Contest: Spring Squeezing Fanfiction Contest

FFN profile web address(es): .net/u/2744284/Gnomea

Twitter address(es) (if applicable): /#!/gnomea_00

Title: A Kiss

Prompt Numbers: Phrase #7 Just One Kiss/ Picture #20

Link to prompts: .

Rating: M

Word Count (minus A/N, header): 7469

Summary: A lost love. A kiss. A possibility.

Character and/or Pairing: Edward/Bella

Warnings and Disclaimer(if applicable): Twilight is not mine, but the plot is.

***Thank you to my beta, A Jasper For Me, and to my pre-readers Kasi Teamalltwilight and This_Guilty_Blood for helping me sort out this mess. ;D

2nd place winner - Judges vote; Best HEA and Most Romantic. Yay!

~~o~~

I had expected pivotal moments in one's life would be announced prior to them happening. Like there should be cakes, balloons and the whole she-bang to commemorate the beginning of something that would change you. But as life would teach me, nothing would ever prepare you for things and events that could either make or break you. These circumstances would come like a thief in the night. It would happen without anything, or anyone, even giving you a sign.

Many things had happened in my life; some were easily forgettable and some were life changing, but I had never expected something monumental such as that time nine years ago to come back and turn my life around again. Although somewhere in my brain, an inkling of sorts had from time to time made me desire for this to happen – just because I needed some kind of retribution, and also a little part of me also just wanted to see her – but now that it happened, I wasn't prepared for it … for any of it.

~~o~~

"Did this hurt?" Jessica asked, staring at the inked marking on the left side of my ribcage. She reached out to touch the ink, but I moved away quickly, hating that she presumed she could touch me.

I continued to dry myself with the towel, ignoring her as I did. She had been following me around, and it started to annoy me. If it weren't for Jacob pushing me down into the pool unexpectedly, Jessica wouldn't have even seen that tattoo on my skin.

She must be dumb, because she continued to talk like she was oblivious to the fact I didn't want her around me.

"What does it say?" she asked, her eyes twinkling like she enjoyed our chatter. "Is it something significant?"

She hit the target on that one. But I had no intention of ever admitting that to anyone, least of all her. "Nope, not really. Just something I think is cool to look at. It means life's a bitch." It was quite the opposite in fact, but the true meaning of the words no longer applied, and to me it was closer to what I had just said.

Jessica just nodded and bit her nails as she continued to try and get closer so she could see the ink. Of all the other tattoos I had, she seemed to be fixated with that one, and her interest was grating on my nerves.

"If you don't mind, Jess …" I said, trying to keep the irritation from my voice "…I need to go." I pointed toward the guest bedroom and walked ahead, quickly shutting the door after me. I didn't need her to think I was inviting her in.

I was still holding the wet t-shirt I had removed earlier and placed it on the sink inside the bathroom. My hair was still wet, and I ran my hand through to untangle it. The movement made the tattoo Jessica mentioned earlier reflect through the mirror, and my gaze instantly zeroed in on the small patch of skin where the etchings were.

La vida es bella. Life is beautiful.

Reluctantly, I ran my fingers over the words and sighed. It had been a long time since I got this one, but it was still so vivid like it was just yesterday. The meaning to me wasn't the same as before, and if I really had the sound mind I convinced myself I had, I would have had it removed a long time ago. But the need for some kind of reminder for me to push harder and be someone great … be more than that person she deserved to be with a long time ago, prevented me from doing so.

My reflection – a raised arm with the other hand tracing my ribcage – burned me, and I yanked my fingers away from the tattoo. I huffed, hating the thoughts running through my head … and hating Jessica more for making me think them. I turned away from my reflection angrily, not wanting to remember her, and took a long, relaxing shower and pushed all thoughts of her and that time in my life away.

~~o~~

"Can't you get another lawyer?"

He was now fully informed of what had happened between Jessica and me during my short visit at his new home earlier. It had always amused him to see me squirm uncomfortably and make every goddamn excuse I could think of to stay away from his lawyer. Jessica was a man-eater; that much I was sure of. Though she was sweet at times, she was still someone I should avoid.

"Why would I? Jessica does a great job, and I like her. Not to mention, her fees are cheap," Jake replied, grinning. "But I think that has something to do with you. Let's just say I'm not insulted she's using me to get to you. She's been waiting for you to avail her services." His words were full of innuendo.

"You're a dick, Jake," I said to him as we pulled in at Emmett's big mansion.

"No, I'm not. I have a dick, and it's fucking glorious." He chuckled, and I was tempted to hit him. "Although I know you love pussy like I do, it doesn't stop you from adoring my ass."

"You wish," I retorted, parking my Ferrari beside Emmett's gigantic Hummer. I rubbed my hand over my chest, trying to dissipate the weird skipping beat my heart had been doing since this morning.

"You already do, pretty boy," he insisted, laughing as he got out of the car. Another one of his favorite pastimes was to take jabs at how supposedly pretty my face was. It wasn't a compliment, and I knew that. Maybe someday I would show him how insulted I was whenever he called me that. I turned and saw his huge steroid-induced muscles and balked. Yeah, someday. Someday in the far future.

We were standing beside my car and the music blasting inside could be heard from this distance. I could only imagine what this afternoon would entail. Emmett sure loved to party, and he often showed just how much. It was one of those things that showed how different he and I were, even if we both worked in the business. Another truly remarkable thing was being close friends when we had such opposite personalities.

The entire first floor of his home was filled with scantily clad people clearly enjoying what appeared to be a pool party. The music was blaring from some place inside the living room, carrying the sound out to the patio and down to the pool.

Emmett was perched on a big outdoor couch surrounded by women in barely-there bikinis. They were all vying for his attention and crowding him like the big shot Hollywood agent he was. And from the look on his face, he enjoyed every attention he was getting.

"Yo, Ed!" He had seen Jake and I approaching, and just had to holler like a big fucking ogre. Now everyone was looking my way, and some of the girls had removed themselves from Emmett slyly.

This was what I hated. Albeit the big tits and the skin exposed, I wasn't too keen on touching any of these women. Not that I was a fucking saint, but nothing screamed trouble more than girls who only seemed interested in fame and money, which was abundant during these kinds of parties.

As expected, the unwanted attention was now on me. My face now masked my total indifference, hoping someone would know how to read my face so I could at least enjoy a bit of socializing with my friends without interruption from one of these skanks. Yeah, I'm branding them. Sue me!

Jake, who was standing beside me, was panting like a dog. He sure made it clear he was enjoying this particular view. Although I was enjoying the exposed bodies myself, I wasn't being too obvious like Jake here was. I slapped the back of his head, and he scowled at me.

"What the hell was that for?"

"Close your mouth, Jake." He flipped me off and returned to his ogling.

The women were showing off in the hopes of baiting someone with money and clout here in 'Tinseltown'. They were all hungry for attention and guys like Jake and Emmett were all too willing to give it to them. Not me. I had been burned by a woman before – a long fucking time ago - and would be damned if I would allow that to happen again. Not a fucking chance in hell that would ever happen again!

"You looking mighty happy, McCarty," I said, and gave him a hug when he came over.

He chuckled. "Of course. These beautiful ladies are what it takes to put a smile on my fucking face. That's all I'll ever need." He even pinched a blonde girl's ass in front of Jake and I to make his point. And instead of looking insulted, the blonde giggled like a schoolgirl.

Bimbo. She was a classic example of what I was talking about earlier.

"I could stay here with you forever, dude. I would also be fucking happy just like this," Jake added, and they high-fived.

My friends were assholes. Was I considered one, too? Maybe. There were more things to worry about than the company I kept. It wasn't as if the people around here wouldn't accept me if I was the biggest douche around. I was somebody in the world of music production, and that was enough for any of them to see me as a gold mine.

A few minutes in, and a barrage of girls had already flirted with me. If I didn't at least take the opportunity to flirt back, then I was a fool. There was nothing wrong with a little teasing here and there.

However as the hour dragged, I was getting bored. If only this was not a business call, I would have left half an hour ago. Emmett was getting sillier as his consumption of alcohol increased. I nursed one glass of scotch in my hand, knowing I would be drunk if I continued to drink the way Emmett and Jake did. I needed to be alert tomorrow. The collaboration between Jasper Hale and I was set, and an early meeting was scheduled for tomorrow to discuss a few more things.

My newest music venture was going to be great; I just knew it and was excited for it to happen. Emmett told me he had invited Jasper, and I scanned the room for him. Yes, Emmett was his agent, and I was the lucky bastard who got to sign him under my record label, EMC Music. Jasper was a local acoustic artist in Seattle who had a small following and was slowly garnering attention in the local media. Emmett saw him a few months back when he was vacationing in Washington and had convinced me to listen to him sing. Emmett's persistence finally brought me to that bar, and he wasn't lying. Jasper was exceptional, and I didn't hesitate to grab him for his first recording deal. I had met him a couple times in the last few months while we ironed out the contract. He seemed to be a decent guy, not to mention, one hell of a fantastic singer.

There was something about him that told me he would become the next huge thing in music. Making someone famous and then some was my forte. That was why I was branded the new golden boy of the recording business. Not only did I have the ability to spot a potential hit maker, but I could write and compose songs that would become a huge success. I had done that before, and for some insane reason, I knew I would still be doing that in the next ten or twenty years. At twenty-eight years old, I was the youngest music mogul around.

Another hour passed, and as expected, the whole party was getting wilder while I felt the start of a headache. I was ready to get away from here. Not only was I annoyed with the two punks who had clearly conned Emmett into inviting them to this party and had repeatedly stopped me during conversations to reiterate their demo warranted my immediate attention, but the whole scene was making my head spin. I was also feeling weird about something, although I couldn't pinpoint what it was exactly

"Edward," I heard the familiar voice, and I turned to give her a smile.

"Heidi," I greeted, linking my arm around her waist. It was good to see her. She was my fuck buddy – to state that bluntly – but she was also a good friend. "What are you doing here? I thought you were in Morocco."

"Well, you know me … I don't stay in one place for long," she whispered, before kissing my cheek. "Did you miss me?"

"Of course," I lied. She smiled, and I grinned.

Emmett, who could be heard greeting Jasper loudly from where we were standing, interrupted our silent flirtation. I released Heidi, making a promise to meet with her later before turning to go talk to Jasper. If only I knew what it was I would be dealing with when I did, I would have never sought him out. I would have bolted and ran as far away as my feet would allow me.

Standing in front of me was my own personal Hell.

Isabella Swan.

All the signs had been there earlier - the heightened awareness I had felt, the goosebumps on my skin, even the little jump my heart did like there was something I should have been afraid of – yet, I had failed to notice it. Not until I was facing her.

It was like cold water had splashed onto me, the way I froze where I stood. It wasn't something I should have been wary of, but someone.

Time stopped as I stared furiously at her. I was certain everyone could see the tension between us, but when I checked if anyone noticed, I found that no one did. Although that made me feel a moment's relief, the fact she was here within an arm's length away made me feel agitated.

What was she doing here? Did she hear I was loaded now and wanted to see for herself? Or did she want to rekindle what we had now that I was filthy rich? That thought made me laugh. She couldn't have me even if she begged.

Much as I hated to admit it, she was the trigger for my perseverance to succeed.

It hadn't escaped my notice she had her arm linked with Jasper's. Her eyes were holding mine, and I couldn't seem to look away. She smiled, and suddenly I was transported back to that day I first saw her nine years ago.

The Swans were one of the prominent families in Washington, and almost everyone in that area knew them except for me. I had heard of them but wasn't familiar with who was who, so when I saw Isabella standing in the garage where I worked part-time, looking like an angel who needed rescuing, I didn't hesitate to go rescue her.

She was a sweet girl that had captured my attention and eventually my heart. I was so in love with her that there was no staying away from her when I finally learned who she was. It didn't matter that I loved her, and she loved me; her father hated my guts and made sure to insinuate every time he saw me that I was only after their money.

I was only a mechanic and was nowhere worthy of his daughter. I took all the insults Charlie Swan spewed at me without batting an eyelash. It was all a bunch of bullshit anyway. There was no chance I would have endured any of that crap he said and insinuated if it was another girl's father, but I did because I fucking loved her. I had thought she loved me too, but I was a fool. Her betrayal was all the proof I needed she never truly felt the same way I did for her.

The day of our wedding, I didn't know any of that yet. I was so ecstatic that I became blind to what was in front of me – a spoiled, selfish bitch. The money I had saved up for tuition from working at the garage was used to buy her a ring. It never seemed to bother me I could easily push back all my dreams just to be with her; it was stupid I know that now, but I didn't before.

It had started out a very promising day despite her fear of what her father would say and my reluctance to live in their big house. Her father was out of town and it had given us the chance to go to the judge my uncle knew and convince him to marry us. Although she was eighteen and of legal age to marry, I was still concerned she could be unsure of her decision. However, her conviction about us made all my fears disappear. I wasn't stupid enough to believe her father would be thrilled with our decision; his anger wasn't something I would put much thought into in comparison to Bella being my wife. Although I had been insecure with my social standing and what it would do to her when her family and her peers would learn about our marriage, she had been persistent to convince me those things weren't important to her, and she would fight for me … for us. That promise only lasted until her father found us having sex in her room in his house.

I was twenty years old back then and thought I knew everything, but I was stupid to have believed that.

The shouting and the cursing were expected when Charlie saw me naked with his daughter. To say he was fucking livid was an understatement. He could have killed me and I would have let him. Some people would say I was a martyr for not fighting back after the brutal beating I endured, but I promised Bella I would be patient and allow her dad to get used to the idea of us. He literally threw me out of his house … I had expected that. What I didn't expect was Bella's next actions. Charlie made her choose, and she chose him and their fucking money! I could still hear Charlie's threat in my head.

"Isabella, I need you to come here … now! That shit is only after your money! Don't you see?"

"Daddy, I love him!"

"What do you know about love? He's just a mechanic! Do you think he could support you with that measly pay he gets from Roger?" Charlie was trying to pull Bella away, but she was standing her ground. However, she was glancing between her father and me, as if trying to make a decision.

"Bella, come here," I said, reaching out my hand toward her in an attempt to lure her to me. I wasn't letting her go so easily.

Bella started to walk towards me, but Charlie grabbed her roughly, eliciting a growl from me. If his bodyguards weren't holding me back, I would have smashed his face for handling his daughter so callously.

"Daddy!" I saw him tug her along and whisper something in her ear. Her eyes widened in shock and fear. I saw her turn her head to face her father. I couldn't see her reaction, only her dad's. His face didn't give much out, but I could see the determination there.

When Bella turned around, I could see it in her eyes.

No!

No matter how I saw it, she didn't have any excuse to abandon me like that. It was her selfishness that won out. I should have known she was a fucking spoiled rich girl who just needed something, or someone to play with to pass the time – the mechanic who would spice up her life until she found something more exciting.

Despite what she had told me, she believed I was trash. If she didn't, she wouldn't have discarded me so easily.

It was then I had promised myself I would push harder than ever before so I could shove my success in her face when I saw her again.

And now here she was … looking more beautiful than the last time I had seen her; not that my anger for her would dissipate with that simple observation, but it was true.

Making her regret she dropped me like a hot potato nine years ago was my primary goal now that she was here. The way she clung to Jasper made me think she was the best friend he had been yapping about for these past months. Clearly, she would be staying for weeks until the collaboration finished; that would give me ample time for what I had suddenly planned for her.

Without even acknowledging her, I gave a nod to Jasper and walked away from the group. I knew Jake would ask me about it. He notices things like this, and I was sure he would corner me as soon as he could.

~~o~~

Even in my resolve to stay away from her, I found myself within her vicinity during the remainder of the party. I just excused it as the party being too small for the both of us, whilst finding myself a few feet away from where she was.

However, when I found myself purposely searching for her, I could no longer deny I needed to talk to her. That was the reason I found myself alone with her in the kitchen while she searched something inside the fridge, unknowing of my presence.

"What the hell are you doing here?" I couldn't contain the anger in my voice. I hated she was here … for so many fucking reasons.

She jumped, clearly startled. "Oh, shit! Don't do that again!" I could see her hands on her chest, as if she was trying to hold it still. She looked so beautiful, but underneath all that physical radiance was a monster. I knew everything about that; she had left a destructive path when she entered my life and quickly left me with almost nothing.

"I asked you a question, Isabella," I said grittily.

She stood upright, and I could see the determination behind her stance. "I'm here because of Jasper. He needed me to come, so here I am."

"Is that really the only reason?" My sarcasm wasn't lost to her. She could be here because she heard I was successful and wanted a piece of me, not that she would ever get that chance again.

"I'm not here for you," she replied calmly. "I thought you made it clear a few years ago you would never want me again, so I'm not holding out for you or anything."

I was stunned into silence.

"Now, if you'll excuse me … I need to talk to J."

~~o~~

It had been four days since that dreadful encounter at the party. However, I couldn't seem to get her off my mind. This was why I had immediately abandoned my plan to make her suffer for what she did in fear my quest for revenge would do more damage to me than her. Me near her wasn't a good idea. I didn't think I could gamble away my new life here … as well as my sanity.

I grabbed a beer and made my way to the patio of my beach house. This was my favorite part of the day – sunset. There was something hypnotic about it.

The sun was setting –the orange and yellow hues scattering angrily across the horizon forming a blaring magnificent sight. The water, which was almost dark, reflected the last vestiges of sunlight, making me glad I had chosen to transfer to California. The beginning of spring was one of those things I loved in LA. Not only was the city photogenic, but the weather was pleasant as well, only a few rainy days and the occasional cold snap.

My beach house, which I bought five years ago, had an ocean front walk. The glass walls allowed me to enjoy the scenery of the beach as well as the ocean. This house felt like it had been built to my specifications; the color and the architecture was what I had pictured. I was lucky to acquire it when I did.

Changing from the suit I had on earlier to shorts and a shirt, I went outside on the patio to continue enjoying the remainder of the sunlight. I appreciated when my days ended like this – relaxed and calm.

Just when I thought my day would end on a good note, I saw a familiar form walking the beach. They were too far away for me to see their faces, but were near enough for me to confirm it was indeed Bella and Jasper.

I ignored the uneasy feeling I had upon seeing her, even at a distance. I used to like hanging out with Jasper after every meeting, but his association with Bella changed all that. I had yet to confirm what she was to him, but that didn't change anything. Anybody associated with that woman … I should be wary of. However what my brain wanted, my subconscious didn't.

I really wanted to avert my eyes, but I couldn't. Damn! I took a sip of the beer and stared at her. Although the setting sun shadowed their forms, I could still see her in just shorts and a bikini top talking animatedly with Jasper as they walked along the shore.

I wasn't aware I had left my house and was walking towards them, not until I felt something hit me. The scene in front of me had occupied my mind enough to not see the Labrador running towards me, not until I had fallen down on the sand with an 'oomph'.

It was a good thing the sand cushioned the fall. Trying to look dignified as I stood, I dusted the sand off my body. Hopefully, nobody saw me fall; but to my dismay, someone did.

Isabella and Jasper. They were a few yards away, and they didn't make a move to come closer.

That was good. I didn't want them to come near me. Clearly Jasper had no clue as to the nature of my relationship with Bella before; his friendly demeanor said it all. I could sense, however, Bella's hesitation to continue their path, which was directly along mine. Jasper's tug on her arm made her move. I didn't want anybody to know about the two of us, and clearly she didn't either. Everything about us was in the past, and I certainly had no intention of talking about or explaining anything to anyone about what went down between us.

When they were just an arm's length, I tried to walk back, but Jasper greeted me first, preventing me from leaving.

"Hey, Edward," he said.

"Hey," I replied, rubbing the remaining sand from my legs. Against my will, my eyes roamed Bella's body. I should be ashamed for being such a fucking guy, but her lack of clothing couldn't repress the testosterone running through my veins. She was still so gorgeous. I would be lying if I said I didn't find her attractive, but her personality left something to be desired. I knew my eyes lingered on her legs, and I was afraid I was too obvious in my ogling. I didn't want to give her that satisfaction, but I couldn't help running my eyes from her legs up to her torso. My gaze stopped on her flat stomach, and I felt the air whoosh out of me. I knew I shouldn't be able to see it with the lack of light, but I did. There was a very small piercing in her navel.

Fuck!

I searched her face, asking for something … an explanation maybe. She stared back, clearly confused by my reaction to her. I could only guess my eyes were wide with shock, and my nostrils were flaring. I knew because I could feel my breathing getting heavy.

"I need to go," I rasped, not really addressing either one of them. I didn't give them the chance to reply because I quickly spun around to run back to my house.

Fuck! Fuck!

A little piercing couldn't unnerve me! She was still the girl who fucked with me, and I shouldn't let changes like that get past who she really was.

That small detail shouldn't affect me like it did. Fuck!

~~o~~

I couldn't avoid her. Anywhere I went, she was there taunting me. Fuck!

But I could give her the benefit of the doubt. She wasn't making a move to come near me whenever we saw each other. Although I should be grateful she was staying the hell away from me, it was like I was the plague to her. I didn't like that thought one bit, and it pissed me off.

That was why I was on an angry rampage the whole week, snapping at my assistants even at the smallest mistakes. As the week ended, they were avoiding me like I had some kind of disease. Not that I could blame them.

I blame Isabella fucking Swan!

If she wasn't here in Los Angeles, this wouldn't have happened. Sad to say, I was still so affected by her. That fact alone should warrant my hate for her.

It wasn't easy that said week had been me supervising the tracks recorded for Jasper's first album. Wherever he was, I was sure to see Bella. My suspicion she was some kind of support system to him was confirmed when I couldn't take her presence in my studio office any longer and confronted her about it. She yelled that she hated to be here as well. That shut me up pretty quickly. I didn't want her here, but Jasper did. I couldn't compromise anything when it came to any of my music ventures, so I completely ignored her. Or tried to.

It was Friday and everyone seemed to be exhausted, but I wanted to add some acoustic drums to one of Jasper's songs so some last minute recording was needed. I ordered everyone dinner and some alcohol in the hopes to alleviate crankiness while we wrapped up this particular song.

Jasper was still here, even after I convinced him he could go home. He said he wanted to hear Dave do the drums. Mark, my recording engineer, wanted Dave to do a series of the acoustic drum solo we needed for the track to make sure we got what we wanted. As the hour stretched inside the studio control room, my mind ceased to function. Dave was still inside the live room, and I knew we had another hour or so before we finished up. I groaned. I was tired, not only from work but from the lack of sleep. My nights had been filled with visions of the witch that was currently outside in the lobby.

I sighed. I needed to take a break.

Standing up from my seat and slapping Mark's back to get his attention, I motioned I would be going out of the room. He nodded before his attention was back to the control panel.

The stress was getting to me, and I wanted some relief. Walking towards the door near the lobby, I stepped out to a small balcony.

Shit!

I wanted a smoke to ease some of my tension, but no … Isabella had to choose that moment to share this bit of solitude with me.

I didn't want her to think she had power over me, so I ignored her and lit a cigarette. I leaned against the wall and allowed the nicotine to soothe me.

She didn't say anything, and the silence started to unnerve me. Unwillingly, my eyes darted towards where she was standing. She had her eyes closed, and I wondered what she was thinking.

Then I saw it. She raised her hand and took a long drag from her own cigarette. I was stunned at what I was seeing.

"What the fuck?" I barked before I could stop myself. The frown on her face told me she didn't like what I just said.

"Excuse me?" she replied incredulously.

I started to open my mouth to say something but decided to close it again. My saying something would definitely not be good.

"Don't patronize me, Edward," she spat, and then returned to puffing her cigarette.

"I didn't fucking say anything."

"You didn't have to. That look on your face said it all."

"What look?" I asked angrily. She was really starting to piss me off.

She pointed at my face. "That look. Like I'm some kind of freak to you."

I snorted at her description. She really wouldn't want me to tell her what I thought of her; she wouldn't like it one bit.

"I'm not here to make trouble, Edward." I heard her sigh, but I was too worked up to even give her a decent reply.

"Then what the fuck are you here for?" I hissed at her. "I'm not buying this crap about Jasper needing you here. It has been almost two weeks since you arrived, Bella. Are you his girlfriend or something? Because I'm having a hard time believing you're just his best friend. He must be giving you something to make you stay here this long." She understood what I meant; the anger in her eyes explained she was insulted by what I said.

"You don't get to know anything about who he really is in my life," she answered icily. "You're not my husband anymore."

"Thank God for that!"

She threw the cigarette angrily on the floor and faced me. "You are an asshole!"

That did it. I grabbed her arm and hissed. "And you're a bitch."

She yanked her arm away, but stood facing me. Her nostrils were flaring. "You know, I liked you better when you were just doing that job with Roger."

"Yeah, you surely liked how rich I was back then," I mocked. I saw her flinch, and I felt satisfaction course through me. "Maybe you're here because I'm no longer that naïve, poor guy who fell in love with you. I make millions now, Bella. Is that why you came? You want a piece of me?"

"I fell in love with you," she whispered. I didn't expect that answer, and I was momentarily stunned.

"Yeah, right," I replied sarcastically. "You were so in love with me that you quickly dumped me when your father made you choose."

"I told you this before, Edward, but clearly you made up your mind a long time ago about what happened." Her bitterness was obvious. I was bitter, too. I didn't care we were having this conversation where anybody could hear us.

"You came to me a week after to explain, Bella. A week!" I shouted at her. "It took you that long to get the courage and explain why you had to make that choice. After I had endured his verbal abuse because I wanted to show you I was willing to fight for you … for us. But you … you just threw it all away!" I was heaving; my chest was ready to explode. "To make matters worse, your father made me sign the divorce papers in front of you without me hearing any complaints coming from you! Who does that? Who fucking does that?" Her eyes were wide in shock, and I could see the tears forming in them. I knew I was hurting her, but I couldn't stop. "You … because you were a selfish bitch, and I think you still are."

Her cheeks were now wet with her tears. She angrily wiped them away and bravely faced me. She yanked her shirt up and roughly pushed her jeans a little lower, exposing the patch of skin near her right pubic bone. The word Cullen was etched beautifully, the dark ink contrasting her pale skin.

Once again, I was speechless. My heart was beating erratically against my chest, and I was having a hard time breathing. She got a Cullen ink, and my head was spinning out of control.

"Wha … when?" I rasped. Here she was fucking with my mind again. All the recent changes I had seen in her - the piercing, the smoking and now the tattoo – were a far cry from the girl I had met. Maybe she isn't what I thought.

"Remember that day when I visited you … your birthday?" she asked bitterly. I nodded, because I remembered that day so clearly. It was that day I had resolved to let my love for her die.

"I went to get this a few days before so I could surprise you. I wanted to apologize for being so stupid," she cried. "I wanted to prove to you I wanted to be your wife more than anything. Then things got outta hand, and I never got the chance to show it to you."

The day of our wedding we passed a tattoo shop, and I got one to commemorate our wedding day. It was the La vida es bella tattoo. The excitement might have gotten to her, because she blurted she wanted one as well - one that would symbolize she was mine. She toyed with the idea that she wanted my name on her skin, but finally the thought of her father knowing scared her, and she opted not to have one. To say I was disappointed was an understatement, but I didn't push her.

"You wanted to show me?" I asked, feeling the lump in my throat.

"Yes." Her eyes were hard, and it was the first time in nine years I wanted to hold her in my arms again. "I planned to sweet talk you into forgiving me, but when I got to your apartment, you were so cold."

"What did you expect?"

"You could have at least talked to me. But you never gave me a chance, Edward! I tried to explain, but you brushed me off!"

"I was so angry at you."

"Yeah to the point of making me beg you to kiss me. I begged you to fucking kiss me!" she said angrily. "Do you remember what you said?" Her voice was getting louder. "Do you?"

I remembered. It was like I said it yesterday, but this time the anger I was feeling was directed at myself. She didn't even have it removed.

"I will never give you another kiss. Not in this lifetime. Never again! That's what you said, Edward," she said defeated. "So now, why in the hell would you think I was here for you? I'm not that stupid, you know."

With that she spun around, leaving me gaping after her.

~~o~~

The night after that confrontation left me more confused than ever. It was like my emotions were battling one another, trying to outweigh each other. What Bella had said kept nagging me, and I kept thinking I might have had a hand in the destruction of our relationship.

Ironically, now that I was purposely seeking her out, she was nowhere to be found. Jasper's demeanor towards me had changed. It was obvious he had learned about mine and Bella's past, and he didn't like it. He made sure I knew about it.

Days went by and still no sign of Bella. Clearly, she saw no need to come in the studio any longer. That saddened me. I really fucking needed to talk to her, and Jasper wouldn't give me any information on how to do so.

That man was starting to piss me off!

Jake had been bothering me, asking all sorts of questions and giving me looks that said he knew something was up with me. Until I talked to Bella, I didn't want to tell him anything yet.

I arrived home earlier than I usually did, hoping to get a little rest before meeting with Emmett and Jacob tonight. I needed to relax a bit or they would surely hound me on what has been going on with me these past few days.

I was taking a sip of my beer when I felt the familiar tingling on my skin. My eyes snapped towards the beach, and there she was. My heart was pounding so loudly, I was sure I could hear it.

Without hesitation, I placed my beer down and quickly removed my shoes. Wearing them would make it difficult to walk on the sand.

Grabbing my slippers, I ran toward the beach. She stopped walking when she saw me. It was too late for me to realize Jasper was with her.

"Bella," I said, ignoring Jasper's scowl.

"Edward," she replied, clearly waiting for me to explain. I tried to explain, but nothing was coming out of my mouth. I ran my hand through my hair, a habit when I was agitated.

Bella gave me a small smile before turning away from me. It was then I realized I had not spoken. I grabbed her wrist, willing for her to stay. Jasper glared at me, clearly hating me for this intrusion. His hold on Bella's other arm didn't loosen, and it made me want to punch him.

"Let's go, Bee," Jasper urged, but his irritation was obvious in his tone. Bella shifted her gaze from me to him, looking suddenly conflicted.

I had yet to say another word to her. I was all too consumed with fear I couldn't say anything.

"Bella, I-"

"Listen, Edward," she said, cutting me off. "Let's not make this more difficult than it already is. I know you don't want me here, so I'm leaving."

She's fucking leaving? "When?" I could feel the lump in my throat.

"Tomorrow," she answered, giving me a bitter smile. "Don't worry, if you're lucky, you will never see me again after this."

Never? That idea didn't sit well with me. No, not at all. After what she had shown me, she couldn't just up and leave me fucking hanging!

"You can't leave," I blurted out. The frown on her face told me her thoughts on what I just said.

"Why the hell not? One moment you hate me for being here, then another moment you want me to stay. What's your fucking deal, Edward?"

How could I explain to her what she said to me the other day rattled me? That maybe I wanted a chance to rectify my mistakes. That maybe I wanted to spend time with her. Thinking of saying those words, however, seemed so false even to my ears.

I needed to say something, or I would never get the chance again. She would be gone tomorrow, and I might never see her again. When Bella started pulling away from me, I knew I would lose her forever this time if I didn't say anything.

She had her back turned and was retreating, walking away with Jasper.

"Kiss me!" I yelled. I saw her stop dead in her tracks, and my heart felt like bursting. She turned, her eyes wide in shock. I knew she never expected that from me, especially since I vowed to her the last time I saw her nine years ago I would never, ever utter those words to her again.

A step forward. Then another. She was walking towards me, and I stood there waiting for her. Her eyes were on mine, like I was the only one she could see. Even the insistent yelling from Jasper didn't deter her from coming closer.

She was too close when she stopped, making my head spin. "What did you say?" she asked softly.

I grabbed her face in mine and rested my forehead against hers. "Kiss me. I need just one kiss, Bella."

"Oh, my God," she whispered. Her eyes were searching mine … asking … seeking. "Tell me again, Edward."

Her sweet voice warmed my heart. She wanted me to repeat it. This was a step towards the retribution I needed. I had difficulty breathing, let alone speaking. But she requested it, so I would tell her again. Maybe this was what she also needed … wanted.

"Just one fucking kiss, baby," I whispered back before capturing her lips and tasted heaven once again.


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