Pop the Question Contest Entry
Title: You'll Never Know Unless You Try
Word Count (without the A/n and header): 7928
Pairing: Edward / Bella
Summary: Armed with a pitcher of mojitos and Alice's seduction manual, Bella has set herself a goal: Within 24 hours, her best friend, Edward, will pop the question!
Warnings (if any): N/A
You'll Never Know Unless You Try
"Will you marry me?"
Bella's eyes widened as she registered that the words had actually left her mouth. Crapcrapcrappitycrap, what in the fuck was that? Not smooth, Swan! Not in the script!
Grabbing the pitcher, she poured another mojito, her third of the evening, not bothering with ice.
"I mean, we should totally get married some day, right?...ha ha." She laughed weakly, finally registering that Edward did not appear to be listening to her, anyway. Okay, maybe she hadn't enunciated very well, and her mojito-inspired word vomit had gone under the radar. She could hope.
Booze. Booze is my friend. Damn, this mix is awesome. Can't even taste the alcohol. Okay, you can save this. Act casual.
Dipping her head, Bella let her hair cover her face as she felt the telltale blush spread, waiting for the liquid courage to kick in. How had the week since college graduation passed so quickly, and she was still at square one? She had planned, she had given herself pep talks, coached by her faithful partner in crime, Edward's cousin, Alice — hell, she'd even practiced looking sexy in the mirror — all to no avail. Tomorrow, student housing would close, and they would go their separate ways...unless she managed to throw a new variable into the equation.
See? I even think in geeky algebraic metaphors. More proof that we are destined to be together.
Raising her voice above the retro mix playing in the background, she tried again. "Edward?"
He stood across the kitchen table, head bent over their puzzle, apparently deep in concentration. His head bopping to the beat of George Michael, he mouthed the words to "I Want Your Sex" as he swiveled his hips, sifting through puzzle pieces. She noticed he was paying special attention to assembling Deanna Troy's tits.
Huh - Alice was right. Edward is a total boob man. Well, I just happen to have some of those boob things, myself.
Pretending to work on Captain Picard's ear, she leaned over the table, resting her weight on her elbows, and adjusted the deep blue babydoll top Alice had loaned her, promising it would make Edward stupid. The "girls" were looking perky tonight, not that they'd ever seen much action. I'm going to die a virgin, I swear to God.
Edward finally lifted his head, his clear green eyes focusing on hers as a sweet smile lit his face. "Yeah?" He added a few special moves as George Michael grunted in the background; his low-slung jeans threatened to succumb to the call of gravity. If only.
God, he was beautiful.
Who was she kidding? If he hadn't decided she was his type by now, it was never going to happen.
Stop it! You'll never forgive yourself if you don't really try.
She took a deep breath. Here we go. "Do you want to watch a movie or something?"
Couch time. Remove dork from puzzle.
Alice would be proud.
"Yeah, a movie sounds good. Besides, we got this." Triumphantly fitting the last piece into the center of Picard's forehead, Edward flashed her the Vulcan peace sign and danced out of the room, chugging his Sam Adams.
How is he always that cheerful, without the aid of pharmaceuticals?
"Okay then!" she called after him, "I'll just... get something for us to eat..." She headed toward the refrigerator and continued under her breath, "...masturbate in the shower... whatever..."
Bella stopped with her hand on the refrigerator door, caught off-guard by the old photo taken during their first year of college. She studied the eighteen-year-old Bella and Edward. In the photo, a much slenderer, bespectacled Edward was seated on the ground, and a scrawnier version of herself knelt behind him, her arms wrapped around his neck. He had reached up with one hand to hold her forearm against his chest. She took in the easy, joyful smiles. She tried to imagine what it would be like if she no longer saw him every day, perhaps didn't even live in the same city. Her heart constricted painfully, and she closed her eyes.
Please, let this work. Please...let him want me.
Four Years Earlier ~ First Year of College
Bella had just left her room when a boy came tripping up the stairs that led to her quad, his moving box crashing in front of him, his glasses skipping across the floor and landing at her feet. Stooping to pick them up, she'd looked up to meet the most stunning set of green eyes she'd every seen, and her mouth hung open, stupidly.
"Damn it! Stupid bullshit..." The boy muttered to himself as he scrambled to gather the personal items that had spilled out onto the floor.
She put her hand on his lanky forearm, stopping his movements.
"Hey. Um... here are your glasses. They seem fine..." She blushed as he looked up from his kneeling position and took them from her, placing them back on his nose.
He blinked at her, his expression dazed. Reflexively pushing her own glasses into place, she gave him a shy smile. His eyes widened and he quickly looked away, running a hand through his unruly hair.
"Thanks." He let out a nervous sounding chuckle and stood, wiping his palms on his thighs and shifting on his feet. Bella stood as well, and they looked at each other for a moment in painful silence.
Talk to the beautiful boy, Bella. This is your chance. You saw him first.
"No problem..." she took a deep breath and let it out in a huff. "I'm Bella. I live there." She gestured behind her and stuffed her hands protectively into her pockets.
"Edward." He met her eyes and held out his hand politely. Bella awkwardly pulled hers back out of her jeans pocket and reached to take his hand. Warmth. Comfort.
Speak, Bella. Use your words.
"Okay..." She shook her head in frustration at her awkwardness. Strangely, maddeningly, he still held her hand in his.
"Um, I think we're the only ones here yet. You want some help up with your stuff?" Her offer was interrupted by the slam of a door and voices below, clearly someone's parents. They jerked away from each other in embarrassment. Figures.
"It looks so beautiful on the outside, but why don't they make the vestibule more welcoming?" The woman's melodic voice echoed in the stairwell.
"These are dorms, Esme. You do remember college, don't you? They build these things to take some punishment." The man's voice was strained, as if he was carrying something heavy.
Edward rolled his eyes in embarrassment and gestured toward the stairs with his head. "My parents. I think we've got it covered." He hesitated, then put a hand briefly on her shoulder. "But, thanks...Bella" Even with his glasses, she could see the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled, and she felt a warmth in her chest.
She nodded her head and backed away toward her open door. "So...let me know if you need anything..."
Edward's parents came into view on the last flight of stairs, intimidatingly good looking and well dressed.The warm smiles on their faces quickly dispelled her reservations, however.
"Oh, look! Edward's already met a friend!" The woman enthused, her eyes moving between Edward and Bella.
Edward grimaced apologetically and made the introductions. "Mom, Dad, this is Bella. Bella, these are my parents, Esme and Carlisle."
Bella bobbed her head and gave a small wave, wishing she'd made it through her door to safety so she could avoid meeting these beautiful people, but also feeling a thrill at having an excuse to continue talking with Edward.
"Bella, it's so good to meet you. Are your parents still here?" Esme looked past Bella to her empty room.
"No...um... My dad couldn't stay. It's a pretty long drive, so he had to get started." She shrugged awkwardly, surprised that she suddenly felt a bit forlorn.
Carlisle's voice was kind. "Would you like to join us for dinner? We'd love to get to know you before we head home."
"Please." Edward smiled at her, bashful yet somehow confident. "Please come."
She'd accepted gladly, unexpected optimism making the decision easy.
Bella surreptitiously studied Edward as he read a book, sprawled out on her sofa. He'd come back from summer break with contacts and a good haircut. Noting the way his t-shirt now stretched across his back, she decided that he'd also filled out quite a bit. She shook her head in bemusement.
I guess I can understand why he's suddenly the shiny new toy every girl wants.
A seemingly endless stream of (clearly shallow) girls had been after him for weeks now, like flies on meat — not that he was complaining, mind you. Bella sighed; she supposed she couldn't blame him. To hear him tell it, this was the first time in his life that the opposite sex had paid him any attention, so of course he was enjoying the boost to his self esteem. She should be happy for him...but she had to admit, at least to herself, that she was far from happy.
The first time she'd interrupted Edward and some starry-eyed girl in his room, she'd immediately felt the urge to rip the interloper to shreds. That was when she realized she was in deep trouble.
She sighed again, and Edward raised his head from his book. "Hey...everything okay?"
"Yeah. Just a bit of a headache." She met his eyes as briefly as possible — he could always tell when she was lying — and quickly turned back to her computer, feigning concentration.
When had her feelings changed? She thought back, and couldn't pinpoint the exact time. They'd been nearly inseparable through their first year, both a bit book-nerdish and not inclined to party. But, because of her own insecurities, and her certainty that he harbored only platonic feelings for her, she'd never allowed herself to think of him as anything more than a friend.
But then she'd missed him terribly over the summer, despite Skyping and texting every day. That may have been when she began to have an inkling that she was falling for her best friend.
It certainly had nothing to do with his changed appearance; that had simply activated the Estrogen Brigade, thus forcing her to acknowledge her feelings.
Edward wasn't actually taking any of the girls up on their increasingly obvious offers, but surely, it was only a matter of time. She'd have to get used to the idea. This time Bella suppressed her sigh, resigned that, for the first time since they'd met, she would not be able to confide in her best friend.
Edward put his book away and rested on his side, quietly watching her as she typed. She pretended not to notice.
By tradition, Friday was movie night, but the rest of their friends had begged off, so Edward and Bella were on their own. Movie temporarily forgotten, they sat on his sofa, fighting over a bowl of popcorn and trading insults.
"Seriously, dude, Lauren Mallory? She's not exactly in the running for Phi Beta Kappa." Bella had gotten used to seeing Edward with the occasional date. At least, she was getting used to feigning indifference.
"At least she can speak in complete sentences, unlike a certain ball-head of your acquaintance." Edward had been surprisingly hostile towards Tyler Crowley, the hockey player who'd been dropping by her room lately.
"Technically, he's a puck-head. And you could be nicer to him." Bella was secretly enjoying the attention; she'd done some filling out of her own this year, in the chest department, and at least some males had taken notice.
They were interrupted by Edward's latest groupie, Jessica Stanley, dressed in her usual slut-wear and posed expectantly in Edward's doorway. Bella sighed and looked down at her own standard jeans and hoodie.
Edward ignored Jessica and shot back, "I'll be nicer to Tyler when he starts respecting you."
Bella glared at him. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, hi, Bella. You're here." Jessica had entered and stood in front of her, looking put out.
Bella gritted her teeth. "Why yes, yes I am here. Hello to you, too, Jessica. I see you're here, as well."
Half an hour later, Jessica was still talking nearly non-stop, and then, surprise! she'd reached in her bag and produced a tub of jello shots, awesome! By this time, Bella was beyond ready to be in an altered state, and she started popping jello shots like there was no tomorrow. Jessica did her part by hand-feeding them to Edward, and before long, at least two of them were uncharacteristically plastered (Jessica, apparently, could hold her liquor).
Eventually, Jessica gave up her seduction scheme and left in a huff, but Edward and Bella didn't noticed her departure; they were in his bedroom with the door locked, their argument long forgotten...
Bella woke up to find herself alone in Edward's bed. Gingerly, she put a hand to her pounding forehead and tried to remember how she had ended up here. Jessica had grown more aggressive as the night went on, finally climbing onto Edward's lap and shoving her meagerly-clad breasts in his face. Horrified and embarrassed, Bella had fled to the safety of Edward's bedroom, but he had dumped Jessica to the floor and rushed after her, slamming the door behind them.
Oh, God, and then he'd kissed her.
She closed her eyes, trying to remember, but only recalled vague impressions... Edward pressing her against the door, his mouth on hers...darkness, his body heavy on hers in the bed, the feel of his hand on her breast through the thick fabric of her sweatshirt...
A thrill of joy shot through her as she remembered the feel of his lips on hers, but suddenly her heart began to pound.
Why isn't he here? Where is he?
She sat up too quickly and had to wait as the room spun. Groaning, she stumbled out of bed and located her shoes on the floor — she still wore her sweatshirt and jeans. She peeked into the outer room, hoping to find Edward, but was disappointed. Grabbing her backpack, she slipped out the door to make her escape, only to come face to face with Jessica Stanley, on her way back from the showers.
Jessica gaped at her in shock, but her expression quickly turned cruel.
"You pathetic little slut! I suppose now that you've fucked him, you think he's going to be your boyfriend?"
Oh, my God, this is not happening. Where is Edward?
"What? No! I'm not...we didn't... "
"Oh!..." Now Jessica looked positively gleeful. "You're friends with benefits! Oh, my God, that's even worse!"
"Friends with..." Bella's face went deathly pale, and she felt her stomach roil. Desperately running for the stairs, she stumbled her way outside and heaved the contents of her stomach into the bushes.
Their friendship was strained for months after that night, but eventually, Bella found that she missed her friend, and she put it behind her. For his part, Edward seemed relieved when things returned to normal.
Bella had learned from her mistake. Senior year passed in a happy blur of classes and time spent with friends. With their tacit agreement to maintain the status quo in their relationship, she regained the ease and comfort in her friendship with Edward that she had missed since their first year together.
She still cried into her pillow on those rare occasions when he seemed to be testing the waters with someone else, but for the most part, she told herself, she was content. She even went on the occasional token date herself, noting with irritation that Edward had a glaring double standard when it came to tolerating each other's forays into romance.
It was early May, nearly graduation, and, Edward's cousin, Alice, was starting an internship on campus and moving into an apartment nearby with her boyfriend, Jasper. Bella had heard stories about Alice over the years and looked forward to meeting his childhood favorite. Edward was excited that Alice was done with her Southern Adventure and was returning to the northwest, southern gentleman in hand.
Still, Bella was more than a little surprised to open her front door and find the diminutive brunette she recognized from Edward's photos standing on her porch, impatiently tapping her foot as she checked out the neighborhood.
Bella regained her composure and opened the door wider. "Hello, erm... Alice?"
Alice nodded and folded her arms, looking Bella up and down, as Bella shifted her weight uncomfortably and waited. Finally, Alice tilted her head to one side and smirked.
"So, you're the one that Edward's been in love with for the last four years!"
Bella grinned in amusement and leaned against doorway. "You are every bit as strange as Edward said, and I'm very happy to meet you, but four years of history say you are sadly mistaken."
Alice breezed by her into the hallway. "Oh, he's in love with you. He's just too chicken-shit to admit it to himself."
Bella scoffed involuntarily and Alice suddenly stopped and turned, eyes narrowed. "You are in love with him, aren't you?"
How the hell am I supposed to answer that?
Sighing in resignation, Bella closed her front door and went into the kitchen to make tea.
Bella was still in the kitchen working up her nerve to tackle Edward when her phone vibrated noisily on the counter and she snatched it up, scurrying out the back door and holding it to her ear.
"Alice!" she hissed, "This isn't working! I've been leaning on things and crossing my arms and smooshing, and I may have accidentally proposed marriage, but I don't think he heard me, thank god, and —"
"BELLA." Alice's no nonsense voice cut through her babbling. "Calm down. We have established that you have no filter. Besides, men don't actually listen to our words. Now, then..." In the background, Bella could hear Alice flipping through pages on her steno pad. Alice was a big believer in lists. "How many drinks have you had?"
"You mean alcohol?"
" . . . "
"Sorry, sorry...um, three?"
"Three. That's good..." The sound of a pen scratched in the background. "And Edward?"
"Um... one? I think?"
"Only one?" Alice's voice rose in disapproval. "Not good, Bella! Have you been pushing the mojitos?"
"Well, no...he's really more of a beer guy..."
"Now you listen here, missy! That boy is wound tighter than a new girdle. He needs something stronger than beer."
"Alice, what's with the old-timey sayings? Are you high?"
"Stay on topic, you! And for your information, Jasper's grandma is from Texas."
Oh, my god, she IS high. I am so screwed...
Alice huffed into the phone. "His grandma is from Texas so she has a lot of old-timey sayings and she's staying with us while she gets her hip replaced and she's very interested in your situation. Any questions?"
Okay, now I'm panicking.
"You're giving me advice from Jasper's eighty-year-old grandma?"
"Bella." Uh oh. It's The Calm Voice.
"You find that boy and you get him toasted and you flash him your girls. Wait a minute..."
Bella could hear several voices talking on top of one another.
"Jasper's grandma says don't propose again until you've seen his Captain Howdy."
I am so screwed.
Bella returned to the kitchen in time to hear Edward hollering from the living room.
"Comedy or action?"
Or how about a nice, hot porno, Edward?
God, she wished she had the nerve to suggest such a thing.
His voice came again, now muffled by the sound of an infomercial. "...or how about a horror movie?"
She opened the refrigerator and bent to poke her head inside. Beer, yogurt, Hot Pockets. Aren't those supposed to be frozen?
"Yeah, okay, scary is good!" she called over her shoulder, her eyes still searching for food.
"Bella?" The voice came from right behind her, and she levitated off the floor with a shriek, arms spazzing in the air. "Holy CRAP, Edward!"
He was rolling on the floor, clutching his arms around his stomach, breathing in fits and gasps as if the wind had been knocked out of him. She would have been worried, if it weren't for the face-splitting grin.
"Oh!...Oh, shit!...Jesus!..." Slowly, he regained the ability to speak.
"I thought . . . only cats could to do that." His breathing had progressed to spasmodic laughs and gasps, interspersed with rational language.
Bella crouched down next to him and smacked him upside the head, even though she found him adorable. As usual.
"Yeah, okay. Laugh it up, fuzzball." She felt a surge of satisfaction as she pulled a Star Wars, Episode IV quote out of her ass on short notice. We are so made for each other.
Edward's fit was petering out. He lay on his back and gazed at her, his eyes growing thoughtful.
She sat down on the floor next to him and daringly draped an arm over his waist. "Hey..."
"Hey yourself." He took her hand in his and brought it up to rest on his chest.
She could feel his heart beating through the worn cotton of his t-shirt, and she held her breath, her own pulse beginning to race.
He opened his mouth as if to say something, then seemed to think better of it, his face coloring as he turned it away.
"Edward...what?" She gave his hand a little squeeze, but he shook his head and raised a hand to cover his eyes.
"Just... give me a minute." His voice was hoarse, and she wondered what the hell was going on. A few seconds ago he had been laughing...
And then the moment passed, and her lighthearted best friend was back. Quickly sitting up, he squeezed her hand and gave it a noisy smack with his lips before ruffling her hair.
'Cuz I'm such a good buddy...
She mustered a smile to cover her disappointment.
"We're already engaged, you know," he told her, giving her a significant look.
Her brow furrowed at the non-sequitur, then she felt her face heat up as she realized he had heard what she'd said in the kitchen, after all.
Edward shook his head at her, his smile gently teasing. "I can't believe you've already forgotten my romantic proposal. You know, the night Tanya Denali dumped my sorry ass?"
Good riddance to that heinous wench.
He nudged her playfully with his shoulder. "We agreed that if we turned forty, and if both of us were single, we'd marry each other." He waggled his eyebrows at her and stood, dragging her up with him.
Reaching behind her, he grabbed a bag of hot fries from the counter and popped one into his mouth with a wink before heading out of his kitchen.
His mood swings are going to give me whiplash.
"You know, Tanya was just trying to get you to commit," she called to his retreating back, admiring the way his t-shirt hugged his shoulders.
Edward turned to give her a look of mock outrage, nearly catching her in mid-ogle. "Like that was going to happen."
Grabbing the pitcher o' booze and plastic cups, she followed him into his living room.
"I don't know what the hell I was doing with her, anyway." He fell onto the couch with a disgusted look on his face and pensively chewed on a hot fry.
Bella stopped in front of him and rolled her eyes, hand on her hip. "Dude. It's called 'beer goggles.'"
Edward hitched an eyebrow at her. "And you're one to talk? CoughNewtoncough." He mock-coughed into his hand, suddenly looking decidedly less cheerful.
"Yeah, well, at least I had the good sense to break it off after a week."
She plunked onto the sofa next to him and sat cross-legged, grabbing a fistful of hot fries from the bag on his lap and stuffing some into her mouth.
Her bare knee was touching his jeans-clad leg.
"He wuff a grofe kiffer." She grabbed the remote and started flipping through channels, idly licking the spicy powder from her fingertips.
"He was?" Edward's voice sounded strained.
She turned her head to find him staring at her mouth, an intense look on his face. His adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed.
Suddenly, she had no idea what they were talking about. "Huh?" she asked weakly.
"Um..." he licked his lips and raised his eyes to hers, his face pinkening as he shifted in his seat, turning slightly toward her.
"You, uh..." He chuckled nervously and looked down, shaking his head.
Okay, this is intense, this is good. I think this is good.
He toyed with a frayed hole in the knee of his jeans and cleared his throat.
"S-so, Newton... he's a b-bad kisser?" He cringed and sat back, running his hands over his face.
Bella's mind raced.
Holy crap, is he nervous? He's nervous! Edward Cullen is nervous!
Okay, get a grip, woman. Stick with the program. Don't frighten the Edward.
She allowed herself a moment for some internal spazzing, then turned back to the TV and sipped her drink, nodding thoughtfully.
"Um, yeah... Bad. Newton. Bad kisser. Very gross." She casually stretched out her legs and crossed her newly Alice-pedicured bare feet on the coffee table, leaning back with her drink cradled on her tummy.
Edward propped his feet beside hers and leaned back next to her, his shoulder sort-of-maybe grazing hers, eyes on the screen.
He popped some hot fries in his mouth and chewed. "Gross, huh? Hmmm..."
"Yep." She took another drink, definitely feeling a bit loopy.
His shoulder was definitely touching hers now, making it difficult to think.
Heroically, she mustered another adjective. "Sloppy."
"I know, right?"
They stared at the television.
Next to her feet, Bella's phone vibrated with a text from Alice.
Mojito! Toast! Girls! Howdy!
Edward read over her shoulder and scrunched his forehead quizzically. "Is she high or something?"
Bella poured herself another drink, then held the pitcher up to him invitingly.
He took it from her and drank straight from the pitcher, then comically stuck out his tongue as if he'd just tasted gasoline.
"Ugh, how much sugar did you put in this stuff? Is this what my insane cousin is texting you about?"
"Sort of. And the sugar is to cover the taste of the rum."
Both Edward's eyebrows shot up. "Rum?" With a boyish grin, he filled his cup. "Now you're talking."
"Really? Edward, you only drink beer."
He looked at her indignantly. "Did you or did you not just offer me a mojito?"
"Did! I did. Enjoy your rum-filled drink."
Stuffing some hot fries into her mouth, she was internally patting herself on the back when Edward interrupted the celebration.
"So what's with the 'toast-girls-Howdy?' part?"
The hot fries got stuck in her throat and she bit her tongue, hard.
Flapping her hands around her face, she stalled as long as she could, but the tenacious bastard was still smirking at her expectantly.
"Erm...I don't know?"
His wide grin confirmed that he was enjoying this entirely too much.
"I call bullshit. Spill it, Swan." He settled back with his drink, apparently getting ready for a show.
She decided to bluff. "Like you said...I think she's high."
He shook his head gleefully. "Nope. We both know Alice doesn't even drink." He took a sip of his mojito, as if to drive his point home.
I'm seriously going to kill Alice.
"Jasper's grandma is having her hip replaced and she's interested in your penis!" She cringed as soon as the words were out of her mouth, then put on her game face.
Edward stared at her mutely for a long moment.
"Bella...how many of those things have you had?"
She groaned and pulled her knees into her chest, hiding her face. "Oh my god. Four, I think. Can we please pretend this conversation never happened?"
She heard him stand up.
"I'll be right back."
As soon as he left the room, she snatched up the phone and furiously texted Alice.
wtf, alice he saw ur txt!
She waited, her knee bouncing with agitation. Fuck, my tongue hurts. I think it's starting to swell up...
Her phone buzzed and the screen lit up.
Bella heard the microwave door slam and Edward singing in the kitchen.
Quickly dialing Alice's number, she hunched into the corner of the couch and let her hair curtain her face.
She heard Alice cracking up at her own lame joke.
"Oh mah GAH, Alith, shtop channeling Jaspersh grandma an be sherioush!"
"Sorry, sweetie. What's wrong with your mouth? Never mind - so what's up?"
"I don't know what'sh up! He shaw the teksht and he thinksh I'm drunk and he'sh in the kishen and I think he'sh making Hot Pocketsh!"
"Hot pockets..." She said the words as if she was a gypsy, gazing at her crystal ball. "Bella, did you have anything for supper?"
"No, I've been too nervoush. I jush had shome hot friesh."
"Honey, he's being sweet and making you something to eat so you don't get sick."
The microwave dinged.
"Don't forget - toast, girls, Howdy!"
Edward entered with a gallon of orange juice and a plate of Hot Pockets.
"Here - drink this first." He held out the orange juice.
"Are you crazhy? That'll shting like a bitsh!"
"I know, but then it'll dull the nerves. Trust me?" He sat next to her and held out the juice again, eyebrows raised in encouragement and a sweet smile on his face. Edward in nursemaid mode was incredibly endearing.
She took a large drink of juice, wincing at the sting on the side of her tongue.
"Swish it around in your mouth this time."
Doing as he suggested, she felt the sting begin to grow numb and gave him a timid smile. "Better."
"Good. Now come here and eat some of this fine cuisine." His voice was kind as he leaned back with the plate in his lap and held out his arm invitingly.
When she didn't move right away, he blushed and ran a hand through his hair in embarrassment, starting to sit forward. "Sorry..."
"No! I mean yes! Thanks!" She quickly sat back and settled against his side, and his arm came to rest along the back of the sofa behind her.
Bella's heart was hammering in her chest, and she didn't know what to do with her hands, but settled on clutching them awkwardly in her lap.
Edward shifted so that he was turned slightly toward her and held up half a Hot Pocket. "Here you go. I think it's cool enough by now."
He watched as she took a small bite, then a larger one. The warm sauce spilled down her chin, and she quickly caught the drip with her finger, then licked it clean. She closed her eyes briefly in appreciation.
"Mmmmm. 's good."
Beside her, she felt Edward stiffen, and she turned to see him sitting with his eyes closed and jaw clenched.
Suddenly self-conscious, she covered her mouth. "Wha?"
Furrowing his brow, he shook his brow minutely. "Never mind."
Edward took a deep breath through his nose, let it out through his mouth, and opened his eyes. He picked up the remote.
The color was still high on his cheeks as he looked down at her, a crooked smile on his lips. "Still want to try a horror movie?"
She nodded and bravely scooted a little further into his side, enjoying his warmth.
They settled on a movie, and Edward reached to turn off the table lamp, leaving them bathed in just the glow from the TV.
He bent down to whisper in her ear, "Is this okay?"
Edward hummed his agreement and ever so lightly began to brush his fingertips against her shoulder, so softly that she could barely feel it...except that suddenly it seemed that every nerve in her body was focused on that spot; she could scarcely breathe.
This is really happening. Oh, my god, this is really happening.
She closed her eyes, dropping all pretense of watching the movie. After a moment, Edward picked up the remote and turned the volume down to a low murmur in the background.
Excruciatingly slowly, he moved his fingers toward her neck and began to stroke her hair, the tenderness of the gesture nearly bringing tears to her eyes. She'd imagined this so many times.
"Bella." His voice was velvety soft as he sighed and rested his head against the top of hers. She could feel the deep, steady rise and fall of his breathing, and she turned her face into his side, perfectly content. But then the breath hitched in his chest.
"Bella, I...we can't do this now."
"What?" Her voice rose in confusion, and she pulled away to face him, mortification making her stomach knot.
He reached for her hand, but she had hugged hers protectively around her middle.
"No, no, wait!... I meant not now, not like this..." He shook his head in frustration, "God, can't I ever say anything right the first time?"
"I don't understand... I thought..." Hot tears stung her eyes, and she was further horrified to hear the quiver in her voice. "I thought you..."
Oh, God. Please don't let me bawl in front on him.
"No, Bella, shhhh..." He lifted one hand to stroke the side of her hair, then took both her hands in his. "Bella, please, please believe me... I want this."
Humiliation turned to indignant anger and she backed away further, scooting away from him to the end of the couch.
"But our friendship is more important? Or do you not really see me that way, and you're just reacting to m-me th-throwing myself at you again?"
The stress of the evening and the alcohol were finally taking their toll, and she began sobbing, unable to speak.
"Oh, God, Bella, shhh, no, no, no."
Edward pulled her carefully into his arms and lay his head across hers, to rock her back and forth. She desperately wrapped her arms behind his back and clung to him, her face buried in his shirt, as she cried out all the tension she'd been carrying.
"Bella... you remember what happened the last time you were like this, last year." He swallowed and took a deep breath.
"We...both of us were so drunk that night... and we..." he stopped, and she began to speak, whispering into his chest in between sobbing breaths and sniffles.
"We kissed...m-made out,...and and then I fell asleep... and I c-couldn't remember much of anything, and it was so w-weird and awful..." she began sobbing in earnest again and he shushed her gently, crooning into her ear. When her breathing had calmed, he continued.
"Bella...I just can't stand the thought that you'll regret this, like you did last time. I think it would kill me."
"W-what?..." she pulled away to look at him. "What are you talking about?"
"Bella... it was awful."
Moving away slightly, he rested his elbows on his knees and hung his head, hands clasped behind his neck.
"I was such an asshole. I took advantage of you when you were drunk...and then I was sick and left you all alone... and that...that bitch..." he fairly spat the word.
"She and her friends were so fucking cruel... I could barely look you in the eye, I was so ashamed."
Drawing her legs onto the couch, she curled into a ball, hugging her knees, and listened, wide-eyed.
"You were my dearest friend...you trusted me. And I put you in that position."
His voice was heavy with emotion, and he shook in self disgust. "God, I've been wanting to say this to you for so long, but I'm a fucking coward.
"But by some miracle, you forgave me, anyway. And now..." he laughed humorlessly and sat back on the couch, laying his head back and staring up at shadows overhead.
"Now I'm preparing myself to watch you go, watch you forget about me and find someone else, and you show up tonight dressed like..." he swallowed convulsively and flung his arm to the side, gesturing in her direction without turning his head. "Looking like..."
He covered his face with his hands for a moment and groaned in frustration, then sat up straight again.
"...and I'm thinking this time, maybe it will work, it will finally be right. But you kept drinking those fucking mojitos, and I just..." His words died off, and his agitation gradually quieted as he gazed down at his hands.
He turned to look at her finally, the sadness in his expression making her heart ache.
"I don't know what this is to you. I can't stand to see that look of regret on your face, ever again. And...I can't be a one night fling."
Almost as if he lacked the energy to hold himself up any more, Edward slowly turned his body toward her and rested the side of his face on the back of the sofa. He reached out to stroke her hair, and Bella had to strain to hear his voice.
"Bella...I love you too much. And I know you love me, too..." He smiled sadly. "But, Bella... I'm in love with you."
He stared calmly into her eyes, and she felt her heart break into a million pieces, all her defenses shattered.
Oh, you dear, dear man.
Bella knelt next to Edward on the couch, her cheeks wet with tears, and placed her the palm of her hand over his heart.
"Oh, Edward..." She gently held the side of his face with her other hand and gazed into his eyes.
"I'm in love with you, too."
Edward clutched her hand to his chest and squeezed his eyes tightly shut.
He gasped as he resumed breathing, and rising up on one knee to meet her, he cupped the back of her neck and pulled her face to his, resting his forehead against hers as he smiled. He drew hand to his lips and kissed her palm, threading his fingers through hers.
Then he opened his eyes, and their intensity took her breath away. His gaze lowered to her lips and then fluttered closed as he moved closer, and then she felt the feather-light touch of his lips brushing against hers.
They stilled against each other, breaths coming in soft gasps. Then he moaned softly and began to move, working his fingers into her hair to hold her head and bring her closer.
Oh, god, oh, god. I love you. I love you so much.
His warm lips traveled across her cheek to her ear, and he buried his face in her neck and breathed deeply.
"Bella...sweetheart..." He sat back on his heels, his thumb caressing her cheek as his eyes loved her.
"I want us to remember this, I need you to remember this..." He looked down for a moment, his brow furrowed, and then he looked at her, shy and apologetic. She put her fingers against his lips.
"Shhh, it's okay, I understand. I understand, Edward."
He stood and pulled her hand to his lips, then led her to his bedroom.
She was wrapped in warmth, and Edward hummed softly as he stroked her hair. She fell deeply into sleep.
She swam up through consciousness, warmth and darkness and the smell of Edward's skin filling her senses. As if in a dream, warm lips moved along her throat toward her chest and she moved her hands to his head, her fingers soft in his hair.
"Bella..." He pressed a kiss to her collarbone, then brushed his nose against her skin. "Love, are you awake?"
He lay his head next to hers on the pillow and brushed her hair back from her face. She opened her eyes to his, and her stomach fluttered with the knowledge that this was new, this looking and really seeing each other. She smiled, and his face lit up in response.
Edward had removed her jeans shorts while she slept, leaving on her soft shirt, bra and panties. His bare legs tangled comfortably with hers, his skin warm as he pulled her closer.
His gaze grew serious, and he took her hand, pressing it to his lips before holding it against his heart.
"Bella...I love you."
"I love you," she whispered fervently in response, and this time there were no tears, no self-recriminations or regrets.
The dim light coming through the window cast them in muted shadows as he moved his body over hers and lowered himself onto her, hands buried in her hair. He bent and kissed her lips gently, his mouth moving over hers.
She lifted her hand and brushed her fingers over his lips, reverently tracing the curve of his mouth. "Edward." She smiled, but he voice shook as she looked at him. "You're really here."
He lifted his head and studied her, concern in his eyes, and took her hand in his, to kiss each of her fingertips. Then he moved his mouth to kiss her wrist, kissing her with open mouth, his tongue making her gasp. He scraped his teeth across her wrist, biting lightly, and Bella shuddered with pleasure, stunned into immobility.
He made is way up her arm to her elbow, tongue leaving a warm, wet trail, teeth nibbling, as she quivered in response. "Bella," he breathed, "I have been in love with you..." he began to kiss her other hand, gently sucking the tip of each finger into his mouth to lave it with his tongue. He kissed her mouth, mesmerized by the feel of her tongue on his. "For so long, I've been in love with you."
Her breath was coming in gasps, her heart racing as she processed what he was saying to her. He moved his mouth to her neck and ran his tongue up to suck gently on the skin below her ear, making her whimper with need. "Bella." His voice was thick with emotion as he returned to hold her face in his hands. He kissed each of her eyelids and then her mouth. "I want to make love with you."
Wordlessly, she sat up and drew her shirt up and over her arms, tossing it to the floor. He sat up and took her in, his eyes intense but gentle. They undressed each other with reverent hands, until they lay naked above the sheets.
They rolled to their sides and his hands fumbled a bit as he explored her folds, and his fingers shook as he spread her open, her soft gasps blending with his pants. He gently bent one finger into her opening, groaning as he withdrew to circle it higher, making her cry out. "Edward, please!"
She slipped her hands down his stomach and felt the muscles there clench in response, then she worked up her courage and reached, lower, grasping his hard, velvety length in her hand. He froze and squeezed his eyes closed, grasping her hand to still it.
"I'm sorry!" embarrassment flooded her, but he laughed shakily and kissed her mouth.
"No! No, I just...I'm not going to last if you touch me there. Bella...I want you to know...I need you to know that you're the only one. You're the only one I've ever wanted, the only one I've been with. I've never..."
"Me, too. Me, too, Edward. I've only ever wanted you."
She drew him over her. "Bella, we should..."
She cut him off. "I'm on the pill." She smiled at him gently. "It's okay, Edward. It's me. It's you and me."
His arms were shaking as he held himself above her, perspiration on his forehead, his eyes indescribably tender as he positioned himself between her thighs. "Please, Edward. I love you. Please." She drew his head down to hers and kissed him tenderly, for all the pain and guilt he'd carried needlessly for her sake, for the caring, gentle man that he was. "Please."
He held her eyes as he pushed inside, his mouth falling open, his face tense with concentration. He pushed deeper, and she felt full, stretched, and a slight pinching, before he thrust himself home and shuddered, gasping.
"Bella," he whispered, trembling with the effort to be still. "Are you okay? Is this okay." She nodded and hugged him close, kissing his shoulder. "I'm perfect." He sighed in relief and began to move. "Oh, god, Bella...oh, Bella..." They moved together, and she began to whimper as the burning sensation was replaced with a delicious warm pressure, a glow that grew as he continued to push himself into her.
He cradled her head in his arms and his movements became more urgent. "Bella, oh please... please, Bella, God...I love you...I love you so fucking much!" Frantically he took her mouth, thrusting with his tongue as he filled her with his cock. "Oh, God...I can't.. I can't. Bella, please..."
She clung to him and cried out as the pressure inside her suddenly burst into pulsing pleasure, and she sobbed his name, tears in her eyes. "I love you! I love you, Edward!" She convulsed around him, the pleasure tingling through her body.
"Yes, sweetheart!" He groaned from deep in his chest and thrust deeper than before. He gave one last slow thrust, grinding against her once he was fully seated, then threw his head back and groaned, shuddering in his release.
He collapse on her, then quickly rolled to the side so as not to crush her. They lay together, arms and legs entwined, until their breathing calmed, and he drew the blanket over them.
"Thank you." He kissed her face, her cheeks, her eyes.
He lay next to her and closed his eyes, gently stroking her face. She traced a pattern across his chest. "I love you Edward."
"Love you." His voice was thick with sleep, and he rested his head against hers and closed his eyes. She continued to watch him until he slept.
The bright light of morning was streaming through the window when a loud clanging from the kitchen had them both sitting up straight in bed, covers clutched to their chins.
"What the hell?"
The door was flung open, and Alice's head popped in, then quickly withdrew.
"ALICE! You have GOT to be fucking kidding me!" Bella was fuming, but Edward lay back in bed with his arm behind his head, a dopey smile on his face.
"You know," he said, a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his face, "I never answered your question."
Bella huffed and turned to look down at him. "What question?"
He gently stroked her hair and his smile grew tender. "Will you marry me."
Her eyes grew wide, and then she grinned.
"Not waiting until we're forty?"
He puller her on top of him. "Definitely not waiting until we're forty."
She hummed in satisfaction. "Good. Now be quiet, so I can say a proper good morning to Captain Howdy."