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Chapter 9

I'm hoping that if I ignore it for long enough, that the gentle, yet insistent tapping, on my bedroom door will stop. The fact that I've been hoping this for at least a full minute now, and it's still ongoing, is starting to affect my hopes a little; I'd be lying if I said it wasn't.

I give up.

I somehow manage to get myself upright, and stumble to the door. Maybe, if I pretend I can't feel the beer-induced thumping inside my skull, it will go away. Yeah, maybe not. You'd think I'd have learned from my nuisance door tapper, that method seldom works.

I flick the lock, pull the door open and squint at the person on the other side.

"Alice," I mumble in acknowledgement, wasting no time in turning and heading straight back to bed.

"Good morning, Bella!" she says cheerily. If I had the energy I may just have turned violent at the unnecessarily chirpy sound.

She follows me in of course, closing the door behind her. I'm going to try the ignoring thing one more time, I decide, as I pull the covers up and close my eyes again.

My stomach rolls as she sits and then begins to bounce lightly on the bed near my feet.

"Unless…you want me…to puke all over you, Alice…I suggest…you stop…with the bouncing," I tell her between bounces. She stops. "Did you want anything in particular, or are you just here to torture me?" I ask. She laughs.

"Breakfast will be ready in ten minutes," she says. I groan.

"You're here to torture me," I accuse, eyes still closed.

"I think you'll be thanking me," she tells me. "Emmett makes the best hangover cure breakfasts ever."

"Emmett can cook?" I actually manage to cock one eye open in surprise. As nice as he is, he struck me as too Neanderthal to have a handle on anything that could be considered domestic.

"Emmett's a chef." She's giggling at my reaction. I close my eye again, exhausted by the exertion of keeping it open throughout the exchange.

"Huh," I respond, unable to manage more.

She's quiet for a moment, but I have a feeling she's holding back on me. I sigh.

"What?" I demand, keeping my eyes closed.

"So…" she begins, tentatively.

"So?" I counter.

"Garrett?" Oh yeah. Garrett.

"What about him?" I say, giving nothing away.

"Last night?" She's still trying.


"Oh, for pity's sake, Bella! My room looks out onto the staircase, ok?" I force open my eyes, raise my head from the pillow and gasp loudly. I'm exaggerating, playing her a little, but she doesn't know me well enough to realize this.

"You were spying on us?" I demand, getting perverse enjoyment from the guilt etched on her face.

"I'm sorry, Bella, I didn't mean to—" I collapse back down, giggling. She relaxes and laughs too, swatting at me though the covers.

"Bitch! I thought I'd upset you then!" I grin at her until the thumping in my head gets suddenly worse.

"Oww, that hurts," I whisper, clutching at my temples. She laughs even more and I try to throw her an evil look.

"So…you kissed him," Alice states when she calms down a little.

"Yeah," I reply, pulling at the covers a little distractedly.

"And?" She's determined to get something from me. I sigh.

"I don't know! What do you want me to say? It was nice, but it was a little weird kissing someone else. I feel a little guilty this morning," I confide. She frowns. She looks confused.

"Towards Garrett?" she asks. "Why?"

"No, not towards Garrett," I say.

"Edward?" she asks, askance. I worry she's about to slap me as I nod. I sit up quickly, regretting the rapid movement as soon as I shift.

"I know it's stupid. I know I don't owe him anything, but I can't help how I feel. He betrayed me, Alice, and I hate him for it, but I've also spent a long time loving him and I can't just turn it off like that." I click my fingers. "I have no intention of ever getting back with him after what he did. This is all just going to take a whole lot of getting used to, that's all." She nods her head and I'm relieved that she let me get it out.

"I spoke to Garrett," she says quietly.

"You didn't?" I put my face in my hands. Alice shuffles closer and pulls my hands away. It's fine, Bella. I just wanted to make sure that he wasn't taking advantage of you." I laugh at that. "What?" Alice asks.

"If anything, I think I was probably the one taking advantage of him. He didn't force me to kiss him. I'm trying to reclaim myself a little here. Anyway, you're right. I need to shake the guilt; I have nothing to feel guilty for, right?"

"Right," she agrees.

"Maybe tonight I'll seduce him," I pretend to muse. It works. Alice's mouth drops open in surprise, before twisting up into a mischievous smile.

"You so should," she says excitedly. I stop smiling.

"I was kidding," I say.

"Why? There's nothing wrong with it," she insists. In my head everything's wrong with it, not least the fact that my estranged husband has managed to convince me that I'm dull between the sheets. There's no way I'm risking embarrassing myself in front of a hot, young guy like Garrett.

"I just can't. Not yet. I have too much self-belief at stake," I tell her, worried that a bad experience will set back all of the progress I've made at being successfully independent.

"Bella. Sexy is a state of mind. Believe it about yourself, the rest of the world will follow. We'll start at breakfast," she tells me, standing and reaching out her hand to me. I look down at my shorts and tank top.

"I'll just get dressed—"

"Sexy, Bella. Trust me, he's not going to object."

"Yeah, but everyone else might when I'm putting them off their food. Besides, I'm not sure I can do sexy with a hangover. Maybe if Emmett's food lives up to its reputation, I might be able to start after breakfast." I wink at her and she smiles, before slipping out of the door to leave me to get dressed.

Edward 09.36

Can we meet up today?

I sigh and set my phone down, aware of several sets of curious eyes on me.

"Edward," I tell Alice, well aware that the others around the table are listening. "He's asking to meet up today." She looks at me sympathetically. "I can't wait for everything to be settled and over with. I hate living in limbo." I push my food around my plate, my appetite having evaporated.

"It does get better," a voice offers. I look up and Rosalie is smiling a little at me. "I've been where you are; I know how hard it is. This phase won't last for ever, and then you can begin to look forward to your future."

"Thank you," I say quietly, hoping my voice will hold. I put my fork down and push my plate away.

It's feeling claustrophobic in here now; I need air. I'm about to push my chair back, when Randall and Garrett appear from the doorway to the bedrooms.

"We're going to try this walk," Randall says, waving a piece of yellow card. "Anybody want to come?"

"Actually, yeah. Do you mind if I tag along?" I ask, standing. I look at Garrett. He's smiling at me and I warm a little from it. It's the first time I've seen him today; he'd already eaten and had gone to shower before I entered the kitchen. At least it looks like things won't be awkward after last night.

"Of course not," he says.

"Great, I'll grab my jacket," I tell him, and move past him towards my room.

When I get back to the living room, only Mary has decided to come too; the others are either clearing away pots, or lounging around. Jasper is picking out a clumsy tune on the piano. I can't help but think how if Edward was here, he'd have had us entranced by now with some symphony or another, played from memory.

As we begin the walk, I looked across at the strait below. Underneath the pale blue sky with its occasional white clouds, it's shrouded in a blanket of mist. We move single file up a set of steps that turns into a steep track through the trees. When we reach the road at the top, Randall and Mary walk on ahead, chatting easily, while Garrett and I follow behind.

My text alert goes off again as we turn off the road and back into the trees. I pull it from my pocket and curse softly as I see that Edward is pushing me for an answer.

"Everything ok?" Garrett asks.

"Yeah, it's just my husband." It feels strange saying those words to him. "He's asking to meet up today." I stop walking and sigh. "I have to reply, he'll start ringing else and I really don't want to talk to him." I send a quick message saying that I'm away until tomorrow and will let him know when I get back. I push my phone into my pocket. As I withdraw my hand, I feel long fingers wrapping around it. I look up into Garrett's face. The arrogance of last night is gone, and if anything he looks a little unsure. I smile to try and reassure him it's ok, and curl my fingers around his. It's kind of nice having a little human contact for comfort. I miss it.

The scenery as we walk is stunning, and the contrast between nature and the old concrete defence posts is striking. It's one of the strangest places I've visited.

As the path takes us back through the woods, we come to a divide in the path. Reading the directions on the card we have, it becomes clear that we've taken a wrong turn at some point, although none of us has any idea where. Unable to agree on which is the way back, we decide to pair off. Randall and Mary take the path to the left, and Garrett and I walk straight ahead, the boys joking about sending out search parties when the other couple don't make it back.

We're still holding hands when we emerge into an open space beside a small lake. Walking ahead a while longer, we laugh in delight when we discover that we've found the beach. The tide is out and so we walk along the sand, knowing we're heading in the right direction now.

As we reach a huge rock jutting out of the beach, Garrett slows. He pulls me over to it, leaning back against the craggy surface and urging me forwards until I'm standing between his legs. I close the distance between us, given confidence by the fact that he made the first moves.

Running my hands up his chest, I shiver a little as his fingers slide up the outside of my hips and underneath my jacket and shirt, until he finds bare flesh. I reach up and around his neck, and pull him down to meet my mouth, emboldened even more by the groan he emits as I take charge.

Thoughts of Edward try to snake their way through my head as I relax into the kiss. I try to focus on the fact that Alice agreed I had nothing to feel guilty about. It works; for now at least.

The longer it goes on, the more heated the kiss becomes, until we're broken from it by the sound of a stranger calling to their dog, close by. We're both breathless as we part. Garrett's face is flushed; I'm sure mine is too. It suits him, making me want to kiss him again.

And maybe do more.

The fact that the thought comes so easily to me, surprises me. I'd been sure that I would have tortured myself longer and harder than I have done. I'm secretly pleased that the whole thing hasn't been so traumatic. Maybe Rosalie was right. Maybe I do have a future to look forward to.

We make our way to the lighthouse that stands at the end of the stretch of beach, and then join the road that will take us back to where we're staying. We stop like teenagers a few times to exchange kisses, so it's no surprise when we arrive back, that Garrett and Mary arrived back a while before us.

I sit down on the couch with a bottle of water, and Garrett settles in next to me. The fresh air combined with the alcohol intake of the previous night, mean that I'm soon drifting to sleep, my head resting on his shoulder.

When I awake, I'm alone on the couch. Alice notices me stretching from the other side of the room and comes over.

"Feeling better?" she asks. I smile.

"Yeah, much, thanks."

"Edward called Jasper while you were sleeping," she tells me, sitting beside me. I raise my eyebrows at the news. "He wants to sort things out between them," she continues. I nod, seriously.

"I can understand that. Losing your spouse and your best friend is hard," I say. If anyone knows that for a fact, it's me.

"Jasper's not sure. His dad cheated on his mom; he has real issues with it," she confides, her voice low.

"Well, whichever way Jas decides to go with it, is fine by me." I tell her. "As much as a part of me wants Edward to be lonely and miserable for what he did to me, the bigger part knows he needs a friend. I just hope that it wouldn't affect our friendship," I say, indicating between her and me.

"Of course not!" she says. "And I know Jasper feels the same way. Edward was all for driving out here when he heard where we were, but Jas talked him out of it."

My heart misses a beat at the close call. Not that I've done anything wrong, but it would have been awkward to say the least.

"Remind me to thank Jasper when I see him," I tell her, grateful that they have my back.

The beer is flowing just as well tonight, as it did last night. Everyone's having a good time, and I think Alice was right about the confident thinking. I've been doing my best with it all evening, and Garrett has definitely not been the only one casting glances in my direction. He's been the only one I've been sending them back at though.

Tomorrow heralds a return to 'normality', by which I mean I'll be going back to the shit-fest that my life has become. I don't know when the opportunity for fun might come my way again, so I've made a promise to myself to make the most of tonight. So far, this has involved chatting with everybody and joining in when they all burst into song. As I watch Garrett leave the room to visit the bathroom though, I'm ready to try something new to get my kicks.

I intercept him as he leaves the bathroom, placing my hands on his chest and urging him towards my bedroom. We burst through the door and I close it behind us, pushing him against it and leaning up to fix my mouth to his. He joins in, eagerly, and I relish the sound of him groaning into my mouth, as my hands brush against the bulge in his jeans.

I move away from his mouth and look at him, biting my lip, as I lower myself to my knees and begin to unfasten the buttons on his fly, finally freeing him from the confines of the denim. I'm so goddamn nervous right now, but I'm determined to prove to myself – and him – that I can be goodat sex. There's no such thing as a bad blow job, right? It seems like the perfect confidence builder to me.

I take him into my mouth and begin to make him feel good. Really fucking good, actually, if the sounds he makes and the look on his face is anything to go by. His hand winds into my hair, and I make noises of my own to encourage him to hold it tighter. He makes a fist, tugging firmly on it, not enough to really hurt, but enough to make it feel more erotic. I open my eyes and look up at him.

Oh. He likes that.

I hold eye contact as I slide my mouth over him and out again. He's struggling; fighting against closing his own eyes. He moves to pull away as his climax nears, but I refuse to let him, holding onto him as my mouth works. Finally, he comes, and I swallow once, twice, three times, until it's all gone. I'm sure I'm glowing, I feel so proud of myself.

"Holy shit, Bella. That was awesome," he whispers, helping me to my feet.

"You're welcome," I tell him, smiling as I lick my lips. He leans in and kisses me lazily.

"Are you going to let me repay the favor?" he asks. I'm about to tell him that he doesn't have to, that I don't mind, when I remember that I'm supposed to be making the most of tonight.

"If you insist," I say, smiling again. A nervous anticipation is spreading through me, along with the heat between my legs. I make sure the door is locked before I back up towards my bed, dragging him after me. As the back of my knees hit it, I collapse onto the mattress and shuffle back, and Garrett lets himself fall on top of me, careful not to crush me.

In the soft light of the bedside lamp that I'd left on, he pulls off my jeans and panties. I'm nervous at the thought of another man seeing my body, but the expression on his face as he looks at me, diminishes my worries. I assume that he's going to continue to work at the pace at which he undressed me, but as soon as his tongue touches my thigh, he begins to tease.

He works slowly, and by the time he actually allows me to feel his tongue where I'm shamelessly begging for it, I'm squirming desperately and more than a little wet. Thankfully the teasing stops as soon as I have him where I want him. He licks and sucks in all the right places, and then slides inside with his fingers at the same time. Just when I think I'll go out of my mind, he pushes me over the edge and I'm lost, riding out the waves of the orgasm that has claimed me.

I hum in satisfaction as he kisses me and all I can taste is me, on his mouth.

"How was it for you?" he asks teasingly as he kisses my neck.

"It was ok," I tease back, giggling as he begins to tickle me.

"Only ok?" he asks.

"Alright, alright!" I squeal. "You were amazing. Better?"

"Much," he concedes. I gasp as I feel him rub against my leg. He's hard again. The benefit of the younger man, I think, smiling to myself. And then I panic a little, because I know that I'm not ready for going that step further with anyone just yet.

"We should go back out there," I tell him, wriggling to try and get out from beneath him. "They'll be missing us."

"They've probably not even noticed we're gone," he mumbles into my neck.

"Well, I've not known Alice all that long, and even I know that she at least will definitely have noticed we're not there."

He freezes on me.

"Yeah, you're right," he sighs, before getting to his feet and fastening his jeans. He retrieves my clothes from where he threw them, and I pull them back on. He stops me before we leave the room, pushing me against the wall to steal another kiss.

"Bella?" he asks.

"Hmm," I reply.

"I think your husband is an asshole."

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