AN: I admit it. I got stuck, but I figured it out! Two more chapters and an epilogue left.

Thank you to mauigirl60 for her beta skills and to all of you for reading!

Enjoy!

Chapter 9

There could be many ways to describe James Grant. Words like cad, snob and louse were some of the better ones. He fit them all like a glove, but Bella's favorite was 'Satan'.

She felt many things as she looked at James lying on the ground, clutching his stomach in pain. The first feeling was pure glee, followed by being impressed with her sister's powerful punch. Alice was going to have to teach her that powerful move.

"What the fuck?" he moaned.

Bella started laughing hysterically.

She had never seen a better side to that idiot. It made her giddy throughout her body.

College was a time of exploration, growing up and learning responsibility. Forget about the responsibility, because Bella had learned that Boone's Farm Wine could be purchased at the amazing price of three dollars a bottle. Handsome boys were fabulous kissers on sweaty, makeshift dance floors in fraternity houses. Dating James Grant meant you were joining a clan of other women who were being pursued by him at the same time. Women he left bereft after falling prey to his pretty words.

"Shouldn't you be somewhere else, James?" Bella inquired. Edward clutched her arm and tried to awkwardly soothe her. He hoped he pulled it off. It was something that he usually only did onscreen. "Harassing teenaged girls at food courts? Visiting your other twenty girlfriends? Did they figure you out, too?"

"Come on, Bella," James groaned from the ground. "You were my favorite."

Alice's eyes grew wide. " You lost your virginity to this douche? I'm so ashamed to call you my sister right now. Of all the people in the world you had to wet your whistle with it was the snotty villain from a John Hughes 80s movie? You're a cliché, girl!"

Bella jabbed her sister in the ribs. "You're one to talk! What about that weird kid with the unibrow? His life goal was to become a mime!"

Stomping off, Alice complained to Jasper, "That girl can never keep her damned mouth shut!"

She was furious at being reminded of her previous mistake of love. He had seemed so nice and kind, with a penchant for wearing all black. At first, Alice believed that it made him seem mysterious and deep. He was always waxing poetic about philosophy and carrying around a tattered copy of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. It was a bit pretentious in her eyes, but freshman year had her looking through rose-colored glasses.

When Alice finally submitted to his wooing, it was the most annoying and tedious thing she'd ever experienced. She ended up flaking off her shocking aqua nail polish the entire time, as he thrust into her and made noises like a wounded whale. It was horrible, but she'd determined that it had to get better. It never had, but Alice was determined to at least try.

Instead, the relationship ended in betrayal. The guy was miming in front of the Student Center. If you couldn't be truthful about pretending to be trapped in an invisible box wearing kabuki face paint, then what else was he lying about? Seriously, though, the kid had been a mime and that was a deal breaker for Alice.

"A mime?" Jasper asked, snickering. He took his lady's hand. It wasn't often you had something to hold over Alice's head. She acted as tough as nails, but had a gooey, slightly sweet center. He cleared his throat. "My first time was with a dreadlocked girl named Maria. She made me listen to The Grateful Dead."

"That's horrifying!" Alice said with a grin, which turned serious. This guy just might be her soulmate. Shit!

Meanwhile, Edward was having a panic attack. "You're not a virgin?"

Bella looked at him in surprise. "No."

You see, Edward thought she was. To be more accurate, he was hoping she was a virgin. When he was around Bella, Edward reverted back to his teenage self. He was certain he would be overeager, fumbling and would only last one minute. It would be what happened when he stole his father's Playboy magazines only it would happen with a real girl. Bella would be so unsatisfied that she would only be too happy to leave him and head back to school.

"Was it good with this guy?" he questioned.

"Yeah, but that doesn't matter. James is a bad person. He hurt me."

The sex hadn't been the problem; it was his lack of humanity and a soul. Her first time was tender and kind, Bella had thought back then.. That was until the next afternoon, she'd caught him delivering roses and kissing another girl. Bella had forgiven him a million times in the flawed belief that people slept with one another because of love. Time after time, he'd betrayed her and she finally learned her lesson. Growing up was hard.

Edward took her face in his palms, turning her away from glaring at the man slowly getting up from the ground. "I'm sorry that he hurt you."

He kissed her softly.

James' face took on a nasty grimace. He went through girls like they were tissues. He'd have several around for a moment's notice, blow it and throw it away in the garbage. This Bella tissue had now thrown him away and he wasn't having it.

"Are you kidding me? This jackass is worse than I am! He's probably fucking girls he's got hidden all over town! You're just another one of his whores!" James wrinkled his nose. "Though looking at him, I would guess guys. Are you happy being a fag hag, Bella?"

Jacob decked him before Edward was able to. "Bella is my fag hag, you ass! Get it straight. I thought you wanted to make up with her, but was I fooled! Those two kids are adorable together!"

Bella couldn't help grinning, because they were adorable. So adorable, in fact, that when she returned to school, she'd miss Edward terribly.

"What the hell is going on out here?" Charlie yelled, as he came out onto the porch. He was fixing his gun holster.

That was when inspiration struck and Bella had come up with a way to get rid of James permanently. She made her face look forlorn and started to wipe away nonexistent tears. "Oh, Daddy! He was saying horrible things to me!"

She pointed at James, as Alice muttered to Jasper, "Amazingly, Bella might be a worse actress than Edward is."

"I keep telling you he's really a guy, Alice," Jasper chuckled.

"I keep telling you to prove it," she said, rolling her eyes.

Charlie ignored all that was happening around him and pulled out his gun. "What's he saying, sweetie?"

"He called me a whore!" Bella wailed.

Edward held her tightly. "That cad had the audacity to belittle and degrade the lovely Isabella. Her heart is pure and I cherish it."

"You have got to be kidding me!" Alice scoffed.

Jasper sat in the grass and started to play with the laces on Alice's boots. "It's from the TV movie Love Comes to Winston Court. Edward's British accent was awful in that one!"

Charlie went down the stairs slowly, his furious gaze on James. "I'm gonna have to shoot you, son. Repeatedly. I'm the law around here and these witnesses will back me up."

James raised his hands in the air, backing away slowly. "I'm just going to head back home, sir. Bella, we shouldn't talk at all when we get back to school."

"Perfect!" Bella felt a weight lift off her shoulders, as Edward's hands wrapped around her waist. "Toodles, sucker!"

"Isabella Marie . . ." Charlie started to say, eyeing his daughter. Then he saw Jacob and patted his shoulder. "Son! How are you? This is a great surprise. I have a new deputy I'd love for you to meet!"

Charles Swan thought the world of Jacob Black. He was quite disappointed that there'd be no way in the world the large, strapping young man would ever become his son-in-law. Charlie still really liked the kid, so now he was trying to play matchmaker for him. His new deputy, Sam, would fit the bill perfectly.

"I have never heard your father speak so much without it being a threat," Edward said in awe.

Alice grinned. "Jake is the gay son he never had."

Renee came outside, wearing a flour-covered apron. Flour was also caked in her frizzy hair, making her look eerily like her mother. Bella and Alice were instantly frightened. They were seeing their future and there were shades of Louise all over it.

Their mother dusted her hands and the white powder flew through the air. "I'm making a quiche! Everyone's invited!"

Edward was excited at the possibility of a home-cooked meal and was surprised to see Bella turning green at the thought. He decided to charm the pants off Bella's mother. "That sounds wonder-"

Bella's hand immediately covered his mouth, making Edward kiss it. The fear of her mother's quiche concoction caused Bella to completely ignore his mouth licking her hand. "What kind, Mom?"

"A bit of this and a dash of that! I had some mozzarella cheese that I'm sure is still good. It smells strange, but I added some orange juice because it's so sweet, and the red pepper flakes will give it a kick." Renee was a creative soul, but her creativity with food was a cause of stomach discomfort of epic proportions.

"Crabs!" Charlie yelled. "Let's go to a crab shack and get a few bushels for the kids! I bet these Hollywood types never had some Old Bay stuck deep under their fingernails."

Renee looked sad for a brief moment, but brightened considerably. It didn't take much to make her happy again. "I'll make a pie to bring with us! I have apples and I can throw in some Tic Tacs!"

"Oh, shit!" Charlie muttered.

It was the group's consensus that it was 'Oh, shit' indeed.

XXXXXX

It had been two weeks. Two weeks of Bella cramming in rendezvous with Edward while the production schedule for the television show was in overdrive. He would fit in quick lunches with Bella during the day; at night, he'd come over to kiss her breathlessly on the front porch before having to return to film night shots. Bella knew their time together was quickly coming to an end and her heart was already splintering into pieces.

"Long distance has been known to work out, Bella," Jacob pointed out. He had remained in town after hitting it off with Sam. They were going to attempt a long distance relationship, but they were lucky because only an hour car drive separated them.

They were sitting on a bench on the boardwalk as the sun set on the horizon, casting a pink glow on the ripples of water which calmed Bella's nerves. She cuddled deeper into Edward's sweater which still held his scent of woodsy masculinity. She sniffed it and Jacob laughed.

"What?" Bella asked, offended.

Jacob sniffed the sleeve. "It's Calvin Klein's Encounter. It smells like sophisticated mountain man."

"Shut up!" Bella punched him in the arm. She followed up by laying her head on his shoulder. "What the hell am I going to do? We only have a week and a half left before he leaves to go back to LA."

"We head back for school a few days later." Jacob had never seen Bella so sad over the impending destruction of a relationship. James might have hurt her, but she never loved him. Edward was a different story because she truly loved him.

"My darling girl, enjoy being with him. It will be a love affair to remember when you grow old and gray."

"Love?"

Jacob laughed. "Yes, love, you idiot! What is Al going to do?"

Bella sighed and looked out at the ducks lazily drifting over the water, looking for handouts of the stale bread variety. "She's sneaking out tomorrow morning at dawn. Dad's taking her to the airport."

"She's not saying goodbye?"

Bella looked at the sky. "She says it'll be too hard. She wrote him a note."

"What am I going to do with you two?" He just shook his head at her. For two smart girls, they could be awfully dumb.

"Bella?" She turned to see Emmett, holding the hand of Jasper's coworker. It was the blonde camera woman. "How ya doin', girl? Have you met Rose?"

"No, I don't think so. Hi!" Bella said brightly, as Rose gave her a tiny smile. "Remember Jake, Em?"

"Hey, buddy!" Emmett looked at her in confusion. "Your grandmother is spreading it around that you're carrying around with 'that loose boy with poor actor morals'. True?"

"I'm with Edward, yes. At least until he goes back to California." Bella smiled sadly. She knew Emmett would also be experiencing sadness at the loss of these newcomers like she was.

That was until she saw their wedding bands.

"Emmett, you're married!" Bella yelled. Her voice scared the ducks, making them fly into the air.

"Rosie and I did it this morning. Eloped! We're going to the bar to celebrate. Want to join the festivities?"

"Sure!" she squeaked. Edward and Sam were meeting them later, anyway.

Bella and Jake followed the canoodling couple back to the parking lot.

"Well, damn girl, there's your answer - you can get hitched!" Jake gave her a jaunty wink.

Most certainly not, because she wanted the joy of discovering her love slowly, the fluttering happiness of courtship and, when the time was right, a proposal from the heart.

The unfortunate truth was that she wanted all those things from Edward, but her dreams would never become reality.