When Bella Swan moves to London to escape her painful and humiliating past her new life is knocked off its axis by her charismatic and ambitious boss, Edward Cullen. Can Eddie unravel Bella's secrets and get what he wants without revealing his own demons...and his heart? AH. Britishward. Rated M for language and lemons.
Disclaimer - Twilight belongs to the fantastic Stephenie Meyer, I just like to meddle with her characters.
A/N - This my first attempt at a Twilight fic. For American readers, I am British and therefore please expect various spelling discrepancies.
Massive thank you to my beta, Trip, for all her amazing work.
Thanks for reading! :)
During ancient times villagers armed with pitchforks and fire drove suspected witches out of their small towns. It turns out all it takes in 21st century rural Washington is vicious gossip and dirty looks. Six months ago I left Forks and vowed that only a natural disaster or a death could pull me back. I just didn't expect the latter to happen so quickly. And now I'm returning for the second time in as many weeks.
My old truck rumbles towards my destination and I marvel at how it has made the journey from Seattle once again unscathed. After all, I don't have my own personal mechanic at home anymore.
The Welcome to Forks sign catches my eye and I almost laugh at just how unwelcome it makes me feel. Population 3120, it proclaims, but all that means to me is 3120 people who all know my deepest secret. Three thousand one hundred and twenty people whose eyes seem unable to break away from the back of my head, whose whispered insults reach my ears in stereo and whose disdain at my 'abandoning' their Golden Boy I can almost taste on my tongue; 3120 people who know I'm a freak.
Freak or not, they were never going to keep me from my father's funeral. Mrs Cope, my father's oldest neighbour, told me in an accusatory manner that Charlie had died from a broken heart. What sort of girl ups and leaves her father all alone? I suppose the same sort of girl who leaves her husband too. The sort of girl who had a secret her father couldn't protect her from.
The best part about Charlie's funeral, if such a thing can have a silver lining, is that I was in such a haze of shock that the burning eyes and whispered gossip were mostly unable to penetrate. I stood silently in church, surrounded by the townsfolk and their metaphorical pitchforks, but all I could think about was my father. Everything he was and everything he had taught me. I had to concentrate so much energy on not collapsing into the gaping hole in my chest that I barely even noticed when Jake entered the church. But I felt his eyes, they pierced against my invisible barrier more sharply than the others, but I kept my eyes front and centre and my hands clasped tightly in my lap.
Later, when I was kneeling alone beside the wet earth of Charlie's fresh grave, he crept up beside me. The hope that my father's funeral would be enough to discourage him from coming near me had clearly been futile.
"You ran away," his gruff voice accused.
Well of course I did. It would take the strongest and bravest of people to stay in this town after what had happened between us, what everyone knew had happened, and I was definitely neither strong nor brave.
"I'm speaking to you." Anger crept into his voice and he grabbed my shoulder to turn me towards him, frustrated at my silence. His touch sent a shudder through me.
"What did you expect, Jake?" my voice was small and pathetic. Well, if the shoe fits.
His giant form towered above me and his eyes were as dark as the Washington sky above, with just the hint of an incoming storm.
"I expect my wife to HONOUR me!" he growled and it was suddenly as if the last six months hadn't even happened. I was still as small and frightened and pathetic as I always had been. "I don't expect my wife to run the fuck away!"
I could feel tears prickling behind my eyes and I gritted my teeth to stop them from falling. You owe him nothing. You have nothing to feel guilty about. My mantra for the last six months now felt uncomfortable inside my mind.
He glared and I cowered. His unsteady stance and dilated pupils told me he had been drinking. Yet still the need to apologise crept up from my chest, the recurrence of a common pattern, and it took all my strength to swallow it down.
"Jake," I attempted to keep a steady voice. "You told everyone. How could I stay here? How could I live with them all knowing?"
"How do you think I fucking feel?" he exploded, stumbling a little, just as the first bolt of lightening shot across the blackening sky. "The whole fucking town knows that my wife isn't -, that she -, that we can't -" his struggle to find the words was punctuated by blasts of thunder. The perpetual Forks rain began to pour down, making my itchy black dress stick to my skin and turning my father's grave to mud.
Suddenly, the real reason for today floods back to me. Charlie is dead. I am burying my father and Jake has dared to bring this up instead. Grappling with the softening earth, I stumbled to my feet and met Jake's stormy gaze. Water ran across his black hair and strong features, I once thought him handsome but now he only made my heart race in fear.
"This is my father's funeral, Jake. LEAVE ME ALONE."
He looked momentarily stunned that I had stood up to him at all but soon recovered his glare.
"I have a right to speak to my wife."
"Maybe, Jake, but didn't you get my letter? I am not your wife anymore. You are nothing. We are nothing."
I turned and quickly walked away, tripping on my unfamiliar high heels. The wind carried his voice after me.
"Fucking running away again?" he screamed.
I turned back one last time.
"Yes I am. And now Charlie is gone I am never coming back."
I couldn't see his expression or hear if he responded but I ran out of the graveyard muttering one word over and over against the wind; "Never."
Of course real life isn't as simple as that. You can't just vow to leave a place and cut all ties like in a book or movie. There are legalities: properties to sell, contracts to sign, belongings to collect and keys to return. Running from a funeral isn't quite as dramatic when the realtor calls you a few days later to say she is sending you papers to sign and return.
This time though, I am returning for the very last time, for real. With my father gone there is literally nothing to tie me to Forks and that knowledge gave me the courage to make this final trip. The real estate agent called yesterday to say the auction was a success, a buyer had been found, and I had two weeks to clear out a lifetime of Charlie's belongings. Like the witches before me, I was operating at night in an attempt to be stealthy, I could go a lifetime without another run in with Jacob Black.
As I drive into Forks, passing the diner and Newton's, pulling onto the drive of the small house that has been my home my entire life, my headlamps are the only source of light to push against the shadows from the canopy of trees and surrounding woods. But still I feel exposed. If I could hide out in the forest I would. Perhaps forever.
I let myself inside for the last time and the smell of home, of Charlie, invades my senses. I stifle a wave of panic and tears, and prop open the door while I drag the empty crates and boxes in from the truck.
Five hours later, physically and emotionally exhausted, I load the last box into the truck and glance around my childhood home for the final time. I pray that the people who live here next are not forced to flee in the middle of the night.
I drive quickly to my realtor's office and drop the keys and my signed contract through the mailbox as silently as possible. Hurrying back to my truck I catch sight of my reflection in the office window and almost gasp, barely recognising myself. Dark hair in wild disarray, bones too defined from lack of food, grey circles beneath my eyes. I feel hysterical laughter forcing its way to the surface - I really am a witch.
The moment I cross into the city I feel better, calmer. Seattle is so busy and full that one small girl with a secret, a sickness, can easily stay hidden. Light, warmth and a delicious smell drift out from my apartment and I smile. Emmett. I gave him a key for emergencies only but I guess I can't complain about him welcoming me home with dinner.
I let myself inside and he turns toward me, making me laugh to see his enormous bear of a body clad in the daintiest of frilly aprons. He grins his little boy dimples at me and I can't help but grin back. Emmett is my closest friend, my only friend these days, and his heart is light enough for the both of us.
"Hey Bells!" he comes over and grabs me in a headlock that turns into a hug. I'm so relieved to be home and to see a friendly face that I feel like I might burst into tears. "You got boxes and shit in the truck?" he continues. I nod still not trusting my voice and we both go down to the parking lot to bring up my old stuff and my father's special belongings that I couldn't bear to give or throw away.
Back inside, Emmett hands me a glass of wine and begins piling two plates with Mama McCartney's meatballs. We collapse on the sofa with bowls of steaming food and he casts a concerned eye over me. Emmett's meatballs are my favourite dinner but I can barely force down a bite, my mind is too full of Charlie and Jake and Forks; and the secret that I can never leave behind.
"You've gotta eat, Bella," Emmett smiles softly. "You're getting skinnier by the day".
I sigh and force a few bites. He's right.
While we eat I stay quiet and Emmett fills the silence by bitching about the Mariners and gossip from his office (he is a Sport Correspondent for The Seattle Times). He knows exactly when to talk and let me just wallow in silence, he's kind of awesome like that.
I'm on borrowed time though because I know he is worried about me. He clears out the dishes and sits back down next to me.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asks gently, blue eyes softening.
I take a deep breath. "There isn't much to tell. I snuck in like a fucking criminal. I sorted my dad's stuff, dropped off the paperwork and got the hell out of there."
"Did you see anyone? Jake?"
I shake my head.
"Well that's something at least" Emmett pulls me into his side for a hug. "I still wish you had let me come with you though".
"I had to do it alone, Em." I look up at him and smile gratefully. "But thanks. You're a good friend to me".
He smiles sadly. "Good enough for you to stay?"
Tears prick my eyes. Emmett is literally all I have left here. He is the only possible reason I would have to stay in Seattle, to stay in this country even. But much as I love him, he is nowhere near enough.
I thought running from Forks would be enough for a fresh start and for a while it was. For the last six months I've tried to build a life. I started a new job, filled a new apartment with my things; I have even been on two dates under Emmett's encouragement. But I can't escape the dark thoughts that plague my sleep and panic me awake in the middle of the night. I can't stop thinking about the futility of the future, the hopelessness of dating. Why would any man want some broken girl? Emmett has encouraged me to talk to a professional but I refuse. It's not like it helped the last time.
Last week I noticed a posting on our internal bulletin board. A PA is required in the London branch of my company - Volturi Executive Search and Selection. It's a six-month secondment, and they are even including a Central London apartment. I barely considered it at first, the old me would have been much too shy and small-town to attempt a life abroad. But losing Charlie and my run-in with Jake reminded me of everything that happened back home and my need to get further away has only grown stronger.
I squeeze Emmett's hand and smile apologetically. "You know I have to go, Emmett."
I'm not an idiot - I know something as simple and straightforward as geography will not fix what is broken inside me, but I want to try. I have to really, my options have run out.
A/N - I promise the whole story will not be as angst-filled! I hope you enjoyed it and would love to hear your thoughts.
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Thanks, A x