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Hi Everyone. I hope you are all enjoying your Friday night so far. When we last left off, Bella had just told Edward he needed to make a decision. I know that many of you don't understand why or what is taking Edward so long. Yes he has dragged his feet a bit, but I just wanted to point out that, though it might seem as though it's been much longer due to my posting schedule, in their time frame in the story, it has only been ten days since Edward and Bella have talked and he's learned everything from her about why she hid who she was. Hopefully this chapter clears up why it's been so hard for him to make a decision.

See ya at the bottom. Enjoy!

Still September 24, 2011


I stood there leaning against some stranger's car wondering how things had become such a mess. How my relationship with Bella had gotten to this point. I rubbed my hand over the top of my head, wanting to pull on the hair I no longer had.

"Damnit," I muttered to myself as my hand dropped and landed on the hood of the car with a loud thud.

How had the six perfect weeks I'd spent with a girl who I'd thought was perfect in nearly every way gone so wrong? And how the hell did I fix it? How did I get us back to the way we were? Because even though I had dragged my feet on doing anything about getting us there, it was what I wanted. However I still had some issues I needed to resolve and let go of and that was what was holding me back.

Sighing I pulled myself off the car to make my way back inside. I was torn between staying here for Rose and celebrating her birthday, or leaving to have some time to myself so I could try and sort through the mess I'd made of my relationship with Bella. Hopefully Rose wouldn't be too upset, because as I walked across the parking lot towards the entrance of the club I became convinced I needed to get out of here.

Reaching out to pull the door open I heard my name.

"Cullen!" I looked to my left, where I'd heard the low gruff voice coming from and saw Luke about five feet away, walking around the corner of the building.

I took in his stance as he got closer to me. His arms were hanging at his sides, slightly stiff as he opened and closed his hands into fists, like he was itching to hit something.

Probably me, I thought.

Lifting my gaze to his face, his expression was hard and his jaw tight from mashing his teeth together. He stopped about a foot away from me, bringing his hands up in front of him and cracking his knuckles. Clearly he was trying to intimidate me.

Who the hell did he think he was? It was going to take more than that to rattle my cage.

"Mathews, what do you want?" I asked, wanting to get this confrontation with him over. He'd obviously been waiting for me.

"What I want is for you to quit jerking Bella around," he spat at me.

"I don't see where what's going on between me and Bella is any of your business," I shot back at him.

"She's my friend. I've made it my business. I don't like the way you're treating her, hurting her."

"Don't you mean you've stuck your nose in where it doesn't belong because you want her for yourself? Come on, we both know you're just dying to get your hands on her. Waiting on the sideline, pretending to be the caring friend, all while dying for me to fuck it up beyond repair, or cut her loose so you can be there to play the good guy and pick up the pieces."

He might have Bella fooled, but not me.

"You're not far off…from fucking it up beyond repair that is. And maybe about what I want too," he admitted with a sly smirk. "You keep going on like you have been and I'll win for sure. So maybe I should encourage you to keep being a jackass."

"Listen, fucker," I snarled, stepping closer to him and getting in his face, my own hands balling into fists now. "This isn't a game. Bella isn't some prize for you to claim. She's not some dimwitted, cheerleader type who's happy to be arm candy for a jock like some of the other girls you've dated."

Luke wasn't a bad guy, I'd known him for a while, but I'd seen the type of girls he'd dated in the past. They might not have been as shallow as his sister, but they were still spoiled little rich girls who'd be content being the socialite wife of a big time athlete, doctor, or wealthy businessman. I had gone on a couple of dates with one or two of them while I'd still been playing basketball. I had experienced firsthand what those girls were looking for and I wasn't judging them for how they chose to live their lives—they were products of the environments they'd been brought up in—but they were so far from who Bella was that they might as well have been from a different planet.

My mind suddenly flashed to the argument I'd witnessed between Bella and her mother the night of the Black and White Ball. Her words came back to me, "You can't tell me who I can and can't associate with…The Cullens are wonderful, caring and compassionate people and there is nothing you can do to stop me from feeling that way."

My next thought was of what my parents had said about Bella when I'd told them who she really was. "You can't fake the kind of caring and compassion she showed to those people, Son. She has a gift and it's a natural one. It's not one that comes with being trained or schooled in how to act and what to say. The kind of caring and compassion she showed the people of the DR can only come from within a person who truly cares about helping those in need… You also can't fake the way she was with you either…The kind of connection you had can't be faked either."

No, Bella wasn't anything like Luke's past girlfriends. I really had been blind like my mother had said. Bella had beaten the odds of the environment she'd been raised in. She would want to be with someone who had similar interests to hers, someone who took joy in the simple things in life, someone who material things didn't matter to, and someone who could make her laugh. Someone like—me. That thought hit me like a ton of bricks.

She had walked away from her family and her means of paying for her education in defense of me and my family.

I've been so fucking stupid. I've got to be able to fix this.

"You act like you know so much about her, Cullen. You've known her for what four, five months? I hardly think you know her much better than I do," he sneered.

Luke cracked his knuckles again. Did he really think he was scaring me? Did he really think his macho act would win Bella over for him? He must be delusional. Even if I failed at winning her back, she wouldn't want someone who thought he could solve things with his fists.

"That's where you'd be wrong. I may not have known her much longer than you, but you didn't spend nearly every waking moment with her for weeks. You didn't sleep next her every night during those same weeks, listen to her talk about wanting to become a nurse, and about how she wanted to help people and why. You've never heard the passion in her voice when she talks about her hopes and dreams for her future," I informed him. "I have."

Why the hell hadn't I seen how stupid I've been sooner?

"For someone who claims to know her so well, you've sure been dragging your feet. If you know her so well, then you should know how truly sorry she is for keeping who she is from you. It shouldn't be so hard for you to know whether you still want to be with her or not."

"You're right about that and I am going to try my damnedest to make it right with her. So if we are done here, I'm going to go so I can get to doing that." Without waiting for him to reply, I moved to pull open the door.

"One more thing, Cullen," Luke said.

I turned back around to face him and was promptly met with his fist colliding with my jaw.

"What the fuck, man?" I asked rubbing where he'd hit me.

"That was for Bella," he said in a warning tone. "That was for being a jackass in the library the other night. If she was my girlfriend, I'd have never walked away and left her with another guy. And it was also for making her cry tonight and to remind you that I will be there for her if you fuck this up completely."

"Not gonna happen."

"We'll see," he challenged and turned, walking off across the parking lot.

My thoughts were a jumbled mess by the time I reached the table where Jasper and Emmett were waiting for me.

I could now see that Luke wasn't just playing to make me jealous where Bella was concerned. He really wanted her.

I was going to lose Bella for good if I didn't fix things soon. And in all honesty, I didn't want to lose her, I still cared for her deeply. But I couldn't figure out how to let go of what had happened and trust her again. Because trust was what had been holding me back and now I was beginning to think I had severely over reacted to the whole incident. Beginning to think that I was the only one who had made such a big deal out of the situation.

Remembering what my parents had thought, knowing they believed Bella to be truthful in why she had held the truth from me and knowing they valued honesty as much as I did, after all they had instilled it in me, was really throwing me for a loop.

"What the hell happened out there?" Jasper barked. "One minute you and Bella are all over each other on the dance floor, looking so hot you could combust any second and then you're both running out the door. Next thing we know Bella is in here in tears and Alice is telling me she has to leave with Bella. So what gives? What the fuck happened between you two?"

I rubbed my hand across my now tender jaw. "I fucked up. I've made a huge mess of things."

"No shit, Sherlock," Emmett chortled. "Question is, what do you intend to do to fix it?"

"I don't know. I don't even know where to begin," I told them honestly.

"Well," jasper said, "You do want to fix things right? You do want to be with Bella, right?"

"Yes," I said instantly, without any hesitation, surprising even myself a little at how easy the answer had come. I'd known I didn't want to lose her, but I had never declared it before and it actually felt really good to do.

"Then start by going to her, telling her the truth about how you feel. Quit pussy-footing around it. If you have reservations about anything, then talk to her about them. Whatever you do, just be honest with her."

I nodded knowing he was right, and remembering that Bella had said the same thing to me. She had asked that I just simply be honest with her.

"I think I'm going to take off. I've got to sort through things in my head and then talk to Bella."

"You should say goodbye to Rose before you go," Jasper suggested. "She's over by the bar with a couple of her friends."

"Is she gonna be pissed I'm bailing on her party?" I asked him.

"Not if you let her know why you're leaving. She might not like it, but she'll understand," he said.

"Okay, then I'll catch the two of you later."

"Good luck, man," Emmett said as I stood to leave.

"Yeah, you're gonna need it," Jasper added.

I grabbed my jacket off the chair I'd been sitting in and sifted through the crowed dance floor until I reached Rose.

"Can I talk to you for a sec?" I asked her when she noticed me walking up to her.

"Sure," she replied before telling her friends she'd be right back. She followed me outside to the parking lot. "You leaving?" she asked.

"Yeah, I need to figure out how to sort out the mess I've made with Bella."

"It's about time you pulled your head out of your ass," she snapped.

"I know, Rose, I know. I hadn't seen before how I'd fucked things up but I do now," I told her.

"Is being with her what you really want?"

"Yeah, it is," I told her a little surprised she'd asked. "Why? You don't think I'm making a mistake, do you?"

"The question is, do you, Edward?"

"No. I know I've made a mess of things, waiting so long, but I've never stopped caring for her."

"I just want to make sure that you really want to be with her, not that you just don't want anyone else to have her."

"Can't it be both?" I asked.

"Well yes, if the reason you don't want anyone else to have her is because you have real feelings for her."

"I do."

She crossed her arms over her chest and stared at me for a minute like she was gauging the sincerity of my words. "Then I suggest you go after Bella and fix things with her. Your ship of opportunity is going to sail away soon. If you wait too long someone else will snatch her up, she'll move on and it will be too late."

I nodded in agreement knowing that was exactly what Luke was waiting for and felt my shoulders slump as I really realized for the first time that I could lose Bella. I didn't want that to happen. "You're talking about Luke Mathews, the guy she was dancing with tonight."

"Yes, I saw her dancing with him tonight and I saw you fisting your hands like you wanted to go beat the shit out of him. I don't blame you for that, but here's a news flash, cousin, he's not the only one."

"What are you talking about, Rosalie?"

She laughed sarcastically and shook her head at me. "You really don't know?"

"No so why don't you enlighten me."

"You weren't the only one who couldn't keep your eyes off of her. In fact Luke wasn't the only one besides you. There were several guys eye-fucking her, Edward, but I guess with the horse blinders you've had on, you wouldn't notice. You'd only see the threat that was right in front of you."

"I've been pretty dumb haven't I?" I asked with my head hanging, my gaze fixated on the ground.

"Well…I may not be Einstein, but I know lately dumb plus dumb equals you," she said with a chuckle before adding, "But lucky for you, it's not too late."

Feeling more insecure than I ever had, I couldn't help asking her, "What if you're wrong? What if it's too late already? Maybe she's already moving on. She didn't seem too upset about the way Luke was dancing with her."

Rose sighed and shook her head at me. "Dancing at a club with a guy doesn't mean she's moving on. I suspect more than anything she wanted to get a reaction out of you, which she did. There's still time, but it won't last forever."

God I hoped so.

"Look," Rose said placing her hand in a reassuring way on my shoulder. "Yes she danced with him and she was probably having fun. But when you went out there, you could instantly see the change in her body language. She knew it was you immediately. And my God, Edward, the two of you might as well have been going at it right there on the dance floor with the amount of sexual energy coming off the two of you. I've never seen two people move so completely in sync with one another before. I don't know how you guys didn't spontaneously combust with all that chemistry. So yeah, maybe she was having fun with Luke, but that's all it was. There was no chemistry, cousin. Fun. Nothing more."

"Okay," I said softly, trying to believe in what she was saying.

When the hell had I become so uncertain and such a jealous bastard?

"Okay?" she asked cocking her eyebrow at me. "What's holding you back, Edward? Why do you have so much doubt?"

"She lied to me, Rose," I told her blowing out a long breath of frustration. "I spent six perfect weeks with her, spending nearly every waking minute with her, thinking I'd met the most amazing, perfect and perfect for me girl and then she lied to me, Rose. Do you understand the shock and hurt I felt when I found out?"

She rolled her eyes at me, causing me to feel irritated.

"What?" I huffed. "Are you going to tell me I shouldn't be upset that she lied to me?"

I turned and started to pace back forth in front of her. After three or four passes I stopped, raising my hand and letting it fall and smack against my thigh a couple of times. I didn't know what to say to her. So I just stood there waiting to see if she was going to explain herself.

When she didn't say anything I decided to prompt her a little. "Well?"

"Well what?" she shot back at me.

"Am I just supposed to forget she lied to me?" I asked slightly annoyed.

"Technically she didn't lie. She omitted. And your problem is that you put her on a damn pedestal, Edward."


"Think about what you just said to me. You just told me that you spent six perfect weeks with her thinking she was the perfect girl and perfect for you. You put her on a pedestal and when you found out about her last name, she fell off and yes it turned your world upside down because you had an unrealistic image of her. No one is perfect, Edward. We're only human. We all make mistakes."

My head started spinning with Rose's words. Had I really done that? In my excitement over meeting someone who was so real, so down to earth, who had similar interests as me and who on top of all that was so incredibly smart, caring and beautiful, had I held her to unrealistic expectations?

"Fuck," I muttered as the weight of what I'd done hit me.

"You did, didn't you?" she asked. "You're seeing it now."

"Yeah I am." I sighed and scrubbed my hands back and forth over my face. "How did you figure it out so easily?"

"When you first told Jasper and me about her in the hospital waiting room, you were singing her praises. Shit you practically had her walking on water, going on and on about how impressed you were that someone her age would willingly give up her summer to help those in need. How amazing she was. And just now when you started going on about perfect this and perfect that, it just clicked in my head."

"But she could have told me, Rose. I thought she knew how much I cared about her and that she could have trusted me."

"She did know how much you cared about her and I believe she cares just as much about you, which is exactly why she did what she did. She did it to protect you."

"That's what she said."

"Then do you see why she did what she did? She wanted to be treated like everyone else and to do some good. She didn't want to look like she was only doing it for her father's gain.

"Can you imagine what kind of shit storm it would have created if her father had known what she was doing for the summer? You saw the mass amounts of news people and camera crews that were outside the hospital and funeral home before and after Granddad passed. I know you are new to all of this media crap, but it is just like she told you. Her father would have used it to boost his campaign. You might have been oblivious to the political commercials and bullshit before, but you can't tell me that you are now.

"Yeah sure maybe the attention might have brought some more aid to those poor people who'd lost so much. But tell me this. If you had known who her father was, and I don't mean the fact he's running against my father, leave the family issue out of it for now. But if you had known who she really was, would you have believed that she was really there because she wanted to be? That she wasn't doing it for her father, or didn't want the life of a spoiled, pampered, rich girl?"

"No," I told her honestly because I wouldn't have paid hardly two seconds of attention on Bella if I had known who she was.

"Answer me this, have you ever given any thought to how your father's position at Hopkins could help boost your career there?"


"Why not?"

"Because that's not who I am. I busted my ass to get the grades I needed to do it on my own. On my own merit."

"Well from everything Alice has told me about Bella and everything I have seen for myself, that is exactly what she wants too. What you keep forgetting, Edward, is that she didn't keep who she was from you to be deceitful or malicious. She did it so she could do good. And do it on her own, without the help of her father. Because let's face it, she probably could have milked her father's influence for all sorts of perks—better sleeping conditions, better food, and so on if she had wanted to. But she chose not to.

"Think about all she stood to lose. She would have been shipped back to the states, charged with fraud, and then had to deal with her parents. I imagine she'll still have to come clean to the Red Cross if she ever hopes to volunteer again. She risked a great deal to spend her summer helping others. I don't know anyone else who would have done that. Do you?"

"No. I see what you are saying. I really do. But how do I know I can trust that she won't ever keep anything from me again?"

"You don't. There's no way you can for sure unless you take the chance to find out. You have to determine if you want to be with her badly enough to take that risk. Me, Em, Jas, or your parents, we can all tell you that we think it'd be worth the risk—that she's worth it. But at the end of the day you have to be happy with the decision you make and have to live with it. So you are the only one who can decide that."

I thought about what she'd said for a few moments.

"I can see your wheels spinning. Let me put it to you like this. Are you ready to walk away for good? Say goodbye to her permanently? If not, then you have your answer."

Again I thought about what Rose had said and it was easy for me to answer her this time.

"No I'm not ready to say goodbye to her. When we were dancing, I felt alive, whole again for the first time since I left her in the DR."

"Then go get your girl, Edward. Tell her everything you told me tonight. Be honest with her and tell her everything. If the two of you want this bad enough, you can get past what's happened. Oh and make sure you let her know that you love her."


"Tell her you love her, you big dummy," she ordered while giving me a shove.

"I don't even know if I do." Despite having almost said it twice to her, I wasn't sure if I loved her or the idea of her.

"Oh please, Edward. It's plain as day that you love her and she loves you too. But you wanna know something else?"

"Does it matter? You're gonna tell me anyways," I said with a chuckle.

"You're in love with her and it scares the hell out of you. And I think that's a bigger issue than her lying, omitting, or whatever you want to call it. I don't know if someone did a number on you or if you've never felt anything like what you feel for her before. Maybe it's both. But whatever the reason is, you love her and you are scared shitless to admit it."

"Maybe, but that's all I am gonna give ya."

"That's enough. It's written all over you face. I knew you loved her when you were raving about her in the hospital. Go. Talk to her, Edward. Soon, before it's too late. Listen to her and then tell her. I'd be shocked if she turned you away."

I stood there for a minute and thought back over everything Rose had just said. She was right and I knew she was. I only had one choice if I didn't want to lose Bella forever.

"I will. I promise," I told her, pulling her to me for a hug. "Thank you."

She snorted as she hugged me back and said, "You're welcome. Now stop acting like a girl and go get yours back or I'm gonna bill ya for my advice."

"You do that," I told her with a snort of my own.

"Better listen or I just might. Now if we're done here, I have a boyfriend and a party to get back to."

"Yeah we're good. Thanks again, Rose. I really mean that."

"Well it's about time you got your head out of your ass. It's not a hat you know." Rose just stood there with a huge shit-eating, wide, toothy grin on her face.

"Always such a smart ass?" I replied, grinning right back at her.

"Better than a dumb ass I always say. Now go, get out of here."

"I'm going, I'm going," I laughed as I backed away from her before turning around and jogging to my jeep. For the first time in weeks I was feeling like I was on the right track. Now all I had to do was figure out when to talk to Bella.


"Bell, are you sure you don't want us to hang here with you for a while?" Al asked as she stood next to Sky in the doorway to my room.

"I'm sure. I just really want some time to myself right now," I told her as I unzipped my boots and pulled them off.

I knew Al and Sky meant well and I knew Al especially was worried about me. Worried I was about to fall to pieces, but I wasn't…At least not yet.

"Okay, sweetie," she said walking over to give me a hug. "Call me if you need me."

"I will. I promise," I replied hugging her back.

Sky followed Al out after assuring me she'd be in her room if I needed her and offering to share her stash of junk food.

When my door clicked signaling it was shut and I was alone, I stripped out of the clothes I'd worn to the club and put on a pair of leggings, a tank top and wrapped myself in Edward's flannel shirt before flopping down on my bean bag chair.

I sat there with my legs pulled against my chest and my chin resting on my knees. The window sill was just low enough that in my position I could stare out at the campus grounds. Occasionally I'd hear a loud whistle of someone trying to get the attention of someone else, or the voices of a group of students horsing around as they passed by, along with a car driving by now and then. For the most part the campus was quiet tonight, which left me alone with my thoughts.

For a while I was grateful for the quiet. It allowed me to reflect on what had happened tonight. Never in a million years had I seen myself having to give Edward an ultimatum. He had come on so fast and so heavy tonight he'd had my head spinning in excitement, desire, and confusion. And after all of his hot and cold, roller coaster behavior this past week, I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't go on not knowing what he wanted. I didn't think Edward was by any means purposefully leading me on, but his indecision was causing him to do just that whether it was his intention or not.

Dealing with all his flirtatious behavior and his moody tantrums had been hard enough, but when he had pulled me to him and kissed me with so much passion and I'd felt his body reacting to that kiss, showing me he clearly at least desired me physically, I knew I had to have some answers. It would have been far too easy to get swept away in those feelings and let go. However if I allowed myself to get carried away with him and things didn't work out between us, it would be even harder to walk away and more painful to get over. As it was I knew deep down inside that Edward Cullen had etched himself on my heart so deeply that there'd always be a little piece of it lost to him no matter what happened between us.

Swiping away a couple of tears with the hem of Edward's flannel shirt, I knew I had to get up and do something or I was going to end up sitting here crying all night.

I set my sights on straightening up my room. I put away the laundry I had folded yesterday, picked up the various pieces of dirty clothes that were scattered about in my room and changed the sheets on my bed. After that I wiped down my bathroom and once I was done I decided to try and read a book. I pulled off the shelf the first book in my favorite series where vampires were descended from Angels, and laid across my bed with it.

A half hour later, when I realized I'd read the same paragraph four times, I gave up on reading. For some crazy reason I next chose to try and do some homework. That went about as well as the reading had.

"Ugh," I groaned loudly, slamming my anatomy book closed and shoving it to the floor. I must have been out of my freaking mind to think I could do anything that required even a minimal amount of real concentration right now.

I was actually feeling a little tired from all the crying I'd done after I'd confronted Edward and just from all the pure emotional strain this whole situation was causing, so I crawled up on my bed after tugging off my leggings and slipped under my covers. Hugging my "e" pillow close to my chest, I closed my eyes and tried to get some sleep.

Unfortunately I did nothing but toss and turn as thoughts of Edward kept bombarding me.

"Jesus, Bella, you're wound so tightly you can't even sleep," I mumbled out loud to myself.

That's because you have Edward on the brain.

"Great, now you're having a conversation with yourself."

There had to be something I could do to expel this pent up bundle of frustrated energy that was overwhelming me.

Rolling over and glancing at my alarm clock, I saw it was getting close to ten-thirty, which by most college kids' standards, wasn't late at all. In fact from what I'd heard of college life, that was when things were really just getting going at most campuses on the weekend.

Knowing that there was plenty of on-campus security patrolling the grounds and probably plenty of other students out and about, along with the fact that I hadn't had the chance to really get out and see much of the campus, I decided that now was the time. I was going to go for a walk. Hopefully by the time I got back, I'd be even more tired and my mind would allow me to get some sleep.

I got up and pulled on my favorite pair of jeans and my converse. After digging around through my stuff I found the can of pepper spray that Al's dad had given us before we'd left for the summer. I shoved my iPhone into the back pocket of my jeans and my dorm key and the pepper spray into the front pockets then scribbled Sky a note and left it on my bed in case she came in to check on me.

I cracked myself up at the way I tiptoed out of the dorm suite and bolted for the elevator, forcing me to clap my hand over my mouth to keep Sky from hearing me. I just didn't want her to try and talk me out of going or to insist on coming with me.

Stepping out into the cool night, I sucked in a long breath of air and looked back and forth a couple of times before settling on going towards the park that was near the far corner of the campus. I briefly thought about heading back up and asking Sky to come with me, but squashed that thought as quickly as it had sprung, really still wanting to be alone and hopefully clear my head.

As much as I appreciated her and Al being there for me and supporting me through everything that had happened since Edward found out about me, sorting through my thoughts and emotions was something I needed to do on my own for now. My thoughts were bouncing around in my brain like a ping pong ball powered by the energizer bunny; I knew if I needed my friends, they'd be there for me.

Al knew me better than anyone and Sky was getting there, but while I knew Al would be completely honest with me no matter if she knew she was going to tell me something I didn't want to hear, I wasn't so sure about Sky. She had appeared to be on Luke's side more than once and I didn't want there to be any chance for her to try and interfere on Luke's behalf.

Thinking back over the night I couldn't help worrying if I had made the right choice tonight in pushing Edward to make a choice like I had. I couldn't help worrying if it would come back to bite me on the ass. I'd known he was going to have a hard time accepting what I'd done. It wasn't so much about the time he was taking to decide, it was the fact he was sending me very mixed messages. Although I guess I understood his sea-sawing behaviors somewhat. He was jealous of Luke and felt threatened by my friendship with him. Al had made sure I was aware of that on our way home from the club tonight and I had already suspected as much with the way he'd been watching us at the library the other night.

Luke had been right when he'd said Edward had been shooting daggers at him, with the looks he had given him. And I'd be lying if I said I hadn't enjoyed it just a little bit. For Edward to have been so outwardly jealous showed he still had some very real feelings for me.

But that was also the most frustrating part of it all. If he still had such strong feelings for me, then why couldn't he make a decision? My anger was really more because he was giving me the impression that he wanted to be with me, but wasn't saying the words—making the commitment to be with me. It made me feel like he was testing me or keeping me just close enough that I wouldn't move on and so no one else could have me either. As much as I hated the thought of losing him, I didn't think it was so wrong to want him to be all in or not at all. It was because of that, that even though it may have been a risk to push him, I felt that I had done the right thing.

I stopped when I came to a corner and my thoughts were interrupted by the repetitive thumping coming from across the street. I couldn't see through the fence due to the mesh that was woven between the chain links of the metal fence, but I did see a basketball come up in the air and slice through the net below it, telling me that there was a court behind the fence. For some reason I found myself being pulled like a magnet to see who was shooting hoops this time of the night and began to make my way over to it.


After getting home from the club, I'd gone out on the balcony to stare out at the harbor. It was quiet and peaceful out here, especially at night and I'd always found the sounds of the water lapping the dock to be soothing. And tonight it was just the setting I needed to delve into my head and make some sense of all the thoughts I had flooding my mind.

"Penny for your thoughts," my mom said as she slid the door open wider so she could step out on the balcony with me.

"I don't even know where to begin, Mom," I replied with a long sigh.

"Well the beginning is usually a good place."

I chuckled at her attempt to lighten my mood and asked, "Are you sure you want to hear about it? I've made a huge mess and I'm not sure how to clean it up."

"Why don't you fill me in and maybe I can help?" she suggested.

Over the next several minutes I filled her in on all that had happened since Bella had told me everything about her last name.

She had been quiet as she took in what I had told her, only nodding here and there a couple of times, but I could see that she was contemplating her response as she gazed out at the harbor and tapped her fingers against the balcony rail. It was her tell. Whenever my mother was thinking about something and picking out what she was going to say, she would always tap her fingers on any nearby surface.

When she was ready to talk, she pushed away from the rail and turned sideways to face me. The look on her face told me that she was about to confirm what I already knew. "Go ahead, Mom, you can say it. I know I've really fucked things up."

"If you want my advice you'll watch you language, Edward Anthony," she warned me.

"Sorry," I mumbled.

"Yes you have made things…more…difficult than they probably had to be. But I don't think you have ruined your chances with Bella."

"Really?" I asked hopeful she was right.

"Yes," she said with a short chuckle. She turned to face me and then gave my hand a gently squeeze of reassurance. "If Bella didn't still want to be with you, she wouldn't have told you to make a decision. She'd have simply told you it was over and been done with it. The fact she is still giving you a choice says she still wants things to work out. What you need to decide is what you want. Do you know?"

"Yes. I want to be with her. I really do. But…"

"But what? Are you still upset over her not telling you who her father was?" she asked with a slight air of shock in her voice.

"No. I mean sure I don't like that she never told me earlier and I've had some thoughts about worrying if I can trust her. But after hearing the whole story I can understand why she felt the need to do things like she did. And after talking to Rose tonight and her telling me that I had to decide if being with Bella was worth the risk, I know that Bella is. I just don't know how to fix it. I don't know where to start," I explained.

She laughed softly and patted my arm. "You sound like you did when you didn't know how to tell your coach you were quitting basketball."

Running my hand back and forth over my head a few times, I sighed and said, "Funny you should mention that."


"My quitting basketball was something I was just thinking about before you came out here. It helped me make my mind up about Bella for certain," I told her. "Well that and some of the things that Rosalie said to me."

Her eyebrow was arched high, giving me a look of curiosity, maybe even a little disbelief. "Your cousin gave you some good advice from what you've told me. However, you've really got me intrigued with this business of using basketball to make a decision about a girl. I really want to hear all about it but I'm thirsty and was on my way to get something to drink when I saw you out here. So let's go inside and you can explain."

I nodded and slid the door open, allowing her to go in first. I paused at the door just long enough to slide it shut and lock it, before joining my mother as she'd requested.

She walked across the room and behind the counter, opening the fridge and pulling two bottles of water out. After twisting the cap off the first one she passed it to me and then did the same for hers.

I thanked her and sat down on one of the stools at the counter while she leaned against it on the other side.

"Now please enlighten me, Son," she insisted after taking a drink of her water.

I proceeded to tell her about how Rosalie thought I loved Bella and that it scared me and how I had to be the one to decide what I did about my relationship with Bella because I was the one who had to live with the choice. I told her how it was similar to what both her and my dad had said to me in regards to quitting basketball.

"Yes I remember that conversation well," she said before asking, "How does that relate to Bella?"

"It got me thinking about some other things in my life that I've loved and didn't think I'd ever be able to live without, but did."

"So you're saying it made you think about whether or not you could live without Bella in your life?" she questioned.

"Yes, that's exactly what it did. And, Mom, you know how hard it was for me to give up playing ball. Up until the point when I was faced with quitting, I'd never thought it was something I could do. But I did and I've not regretted it. I know it was what was best for me and my future. It wasn't easy by any means, but I wouldn't go back and change it if I could."

"And what about Bella? Can you let her go…For good?"

"No. I don't think I can."

"You don't think you can? You must be more certain than that or you'll be setting up yourself and Bella for the possibility of being hurt again."

"Would it make you feel better if I said I don't want to let her go?"

"Yes. Can you tell me why you don't want to?"

"I love her, Mom. I didn't really realize it before I talked to Rose tonight. I mean I had been questioning my feelings for her, but I wasn't sure. But even while I've been mad and upset with her about not telling me everything, she's still all I can think about most days. Even when I'm up to my ears in homework, thoughts of her and how much I've missed her still manage to sneak in on me. And you know what? I don't mind. Thinking of her makes me happy."

"Why do I sense there's still a 'but' in there somewhere? If you've missed her so much and feel so strongly about her, what's taken you so long to want to mend things with her?" she asked.

I blew out a long breath and let my head fall forward onto my arm resting on the counter.

"Edward," my mother said softly. "You've already admitted you love her and figured out that you want to be with her. I would think that's the hard part. What has you so torn up inside?"

Looking up I replied, "It's just…I've never felt anything like this before. It's so strong…my feelings for her are so overwhelming. Even before we left the DR it was hard for me to comprehend how fast my feelings for her developed and how strong they were nearly instantly."

"I see. And that scares you," she stated plain as day, like it didn't surprise her at all.

I nodded.

"I'm not surprised," she admitted, confirming what I'd thought.

"Why not?"

"Because not only are you experiencing love for the first time, you are also experiencing a very deep, true kind of love that will likely affect you in some way for the rest of your life. She may be the only woman you ever love, Son."

"Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

Could she really mean that she believed Bella was the woman I was meant to spend the rest of my life with?

"Yes. But with that being said, I think it's a bit premature for you to be thinking of forever yet. But it's not so far-fetched either. Your father and I knew, as did your aunt and uncle and your grandparents. Apparently it's a thing with the Cullen men."

"Wow," I said lowly.

"Now don't go letting that worry you. I didn't tell you to scare you more. I told you so you can see that your feelings aren't out of place or unusual. First you have to figure out what your first step will be in repairing your relationship with Bella. Any idea how you're going to do that?"

"I think first I need to talk to her. I need to explain to her why I've acted the way I have and apologize to her for confusing her and hurting her."

I waited for my mother's reaction, hoping she didn't think I was going to go about things the wrong way. Because if she was, I was so screwed given I had no idea of any other way to do what I had to do.

"Sounds like a great place to start," she said with a reassuring smile.

"Thank goodness I figured that much out," I murmured.

"Trust your instincts, Son, and trust your heart. If you're honest with her and you follow your heart, I believe the rest will work itself out and the two of you will be just fine."

"Thanks, Mom," I said as she came around the counter and gave me a hug.

"You're welcome. Now I'm off to bed. You should try to get some sleep too."

"I will."

After I heard the click of my parents' bedroom door, I looked at my watch and saw it was only about ten o'clock. All the emotions I had coursing through me felt as if they were going to swallow me whole if I didn't get them out and I knew I'd never be able to sleep right now, so I decided to go down to the school campus and shoot some hoops to tire myself out. Heading to my room I quickly changed into a pair of sweats and one of my old Hopkins basketball t-shirts.

On my way to the basketball court it occurred to me that I wouldn't be far from Bella's dorm building and my heart sped up like crazy at the thought of seeing her.

Do it. Go see her now, a voice inside my head shouted at me and I soon found myself pulling up in front of her building. However one look at the building told me if she was there she was asleep. There wasn't one glint of light coming from any of the windows I could see.

I grabbed my phone from the center console of my jeep and fumbled with it until I pulled up Bella's number, contemplating if I should call her or not. As much as I wanted to see her, I wasn't selfish enough to wake her up. Instead I sat there staring at her building.

"What are you doing, Bright Eyes?" I whispered to my phone where her number was still lit up.

I let my head fall back against the headrest of my seat and thought about Bella. She was so close, but it felt like it was so far away from where I was sitting in my jeep. It was warm enough that I still had the top off of it and sitting here underneath the stars, staring into the sky, I wished she was here with me.

Oh, Bright Eyes, I thought. If you were, I'd tell you what an idiot I've been. I'd tell you how much I've missed you. How I miss feeling the beating of your heart as you sleep lying against me. How I miss seeing the sunshine light up your face every day and the way it brings out the red highlights in your hair, how I miss everything about you, and how I hope that you'll forgive me for being such an incredible jackass.

I found myself wondering if her feelings were as strong for me as mine were for her. She had said that she loved me when she'd laid the gauntlet down at the club tonight, but had she fallen as hard and as fast as I had? I'd like to believe that she had. The connection between us had been instant and so strong that I couldn't help thinking neither of us ever really stood a chance at denying it.

It's about time you're seeing it for what it really is instead of running from it.

I chuckled to myself as I remembered how I'd tried fighting my feelings for her. Like a fool I had thought that we could be friends for the summer and then go our separate ways, when all along from the first moment I'd set eyes on her I'd been falling effortlessly and hadn't even realized it.

Took ya long enough, moron.

I glanced up at her building once more, wishing for some sign that she might be awake. When one didn't come, I resigned myself to the fact I was going to have to wait until tomorrow morning at the earliest to see Bella. With that in mind I began to form a plan in my head…I'm going to text—no that's too impersonal—I'll call her as soon as I wake up and ask her to meet me for lunch. If the weather is nice we will get it to go and sit down by the harbor where we will have some privacy for the conversation we need to have. And I know for sure…As soon as I see her I'm going to tell her how I feel…that I love her. No matter what happens between us, I will make sure she never doubts again how I feel about her.

As I drove away from her residence hall, I felt a tiny bit of relief at having formed a plan and sense of purpose now that I was certain of my feelings for Bella and what I intended to do about them.


"Shit," I groaned and raised the bottom of my shirt, wiping the sweat from my eyes after missing the shot I'd taken. My skills were severely lacking compared to what they used to be.

I bounced the ball in front of me, passing it from one hand to the next, preparing to take another shot, when my skin began to prickle and an odd sense that I was being watched came over me.

Catching the ball between my hands I stood still for a second and listened for any sign that someone was here besides me. When I didn't hear anything I shook it off as my imagination and went back to dribbling the ball.

Backing up as I dribbled, I stopped for a second and then began my run towards the net. As I neared it, I jumped and made the shot. Landing, I turned around to retrieve the ball and thought I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye.

Looking up, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I rubbed my eyes and looked again to make sure I wasn't only imagining her there. When I opened my eyes and looked again the view was still the same. My earlier feeling of being watched must have been for real, because leaning against the gate post to the court was Bella.

She flashed me a bright smile as our eyes locked and said, "That shot was much better than the last one. Are you sure you played basketball most of your life?"

Now there's the snarky, beautiful girl I fell for. Oh how I've missed her. She looked damn good in my shirt too.

It was impossible for me to not return her smile. "You doubting my skills on the court, Miss Swan?" I asked holding her gaze as I dropped the ball and took long purposeful strides to close the distance between us.

This was my chance to tell her everything I'd wanted to a little while ago and I wasn't going to let it pass me by. My heart thumped wildly in my chest with nervous excitement, knowing what I was about to say to her.

She stood there watching me as I stalked my way over to her. Her gaze held steady and never lost focus of mine. As I reached her she opened her mouth to say something, but before she could get a word out I raised my hand and placed my finger over her lips.

"Shhh," I told her.

I waited for just a second to make she was going to remain quiet and when I was positive she would, I lifted my other hand to her face at the same time I adjusted the one already touching her so that I held her face cradled in the palms of my hands.

Lifting her face slightly so that I could look right into her eyes I said, "I love you."

Her only response was an audible gasp that echoed across the deserted basketball court as she stood there frozen, staring at me in her stunned state.

It hadn't been quite the reaction that I'd been hoping for, but at least she hadn't turned and run away. The fact that she was still here, still taking in what I'd just said to her, meant there was still a chance for us. Now I just had to tell her everything else and hope she would believe me.

So...I'm dying to hear what you guys think of Edward's reasoning and his declaration to Bella, as well as how you think Bella will react.

I'm already hard at work on chapter 18 and promise to post it just as soon as I can. Thanks so much for your patience and for being the awesome readers that you are.

See ya next time,