A/N: This was my entry for the Twilight of Craigslist contest, it didn't win, but I still kinda love it.
A huge thanks to Jenndur who encouraged me to get my butt in gear and finish this entry in time and beta'd it for me last minute as I finished it. She's kind of a rock star!
I hope you enjoy it! (You should check out the ad that prompted the story, because it's awesome!)
Contest: Twilight of Craigslist ONE-SHOT Contest (Part II)
FFN profile web address(es): .net/~lizmondaine
Twitter address(es) (if applicable): /#!/mslizabeth
FFN Link to ad that prompted one-shot: .net/s/7453186/1/July_4th_Party_Weekend
Title: If The Moon Fell Down Tonight
Word Count (minus A/N, header, and Craigslist ad): 7540
Summary (250 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation): Bella answers a craigslist ad in an attempt to earn the money to pay off her student loan, but what begins as a way to make some quick money may just end as something completely different.
Character and/or Pairing (will be added to one-shot unless advised otherwise by author): Edward/Bella
Warnings and Disclaimer(if applicable): All recognizable characters and places belong to SM
"Last chance to catch a ride home with me."
I eye my best friend in exasperation. If we hadn't had this conversation nineteen times already, I would be more inclined to think it was a sweet gesture, but at this point lying is getting to me and I'm afraid she's going to start seeing through it.
"Jess, I have plans."
"With your imaginary boyfriend."
I decide to ignore the snide tone in her voice as I hug her, shutting her into her Mercedes. "Jess, You know it irritates me when you call him that." Mostly, because up until eight days ago it was the truth.
"Well, I don't get why I haven't met him yet if he's so important to you that you're missing the berry fest back home."
I roll my eyes, Jess knows how I feel about the town of a million pointless fairs. I mean, really, who needs a bacon festival? Apparently, Forks, Washington. "Oh darn! Be sure you eat my piece of pie from Weston's would you."
"I'll do you one better, I'll eat one for you and your invisible boy Edwin."
"Edward, Jess, and for a woman in medicine you surely are awfully forgetful, I'm glad you've never been my emergency nurse."
She flips me off with a laugh. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do. Have fun, Bells, and be safe. Call me when you get where you're going or if you need me to come kick some ass."
I blow out a breath watching her disappear down the road, letting out a string of curses as I turn on my heel to head back inside. He is supposed to be here any minute and I am barely ready.
Yanking open my bathroom, I hastily strip and replace my clothes with an eyelet red sundress that grazes just above my knees before adding a pair of strappy sandals to compliment them.
"I can do this. We have a plan, I just have to be myself. Just myself in love with Edward. Just a little pretending, not lying."
I reassure myself as I apply my make-up and hear a knock at the door. With just a little bit more lip gloss, I toss my make up bag into the top of my carry on and zip it up and toss it over my shoulder making my way to the door.
"Bella, it's good to see you again."
"You, too, Edward. I think I'm ready." I assure him, trying to settle the nerves I can see on his face. I know he's not looking forward to this trip or at least the pretending we're doing, but he seems to think it's necessary.
"Last chance to back out."
"No way, I'm happy to help you out with this. Besides, from everything you've said your family sounds wonderful, just a little too over zealous about seeing you married off."
"Yeah a little."
After his snorted comment we settle into silence on the ride to the airport, lost in our own thoughts. I remind myself the reasons this is a good idea while I study the scenery passing us by as we fly by down the highway. Taking out a student loan had been the last thing I wanted to do this fall, but when one of my scholarships fell through at the last minute I hadn't had any other choices. This money would not only free me from that along with the burden of keeping the secret from my father. Who would undoubtedly pull the money out of his pension as soon as he found out about it. I couldn't allow my father to make such a sacrifice, not when he'd already spent all of my life making so many sacrifices for my sake.
"Before I forget."
I look over at him, noting that we're at the airport without me even realizing we had stopped. My eyes land on the box resting in his palm and I can't help the wide eyed incredulity I'm staring at the ring inside.
"I know, it's a bit much, but it was my grandmother's ring."
I don't know whether it was the tone of his voice or the large diamond staring me in my face, but for the first time the gravity of what we were doing was slapping me in the face. I picked the ring up out of it's bed of velvet.
"Last chance to back out?"
He shakes his head at my words. "No, if you're up for it than let's go catch our flight. I hate to lie to my family, but once you meet them you'll understand. They're a very tenacious bunch. I cannot bear another holiday filled with pitying looks, assurance the one is just around the corner, and the set ups from my mother. Bella, please?"
"Of course. I just thought I'd give you a chance to back out," I promise as I slide the ring on my finger with what I hoped was confidence, flashing him a smile as we headed into the airport.
The casual conversation seems to flow easily between us throughout security and boarding onto the plane; the more I talk to him the more I find that I legitimately like him. I wish we had met under different circumstances. Alas, our fate was to meet in a hospital cafeteria where he was conducting interviews for potential pretend wives. As far as I can tell the only reason I ended up with the job was my hair color and the fact that I legitimately had no interest in marrying him. It had all the makings of a bad Harlequin romance, Is my last thought as I try to get comfortable enough to follow his lead and sleep on the long flight ahead of us.
I can't help but admire his patience as we waited until the other passengers had all pushed their way out into the aisle. However, I wasn't sure if it was his admirable patience or just his lack of desire to face the music.
Suddenly I found my hand enveloped in his larger one. "We've got this." His whispered words and his touch seem to soothe me out of my internal freak out before it had a chance to really get off the ground. He had this quiet, unassuming manner to the point that you almost thought he was aloof and cold, but then he'd pull out a sly joke or prevents me from tripping over my own bag. To the best of my assessment he's quiet, smart, funny, and passionate. I could definitely do worse for myself. I snort at the thought drawing his attention as we walk side by side down the causeway at the airport.
"The real party starts now...I apologize in advance for what you are getting ready to endure."
I can't help but laugh as we step out into the airport, and before I can even look around for the family he'd described, I feel his hand ripped out of mine as he's yanked away.
"Mom, hi. It's good to see you."
"You must be Bella! It's so good to put a face with the name." Esme snorted as she laced her arm through mine effectively separating Edward and I, but I don't even have time to toss a help meglance back at Edward as I attempt to keep up with the woman next to me. "What am I talking about, it's nice to have a name to go with the title. He's kept you to himself for far too long. I can't imagine why though, you're a stunning creature."
"Thank you, Mrs. Cullen. I am—"
Her laughter is full and loud, I am sure it catches more than one persons attention in the crowded airport, but she seems completely unfazed by it. "Please, I'm Esme. if you call me Mrs. Cullen my hairs might gray, my boobs might sag and my parts down south just might—"
"Mom! Come on."
She pats my arm, seemingly oblivious to my mouth having open or the warmth of the blush I can feel heating my cheeks. "Such a stick in the mud, my Edward, you'd think he didn't spend all of his time playing down there as his chosen life path."
"Mother, just because I'm going to become an obstetrician does not mean that I want you discussing anything like that with my fiancee."
The apologetic smile he bestows on me is his crooked one that doesn't quite reach his eyes, oddly I have become fond of this one, and I can't help but smile back at him, assuring him with a look that it's not a big deal at all.
"Oh, Carlisle, would you look at how sweet they are. They carry on entire conversations in silence." She laughs as she reaches for the blond man who had been walking in time with Edward behind us. "How rude of me. Bella, this is my husband and Edward's father, Carlisle Cullen. You can simply call him Carlisle."
I smile and take his extended hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Carlisle." It feels rude to address him this way so quickly, but for fear of hearing his list of ailments if he was old, it seems my safest option is to refer to him like this.
"You as well, Bella. We have heard good things about you from our son who has been not at all surprisingly closed lipped about you; however, we're glad you could join us for the holiday."
"It's my pleasure. Edward's told me so much about your celebrations that I can't wait to get a chance to experience them myself."
As Edward and his father are retrieving our bags Esme latches onto my attention again. "So Bella, tell me more about you, here you are poised to enter our little family and I know next to nothing about you."
"Well, I'm originally from Washington, so going to UDub was an easy decision for me and I'm a senior and a photography major."
"Photography? Really?" She eyes my camera case curiously and then turns her eyes back on me with a broad smile. "That must mean you have some spectacular shots of you and Edward together then."
I blush, this wasn't even something we had discussed being an issue. "I'm afraid not, I don't turn the camera on myself very often. Maybe this weekend we'll get a good one for you, though."
She nearly giggles as we wait for the boys to come back with the car "I know that look on your face. I understand that you don't have any shots appropriate for your future mother-in-law. I understand that completely. I am so glad he's found someone like you. I'm so glad he's found someone in general, I was afraid for awhile there that he played for the other team."
I didn't know Edward very well from our short acquaintance but I couldn't think of anyone I'd assume less played for the other team, but then again I'm sure his eyes didn't have a way of always lingering on her breasts when he thought she wasn't looking at him.
"He kept assuring me that he was just too busy for a girlfriend, but what is a woman to think when he never has a girlfriend. Do you know that he went to prom with his best friend Ben? When the signs all point one direction what is a Mom to do but be supportive?"
I assure her I can see how she would see that as a possibility, but that I can assure her without any reservations Edward most certainly is not batting for the home team.
Seeing the Volvo SUV park in front of us is one of the greatest reliefs of my life. "Your Mom thinks we have dirty pictures on my camera." I hiss at him as I climb into the backseat with him.
"Why does she think that?"
"I don't know. She said I must have a lot of good pictures of the two of us, I tried telling her I don't take my own picture often and somehow that was all the information she needed."
His forehead is resting against the top of my head and I'm sure I'm the only one in the car that heard him snort. "See, I told you. They're all insane. Please don't leave me."
The sunlight shining through the window first thing in the morning refuses to let me sleep in, and I curse our eastward facing bedroom as I realize I won't be able to sleep anymore. One glance over my shoulder behind me tells me that my faux fiance isn't having any sorts of those problems; he looks so peaceful in his sleep I can't help wiggling in his arms so I can turn to face him.
There's a layer of fuzz that has appeared over night that makes me want to nuzzle into him, it makes him appear to be a little rougher and for some reason I find it appealing. His ridiculously long lashes rest against his cheeks. Any girl who paused long enough to realize how long his lashes were would want to kick him for their ridiculous lengths. I couldn't get mine to look that long no matter how many layers of expensive mascara I coated onto them.
Not wanting Edward to wake up and find me staring at him like a creepy stalker, I quickly ease out of the bed and pad to the bathroom to grab a quick shower before taking myself down stairs, glad to find the kitchen deserted, but the coffee freshly brewed. After opening three cabinets I finally find a mug and pour myself a glass before wandering out onto the deck to enjoy the quiet of the morning before everyone else is awake.
Last night we had gotten in late enough that the rest of the family was already in bed, so that awkwardness had been avoided. Although Esme herself was one big ball of inappropriateness and her husband just seemed to take it all in stride with a smile. They were however two of the most lovable people I had the fortune of meeting. I almost felt bad lying to them about my relationship with Edward, except after talking to Esme I could only imagine what it was like to have her constantly attempting to set Edward up.
"So you're going to marry Edward?"
The small girl circling around me from my position on the lounger on the deck makes me nervous. I have no idea where she appeared from. The Spanish inquisition is not what I was hoping to wake up to, but I put on a smile and remind myself that I have already won his Mom over his sister shouldn't be too hard; besides I know this story like the back of my hand after the plane ride.
"That's the plan. Well, at least after he's done with his residency. He has this thing about wanting to put as little strain on the beginning of the marriage."
She makes a noise in her throat that makes me feel nervous as she stops in front of me, her eyes narrowing. "You cannot let Edward push you into a two year engagement; the mere idea of it is completely ludicrous."
"I thought it was sweet."
It's like she can sense the weakness inside of me at the statement. He wasn't kidding when he said she was going to be the hardest to convince. The look in her eye said if she thought she could pull together a wedding this weekend she would and that wouldn't do. I need to get her to back off.
"We've talked out every possibility that there is about this, but we think it's the right one for us. Edward is confident about it and he was confident that his family would be behind him. I think it would break his heart to hear you're not."
I give her my best wide eyed, broken hearted look, crossing my fingers it has the same effect on her that it does on my father.
"You're sure you couldn't convince him to move it up at least a year? It could be something small and tasteful here on the beach." She gazes longingly towards the ocean view that the deck provides. "Doesn't it just inspire you to plan your wedding?"
"Hmm...I suppose we could create an aisle with two sections of white chairs. We could line the aisles with petals of flowers indigenous to the area. At the end of the aisle would be a simple wooden archway with some white flowers and some white billowing fabric blowing in the wind. Along with Edward waiting for me in a tailored brown suit, sans the tie the bottom of his pants rolled up to enjoy the feel of the sand. Then your niece and nephews would be the perfect little people and then me. Barefoot, hair down the perfect dress that hugged my body and barely skimmed the sand."
"Yes!" I can practically feel the excitement rolling off of her in waves as I go on more and more with my description. "I'm not sure if I love him with no shoes, but whatever makes you two happy."
"Tell you what, I'll let you plan and create that entire vision."
Her squeal nearly deafens me as she throws herself into my arms and promises that I won't regret my decision.
"On June 7th."
I can see the gears in her head come to a stop as she eyes me. "A Thursday? You cannot get married on a Thursday!"
"It's a Saturday in 2014, that should give you plenty of time, right?" I attempt to hide my smile behind my coffee cup as she opens and closes her mouth sputtering around the cruelty. I wonder if maybe I crossed a line that I shouldn't have and I'm beginning to work myself up until I can hear her laugh beside me. "Oh! You really are wonderful for him, aren't you? Alright June 7th, but not a day later."
She wastes no more time with wedding talk, instead launching into our social calender for the next few days. It seems that there were several mini-parties to be had that would lead up to the night of the holiday; then every Cullen and Platt that ever was or would be would descend upon the house for a massive party. She promises that it will culminate with the most amazing fireworks display I will ever see.
A blond with wary violet eyes makes her way out onto the deck with the two of us in the middle of Alice's explanation of the schedule for the holiday. She takes a deep breath and pauses long enough for the woman to introduce herself as Alice's sister-in-law, Rosalie.
Listening to her go on about the schedule, it sounds exhausting and hectic. Nothing like the Berry Festival back home where we lazily stroll the streets at our own pace and go home to nap when the berries have become too much.
Just as I'm getting lost enough in my thoughts of home to start to miss it a little, the peace of the deck is disrupted by the sound of feet approaching and then there are two little boys clamoring around my feet.
"Are you Uncle Edward's new girlfriend?"
"He's never brought one of you around before... Mom says you're probably a gold digging yogi bear."
I can't help but laugh as I glance at Rosalie who's shooting daggers at her youngest son. "I think she meant a yoga-ite, but I'm not either of those things. But I am your Uncle Edward's girlfriend."
A chorus of ewwws were let loose in the air as the boys studied me thoughtfully as if deciding exactly what test I needed to endure.
"Do you want to go swimming with us?"
"She can't, she was just going to show me what she was planning on wearing tonight." Alice cut them off without a second thought and watching their little faces fall broke my heart.
"Well, Alice we could go shopping tomorrow morning and I could show you what I was planning on wearing after I shower? I hate to let the boys down."
"They're just going to try to drown you in the ocean, but whatever floats your boat. Be in my room with your hair and make up done no later than 6."
As I watch her storm off in a huff, I feel as if I might have gone two steps back in having her accept me as her future sister-in-law, but out of the corner of my eye I can see something has changed on Rosalie's ice carved face.
"But first you have to tell me which one of you is which. Who's Brady and who's Collin?"
With that we were off for a morning on the beach that did in fact include them attempting to shove my face in the water as many times as they could, but it was fun and they could care less about how we met or when exactly we were getting married.
I wish I could say the rest of the weekend passed as pleasantly as the afternoon in the pool with the twins. However, never has a three day weekend felt as long as the one I am currently making my way through. With classes and lab hours, Mondays are usually the day I dread more than any other, but I have found myself counting the hours until it approached.
"I promise this is the best place to see the fireworks."
"It's the quietest place to see the fireworks for sure," I say, sinking back against the seat of the boat and staring up at the clear sky. The only sounds that filled the air of the silence were the crashing waves and their breathing.
"I'm sorry, I know they've been a bit much this weekend. I feel like I have hardly seen you at all."
"I know, right? But it's fine, I understand your family is really excited for you to get married. When you do it for real it will be a lot of fun for you."
I ignore the twinge in my heart at my own statement, there was part of me that was going to miss this family after I went back home. Esme and her over sharing ways, Alice and her insistence that no one knew how to dress themselves without consulting her first, the twins' need to ask me a million questions about Seattle and my camera, and even Rose and her glaring ways. Considering that she had intervened on my behalf earlier when Esme's mother cornered me about the amount of children I wanted to have and how I was giving up my career at the time.
"I know, but you see now why this was necessary? Imagine all those efforts and energy that they expended on getting to know you and think of it all placed on my shoulders as they try to find the person who completes me. The holidays for the last three years have been chaos," he says as he rolls off the bench he was stretched out on. "What do you say to a drink to bring in the new year?"
"Sure I'll take one."
Out of no where I hear a soft melody on the guitar coming through the upper deck where I am laying. I don't recognize the song, but the melody is sweet.
"Dance with me."
The beers are clearly forgotten as Edward tugs me off my bench and onto my feet. "I think maybe you don't need another one if you're going to drive us back to shore tonight." I let him pull me into his arms as we sway with the music.
"I'm good, and even if I'm not we can always just float through the night. Bring in the New Year out on the water."
"It's the fourth of July, you dweeb, if it was New Year's we'd be freezing out here on the water."
"I promise I'll keep you warm."
"Just how much did you drink while I dozed over there?" I tease allowing my head to rest against his shoulder, because it just felt right there. It wasn't the first time we had danced over the weekend, but it was the first time that it wasn't for show.
The next thing I know his breath is warm against my ear as his voice joins the tinkling one spilling through the speakers. "I just can't get you off my mind. And why would I even try. Because even when I close my eyes I dream about you all the time. I just always wanna have you right here by my side. The future's near, but never certain at least stay here for just tonight."
My fingers trace his jawline as I look up into his eyes, everything fading around us as I try to figure out if he just happened to be singing along with a song that happened to be on the radio or if there was something more to it.
"Stay tonight. Just you and me. Here." His lips are on mine, but it's only a whisper of a kiss, a promise of what's to come if I say yes and I find myself agreeing before I even let my mind process the consequences.
As his hand slides into my hair and his lips find mine again, I realize I had been waiting for this moment the entire weekend. Every night as we sat on the bed in his room laughing about the days events and sharing the Ben & Jerry's he smuggled upstairs for me, I had been hoping he'd lean over and do this, but I realize this was the perfect moment.
His lips mold to mind the same way his body does, his fingers finding their way under my top as he pulls me against him. My fingers make their way into his hair, twisting and tugging as if I can get him closer somehow, I feel his warm tongue dart out to trace across my lips and I grant him entry without a second thought.
I don't know when this changed from an agreement to something more, but I feel like I can't get enough of him. All I can do is cherish this moment where we're the only two people in this world and tuck it close, because this may be all that I ever get from him.
His fingers find purchase higher on my rib cage, his thumbs sliding just below the underside of my breasts, causing a frustrated moan to escape my lips as the kiss continues, breaking apart only moments to readjust so we can touch each other more.
"Bella." It sounds like a plea as his mouth drops to my neck after my shirt finds its way onto the floor of the boat and his hands find their way back up my body, still avoiding the place I need his touch the most, but the feel of his skin against mine sets me afire.
His eyes lock with mine, the questions passing between us are answered with unspoken questions, spurred on by the heat passing between us. I wanted him with a desperation I had never known before urges me on.
As I undo the buttons of his shirt, pushing it off his shoulders, my hand sliding over his chest as my bra hits the deck and his fingers find purchase on my breasts
"I'm tired of pretending I don't want you."
With his words his mouth is on me and it's all I can do to maintain my position standing as my hands find their way over his chest, the muscled expanse a contrast of soft and hard underneath my hands, allowing them to finally explore all the plains I've been admiring over the last few days.
I am aching and burning every where he touches and I want more. I guide us back towards the bench I had been laying on before our dance. As the back of my knees hit the bench I feel him lower me down to the bench and he's over me in an instant. I can feel his hands hesitate as they tease the skin above my skirt. To reassure him my hands slide lower and with a flick of my wrist the zipper holding the skirt in place is open and the skirt is sliding lower revealing more skin.
I cannot remember ever wanting someone the way that I desire him, and I know that this torture can't go on much longer as I lower my hands to his shorts, undoing them and giving them a shove down with my hands as I lift my hips to help him ease my skirt down.
The way his eyes travel over me as I lay underneath him, completely exposed to him I feel beautiful, worshiped and adored. It only spurs on my desire to have him, my hands once more sliding their way over the corded muscle of his body. He smells like firewood and the ocean, the combination was heady and here in the moonlight riding the tide I could no longer resist him.
Arching up and pressing into him, my nails trailing over his back I let the words of desire and need spill over my lips.
I could feel his hand between us, tracing slowly over my body to the place I was pressing to him. "Like this?"
Before anymore pleas could leave my mouth, he was over me, his hands on my hips, cupping my butt and moving into me slowly, a near growl escaping against my lips as as he moves into me fully.
My eyes are enraptured by his face, his eyes rolling back as he whispers sweet words, peppering kisses against my skin as he moves into me more. Having him inside me, filling me completely is like nothing I have ever experienced and I can't imagine that I will ever get enough of him.
I join him, my body matching his movements, thrust for thrust as my hands slide over his slick skin. Our pace growing more fevered as I felt the tell tale tightening in my belly as I held onto him, whispering his name.
"Don't hold back, my Bella, don't hold back."
I could feel him grow harder as my body tightens around him. Calling out his name as I find myself falling over the edge of a cliff. Clinging to him as if he were my life saver as he drives into me faster and more frantically. He growls my name as his body arches and shudders, and he holds me fiercely to him as his release washes over him.
Neither one of us moves, the last thing I want to do is break the connection between us. It had been such a long weekend and the time we had spent together had been limited, but intense. I don't think it is possible to think this way, to feel this way so quickly, but I can't stop myself from wishing he is really mine.
"I've never known anyone like you, Bella."
"I'm hoping you mean that in a good way."
"I mean it in the very best way."
His whisper tickles my ear as he rolls off of me, tucking me into his chest gently. "A piece of me wishes I could just keep you right here. We'd never have to go back and face our jobs or school, no family. Simple just this, because this seems to work for us."
The quiet intimate chat isn't anything I've ever known and I tuck the memory close to my heart as I realize that I'm giving him yet another piece of me. "It does seem to work, although we'd get awfully hungry eventually, and maybe a little sea sick."
"Ahh... There's my little realist. But you know what? I can handle it if you can."
"I never back down from a challenge."
"Then consider one issued."
The breeze blows cool air across us, causing me to shiver.
"I think it's time to take you below deck."
"There's a bed down there. Did you think I would make you sleep out here on this hard bench?"
"It's beautiful up here."
"You're beautiful, and I'm not going to have you getting sick, because I was too dumb to take you downstairs first."
I can't help but giggle as he scoops me up, honeymoon style and I nuzzle into his neck as I wrap my arms around him.
"So this bed you speak of, it needs to be christened as well, right?"
"What precisely is this?"
I look up in surprise, trying to shake myself out of my daydreams of the night before so I can focus on Rosalie, who has marched into Edward's bedroom holding his laptop. The look on her face that would kill me on the spot if she possessed such powers.
"I don't know." I zip my bag once I have the last of my things inside of it. "Rose, we have to leave in the next ten minutes in order to catch our flight."
"I am aware of that. I was getting your e-mail address from Edward's laptop, so I could send you an e-mail to see if it was possible for you to e-mail me the pictures you took over the weekend."
"Of course, that's no issue at all. Is there something about it that upset you?"
"No, your e-mail address is whatever. I don't care, but THIS! This I care about! How dare you come in here like you care and spend the entire weekend lying to this family. Who the hell do you think you are!"
My mind races trying to figure out how she knows all of a sudden what we were up to when she shoves his laptop in my face and there it is:
Fake fiancée needed for weekend in the Hamptons. Cash reward. (Seattle)
Date: 2011-10-10, 12:18
Reply to: futurehusband (at) craigslist (dot) org
Due to a family reunion of sorts over the July 4th weekend and my ability to lie out of my ass at my family, I require the company of a female willing to act as my fiancée.
A little about me: I am a medical student studying in Seattle. I don't have a girlfriend or a fiancée, despite my families beliefs. I just wanted to stop their phone calls and looks of pity whenever I went home alone. "He'll find someone one day" would be my mother's favourite phrase which I hope to never hear again, which is why I made you up.
- Must be willing to stay in a home with seven adults and three children. No, the children are not mine nor will I expect you to announce a surprise pregnancy, I'm in enough shit already.
- Shyness would be a desired quality. Less chance of over acting on your part and chest pains on mine.
I don't need to read any further as I reach up and close the laptop as I feel my stomach turn. We are mere minutes from pulling this off.
"Don't worry, I'm not going to ruin this family's holiday high by telling them what a lying, gold digging bitch you are. Don't come back here though. This ends now. No more pretending."
The laptop is dropped unceremoniously on the bed and she's out of the room before I can say anything else. I don't know what I would even say. She's right, no matter what I've been telling myself, no matter who I thought I was helping with this situation, I have spent the entire weekend lying to this wonderful family for my own personal gain. I suddenly don't even know if I can stand myself.
Turning off my brain and emotions I allow my body to go through the automatic motions of packing up Edward's laptop and then dragging it downstairs with my own bags as I say good-bye to his parents. Nearly bursting into tears when Esme tells me how wonderful it was to meet me and how she's looking forward to more holidays.
I brush off Edward's inquiries during the ride to the airport in the back of Alice's car, allowing the siblings to carry on in the front of the car. Only speaking when spoken to, I know Edward thinks something is up, but I can't very well tell him now what had taken place with Rose upstairs, not in front of Alice. I don't think I could bear to see the hurt and betrayal in her eyes. Not that I don't deserve it, but I think the two of us had formed a friendship of sorts over the weekend and I didn't want that to end in a big blaze of ugly in front of the airport. So instead of saying anything I mumble the right words about calling her and board the plane with Edward, allowing him to take my hand, but immediately feigning sleep as soon as we are in the air.
"Alright, Bella, you have to tell me what the hell is going on with you. I know that Alice gave you a hard time about sleeping out on the boat, but I thought we agreed any harassment was worth it for our night together."
He finally demands as we stand in the terminal of the Seattle airport. His fingers are on my cheek and I can't help myself from leaning into his touch more. "Edward, Rose knows. She got on your laptop and found the ad. She brought it up to your room just before we left."
The string of curses that leave his mouth surprise me as I shake my head. "So you see. The cat has been let out of the proverbial bag. No more pretending we're something we're not. You got your relaxing holiday and now you just call and tell them we broke up before Thanksgiving."
The ring is off my finger and in his hand before he can even form words. "Thank you for the weekend, Edward. It was wonderful. I messaged Jess to have her pick me up here today. Good luck."
I can't help but brush a kiss across his cheek as I walk past him towards the baggage claim, willing all of my emotions to remain in check until I yank my generic black suitcase off the carousel and am out the door of the airport before he even moves towards the baggage claim.
"This came for you today."
I glance up at Jess who is warily handing me an envelop with no return address and I sigh as I take it. I know that I've spent the last three weeks acting like a total bitch, but instead of enjoying the last of my summer break picking up photography jobs when I could, I had been moping around the house reliving one perfect night with someone that should have meant as much as it did. "Bella, are you going to tell me what went down with you and your boy?"
"There's nothing to say, Jess, I'm sorry I've been in such a funk."
I hope the apology will cause her to leave put as I rip open the envelope a single piece of paper falls out and lands in my lap, picking it up as if it might burn me I study his signature on the bottom corner of the check.
Five thousand dollars right there in my hand, the answer to all of my problems. The reason I had endured the holiday weekend with his family. The money makes me feel cheap and used, I stand up for the first time in weeks feeling like I have a purpose.
"The creature from the deep moves, terror reigns in the streets, mothers take their children inside, husbands load their shot guns in preparation for what is to come."
I level her with a glare as I yank my car keys off the counter. "Shut it, Jess." I growl on my way out the door to my car.
Who just sends someone a check in the mail like I provided a service. Like I am just some pesky bill he has to pay in order to keep something on. I have every intention of telling him exactly where he can take his check for as the memo in the corner states services rendered. I can't believe I'd spend weeks pining after him and all that night on the boat was to him was a service he'd received. I guess he wasn't kidding when he said some fiance duties were available. Here I thought my ice cream and late night talks were something special.
Stalking into the hospital I could care less about the weird looks I'm receiving. Glancing down it occurs to me that maybe I should have stopped to put on something other than Jess's sweat pants, but who cares if Pink is declared on every part of them in rhinestones. Or that there's a small stain where I dropped the chocolate ice cream I had for breakfast on the tank top accompanying them.
Pushing the button outside the maternity ward, I tap my foot impatiently as I wait for the nurse to get back to me. Stupid secure floors, do I look like the kind of person who wants to steal a baby? Thinking once more about my appearance I amend my own thoughts that I can understand her reluctance to admit me although I still didn't appreciate her snarky comment about "It's not really standard procedure for the residents to have visitors."
I am going to standard procedure her blond manicured self through that intercom if she didn't produce the pretty boy so I could tell him what I think of his check.
The door opening pulls me out of me daydreams of ripping the check up and feeding it to him or lighting it on fire and watching it turn into nothing. A familiar body is in front of me and when our eyes lock I am suddenly at a loss for what I need to say.
"Good, it reached you. You hadn't returned any of my calls so I thought this was the best way."
"Did you ever think there was a reason I wasn't returning your calls?"
"I figured you didn't want to talk to me."
"And yet you think that means 'Please, send me a check like a common whore!'?"
The look on his face tells me he doesn't know whether to laugh at me or just walk away from my crazy.
"I don't want your money, Edward."
"Your student loan. You need this money, Bella, take it."
"I don't need your money. I promise, I'm alright. There are people in much worse shape than I am with loans, if all I have to do is pay off a couple thousand dollars I can do it. I won't take your money. Not after what happened between us."
He takes the check when I shove it into his hand. "You think that THIS has something to do with what happened between us? Bella, this has to do with an agreement that we made before we left. I am a man of my word."
"No, the boat changed everything for me. I can't—"
"The boat changed everything for me, too. You changed everything for me. When I met you in the cafeteria I knew you were smart, driven and determined. I knew my entire family would be completely charmed by you, but what I didn't count on was just how charmed I would be with you. I have never felt that kind of connection with anyone. I've never been able to talk to someone like I could with you."
My silence apparently is encouragement as he braves the space between us, his fingers grazing over my cheek. "I shouldn't have let what happened on the boat happen until we were home or I should have been more clear that it had nothing to do with the arrangement and everything to do with the fact that I can't stop thinking about you."
"So why send me a check for Services Rendered?" I can't help the contempt that wraps itself around the last two words as I eye him warily, not moving away from his touch, but not moving into it.
"I thought you were done with me, but I wanted to have what you were due at least. Even if you are done with me you deserve to have what we agreed on."
"I don't want your money."
"Because I want so much more."
"You want me."
The fact that he makes it as a statement and not a question makes me want to smack the smug look off his face but I can't help the small giggle that escapes me. "Yes, you pain in my ass, I want you. Crazy family and all."
"So you want the ring back?"
"Now I really do think I might smack you! No, I don't want the ring back. I want us to get to know each other more. Maybe if you ask nicely I'll even let you take me out on a proper date."
"I'm off next Friday."
I let out a soft hum of agreement as his lips find my neck and his hands find their way around my waist. "So you'll come to Thanksgiving at least?"
"I don't know what you're talking about Edward, it's your turn to give up the holiday. You're totally coming to Forks in November."
I tease him as my lips find his and my arms wind around his neck and for the first time since the last time we were like this everything in my world seems to have righted itself once more.
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