I don't own Twilight. all Stephenie Meyer.
A Chance of a Lifetime
On a night like this I could fall in love
I could fall in love with you
In this dark so dense, we talk so soft
The way young lovers do
"Come on, Miss Bella! Please, can we play just a little bit longer?"
I smiled at Eric, the little boy who'd just called out to me. A few months prior his mother had to practically drag him to the weekly music lessons, and now he couldn't get enough. The excitement in his eyes as he pounded the keys on the piano made it all worthwhile.
"Sorry, kids, but I'm afraid we're all out of time for today." A chorus of groans and wines filled the room. "But, if you promise to be good and read over your music for next week, I just might be able to play a little something for you before it's time to leave. How does that sound?"
Everyone clapped and screamed their excitement.
I chuckled. "Great. Be sure to put everything back where it belongs before you head out and I'll hand you the new sheet music as you leave."
They immediately got to work, picking up and stacking their instruments in their designated sections. Some of the boys pushed and roughhoused, but they still managed to get it all done in a timely fashion.
"Bye, Miss Bella."
"See you next week, Miss Bella."
"Later, Miss Bella."
I passed out the freshly printed sheets as quickly as I could, attempting to remain upright as the kids scurried out of the room on either side of me. They ran down the hall to greet their parents, chatting animatedly about what they'd learned this week.
Being a part of the New York Philharmonic had been a dream of mine since I had been old enough to hold a cello. I practiced until I could play certain pieces in my sleep and then practiced some more. It wasn't until I finished college that I finally had the courage to audition for the prestigious position, and I was so glad that I did. Not only did I get to perform in amazing concerts and travel the globe, but I also got to teach wonderful kids about music too.
Things could get any better.
As I waved to the parents leaving with their kids, I glanced at the clock in the hallway and nearly fell over.
My cousin, Alice, was going to kill me. She had called me every day for two weeks to remind me about the special dinner that she wanted to throw. Apparently she had her business partner, Rose, got a huge contract to plan and coordinated an exclusive charity event near the end of the summer. It was still months away, but it was a big deal for them and Alice insisted that they needed to celebrate.
The party was supposed to start at 7:30 and it was already 7:15.
With a groan I darted across the room to grab my bag. A bottle of merlot fit snuggly inside as well as a pair of shoes for me to change into before I got inside. I wanted to avoid a lecture from Alice about how stiletto heels would make legs look longer and shapelier, so I kept a pair with me just in case.
Once I had everything and my classroom was locked up, I left the building to search for a cab.
It took a few minutes to flag one down and another twenty minutes to get to her side of town, but I hoped she'd be too excited about their celebration to be upset with me. The driver pulled to a stop in front of her building as I finished slipping on a pair of stilettos that Alice would be proud of.
I slipped the driver some cash and made my way toward the building. Walking slowly was my only option to make it inside unscathed because I was a born klutz. I'd lost count of the number of times I'd tripped, run into something, or found a bruise I didn't know how I'd gotten. And high heeled shoes only seemed to make it worse.
Eventually I made it up to the twenty-first floor where Alice and her husband Jasper lived. Looking at the two of them you would never believe that they could work, but somehow they managed to balance each other out.
While Alice was spunky and outgoing, Jasper was reserved and laidback. She came in a tiny package at 4'10" and beautiful black hair that she'd recently cut into a funky spiky do. Alice's love of life was infectious and she always had a bright smile on her face. Jasper, on the other hand, towered over his wife at 6'3" and had long honey colored hair. His southern twang seemed to fit perfectly with his relaxed personality and he was deeply in love with my cousin.
There were times when I was around them that I felt as though I was intruding on a private moment between them. Even something as simple as a look held so much meaning and affection behind it between them.
It was beautiful.
Alice's business partner and best friend Rosalie was a completely different story. She and her husband Emmett were well suited for each other. They were both loud and over the top. The more it flashed the better. Rosalie was a tall, voluptuous blonde with violet eyes. She was never one to back down. Emmett was even taller than Jasper, with enough muscles to put a body builder to shame. His dark curly hair and deep dimples made him look like a teddy bear, but his loud personality changed that.
How I fit into their group was still a mystery to me, but they never made me feel unwelcome or like a fifth wheel. If anything it felt like spending time with siblings.
So when I stepped into Alice and Jasper's apartment without knocking on the door, I didn't think twice about it. We spent enough time around each other that it seemed ridiculous to just stand in the doorway. I set my bag down by the doorway and picked up the bottle of wine I brought for the evening.
"Hello?" I called out.
"Kitchen," Alice said daintily.
I made my way down the front hall toward the kitchen. Jasper and Emmett were in the living room playing a game on the Xbox. They took a second to grunt at me before returning their attentions back to the game they were engaged in. I rolled my eyes at them and continued into the kitchen.
Rosalie was perched up on the counter, munching on a cucumber slice, while Alice finished the food preparations. They both looked flawless.
"Sorry I'm late. My kids group had their lesson tonight and I lost track of the time." I held up the bottle as a piece offering.
Alice pulled me into a hug, her grip firm. "I had a feeling that might be the case, so dinner is actually almost ready." She pulled back, smiling knowingly.
"How did you…"
Rose held up her hand. "Please don't get her started on that again. I've had to listen on more than one occasion to her theory that she's becoming psychic."
"You mock, but have I been wrong yet? Especially about that little late night Jacuzzi action you and Mr. Dimples in there had." Alice asked indignantly and took the bottle of wine from me.
"That was a lucky guess. Besides, he'd been gone all week on business. Of course we were going to make up for lost time." Rose climbed down from the counter and straightened out the wrinkles on her dress. "It'll take more than a couple of lucky guesses to convince me."
"Give me until the end of the night. I bet I can give a pretty accurate prediction for you." Alice huffed.
Rose went over to where Alice was standing and patted her on the head. "Now don't you worry your pretty little head over that. I'm sure you can find much better things to concentrate on," she teased.
"Oh you." Alice flicked her with one of the dish towels.
The oven timer went off, effectively ending their little tiff.
Alice opened the oven door and leaned in to check on the food. "Jazz, honey, can you come get the Tortellacci out of the oven?" She went to one of the cabinets and pulled out five wine glasses before searching for a cork screw to open the wine. Jasper came into the kitchen and brushed up against Alice on his way to the oven. They both grinned playfully at each other.
We all eventually made our way to the dining room and gathered around the elegantly decorated table. Everything was beautiful, giving just the right atmosphere for us to eat and laugh the evening away.
Emmett managed to finish the food so that there were no leftovers and still complained about being hungry. Rose just rubbed his arm affectionately and promised there would be dessert. That managed to perk him and he grinned widely at the prospect. "You did an excellent job, Alice. Everything was great."
Her face lit up at the compliment, her body bouncing slightly in her seat. "Why thank you, Emmett. I'm glad you enjoyed it."
Jasper lovingly rubbed his wife's back. "Yes, sugar plum, I have to say that dinner was top notch tonight. One of your best."
I picked up my glass of wine and finished it off, glancing back and forth between everyone. Something in that moment told me I wasn't going to like where the rest of the evening was headed.
"If you all will head into the living room, I'll bring out the coffee and dessert." Alice stood up and gathered some of the dishes to take with her.
"Hang on. I'll help," I offered, grabbing the rest.
We brought the dishes to the kitchen and set them down in the sink. I started making the coffee while Alice grabbed the chocolate praline crunch cake she'd made from the fridge. We move easily around each other as we prepared a serving tray with mugs, plates, utensils and the coffee pot when it finished. Alice carried the cake while I brought the large tray into the living room.
Once everyone had been served we settled back into our seats and dug.
That's when everything went crazy.
I had just brought my fork full of cake up to my mouth when Rose spoke.
"So, Bella, how's work?"
"Great. We've got a few concerts coming up in the next month, so we're trying to get as much rehearsal time in as we can." I finally bit into the cake and had to bite back a moan at how rich and delicious it tasted. Alice was a genius.
Rose nodded. "So I guess that means you don't really have time to date then, huh?"
"Oh, um, not really. I've never really been much of a 'dater' anyways." It wasn't that I didn't want a relationship, either. Quite the opposite, actually. I wasn't the type of girl to date random men.
Jasper sipped his coffee. "Why's that, Bella? If you don't mind me asking."
Shrugging my shoulders, I thought about my answer for a moment. "Well, I guess because I want to be sure that there's something there, a possibility for a committed relationship, before I go out without someone. Maybe that's expecting too much, but I don't want to settle."
"That makes sense." He nodded.
"And being groped by a man when we're supposed to be getting to know each other over a meal doesn't exactly sound like a fun time to me." I ate some more of the cake.
They all cracked up laughing.
"Why not? Isn't it fun to get felt up every now and then?" Emmett boomed.
"Ugh, maybe for a man it is." Rose scrunched up her face in disgust.
Alice giggled. "It definitely never made the top of my list for a successful evening. I went out with some guy my linen supplier knows and he spent the entire night either staring at my chest our pinching my ass. He's lucky a certain handsome, Southern gentleman came to my rescue. Otherwise he'd have left with an ice pack."
Jasper chuckled, the sound deep and comforting, before kissing her softly. "I did try, but you didn't need me to rescue you, sugar. You were quite impressive." He winked.
Emmett pretended to gag at their exchange. "Can you two flirt later? I don't want to lose my dinner."
"My husband, everyone. The ever romantic." Rose smacked his arm.
"Huh, I didn't hear any complaints out of you last night. Or this morning, babe." He flexed his biceps.
I groaned. "Spare me, all of you. Besides, you all know why I'm wary."
Most of the time I didn't mind being around them, but seeing them so in love just reminded me that I still hadn't found that special someone yet. It was my choice, but I didn't want to constantly have it thrown in my face either. The flirty, the goo-goo eyes, the lingering kisses, I just wasn't in the mood for it all.
"You know, Bella, it might do you some good to go out and… have a little fun. Loosen up a bit." Emmett waggled his eyebrows at me. "Enjoy life."
"I do enjoy life. My job and the kids I teach are very fulfilling," I insisted.
"That's not exactly what he meant Bella." Alice and Jasper shared a slice of cake together, feeding each other bites and kissing in between. They were so much in love.
I took a few moments to drink my coffee and was just returning to finish up my cake when Alice turned toward me, her eyes wide and pleading. "What?"
"Bella, my dear sweet cousin, I have something to tell you." If I thought she'd been excited before, it was nothing compared to how thrilled she looked as she said those words. I sat my plate down on the coffee table in front of me, eyeing her suspiciously.
She took my hands in hers and glanced over at Rose, eventually turning her attention back to me. She opened and closed her mouth a few times, but no words came out.
When more than a few minutes had passed and Alice still hadn't said anything, I groaned. "Alice, just spill it already." I hated snapping at her, but her silence was irritating.
She closed her eyes and said very quickly, "Rose and I signed you up to be on The Bachelor. And they picked you to be one of the contestants."
I let her words sink in, not really sure if I heard her correctly at first. But by the sheepish expression on her first and the smug grin on Rose's, I knew that I had.
"You did what?"
"See, here's the thing." Alice winced at my tone and tried to speak quickly. "You say that you're happy and we believe you… to a point. I know that you enjoy playing in the orchestra and working with those kids, but that's not really what we mean by enjoying life. Those things are good, but you deserve to find someone that makes you happy the way that we have."
Rose and Alice exchanged glances again and sighed. "And we thought that getting you out of your comfort zone might help you do that. Maybe even encourage you to take some chances and really put your heart out there." Alice fidgeted with her fingers nervously.
"And you guys thought that the best way to do that was to sign me up for a reality show with cameras and a bunch of other women?" I asked, my voice cracking at the end. There was absolutely no way that I could compete with them. My confidence had been shot after my last relationship. Jacob Black. He had broken my heart.
Both Emmett and Jasper got up to leave the room, seeming uncomfortable with the turn our conversation had taken.
Alice wrapped her tiny arms around my shoulders and Rose made her way across the room and did the same. "It's just that you don't see what an amazing person you are, Bella. You have so much to offer, but you always seem to sell yourself short. We just want you to take this opportunity and have fun."
I bit my lip. The Bachelor? The actually wanted me to go on a reality television show and compete for a man's affections. It sounded crazy and terrifying, and definitely not like something I would do.
"Please, will you at least consider it?" Rose asked softly. Her head was resting against mine. "You'll get to stay in a beautiful mansion, travel around the world a bit, and meet an incredible guy. What have you got to lose?"
So many things, Rose. There were so many things that I could lose, including my dignity if anything happened while being filmed. A klutz barely covered what I was and I didn't want the rest of the American population to know that either.
How could I even possibly consider doing it for a single second? It was crazy. Ridiculous. There was nothing good that could come from it.
Yet, there was a small part of me that wanted to; a small part that wanted to see what it would be like to be spontaneous and put myself out there for once.
I tried to not smile, but I could feel a grin pulling at the corners of my mouth.
Rosalie and Alice squealed and hugged me even tighter. "I knew it. This will be great for you, Bella. You'll see." Alice kissed my cheek.
I sighed, not so sure if I believed her. But I was definitely willing to try. "I hope so. I really do."
The process before the show began was completely insane. I had to go in and speak with the producers and sign contracts and waivers and film an introduction about my life that would be aired with some of the other ladies. The filming was taking place in the Hamptons, so I wasn't going to have to leave New York.
I was a nervous wreck waiting for the filming to begin. The conductors and directors at the Philharmonic had been incredibly understanding and gave me the time off that I needed. They even brought someone in to cover the class that I taught. My kids were upset that I would be gone, but cheered me on and promised to watch it if their parents said it was okay.
My dad, the Chief of Police in Forks, wasn't too thrilled when I told him what I was going to be doing. We were never really ones to talk about our emotions with each other, but I could tell that he was worried about how the show would affect me.
But that was the thing. There was really no way for me to know. For all I really knew I could be asked to leave the first night and never get a chance to participate.
When the first night of filming came, I was beyond terrified. It was the night that not only all of the girls were going to meet each other, but also the bachelor, and we would also have to prove that there was something about us with getting to know better. I had absolutely no clue how to pull that off.
Alice, thankfully, offered to help me get ready. I probably wouldn't have known what to do otherwise. And Alice was an angel. She helped me pick out a dress for the meet and greet, as well as clothes to wear during the competition. We spent hours on my hair and makeup and I ended up in a pair of shoes that should have been labeled death traps. They were designer and made my legs look even longer, but I knew they would cause trouble before the evening came to an end.
The dress Alice helped me pick out was black and strapless. It ended at about mid-thigh and had intricate stitching along the bodice. Not something I would have picked out for myself, but everything about what I was doing was unlike me, so I figured why not go for it.
I nervously sat in the back of the limo that brought me to the house. It felt like an eternity; the longer I stayed in the back, the more nervous I became.
Once the limo finally pulled to a stop in front of a long carpet, I carefully exited and slowly made my way toward the bachelor. My cheeks were warm, so I knew that I was blushing furiously, and my legs were wobbly. I kept my head down so that I could watch where I was walking, but when I finally reached the open area where he was I was waiting… I tripped.
My body went careening forward and I had visions of my skirt flying over my head and giving the future viewers a show. But before anything like that could happen, a strong pair of hands grabbed ahold of my waist and helped steady me on my feet. An electric shock coursed through my body where the hands held me.
Shyly I glanced up to see who my rescuer was, and all of the air left my lungs.
He was absolutely beautiful. The crookedness of his grin made one side of his mouth curve up into a sexy smirk. His hazel eyes were mostly a deep emerald with golden undertones that added to their intensity. The suit he wore fit perfectly and showed off his style.
We stood there for what felt like hours in complete silence, our eyes taking each other in and saying what we couldn't. It was the most intense first connection I'd ever felt.
The spell we were under was eventually broken when someone cleared their throat.
I shook my head to clear the fog that had begun to form and glanced back up at the man holding me upright. "Um… hi. I'm Bella Swan. Isabella, but I go by Bella."
His grin widened. "It's lovely to meet you Isabella. I'm Edward Cullen." The melodic, sensuous tone of his voice was unlike anything I had ever heard. He also had a hint of an accent that I could quite place. "You look beautiful this evening."
My cheeks reddened and I ducked my head slightly. "Thank you, Edward. You look so handsome as well." I felt like I was back in high school and he was picking me up for the senior prom. "I hope that we can get to know each other a little more."
Edward stepped back slightly and released one of his hands on me so that he could kiss the back of my hand. "I hope so, too. You've certainly captured my attention."
I was mortified at my lack of coordination, but managed a smile and stepped around him to make my way inside.
The other women gathered in the main room were gorgeous. They were poised and flawless, some were possibly even models. Again my insecurities told me there was no way I could compete with them.
We mingled with each other as we waited for our time to get to know Edward. Appetizers were passed around as well as glasses of champagne and other drinks. Everyone giggled and discussed how breathtaking he was. It was definitely going to be a competition.
I sipped my champagne slowly and sat with a rather tall girl, Angela I believe. We talked quietly for a few minutes until another of the ladies, Jessica, came over in a whirlwind of excitement and squeals.
"He is the sexiest man I have ever laid eyes on." Jessica held her hand up to her chest, breathing heavily and grinning brightly. "And I bet he's an amazing kisser. God, I could hardly think the entire time we talked."
Some of the other girls gathered around, listening to her tale.
I twirled a lock of hair around my finger. What had I gotten myself into?
At one point several gasps filled the air and I looked up to find Edward standing over me. He held out his hand to me and bent down slightly to whisper in my ear, "Shall we?"
Trying to ignore the glares of the other girls around me, I slipped my hand into Edward's and followed him out to one of the decks. Beautiful flowers and twinkle lights framed the area, encircling a cushioned bench that looked comfortable. He motioned for me to sit first and then settled down so that he was facing me. One of his arms rested across the back of the bench and I finally noticed that his hair was a mess, but fit him just right.
"So." He grinned. "Tell me about yourself."
I waited a moment before answering, allowing my racing heart to slow down slightly. "Well, I'm not sure exactly what to say. I grew up in a small town in Washington with my father. He's really the only family I'm close to besides my cousin. I'm twenty-five and I moved to New York after college so I could play in the New York Philharmonic," I explained.
Edward nodded slightly. He was difficult to read. "What instrument do you play?"
"The cello. I love how sad and beautiful it can sound at the same time. And I also teach a children's orchestra class through them. The enjoyment they get out of it makes my day." I tucked some of my hair behind me ear so as not to reach out and touch him. "Tell me about you, Edward."
"Well, I was born in London and moved to the states when I was about seven." That explained his accent. "My family and I have traveled all over and we're extremely close. I am thirty and a professor. I also help my father run a charity organization to help cover medical costs for families with children fighting cancer." He sounded somewhat embarrassed as he spoke, the tops of his ears flushing.
I smiled. "That is quite impressive. What subject do you teach, Professor?"
He chuckled. "I'm a literature professor with an emphasis on Shakespeare's works, the meanings behind his plays and sonnets."
"Wow. Do you enjoy what you do?"
He scooted a little closer to me. "Immensely. It's wonderful that I get to wake up every morning and do something that I love."
"Me, too," I agreed. "I not only get to inspire people with my music, but I also get to help teach kids about the joys of it as well. I couldn't have asked for more."
"Exactly." His arm resting across the back of the bend had eased its way toward me, his fingers running up and down my arm almost unconsciously. "All right. Now this is important." He narrowed his eyes for moment, but couldn't keep a straight face and ended up chuckling. "As far as a relationship goes, what do you expect?"
"I'm at a point right now where I want to settle down, so finding someone who is ready for that as well is important. But," I said, surprised at how easy it was to talk to him. "There has to be more. A connection. I don't just want someone to promise commitment. I want someone who will be my best friend and my lover. Someone that will see me for… me."
When Edward didn't say anything I got nervous. He leaned toward me though and pulled a long stemmed rose out from behind his back. "I know exactly what you mean." He held the flower out to me. "This is a first impression rose. I was told to pick someone that I definitely wanted to keep around. And after your grand entrance there was no way I couldn't give this to you. So, Bella, will you accept this rose."
My stomach was filled with butterflies. I managed to nod. "Yes."
He grinned and pressed his cheek to mine, his lips grazing my ear. "Thank you."
The glares from the other girls when I stood off to the side during the first rose ceremony were enough to have me shrinking back. Angela was the only one who offered me a kind smile as they waited to find out who was picked.
Of the others that Edward asked to stay, I remembered the names of a few. Jessica, Angela, Tanya, and Lauren. Tanya wasn't as voluptuous as Rosalie, but she was just as tall and strikingly beautiful. Her strawberry blonde hair was pinned on top of her head with a few strands falling down around her face.
There had been thirty to start out with and in the end we were down to twenty.
Edward wished us all a good night and promised that he was returning in the morning.
We found our bags in the foyer and went to go find a room to sleep in. Each room had five beds in them, large walk-in closets and bathrooms. By the time I found a room, Tanya and Jessica had already made themselves comfortable in them.
Our time in the mansion was definitely going to be interesting.
The dates that we got to have with Edward were truly amazing. Most were group dates, a few got one-on-one time with him, but we all at some point got to spend a little time with Edward. And as I got to know him, I realized that there was so much more to him than I could have expected. He was smart and genuine and caring, someone that I could really fall for.
After we had been through a few weeks of dates and challenges and eliminations, I was beyond surprised that Edward was still keeping me around. I love getting to know him and discovering just who he was. No one had received a kiss from him yet, and most of the girls were anxious as to who would be the first one.
My main concern was the alone date that Edward and I had that day. It would be our first date that was just the two of us. I wanted to put myself out there, falling in love was something I wanted more anything, but my insecurities were getting the better of me. What Jacob had done left me so unsure.
Before Edward showed up, Tanya walked through the hallway from the outside deck. It seemed like she was just going to walk past me, but she stopped and turned back. A smile plastered to her face. "Good luck, Bella. I'm sure you'll need it."
I bit my lip, holding back the tears that I could feel forming. What she said was outright cruel, but because of the place I was at emotionally, it hurt even more so.
Her smile brightened as she left the room, leaving me upset in the foyer.
I was so distracted that I barely heard Edward come in, but the feel of his strong arms wrapping around my waist and pulling me into a hug brought me back.
"Hi. It's so nice to see you," I whispered, burying my face in his chest.
Edward grinned, one of his hands running through my hair. "Are you okay?"
I nodded and smiled softly.
"Okay. So I thought that it would be fun to go to a vineyard, taste different kinds of wines, see how they make them. How does that sound?" He held my hand as we left the house and walked out to the car he had parked out front.
"That sounds wonderful. Thank you."
Edward helped me into the car before climbing into the driver's seat and taking off. It was a while before we reached our destination, the two of us holding hands and talking as he drove. The vineyard that we stopped at was amazing. It was called the Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard. The grounds were breathtaking and I was surprised to find horses that they had taken in.
We had a tour of the grounds first, walking along the bushes where they gathered the grapes, and we visited the horses.
Any time that he could, Edward either held my hand or tucked my hair behind my ear. It was wonderful that he wanted to, that he felt comfortable enough to be affectionate with me, but a small part of me was holding back. I wanted to trust him, to open my heart, but I was afraid.
The tasting house was beautiful and we tried a few wines. He bought a couple of bottles and then we watched the sunset under the gazebo they had.
He sat beside me as we watched the spectacular view. "Is everything all right? You've been fairly quiet today."
I leaned my head back against the rail we were sitting against and shrugged my shoulders. How could I tell him my fears?
"Bella, I have to be honest with you. I really feel something for you." He took one of my hands in his, twining our fingers together. "I have from the very first moment you fell into my arms and I love spending time with you. But if you don't feel the same way, then please tell me. I don't want to force something with you."
Of course I feel something for you! How could I not? My heart ached as his words sank in and I felt tears pour down my cheeks. What was I supposed to do?
"Hey," Edward said softly, cupping my cheek in with his free hand and wiping away my tears. "Talk to me. What's going on?"
I closed my eyes for a moment and sighed. "I'm afraid."
"What are you afraid of?"
"You are such an amazing man, Edward. And I'm afraid that… that I won't be enough." I wiped away another tear as it felt, embarrassed that I had let myself get to that point. "The last man I dated broke my heart and I don't think I've ever really gotten passed it."
Edward didn't try to push me as I spoke. He just held my hand and stroked my knuckles gently in encouragement.
"We started dating our junior year of high school and stayed together through college. It was effortless to be with him and I fell for him, hard." Jake always made me feel safe. Even when he took me out on the back of his motorcycle, or camping in the woods, I always knew that he would take care of me. "Everything was going fine until after our college graduation.
"My father took us out to dinner to celebrate. He had been so attentive the entire time and asked if we could alone when we got back to my dad's place." It still hurt to think about, I fought back a sob. "When we got there, my dad went inside and he led me to the porch steps. I had convinced myself that he was going to propose to me, but instead he broke up with me."
Edward continued to hold me as I told my story. His silent affirmations helping me get through it.
"He told me that he did care for me and had enjoyed our time together, but that it just wasn't enough for him. He wanted more and didn't want to keep lying to himself. He wanted us to be friends, but just wasn't 'in love' with me," I whimpered as I finished, the pain of his words still tearing through me.
And with that Edward pulled me securely against him and held me as I cried. He whispered that everything would be all right and rubbed my back in a soothingly motion I cried into his chest.
When my tears finally stopped, I pulled back a little so that I could see Edward's face.
He smiled down at me, the expression in his eyes gentle. "I can't make you trust me, Isabella, but I can do my best to prove that I am not your ex. The way he treated you was wrong and reprehensible. I swear to you that I will always be honest with you." He kissed my forehead. "If you'll let me, I really want to spend more time with you. We could have something really special."
I bit my lip, feeling a smile begin to form. "I… I want that too."
Our eyes locked when I said that, and I could feel myself melting, honestly falling for him. Edward's hand stopped running up and down my back as we continued to stare into each other's eyes. Without another word he cupped my face in his hands and finally pressed his lips to mine.
My hands rested on his chest and made their way up to his hair, his messy locks even softer than I'd imagined. His tongue slid along my bottom lip and I automatically opened for him. It felt as though we were the only two people in the world with each brush of his lips against mine.
He groaned deep in his chest before kissing along my jaw tenderly and stopping just below my ear. "That was wonderful." I shivered, his warm breath tickling my skin.
"Yes it was."
With each elimination round I found myself growing more and more nervous, because somewhere along the way I had fallen in love with Edward Cullen. After our talk, something just switched between us. I knew that we had something special and I didn't want to lose it.
One of my favorite parts was being able to take Edward to Forks to meet my father. Charlie raised me by himself and even though we never really talked about our feelings, his opinion about Edward was important to me. The fact that Charlie dressed up a little and learned how to cook for that evening spoke volumes. And when he took me aside before we left to tell me that he liked Edward, I knew that I was doing the right thing.
When it was finally down to just Tanya and me, things got really interesting. Edward took us to London where his parents were staying on vacation. They had gone to their winter cottage home and had graciously agreed to host a dinner for us.
Tanya met with them first and had no problem bragging about how the evening had gone. I did my best to ignore her, biding my time until I got to meet the Cullens.
"He's only kept you around because he pity's you," Tanya said the following night as I finished getting ready. "There's absolutely no way that he would ever choose you over me. How could he?"
In that moment, I found myself feeling sorry for her. She knew that wasn't the case.
"You're plain and boring. You don't have what it takes to be a part of his world." She tried again.
I took one last glance in the mirror before turning around to face her. From the very beginning I had felt inferior to Tanya, but in that moment I had never felt more secure in my relationship with Edward. It was always just the two of us when we were together and I knew that he felt something strong for me, otherwise I wouldn't still be there.
"Have a good night, Tanya." I made my way toward the main area of our hotel suite and sat down on one of the couches. Part of me wanted to say something back to her, but I knew what Edward and I had and I didn't need to prove it to her or anyone else.
She glared at me for a moment before huffing and storming off to her room.
I slipped a warm coat on over my dress along with a scarf, gloves and a hat.
Edward picked me up not that long after and I happily greeted him at the door. I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him slowly. The groan that escaped his mouth as our tongues glided together made me shiver and a warmth settled in my belly. His arms tightened around my waist and he pressed me closer to his body. It was a little awkward with both of our coats in the way, but neither of us really seemed to be bothered by it.
"Mmm." He pulled his mouth away from mine, panting. "That was a nice greeting."
I blushed and looked up at him through my lashes.
He leaned down and pressed his mouth to mine again, taking my bottom lip between his and sucking on it teasingly. When he finally pulled away we were both breathing heavier. "Are you ready?" he asked huskily.
A nod was the only coherent response I could manage.
We made our way out of the hotel and were met by a driver out front. Edward helped me in first before sliding in after me. The driver took off down the street.
"Do you and your parents come to London often?" I lay my head down on Edward's shoulder, breathing in his pleasant scent.
"Not until I was a teenager. They wanted to give us a chance to settle in to our new lives first." Edward kissed the top of my head. "Have you enjoyed our European excursion?"
At one point we all ended up travelling to Europe, spending a week in Ireland and France and even Italy. A chance of a lifetime. "Oh yes. It's my first time being able to do so. I never thought I'd be able to visit all of the places I've dreamt about."
"Well, I'm glad to have been able to give you the opportunity," he assured me. "What was your favorite?"
I couldn't pick just one, there were so many. "I don't know, it was all so amazing. The Louvre in Paris, Piccadilly Square, the Barcaccia Fountain. I loved it all." I sighed contentedly. "Although, I think The Eiffel Tower will probably always hold a special place in my heart now."
"For me, too." He hummed into my hair.
We'd gone on a tour of Paris for our one-on-one date and at the end of the evening Edward brought me to the Eiffel. It had been just fine until we reached the top and I realized too late that I had a fear of heights. Edward laughed when I buried my face into the crook of his neck and refused to look out. He eventually lifted my chin, coaxing me to look into his eyes before kissing me thoroughly.
By the time we'd parted I had completely forgotten to be afraid and just enjoyed the beauty of the city at night, wrapped securely in his arms.
His parents' cottage was set back in a wooded area, far enough back to block out the sounds of traffic. It was bigger than I had been expecting with orange blossoms planted along the front path, peeking out through the snow. The car pulled up to the front door and we exited quietly. My jaw dropped as I took in the picturesque feel of the place.
Edward grinned. "I love this place."
"Come on." Edward's head rested on the small of my back as he guided me to the front door. He rang the doorbell and we waited for someone to answer.
When the door opened, a beautiful older woman stood on the other side. I knew instantly that she was his mother. She was a little taller than me with caramel hair that was pulled back in a simple twist. There were streaks of gray in her hair that just seemed to fit her. Her eyes were a deep emerald like Edward's and brightened when she saw us.
"Come in, come in." She stepped back so that we could enter the house.
Edward and I took the time to pull off our coats, hats, and scarves once the door was closed and his mother patiently waited. Once our coats were hung up in the hall closet, Edward turned his mom with a knowing smirk on his face and his hand at the small of my back. "Mom, you look lovely this evening."
Her eyes narrowed playfully at her son. "Why thank you, Edward. Now, introduce me to this beautiful young lady you have here." She bounced excitedly where she stood, reminding me of Alice in that moment, her eyes bright and her smile barely contained.
Chuckling, Edward glanced down at me quickly before he said, "Mom, I'd like you to meet Isabella Swan." He ran his hand along my back gently.
"It's lovely to meet you, Isabella." She stepped forward and pulled me into a hug.
"It's so nice to meet you as well, Mrs. Cullen. And please, call me Bella." I felt my cheeks heat up when she released me.
"As long as you call me Esme, dear," she insisted.
"That's something I can do, Esme," I assured her.
She grinned. "Wonderful. Now, both of you, follow me. I have to make sure that your father hasn't cut off a finger in my absence."
Edward took my hand in his and chuckled under his breath as we followed Esme into the kitchen. "My father is a skilled surgeon in the states, but give him a cutting board and a knife and he loses all hand eye coordination. It's rather humorous."
Once we reached the kitchen, I stopped short at the delicious smell wafting through the air. It wasn't something I would have expected after all of the rumors I'd heard about English cooking. Edward's father stood at the counter space in the middle of the room and was chopping very carefully. His blond hair fell in front of his eyes as he concentrated on the task before him.
"Carlisle, our son is here." Esme went over to her husband and kissed him on the cheek. They shared a look between them that held so much love and adoration, it made my heart strings tug. "And this is Bella."
Carlisle put the knife he had been using down and turned his attention to both of us. He wiped his hands on the apron he wore and smiled brightly at Edward before pulling him into a hug. "Good evening, son." They broke apart and Carlisle turned to me. "And Bella, what a pleasure." He took my hand in his and placed a kiss on my knuckles.
I blushed. "It's nice to meet you, Mr. Cullen."
"Please, call me Carlisle."
"Of course, Carlisle."
Edward motioned to the counter where his father had been working. "It looks like your kitchen skills are improving. I'm impressed."
Carlisle just shook his head and went back to his task. "Scoff all you like, Edward. But, which one of us has a beautiful wife who happily takes care of those things? Hmm?" he teased.
"That won't be an issue too much longer," I blurted out, immediately feeling embarrassed.
Edward wrapped his arm around my waist and kissed the top of my head. "That's right, sweetheart," he said so that only I could hear. His warm breath tickled my skin as he spoke. "And which one of us has spent three months travelling around the world and falling in love, father?" He squeezed my side in emphasis, a silent gesture meant just for me.
I chewed on my lower lip, doing my best to hide the smile that wanted to force its way to the surface.
"Touché, son." Carlisle handed the cutting board to Esme.
"All right boys, how about you help me finish this up so we can sit down to dinner," Esme said.
She gave each of us tasks, and I gladly joined in. We worked easily together, Edward "accidently" bumping into me when he moved to the stove or to rinse his hands in the sink. I turned the tables around on him the last time he rubbed up against me. His parents just left the kitchen to bring the rest of the food into the dining room and I turned around to whisper something in his ear.
The moment my lips grazed his ear and I began to whisper, he froze in place. I let my hands rest on his chest and watched his Adam's apple bob up and down when he swallowed. Edward's hands gripped my sides when I finished, a soft groan escaping his lips.
"Isabella, you do not fight fair," he growled.
"Never said that I would." I smiled up at him, looking up at him through my lashes.
He shook his head and leaned down to kiss me. I could barely think coherently enough to respond as his lips brushed over mine, his teeth nibbling on lip and his tongue glided over mine when he deepened the kiss.
Edward's forehead rested against mine as we both struggled to calm our racing hearts and breaths. He eventually groaned deep in his chest before stepping back and putting some distance between us.
"You are a very dangerous creature." He shook his head and kissed me on the forehead.
We made our way to the dining room and joined his parents at the table. They were so sweet and fun to be around. I loved how at ease they were with each other and how easily they could tease one another. For a brief window of time, I felt like a member of the family, and it was nice.
Carlisle and Esme were so kind and easy to talk to, I completely forgot to be nervous around them. Even when I offered to help them clean up after dinner and they insisted it wasn't necessary, I waved them off. It wasn't that I felt like I had to, but that I wanted to do something nice for them after they had graciously opened their home to us for the evening.
When it was time for us to leave, his parents walked with us to the front door and waited as we pulled on our coats and scarves. Esme pulled me into a hug first. "We haven't seen our son this happy in a long time. Thank you for doing this and coming into his life."
I didn't know what to say. So when she released me I just nodded.
And then Carlisle kissed my cheek in farewell and we wished them a goodnight.
Edward pulled me into his side once we were in the limo to help keep me warm. "You were perfect tonight, sweetheart. My parents absolutely adored you." He nuzzled his face against my neck.
"The feeling is mutual. I loved getting to know them." I sighed.
His secure embrace was warm and comforting as we snuggled together. I never wanted to leave the safety of his arms. Every few minutes he'd press his lips against the column of my neck, nibbling or licking the sensitive area in a teasing manor. I knew it was his payback for my words earlier that evening.
Neither of us wanted to let go when we reached the hotel. Our night had been magical and parting ways seemed just too much to bear.
So Edward walked me back to my room and held me close once we reached the door. His lips were eager against mine and his hands planted firmly on my hips. I could barely breathe, let alone think and things would escalate if we didn't put a stop to them soon. He was not playing by the rules.
With an extraordinary amount of effort I pushed on his chest. Edward groaned, but stopped kissing me. Our breaths mingled together as we panted and struggled to gather our composure. "I don't want to say goodnight to you."
My heart skipped a bit and my skin tingled at his words. "I know, Edward. I don't either."
He rested his chin on top of my head and let out a defeated sigh. "Tomorrow I have to make my decision. And it won't be easy."
I buried my face into his chest and breathed him in. "Follow your heart, Edward. Make the decision that's right for you." Part of me wanted to scream at him to pick me, but I wasn't going to do that. This wasn't something to be taken lightly and I didn't want to force his hand. In the end it was up to Edward and his belief in the strong connection he'd made with one of us, whether or not he could see making a life with me or Tanya.
Edward lifted my chin so that our eyes met and I nearly gasped at the awe and adoration that shown back at me. "You are amazing," he murmured before pressing his lips to mine in one last chaste kiss. He let me go and stepped back so that I could go into the room.
"Goodnight," I whispered.
The following day was quite possibly the most difficult one I'd had since starting The Bachelor. I had put on a brave front for Edward when we'd parted, but my stomach had become a tumultuous haven for the butterflies that had taken residence since we'd reached my door. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that I loved Edward. We'd only spent a few months together, but in that time he'd managed to sweep me off of my feet.
What had me so nervous was wondering if he honestly felt the same way. I wanted to believe that he did, especially after our goodnights, but there was always the possibility that he didn't feel as strongly as I did.
I couldn't believe that though. Every moment we spent together seemed to bring us closer and closer together. Our kisses were filled with so much passion and longing. The way he held me was always laced with the promise for more.
For the first time since Jacob had broken my heart I opened my heart to someone else, and I just had to trust that he felt the same way.
So, throughout the day I did everything that I could to avoid running into Tanya. I knew that she would only dampen my mood. Instead I went down to the hotel's indoor swimming pool and swam a few laps. Then I went shopping for the right pair of shoes to go with the dress I had been saving for our final night.
Alice even called to wish me luck and give me a pep talk before I started getting ready.
I soaked in a warm bubble bath in the Jacuzzi tub to calm my nerves. Once I was out and dried off I rubbed on a sweet smelling lotion that Edward always seemed to like on me before working on my hair and makeup.
By the time I had finished I hardly recognized myself and new that Alice would have been proud. I slipped into the strapless, cream and gold dress I'd purchased in Venice and worked the zipper up. The bodice was a corset style with cream lace and gold silk underneath. The skirt of the dress was layers of tulle that reached my calves. I added a pair of golden spiked heels and a necklace with a teardrop diamond that Charlie had given me when I graduated from college.
There was an SUV waiting for me at the front of the hotel. I fidgeted nervously in the backseat, playing with the buttons on my coat until we reached my destination. I left my winter things with the butler before making my way inside.
From what I could tell it was a beautiful restaurant. The building had been around for quite some time and had been refurbished. I felt like I was in a grand ballroom as I took the stairs down to the main dining room.
Edward stood near the back of the room in front of the fire place. He looked so handsome in his black Gucci suit and his hair a perfect mess. A layer of scruff was on his cheeks that I loved, it made him look slightly rugged and manly. He smiled my favorite crooked smile as I neared him and my heart began to race.
I finally reached him after doing my best not to trip, and blushed at the intensity of his stare.
"You look stunning," Edward said.
"Thank you." I blushed. "You look incredibly handsome."
He chuckled and finally took my hands in his.
Tingles and electricity broke out across my skin at his touch and I gasped softly.
"You know why we're here tonight," he finally said, taking a moment to lick his lips. "I don't think that I ever really needed to think about my decision. For quite some time I've known who I wanted to have with me in the end. But, I had to be sure that she felt the same way and that she was ready.
"And these past couple of weeks really proved that to me." Edward's smile widened as he spoke, taking my breath away. "Bella, you captured my interest from the moment you fell into my arms. And I know you had some trouble opening up to me at first, but once you did I feel like I really got to see you. You are this incredibly warm and loving person and I feel so lucky to have met you. I fell in love with you, Bella."
I felt a tear slide down my cheek at his words, amazed at how he saw me.
"There isn't a single doubt in my mind that this is the right decision for me. So." He reached into his suit pocket and pulled something out before bending down on one knee. "Isabella Marie Swan, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?" He opened his hand and resting in the palm of it was a beautiful engagement ring. It was a platinum band with a diamond in the center as well as diamonds along the band.
More tears poured down my cheeks as his words sunk in.
He loved me.
He really loved me.
He wanted to marry me.
Unable to form any words, I managed to nod my head, beaming through my tears.
I covered my mouth as a cry of pure joy try to escape and nodded again. "Yes," I whispered.
Edward's smile was blinding as he slid the ring onto my finger and scooped me up into his arms. He kissed me deeply and spun me around the room in his excitement. "I love you," he murmured when he finally set me back on my feet.
"I love you, too."
So, yeah, this isn't a typical story from me, but I just needed to write something light and fluffy. I hope that everyone enjoyed it! And a very happy belated birthday to my partner in crime kyla713.
For everyone that reads FTLOK, I am working on the next chapter. It's just taking a while.