Taste of the Forbidden Contest

Title: A Love Like This

Rating: M

Genre: Romance/Angst

Word Count: 10,997

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Summary: Bella's life changes in a heartbeat when she meets a beautiful, shy Edward Cullen at a summer concert. Before they get a chance to start, a shocking discovery has them questioning everything…everything except the way they feel for one another. Edward is her teacher. Bella is his student. They'll stop at nothing to overcome the obstacles standing in their way.

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns any Twilight characters and Twilight plot lines that may appear in this story. The remainder is my original work. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.

x-x-x

A Love Like This

x-x-x

~Edward~

I can't concentrate when she looks at me like that.

It only lasts for a second, but I know. It's hidden in her eyes, kaleidoscopes of chocolate brown and a golden hue they haven't quite come up with a name for.

It's just simply Bella.

I can sense when the silence has carried on too long after everyone has settled into their seats. It's vital that I hide what we are, but I can't help but lean against my desk and watch her giggle with her friends like the seventeen-year-old girl she is.

"Mr. Cullen, please tell me we're over this Romeo and Juliet stuff. There's only so much chick literature I can take. Haven't you ever heard of Frankenstein, bro?"

Just like that, I'm catapulted back into my reality. I am their English teacher. These are my students.

"Mr. James, we only started discussing Shakespeare's greats yesterday. I've yet to even assign you a book to read. Haven't you ever heard of homework, bro?"

The class laughs. They relate to me because I'm only a few of years older than them, and thanks to my baby face, I practically look their age.

The only thing that relates me to them is her.

She is my student.

But she's my love, too.

When you connect like that with someone, you can't go back. Loving Bella is so incredibly dangerous for me. My career has the potential to be ruined before it even begins. My name could be tarnished. Hell, I could even go to jail.

Except her eighteenth birthday is next week. I struggle daily not to think about what that could mean for us. Thank God my girl started kindergarten a year late because of her parents studying abroad.

I fight to keep my eyes on the floor when they want to be gazing at her. I allow them to, for just a second…and then it's time to teach my students about the written word, about literature…about a love you'd sacrifice everything for.

Shakespeare himself said it best:

Come what sorrow can, it cannot countervail the exchange of joy, that one short minute gives me in her sight.

I glance up quickly from the floor. Her eyes are wide and alight, begging for more words to leave my lips.

Bella.

It's the only word that will ever matter to me.

"All right class, open your books to page 133…"

x-x-x

~Bella~

You'd think I'd be absorbed in every word he speaks of Shakespeare and his meaning and the importance of the things he has written. Instead I find myself wrapped up in the pink of Edward's lips, the crisp emerald of his eyes, and the way he looks in a black vest and navy blue tie.

Every girl in this school can't contain the way they feel about him. The popular girls make vulgar, perverse comments. The shy girls stare at him longingly, clearly desperate to know what his arms would feel like around them.

I feel like I'm so obvious when I look at him, like if anyone would just take a second to really observe the situation, they'd realize how our eyes melt together for seconds at a time while he's teaching. They'd see the tremble of his hand as he rubs a finger over his eyebrow, or the clearing of his throat as he loses his thought in surrender to an unspoken need passing between us.

Before this summer I was a typical teenager. I love my family fiercely, almost to a fault because I would do anything to make them proud. My best friends mean the world to me, they are my sisters and nothing will change that. I love clothes and accessories, I feel like I can express exactly who I am by wearing things that not everyone would call the social norm. My style is edgy but my look is sweet. I love being a girly-girl, but I love being brave and smart even more. I strive to do well in school because my parents are scholars themselves.

Besides, it's not like you can get away with much when your parents are teachers at the school you attend…when they are colleagues of the secret love of your life.

As if our situation wasn't complicated enough.

Meeting Edward Cullen was something I'd never forget. My friends and I were at a summer concert. Rosalie had smuggled in a couple six-packs of hard lemonade, so my sun-soaked girls and I sat upon the hill, enjoying the brilliant music and sipping cool refreshing beverages on a hot August night.

He walked past us just before the sun had set, bobbing his head with a beer in his hand, laughing with friends and sincerely being the most gorgeous man I'd ever laid eyes on.

Rosalie cat-called, making him blush a perfect pink and shake his head as his eyes connected with mine. I looked like a hippie-girl that day, with braids in my hair and a flower painted on my cheek. That was the way I felt, carefree…peaceful and wanting to share it.

It was late when I finally saw him again, the roadies packing up the bands' gear after the show and the bright lights from the stage chasing away any remaining concert-goers.

My friends had left me to do their own thing once I spotted him, and I assured them I'd be fine. "Don't worry, Bella," Alice promised. "My parents are out of town and Jasper can give us a ride home, he hasn't been drinking. Your mom already knows you're staying at my house. We're in the clear."

My eyes were focused on the quickly thinning crowd instead of my dear friends as they began to walk away. I finally saw him standing in front of the stage all alone. His knees were bent, the beanie on his head barely hanging onto his dark locks as he tipped a beer bottle back with his thumb and index finger.

I walked down and stood beside him underneath the harsh lights, watching the activity onstage. We glanced at each other out of the corners of our eyes, smiling bright and shy.

"I'm Bella," I whispered.

"Edward."

Several minutes of silence passed as we stood side-by-side, hearts racing with the promise of something new. With a loud click the lights from the stage turned off, and my eyelids fluttered closed as his fingers brushed mine, testing the waters before linking them together.

"Bella…" he smiled widely as he turned to gaze at me. "I'd like to look at the stars with you, would that be all right?"

We walked toward the hilltop silently, fingers clasped tight. When we reached our destination Edward pulled his hoodie over his head, his t-shirt rising up beneath it and showing me skin I just couldn't stop thinking about. He spread his sweatshirt out and we sat beneath the stars.

We talked until the sun came up, laughing and conversing so animatedly that I never wanted it to end. Birds chirped sweetly as my brand-new boy yawned until his sharp jaw cracked. In the middle of a field that once held loud music and hundreds of people, I rested my head on his chest and closed my eyes to the thrum of his steadily beating heart.

Nothing would ever be the same again.

That night he assumed I was in college, and I did nothing to correct him. Age had no place beneath the stars and in his impeccably green eyes. I knew he'd just graduated college with an English degree, and even though I was only going to be a junior in high school, my eighteenth birthday was just a stone's throw away.

But it mattered.

I didn't even realize how much.

We were entirely sleep deprived when I left him, Alice coming back looking worse for wear to pick me up. My friends knew what I had found in him that night and after confirming that I was more than okay, left me to it.

The last bit of summer flew by, spending a couple weeks with my grandparents in Florida and texting my brilliant boy whenever I could, which granted wasn't that often considering we'd both been so busy in the weeks after we'd met.

I thought nothing of it when summer ended and my mother told me about Mr. Erikson falling and breaking his hip. Nothing registered when she said he decided to take an early retirement and a new English teacher would be taking his place. Even when my summer concert boy confessed in quiet whispers late at night that he'd learned today that he got a new job at the last minute, and he couldn't wait to tell me about it, and if I could just please, please see him soon because my absence in his life casted a shadow on everything surrounding him.

I just didn't get it…

…until I walked into his classroom that first day of school.

The sharp sound of the bell pulls me away from my memories. Edward calls out final directions on the homework he assigned above the sounds of sliding chairs and rustling papers.

I don't move from my seat.

Alice and Rosalie cast me worried, sympathetic looks. They know how hard this has been on me, and have been nothing but supportive.

I just need a second alone with him.

I stand just as the last student leaves the classroom. Edward lets out a nervous breath as he rounds his desk and takes a seat in his chair.

My head turns from side-to-side, ensuring our privacy as I slide a piece of paper onto his desk, not stopping until my pinkie is resting over his. His eyes shut tightly before he looks up at me.

"This isn't due until next week, Bella." His voice is strained but vulnerable, knowing how dangerous it is to feel so much when we aren't allowed to feel anything.

I tremble as his pinkie curves around mine, his eyes darting back and forth for the sake of my protection.

"You inspired me," I whisper.

He looks up with his head turned down, a signature Edward Cullen move that makes his eyes absolutely pierce. "Can I see you tonight?"

"I'll make you dinner," I promise, tears welling in my eyes that I simply can't control.

"I love you."

His words are a breath of air, lips barely moving to form them but I know they're there.

I say nothing in response but confess everything with the blatantly honest passion in my eyes. Our pinkies untangle, and without another look behind me, I walk out his classroom door.

x-x-x

~Edward~

Bella's parents have become my friends in the two months we've worked together. It's hard to look them in the eyes, not because I'm ashamed, but because I know they'll never understand. They see her as nothing more than a child.

After my last class of the day, I pack up my messenger bag and head to the teacher's lounge to fill my coffee mug. Charlie is there, papers spread out in front of him on one of the tables.

He shakes his head as I come in. "I wish these papers could grade themselves."

I smile, pouring coffee into my cup. "You know, I think they invented a program that can do just that."

He scoffs. "Not at this school."

I pull my bag strap higher on my shoulder before nodding at him. "Have a good night, Charlie."

"Hey Edward, what are you doing two Saturdays from now?"

Praising any higher power above for the birth of my existence.

I shake my head. "No plans."

"Why don't you join us for dinner, we'll be celebrating Bella's eighteenth."

The Swans and their dinners.

I'd already been invited to two of them in the past, and being in her home did nothing but tempt me to take her in dark hallways and steal any touch I could.

All so dangerous.

But I needed it so goddamn much.

"I don't want to intrude on family time," I insist, edging closer to the door.

Charlie stands, clapping me on the shoulder. "Don't be ridiculous, Edward. Plenty of people are coming to the restaurant. It's more of a party than a dinner. What do you say?"

There was never any doubt what my answer would be.

"I'll be there," I promise.

With that, I leave my girlfriend's father sitting alone in the teacher's lounge, my stomach twisting in guilt and a desperate need to just make him understand.

It absolutely destroyed me to see the odds I'd been faced with at my first real job. The truth was, it didn't even matter because she was worth more than any of that. I was intent on resigning immediately and going to Bella's parents to explain the situation and what we'd found in one another. Not only was it a precarious circumstance for me, but I wouldn't stand for her reputation to be damaged because of us.

But she told me she wasn't ready for the reactions of her parents, and more importantly…she wasn't ready for me to leave her.

My only other job offer was three hours away, and while it would have been possible to see her, it would have made our lives much more difficult. Even as the situation spirals farther into the abyss, and I feel more trapped than I've ever been, knowing she's mine gives me everything I need.

Let me be a disgrace.

I'll sacrifice every ounce of nobility I have just to be able to say that she is mine.

I walk the two miles back home since I left my car there this morning in exchange for some time to think. It's all I've been doing lately. Thinking. Brooding. Missing her and trying to figure out a way to make this all okay.

And it is okay, as soon as I walk through my apartment door, seeing her dancing to herself in my kitchen, ear-buds on, feet bare, humming my favorite song as she stirs pasta…I could have fallen to my knees.

I let my bag drop to the floor just as she notices me, her face morphing into one of pure delight as she pulls her headphone cord and rushes my way.

She crashes into me, all soft and delicate woman that molds like destiny into my body. Her fingers tangle in my hair at the base of my neck, her breath warm against my ear as she squeezes me tight.

My fists clench against her lower back, trying to contain the feeling of being so full with emotion for her. As soon as I have myself under control, I slide my hands down the sides of her legs and lift until she's straddling my belly. Our height difference is just enough that lifting her in my arms and keeping her there is my absolute favorite way to hold her.

When she sighs and rests her forehead against mine, I know that she's pretty fond of it as well.

"You're here early," I whisper against her jaw, letting my lips slide until they're speaking against hers. "Thank God you're here early."

She mumbles into my mouth, reluctant to break us apart as her fist grips my tie and slides down, pulling me closer, making me wince in an overwhelming need to show her more than I'm allowed while I'm her teacher and she's my student.

There are a handful of years separating us. In the not-so-distant future, no one will think twice about it. I'll hold her hand as we walk down the street, I'll let everyone know how much I love this gorgeous girl because no one will sneer in disgust or gossip about the forbidden label on our relationship.

But for now I'll hide away with her in my apartment. I'll show her with soft kisses and smooth passes of my hands what she will always be to me, because just for now, it's all that I'm allowed to do.

My heart beats faster as her tongue slides heavy and slow along my bottom lip, silently asking for more when she knows I can't give it to her, regardless of how bad I want to. "Bella…" I squeeze her thighs and she tightens around me, kissing the remnants of her name from my lips.

Her nose slides against mine, our lashes tangling and fluttering together for a moment as we close our eyes. "I missed you so much today," she whispers. "Come on…I'm making alfredo."

She slips down and takes my hand, pulling me across the apartment as I kick off my shoes and loosen my tie.

She tells me about her day vivaciously as I lean against the counter and watch her cook. I listen intently, hanging on every word she says, but more than that, I study the gentle curve of her face, her big, wide eyes and her amazingly plump lips; the metallic sound of her bracelets hitting together as she stirs, the sound of her laughter in my home, the sweet smell of her shampoo and perfume mixing together…and I memorize it.

Because this is everything good and true in my life, and I never want to waste a minute of it.

When I can't take not touching her anymore, I lift her away from the stove, making her squeal in delight.

I pull her iPod from her pocket and put it onto the dock on the counter, playing the first sappy song I can find. It ends up being One Direction, which makes her giggle hysterically.

She knows I hate them.

But they make her laugh so I let it play, sweeping her up in my arms and slow-dancing with my girl as the pasta boils and she whispers her love for me in my ear.

In this moment, my world is absolute perfection.

x-x-x

~Bella~

By the time we settle onto the couch with our plates, the pasta is cool and mushy from being cooked for too long. It isn't inedible though, so I nibble on our dinner while I watch him watch the news.

When we're finished eating, he takes my legs and swings them over his lap, pulling me until I'm sitting bridal style. He kisses my lips before resting his head on my shoulder, his hair tickling my jaw as our fingers intertwine. "Your dad invited me to your birthday dinner."

"Good, I want you with me on my birthday."

"Well, technically it's the day after your birthday," he points out.

I beam at him. "Close enough."

He looks into my eyes, tucking my hair behind my ear before sliding his hand across my thigh. "We need to talk about me trying to find another position, Bella."

"But I'll be eighteen," I interject, sitting up further in his lap.

He kisses me softly before pulling back. "But I'll still be your teacher, and if I don't work at the school, we won't have to hide anymore. I don't want to keep my love for you a secret, not when we don't have to."

"Edward, we won't even be a secret to keep if you leave. How can we do this and still be together?"

"I'll find somewhere nearby," he promises, palms covering each side of my face as he speaks confidently. "I don't mind a commute, Bella. If I start looking now, I'm sure something will pop up soon, or at the very least, this summer."

I watch him closely, making sure this is exactly what he wants.

"Okay. Yes, of course. I don't want to hide this anymore, you know that."

His hand slips beneath my shirt, warm fingertips sliding from back to belly. His forehead is pressed against mine and his breath is tingly against my lips. "Not every great tale of forbidden love ends in tragedy, Bella."

x-x-x

I'm standing at his doorway.

We've been lingering here for a half-hour, working our way through a goodnight-kiss that neither one of us wants to end.

My stomach is full of butterflies and a burning heat, and even though he struggles with my age, my body is begging me to push him, to take his hand and press it where I'm aching. He needs to know what his quiet moans do to me as our tongues tangle and slide.

I sigh into his mouth, hands shaking as he pushes me against his closed front door. "Maybe I can stay," I whisper, trying to catch my breath. "…If you'll let me."

He groans, fighting a war within himself that I'm not making any easier. It's just that I want him more than anything I've ever wanted before, and I feel like touching and tasting him is the best way I can explain that right now. He bunches my shirt in his fists against my back, kissing me deep, then kissing me chaste. "Are you trying to make a criminal out of me, Ms. Swan?"

"Well, you've already stolen my heart."

He stills against me before laughter bubbles out of his mouth. Before I know it he's carrying me with my hips against his and depositing me into his bed, the weight of his body on top of mine making me giddy in love and elation. "You did not just say that. And here I thought I was the corny, hopeless romantic."

I slap his chest, my face aching from smiles and kisses. I said it because I knew it would make him laugh, and it's my favorite thing in this world to bring him joy.

I watch him carefully as I undo the top button of his shirt, going for the second in record time. He watches me with nervous eyes but doesn't stop me. When his shirt is open I let my palms and eyes feast on all his glory, his warm smooth skin and spattering of hair that covers his chest and flat belly. I bite my lip to contain my moan, my inner thighs tightening around his hips as I pull him down by the shirt hanging off his body.

My kisses are deep, and while I can tell how into it he is and I can feel him there with me, I know he's trying to be cautious. Two people in a love like this can typically express physically what words can't say, but we aren't allowed.

Soon we will be.

He shivers as I whisper his name into his mouth, his fingers gripping the sheets around my head, careful not to touch me wherever he pleases. I let my fingertips drag down his stomach until they curl beneath his belt, causing him to pin me to the bed with his hips as he groans into my mouth.

And I think I've finally won.

But then he's off of me, pulling me up by my hands until I'm seated in his lap.

I feel how badly he wants me, he doesn't even need to justify why he can't do this when I feel him so hard against my body.

He takes my face in both hands, waiting until he's absolutely sure he has my undivided attention. He clears his throat, trying to speak when both of us would much rather be doing other, naked things. "Do you have any idea…how much I want this, Bella?"

I nod because words are useless, and I'm pretty sure if I even try to speak I'll start crying. I don't want to do that to him. He'll take the blame and that's the last thing I want. This isn't his fault, merely just the hand we were dealt. We are lucky to have this.

We eventually stumble to the doorway because our arms won't let go and our eyes won't break away. I open the door a crack and stare back at him, white shirt hanging open, and hair in complete disarray. He's gazing at me with everything he won't let himself do and everything he's desperate for.

"Love you," I whisper, pressing my fingers to my lips. I can't touch him again because I won't leave his apartment until the sun rises if I do, and we both know it.

He stares at me unwaveringly, like his whole world is walking out his front door. "I love you so much." His voice is quiet, deep, and he speaks with such conviction that it makes me shudder in the most perfect way.

I finally leave his sight before I never leave it again.

x-x-x

Rosalie pressures me for information on Edward almost daily. How far we've gone, the way he kisses, what it's like to be with a man who is several years older than us...

Honestly, I get the fascination she has with it all. Being with the drop dead gorgeous English teacher is something high school girls only fantasize about and never bring to fruition. Only, for me, he is not the dreamy English teacher. He is the beautiful boy in the beanie I met one night at a random summer concert. He's the boy that kissed me beneath the stars, tasting faintly of cheap beer and the only real thing I've ever felt in my life.

I indulge her because she's my best friend. I tell her that everything about being with him is amazing, that I don't see him as a hot teacher, but a boy that was made for only me. I tell her that his kisses are sweet, and the way he makes me feel is even sweeter. I tell her that I love him, and that's all she needs to know.

Days seem to pass in a blur. Everything in my life is filler between sneaking away to see him and pretending to be his student. I feel like once we aren't a scandalous topic, I'll be able to fully breathe again.

I know no one suspects us.

My best friends would never tell, I know that with my whole heart. Edward and I fight to keep our emotions hidden at school, and even though we don't always succeed, my classmates are oblivious to anything other than high school sports, partying, and members of the opposite sex.

I walk to class with my girls, taking a break from the enormity of Edward and me and indulging in age-appropriate conversation instead. It's nice to feel normal, walking down these hallways with my friends, talking about the impending geometry test, Alice's new shoes, and the upcoming football game against the next town over.

Then I see him in the hallway talking to my mother, and my palms begin to sweat.

My birthday is tomorrow.

My birthday dinner is the day after that.

And regardless of my age, or what job Edward takes, I know my parents like I know myself. They will never accept us. If Edward realizes this, he hasn't let on about it. He's been nothing but positive about our situation, and when we tell my parents about our truth…I just don't know what will happen.

My mother calls me over. Edward stands there awkwardly as she asks if the girls are sleeping over tomorrow. I nod and hold my heart, trying to keep it from bounding out of my chest. I turn to leave and brush his hand as I do, because I draw my strength from him.

I need it now more than ever.

x-x-x

~Edward~

My head is spinning as Renee speaks words I didn't expect. Words that have thrown me for a loop.

"I know this is an odd thing for me to ask, Edward, and maybe a little inappropriate but, you're a great friend to Charlie and I, and Bella really looks up to you."

I blink, nodding for her to continue.

"Something has changed in her…and we're worried."

You have nothing to worry about, I keep her safe.

"I feel like she's keeping secrets from us."

I'm her secret. She's my everything.

"I know she's turning eighteen, but she's our little girl."

She's not. She's so much more than that. You just don't see it.

"Can you keep an eye out for her at school? Maybe she'll confide in you. Let you know what's going on in her life that she feels needs to be hidden from us."

She confides in me every night as we fall asleep together over the phone. She hides us because you will never understand.

I clear my throat and nod, agreeing to her request because at this point I have no other choice.

Suddenly there she is, standing between her mother and I talking about sleepovers, and I can almost see her heart beating for me beneath her shirt. As she goes her fingers brush mine, assuring that she is always with me.

The next night is her birthday, and I can't spend it with her because she's with the girls. But as soon as they're asleep she calls me, nearly in tears asking me to kiss her because she needs it. To hold her so she doesn't fall apart, and to love her the only way I know how.

In the middle of the night, in sweatpants and my old high school basketball hoodie, I creep through her yard like the predator I no longer am. Then she's climbing out of her window with ease, more lithe than I've ever seen her, and I laugh.

Because she just makes me so fucking happy.

She pulls me behind the house and then climbs me until I'm holding her tight and pushing her against siding.

My face is in her neck, breathing her so far into me. She is sweet relief. She is the love of my life.

"Thank you for being born, Isabella Swan." I pepper kisses all over her face as she giggles and her arms tighten around me.

"My birthday is over now, technically. But you're welcome." She presses her lips fully to my ear, whispering, "I want you to be my present."

And I'm instantly hard.

This girl is the sweetest innocence and the sexiest temptation, all wrapped into one glorious, curvaceous body. A little more than twenty-four hours ago, I was a criminal for feeling this way. Now I am just a man pining over his girlfriend.

"You can't open me here," I whisper. "Not just yet."

She pouts adorably and I kiss it away, hugging her close as she tells me about her day. I slide her down my body as she continues to speak; the night air is cooler than I expected and she's wearing a tank top and shorts. I listen intently as I slide off my sweatshirt and tuck her inside it.

She stops mid-sentence, staring at me in awe. I know what I've done. I know it's risky, but this is technically our beginning and I need to claim her as mine, even if it's in this one, miniscule way.

She hugs me tight and I kiss her hair as my finger traces the letters that are now on her back.

C-U-L-L-E-N.

"Does this mean I'm yours now?" she whispers.

I look into her eyes and speak with every ounce of devotion I have inside my body.

"You always have been, baby. You've always been mine."

x-x-x

Today is the day of her party, and I'm far more nervous than I expected.

Maybe it's because of the conversation I had with Renee two days ago.

Maybe it's because I haven't told Bella about it.

It's not that I want to keep her in the dark. It's just that I don't want to see any pain etched across her beautiful face while she's reaching this milestone in her life. Looking back, all I ever want to be is a happy memory for her.

I spend the morning applying for various jobs throughout neighboring towns, even subbing positions. I have faith that I'm meant to have both the career I desire and the girl I'm in love with.

I text Bella, telling her I miss her, I love her, I cannot freaking wait to see her. She doesn't reply, but I know she's busy getting ready for the party. I know she misses me too.

I can't stop thinking about my girl, and even though her parents will be watching her closely tonight, I need to steal a kiss and hold her hand. When the urge to see her becomes too much, I forget trying to find the right outfit and throw on a pair of jeans and light blue button-down, un-tucked and casual. I pray I look like more like her equal and less like her educator.

I arrive at the restaurant and even though this dinner party is no larger than fifteen people, the energy in the room is indescribable. My girl is so loved.

Her younger brother Emmett is by the gift table, shaking gifts. I see Rosalie march over and scold him, informing him that if he breaks anything, he won't live to see another day. I smile, hoping one day I can officially be part of her life and not just the teacher that is friends with her parents.

I drop a perfunctory gift off by the table, knowing that her real gift is hidden away in my apartment, something I want her to open when it's just us and the only thing illuminating the room are candles and her brilliant smile.

I finally see her across the room; she's laughing with a middle-aged man, sipping apple cider in her picture-perfect cocktail dress.

Look my way, beautiful girl.

When she finally does, my heart beats out of control.

Bella saunters over slowly, telling me stories of love in her eyes. "Hi."

"Hi, Bella." I put everything into those words.

"Do you want something to drink? Open bar," she winks.

I chuckle, wishing I could feel her fingers twisted with mine. "I think it's best if I keep my wits about me."

She smiles sweet, but the want in her eyes is plain as day. "I don't know, I think I like you when your guard is lowered."

"Yeah?" My voice is raspy, low.

"Yes," she breaths.

And then her father is clapping me on the back.

"Glad you could make it, Edward."

I'm back to answering her parents inside my head.

I would never miss this day, because I'm in love with your daughter.

"Thanks for inviting me, Charlie."

And so it goes.

Hours later, the remaining guests are sitting at a long table, carrying on various conversations. I am in one, and Bella is in another, but we are side by side and our hands are playing teasing games beneath the table.

It's just our fingers clenching and releasing.

But it is a promise of so much more.

I watch her with lazy eyes as she gets up to use the restroom, and you'd think I had been drinking considering how drunk I feel. But I'm drunk on her.

I'm talking to her aunt and uncle about nothing of importance when I hear her phone sound off in the background. I know it's hers because she has the song that was playing when we met set for calls, text messages, everything.

Her uncle makes a bad joke and I laugh, because one day he'll know how important I am to his niece, and I want him to like me.

Her phone rings again.

"Where did Bella go?" her mother asks, picking up her phone as it chimes once more.

My heart lurches at the sight, but I know she doesn't have my name in her contacts. Just a meaningless number she declares her love to.

"I think she's in the bathroom," Rosalie slurs, not even hiding the fact that she had gotten into the booze at some point in the night.

Bella's phone chimes again, and her mother laughs. "The birthday girl is popular…"

I watch her press buttons as the birthday girl herself walks out of the bathroom to see her mother invading her privacy.

As Renee continues to search Bella's phone, my paranoia increases with each passing second.

It has every right to.

Renee's eyes quickly fly up to Bella's.

"Jessica texted you three times, she's sorry she couldn't make it."

Bella glances at me briefly. "Oh…okay."

Her mother's tone turns playful. "And tell me, daughter, who is 908-555-5592, and why do they miss you, love you, and why can't they wait to freaking see you, hmm?"

Renee feels triumphant. She's figured out the secret her daughter has been keeping, and she thinks it's great. A teenage boy. My girl is about to lose her mind.

"It's no one, Mom, give it back." Her voice is trembling.

Renee is still so playful, maybe one too many cocktails, I can't be sure.

"Oh come on sweetie, I want to know who it is!"

"I'm not ready to tell you yet." Bella forces a smile.

"Well I'm ready to find out."

Renee gets up from her chair and runs around the bar like she's a teenager herself, laughing as Bella goes after her with wide eyes. She thinks she's joking with her daughter but she's doing nothing of the sort.

"I just want to hear his voice," she trills, pressing more buttons, holding the phone to her ear...

"Mom! Stop!"

And then my phone begins chiming in my pocket, loud and clear.

The exact same song as Bella's, our song from the concert that night.

Renee stops and turns to me.

I rise from my chair; the room clears out faster than I can comprehend.

Bella abandons the pursuit on her mother and walks straight toward me, standing by my side and taking my hand.

"Let's talk about this," she speaks calmly and assertively to her parents.

I've never been more in awe of her, yet I know this won't end well.

Her mother is speechless as she walks back toward the table, Charlie's brow furrows as he tries to understand what's happening. His eyes land on Bella's hand in mine and all hell soon breaks loose.

"What the hell is this?" he demands.

I squeeze her hand, worrying this will be the last time. "We met…before school. I didn't know, we didn't know…"

He takes several quick steps forward.

"Dad…"

"Don't, Bella," he spits.

"Dad, I'm in love with him."

Renee stands behind her husband, jaw gaping as her eyes fill with tears.

"I love your daughter. She's…everything to me. You need to know that."

"We need to know this all of a sudden, just because you got caught?" Charlie's voice rises with each word he speaks, and his face turns an angry red. I try to let go of Bella's hand because I feel the energy change in the room, I know he's angry enough to inflict pain, and I won't survive this if she gets stuck in the crossfire.

Maybe she feels it too, because before I know what's happening, she's pressed against my chest, hugging me and holding on for dear life, acting as a shield between me and her father's wrath.

"I love you," she breathes, sobbing for how this played out, and sobbing because maybe we aren't strong enough to rise above this.

I hug her tight in case this is goodbye, kissing her hair and inhaling her scent as her parents become impatient with our display. My eyes fill with tears, and I meet her father's glare above her head.

"Let's talk about this, Charlie. Please, I don't want to fight. I just want you to understand what we are."

In an act of aggression that I've never seen in the typically docile man, he pulls his daughter from me with one hand and yanks me violently away with the other, pushing and shoving and then punching me in the face hard enough to make me see stars.

The table holding her precious birthday gifts is what breaks my fall.

My lip is pouring blood. I taste it and feel it running down my chin and onto my shirt.

I hear her scream and that hurts a million times worse than anything he can do to me.

Charlie's eyes are filled with rage as he leans over me, grabbing me by the collar and punching me once more for good measure.

My nose cracks, but not as violently as my heart does.

"Get out of here, now. Stay away from my daughter, stay away from my school, and if you don't want me to inform the authorities about what a sick, pedophilic motherfucker you are, then I suggest you leave this town and never look back."

I get to my knees and try to stand, wavering to the side because apparently he cracked my equilibrium as well as my face and my heart.

Bella rushes to me when I hit the ground, holding me tight and soiling her picture perfect cocktail dress with my blood.

She is crying so hard, and I don't know what to do.

"Are you hurt?" I ask quietly.

She shakes her head, not even trying to deflect that question because she knows our time is limited.

"Bella!" her father bellows.

"No!" she screams, looking into his eyes with so much hate that it turns my blood to ice. "Attack him again and I'll throw myself in front of any punch you throw! Stop this, now!"

He storms outside, hitting brick after brick as he retreats, letting out an angry growl of frustration.

Her mother is on the floor, jaw still dropped.

"I have to go," I whisper.

She kisses my bloody lips, taking every ounce of pain away as she holds me together.

"I love you." They are the truest words I've ever spoken.

"I'm sorry," she whispers.

"Don't ever be…" I trail off and realize the hot wetness on my face isn't just blood anymore. More tears. Mine and hers…

She struggles to catch her breath, lip quivering and hands touching me anywhere she can.

She helps me up and I can't say anything to her mother. I kiss my girl on the top of her head and promise her she's my forever. And then I march past the spectators outside and climb inside my car, driving away while I leave my whole world behind.

x-x-x

~Bella~

Nothing feels real.

And not in the way it felt when Edward walked into my world and everything took on a dreamlike appearance.

No, this was something much, much different.

Thank God for my best friends. This eruption of anger is awkward for anyone who isn't my immediate family, yet they are standing by my side and holding me tight as my father smokes a cigarette down the block and my mother cries inside the restaurant.

This all happened so fast, and despite the fact that my parents are furious with me, I am a million times more furious with my mother. What gave her any right to go through my messages? To call a boy I wasn't ready to talk about? To do this in front of my friends and family and humiliate me so thoroughly?

If Edward was just a teenage boy, would it have been okay for her to do this to me? I knew she'd had more than enough to drink. My mother is a light-weight and she'd had her fair share of wine tonight.

But that didn't give her a right.

My friends speak to each other like I'm not even here.

"Should we ask her mom if we can take her home?"

"No way," Alice scoffs. "Bella's eighteen, she legally doesn't have to answer to anyone and we're getting her out of here."

I have a bag packed at Alice's. My parents thought I was spending the night there, but originally I had other plans.

Plans to surprise my boy and stay with him for a whole night, and wake up with him the next morning.

Breathing suddenly becomes difficult, my sobs becoming heavier as I imagine his beautiful face, busted and bleeding. My friends quickly get me to Alice's car, tires squealing as we pull away and I cry for everything I've lost tonight.

x-x-x

An hour later, I'm in sweats and a too-big sweatshirt with the letters C-U-L-L-E-N on the back. It smells like him and I'm living inside the collar, breathing him in and dying a little more as each second passes without him.

I never got my phone back from my mother after she invaded my privacy so horrendously, and he's not answering when I call from my friends' cells.

Soon after we got back to Alice's, my father showed up at the door. He demanded I come home so we could talk, but it was already pushing one a.m. and I was emotionally exhausted. Alice's mom implored him to let me stay, that whatever drama unfolded tonight could wait until the morning, until we were thinking straight.

I stand from the corner of Alice's room, my friends already ten steps ahead of me. They know exactly where I'm going.

"Let me drive you," Rosalie offers.

I shake my head. "You've been drinking."

"Then Alice can."

I take both their hands and force a smile. "Please…just let me borrow a car?"

Alice places her keys in my hand, both girls diving in and hugging me tight. "Promise me you'll be safe," Rosalie demands.

"I promise. I love you both."

One more round of hugs and I'm walking quietly downstairs and out the back patio door.

On the way to his apartment I try so hard to control my speed, but time isn't on my side. This is not how I ever imagined tonight would go, and by now….my life was supposed to be altered in an amazing, mind-blowing way.

I take the steps to his apartment cautiously, scared of what I'll find. If he doesn't want me anymore, I'll never survive it.

I close my eyes and breathe deeply as I stand outside his door, placing my palm on the heavy wood and sliding it back and forth, gathering courage to form my hand into a fist.

I knock softly, more of a brushing of knuckles against the door. It takes him awhile to answer, and I'm terrified he's not there.

Suddenly I hear the slide of a deadbolt, I see the crack of a door. I see piercing green eyes buried underneath angry red and purple.

I can't catch my breath, can't cry because it's all stuck in my throat and I can't find the air to breathe. He throws the door open, grabbing me around the waist and pulling me toward him, slamming it behind me and walking us backwards as he crushes me to his body.

I find my breath and we cry together.

And honestly, I don't know if it's happy or sad tears that stream down my cheeks. Because as royally fucked up as this all his, I have him here, he needs me just the same, and I've never been able to feel anything other than contentment and an overwhelming sense of love when he holds me like this.

Everything feels surreal as we grasp at each other, unable to hold tight enough, to be close enough. I now know how this night is going to go, and I was an idiot for thinking it could be ruined for us. Words won't be necessary when his hands are pushing everything he feels into me and his wide, red-rimmed eyes are confessing his devotion. They won't stop. Not once. They won't stop tonight.

We walk slowly to the couch and I straddle his lap, tracing his blackened eyes, his split lip, and his swollen nose that has to be broken. I kiss his eyelids, lick the salt of his tears from my lips and curl my fingers into his hair, nestling his face against my chest. He lets out a jagged moan as his ear presses against my frantic heartbeat, and his entire body begins to shake.

I take that moment to slide his t-shirt over his head.

I wait for his breathing to even out, feeling a strong sense of calm wash over me as he lifts his head from my chest and looks directly into my eyes.

There was never any doubt.

I take his hand and he gets up from the couch slowly. My boy is so exhausted, but we both know what we need to survive the hell that was this night.

He walks me backwards toward his bed, our fingers tangled and his eyes honest in his love for me.

The back of my thighs hit the bed and he watches me steadily. His jeans are hanging low on his hips and he's shirtless, hesitating for just a beat before giving into what we need, holding my face in his warm hands and using his lips in the most delicate way to write me words, sing me songs, declare his forever.

I try to be gentle but I need more….my eyes fill with tears as he winces when I bump his nose and taste his bloodied mouth with too much vigor.

I pull away, and he speaks the first words since I arrived on his doorstep minutes ago.

"Baby, no…" he begs me in a soft, desperate tone, holding me so carefully, like he thinks I'll break.

I link our fingers on both hands, guiding them to the hem of his sweatshirt on my body and pulling up. I'm not wearing a bra, and the site of my bare breasts for the first time makes his eyes well up again. I know it's from the emotions that have completely wrecked us tonight, but seeing that kind of emotion elicited from him while he gazes at my body makes me more desperate than I've ever been for him.

"Edward, please…."

His breathing is ragged as his hands slide across my chest, massaging reverently, wasting no time before leaning down and kissing, sucking, lapping at my nipples.

I whimper loudly and throw my head back as he continues to taste me for the first time, my fingers curling in his hair and pulling, my other hand scratching up and down between his shoulder blades as he leans in front of me and takes what's his.

I close my eyes and lower myself to the bed. He never detaches his mouth from my sensitive skin, dropping to his knees in front of me and running his hands up and down my back as he kisses me, worships me.

A residual tear rolls down the bridge of his nose and lands on the swell of my breast, and I can barely handle what it does to me. I guide him back up with my hands in his hair, kissing him as fervently as I can without causing him pain.

He crawls over me as I scoot back onto the bed, his nipple dragging over mine. He stops kissing me when it happens, his mouth falling open wide and his gasp making me ache deeper between my legs.

He stops to look at me, his fingers brushing the hair away from my eyes and tucking it behind my ear. I can feel his heart beating against my chest, and he's looking at me like I'm his everything.

"I love you so much," I choke on the words even though they mean the most, because it's so hard to talk when he's surrendering himself to me like this.

He lays his body down fully on top of mine, my knees on either side of his waist as he supports his upper body by resting on his forearms.

He's grinning at me like he's the luckiest man in the whole world despite the pain he's been subjected to because of me. "Bella," he whispers, kissing me between the eyes as his hand slides behind my head and cradles it. "Every single part of you was made for me. No matter what happens from here on out, this means absolutely everything to me."

My eyes flutter shut as he whispers 'I love you' against my lips, nothing more than air ghosting along my skin as his hands slide down my sides and grip the waistband of my sweats.

I nod frantically as he kisses me sweet, pulling cotton slowly past my hips as I lift up, his heart racing and breath stuttering in nerves and anticipation.

I hold my breath as he massages my calves and stares down, taking in the sight of me in nothing but black-lace boy shorts, every inch of my skin pink, overheated, desperate for more.

He watches me as his thumb pops the button of his jeans. Just seeing him with his lips parted and his fingers on his zipper makes me unhinged. A cross between a growl and a moan leaves my lips as I sit up hastily. I grab his wrist with one hand and his waistband with the other, pulling him down until my back is flat against the mattress and his tongue is frantic against my own.

I whimper his name into his mouth as he pushes his hips hard against my wet lace, letting me feel how much he wants me. He slides his hand between our undulating bodies, his palm cupping my sex and the back of his hand pressing against his own as we push together. His moan is uneven, breathless as he kisses me over and over, alternating between deep strokes of his tongue and gentle passes of his lips.

I press my own hand between us and slide it down until our fingers are intertwined where we're both aching. Our eyes meld together as I bring his hand up and tuck it inside my underwear, both of our fingers gliding over wet, burning heat.

His mouth drops open and his eyes shut, and even though his battered face makes my heart break, he has never looked more beautiful.

He slides against me slow, two fingers pushing against my clit and gliding up and down, spreading my need all over me, all over his hand. I won't last long, but I won't let myself come until he's heavy and throbbing in my hand. I kiss each bruise on his face as I suck in a deep breath, my body shaking uncontrollably as his fingers dip into me just a bit with each pass.

I run my hand down his chest and finish unfastening his jeans, sliding my hand inside until he's securely in my grasp. His moan is loud but it quickly dies in his throat, whispering my name as he swirls his fingers around my clit once more and pushes them inside me achingly slow. He's burning in my hand, his skin so delicately soft yet rigid and firm as I start to stroke him in the confines of his boxers.

Our sounds of pleasure intermingle and join in the quietness of his bedroom, escalating the intimacy of this moment. When my tears fall on his cheeks and mine, this time he knows it's because I'm filled to the brim with love. He pushes his hips into my hand as he stretches me with his fingers, his green eyes blazing dark as he studies my every move, my every gasp of pleasure.

It's quiet and intense, and I'm trembling as he picks up his pace. It's there before I can even comprehend it, my eyes widening, everything stopping, my hand stilling around his erection before flying around his neck and holding tight as I shiver and twist against his fingers inside me.

"Oh, Bella. God baby, I love you so much," he moans against my temple as I shudder beneath him.

I pant against his neck as I come down from my jolting high, whimpering and fighting to catch my breath as I crush myself to him. I kiss his throat and lift my head. I swear to God it's like looking at him for the first time. I secretly pray that I look brand new to him, too. His eyes crinkle in the corners as he smiles at me, pure bliss outlining each one of his features from sharp jaw to bloodied lip.

And then I'm laughing and crying and holding him tight, kissing him and loving him and living for nothing but him. He chuckles deeply and continues to shower me with kisses and soft passes of his hands. I sigh heavily as his lips slide along my jaw, stopping when he reaches my ear. "That was the most incredible thing I've ever seen, Bella. Thank you, I'm so in awe of you." I drag my fingers through his hair, scratching his scalp in response. He groans and sucks my earlobe into his mouth before continuing. "Whatever you want to do…whatever you want, beautiful. Just tell me."

I look in his eyes, waiting until he can see right into me before I give him my reply in a soft but assuring tone. "I need you inside me, Edward."

His eyes soften further, his fingers tangling with mine, still warm and wet from the pleasure he elicited from my body. He kisses the inside of my wrist softly, watching me from beneath his lashes as his tongue strokes the sensitive skin where his lips were just pressed. "Then that's where I'm going to be," he promises in a rough whisper.

It's as if our moves are choreographed as we touch and roll our hips, pushing his jeans off, sliding lace down my legs until we're completely bare against one another for the first time. We've hardly begun and already I want it again.

He leans over me, my nails dragging down his back, along his stomach until I'm stroking him again, his lips sucking my neck, teeth in my skin as he fumbles in the drawer beside the bed.

His tongue laps over the spot where his teeth just nipped, making my entire body clench as he lifts up off of me. I sit up too as he kneels between my legs, my hands running up and down his thighs, making him twitch before he takes himself in his hand.

I watch carefully as he rolls latex down his length, memorizing every move he makes so I can do it next time. I can't stop staring at how hard he is, how beautiful he is, how big he is. I don't know how he'll fit, but I know he's meant to be there, and I'm not afraid.

He tilts my head up with his fingers beneath my chin, smiling softly before kissing my lips and laying me back down. He rubs his hand back and forth over my belly, kissing my forehead and then watching my eyes carefully. "How are you feeling?" he whispers, sliding his fingers lower until he's massaging me where I'm so wet for him.

"I feel amazing," I breathe, threading my fingers into his hair as he rests more of his body weight on me. He kisses me like it isn't an option to stop, his hands on my skin and his love on his lips as he confesses it breathlessly, continually. I let my hands run up and down his back, feeling the muscles there and going lower, squeezing his ass, pushing him tighter against me. He shifts and then he's right there, I can feel him where he's meant to be.

"Bella," he whispers, slipping his hand beneath my back and lifting until he's hugging me tight against his body with one arm and supporting his weight with the other. He's shaking almost as much as I am, forehead pressed against mine as his hands rub soothing circles all over my heated skin. "Tell me…." He pauses to swallow thickly. "Tell me you understand how much I love you."

I nod, closing my eyes. "I do."

"Tell me you trust me."

His hand slides between my breasts and rests over my heart.

"I trust you with my life," I promise.

"This means so much to me." His voice breaks as he takes my hand and kisses my fingers. "I'm going to do everything I can not to hurt you, baby. I'm so sorry if I do."

My eyes well up with tears as I kiss him with everything I have. "I love you….please, I need this, Edward."

He settles his body against me, caressing my breast before moving his hand between us and positioning himself. He rubs the head of his erection up and down before sliding just the tip in, holding steady as he struggles to catch his breath.

I let out a small moan and nod as my brow furrows, needing to feel all of him and not able to wait another moment. He lets out two heavy, quick breaths as he pushes deeper, sliding and stretching so deep until slowly, carefully he's all the way inside me.

And it's like I finally understand what home means.

Our eyes meet in the dim light of the room, and nothing in this world has felt more perfect than this. His eyes are shining, and I moan as his fingers tangle with mine and his lips press against my heart. The unpleasant burn is there, lingering somewhere in the background, but there's no room to acknowledge it, not when he's consuming me this entirely.

"Please," I whimper against his lips, my breath catching in my throat as he slowly begins to move inside me.

"You feel so good, God you feel so good," he groans, picking up his pace and begging with his eyes for it to be okay.

And it is so, so okay.

Time seems to stand still as we love one another, our bodies sticky and hot as they move in tandem. I need more, so I push my hips up and off the bed, meeting him in the middle, driving him that much deeper, making both of us cry out loudly as things eventually start to get blurry and fast.

The sounds he makes are beautifully tortured, his hand warm and eager as it slides in between us and circles my clit rhythmically. "Come, Bella. I need it, I need you to come on me, baby…"

He's begging and frantic, pushing into me and rubbing tight circles until I clench and gasp….freezing because I know it's there on the precipice, so fucking close and he's going faster until I'm flying, and he's racing toward that same finish, pushing and pushing until he stops and we convulse, spasm, clench and scream while it consumes us.

I feel like I'm gone for so long, detached from reality as he pulses inside me and holds me against his chest. He stays in me as he softens, brushing damp strands of hair out of my face and studying me carefully, always watching, always making sure.

I love him beyond words, beyond life, beyond reason.

I cry as I thank him for everything he's just given me, and he smiles.

And I soar.

x-x-x

~Edward~

I won't sleep tonight.

It's the last thing I want. I refuse to stop watching her, stop touching her, stop making sure that she's safe.

She's sleeping so peacefully, so deep. Her face is the epitome of tranquility, and I'm so happy that our lovemaking could bring that peace of mind to her.

Regardless of how desolate I was before she came to me tonight, it's all gone now. My previous negativity is completely overshadowed by the brilliance that is my girl.

She shines so unbelievably bright.

The night turns into morning, and still my eyes don't stray.

My hands never tire of passing along her smooth back, into her tangled hair, across her delicate cheek.

I'll fight for this girl until my last breath, because tonight has proven without a shadow of a doubt that she is my entire reason for being.

I won't lose sight of that again.

She snuggles into me, kissing my chest and sighing happily even though I know she's in a deep sleep.

How will I ever lie in this bed again without her by my side?

When the sun is bright and birds are chirping I lay my head on her pillow, letting our noses brush together as I sigh and finally close my eyes.

My face is aching, but it doesn't hold a candle to the feeling of happiness I'm engulfed in.

This is the personification of cloud-fucking-nine.

Until her eyes blink open slowly.

And then it's just so much better.

She dives into my arms and hugs me with a force you don't quiet expect from such a tiny girl.

"How do you feel?" I whisper softly, reluctant to break the quietness of the morning.

She turns her head until she's gazing into my eyes, smiling brighter than the sun blazing through my parted curtains. "I feel like I'm home."

I smile widely and she giggles, kissing me back with playful enthusiasm before pushing me off of her.

I groan as she straddles my hips, watching as she finds my discarded t-shirt from last night and throws it on. "Want pancakes?" she grins, running her hands up and down my chest.

"I want you…and I want pancakes," I laugh as she kisses my lips and tickles my sides before crawling out of bed.

She stops in her tracks when we both hear three loud knocks on my front door.

But after last night, there's no room for panic.

I rise out of bed slowly, tossing on my jeans and grabbing a fresh shirt from the dresser. I press my lips to the top of her head and hold her close, rocking her from side to side for just a moment before kissing her again. "Get dressed, baby. I'll be right back. I love you."

Every fiber of my being was ready to face whatever was waiting for us outside that front door.

We were nothing to be ashamed of, and I was ready to make sure everyone knew it.

X

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X

-x-x-x-x-x-

To be continued after the contest….. :)

Thanks for reading!