First off, I want to say I am so sorry for the delay. Real life has been crazy, but I'm ready to get this story back on the road. Also My dear Edward has been nominated for the Emerging Swan Award. Be sure to head on over and vote. Voting closes on 9/21.

without further ado on with the show…


Chapter 28

"Strike," I yell out as I watch all ten pins fall. I watch Edward laugh as I jump up and down and do a little dance. So what if I look like a dork, it is my second one in a row, and this game was a challenge. Edward bet me that he could beat me by more than twenty points. Little does he know, there is not much to do here in this small town, but bowling just happens to be one of them? I may have also forgotten to tell him that I played on a league last year and the three years previous to that as well. "Take that Cullen. We are only the fifth frame in, and I am already beating you."

"Oh don't you worry, I'm just getting warmed up. You won't be doing that dance for much longer."

Walking back to my seat, I let my hand roam over his tight ass as he leans over to pick up his ball.

"Hey now, no trying to distracting me, or I will call interference."

"Oh shut up and bowl, the faster you lose, the faster you can pay up."

I watch closely as the ball rolls to the left. At the last minute, it begins to curve to the center. I watch him get antsy waiting to see how many pins fall and laugh when I see the three remaining. The second ball is no help; missing the pins by just a fraction.

The next frames go by quickly, and before we know it, we are on our last frame. The game is close. He is beating me by ten points, and he gets to go first for the last frame. I watch closely as he walks down the lane and bends to glide the ball on the slippery floor. I can't help the groan that leaves me as I watch him from behind. I have no idea when he threw the second ball, but he is standing in front me with a smirk on his face.

"Like what you see?"

"Um…sorry, I was watching the pins…ya…the pins."

"Sure you were. If you were, you would not be smiling. You see; you need to get two strikes to beat me, and you only have one frame left."

"Watch and learn, Cullen," I say as I walk to get my ball.

I take a moment and feel the weight of the ball in my hands and feel of the lane beneath my feet. I glide across the floor and let the ball float from my hands as my foot slides behind the other in perfect bowler form. The ball moves effortlessly down the middle of the lane, and when it connects perfectly with the front pin, I know it is mine. I turn and watch Edward's face fall as he watches them all fall. I also giggle when I notice the crowd that we have. It's all the locals watching to see who will win the bet.

I wait for my ball to be returned from the end of the lane and chuckle when I hear Edward mumble. I can't be sure what he said, but I know he is starting to doubt his skills. Once more, I make my way down the lane, and as I turn and see the look of defeat on Edward's face and hear the cheer from the crowd, I know I have won.

Edward drops his head when I walk to him.

"You should never bet against a Swan, Cullen."

"Okay, okay, you were right. What do I owe you?"

"Oh, you will see. I will think of something great on the way home. Are you ready to head out?" I ask.

We change our shoes and begin to head out when we are stopped by Billy.

"So Bells, great game there will you be on the league again this year?"

Looking at Edward's face, I can't help but laugh.

"League, what league?"

"Oh, did she not tell you? Bells here, has been the best bowler we have here. Has been for what, the last four years or so?"

"Oh, you are a sneaky one aren't you? That was not playing fair."

I laugh as we continue to make it to the car. Once we are safely buckled and on the road, I'm finally able to calm my giggles.

"I'm sorry. I should have told you, but where would be the fun in that?"

"You think your funny huh? Well, I will pay up because I am an honest man, and I did lose the bet. Even if it was fixed."


I can't believe that New Year's is only two days away already. I feel like my time with Edward has gone by so fast. I still haven't figured out what Edward will have to do for the bet he lost on bowling. I just can't seem to find the right thing.

We have done so many other things though. We have been to the movies, bowling, dinner, even dancing. The girls have been great giving me time alone with him. They know that he has to go back soon, and each expressed the importance of connecting with him, and moving past all the pain. They are over-the-top excited about the party though. Me, I'm nervous. 'It means that I will be meeting his family, and my time with him is coming to a close. His parents have been so supportive of him spending so much time with me. I know how hard it must be for him to be so close for the holidays, but they all told him he needed to be with me.

We found out yesterday that he needs to ship out on January 3, 2012. It was hard to hear, and I did a lot of crying, but we talked through it. I know it won't be easy, but we will make it. I am even going to the airport with his family when he leaves. It has also reminded me that his letter said there were two things he wanted to tell me. I asked him about it, but he told me I needed to wait until New Year's. After many assurances, I agreed to let it go until then.

"Bella, what time are the girls coming to take you shopping?"

Oh, yes. That's what today is. We will be heading to Seattle to get gowns for the party. Alice and Rose have both been given strict orders not to let me pay for a thing, or even see a price tag, for that matter. I gave up fighting that one after an hour-long discussion on how he wanted to take care of me, and that he's not around to spoil me, and this was his chance to do just that.

"They should be here any minute," I reply.

I feel him enter the room before I see him. His arms drape over my shoulders and cross my chest pulling me to him. His lips place a soft kiss on my right temple, and I hear him sigh contently as he snuggles into my neck.

"I love you."

"I love you too," I reply.

I know this is going to hurt when he leaves. I have gotten used to him being here, and my home will not feel the same without him in it. It's as if without him here, it's just a shell. There is no sense of home, but just simply existing. Right on time, we hear the doorbell ring, and I go to answer the door.

"Bella, I want you to play nice, and remember girls, no issue with money, do not let her see a price tag, or…better yet, Bella, hand over your wallet. You won't be needing it today."

I have come to terms of what this means to him, so I hand it over without a fight. He kisses me passionately and tells me to have fun as he closes the car door, and just like that, we are off to Seattle.

There is idle chat as we make the trip. We talk about how things are with Edward, and what's going on in the girls' lives. I feel my stomach drop when Alice finally parks the car. I may not be fashion savvy, but I know the look of an expensive store when I see one, and this one looks as if it's top of the line. I know Edward said the price was not an issue, but I don't want her to go overboard.


"Don't even try, Bella. I am one step ahead of you. I picked out the perfect gown and had it made to your measurements. Edward already knows what it will cost and has approved it."

"Then what was all the talk about price tags?"

"Well, he doesn't want you to see prices of other things. So, I made it easy. The dresses are all here. We are going to get them fitted to make sure no adjustments need to be made, then you will come back to the carwith Rosalie while I pay for your gown. Besides, you should thank me. I know you are not as big a shopper as me. So you just go on in, try it on, and then you are done."

"What if I don't like it?"

"Trust me, you will love it. In the rare event that you don't we will find another. I promise it will be easy. I even picked out your shoes, and before you start, they are not that high."

We walk in the store and are greeted before we fully enter. I guess in a store this upscale, they have to have great customer service. Alice gives the name, and the small woman who stands before us lights up. That right there tells me just how much money will be spent in this store today. She offers us a drink as she whisks us off to the fitting rooms.

I'm in awe as I walk in and see the gown Alice picked hanging there. It is breathtaking. The dress is dark blue and fitted to the hips where it flares out into a full gown. It is strapless and has what looks like diamonds embroidered at the top and hips. God, I hope those are fake. The bottom of the dress is gathered in spots, with more stones adorning the gathered points. I can't wait to try this on and see how it fits. The sales lady, who I have learned is named Tanya, is there to help me into the dress and shoes. When we are finished, she smiles and turns me to the mirror. I almost don't recognize the girl looking back.

"I don't know who he is, but he is one lucky man."

"I'm the lucky one," I reply back, not once taking my eyes off myself.

"I would say it is a perfect fit, and you look amazing."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure you can."

"The stones are they…"

"The stones are a mix of diamonds and crystals. I'm afraid that is all I can tell you. I'm under strict orders not to give anything away on the price of this gown. Okay, let's you get you undressed, and you can be on your way."

Tanya helps me out of the dress and places it in a garment bag before ushering me out of the dressing room.

Once back in the lobby of the store, I'm instantly met by Rose.

"Okay, off to the car we go. I take it your gown was perfect?"

"It's amazing. I believe it was way too much for a party, but I can't deny that I love it. What color is yours?"

"Mine is deep-red, and Alice will be wearing yellow."

In just a matter of minutes, Alice is back, and there is someone helping to place the gowns in the car. The ride home is filled with talk of plans for hair and makeup. We toss out ideas and laugh at others. I realize that for once in my life, I'm excited for one of Alice's make overs. All because, this time, I have someone to dress up for, and suddenly, I can't wait for the next two days to pass.


make sure to vote and check out some other really great stories...