A/N: Hello darlings *waves* Yes, I know this should have been up a few days ago :( Sorry for the mini delay! Life got in the way, as usual, and I am dealing with a nasty cold, again, *sigh* I have lost count how many colds I have gotten over the past few months, grr! Anyhow, thanks for being patient. I promise this chapter is worth the small wait, at least I think so :) Okay, quickly I want to just give out the usual thank you's! Thanks for reading, reviewing, adding this fic to your fav's, story alert, etc. It means the world to me :) I really appreciate that most of you are still sticking around! All right, onward with the reading, chat more at the end!

***Disclaimer: All things Twilight are Stephenie Meyer's! But I thank her kindly for letting me play with her characters to present all of you this tale ;)

Story Warning: This story contains a sensitive subject, has references of rape, alcohol, strong language and sexual situations. This is also a drama, not too angsty, romance story. I must warn once again if any of these themes may make you uncomfortable, you probably shouldn't continue reading! This fic is also rated M for a reason!

***My beta is the super-awesome Serenshadow, who stayed up super late to beta an added scene to this chap! Thank you for all you do bb, I am so grateful for your beta magic, and friendship!

Chapter 9: Conversations and First Kiss

What the hell am I doing?

Not only are we cutting classes, but once again Edward plans on taking me to some unknown location. That doesn't settle well with me, given what happened on Saturday.

Yes, but don't forget he did apologize for everything regarding that afternoon, and you accepted. So just move on already!

I like to, I mean a part of me has, however...

A light groaning sound emitted from the leather seat, as Edward shifted on it, trained me back to the present. I turned my head to face him when he spoke. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

He was teasing me, his expression clearly gives it away!

I inhaled sharply and glared at him skeptically. "Is that a trick question? You're seriously asking me if I want to go with you to another undisclosed location? Well, to be honest...I'm not sure."

My heart almost ripped in two when I noticed the hurt and guilt ridden look on Edward's face. Perhaps I could have worded things differently.

No, you said it just fine. You were being honest and reminded him that all isn't forgotten just yet.

Edward swallowed and nodded in understanding. "Bella, I respect and understand your hesitation. But you need to...I want you to trust me."

His eyes fixed on my face, studying my reaction as he waited for my answer. Dammit, when he looks at me with those eyes of his, it's very difficult to think! I lowered my eyes, stared down at my lap and mulled over his previous words. Trust. Trust. He wants me to trust him? I don't trust anyone, not since the nightmare I went through from living with Renee. She ruined my belief for the word, for the act. Just like she, and her fucking scumbag she allowed in her home, ruined me. Long ago I used to trust people. I trusted her, Charlie, even Angela for a short while and then...

Well, I'm not sure if I'm capable of doing so anymore. A small part of me longed to give it a shot. However, my fears were going to causing a problem, as they do every time.

"Trust has to be earned, Edward."

He sighed, his tone solemn and the leather seat groaned again as Edward leaned across. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted his face was inches apart from mine. His warm breath covered my skin and his enticing scent occupied my nostrils. I breathed in and closed my eyes; God does he make my head spin!

"Then give me a chance to earn it." Edward pointed out in husky, sincere voice.

I want to trust him, fully trust him. But, I'm only about half way there, which is ridiculous considering all he has done for me thus far. Nonetheless, he made a valid point, damn him!

"Bella," he murmured, his velvet voice causing shivers to travel up my spine.

He always has this way of effecting me. So much so I agreed to join him on a trip to another secret location. I better not regret this!

"Bella, please, look at me."

I took a deep breath, opened my eyes and locked them dead on his. I could gaze into those sea of greens all day. They're so pretty, and even his long and thick eyelashes are a sight to behold.

"Like I said, this place is better seen than if I were to just tell you what it is."

My expression must have revealed my skepticism because Edward smiled reassuringly. "I promise this will be nothing like what happened on Saturday."

I nodded my head, half smiled in response and Edward stretched out his hand, placing his thumb against my cheek. He rubbed my skin gently and a remorseful look crossed his face. "I'll always regret letting you down that day...allow me to make it up to you."

Guilt attacked my chest as his declaration sank in. I felt like a jerk because Edward saw the need to apologize yet again. Thanks to my pushing him away numerous times, thanks to my issues with trusting others and thanks to my anger. My reaction to him that day in La Push, and the following day after, undoubtedly left a mark on him.

"Edward, you don't have to keep apologiz-"

"I know, but I want to. So..." Edward exhaled, suddenly anxious. "What do you say? Take a chance and trust me, even a little. Or we can head back to campus and indulge ourselves by listening to a glorious lecture about the excitement of chemistry."

Edward's mouth split into a wide grin and it was contagious as I found myself smiling right back. Oh he's good, and he knows it! Cullen just had to remind me about the other class we have together. Good old chemistry. I loathe the class and it's teacher, Mr. Rivera, more than geezer Berty. This is a no brainer. Truthfully, I rather take a chance with Edward and go with him anywhere than waste my life sitting in Rivera's lame ass class.

"Fine, you win." I sighed in defeat, and to my dismay Edward removed his hand off cheek.

The loss of contact I felt deep within my heart and I longed for his touch again.

Christ Swan, you're pathetic! Get it through your head once and for all that Edward is only interested in being friends, nothing more. Friends...Do friends' touch the others cheek on more than one occasion? Or stare in the other's eyes with such intensity and emotion? I know the answers to those questions in my heart, but accepting them as truth is a whole other thing.

"Let's go Cullen, before I change my mind." I muttered teasingly and folded my arms against my chest, mock pouting for show.

Edward merely laughed and started backing the car out of the parking space. My stomach then flipped and a bundle of nerves invaded my insides. The not knowing bothered me, so I repeated Edward's assurances in my head and braced myself for what was ahead.


The ride has been relatively quiet; thankfully not the uncomfortable kind. I discreetly observed Edward while he drove and admired his impressive driving skills. Hell, I'll admit the guy looks sexy behind the wheel. A few times we exchanged glances and other times we both attempted to break the ice, only to stop ourselves short. Before long the comfortable silence turned into an awkward one, so I was grateful when Edward switched the radio on. One of my favorite songs blasted through the speakers and I bobbed my head to the rhythm, singing under my breath. I was completely floored when Edward joined in, singing along as well, in a pretty damn awesome voice may I add. He just gave me another reason to like him a little more.

Edward turning the radio on was the perfect ice-breaker. We struck up a conversation easily, beginning with sharing our preferences in music, which were amazingly similar. Then we continued on by chatting about our favorite books, movies, and of course added in our dislikes too. The conversation never took a serious turn, which was a great relief. We didn't divulge about our home lives, our families, or even school. Just kept the discussion light and we even laughed a few times. I guess this is what having a friend is like. Has it been that long and I've truly forgotten? To be honest, hanging out with Edward, getting to know him, and sharing some general things about myself was...nice.

I didn't pay much attention to the scenery that we passed by. Or press Edward for clues, because in a way that wasn't important. I was distracted and the mystery regarding where he was taking me didn't cross my mind. I wonder if Cullen wanted me distracted on purpose. All of a sudden the conversation took a bit of a serious turn. Edward began talking about his brother, Emmett. All I know about Emmett Cullen is that he was the most popular guy at Forks High last school year and was on the football team. And he's also one of my brother's friends. Other than that, I know little about him.

However, Edward managed to change that in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, I learned the horrible things Tyler had said in Berty's class, about the Cullens, was indeed true. Edward didn't go into lengthy detail, but he did confirm that Alice's death deeply affected his family. He explained how close him and Emmett used to be and how they had spent a great deal of time together. Yet currently, the brothers are like acquaintances, merely keeping in touch through texts, a few phone calls and every other weekend visits. Emmett spends little time at the Cullen home, since he resides in Port Angeles during the week, where he attends college with his long time girlfriend Rosalie Hale.

I know little of Rosalie also, but I do remember she pretty much owned the school last year because of her popularity. Rosalie was well known for playing an active role in school. If memory serves me correct, she was the student body president, captain of the cheerleader squad, volleyball team, Spanish club and honor society President. You get the idea. Anyhow, according to Edward, she and Emmett are still going strong. And she is the reason Emmett remains strong and focused with his life. Edward admitted he's proud of his brother for staying in a right state of mine and not allowing the darkness to consume him.

Edward didn't say much else after that and I wondered if he's been in a dark place ever since his sister's death. If so, then I'm confused, because it appears Edward has his shit together. At least it's what I want to believe, though deep down I have this feeling he's anything but. When silence passed between us again, the urge to question Edward about his parents nagged at me. However, I ignored it and squashed the urge since the poor guy had already revealed quite enough about himself. Where as I hadn't shared a single personal thing about myself. I realize that isn't very fair and eventually the time will come where I should tell him about my past too.

But, the very thought frightens the hell out of me. So I reflected about the comfort I provided Edward during the last few minutes and how it surprisingly made me proud. It soothed my heart and eased my mind knowing Edward appreciated me for listening to his woes. Just as I suspected, he needed someone to listen to him and be there for him without judging him. I realize Edward wishes to do those very same things for me, but I'm not ready. I want this slow pace to continue for a while longer. Since this whole friendship deal is going to take time getting used to.

Baby steps Bella, baby steps.

"So," Edward said, breaking the silence, and side glanced in my direction. "You never finished telling me what happened this morning with Jessica and Lauren."

I didn't miss how he said Lauren's name like it was a cuss word. I really sensed the dislike he harbors towards her. A small part of me wonders if that's just an act for my benefit.

Ugh, there you go again! Do you always have to be so skeptical?

I sighed heavily and gazed out the window. I didn't want to discuss this, but damn Cullen just had to bring it up! I had a feeling he would, yet I had this tiny glimmer of hope that he forgotten about it.

"It's like I told you before, it's no big deal. They were just being their usual catty selves and it pissed me off. I'm over it and as you can see..." I gestured my hand up and down over my body for added effect. "no harm done."

Edward laughed bitterly and shook his head. "You're not fooling me Bella. Physically you may be fine, but emotionally-"

"All right Dr. Phil, I get it." I broke in, in an agitated voice. "Don't worry about my emotions, they are just fine."

"Are they?" Edward challenged, raising his eyebrow and glancing at me again.

Oh, he's beginning to grate on my nerves, just when things were nice between us! Can't the guy take a hint? Only seconds ago I made it clear that I didn't want to reveal the details of this morning. I tried to remain calm, but it was pointless and my irritation increased.

"What do you want me to say Edward?"

He exhaled; frustration and concern written on his face. "Why don't you start with the details about what happened, what they said, did..."

I snorted and rolled my eyes. "Listen, I honestly don't want to relive the bull-shit I went through with them, okay? Besides, why is it so important for you to know? Are you planning to talk to Lauren about it? Try and come to my defense? I appreciate it, but it's too late and I don't always need protecting."

I threw him a stern glare and Edward nodded, agreeing as his expression softened. "I'm sorry, it's just... the way they treat you angers me and I wish I had been there to help. As a matter of fact, yes, I wanted to defend you. But... I get that you don't want protecting."

"Right, I don't. Because I can take care of myself and stand up for myself, you know. Before you arrived earlier, I spat in Mike's face." Edward's immediate grin made my heart warm and he wore a proud expression.

"And if you hadn't shown up at all, or sometime later, then I would have kneed him on his nuts. Bastard deserves it." My cheeks flamed as anger seeped in my chest.

Just imagining what I could have done, stirs up several emotions. I wish I had the chance to knee Newton's balls, or punch his fucking ugly mug. But, I'm thankful Edward arrived when he did. I can't deny that a small part of me likes it when he comes to my aid.

"I couldn't agree with you more." Edward murmured in a dark tone and his jaw clenched while his eyes narrowed.

Suddenly his mood shifted and an amused expression etched on his face as he smiled widely. "I would be the first person in line to watch that."

The anger I had dissipated, and we both laughed hard at his comment. After we settled down, Edward said, "Bella, I'm so sorry you had to deal with Jessica and Lauren's crap this morning. I wish I was there to-"

"Help, I know." I interrupted, my voice gentle and low. "I appreciate it Edward, really. But Jasper found us and damn you should have seen it! The things he said to them, how he made those bitches shake in their hooker boots. He was..." I trailed off before my dumb ass said the word amazing.

Based on Edward's irritated look, I don't think that would have been the wisest thing to say.

"Great, he was, ah, great."

Seconds passed and the tension in the closed space was so thick it was past the point of awkward. I gazed intently at Edward's face, his eyes and then things made a whole bunch of sense. Cullen is jealous of Jasper!

"I'm sure he was." Edward muttered sourly under his breath and I shook my head in disbelief.

All right, that's it! I need to get to the bottom of what Edward and Jasper's problem is with the other. I am beyond curious about their history.

"Okay, spill Cullen, what's your deal with Jasper?"

Edward threw me a stare that read, "You should know". I shrugged my shoulders and a clueless expression creased my face.

Edward sighed, then his jaw clenched and his lips tightly pursed. "Besides the fact that he broke my sister's heart by lying to her on several occasions, abused narcotics, and cheated on her, nothing. I have no problem with him at all."

What, am I hearing things? It's impossible any of those shocking words tumbled out of Edward's mouth, right?

"Wait, hold up! Maybe I heard you wrong, or did I actually hear you say-"

"Oh you heard correctly, make no mistake." Edward cast a quick glance at me and settled his gaze back on the road ahead. "Jasper Whitlock isn't the guy you think he is, remember that."

I wanted to believe Edward, and a part of me does. Yet, for some reason, doubts were influencing my feelings also.

I pushed the negative thoughts aside and once again idiotically inserted my foot deep in my mouth. "Funny, Jasper pretty much said the same thing about you."

Dammit Bella, you take being stupid to a whole new level!

Edward shook his head and a furious expression etched on his face. "Oh, did he now? That's rich coming from him! Look Bella, I'm not trying to tell you what to do, or suggest who you should associate with. But please, try and stay away from him."

His advice, though thoughtful, rubbed me the wrong way and it also made zero sense. Wasn't Edward the one who asked Jasper to keep a close eye on me? Now he's asking me to steer clear of him? Is Edward advising this to be a good friend, or is it more about his dislike for Jasper? If any of what Cullen said about Jasper is true, then I'm more curious than ever to hear more of the story.

"I'll be fine Edward, stop worrying about me so much. Besides, correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't you the one who set out Jasper to keep an eye on me? Now you don't want me anywhere near him, what gives?" I asked in an amused voice, trying to ease the tension.

However, Edward wouldn't have it, his face displaying his concern and his eyes brimmed in anger.

"Bella, please. At least promise you will be careful and aware if you're around him again. And you are right, I did ask Jasper to keep an eye on you. But only because you refused to talk to me, or be around me."

Dammit, he had a point! I was the one who ignored him when he tried to speak to me this morning, and also refused to see him yesterday night. My heart dropped as the pleading look on Edward's face caught my eye. I'm growing more and more concerned over the way Cullen influences me.

You need to pull back a bit, don't allow him to get further underneath your skin! I think it might be too late...

"Fine, I get it. And I'll take what you advised into consideration."

Edward inhaled sharply and I didn't miss the look of disapproval that his face wore for a fraction of a second. Granted, I didn't promise him anything and only provided a vague response, but that's all I was able to give, for now. I needed to find out more about Jasper and Alice's back-story from Edward. Perhaps I could hear Jasper's version of it as well, then reflect more about it. God, what am I getting involved in?

I didn't give him the chance to say anything else and switched topics. "So, you haven't told me…what delayed you at lunch?"

Edward didn't appear too pleased by my question. Ah, so he doesn't like the tables turned on him, does he?

Edward frowned and his eyebrows creased together as he appeared lost in thought. "Lauren." He spat in answer between gritted teeth.

My eyes grew wide as his words sank in. I should have known! Figures that bitch would try and harass him too!

"She stopped me just when I was on my way to meet you..." Edward lifted one of his hands off the steering wheel and ran it through his hair roughly. "and started on her typical 'Eddie, I miss you, we were so great together' speech."

I snickered and shook my head incredulously. Mallory has some serious issues!

"So then I tried to confront her about her harassing you... and she just threw a tantrum." he laughed humorlessly and placed his hand back on the wheel.

This is priceless, why am I not surprised? Lauren seems to be the type who would throw a fit like a two year old!

"Tantrum?" I repeated and Edward nodded curtly.

"Yeah, she's infamous for them. Anyhow, she completely ignored the warnings I gave her about leaving you alone and ranted on about how I ignore all of her calls and texts. I swear she drives me fucking crazy!"

I observed in awe as his hands clutched the wheel so firmly, his knuckles are now a bone white in color. Damn, Lauren can sure piss a guy off!

"You warned her, about me?" I asked, my tone laced with surprise and Edward nodded, confirming.

"Of course Bella, I don't want her within five feet of you, ever again." The frigid tone in his voice, and the grave expression on his face, made me flinch.

God, Cullen is a protective one! Mess with the people he cares for, and you will regret it! I'm still having a hard time grasping the feelings Edward has for me. And I don't understand what it is about me that appeals to him. The only thing I can think is that I'm a breath of fresh air compared to Lauren. Speaking of the processed blond bitch herself...

"Well, um, thanks for trying... I know I asked this before but...what the hell did you see in her?"

Yes, I asked that. The filter switch has been off for awhile now anyway.

Edward inhaled deeply. "I'm aware this might sound screwed up...but, she was a distraction at the time. She, in her own way, helped take my mind off of Alice's death and the problems I dealt with at home."

She was a distraction? Well, that wasn't the answer I expected to hear. I wonder how far they took things in their relationship. I'm not brave enough to ask him that just yet, nor is it any of my business. A look of worry settled on Edward's face; and I suspected he was anxious about what I was thinking. I felt the urge to reassure him that what he confessed didn't bother me, because honestly it didn't.

"No, it's not screwed up, I understand. But..." A thought crossed my mind and I debated whether to ask him my burning question.

Why would you ask him that? Only a person who is into that person would ask such a thing!

"But, what? Hey, don't hold back, ask me anything Bella." Edward flashed a warm smile and my heart fluttered excitedly against my chest.

God, I love how his voice sounds when he says my name. It's so sad Bella how hopeless you are!

"Are you sure? You might want to rethink that." I joked with a mischievous smile and he chuckled.

"No, I don't need to. It's all right, ask me."

I took a deep breath and said the words all at once. "Areyoustillintoher?"

Half of me prayed Edward didn't understand any of what I spewed. But, judging from the baffled look on his face, I'm guessing he did. Christ, I'm a dumb-ass! Why did I ask that? I just showed I give a damn about Edward's love life; which will further complicated things between us then they already are!

"By that if you mean would I ever date Lauren again? My answer is absolutely not. Did I have any feelings for her? Not really, it was just... a casual thing Bella." Edward gazed at me briefly and my cheeks reddened in response. I felt so stupid for asking him that, yet deep down I'm glad I did.

Because I can't deny that I liked his response.

"Besides, I prefer brunettes, always have. Speaking of, there's a particular one I have my eye on." Edward grinned lopsidedly and his eyes shined in humor.

Cute! Though I give him credit for his charming remark, I know exactly where he's going with this. So I decided to humor him and jerk his chain a bit.

"Oh, do you? Hmm, does she go to our school?"

Edward laughed. "Yes, as a matter-of-fact, she does."

I titled my head sideways and tapped my index finger thoughtfully on my chin. "Okay, is she below average in height, has brown eyes and the initials in her name are BS?"

Edward nodded with a perplexed and amused expression on his face and I refrained from laughing my ass off. I needed to keep it together, or else I wouldn't be able to say the next thing with a straight face.

"Oh, so you have a thing for Ms. Brenda Sanchez, the Spanish teacher?"

Edward's eyes widened in appall and the baffled look on his face was priceless. "No, of course not! Bella, that would be... she's like forty or fifty years old!"

I giggled uncontrollably while embracing my middle. "Well, what ever floats your boat. Guess you like them older."

"Funny, very hilarious."

I kept up my fit of laughter and studied his repulsed expression. "Sorry, I couldn't resist. You should have seen the look on your face!"

Edward shook his head. "Fine, I'll take a joke at my expense. It was worth it just to watch you laugh. It's, when you do that, you look..."

"What? I look, what?"


A light blush spread over my cheeks again, and my neck as well. I turned my face away and peeked out the window. If we weren't inside this moving vehicle I might have attacked those lips of his! Goddamn him for working his magic on me!

"You do realize, I was talking about you, right?" his creamy voice murmured and I nodded slowly.

Shivers traveled up my spine as his silky fingertips caressed my jawline and my breath hitched. Edward's fingers then curled around my chin and turned my face around. Our eyes met for only a moment and when he trained his attention back to the road, he whispered,

"Bella, I don't want to drive you away..."

"I know." I replied, my voice soft and trembling.

As we drifted back to another comfortable silence, I noticed our hands innocently brushed together. At first neither if us acknowledged it and brushed it off as no big deal. Edward's focus was on the road ahead and I pretended to be distracted, looking out of my passenger window. Suddenly, his soft fingertips caressed my knuckles and my entire insides ignited. His simple touch alone made my body and soul feel things I never thought were possible. My heart hammered so fiercely against my chest I wondered if he heard it. I breathed out shakily, turned my head and stole a glance in his direction. The slightest hint of a smile graced those fuck-hot lips of his, and I seriously wanted to kiss him.

Uh, what happened to baby steps?

Baby steps, what? Edward Cullen is touching my hand, and is now taking mine into his. Holy shit! Our fingers are intertwined and they're a perfect fit. His hand feels so nice with mine. No, release it! You are in way over your head! Maybe, but I don't give a damn. I refuse to let go of Cullen's hand! His thumb glided up and down my skin and my breath hitched. Edward's eyes shortly met mine and the look he presented caused my heart to skip several beats. His expression was tender and unsettled; as if he was worried I would have a problem with his unexpected contact. I smiled at him reassuringly and left it at that.

No words were necessary during that moment.

Edward had managed to bring down some of the walls I had built around my heart, and a part of me is grateful he did.


"Ouch, shit! God dammit!" I hissed sharply, my angry tone of voice echoing throughout the woods.

Once again I've succeeded in almost tripping over a tree root, and in the process nearly got attacked by a branch. See, this is exactly why I don't visit the woods. Ever. I hate hiking, nature and all the mess that accompanies it. I'm more of an indoor girl and proud of it. Nature and I just don't mix. Apparently she agrees, because the bitch insists on making me miserable and nearly escaped death a handful of times since Edward and I arrived. A part of me wanted to kill him; he could have warned a girl beforehand! Yes, but if he did, would you have agreed to go? Of course not. Ugh, damn him, he tricked me again!

I sighed through clenched teeth, picked up my pace, and struggled to keep up with Mr. Long Legs who was several steps ahead. At least there's a bright side to this disaster, I have a wonderful view of Cullen's ass. God it looks fucking hot in those jeans he's wearing! I became a little aroused and would be even more so if I didn't have to deal with this obstacle course!

Where the hell was he leading us to anyway? At this rate, I pray he was taking me to a secluded cabin with a really comfortable bed. Oh the possibilities...

"Hey, how's it going over there?" Edward hollered and I didn't miss the humor laced in his voice.

Oh, why that sexy, pain in my ass! Pay back is a bitch he will soon find out! Right, you won't do a damn thing to him!

"Oh, it's going fabulous; nature and I are getting acquainted. We're old friends you know." I said in a tone dripped with satire.

Edward laughed, stopped his rapid pace and turned around. He stood in place, eying me with a comical expression on his face as I walked briskly, huffing and puffing.

How humiliating, not only does he see I'm terrible at the hiking thing, but I'm out of shape too!

"You know, ah, you might feel more comfortable if you removed your jacket." Edward advised, flashing a cocky grin and his greens shining in amusement.

I would have been peeved at his suggestion if it weren't for those forearms of his that were majorly distracting me. Edward's sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and displayed his gorgeous fit arms. Christ, he's so damn attractive, hands down! Once again Edward was right. All of this walking has made me uncomfortable, hot, and feel as if I'm running a fucking marathon!

I inhaled sharply and dismissed his advice, keeping my jacket on just to prove I can handle it. Yep, great plan, idiot!

"You know Cullen, you conveniently forgot to mention that this excursion is life-threatening. Hiking, really?"

Edward laughed and shook his head. "So I take it you're more of an indoor girl then?"

Oh, what a smart-ass!

"You assume correctly." I took a deep breath and added, "So, why here? Are we just taking a tour of the woods for the hell of it, or are we actually here for a reason?"

I raised my brow in challenge and cast him an inquisitive glare. A part of me felt bad for giving him a difficult time, but damn this wasn't what I had in mind when he suggested we skip school for the rest of the day! Okay, I didn't have a particular idea in mind, but I wish we went over to his place instead.

"We're almost there," Edward assured, turning his head and stared at the path ahead of us. "very close in fact."

Edward glanced at me again and his expression was filled with concern. "Are you sure you're okay? I could carry you on my back the rest of the way."

As tempting as his offer is, I'm also a little offended by it.

I frowned, placed my hands on my hips and narrowed my eyes. "I'm not a child Edward. I can make it there without your help just fine, thanks."

Edward examined my face briefly and sighed, expressing his blatant disapproval. "All right, well if you're sure..."

"Yep." I snapped in a harsher voice than intended. Damn walking and nature for making me a cranky bitch!

Edward nodded with an amused smile, turned around and began to lead the way again. Hurriedly I moved quickly to catch up to him and paid no attention to my surroundings, which was a dumb ass thing to do. The next few seconds happened so fast I was powerless to prevent it. My foot once again stumbled over a tree root and just as my lips nearly kissed the forest ground, strong arms helped me back to my feet. I glanced up and realized I was flush against Edward. Our bodies were wonderfully pressed together as his hands gripped my forearms, holding me still in place.

Instinctively, my hands reached out and clutched his shoulders; his very toned ones. Our eyes locked, our quiet breathing echoed in the air, and the only thing that raced through my mind was I wanted him to kiss me. Just like we almost had in the hallway in school earlier. I know we agreed for things to progress slowly, but the urge to feel his lips with mine overruled that plan.

I swallowed nervously and chewed on my bottom lip, anxiously waiting for Edward's next move. His jades zeroed in on my mouth longingly, then roamed back to my eyes and he whispered, "Bella are you oka-"

"Yes, I'm fine." I murmured breathlessly. My chest clenched as some of the air in my lungs almost escaped and my heart thundered against my ribs. The fear I once harbored, turned into a heaping amount of anticipation.

Kiss me, please Edward...

He nodded and his gentle inhale pulled me back to Earth. "Good."

I sensed he was hesitating; the look on his face clearly showed his uncertainty and it was frustrating to watch. He knows what I want, doesn't he? Perhaps I'm reading him wrong, but I'm pretty damn sure he wants to kiss to me as well. So, why hasn't he? A knot of panic gripped my stomach when Edward took a step back and right then I knew I had to make the next move.

"Edward, wait! I..."

He threw me an expected look and I ignored the dancing butterflies in belly best I could, then continued, "Thanks."

Thanks, that's it? Oh you chicken!

Edward flashed his make-me-weak-in-the-knees lopsided grin and my heart pitter-pattered. "No problem, anytime."

Before I allowed him to completely break our embrace, I slid my hands over his shoulders and curled them around his neck. Then titled my head, stretched up using my tip-toes, and moved my face closer to his. Edward's eyebrows furrowed as he gazed at me with a baffled expression.

I can do this, I want to do this, more than I should...

"Bella, what are yo-"

I decided to hell with it, throw caution to the wind and softly pressed my lips to his. I have no clue what I'm doing, but I know I wanted to kiss him sweetly, the way he deserves. Yet as our mouths completely joined, sparks attacked within and left no part of me untouched. My entire universe in that single moment was affected and centered on only him. Edward and those silky, tasty lips of his. His scent and the heat his body radiated against mine felt undreamed of. I never imagined a single kiss would stir up so many emotions all at once.

I needed more, longed to taste more, and hear the lustful toned groan free out of his mouth again. I gripped his neck tighter and slid my hands up, ceasing at his hair then combed through his thick strands. Edward grunted inside my mouth and I deepened the kiss, pressing my mouth harder on his. Edward's hands suddenly clutched my waist, then traveled up until they touched my back and I wished I had taken my damn jacket off. I wanted to feel his fingertips caress my skin and explore more of me. But my conscience reminded that things between us should settle down.

Fine, after we kiss for a little awhile longer...

The tips of our tongues met and once they touched, they went into a frenzy, circling like mad. Our lips caressed passionately, hungrily and we didn't even bother to stop for breath. I could taste him for several hours, or even longer. He's sweeter and more amazing than in my dreams. Our mouths eventually slowed their heated pace, until they parted and our eyes held again. Our breathing was heavy, our faces mirroring the same flushed appearance and swollen lips. Then, without warning, reality came crashing in and snapped me to attention.

What in the world just... Did I really do that? Did I actually make the first move? Did Edward Cullen and I seriously kiss? His expression was perplexed as his eyes lingered deep into mine. Suddenly I grew nervous, the confidence I held moments prior a thing of the past. I was stressing out over what he will say, if anything, about what just happened. I probably screwed things up! Dammit that was an idiotic thing to do, Swan! I just assumed he wanted what I did. But, some of this doesn't make any sense. Only days ago Edward made it pretty clear he was only interested in me as a friend. If that were true, then why did he kiss me back?

"Bella, are you sure...that this is what you-"

"Yes, positive. I wanted to...do that, more than anything." I inhaled deeply and lowered my eyes; because I couldn't look at him when I direct back the same question. "Are you...I mean, was that what you wanted too?"

"More than anything." Edward echoed, his creamy voice husky and light.

My breath hitched and my heart nearly froze when his hands cupped the sides of my face, forcing me to gaze at him.

"Bella, you have no idea how long I've waited for this...how much I-" Edward stopped himself short and before given the chance to process his stunning confession, he added, "Remember we're taking things as slow as you want them to go."

I nodded, agreeing, even though deep down I felt entirely different. Our faces inched closer and my heart raced as I noticed the traces of desire in his eyes. "Yes, slow."

Edward's mouth captured mine, caressing my lips slowly and tenderly. My eyes slipped closed and I reveled over his taste and softness. I was so consumed in the heat of the moment I didn't even realize he ended our contact. Until I felt cold and his warm body was no longer pressed against mine.

"Come on, climb on my back." Edward suggested, snapping my mind out of the daze it was under.

I opened my eyes and glared at him in disbelief. His back was turned to me and slightly hunched over while his hands rested over his bent knees. He's serious? He actually wants to give me a piggy-back ride? Oh, why the hell not, all things considered! I shook my head in humor, giggled and took a deep breath.

Edward glanced at me from behind his shoulder with an assuring gleam in his eyes. "I won't let you go, promise."

I didn't miss the hidden meaning in his words, or maybe I'm reading too much into it. Either way, what he said was comforting. Carefully, I climbed onto his back, wrapped my legs securely around his waist and curled my arms tightly over his neck. I think I can get used to this, holding onto him and feeling his body pressed to mine. This is my idea of heaven.

Thankfully for Edward I'm light to carry, since I am on the small side. We didn't have much further to walk, just as he said, and stopped sooner than I expected. Once Edward assisted me off his back, he instantly twined his hand with mine. Again, delightful tingling sensations coursed through my body and my heart thundered in response. Our joined hands were soothing and the anxiety I felt regarding where we heading, was gone. Edward gently tugged my hand and I looked up at him.

His excited grin lit up his beautiful eyes. "Well, here we are. Are you ready?"

I briefly reflected what he asked. Am I ready? For whatever I'm about to see, yes. But, as far as where things may go from here with him? I'm unsure. However what I am sure about is, after the kisses we shared and the declarations said, things between us are taking a major change.

As much as the thought scares me, I can't deny the connection that's continuing to blossom with us, feels right.


A/N: Wow, so yes they kissed! About time if you ask me, hee :) For real, I bet I threw some of you for a loop, huh? haa. I hope it was nice as you imagined, I personally loved it! And the entire chap too, I have to say it's one of my fav chaps thus far! Just so much has been said, and for Bella to finally open more of her heart to Edward is major progress! Not to mention her kissing him is a HUGE step, things can only move forward from here, right? Oh yes, they will, still a bit slow going but their relationship will progress! So any guesses about where Edward took her? I know one of my lovely readers guessed it right in their last review! Let's just say being at this place, will cause Edward to reveal even more about himself, his family and Alice's death to Bella. Bella may open up a bit more about herself too. And, there also might be a little bit of kissy time, hmm, *wink*

After the next chap, things will start to move forward a bit faster. I will give these little previews... Bella will interact with Emmett a little, as he's finally introduced! She may also meet Dr. Cullen, Edward's papa. I will say Carlisle's character will surprise you, and not in a good way! Okay, I gave away enough for now, lol. So back to the chapter, any fav lines, parts? I know I have many! So yeah, as you can tell Edward isn't very fond of Jasper. Bella will have a chance to hear Jasper's side of things in the near future. But before then, I may write and post a bonus chap in Jasper's pov. As I mentioned before, I really want you guys to have an idea of what Jasper's life is like, and get to know him! Also, I might as well throw this out there now... pretty heavy drama to come! Not the next chapter, but the ones after and further on into the story. So, enjoy the sweetness/ things are looking up stage. I hope you guys continue to stick with me through this and remember I am a HEA woman!

All right, hope you enjoyed the chap and I look forward to reading what you all thought of it! Speaking of review, thank you so much for reviewing, it really makes me smile! I enjoy hearing from all of you and love reading your thoughts and guesses as to what will happen next in the story. So, don't be shy, leave a review and I do reply to each one. Though I still owe a couple of review replies for the last chap, sorry. I will get to them, promise ;) Don't forget I am on Twitter, vampgirl792011, feel free to follow me and tweet me! I am also on facebook under vampgirl79fanfiction, I would love it if you liked the page :) Okay, I am finally out of here, haa, till next time! I'll be honest, chapter 10 will probably take a while, sorry :( I really need to focus on my other fic, About That Night. My poor readers haven't received an update for a while, so I owe them. But, I will update as soon as I can! Thanks for reading and all the support! Love you all, xo