Hello, lovers. Here's a quick update. This bad boy was way harder to write than normal so forgive the short length. I'm just trying to continue weaseling my way into the Land of the Forbidden *wink wink* Anyway, thank you all for your support and love of these guys. I can't express how much it all means to me. Anddd we continue! Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight but everything else is mine. Including the phone I dropped into a pee-filled public toilet this afternoon. Yeah. It happened.

"What's a Redbox?"

Please tell me he was kidding. Please, oh, please tell me he was kidding.

I made an incredulous noise deep in my throat at his question—or hopefully it was a joke. I really wasn't sure as sad as that was because didn't everyone know what a miracle Redbox was? The noise was like a mix of a choke and a cough that sputtered out in Mr. Cullen's general direction.

Fortunately, Jasper was rolling his eyes at what his friend had just said. "He's joking, Bella," he assured me.

Yeah, I wasn't entirely convinced that the individual who still thought Jersey Shore was just a place, knew all about renting a movie for around a dollar.

"You do know what it is then?" I asked him carefully as we stood outside the hotel lobby, waiting for our cars.

Well, that was the thing. We were waiting for my car and Jasper's. Mr. Cullen had apparently caught a ride in a limo and was just going to ride along with one of us. At least that's what I figured.

Those dark green eyes flicked over in my direction, that infamous tiny little half smile on his lips. He lifted up a single, tuxedo clad shoulder. "I have rented a from there a few times. I'm not that out of it."

Uh, yeah, he usually was, but I'd be lying if I said that his little joke didn't make me snort. I looked over at Jas and shook my head. "You never know."

My old truck rolled up at that moment, the valet quickly shuffling around the hood to give me my keys.

"So what are we doing?" I asked the trio.

"We'll can stop by Rally's if you go rent a movie," the blonde instructed. "We'll meet up at my house."

I nodded and swung my eyes over to the odd duckling standing there by himself. Could I just leave him by himself to be the awkward third wheel? Apparently, no. "Do you, uh, want to ride with me?"

He didn't even hesitate to nod.

All right. I wiggled my fingers at Jasper and Alice. "See you in a minute then."

"Don't rent anything scary!" Alice suggested before I jumped into the driver-side door.

I gave her a thumbs up after buckling in and watching Mr. Cullen do the same. I'm sure we both looked strange in our formal wear, getting into a vehicle that was almost older than I was. But he didn't say anything about how worn down my car was. The guy had probably never been in anything so hoopty, but to be fair, he didn't looked fazed by the creaky passenger door at all.

"Will you look and see where the nearest Redbox is?" I asked my boss right after putting the car into drive.

"Okay," he agreed in a less than enthusiastic voice. Not that he was going to be a member of any pep-squad ever, but still. His sudden solidarity just felt strange. Hadn't we pretty much gotten past this weird tension?

I kept driving in the direction of Jasper's house, listening to Mr. Cullen give me directions on how to get to a nearby drugstore. We got out of the car and waited for a customer already tapping away at the screen.

"Any requests?"

He shrugged again, looking at the miniature movie posters that were mounted between the two Redbox machines. "I think Jasper wanted to watch that." He pointed at the image of Flight.

"That's fine," I shrugged, taking in his stiff posture.

There was something about him that suddenly just seemed off.

It wasn't any of my business but I asked anyway. "Are you all right?"

He didn't even bother glancing over. "I'm fine."

Liar. "You're sure?"

I think he was about to answer but the lady at the machine finished and we spent the next thirty seconds, trying to find the DVD. The next minute after that was an awkward dance of both of us wanting to pay for the movie, that ended in Mr. Cullen swiping his card before I got a chance to block him. Silently, we got back into my truck and started the trip back over to the Whitlock's.

And... it was strange. And awkward with the tense silence.

All of a sudden, he sighed way too loudly, but I was facing forward and couldn't see his facial expressions in the dark cab. "The Walters were at the gala."

The Walters?

He must have realized that I had no idea what the hell he was talking about because he sighed again. "Kate's parents."

How the hell could I have forgotten about old Mrs. Cope. Legally Mrs. Cope-Walters because the old broad had gotten remarried so late in life she'd kept her old last name.

"What?" Seriously?

He was so serious I think he scoffed. "Yes, Isabella."

What the hell was wrong with them? "Why? That's so... ballsy."

Mr. Cullen huffed. "They had no right. My mother wasn't even sure how they got an invitation."

"Wow." I mean, just wow. I'd probably be in a shitty ass mood too if I'd seen the supporters of a psychopath that had tried to crap on my life. "Did they say anything to you?" I asked before I even realized how territorial and protective I'd gotten in the blink of an eye.

"No. Just seeing them was enough."

"I bet." Something ticked at me. "Don't you have a, err—restraining order against..." I let that one trail off.

"Yes," he answered steadily. For a moment, he didn't say anything else. "I filed for it after the incident at the office."

The incident. Riiiight. When a good chunk of the finer things in his office had experienced a sudden and brutal death. Before shit had hit the fan at the hotel.

I sucked in a little breath. "I didn't know." But he had to be aware of that.

"I know that I never really explained to you what was going on back then," he said in a low voice. "She'd been so unstable."

Understatement? I think so.

The next thing to come out of his mouth was like a bomb. "Kate had told me she was pregnant a few days before she'd shown up on the trip."

Say what?

It wasn't my position to ask but I did anyway. "She was?"

I heard him snicker before he laughed almost bitterly. "No. At least I knew she wasn't pregnant with my child. We hadn't—," thankfully he cut himself off. "That's why I didn't try and pry her off of you, Bella. With the restraining order and the way she'd been acting before that, trying to get back into my life... I was just thrown off. She'd been a completely different person for the first half of our relationship—it was just hard to accept that I'd gotten to know the wrong side."

He paused for a moment, letting me absorb the atomic and hydrogen bombs he'd just dropped on me.

"I know hearing me say that I'm sorry doesn't make up for what happened, for what I didn't do, but I hope you know how much I regret it. I'd like to think I'd handle things a lot differently if they happened now."

The reminder of what had happened, of how pissed off I'd been back then...


It would've been nice to have heard his explanation months ago. Then again, all the other small reminders of the things I'd learned from him over the course of the period afterward—where we'd come to a rocky truce of sorts—also flooded my brain. Atlanta, his kindness, his desire for a level-headed person in his life, his effort, my scholarship among other tiny fragments that constituted his pastel-colored actions.

Mr. Cullen wasn't exactly the same man he'd been back then, so even if he had told me about his crazy ass, pretending-to-be-pregnant ex-fiance, I would have just flushed his explanation down the toilet more than likely. I wouldn't have known him well enough to understand the sincerity he displayed now. And maybe, just maybe, this fragile friendship of ours wouldn't have had a basis. We'd probably be all business with each other. I guess.

I must have been thinking about it too long because he cleared his throat. "I hope that you'll forgive me at some point."

And that was the thing. He'd already earned my forgiveness, hadn't he?

"It's okay," I exhaled. "Not that I didn't want to kick you in the face back then but that makes a lot of sense now." A part of me expected that my common sense would kick in and tell me to tell him his excuses were meaningless, but they weren't. I really did just feel... over it. Completely over it.

"I remember worrying you were going to try and hurt me."

When I glanced at him after stopping at the red light, I caught him looking out the window with a smile on his face. "You kind of deserved it, Mr. Cullen," I said before even thinking about it.

He coughed, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye, looking so out of place with his nervous smile and fine clothing. "I think it's acceptable for you to call me Edward when we aren't in the office from now on."

His suggestion kicked me in the ass. I'd never heard anyone besides his parents, Jasper, and Alice call him by his first name. I almost wanted to test it out but it just felt too... I didn't know how to explain it.

"Okay," and like an clumsy little beaver, I tried it out. "Edward."

I didn't have the balls to look at his face as I said it. It was like being a kid and learning that your principal had a first name instead of just a last one.

Forty minutes later, with a half-melted vanilla shake and a bag of soggy fries on the floor between Edward and I, with Flight playing on the flat screen television, I kind of just blurted out random words in a whisper-hiss. I wasn't sure why I did it, and hours later I wouldn't let myself dwell on what I said. On the permission I gave him in return for him giving me his. "You're the only person that doesn't call me Bella."

Just a couple of things, I swear.

Uno) To Destroy was nominated for Fic of the Week over at TLS again. Wheeeee! I consider it a win that we've been nominated so much. So... someone rig it, so we can win it and put the kind people who continue to nominate TD out of their misery. Kidding. (Not really.) Check out the other good recs on there: www dot tehlemonadestand dot net

Dos) For those of you who had signed up for my mailing list waaaaaaay back when (August to be exact), I've lost all your email addresses. I had to switch companies, and then I couldn't export the addresses, blah, blah, blah. So if you're interested in getting notifications on my original stuff, like teasers and release dates—no spam, no crap—SIGN UP AGAIN por favor. You can do that here: eepurl dot com slash w0O0b (If this doesn't work, you can go to my blog and do it there: www dot marianazapata dot com)

Okay, that's it :) xo -M

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