Hi guys. I wasn't planning posting this so soon but this is a birthday present to my lady, SoSo. Luckily for all of you, I'm a sucker.

This was written as a contribution for Fandoms4SpecialOlympics. To the group of you who donated, thank you, thank you, thank you! This was written for you guys.

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.


"Edward, what do you think the team's chances are of advancing to the Cup?"

"We are one of the most top-ranked teams in the world. As long as they stay focused then I don't think we have much to worry about," I replied, looking over the reporters shoulder to eye the women running on the field. A certain brunette was racing around cones. "But like I've told them, it doesn't matter what you're ranked going in, what matters is what happens when you're there."

"Do you think your experience being the all-time scoring leader for the men's national team will make a difference?"

I nodded. "I have a feeling there's a lot I can teach them, and a lot I can learn from them as well. With the exception of a handful of the most seasoned players, the team is pretty young and inexperienced. The pressure in international competition is a lot different than anything they've ever encountered."

The reporter hummed, edging the microphone closer to my face. "Does this bring back memories of the three World Cups you played in during your career?"

I shrugged. "Yeah, it does. These are top-notch athletes, and I'm honored to be apart of it. I have a feeling this will be my last chance to win a World Cup."

"Will you be introducing a new women's shoe with your Nike endorsement after this?" the ESPN reporter asked.

"I don't have any plans, but you never know," I answered him, already walking away when I saw my girls starting to get sloppy on their drills.

"There we have it, America's most decorated soccer player of all time, Edward Cullen, the new assistant coach to the Women's national team…" I heard the guy start trailing off the end of his segment as I made my way across the field.

"Damn it, Swan! Faster! Faster! Faster!"

She didn't even bother glancing in my direction as I yelled. Some days I thought the girl had selective hearing when it came to me screaming at her about one thing or another. Where the other girls glared at me when I'd correct something, she didn't even flinch a single muscle.

That fucking girl drove me insane.

Watching her run across the turf, pumping those legs through the obstacles Sam and I had laid out for conditioning was torture in its finest form. Only nails on a chalkboard could grate on my nerves more than her fierce concentration.

Sweat was dripping from every pore on her body as she pushed through the hurdles aligned in front of her; her forehead was scrunched up in exertion as she finished the last one. She stopped a few feet away, bent at the waist with her hands on her knees as she caught her breath. But a few seconds later, when the newest addition to the final roster —the woman had taken her spot as a starter last week—finished the course and stood next to her, the girl gave her a tired high-five. Weak smiles were exchanged from one female to the next, acknowledgement that they had finished the brutal course and were ready for the next thing.

Their camaraderie disgusted me. Who the fuck high-fives their competition?

Number 13. Swan. Isabella. Bella. Striker. Member of the U.S. Women's National team.

I'd met some of the cockiest, most self-serving people alive in my career. People who wouldn't think twice about double-crossing their friends and peers to succeed. And I couldn't really say anything because I was one of them. My sister had told me once that nice guys finished last, and I'd be damned to finish last. Ever. My entire life, my career, my livelihood, was built on being the best no matter what it took. I was perfectly happy with the way that my life had gone up to, until this point. Really, I couldn't have asked for more in my wildest dreams.

But one does not become the best by being a pussy.

I wanted bloodsuckers. Players who wanted to win more than they wanted to breathe. I wanted them to want it as badly as I had and did. It was with that in mind that I justified how Number 13 fueled something in me that I couldn't understand. She was too nice. Too good for the simple attitude that she had. Bella Swan was a smokeless fire when I wanted raging inferno that filled the sky with clouds of ash.

Two days ago, when Coach Platt, the head coach of the team, and I told her that veteran Jane Volturi was joining after getting last minute medical clearance from an injury and would be replacing her as a starter, she didn't blink twice. She didn't even give us half of a frown or sigh. Bella Swan had simply nodded and smiled. "I understand."

I understand.

If someone had told me once that I was getting replaced when I was at the height of my career, I would've thrown a chair across the goddamn room.

Her calm, understanding attitude boggled my mind. The girl was and had been a star striker on the team. Consistent was her middle name, so how she managed to keep herself under control when finding out that she was going to be sharing minutes with someone else was beyond me. For three weeks, I'd watched the entire team bust their asses, but when Volturi wanted to play, they just let her in like she'd been there the entire time, sweating, bleeding, and crying with the rest of them. All because she had the most experience at thirty-five.

"Passing drill!" I yelled in the direction of the three women I was in charge of mainly working with.

At that moment, Swan was patting Number 5, Brandon, on the back as she came to a panting stop right next to her. And she was smiling, always smiling. Always in a good mood. She never complained about how grueling the day was, or when we'd make the team stay later to run another drill, or lift more weights. Even Brandon, who was always excited about life in general—made faces when she had to run another lap at the end of the day.

She—Swan—frustrated the shit out of me.

Once, just once, I wanted her to complain or at least huff about something. But after weeks of filling in as the assistant coach because of Marcus' car accident, she still hadn't even rolled her eyes. I'd made a joke to Sam, the fitness coach, about how she wasn't human and he'd just looked at me and raised an eyebrow. "You don't like Swan?" he asked with surprise.

Apparently, I was the only one she irritated with her aloof attitude.

Coach Platt used Swan as a role model for the entire team, even though she was one of the youngest members at twenty-two. That day, Number 13 had just waved and grinned in acceptance of her praise. Sam had nudged me when he caught the perplexed look on my face. I didn't understand how this girl was so reserved, so patient, and so unassuming when she wasn't in competition. But when she was on the field playing, she turned into a ruthless beast. I'd watched so many videos of the team's games in the past that I became all too familiar with the playing strategy of most of the players. Swan was known for sacrificing her body against bigger girls, and having the stamina that someone like Volturi didn't anymore.

It drove me fucking insane.

Where was my fucking wild fire during practice? With her natural talent and speed, she should have been one of the most renown stars on the team. But she wasn't. When the press came by, she shied away from the camera. When the other girls blamed her for a missed opportunity, she just shrugged, even if it wasn't her fault. The other women were outgoing and confident, butting in when their opinions weren't welcome, assuming they knew everything there was to know about the game. Except Swan.

On my second day at the training facility, one of the defenders—Hunter—had blamed Swan for a missed opportunity during one of their most recent games. The brunette just sat there and looked at her teammate blankly. After our analysis on the videos we'd watched, I pulled her aside.

"No one's going to take you seriously if you can't stand up for yourself," I told her.

Swan had just shook her head, toying with the light headband on her head. "I don't take it personally," she replied softly and evenly, shrugging before walking away.

I wasn't sure if she'd blown me off or if she'd been serious.

The assistant coach I was temporarily replacing, Marcus Aro, had told me all about his players strengths and abilities when we'd spoken on the phone prior to my flight to the training facility. He'd been ecstatic that I was the one covering him after a car accident had left him with a broken leg and hip. The media were in uproar when the press release went out. I was excited to do it after retiring two years ago with another ACL tear. I'd been bored and hadn't been in the mood to take on any of the coaching positions I'd been offered up till that point—and there'd been a lot of them. But this was temporary. It was well known that the U.S. Women's team was a lot more consistent than the Men's team.

Plus, there was no money in the world that would make me want to take on the responsibility of training half the cocky assholes on the roster.

Coming in only three weeks before the start of the Cup was interesting, but the coaching staff was on top of everything, and the transition was pretty effortless. Except for the girl. The Swan. Number 13.

The moment I'd caught her in the conference room, her hair tied back into a high ponytail with a thick headband along her hairline, she'd smiled at me, but it was different than the way most of the other girls smiled. While players like Biers and Stanley had given me those wide, overly-appreciative eyes I'd become all to familiar with from fans, and players like Denali and Webber had given me those wistful gazes that spoke volumes of how they looked up to my abilities. Swan had just smiled at me the same way one would when walking past a stranger on the street. She was indifferent.

With that, it began.

All twenty-one women quickly learned that I earned my reputation through hard work. Coach Cullen, as they called me, didn't play around. I expected the same thing from them that I did from myself—one hundred and fifty percent. One doesn't become considered the best through apathy and laziness. It was a title I valued greatly and tried to live up to constantly. I wanted all of them to live by that creed.

The day we were set to fly out to Montreal for the first match in our group, none of us were too worried about the other teams in Group C. With matches every three or four days in different cities throughout the country, I knew the team needed to stay focused and healthy to make it through to the quarterfinals.

It was the night before the first match in Korea, after a light workout at the practice facility, that I couldn't really sleep. I was more nervous about the next day than most of the girls were. After we ate dinner, Coach Platt instructed everyone to get a good night's rest, but sleep evaded me. The last time I'd been in a similar situation was back in 2010, when the Men's team didn't even make it out of the first round. I couldn't remember ever being so pissed off in my life, but as fate would have it, I ended up retiring almost two years later. If I would've been on the team that didn't even qualify for the Olympics, I would've killed everyone with me.

I made my way downstairs to visit the pool a couple of hours later when I still couldn't fall asleep. Security was really tight so I didn't have to worry about reporters milling around, trying to catch a scoop or an interview. I'd barely opened the door to the indoor pool when I caught the figure of someone floating right in the middle.

Peeling off my shirt before kicking off my shoes, I dropped my stuff on one of the many vacant chairs and waded in through the stairs. The person floating in the middle of the pool seemed to straighten up when they heard me enter, and all I could see was a wall of wet, dark brown hair facing away from me. I dipped underneath the cool water and when I came up, big coffee colored eyes were looking in my direction.

"Hi, Coach Cullen," the figure said.

I blinked, wiping the water off my eyes, slowly recognizing the dark hair and eyes looking at me. It was Swan of all people. "Oh, hi," I told her, bending my knees so that the water came to my chest.

She smiled at me before reclining backward to float again. I looked at her for a moment, and then walked over to one side of the pool to start swimming laps. When I came up for air some time later, I was alone in the pool.

The next day, the women's team won their match against Korea, 2-0, and the day after, we traveled to Ottawa for the following game that would take place in a couple of days.

The team needed to stay focused on their goal as we worked on the strengths and tactics that Colombia was known for. But by the way they were playing in practice, it looked like they were planning on playing a high school team instead of an internationally ranked one.

"What the hell was that? Swan! That's the slowest pass I've ever seen in my life! They're going to be stealing the ball away from you every chance you give them!" I was trying to explain during practice the day after the Korean win.

She stopped and swiped a hand across her eyebrow. "Do you want me to do it again?" she asked.

"What I want is for you to pass the ball fluidly every single time. You're fast, but it's useless if you're passing the ball that slowly."

Swan nodded and ran back to the cone that crowned where we were starting the drills. She started it off again, running with the ball before kicking it over in Brandon's direction. Same goddamn thing.

I groaned. "Stop!" Jogging toward her, I got Brandon to move off to the side of the field so that I could take her place. "Pass it to me faster. Let's start it again from here," I told her.

She looked at me for a moment before accepting the instruction and taking off, quick, quick, quick, when we made it to the second cone, I saw her leg muscle twitch in muscle memory as she kicked it over to me at the right speed. So we did it again. And again. I made her do it with Brandon, and then Volturi another few times to make sure she had it down.

At the end of practice, she came up to me with a smile, fists balled up and resting on each hip. "Thanks, Coach," Swan murmured. I nodded at her before she headed in the direction of the locker room with the rest of the players, peeling off her jersey the moment she was three feet away from me. Her back rippled with long, taut muscles under her sports bra that had me looking a minute longer than what was appropriate, but I tried not to think too much about it.

I went to the pool each night, but it wasn't until the night before the game that I found Swan there again, almost as if she was waiting for me. She was sitting on the edge, her lean legs dangling into the water, but it was her bathing suit top, not the compact muscles of her legs that made me double-take. The two tiny triangles barely covered breasts that I'd never really noticed before.

How many sports bras was this kid wearing underneath her blue practice jerseys?

"Hi," she piped up first, pushing up from her position reclining on her elbows to her hands. As much as I told myself that it didn't matter, I couldn't help but take in the smooth plane of her stomach.

And the two very full swells under her bikini.

"Hello," I replied, dropping my towel onto the lounge chair closest to the door. I eyed her quickly before peeling off my shirt. "Shouldn't you be asleep?"

She let out a deep sigh and nodded. "Yeah," her eyes drifted lower than my face for all of a millisecond. "But I can't," she admitted, looking back up.

I nodded at her as I made my way over to the stairs that descended into the water. "I can't either."

Swan looked down before jumping up to her feet and walking over to a chair directly behind her. She picked up a towel, wrapped herself in it and ducked her head. "See you tomorrow," she called out, already heading to the doors.

We lost the next day against Colombia by a single point, 2-1.

Even though winning and losing didn't matter in the group as long as we were able to score, it didn't matter. The mood in the locker room and the bus afterward was tense with disappointment and memories of mistakes that shouldn't have happened, but whether it was women or men, nothing changed. We'd plan for the next game and learn from our mistakes.

That night I went down for another swim. I'd been kind of on edge the rest of the evening after the game and I knew of a few ways to relax. Swimming being the most sensible one. The option of leaving the hotel wasn't high on my list because the reporters were out for exclusives outside of the hotel that I wasn't ready to give.

Sure enough, when I opened the door, Swan was peeling off her shorts. She didn't bother turning around when the door closed behind me. It wasn't until I walked passed her that I saw her head move in my direction. Swan smiled at me and paused on stepping out of the loose cotton shorts pooled on the floor.

"Hello," I told her, dropping my things onto one of the lounge chairs on the other end of the pool.

"Hi, Coach," she replied. Her hands clenched before she bent over and started tugging her shorts back on.

I couldn't help but frown, watching her getting dressed again. She picked up her towel and waved.

"See you tomorrow," she called out before making her way toward the door.

Minutes passed as I stood there, confused by what had just happened. It had seemed a little strange to me that she was always leaving as soon as I came in, or really closely afterward. But now, she'd just gotten dressed before even getting in for a swim, or a float, or whatever it was she did. Was it me? Was she leaving so that she could avoid me? The question burned my brain as I swam less laps than usual, and when I went to bed an hour or so later.

The next couple of days were filled with grueling practices that Coach Platt, and I came up with. We watched video after video of the Swedish team to better prepare for their tactics. Then we watched the video recording of the Colombian game to see what had gone wrong. Drill after drill helped us hone in on what we needed to do to win the next game so that we could move on to the quarter finals.

A few nights before our Swedish game, I went back to the pool and like fate had planned, Swan was floating in the middle of the empty body of water. When she heard the door slam shut, she stood up and looked in my direction.

Feeling beyond irritated, I smiled at her first. "Hello."

"Hi Coach," she murmured, tugging on the end of her wet, sloppy ponytail. Swan started bobbing toward the stairs, diverting her eyes to the water's surface.

"Are you leaving because of me?" I asked her, sensing she was planning on ditching out of there as quickly as she could, just like she'd done every other night.

Swan slowly turned her head to look at me, dipping beneath the water. She looked pensive for too long, like she was deciding what the right answer would be. After deciding, she blinked at me. "Yes."

A weird feeling, not anger or frustration exactly, filtered through me. The admission out of her lips was stinging. I was annoyed by the fact that she was there every time I went to the pool. I was annoyed every time she left. And I was most definitely annoyed by the fact that she'd told me the truth just a second ago. Leaving because of me? "Why?"

Another pause. She was thinking about her answer instead of just blurting out a lie or possibly a harsh truth. I couldn't think of anything that I'd done to her that would make her want to leave because of me. I'd always been polite to her when we saw each other off the field. The girl was a professional. I couldn't think of ever being that mean to her. I think. Her mysterious reasoning and her hesitation when explaining niggled at me.

Swan scratched at the tip of her nose with her index finger. "Because I know you don't like me, sir. I don't want to bother you anymore than I already do."

Something snapped in me then. Was it guilt? I wasn't sure," but the feeling was uncomfortable in my chest. Her honesty was bitter in my throat. "I don't dislike you," I huffed at her, trying to beat back the emotion that was bubbling in me.

She smiled a mix of tenderness and sadness before shrugging. "You don't have to lie to me, Coach. Everyone on the team knows I'm not your favorite," she laughed, but it sounded strained to my ears.

Another snap of emotion. It was definitely guilt, maybe even embarrassment. Just a little. My mouth opened up on its own before it snapped shut. I tried to think of a million different responses, and when nothing came to mind, I tried to focus on at least one. One little excuse or response to what she'd said, but I couldn't. If I lied to her, I'd just look like more of a jackass than I already did. Some small part of me recognized that I shouldn't care what she thought. What she knew. But for some strange reason, I did.

Sure there was something about Bella Swan that irritated me to no end, but I didn't mean to let everyone know. I'd met plenty of people on the field that I didn't like. Tons of them. Well, once I really thought about it, it was more likely that I met someone that I disliked rather than someone I did.

"It's fine," she added quickly. Her face went red at the cheeks before she finished making her way to the edge of the pool. Hoisting herself out of the water, I barely acknowledged the fact that she was wearing a different bathing suit. "It's not a big deal."

But it bothered me.

For days after our encounter, I felt uncomfortable constantly. Swan didn't act strangely around me. It was like our conversation never happened. She was professional when I'd talk to the group during practices. Maybe even more detached and attentive the one time I told her she did something wrong. That bothered me even more. It made me feel like a dick. If she would've snapped back at me, or rolled her eyes, or hell, even refused to look me in the eye, I would've taken it without a second thought. But she didn't.

When I went to the pool the next night, she wasn't there.

Or the day after.

It wasn't until the day before our game against Sweden that she appeared at the pool once I was already in. She looked like she was hesitating for a moment at the door, but when she saw me watching her, Swan clenched her jaw and came in.

"Hi." Her soft voice made its way through the room as she pulled off the oversized t-shirt she had on.

"Hello."

Dark eyes darted in my direction for a moment before she looked away, taking long steps to the edge of the pool. For the first few minutes, I could tell she was trying her hardest to ignore me on the other side of the pool. When I'd take a break, her back would be to me. Number thirteen didn't turn to look at me at any point, she just floated or swam beneath the surface.

That feeling that had started becoming all too familiar in my chest fluttered again at her actions.

"Swan," I called out to her without thinking.

She turned to look at me, her dark hair draped over one shoulder. "Yeah?"

I didn't even know what the hell I wanted to tell her. "I—," I stuttered, trying to think, think, think. "I think you're a great player."

Eyes the color of sugarless coffee focused in on me. "Thank you."

"I just wanted you to know that." I couldn't find it in me to lie to her and tell her that what she'd said before was fabricated because it wasn't. There was something about her face, her eyes that left me unable to easily lie to her and feel like a fraud.

"That means a lot," she said, still focusing as a grim line crossed her lips. Confusion marred the edges of her face.

"You don't believe me?" I asked her.

She blinked. "It's not that," Swan sighed, biting her lip. "You're usually just telling me what I need to work on, so it's a little… unexpected."

I'd never told her anything remotely nice before? Probably not. That feeling bubbled again. Guilt. Embarrassment. Coach Platt and Sam raved about Bella, both to the other players and to themselves. She didn't get any fame or recognition like Volturi or Hale, the goalkeeper did but she was solid. A team player, in their words.

It seemed like everyone liked her and told her.

Except me.

Swan eyed me almost timidly, which was at complete odds with the warrior I witnessed on the field who took on girls twenty pounds heavier than her without batting an eyelash. "Did I do something to bother you?" she asked.

Yes. No.

Yes.

No.

No.

How could I explain to her what she did that bothered me? I hated how unassuming she was. I didn't like that she wasn't a selfish, boisterous player. It got on my nerves that she never reflected any of her emotions.

"No," I answered after a second of thought. It was the truth.

She frowned, losing that cool tone that usually seemed so breezy and nonchalant. "What is it then?"

]\'

What' was it?

"I don't know."

My brain and heart carried around those words for hours. I knew what it'd been, but once I thought about it, genuinely, it seemed like one of those bullshit excuses I used to hate taking from my teammates.

It wasn't my fault.

It was so-and-so's job.

I hated excuses, but my reasoning from before seemed to fall on deaf ears. I watched Swan. I saw her interact with her teammates, with Coach Platt, with Sam, even with the water boy. She laughed a lot around Brandon, threw her head back when something really got to her. Her lips pursed when she was focused on something. She clenched her jaw constantly when she played. Number thirteen always smiled, only frowned if she hurt herself, and only said things when it was absolutely necessary. Despite the fact that she—and everyone else on the team, according to what she said—knew that I wasn't overly fond of her, she always smiled in my direction when she caught me looking at her.

During the game the next day against Sweden, we were all flipping out. There was only about fifteen minutes left on the clock and were tied 2-2. It should've been 4-2 with the opportunities that we had, but it wasn't.

"Substitute her," I told Coach Platt, eyeing Swan.

Coach Esme Platt just looked at me out of the corner of her eye. "Not yet."

I wanted to ask her why the fuck not, but I couldn't. Coach Platt had been the coach of the team for nearly four years. She'd led them to a gold medal, and it'd be a huge insult to question her motives, but still. "I already got on her case about that kick she pulled out of her ass in the first half, but she's not listening."

"She's fine," Esme answered, keeping her eyes trained on the field.

Not even five minutes later, I knew what was about to happen before it even came to play. The moment Stanley passed the ball to Brandon, Swan took off running toward the opposing goal. In a heartbeat, Brandon was running down the field as Swan took her position ahead of the goalkeeper. That was when one of the taller Swedish players looped behind Swan at the very last second, facing her team's goal. Brandon kicked the ball high, and when Swan jumped up, the Swede did too but thrust her elbow out in the direction of Swan's head. You could just see the vicious snap of her neck and skull forward on impact before she fell to the ground.

I couldn't even take in the chaos that was bursting on the turf, because I'd taken off running toward the field with Sam and a trainer from the bench. The closest ref and World Cup officials were already escorting the Swedish player off the field as we made our way past him to Swan's unmoving body. I yelled her name when I was close enough, dropping down to my knees right next to her.

Her eyes were closed. Her hands were by her head awkwardly, in the same position she'd fallen.

"Swan?" I'm not sure whether I was the one talking or Sam.

She didn't respond.

I leaned in toward her, letting my ear graze her nose to make sure she was breathing, and she was. Someone I didn't recognize moved Sam aside to squat down next to her, followed by another person. The two medics started asking questions, but she didn't respond at first. I can't explain the panic in my chest before she opened her eyes slowly. In the long minutes that followed, they checked her eyes to see that her pupils were dilated, but she could feel all over her limbs just fine.

"My head hurts," she said so softly that I had to lean in closer to her to tell them what she'd whispered.

It wasn't until they put her on the stretcher that I realized I'd been holding her hand.

Sam was the one who rode alongside her in the ambulance while I waited out the end of the game barely paying attention. The girls had blood on their palates and ended up scoring another point right before the end of the half in honor of their teammate. I couldn't focus on anything afterward, not the celebrating in the tunnel, or the talk in the locker room. Coach Platt and I took a FIFA van to the hospital to meet up with Sam, who told us that Swan had suffered a moderate concussion.

She was lying on the bed when we came in, still in her dirty uniform, but shoeless with her hair plastered to her head.

"Hi," she whispered to us.

"How you feeling, Bella?" Coach Platt asked her, going to stand next to her bed.

She gave us a lazy smirk. "Not my best, but I should be thankful my head is still attached."

Esme laughed quietly. "That's true. Did you see how big that girl was?"

Swan smiled. "I can only imagine."

Coach Platt stayed for a few more minutes before going to talk to the doctor to find out what their diagnosis was. I'd gotten a couple concussions in my life, so I knew that she'd probably be fine in a few days as long as she rested enough and didn't play the next game at least. But I stayed, plopping down in the chair right next to her.

"Thanks for staying with me on the field," she murmured.

"You're welcome," I told her, smiling gently. I didn't understand this girl at all. Smiling and being so soft when she was injured, thanking me for staying with her. But what would I rather want? Someone who bitched and complained about what had happened? I'd learned a long time ago that you couldn't change the past, and she was taking her concussion like a champ.

"I'm probably not playing the next game, huh?"

I laughed because that was the same thing I'd asked after my two concussions the minute my coach was in the room. Worrying about playing when injured was the ultimate sign of someone who truly cared about what they did because if you couldn't play, than all the sacrifices in the past were useless. "Probably not." Swan made a wary face for some reason that confused me. "What's that face for?"

"I've never heard you laugh before," she answered.

I felt a tingly sensations in my arms at her observation. "I don't do it often," I told her, but I was already self-conscious. Did I have a stupid sounding laugh?

"It's a good laugh," Swan said, almost as if she'd read my mind.

That was the first time anyone had ever complimented something other than my skills on the field, or my looks.

Coach Platt and Sam came in and explained that they were making her stay overnight for observation just to be sure, and then said that Swan would need to get checked again in four days to make sure she was fine. Assuming we moved on to the quarter finals, which I was pretty positive we would do unless Colombia scored five goals tonight, then Swan would miss the quarter final game.

"One of us should stay," Sam piped in from the door.

Esme nodded, at the same time I opened my mouth to say that I'd do it. What drove me to do it, I have no idea. I didn't like hospitals, but there was something about this girl that didn't make me want to leave her alone. The same girl whose reserved personality usually drove me nuts. Sam gave me a look, but Esme was already looking at Bella to make sure it was fine. She shrugged.

"I don't care," she answered.

I couldn't help but think for a split second that if the tables were turned, there was no way in fuck I'd want her to stay with me if I knew she wasn't fond of me. I'd rather be alone than with someone who genuinely had no care toward me. But once again, when I thought about what it was about her that I wasn't fond of, I was at a loss for good reasoning. Was I that off the boat?

They left me with a phone number for transportation the next day, and in no time, the hospital staff was moving Swan to a different room for her overnight visit. I went downstairs to grab some food for the both of us when her stomach grumbled. A thought popped into my head, if it had been Stanley or Volturi who had gotten the elbow to the head would I have stayed with them?

No way in hell.

Stanley talked too much and Volturi only liked to talk about herself.

Brandon or Hale?

Same thing.

That crushing sense of guilt edged its way through me once more.

"You're a lifesaver," Swan cooed as she bit into the chicken club sandwich I'd brought to her from the cafeteria.

I looked over at her and nodded, eating my own ham and swiss sandwich. We settled into a quiet companionship as she flipped through the channels, leaving it on TSN. The commentators were covering highlights of the day so I knew, without a doubt, that at some point they'd be showing part of the game.

"Did you call your family already?" I asked her, thinking about the hundreds of times my Mom had called to make sure I was fine after watching something happen to me on the field.

Swan's cheek quirked. "No."

"Do you want to borrow my phone?"

She blinked. "It's okay," Swan paused, "it's just me."

Her words sunk in. Just her.

"My Dad died a couple years ago," she explained quickly.

I wasn't usually much of a talker but for some strange reason, my lips kept moving. "What about your mom?"

"She left when I was really little." Her answer was simple without any explanation of why her mother had left or where she'd gone.

The silence that followed was awkward, but not necessarily tense. It was obviously a raw subject for her, and I didn't know what to say to her. I'm sorry didn't seem right. I didn't know what could possibly seem remotely appropriate, so I kept quiet while we watched television.

About three quarters of the way through the show, they started playing clips of certain parts of the game. When the clip of Swan getting elbowed to the head came up, we both sucked in our breath almost comically. They had a shot of her laying on the ground with me, Sam, and the two medics hovering over her. The commentators were hissing about the rough move.

"You know it's bad when Edward Cullen is on the field checking up on his player," one of the commentators joked.

Swan shot me a smirk from her spot on the bed. Out of the blue, she started giggling.

"What?"

Her eyes darted back to the television as she tried controlling her smile. "Oh nothing." But she just giggled even more.

"Tell me what's funny."

She sighed loudly, pausing for a moment with a timid smile on her face before she giggled even louder, holding her head between her hands. "I don't want you to get mad."

It was impossible not to grin when she was getting a kick out of something I wasn't aware of. "I won't. I swear."

Swan puffed out a long breath, still smiling. "It is pretty bad when you're the one coming to check on me." She let out a little snort. "You didn't even run out on the field when that Belgian tackled Whitlock and dislocated four of his vertebrae."

"You saw that game?" I asked her, remembering the World Cup game ten years ago when one of my only friends, Jasper Whitlock, got tackled in the semi-final. It'd been nothing short of a miracle that he hadn't broken his neck when he flipped in the air and landed on it.

"A few times," she admitted with a blush. "My Dad had recorded it on tape. we watched it over and over again to catch that red card, as well as your three goals."

I'm not sure where the pleasure and smug feeling came from, but it tickled its way down my back at her admission. Of course she'd seen me play. Bella Swan was a professional who had probably grown up playing soccer, but it might have been because she never fanned over me or even gushed about anything in my past like some of the girls did when we ate together. Swan was always just completely to herself and Brandon.

"Your Dad was a big soccer fan?" I found myself asking.

Swan nodded with wide eyes. "Huge."

"Did you play on the team the last time?"

"I was a reserve, but he still thought it was the most amazing thing in the universe." She blinked, darted her eyes away as she sighed. "He'd probably wear a shirt with my face on it now if he was still alive."

Sadness and what I think felt like loneliness dripped from her words. It was bitter in my heart. My parents were still alive. I had a sister I wasn't very close to. But they'd always gone to all of my major games. They never missed a single one. Here was this girl, almost half my age who didn't have anyone anymore and in that second, I felt like the biggest asshole on the planet. For weeks I'd relegated her to my list of people who I didn't care for and for what? Because she was too nice?

Something in me changed right then. It made me evaluate the things that I'd done to the people I loved in the past and even now. It made me feel like a complete tool to be such a prick to the woman on the bed next to me.

We talked throughout the evening and well into the night through visits from nurses and doctors. Swan told me about the university she'd gotten an athletic scholarship to, told me about how she wanted to play in a club at some point. I even found myself telling her stories about my younger days. It was easy talking to Swan about things, random things, good things, bad things.

Swan left the next morning with me. A FIFA van came to get us from the hospital, where I had to answer questions on the walk over about her health. She was out unless we moved onto the semi-finals. Which after everything I'd learned about Swan, and her drive to succeed in honor of her Dad, made me strive to make sure we did that—for her.

It was the strangest thing I'd ever felt, watching out for Swan. During the four days she was condemned to her room for rest, I started going to visit her after practice and dinner. It started with just an hour the first day, then two hours the second, four hours the third, and finally, the fourth day—the day of the quarter finals, our team tied with Brazil—we celebrated in her room until three in the morning. To say that she was excited that her friend Brandon had scored a goal, and that Stanley had scored the other one, giving the U.S. a spot in the semi-finals, would be a gigantic understatement.

"Coach!" she screamed the moment she opened the door for me, throwing her arms around my neck. "Does that mean I get to play?" she was practically panting.

I smiled at her and shrugged. "We'll find out tomorrow after your check-up."

Bella had screamed again before asking me for details on what happened on the bench.

The next day, she got clearance from two doctors to play in the next round. When she was finally able to walk out on that field in the afternoon the day after the tie, the other players had started cheering her name. She walked up to me hesitantly with unsure eyes before I thrust out my fist for her to bump. Her expression turned to one of happiness when I did it.

"You got four days to make up for," I reminded her as we walked over to our side of the field.

"You're on," she said with a relieved smile.

Needless to say, I pushed her harder than I ever had before. I pointed out every tiny mistake she made, every microscopic thing she could have improved, and she took it all with that same stony focus that had driven me crazy for so long. Swan was sweating and breathing so hard I thought her heart would burst. But I felt strong and confident in her, and I felt close to Swan. Proud of her for being such a quiet warrior.

For the first night in nearly a week, I went to the pool hoping to see Swan, and I did. Barely taking steps into the facility, she whipped around at the sound of the door opening to smile at me when she saw who it was.

But even as I smiled back at her, my eyes were on the slinky bathing suit and the tan skin I'd never really paid enough attention to. Swan was all lean muscles, toned legs, and a firm-looking ass that was barely covered by her bikini bottom. Her long hair was draped over one shoulder in a loose ponytail that did nothing but highlight the fact that she had a pretty face. A very pretty face. What the fuck had I been looking at for the past two months?

"Are you okay?" she asked me, drawing me out of my Swan-mindset.

My nod was a distracted thing as I took in a quick glance at curve of her spine. "Yeah, sorry."

She gave me a curious look before continuing her descent into the pool. A few seconds later, I followed after her once I'd taken off my shirt and shoes. It didn't escape me that she was watching me as I walked toward the edge of the pool before jumping in. We fell into that quiet atmosphere that I'd grown accustomed to with her. We took turns swimming laps and just relaxing. A thought tickled my head about our first conversation in the hospital.

"So you don't have any other relatives, Swan?"

Number 13 shook her head before lying on her back. "My Dad was an only child, and so was Renee, my mom."

I knew I was treading on dangerous ground, but a part of me I didn't recognize wanted to understand the depth of the air of loneliness I picked up from her. "You don't have any really close friends?"

"Alice Brandon, is my best friend. I have another friend back home, but she doesn't really like soccer, and she doesn't have the extra money to come see the games," she explained.

Then the spitting of words began. "No boyfriend?"

Swan just laughed. "No. Most guys don't like girls who are more athletic than they are, and the ones who are, are usually assholes." She sat up quickly to look at me with an apologetic smirk. "No offense."

I just shrugged at her, not offended at all. It was true. I'd been—or was—one of those assholes. The only athletes I'd been with were swimmers and dancers. I'd always thought most of the female soccer players were a little too…manly for me. But looking at Swan through the water, with her curvy figure and tight body, I thought that maybe I'd been wrong all along.

"Do you have a girlfriend?" she asked me in a lowered voice.

A girlfriend wasn't exactly the right word I would use for the women I entertained myself with when I was home. It'd been years since the last time I dated anyone remotely seriously and that had caught fire and burned into ashes in no time. "No."

"Hmm," she murmured before pausing. "I should probably get going so I can get at least some sleep. I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be just as bad if not worse than today," Swan sighed. With a small grin in my direction, she pulled herself out of the pool, and I watched every second of it.

Had it been so long since I'd been with someone that I was resorting to ogling one of my players? Maybe. But then I thought of Hale, the reigning beauty on the team with the cosmetics deal, and I'd never looked at her twice.

The level of focus we had to take on during the next two days of practice was intensity in a tangible form. I nitpicked things that didn't exist. The women had to completely zone into what we were doing and making the team a perfect, well-oiled machine.

"I know you're short, Brandon, but those legs can go faster than that!"

"Jesus Christ, Swan! Your uptake is like watching butter churn! C'mon!"

"I think you know everything, Volturi, but you don't. Hurry up and run that line again!"

I actually feared for my life one night when we had an exceptionally tough practice that led to a scrimmage game. By the looks I was getting, I was worried someone would try to sneak into my room and slit my throat. It also didn't help that they'd continually asked me to provide "positive criticism," but unfortunately for them, that was something I didn't believe in. They were just lucky I wasn't calling them lazy asses to begin with.

Swan showed up to my room that night, looking apprehensive and maybe a little nervous. She had on a big USA hoodie that left her shapeless beneath it. "Is this fine?" she asked me when I let her in, looking around my neat room.

It wasn't, but I wasn't about to tell her that, so I shrugged and smiled at her. "Just don't tell anyone."

"I won't," Swan answered. "No one else knows about the pool and… stuff." Neither one of us needed to go into details over the hours I'd spent in her room after her concussion.

I nodded. "Can't sleep?"

She shook her head. Her hands twitched restlessly on her lap.

"Are you nervous?" I asked her, gesturing toward her unstoppable hands.

Immediately, Swan stopped wringing them, placing them palm down on her thighs. "A little bit."

"Because of your injury?"

"No, no," she denied. "I think I'm just nervous about how close we are to the finals and things like that."

I raised an eyebrow. "What other things?"

Those dark brown eyes darted around my room, looking at everything but at me. "Just stuff."

As curious as I was about finding out what else was on her mind, I wasn't going to pry. In the short time we'd gotten to know each other, I'd learned that if she wanted to tell me something, she would. "It'll be fine, Swan. The team's good, I have faith."

She smiled at me from underneath her long, inky eyelashes. "I trust you."

Swan did trust me. The next day, in the middle of the game when I told her to try something risky we hadn't really practiced, she just nodded without question. When she pulled it off, losing a defender at the last minute, I could see that natural muscle in her thigh that told me stories about the number of hours she'd spent practicing her kicks. The swoosh of the ball meeting the top right corner of the net sent the team, the bench, and the stadium into uproar.

I was busy focusing on her reaction instead of celebrating with the people around me. Swan and Brandon had run up to each other, pulling up their shirts to push their bare stomachs together before the other players on the team ran up to them for a group hug.

When Coach Platt sat her a few minutes later to take a break, I could see her looking at me, still on a high from her goal. I was standing next to the head coach when Swan came up to hug her, those dark eyes met mine with a mix of joy and hesitation like she wasn't sure which feeling was the right one, but I did. I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her close. Her feet dangled in the air from our foot in height difference, hugging her to me. I felt her wrap her arms around my neck for the couple seconds I had her against me, but I set her back down with a smile I didn't know I possessed. Swan gave me a huge smile before she was off, high-fiving the other players on the bench while she whooped.

Two more goals later, we were officially going to the finals. Our late night dinner in the hotel's conference room was rowdy. Everyone was beyond excited to be moving on.

I went to Swan's room after that to congratulate her in person, without the prying eyes of the other players and coaches who didn't know about our friendship. I wasn't even sure if I could call it that because something felt off. Platt was my friend, Sam was my friend, but I didn't talk to them about the same things I talked to Swan. None of them had said anything, but I'd caught Sam giving me funny looks recently. Not that I could blame him because he was the one person who knew without a doubt how I'd felt about Swan at the beginning. But that all seemed like a lifetime before, like that had been a life that I'd been reincarnated from.

She was already in her pajamas of short black shorts and a tank top that only covered about six inches of skin. "Hey," she whispered, waving me in with pink cheeks and wet hair that told me she'd showered recently.

"Hi, champ," I told her, kicking the door closed with my heel.

Sitting on the edge of her bed, she came to sit down right next to me, crossing her legs. I saw the girls on the team in sports bras and baggy shorts on a regular basis, but not in the tiny shorts and tank top that barely covered anything. What got to me was that she didn't look the smallest bit shy or self-conscious about how little she was wearing.

"You did great today."

She smiled at me, brushing her long hair off of her face. "It was your play," she explained. "I was just the puppet."

"You're definitely not a puppet, Swan," I laughed at her.

Swan just smiled. "It was amazing," she said, putting her arm across her knee to hunch over a little, licking the full, pink lips I hadn't paid enough attention to—ever. All of a sudden it seemed like I'd missed out on a lot of things. Good things. Her gaze darted to my mouth, lingering there as she spoke. "Thank you for believing in me."

I'd like to think it was all that smooth skin on display, or the fact that her generous tits were right there, or even the fact that I hadn't gotten laid in months, but there was nothing I wanted more in that moment than I wanted Swan's mouth on mine. And there was nothing I wanted that I didn't get. It happened so quickly I couldn't really focus on anything but the fact that I reached out for Swan's shoulders, pulling her to me roughly. I dropped my lips to her soft ones, the same lips that were already parting in anticipation.

But the anticipation was nothing compared to the actual deed. Swan's mouth was warm and supple, willing and pliant as I dragged my tongue across her bottom lip. Her tongue tasted faintly like minty toothpaste as she brushed it against mine. Once. Twice. Over and over again. I was crushing her to me as our kisses got deeper and almost bruising.

Her hands reached for my sides, stroking my ribs gently before drifting to my waist. With their own mind, one went for the back of her head, burying deep within the thick, wet hair while the other cupped her jaw. When she sucked on my tongue it all felt like too much, yet not enough. I was hard in seconds, crushing her to me like I wanted to crawl inside the warm, lean body in front of me that smelled like oatmeal.

I felt her fingers dip underneath the hem of my shirt as her thumbs brushed the skin there. What the fuck did I do? I pulled away just a second to pull my shirt over my head before going back to what we were doing before that. Her hands ran laps up and down my sides, over my back and shoulders, turning me on so goddamn much.

It didn't matter to me right then that this was my player. My responsibility. All that mattered was that this was the girl who made my blood boil, my cock hard in no time. And I couldn't get enough. The press of her chest to mine through the thin barrier of her shirt was an obstacle I didn't want, so I dropped my hands to her waist and pulled the shirt over her head, throwing it who knows where.

There were kisses to my neck and a light bite to my shoulder before I looked down at her topless. Her rosy nipples were tight and hard in the air, topping the full breasts I'd been ogling before her shirt had been off. As if on instinct, my mouth watered and my cock somehow got harder.

She was straddling my lap a few seconds later, those lovely, perky nipples were being sucked between my lips as she moaned, arching into me as her hot pussy warmed me through our clothes. "You have the sweetest titties, sweetheart. I'm gonna suck on them all fucking night," I groaned against the hard bud, giving it a single flat lick.

"Oh my God," she cried out softly as she looked down at what I was doing.

Her hand fumbled at my waist, trying to sneak its way into the elastic band of the U.S. Team sweat pants I had on, but in our position it was pretty impossible without moving her off of me. Which happened to be the last thing I wanted to do as she brushed her pussy down the length of dick.

"Please," she begged.

I moaned, trying to take as much of her tit into my mouth as I could while I slipped my hand into the back of her shorts to grip that tight ass, skin to skin. My fingers trailed down and over the cleft of her ass, lightly brushing over her puckered hole before getting where I wanted. The smooth lips of her pussy were soaking wet as I lightly touched them, earning another soft cry from her mouth.

"Tell me what you want, baby," I told her. "You want me to finger fuck you? You're so wet for me. I know you want it."

She nodded and bucked against the pads of my fingers, whimpering.

"You want these fingers in your pussy?" I asked her, eyeing her wide, bright eyes that would close the second I'd linger over her wet lips.

"Please, please," she begged twice before I let one finger slide through her folds.

I groaned, dipping my middle finger into her pussy so slowly, I thought I'd die before I pulled it out. Another whimper of pure pleasure slipped out of her lips before I started pumping my finger into her steadily, pulling her in closer to me so I could reach her better. But she wasn't having it, searching my mouth she pulled me in for a kiss that made my dick throb.

It was when she pulled away to suck in a breath and whispered, "Cullen," that I realized what I was doing.

Holy fucking shit.

What felt like ice water was dumped on my head, cooling the raging hard-on that was currently rubbing against the warmest pussy I'd ever felt.

I was fingering Swan.

Swan was my player.

Swan was my player.

My much younger player.

"Oh shit," I groaned, pulling my hand out of her shorts so fast, a shudder ran through my spine. What the fuck had I been thinking?

She must have sensed that something was wrong from the way I tensed up and pulled my wet fingers out of her. My muscles were taut against all the places she was the softest.

Fuck!

She sat there quietly for a moment before my freak out dawned on her, and she probably interpreted the ashen look I was sure covered my face. In a scramble, she was out of my lap and pulling her shirt over her head.

"I'm sorry—," I choked out, standing up a second later. "I don't—shit! That shouldn't have happened. I'm so sorry. I wasn't thinking." Which wasn't a lie, I wasn't thinking, my fucking dick had been the one working.

Swan opened her mouth but closed it, blinking. "I—"

I took long steps to her door, running a hand through my hair in frustration only to remember that they were still moist from the party they'd been attending right before. My heart was pounding a mile a minute, confused by how good it'd just felt to have her mouth on mine, but realizing that what had just happened was completely inappropriate.

"Forgive me, Bella," I told her when I reached the door and swung it open to walk down the hallway.

It wasn't until I got to my room that I realized I'd called her Bella instead of Swan.

The next few days were some of the most awkward and confusing of my life. It was hard to focus on practices when the tension between Bella and I was palpable. The girl who kept to herself and smiled at me from time to time, had suddenly become the girl who solely focused on herself during practice. The girl who wouldn't look at me even when I was coaching her, she'd stare down at the floor or into the sky, using a nod as her response.

But what surprised me—what genuinely bothered me so much I lost sleep—was that I missed our late night conversations. I even missed seeing her at the pool even if she didn't talk to me. I missed her smiles, her attention. Two days pushed me into a level of insufferable asshole that I didn't think existed. Sam had blamed it on my need to succeed, but I knew it wasn't that.

It was the goddamn little girl with the dark eyes.

I couldn't look at her face without focusing on those pink lips that had molded against mine, or thinking about how wet she'd been after I sucked on her hard nipples.

My frustration on top of the pressure from wanting to win the final was back-breaking. When the game against France finally came to life, the energy made everyone vibrate. It brought back memories of all the cups and games and tournaments I'd been involved in in my career. But…

We lost.

2 to 1.

No matter how many times I'd lost in the past, as a player on the field, it never got any easier, even now being a coach instead of a player. It'd been such a close game, that it made the loss bittersweet. So much had gone into training to end up losing but that was the way of the game.

I wasn't prepared to see Bella wiping at her eyes in the locker room as Coach Platt tried to cheer them on for their hard work, and told them they had a long road ahead of them because this wasn't the end. There was never an end.

But all I could think about was how she'd told me that she wanted the win for her dad.

When I knocked on her door that night, she was reluctant to let me in. Her face was void of any emotion seeing me. "Are you all right?" I asked.

She shrugged. "There's always next World Cup."

Silence followed us, thick and slushy. "I'm sorry about—"

"Just stop, okay?" she pleaded, in an even voice. "Don't apologize."

"I don't want you to think that I was trying to take advantage of you," I whispered.

She looked straight at the wall, unflinching. "You couldn't have taken advantage of me if I wanted it," her voice was low and pained.

"Bella—"

"It's fine, I'm serious. I thought you liked me. I thought you—this—everything was different. It's my fault," she sighed.

I opened my mouth, trying to say something to her, but I couldn't think. I couldn't breathe due to her admission.

She was already at the door, holding it open while looking at the floor. "I'd really like to finish packing so I can go to bed early."

All my words, consonants, vowels, and the alphabet as an entirety somehow got lost as my brain tried to process what had just happened. But as Bella stood there, tapping her foot on the floor, I didn't have enough time to remember before she closed the door after me.

Two days had passed since we'd made it back to West Palm Beach. We'd been bombarded with meeting after meeting with the media since the moment we landed, but it was all about to be over. Hale's parents were hosting a party for the team as well as the staff to celebrate our near win. My contract with the team would officially be up at midnight. I felt a little odd by how off that made me feel. Even though we hadn't won, I'd enjoyed training the future legends in American soccer.

I hadn't seen Bella since we got off the plane, and I felt restless. Numb.

I had tried to pinpoint the moment when I realized that I'd started to feel something for her that would make me act this way. There had been plenty of girls that I'd been in and out of meaningless relationships with. But this one I couldn't get out from underneath my skin. I couldn't peel off the layer of attachment she'd clung onto like a barnacle.

I hadn't planned on going to the party, but now I felt like I had no choice. I made it to the large event room a little after the invitation had suggested, with Sam. We were all staying at the same hotel before going our separate ways over the course of the next few weeks.

The place was packed by the time I made it in. The players with their families, the trainers and their friends. It was impossible not to bump into someone as I made my way in. People I didn't know came up to me, thanking me for my work with the team. Others told me how surprised they were that I'd done the job. It was compliment after compliment that flooded me over anxiously, only to remind me that we didn't win.

Until one man came up to me and said that he was surprised the team had lost with me on the staff.

Like it was my fault.

I maneuvered my way through the crowd as quickly as I could after that conversation, heading straight to the bar until I stopped suddenly. Bella was standing off to the side talking to a tall, blonde guy. She was smirking and pointing at his chest while he leaned forward to tell her something.

Her eyes drifted away from him and caught mine in a long gaze. The blonde guy turned around to see what she was staring at before turning back to look at her, saying something, and then walking away. I took that as my cue to walk over in her direction, drinking in the long lines of her hips and chest under the tight black dress she had on.

I paused right in front of her with neither one of us saying anything, until she smiled slightly with just one cheek.

"Hello, Bella."

A single eyebrow rose. "Hi, Coach Cullen," she replied smoothly.

Something foreign sunk through my chest at her greeting. "Bella—"

"I'm not Swan anymore?" she asked me with that same sense of detachment.

"No," I snapped at her, closing the distance between us. "You're not."

I had to distinguish between Swan, my player, and Bella, the person I'd gotten to know. It was the only way I could begin to understand the world that surrounded us and led me to this point.

She made a face before looking away. A dozen different emotions flickered across her cheeks and eyes. "I'm sorry. I don't need to be rude because of what happened. Let's just put it behind us, okay? No hard feelings," she whispered, but it was forced. I could tell.

"I'm your coach, Bella," I tried to explain. "I'm almost twice your age."

She shrugged, crossing those long, muscular legs as she continued looking over my shoulder. "I know."

"I'm a dick."

Bella's eyes went wide. "I know."

I frowned at her, casting a long glance around to see that no one was paying us any attention. "I don't even know what to think." She just stared at me silently. "Do you know what this is?"

"Not really," Bella replied. She bit her lip before sighing and finally looking me dead in the eye. "I know that I like how passionate you are. I know that I like your laugh, and I know that I think you're the most attractive man I've ever seen," the words were so easy from her mouth, it was like she didn't have a fraction of a doubt what she was implying.

When she leaned forward in her chair, I got an eyeful of her chest and I had to suppress a groan. Sighing, I rubbed a hand over my face, completely confused with what the hell I was doing. But a small part of me knew that this attraction I had for her was wild. Different. "My contract ends at midnight," I finally told her. "As your coach."

She smiled. "Then think about things until midnight," Bella said before getting up and walking off, leaving me there.

I didn't think. I just looked. Always looking at her. Looking to see what she was doing. Who she was talking to. There was a distance in her eyes that I didn't see when she spoke to me, but I did with most others.

I knew what I wanted by the time it was midnight.

"Come with me," I whispered into her ear.

Those dark brown eyes peered into mine. "You're sure?"

And four years later, when Bella was running through the tunnel, passing the massive golden trophy to whatever teammate was closest to her, she jumped into my arms and screamed that they'd won—I answered her in the same way I had before. "Of course."

The Cullen dynasty had been fulfilled, only it wasn't me that had won the World Cup, it was Bella.


I am holding off on posting "A Raging Inferno," the Bella POV of this at least a couple weeks.

xo, Mariana