here."

"But she will."

"She's in love with someone else, Alice."

"Someone who is not at all right for her and you know it. The guy's a creep, Edward. He's cheating on her!"

"Then she'll find out and move on to another who is more deserving of her love."

She sighed. "Unless you stay, Edward, she's eventually going to marry him. He will be unfaithful to her, he'll become emotionally abusive, and she will bury herself in her career and the bottle. She'll be successful, but she'll also be utterly miserable." She paused to allow me to absorb that before continuing. "You both weren't ready for a relationship like this back when we were in Forks. She was too young and you were too inexperienced. Well, she's an adult now, and you've managed to fuck human girls without killing anybody. Things are different now, Edward. It's not going to be easy, but she can, she will be yours, if you stay there and fight for her."

"Alice, I don't think…"

"Edward, do you still love her?"

I thought about it long enough to realize I didn't need to think about it. I'd never stopped loving her, and actually seeing her again, having had her briefly in my arms had awakened and revived every dormant feeling I had for her. "I do love her Alice, but…"

"Why is there even a 'but', Edward? Grow a fucking nut and claim your mate! I want my best friend back," she growled.

"My mate? Jesus, Alice, I thought we were civilized vampires," I deadpanned.

"Civilized or not, it's how we roll Edward and you know it. And it's time you two sealed the deal. You deserve to be happy and so does she. You're not leaving."

I sat down on my leather sofa, pinching the bridge of my nose. "Fine, I'll stay. But she hates me Alice; I'm not sure how I'm going to win her back."

"Be persistent Edward, but don't be a pain in the ass. Don't try to be the Edward you were back in Forks, because that's who she hates. Be the Edward you are now. Can you manage that?"

"I guess."

"Good. And squash that idea of going trying to find her condo tonight. You really, really don't want to show up there tonight."

I chuckled wryly. "I gathered as much by the way they were eye-fucking each other across the table, and really his thoughts didn't leave much to the imagination. I won't go. I have enough thinking to do here tonight to keep me occupied, figure out how to pull this off. She's not going to be happy to see me back in the office on Monday."

"Nope, she won't," Alice agreed. "I love you, big brother."

"Love you too, Alice. And thanks."

We hung up and I went to my room to take a shower, hoping to relax and get my thoughts in order. Unfortunately, as I soaped up, my thoughts kept straying to those images that Roger had treated me to earlier on. I wondered how many of those were being made a reality at this very moment. My manhood stirred and unable to ignore its urges, I revised those images to be me that she was writhing beneath; that it was me who she was looking up at sultrily under those gorgeous long eyelashes as she lavished my length with affection, that made her cry out in ecstasy as she rode out her orgasm atop me, those perky breasts bouncing invitingly. I quietly growled her name as I finished, rinsed my ejaculate down the drain, finished washing up, and shut off the shower.

Dressed in a pair of black silk pajama bottoms, I stretched out on the couch and gazed out the window that overlooked the lights of the city. Somewhere out there, she was in the arms a man who didn't love her, didn't deserve her. I had no idea how I was going to win her back, but Alice was right. I had to try.