I know that I have lotsa'splainin ta do. But what can I say? It's that bitch called RL again and the specifics don't really matter, do they? Rest assured, If I could, I would dedicate every last second of my days to reading and writing fanfiction. I miss it so...sooo much.

I would appreciate it if you guys stuck around till the end...

Thank you for reading.

Where we left off: Since kissing Bella on the night she moved in, Edward has kept her at arm's length, feeling guilty for betraying Tanya and angry that Bella is involved with Jacob. Bella takes it in stride, but doesn't appreciate it one bit. Meanwhile, she makes Jacob her boyfriend, although she is uncertain of her feelings for him. She hopes to eventually grow to love him. Last chapter, she discovered Tanya leaving the condo with another man while Edward was at work. It saddened her and left her uncertain about how to proceed with the information.

Rose is approaching her sixth month of pregnancy, and Emmett is still his lovable self.

This chapter takes place a week after the last.

Back to Basics


One week later

The only place I can find any peace these days is on my balcony. Between Tanya's incessant hovering and Bella's maddening evasiveness and obvious resentment of my very existence, the only way I've been able to find a margin of comfort is by creating my own space here. I've transferred a few things from the condo to make my new haven a little more comfortable. I now have a nice cushioned seat and a small stool out here to rest my beer and ashtray on. I've smoked more cigarettes these past couple weeks than I have since finishing college.

And damn, I'd really forgotten how good it feels…

Unwittingly, I think back to the first cigarette I'd ever fully smoked and an unwelcome memory comes to mind…vividly.

"Give me one of those?" I ask Ben Cheney, nodding my head toward the pack of Malboro cigarettes in his hand.

He looks up at me surprised and lifts off the hood of his car.

"I didn't know you smoke, Cullen"

Yeah, I didn't really know it either. He passes me one anyway.

I twirl the slim stick between my fingers, hesitant only because I don't want the smell to stick and have Carlisle and Esme detect it when I get home.

"Bad day?" he asks.

I shrug, not wanting to even think about what I'd just heard in the halls. But of course, not wanting to think about it just makes me obsess even more. Tyler Crowley had just cornered Bella in the hallway to ask her to the upcoming dance. This is already reason enough to set my blood racing. But to make matters worse, she denied him….because she'd already agreed to go with Mike. Fucking Newton.

I lift the cigarette to my lips and motion for Ben to light it for me.

He does and I inhale strongly and hold it down. I don't cough, already knowing what to expect from the previous times I'd taken small pulls from friends.

The burn feels good, and a couple of drags in, I begin to feel the calming effects of the nicotine. I know I have no right to be upset…at all. Not even a little bit. And she, of course has every right to go with whomever she chooses.

But I am. So very much, I am.

I want to lock both Crowley and Newton in my basement and beat their fucking faces in until their own mothers don't recognize them….

Too much?

I don't even care at this point. They deserve it.

Ben and I chat a little bit, and I force myself to think of anything, everything else. Pretty soon, I feel calm enough to speak without having to force down a scream.

Then I see her.

She's walking out of the gym doors, rushing towards her beat up red truck. She's alone because classes haven't been let out yet; there still must be at least fifteen minutes left to the period. For some reason, she still has her gym clothing on—the ugly shorts and t-shirt in the school's colors. She has her huge backpack in the crook of one arm, and the clothes she'd been wearing earlier in the other.

I feel my lips tug up in an adoring smile as I watch her fumble with her things as she awkwardly speed walks to her car.

She begins opening her backpack and tries to stuff her clothes in it. Knowing her as well as I do, I foresee the imminent disaster moments before it happens. I'm walking over to her by the time everything she'd been carrying spills all over the black asphalt. Ben is calling my name, but I'm already jogging away.

She swears softly, going beet red as she scans the lot to see if anyone had noticed.

Her blush brightens when she sees me, just as it always does. And like a reflex, my heart kicks into high gear.

Suddenly, her face scrunches up.

"Are…are you smoking?"

That's when I remember the cigarette at my lips. I shrug, suddenly embarrassed myself.

"Yeah, what of it?" I smirk as I bend down to retrieve her things.

I stand and catch her tucking her hair behind her ear, eyeing my lips sternly. She reaches over and tries to take her things from me, but I shake my head and motion for her to lead me to her car.

She sighs, and begins walking, "I just didn't know you did, is all"

"Gotta try new things, Swan, you never know what you might end up liking."

She rolls her eyes before giving me an exhausted look, "Is that what you tell yourself every time you choose to be with a new girl?"

I bark with laughter and she blushes some more, making me want to reach out and rub my palm against her warm cheek.

"You're too funny, Bella"

"Glad I amuse you." She says tartly, stopping when we reach her car.

When my cigarette is barely half an inch long, I place all her shit on her hood and stub it out on the ground.

"So where are you in such a rush to?" I ask, "Gym isn't even over yet."

She shrugs one shoulder, "I'm late for a shopping trip with my grandma. She's visiting for the week and kept bugging me to go dress shopping with her, and I finally agreed even though I don't even want to go to that stupid dance."

I go frigid at the mention of the dance, wishing I had another cig…or that I at least had the rest of my last one.

"So you're only going because your grandma's forcing you? That's dumb"

She bites her bottom lip, and blinks at my less than pleasant tone.

"I suppose, but that's what you do for family. Small sacrifices."

I force myself not to be an asshole and snap at her for no good reason. I figure the only way that can happen is if I let her go now.

"So I should probably stop holding you up then, huh?" I lift her things off the hood and neatly arrange them in the passenger seat of her truck.

"Thanks….Edward?" she calls softly once I'm turning away.

"Yeah?" I answer, stopping short.

"Are…are you going to the dance?"

"Yes" I answer, because I am. With Janet Fields. And I know she knows it without even having to ask.

She nods her head and looks away, her plump bottom lip caught between her teeth again. I know there are things she wants to say, but of course she doesn't say them. But, then again, who the fuck am I to talk?

"You…you shouldn't smoke" she finally says.

I chuckle humorlessly, "I'm finding more and more reasons to these days."

She smiles a little, but it's dry. "No kidding…"

I ash my cigarette and note with displeasure that it's my very last one. Regardless of whether or not I decide to indulge in another one tonight, I'll need to go buy a pack immediately, if only to have the reassuring weight of the box on me. Actually, considering the frequency at which these flashbacks keep assaulting me, I should probably buy more than just one.

Lately, it's as though every memory I have of her—including several that I'd assumed were long forgotten—is barraging me all at once. I can't fucking think a single thought without Bella being incorporated into it somehow, even if in the most roundabout ways.

I thought I had it bad for this girl in high school. And I did. But being so close to her, yet so distinctly far away has made ignoring this attraction for her impossible. At least in high school , I had the liberty to flirt with her in my own juvenile way, expending some of my frustrations at least a little bit.

Now, I have to watch her flaunt about the apartment with that sinful body of hers and not say a goddamn word of appreciation. I have to watch her cook food for us that smells so damn good, even my cock stands in appreciation. Which is fucking weird, I know. But something about watching her operate with such skill behind a stove, barefoot with her hair tied up…it awakens something primal and elemental in me. Something that resonates with my inherent masculine instincts and puffs with pride at the sight of her cooking for me…I mean us.

Whenever I'm sedated with the effects of a few cigarettes, I allow myself to entertain fantasies of watching her cook butt naked, save for a teeny tiny apron. The slim strings would tie behind her into a delicate bow right above the firm, round globes of her pert ass. She would smile shyly at me before gathering samples of whatever the fuck she's cooking onto a spoon for me to taste. She would slowly bring it to my mouth, and the flavor would incite a different type of hunger so fiercely in me I would have no choice but to throw her onto the nearest flat surface, pin her legs open wide, and devour her sweet pussy instead.

God, what I wouldn't give to be able to plunge my tongue back inside her slick, hot walls and lick…to take her stiff clit into my mouth and suck hard until she's scrabbling away from my desperate mouth. I feel myself harden in my pants and groan, although it's a fairly common occurrence these days. It doesn't help the problem that I've been avoiding having sex with Tanya like the plague.

It's fucked up, but the more and more consumed I become with thoughts of Bella, the less and less appealing Tanya is in comparison. Not to say that Tanya isn't beautiful—in that superficial way—because she is and she knows it. And I'm grateful for that because she doesn't question it when I feint a headache or stress or whatever the fuck else as my excuse to not have sex. She couldn't conceive of any man ever turning her down so the problem must be me.

But taking Tanya when I have no space in my head for anyone but Bella is almost physically impossible. I mean, I'm a guy and a pussy feels good no matter whose it is when I close my eyes. I can perform no problem if I have to. I just don't want to as much anymore. Boy, I never thought I'd see the day…

And it's not even that Tanya physically isn't Bella. Sure Tanya is slim and beautiful, while Bella is curvier, smoking hot and downright gorgeous, but that difference isn't what makes the thought of fucking Tanya unpleasant to me. It's because she isn't anything like her. It would be an endless search trying to find two girls with less in common. Tanya's laugh, her smile, her moans of pleasure, her pleas for harder, deeper and faster… they're all fucking wrong. And I know my mind wouldn't let me forget that throughout the whole thing. I would go from aroused to annoyed sooner than I could whip my cock out.

I rise from my seat, tossing the ashes from my cigarettes over the side of the balcony and head back inside. Bella is sitting in the living room, alternating between watching some God-awful reality television show and reading the book in her lap during commercials. She looks so cozy in a loose sweatshirt and shorts, bare feet crossed in her lap. But, as our relationship now would have it, I don't say anything to her as I pass on my way to my room.

Ignoring the basic instinct to simply greet a familiar person when I see them, on top of ignoring my basic instinct to devote every ounce of my attention to her is wearing me down to microscopic pieces. What I wouldn't give for the liberty…the right to be able to snuggle up behind her, play in her hair, feel up her smooth skin…

But I can't. Because apparently, that right belongs to someone else.

And just like that, instantaneously, my mood has taken an even greater decline. And all I want to do is give her my back until she's desperate for my acknowledgement. Until she feels empty and remorseful without it.

I'm doing it again. I'm punishing her for something she has every right to do and that I'm even guiltier of doing. Just like in fucking high school with Crowley and Newton while I was getting nightly blowjobs from Janet.

But I can't fucking help it. Jealously has taken root in my system and cannot be extricated. It's a disease, the symptoms of which flare up at just the mention of that fucking guy she's with. At the telling look in her eye when she glances at her cell and I know it's him calling. A wild urge to stomp over to her and snatch the phone away and smash it against a wall seizes me every time.

And even more deeply rooted is the possessiveness I feel for her. I can't even fool myself into thinking that she isn't meant to be mine again in some way or another. That she isn't already mine. And the irrational betrayal and resentment I feel towards her for being with someone else, happily, makes me want to punish her in the most basic way. Despite my history, I would never dare or even conceive of laying a hand on her in violence, but there is no denying the violence within me at the thought of her with someone else. I want to rage and scream and grab her close, make her understand that she's mine alone and can't ever give herself to anyone else. Ever.

And I know she takes him into her body whenever they're alone. There's no way a man could be with her and not beg for entrance at every given opportunity. Whenever she's out of sight and I know she's not at work, I force myself to engage in anything I can get my hands on—more often than not, a barbell—and order a mental stampede on all thoughts of what she is most likely doing. It's the only way I can manage to breathe.

I know for a fact that she understands what she's doing to me because I see the hesitance in her every time her mongrel is around or brought into conversation. She keeps her answers short with Tanya and her never ending nosiness. She's become cautious of saying too much around me, thank fuck. In fact, to anyone who listened, she could easily be talking about a brother. And when he calls, the expression that devours my face—which has been out of my realm of control lately—warns that picking it up in front of me will not bode well for either of us. Blessedly, she always steps out to spit her empty words at him privately. I don't know what I'd do if she wasn't so intuitive.

It's warm tonight so I forego my light jacket and just grab my sneakers from my room. I stop at the living room and sit on the armchair to put them on. I purposefully put myself near her because I want her to realize that I'm blatantly ignoring her. All part of her punishment for doing this to me. Although, lately, I've been wondering if the brunt of this punishment is in actuality all mine to bear….I'm a fucking masochist.

I don't even know whom I'm hurting more, anymore.

I don't know how much longer I can go on in this state. Sooner or later, she will stop caring about me if she hasn't already. By then, my desperation for her will have reached its limit and I'll stupidly throw caution to the wind and beg for her to love me. Sooner or later, she will move in with that frumpy tool. Sooner or later, Tanya will fucking demand a ring or some other form of infinite commitment. And sooner than later, I'll have to suck it up and have sex with her again.

The day after the earth moved, and my skinned burned, and my heart leapt because our lips had finally become reacquainted…I had spent the morning working out with Emmett, imposing countless weights upon myself because every inch of me thrummed with newfound energy and power. I felt like I could lift the entire fucking gym and every beef head in it with one hand if I wanted to. I pumped iron until I finally felt satisfied that I tapped out every reserve of energy and strength I possessed, and a dull ache was left in its place.

Emmett and I had then shared our first ever non-small talk or gym related conversation ever. And by the end of the day, I'd felt so inappropriately content talking with my trainer that I'd told him about the kiss between Bella and I. I'm not sure how it had come out, but my moodiness was too evident for him to ignore. I couldn't shrug off his questioning for too long anyway. And so I told him, and he said…

"Dude…that's fucked up"

And I laugh….for the first time all day, I'm laughing. His dumbfounded expression is too comical. At over six feet and far beyond two hundred pounds, Emmett doesn't seem like a man to be easily taken off guard…but it seems I've done it.

"I know"

"I mean…it hasn't even been a day. I mean, damn….I know you guys were all googly-eyed for each other in high school, but that was six years ago, bro!"

I shake my head at him.

"I've never once cheated on a woman before. And one real conversation with Bella and it's like…it's like she's the only person who matters"

Emmett's expression softens.

"I don't mean to state the obvious, but don't you think that means something? That obviously means something" he says, answering his own question with a nod of certainty.

I manage to shrug before pressing down for another push-up.

"It doesn't matter."

"Look, I normally wouldn't pry, but Bella is a sister to me. And you hurting her would upset me, but not as much as it would my wife… which would piss me off even more. So please, no matter what, just be honest with her. That's all I ask, and I know that's all she would want."

"It's difficult to be honest with someone when you have no fucking clue about jack shit, yourself"

"Well, like I said…it means something. That kind of attraction…it doesn't just exist between anyone. You know, I could tell there was something there, even from the restaurant."

That pauses me.


"Oh yeah. It was like you two were connected by strings. Every move one of you made, the other would follow, even if it was the smallest movement. It was kind of weird. If your eyes followed a path, Bella's would look in that direction and vice versa. I think your breaths even synchronized at one point. I almost thought you guys were playing footsies or holding hands under the table or something. But I know you weren't because I checked."

I snort, shaking my head. This guy was obviously letting his imagination run wild.

"It's probably just because of our history"

"History, Shm-istory. It's pure chemistry. And a healthy dose of sexual attraction, of course"

I sigh…it's more than just a healthy dose.

"I'm just saying. Something like that is worth at least a little bit of consideration. And I'm not just saying that for your or even Bella's benefit. I love her to death, but I wouldn't speak out of my ass about something like this. It's what I honestly believe to be true. Fuck that…it's what I know"

At the mention of how close he and Bella are, I start to feel guilty about potentially compromising their relationship by confiding in him.

"I don't mean to get you involved, Emmett."

He shakes his head, "Nah, man, it's cool. I don't mind sharing my expertise with a fellow bro. I welcome these little chit chats, anytime. Just please try not to hurt my sister."

I promise him I would never, intentionally, and then chuckle, "Your expertise, huh?"

"Oh yeah... Most people don't know this, but I'm a certified genius in many areas. Love being one of them"

I roll my eyes, "Zipping your pants apparently isn't"

His hands immediately fly to his crotch, and he looks down quickly. Only to remember that he's wearing track pants that have no zipper. I chuckle at his obvious ire at being played.

"But maybe falling for lame tricks is."

Mid-pushup, he shoves me hard in the shoulder and I immediately fall over with a small thud. But we're both laughing.

"Umm, Tanya asked me to tell you that she'll be over at her sister's house for dinner." I hear her voice say timidly.

When I glance up at her, Bella's gaze falls so quickly to the book in her lap, I'm unsure if it had been on me at all.

I sigh heavily, hating this ridiculous distance between us, but needing it just as fiercely. I can't afford to fuck up again, but I can't continue living like this. The effect it's having on me is unbearable. My mood is sour almost constantly. I can only relinquish half of my attention to my work because the other half is being held firmly prisoner in Bella-la-la-land. And if I continue smoking at this rate, I'm sure my fucking lungs will go up in flames and collapse like a burning building within the month.

"Thanks…." I say, and fish for some more words to give her. "So...umm….what are you reading?"

She looks up at me, obviously surprised at my attempt at small talk. It's a weak and overdue effort on my part, so the answering silence is awkward.

She shakes her head, "I'm sorry, are you actually asking me a direct question right now? Am I hallucinating?"

There's definite annoyance in her tone.

Okay…maybe I'm the only one who feels awkward. I keep forgetting that she isn't the same Bella I knew in high school who would have just stuttered out a reply, trying to mask her disbelief that I was finally acknowledging her after treating her so rudely. She's braver now. More assertive and proud. A woman who understands how she deserves to be treated and won't accept my pitiful olive branch. I shouldn't have expected her to just play along after how I've treated her.

I scoff, "Don't be ridiculous, Bella, I've asked you things before"

I, on the other hand, am obviously content with playing bullshit.

She rolls her eyes, "Bullshit"

"Bella…" I implore.

"Edward" she replies immediately.

"Look…I don't know what to say"


"Well until you figure it out, I just ask that you quit treating me like a rotting mosquito carcas on your windshield and upgrade to just pretending I don't exist. So no more hateful glares, and frustrated grunts, please and thank you"

She turns back to her book, clearly finished with our conversation.

My mouth is open because I am a medley of different emotions right now. I am equal parts stunned, and downright horny. She just dismissed me like a misbehaving student.

I don't even know what to say…So I don't say anything at all.

With a heavy sigh, I rise from the chair and make my way over to the door. Bella doesn't say another word to me as I leave, and I don't expect her to.

Once I reach the elevator, I allow myself to bang my head against wall a couple of times as I wait for it to carry my sorry ass to the bottom.

It doesn't escape my notice that I'd just made things a lot worse between the two of us. I hadn't even thought that possible. I am an idiot. Worse, I am a special kind of idiot—the kind that can make a difficult situation infinitely worse with fewer than three sentences.

I am on autopilot as I head to the nearest grocery store for a new pack of cancer causers. I don't think twice as I grab the first box my hand finds. I barely blink when I am charged a whopping $14—in fact I grab a second, reminding myself of how long I am able to make one last.

I've already nearly finished one by the time I make it back to the building. I take one last fortifying pull before stomping the rest out. Yes, I am a special kind of idiot, but I have to try again. At least I'm almost positive that I can't make things any worse this time. Right?

Fuck it…. Here goes nothing.

As soon as I step off the elevator on our floor, the lights go out on our half of the hallway. I grumble under my breath, already accustomed to but no less pissed about these random outages. I walk a little more quickly to the door, wanting to get to Bella before she can freak out. The entire condo will be pitch black, and I have a feeling Tanya never mentioned these incidents to her. She probably doesn't have any clue where the flashlights are either.

Once I enter the abyss that is my condo, in this exact order, I hear a shriek, thud, shatter and then…


I rush in immediately, headed in the direction of her voice.

"What is it? Are you okay?" I ask as I force my eyes to adjust to the darkness.

The moonlight filtering in from the windows is pathetic, but I notice her form, clothed in white and crumpled on the floor behind the couch.

"I'm fine" she rushes to say, but I can hear the wince in her voice.

"Are you hurt?"

I crouch in front of her, squinting futilely to get a good look.

"Yes, but…No! Don't come closer"

I freeze. And then panic a little.

"Are you in pain? Where? Tell me, Bella"

"It's not that…it's just…I'm…"

When she stops speaking, I reach for her again.

"No! Edward, you don't understand"

"Then tell me!"



"I'm naked, okay!"

The instant she says this, I am easily able to discern the fierce flaming of her face, even in the darkness. Humorlessly, I realize that all of her blood has taken an express route to her cheeks while all of mine has gone in the complete opposite direction. I sit back on my butt and swallow through the desert that is my throat.

This is certainly an unexpected development.

Against my better judgment, my eyes rake over her form, desperate for whatever part of it I am able to make out. After so many days of self-imposed abstinence, I am hungry for a peak of bare female skin, live and in the flesh. Within grabbing distance…

Fuck, no! Stop it.



"Y-You're naked?"

Wow, was that me or did someone invite Barry White over?

I clear my throat again.

"Yeah…well I have a towel on. I was in the middle of a shower when the lights just…went out. I came out right away to look for some flashlights and then nearly caught a heart attack when I heard you come in."

"Bella, did you hurt yourself?"

She sighs, "Yeah. Not terribly, but I tripped over the end table. I banged my toe pretty badly so I'm pretty sure it's going to bruise"

I grimace, "All right, well don't move. I think there's glass on the floor."

She gasps again, "Yeah, I'm sorry. I'll replace whatever I broke."

I wave a hand dismissively, although I doubt she can see it.

"Who gives a fuck? Just stay put, I'll be right back."

She reaches out to grip my sleeve when I pull away.

"Wait, where are you going?" Her voice is shaking, and I suddenly vaguely remember her telling me once about being afraid of the dark.

I chuckle a little. "Just to get a flashlight. I won't take long."

She blushes some more before removing her hand.

I get up and head into the kitchen. Beneath the sink, I find the flashlight we always keep there, flip it on, and then head back over to Bella.

I hear her hiss and shine the light in her direction to see her standing, supporting herself on the back of the couch with one hand, and holding her towel together with the other.

I growl, "I said not to move, Bella"

"Yeah, I probably should've listened to you. I'm pretty sure I just got glass in my foot. But at least it's not the same one that I banged against the table."

"Yeah, but can you walk now?"

She shakes her head before raising it and her fist to the ceiling, "Curse my acute lack of coordination."

"Well then I guess you have no choice."

"Choice in what?"

I go over to her and hand her the flashlight before quickly crouching and lifting her up bridal style.

"Whoa!" she exclaims, gripping her towel, "What are you doing? Put me down right now, Edward"

I'm already walking away from the scene of the accident as she begs. Thankfully, she's too preoccupied with keeping her towel secure to effectively struggle with me. And no, it doesn't escape my notice that one wrong move and some highly tempting flesh will slip out. I force myself not to purposely make that happen.

I take her to the guest bathroom—with her complaining the whole way—and gently set her on the countertop.

"See, that wasn't too bad."

She crosses her arms petulantly, "For you, maybe."

I smile at the unintentional pout she's sporting and resist the urge to pinch her cheek.

"You'll be all right." I reach above her and into the cabinets above the sink. I aim the flashlight there and begin rummaging for the tools I'll need to treat Bella's feet.

"I'll be right back" I tell her, and head out to the balcony for my stool. I leave Bella with the flashlight so that she won't be scared while I'm gone.

I return and sit in front of her before gently encircling her delicate ankle with my fingers and pulling her slowly bleeding foot into my lap.

I hear her gasp softly, and I know that she feels the same sparks that I do whenever we're skin to skin.

"Y-You really don't have to do that." She says as she tries to pull away.

With my firm grip, I'm able to keep her from moving.

"I want to" I say, and then more softly, "It's the least I could do…"

I'm not brave enough to look her in the eyes just yet, so I'm unsure if she understands that I'm desperately trying to compensate for my idiocy. She doesn't say anything, but she doesn't pull away again either so I take it as a victory. The silence continues as I sanitize my hands before getting to work with picking the visible glass out. Bella hisses and scrunches her toes against the sting.

"I think I'm almost done" I tell her after a few minutes, "Where else do you feel it?"

She retracts her foot and brings it close for inspection. Then a miracle happens. The action causes her to inadvertently flash me her beautiful pussy for the smallest part of a second, but doubtlessly the best smallest part of a second of my entire life. All I could make out from that blessed moment was that she is as bare as she was all those years ago.

I wonder if I could lean forward and bury my head between her legs and make her believe it was an accident. One lick…just one would be worth a slap in the face.

Instead, I just slap myself, hoping that'll help my brain function properly again.

Once Bella realizes her slip, she gasps and drops her leg.

"Oh God, did you…"

Her face is glaringly red.

I clear my throat and decide to change the topic, wanting to spare her the embarrassment of having to discuss the fact that her perfect plump pussy was just exposed to a painfully horny man.

"I want to thank you for allowing me to do this for you, Bella. I know I've been…an asshole to you and I'm sorry and I really hope that we can be friends…for real this time."

I say it all so fast that I'm afraid she may mistake my nerves for insincerity. It wasn't exactly said at the best time either and she may think I'm just a random idiot who just decided to say it out of the blue. I'm already preparing myself for the slap in the face, which honestly I would've been happier to earn for trying to make out with her pussy than like this.

Instead, she sighs deeply and says, "Well, finally"

I chance a peek up at her and see that she's smiling.


She shrugs, "I was beginning to wonder when you'd finally just give up the silent treatment. It hasn't been very…pleasant living here with you treating me like that."

I frown, feeling really shitty for hurting her and more than a little embarrassed about my behavior. What kind of immature asshole am I? Instead of talking to her about our situation and working it out like a fucking adult, I made both our lives miserable for weeks.

"It hasn't been for me either, trust me. And for that, I really am sorry. I don't even deserve your friendship, but I do want it, and I promise to respect it."

She nods, "I accept your apology. Thank you. I'm glad we can finally move on."

"As am I" I say, smiling, "I'm happy to finally reconnect with my old friend"

I pull her foot back into my lap as she giggles. "It feels like there's just a small piece left in my heel"

She points out the area and I get to work on it.

"I see it" I tell her, "But it's really small."

A few moments later, I'm wiping her feet clean of dried blood with a damp wad of toilet paper.

"You should probably wait a couple more minutes before walking on them."

She nods, "Thanks again. Do these outages happen often?"

I shrug, "Fairly. I'd say about once or twice a month. It gets annoying."

"I bet…and scary. Does Tanya freak out as much as I do about the dark?"

"Surprisingly enough, no. She looks like the type to go hiding under a bed though, doesn't she?"

"She does. I feel so lame for being such a pussy."

There's a sharp twist in my lower belly at the sound of that word coming from Bella's sweet lips. I force myself to ignore it…ignore hard.

I clear my throat, "And what else scares you?"

I stand between her legs and begin putting everything back in the cabinets behind her head.

She sighs heavily, and I can feel it on my chest.

"Well, there's a loaded question. Hmm…spiders, snakes, rats…and I fear failing the people that I love."

"And whom might that include?" I ask conversationally, although I'm not entirely sure I want to know the answer if it includes that hunk of beef she's dating.

"Rose, my dad, and Emmett are the main people. I clearly don't have very many friends." She giggles, "How about you?"

"Whom do I love, or what do I fear?


I look off into a dark corner as I ponder my answers. "Well…I love my parents and my sister. Like you, I fear disappointing them. But most of all, I fear repeating my worst mistakes and becoming anything like the person I resent most."

There's a silence before she says, softly, "And who would that be?"

Her voice is so inviting that I don't think twice about answering her honestly. My gaze is trained on the void of darkness surrounding us which makes it easier to speak. "My father…my biological one."

I wonder briefly if Bella remembers that I'm adopted.

"I had no idea you'd met him." So she not only remembers I'm adopted, but that I'd also never met my biological father before graduating high school.

I nod absently, closing the cabinet and sitting back down. I sigh, not wanting to speak anymore about my father, but not knowing how to transition into another conversation without making things awkward. Fortunately for me, I think Bella picks up on my mood.

"So what do you do?" she asks, and I finally look at her, not expecting that question.


She giggles, "I mean, I see you go to work in the mornings, but I have no idea what you do for a living."

I grin, realizing I really never mentioned it to her before. "I'm a calculus instructor at a community college downtown. I'm also studying to get my doctorate by next year so that I can become an official professor."

Her eyes widen, "Wow, your doctorate by 25. That's impressive; how did you manage that?"

I shrug, "I got my bachelor's from Northwestern in two and a half years."

She nodded, "That makes sense. You always were an undercover genius"

I laugh, "Undercover? Ouch, are you insinuating that I look and act like an idiot?"

She giggles, "Not at all. You were just never boastful about how smart you are."

"I've always preferred to just let my uber-intelligence speak for itself" I wink, playfully.

She rolls her eyes, "So why Illinois? I always wondered why you decided to move so far out."

I rubbed the back of my neck, looking off into the darkness again.

"My…father. He lives in Chicago and wanted to get to know me, so I went to be closer to him. And he offered to pay for my tuition so…"

From my periphery, I can see her nodding slowly, "So…you two don't speak anymore?"

I sigh heavily again, feeling the room warm several degrees at the direction this conversation is heading. I don't want to talk about him. Bella is the one person whom I truly want to remain completely ignorant to this ugly part of my life…this ugly part of me.

If she knew

If she knew, any progress we'd made would go soaring out the window.

"He's dead to me." I say coldly, meaning it.

I resolve myself then to never, ever tell Bella anything about my past with my father. And to never admit how disgustingly similar the two of us are…or how ashamed I am to share his DNA.

I feel Bella take one of my hands gently between her own, and I finally turn to face her.

She's smiling, "Hey, if you don't like him, I don't like him. Fuck him."

I chuckle, knowing she's just trying to ease the tension. I squeeze her hand.

"Is that how it works now? So who do you dislike so I know to dislike them, too?"

There's a flash in her eyes before she looks away and gently retracts her hand.

"Oh, no one in particular."

She says this way too nonchalantly, and I know she's hiding something. I eye her peculiarly but let it drop. She'd been kind enough not to press me for information, so I'll show her the same courtesy.

I stretch and stand up. I'm right between her thighs and as close to her as I want to, but shouldn't nearly, be.

Her nearness does wonders in easing the tension in my body.

Just then, the lights come back on and our dark little bubble is bursted. We stare at one another, and I finally take a reluctant step back. Not because she looked uncomfortable with my proximity, but because I was afraid of what I might do if I didn't.

For some reason, being so close it her isn't awkward or uncomfortable at all. I love the radiance she exudes and I'm inexplicably drawn to it. I've never been one for physical contact but she makes me yearn for it. I crave her skin and I'm infatuated with the sparks that fly across my own whenever we touch.

Bella Sawn is dangerous.

But fuck me if I am capable of staying away.

Her face suddenly scrunches up in disgust.

"Were you smoking, Cullen?"

I laugh, knowing that all of my smoking earlier must have affected my scent.

"Didn't you know? I'm an addict"

"Well cut it out or no steak Fridays for you."

My mouth drops, horrified, "Fuck, why not just murder my whole family, Bella. Don't joke like that"

She giggles, "Just try me."

What would I do without Bella's steaks on Fridays? The neglect would kill me. I shake my head, not wanting to even think about such an awful possibility.

"Do you want to try standing?"

She nods and I back up a little so that she can hop down.

She stomps a little in place to feel for any sensitivity in her feet.

"Any pain?"

She smiles, shaking her head.

"Not really. I must heal fast" she says, taking a few steps toward the door.

"Yeah?" I say, "Lucky you"

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Till next time!