Highline

Chapter 20

Edward and Emmett led the way to our cabins. The two small buildings were close to each other but far enough away from the main building that we had a bit of privacy. They left me and Rose at our front doors with the keys and headed off to the shower shack.

A fire was already lit inside our cabin and there was a small bundle of firewood stacked neatly beside it. A worn rocking chair sat next to the fireplace, a couch made out of logs was straight across from it, and a bed dressed in fluffy handmade quilts was on the other side of the room. A heavy porcelain bowl and a stack of fresh towels sat on a wooden table next to the bed.

I was glad to have a few minutes to myself. I was used to a lot of time alone back at home. My dad's old house was always quiet. He spent the majority of his time outdoors when he wasn't working, and if he wasn't outside he was watching sports. With him gone, it was quiet around the clock – almost to the point of eerie.

I was enjoying the company I had immensely, but I needed the time to reflect – to think. I grabbed the plaid throw blanket that was folded over the end of the bed and curled up in the rocker. The warmth of the fire was just right, taking away the chill from my finger tips and toes.

Just a few hours had passed since I was basically naked beneath Edward in our tent. I wanted him, and still did. Of that, I had no doubts.

Rose said I had nothing to lose by just going with the flow, but I didn't fully see it the same way. I wasn't able to separate my head and my heart. It wasn't just a physical attraction that I had to Edward, though that was big part of it. The intimacy of our experience – being in as close quarters as we had been for the last few days - had intensified our connection. I felt like I'd known him forever, yet still knew so little.

I wondered if perhaps it was the speed in which things were moving that had me so nervous. If I had met Edward at home, we likely would have gone for dinner, drinks, and a movie or two before I would've gotten naked with him. That was my typical pattern – aside from the odd one night stand – and this "thing" with Edward was turning out to be anything but typical.

Being in our own cabin was too easy. The ache deep in me wanted to go back to lying beneath him - open, ready, with no regrets – but my brain was overriding it. It was late and I was exhausted. Before anything else could happen we had to talk. Not necessarily to draw lines in the sand – I wasn't ready to ask for any sort of commitment or anything – but to have some of the mystery dissolved.

Edward came back from the shower as I was throwing another log into the fire. I could've let it smolder and hopped in bed but I wanted it to burn so we could talk.

I tried not to gawk at him, worried that I'd get tongue tied and forget my agenda, but it was tough. His long hair was dripping water droplets onto his clean t-shirt and thick stubble had appeared all over his jaw. He was barefoot once he'd kicked off his boots, and I could see his strong calf muscles clearly in his khaki shorts.

"I brought us a surprise." He said, digging in his bag. He pulled out a small bottle of wine and two red plastic cups. "I hope you drink white."

"I'd love some." I replied with a smile. Wine was good – it would relax my nerves.

"Come sit with me?" I hesitated a moment then nodded softly, grabbing my blanket. "I haven't looked at your blister – how's it holding up?" he asked, reaching for my foot.

"It's fine." I tucked my foot in beneath me. I knew if he started caressing my ankles again that I'd be a goner. "One hundred percent. Perfectly good."

"Ok." He voice faltered and he looked like I had wounded him. I took a sip of my wine to buy some time, not sure how to proceed.

"Are you ok?" he asked.

"I am." I didn't know how to get started. I could tell that he was feeling rejected and it was the last thing I wanted.

"I'm sorry, Bella." He spoke quietly. It was hard to hear him over the crackling of the fireplace.

"Why are you sorry?"

"If I came on too strong earlier…"

"No." I stopped him, ready to clarify. "Don't take the blame for that. I was perfectly ok with it, trust me."

"Then what is it?"

"It's partly what happened earlier. I just – I think we need to take tonight and talk. I don't want you to get the wrong idea, I really don't…"

"I could go switch with Emmett if you want some space." His eyes remained locked on the floor.

"No! That's what I mean about getting the wrong idea. I don't want you to think that you're not what I want. You are. It just happened so fast."

"You're right. It did. I find it hard to resist you though." He looked over at me with a sideways grin and I melted a little.

"You're not alone." I said, feeling my cheeks heat up. I could see Edward visibly relax, the tension rolling out of his shoulders as he leaned back against the arm rest, propping a leg up on the couch in between us. I offered him half of my blanket and shifted to give him more space.

I knew that since I was the one that initiated this night of discussion that I would need to be the one to get the conversation going. I thought back to something that had me curious since we sat along the lake, after I'd spoken to Jacob.

"Can I ask you something? How did you know about my dad?"

Edward explained that he had read all of our paperwork from Alice, including the spot where I'd filled in my personal reasons for booking this trip. I remembered my answer - "to keep my father's memory alive."

I explained the details of Charlie's passing to him much like I had to Jacob. Edward didn't say much-instead he moved closer to me - his hand finding my back beneath my blanket.

Under his soothing touch words just fell out of my mouth. I explained how difficult it was getting up every day, how hard it was going through the trial, and how much I still missed him. I found myself coming back to positives though – how Charlie started my love for hiking by leaving me alone in the woods behind our house with a compass when I was 13, and the time he taught me to fly fish when I snagged him in the face with a lure.

Edward chuckled beside me, "I wish I could have met him."

"He would have loved you – that, I can guarantee."

"What about Rose? She had something there too – about strength? What's that about?"

"That's not really my story to tell. I'm sorry. I will say though that she was violently attacked. She's come so far though – she's probably the strongest person I know."

"No, I understand. That's respect – you two are an incredible pair, Bella."

"Thank you." I smiled. I was getting places with him, and he was being considerate and cooperative. I hoped that the positive attitude would continue when I turned the heat on him. "Can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"When you said that your dad will kill you guys if he finds out about this? What exactly does that mean?" That remark had been bothering me. I wanted to know how serious the implications of our relationship – if you could call it that – would really be. I didn't want to be responsible for getting him in any serious trouble.

"I probably should've said he'd kill me. He'll be happy for Emmett. He'll think I was up to no good."

"That doesn't seem fair."

"It is and it isn't. I've done some stupid things. I've grown up though."

"How come Emmett gets a free pass?"

"It's a long story. You know about Emmett's bear attack, right? After that happened he was laid out for a long time. We weren't sure he'd make it for a while. He was engaged to his high school sweetheart at the time, but he wasn't himself mentally or physically and she couldn't hack it. She left, moved to B.C, and he was a fucking mess."

"That's awful." My heart hurt for Emmett. He seemed like such a happy, easy-going person. He too had come a long way - I would have never known.

"It was, but he's learned that he's better off. Emmett has always been the good guy – never causes any grief for anyone. Our mom especially just wants to see him happy. I wasn't kidding when I told you that he doesn't open up easily – he hasn't been in another relationship since Lauren. That's always bothered Esme."

"After hearing all of this, I think I'm even more sure that Em and Rose are a perfect match."

"I just think we're both lucky that we found you two."

xoxoxo

As the fire turned to nothing but glowing ashes and the short bottle of wine was emptied, we both found our eyes getting heavy. My head had moved to Edward's lap, the throw blanket over the both of us, as we exchanged stories. I learned that Edward spent a year in Switzerland and another in Peru. He told me that he would always want a career in guiding, but that he was working with Carlisle on taking over more of the management aspects of their company. He was really excited about possibly expanding their outfit to serve different locations, and talked of the pros and cons that would bring.

We moved to bed once Edward caught me drifting off. The mattress was incredible – my tired muscles sank into the soft featherbed and I felt like I could easily stay a week and never get up.

"I forgot to ask you about Laurent." I murmured, remembering another big issue I wanted to discuss. I wasn't certain though that I'd be able to stay awake for his explanation.

"I don't want to go there tonight. Tomorrow? I'll tell you anything, Bella. Anything." He was stroking my hair, tucking stray strands behind my ear. I could feel his breath hot on my cheek. I snuggled closer to his chest to show my approval.

"Can you promise me something?" he asked.

"Hmm?"

"That when we get back, you'll come and stay with me? I want to show you my life, my friends. I'm better at showing than telling."

"That sounds perfect." I whispered, sleep taking over fast. "I promise."

A/N MERRY CHRISTMAS! Thank you so much for reading and reviewing! My apologies for not getting replies out on the last batch of reviews – every spare second around here has been tied up with Christmas shenanigans. The support you guys have been showing has been awesome, and your feedback is hugely appreciated! Hope you all have a safe and happy holiday – I'll be back at it in a few days! xoxoxo