"What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?" – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Rolling over, Bella stretched before scrubbing her face with her hands. September thirteenth had arrived, which meant she'd finally turned eighteen. She didn't feel any different—although some of that could be that she'd felt like an adult for years because she'd almost been the parent instead of the child when she'd lived with her mom.

She'd begged Charlie not to do anything big for her birthday, claiming she'd much rather him bring home a pizza—saving her from having to cook—and just hang out in front of the TV. Hopefully, he'd do as she'd asked. Bella knew it was likely that her friends at school would try to get her to hang out, but she planned to tell them thanks, but no thanks. She knew she wouldn't have much homework after school, given that it was only two weeks into the school year and a Friday night. Still, she wanted to impress Mr. Masen, and being ahead in English would hopefully accomplish that.

Bella sighed as she thought of Mr. Masen. He'd come to Forks High as the junior and senior English teacher last year, the new teacher at the same time Bella was the new student. She'd never been attracted to a teacher before, but Mr. Masen was different. For one, he was only ten years older than Bella herself. For another, he was the hottest guy Bella had ever seen—her friend Jessica called him sex on two legs.

As Bella thought about Mr. Masen—his crazy hair with the mix of red, blond, and brown colors that reminded Bella of a tarnished copper penny, his eyes that weren't hazel or blue, but a pure green Bella had never seen on anyone else, his slightly crooked nose, and his perfectly shaped lips—she slid her hand down under the sheet, over the T-shirt she'd slept in, until her fingers found the edge of her panties. Slipping her fingers under the band, she let her fantasies take over, fueling her arousal as she began to touch herself.

~*~DH~*~

Mr. Masen looked up as Bella knocked on the door frame of his classroom. "Bella, come in and close the door, please," he said, gesturing to a spot across from his desk. He came around the desk and perched on the edge, straightening his long legs out in front of him and crossing them at the ankles. Crossing his arms over his chest, his posture reinforced the stern look on his face.

"Sorry I'm late, Mr. Masen," Bella started in a rush. "I had to stop at my locker, and Mike kept me talking after last period, so I..." Her voice trailed off as she realized she was babbling and Mr. Masen wasn't looking any happier.

"Do you know why I wanted you to meet me, Bella?"

Biting her lower lip, Bella nodded, exhaling heavily before answering. "The grade on my mid-term."

"You're usually such a good student," Mr. Masen said with a sigh, shaking his head. "So why the D?"

Bella knew why the D—because she'd screwed up on purpose. She'd wanted Mr. Masen for months, and she'd hoped this way, maybe he'd let her make up the grade...somehow. But she couldn't come right out and tell him that she'd blown it on purpose.

Forcing tears to her eyes by pinching her thigh—hard—Bella frowned. "I don't know what happened. I swear I studied, Mr. Masen! You know I did. Isn't there something I can do to make up the grade?" She blinked up at him, pretending innocence.

Mr. Masen's lips quirked into a lascivious grin, his eyes darkening. She bit her lip, watching his eyes rake over her body, pausing at the bottom of her skirt—which showed a lot of leg because it was way too short—and again at her chest. Before coming into the room, she'd popped another two buttons on the white button-down, and she knew he could see the edges of her black lacy bra. Bella sucked in a breath, forcing her chest out farther, and she almost did a happy dance when the sexy man in front of her licked his lips, reaching down to adjust himself.

Bella was dying to see that very part of his anatomy. Breathing heavily, her eyes slowly roamed over his body until she reached his zipper.

She watched as Mr. Masen's hands followed the same path her eyes had just taken until they reached his belt and he began tugging it off.

"There is one thing, I suppose," he told her casually, his long fingers making quick work of his zipper.

Bella's eyes widened as he reached into the opening of his pants, running his hand over his growing cock.

"Come here, Bella." His voice was commanding as he pointed to the spot in front of him. "I have just the thing to help you earn that A you should've gotten."

Bella stood from her seat just as the dark pink head of Mr. Masen's cock came into view, a pearly drop of pre-cum on the tip, and...

~*~DH~*~

"Ung!" Bella gasped, biting her bottom lip as she came around her fingers, her thumb pressed to her clit. She had to be quiet, or Charlie would hear, and that was an awkward conversation she never wanted to have with her father.

Finally, Bella could feel her tensed muscles beginning to relax, and her breathing, while still heavy, evened out. She slid her hand from her panties, wiping them on her T-shirt before pulling off the sheet. She was relaxed now, but a glance at the clock showed seven o'clock. She needed to hurry, or she'd be late, and Bella was never late to school—especially this year, when her first period was English.

~*~DH~*~

By the time Bella was finished in the shower, dressed, and downstairs, Charlie was gone. There was a note propped up by her keys on the counter, and she plucked it up before moving farther into the kitchen to grab some Pop-Tarts for breakfast.

Bella,

I had to go in early, but I'll be home in time for dinner. I'll bring pizza, so don't cook anything.

Happy birthday.

Dad

Thank God, Bella thought, already imagining the hot, gooey cheese, greasy pepperoni, and crunchy green peppers and onions. Since she'd come to live with Charlie the year before, he hadn't eaten out nearly as often. They still had pizza sometimes, but usually, cooking was left up to Bella. She'd had more fish than she cared to think about—a product of his normal weekend fishing trips to the lake with his friend Billy.

After picking out the Pop-Tarts that she would eat on the way to school, Bella grabbed her backpack, keys, and phone and left the house, locking the door behind her.

Pulling into the parking lot at the school, Bella brushed the crumbs from her jeans and T-shirt before climbing out of her truck. Turning around, she grabbed her bag, slid her phone into her pocket, and was just about to close the door when her ears were assaulted by a loud shriek.

"Bella! Happy birthday! Can you believe you're eighteen? I can't wait for mine—only two more months, and I'll be an adult! How's it feel? Do you feel different now? You should. You're officially an adult!"

Jessica babbled on and on as Bella smiled and nodded, mumbling appropriately when needed. It continued like that until they walked into English, where Bella's stomach flip-flopped, remembering her dream just that morning.

Mr. Masen was standing at the board, his back to the slowly filling classroom, writing in white chalk that already coated his fingertips. Bella took a moment to watch the way his khaki pants fit his ass and his black dress shirt pulled and tightened across his shoulders and back as his arm moved across the board.

She was pulled out of her daydream when Jessica tugged her arm, still chatting away.

"So I thought for your birthday, we would have a party this week—"

"Jess!" Bella sighed, sliding into her seat in the front row and watching her friend take the seat beside her. "I told you I don't want a party."

"But Bella, you're eighteen now! You have to have a party!"

"Bella!" Mike called from a few rows back. "Hey, you're an adult, babe. Have a party!"

Bella rolled her eyes at Mike's use of "babe," shaking her head. "No party," she mumbled, but thanked him when he called out happy birthday. She didn't want to seem ungrateful—she liked her friends, and it was sweet that they wanted to throw her a party to celebrate—but she really hated being the center of attention, and a party, especially one in her honor, had not been something she'd enjoyed since she was about ten years old.

Mr. Masen suddenly turned around and smiled. "Eighteen, huh? Happy birthday, Bella."

Her heart flipping in her chest at his use of her name, Bella nodded and smiled shyly before pulling Anna Karenina out of her bag and turning to the beginning of the third chapter, where they'd left off the day before.

When she looked back up, it seemed to her as if Mr. Masen wanted to say more, but with a small shake of his head, he turned his attention to the class as a whole, just as the bell rang to start the school day and the last student slid into place at the back of the room.

"Everyone turn to chapter three of the book..."

Maybe it was her imagination—certainly fodder for more dreams—but Bella could have sworn she saw a spark of...something in his green eyes as he spoke to her. Interest, maybe? Probably not. It was probably just his eyes sparkling in the overhead light of the classroom.

~*~DH~*~

Bella had a hard time concentrating during English class. Everything about Mr. Masen drew her to him. He'd rolled up his sleeves while walking through the class, asking questions and making his points about the book they were talking about. At one point, he'd reached up to rake his fingers through his hair, and now he had a white smudge from the chalk on his temple. Bella itched to reach out and rub it away, just to touch his skin.

Sitting back on the edge of his desk—so much like in her dream that Bella had to squeeze her legs together to control the tingling sensation between her thighs—Mr. Masen looked out over the class.

"In chapter five, we're given background into Stiva's character. He's described as 'liked by all who knew him.' Does he seem likeable to you?"

Bella silently watched Mr. Masen look over the class, waiting for someone to speak up. When his gaze fell on her, she spoke without thinking.

"Of course he is—to the public."

One of Mr. Masen's eyebrows raised suddenly—a sexy, cocked eyebrow that sent Bella swooning...and she was sure she heard someone from farther back in the room sigh openly. His voice deepened as, intrigued, he murmured, "Go on, Bella."

Ignoring the purr inside her at his use of her name again—especially in what she imagined his sex-voice would sound like—Bella shrugged, trying to act unaffected, even as she squeezed her thighs together to stop the tingling. "He's a pretender. He doesn't own his own opinions. He reads the papers and changes his ideas with what is popular. He's an actor. He goes with the flow of 'modern society' and tries to be just agreeable enough that people will like him. So yes, I'm sure people like the Stiva that he portrays in public, but they don't know the real him."

Mr. Masen smiled slightly, the corner of his mouth tipped up in that sexy half-smirk that Bella always felt was just for her, and nodded. "Interesting, Bella." Looking around the room again, he asked, "Anyone else?"

Bella tuned out the room as others joined in on the discussion. Instead, she watched Mr. Masen—how he tapped his long finger against his lips as he listened to the students talk, making Bela imagine that same finger running softly up and down the skin of her arm or over her cheek until he was touching her lips. Every movement was casual and unassuming. He had no idea of the effect he had on not only Bella, but every girl in school, and that made him all the more sexy to her—unlike Jessica, who usually preferred the cocky guys...the ones who knew they were good-looking and used that to their advantage, like Mike.

Near the end of class, Mr. Masen began passing out the papers they'd turned in the day before, answering questions about the first two chapters of the book. When he slid Bella's onto her desk in front of her, he tapped the "A" on the paper twice and leaned down slightly to speak quietly to her.

"Great job, Bella."

"Th-Thanks," she stammered, her senses overwhelmed. He moved on, but Bella still felt surrounded by him—the heat from his body as he'd leaned over her, the clean scent of his clothes and skin. Bella didn't think he was wearing cologne, but he'd smelled the same almost the whole time she'd known him. Fresh and clean, like sunshine, and a little sweet, like honey. It was a combination that made her thoughts go haywire and her body vibrate and hum with need.

When the bell finally rang, Mr. Masen called out last-minute homework instructions. Bella gathered her things quickly, sending one last glance at Mr. Masen as he stood beside his desk, talking with Eric, who Bella could hear was asking a question about the grade on his paper. Mr. Masen caught her eye and smiled slightly, once again mouthing "Happy birthday," before turning his attention back to Eric. Bella stumbled out of the room, her heart racing.

~*~DH~*~

When Bella woke up Saturday morning, she quickly jumped in the shower. Jake was coming over to watch movies and catch up, and she wanted to get some reading done before then. He'd promised he wouldn't make a huge thing of her birthday, which Bella was thankful for. Yesterday had been plenty of birthday fun for her.

Bella chuckled as she soaped up her hair, remembering the day before. Jessica had done her best to spread the word about Bella's birthday, so she'd been stopped in the hall between classes, and everyone at their lunch table had talked non-stop about it. By the end of the day, Bella had been ready to get home and escape the talk of a party. True to his word, Charlie had brought home a pizza, but he'd surprised Bella by also bringing her favorite dessert—pecan pie—and a small gift wrapped clumsily in purple paper. He'd picked out the digital camera and wrapped it himself, he'd told her proudly. They'd eaten the pizza and dessert in front of the television, watching Lethal Weapon—both one and two—before he'd gone to bed, needing to be up at five in the morning to meet Billy for fishing. It had been the perfect birthday evening.

After finishing in the shower, Bella threw her dad's old Grateful Dead T-shirt on over a simple pair of yoga pants. Drying her hair as best she could with the towel, she then pulled it up in a messy bun, securing it with a pencil, and grabbed her book before heading downstairs. Breakfast consisted of a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, legs crossed as she sat on the couch and read while she ate.

Three hours later, the dirty dishes were in the sink, Bella's hair was falling out of the bun, and her legs were beginning to cramp from being in one position for too long.

She was just about to get up to stretch and change positions when there was a knock on the door. Figuring it was Jake, she marked her page and tossed the book to the coffee table, knowing he would let himself in. When another knock came not long after, she stood and moved to the door, wondering who was at her house at almost noon on a Saturday.

Pulling open the door, Bella felt her eyebrows shoot up. She swallowed hard before clearing her suddenly dry throat and saying, "Mr. Masen?"

Standing on her front stoop was her English teacher, dressed casually and looking slightly uncomfortable—but incredibly sexy. His faded denim was scuffed on the pockets and near his feet, which were encased in sneakers, and his long-sleeved T-shirt was a dark blue with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows. His hair looked totally out of control—more so than usual—and he was chewing on his lower lip while tapping out a drum beat with his fingers on whatever he was holding in his hand.

As Bella looked at the flat, shiny black box, trying to figure out what it could possibly contain, Mr. Masen cleared his throat.

"Can...uh, I mean, may I come in?" he asked, gesturing with one hand over Bella's shoulder.

Bella flinched, realizing she'd been staring, and nodded. "Sorry! Yes, come in, please."

She moved back so Mr. Masen could come into the house and then shut the door behind him, taking a deep breath before turning around and moving farther into the living room and out of the entry. He followed quietly.

They stood in silence for a moment, looking anywhere but at each other, until he finally spoke.

"I...I wanted to give you something. I know you weren't really happy about celebrating yesterday, but turning eighteen is a big step. So...here," he finished, holding out the box with a nervous smile.

Bella felt butterflies in her stomach as she stared into his eyes, and when their hands touched, she felt a jolt of desire run from her fingers straight to the pit of her stomach and lower. God, he's beautiful, she thought, closing her eyes for a moment to adjust her breathing, which had become irregular.

He began babbling as she pulled off the lid. "I didn't spend any money on it—I mean, I've had it for years, and last night..." He rubbed the back of his neck with his hand, looking down at the floor, making Bella remember her feet were bare. "Last night, I was thinking about you and what I could give you, and I remembered you reading a worn-out copy last year and you saying it was your favorite book."

Bella slid the lid under the rest of the box and pulled back the tissue paper as he continued to talk.

"It's not a first edition or anything, but it's old. I've had it since I graduated high school, when my grandfa—"

Bella squeaked when she saw the familiar brown cover, the title—Frankenstein—standing out in gold lettering on a black background on the spine.

"I-It's too much," she mumbled, shaking her head as she tried to give it back to him. "I can't take something so important to you."

"Please," he murmured. "Turning eighteen is something that only happens once. You're...an adult now. I can trust you to take good care of it."

Mindful of the treasure in her hand, Bella threw her arms around him, burying her face in his neck.

"Thank you," she murmured, overwhelmed with the gift, and while still unsure about whether or not she should accept it, just the idea that he wanted to give her something so precious had her trembling in his arms.

His scent—that same scent that was unique to him—surrounded her again, and while he stood there for a long moment, unmoving, she couldn't help but turn her face into his neck and breathe deeply. With a groan, his arms slid around her, and he held her tight against him, heavy breaths puffing out against her ear.

Bella was transfixed, her nose breathing in his scent with her lips millimeters away from the scruff on his neck. She ached—literally ached—with the need to touch it, to kiss it, to see if it was as rough against her lips as she believed it would be. Unable to stop herself, she closed the distance and pressed a gentle kiss to the skin on the underside of his sharp jaw.

She had a moment to relish the feel of the rough, yet soft hairs tickling her lips as he gasped, his throat moving as he swallowed heavily and his arms tightening around her. He turned his head and pressed his lips to her temple for a long moment before he groaned again and pulled away.

He immediately reached up and dragged a hand through his hair, tugging once, hard, and then he stepped back, reaching for the door. "I should go. Uh, happy birthday again, Bella. Enjoy the book."

With a deep breath, he was gone, the book and Bella's racing heart the only indications he'd been there at all.

~*~*~DH~*~*~

"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Edward growled under his breath to himself as he pulled away from the curb. His hands were clenched tight around the wheel, his entire body was tensed, and his dick was so hard that he was afraid it was going bust through his zipper.

Holding Bella had been heaven, and it had taken everything he had to pull away. The feel of her soft, smooth skin against his own was better than he'd imagined; her scent—an intoxicating blend of something flowery and fruity at the same time—had engulfed his senses, leaving him weak-kneed. For months, he'd fought his attraction for the younger woman—his student, no less—knowing that what he was feeling was wrong. He was a monster, lusting after a young girl like Bella, when she deserved so much more. No matter how hard he'd tried to ignore the burst of desire he felt for her whenever he saw her, he found himself drawn to her. She called to him, like the sirens in Greek mythology called to the sailors, pulling him in with her body and her mind...her own sensuous song that she'd written just for him.

Edward groaned, thinking of her lush body. When he'd first met her at the beginning of the previous school year, she'd still been an awkward teenager—all gangly limbs and hunched posture. Being new to the school, she'd been shy and quiet, keeping her nose in a book as much as she could. Over the course of the year, he'd watched as she came out of her shell. She had friends, and she wasn't nearly as shy. Yet, even now, she was still quiet—more content to sit and read than go out and party. It wasn't until a few months before, the first time he saw her over the summer break, that his lust had grown for the young woman.

His sister had been in town visiting their parents, and he'd offered to take his niece and nephew to the pool in order to give her a break. While he was there with Madison and Michael, Bella had walked in with a few of the other girls in her class. He'd stopped walking—literally stopping in his tracks—and just stared. Somehow, in the month since he'd last seen her, Bella had developed...everywhere. She no longer had the body of a young girl. Her breasts had filled out—he knew they would fit in his palms perfectly—and her hips had rounded, giving her a figure that made his mouth water. She'd been wearing a dark blue bikini, and it had instantly made him hard in his swim trunks. That image had stayed with him the rest of the day, and even though it almost turned his stomach when he realized she was only seventeen, he'd been unable to stop himself from taking his cock in hand that night, replaying the image of a very grown-up-looking Bella Swan as she emerged from the pool, water sluicing down her curves.

He'd tried to stay away—Lord knows he'd tried—but Edward had found himself back at the pool at least once a week over the summer, hoping to catch a glance of Isabella Swan. He'd been lucky more often than not, and his "spank bank," as his brother liked to crudely call it, had filled up quickly with images of not only the blue bikini, but also a sleek black one-piece and a handful of other two-piece swimsuits that left little to the imagination.

But Bella's beautiful body wasn't the only thing about her that drew him to her. From the moment he'd met her, Edward had known there was an intelligence there, a longing to learn more, that he found sexier than any piece of clothing she could choose to wear. Her mind and wit were sharp, and the sense of humor she was able to keep hidden from most came bubbling to the surface more and more with him as time went on. He found himself wanting to ask her questions, just to hear her answer—like what she'd said in class the day before regarding Stiva's likability. Most students wouldn't have come up with an answer quite that insightful, but then...most students weren't Bella. Edward wasn't sure there were any other students at Forks High that he would've been able to sit down with and hold an involved, intelligent conversation about a piece of literature like he could with Bella. Hell, he wasn't sure if he'd have been able to do that with anyone in his graduating class at the University of Washington, either.

Still... No matter how much her body and mind called to him, Edward vowed to himself as he pulled into his driveway, scrubbing a hand over his face, that what had happened a few minutes before could never happen again.

No matter how much he wanted it.

~*~DH~*~

Monday morning, Edward sat at his desk, waiting for his students to start filtering in for first period. He was at once dreading and anticipating Bella's arrival. His chest had ached the rest of the weekend, thinking of her and wishing things were different. To see her sitting in front of him would be hell, knowing he couldn't touch her like he longed to. He'd actually thought about switching up the seating arrangements, but the thought of putting her far back in the classroom, unable to look her without anyone being the wiser...it had made the ache in his chest grow until he'd felt like he was having a heart attack. As much as it hurt to see her, he knew it would hurt more to not have that connection, even if it was one-sided.

When the seniors began filling the room, Edward kept his attention on the desk in front of him, pretending to read whatever happened to be there. But he knew the moment Bella stepped into the classroom. His nerves fired up, and his heart began to beat just a bit faster. Without raising his head, his eyes found hers as she slid into her seat.

Christ, she was gorgeous. Her hair was pulled up in some sort of twist on the back of her head, leaving the creamy skin of her neck open to his view. He remembered how, as she'd hugged him, he'd wanted to lower his head and press a kiss to the skin that he knew would be soft and oh-so-sensitive. She was wearing a black skirt that showed off an insane amount of leg and a white, button-down shirt with the top two buttons undone, hinting at the small cleavage that was teasing him even from there. Edward remembered the feel of those perfect breasts—her softness pressed against the hard planes of his chest and stomach—and the feel of her nipples tightening into hard little points that had had him nearly coming in his pants like a fourteen-year-old. He wanted nothing more at that moment than to yank her from her seat and crush her against him, feeling that again.

Bella smiled shyly at him, and he tore his gaze from hers, angry with himself once more for being unable to keep his eyes to himself. He avoided looking at her again until the bell rang and the door shut behind the last student—the almost always tardy Mike Newton. When he stood from his desk to begin the lecture for the day, Bella's drawn eyebrows caught his eye. She looked...worried and, if he wasn't mistaken, a little hurt. To know he had put that expression there nearly killed him, but he knew it was for her own good. He wouldn't be good for her, so he would keep his distance.

Thirty frustrating minutes later, Edward threw a question out to the class.

"We're told that it's unpleasant for Anna to read about other people's lives because she 'wanted too much to live herself.' Why are reading and living placed in opposition to one another?"

As much as he tried to ignore her hand, Bella was the only one to offer an answer. With a short nod, he motioned for her to go on.

As Bella began to answer the question he'd posed, Edward found his mind wandering, only half paying attention. Where he would normally be tuned right in to Bella's answer, watching her as her hands moved to emphasize her point and her expressive eyes lent credence to it all, he found himself unable—or maybe unwilling—to look at her now. If he did, he was sure she would see his true feelings for her in his gaze.

He wasn't sure what was sexier at the moment: the way she uncrossed and recrossed her long legs, bared to his gaze by the simple, yet sexy skirt, or her mind—over and over, she continued to surprise him with how intelligent she was, how intricately her mind worked through the hidden nuances of the novels they were reading. From conversations he'd had with her and with other teachers, he knew she did well in other subjects, but the passion she had for literature matched his own, and that made his gut clench. Edward felt like a little boy when his mind screamed at him, "It isn't fair! If she were five years older, she'd be yours."

That thought brought him up short, and when she finished speaking, Edward nodded, looking down at the book as he murmured a brusque, "Thank you, Miss Swan," before turning a page and moving on.

He didn't look up, afraid of the hurt he would see at his short tone.

When the bell finally rang, he breathed a sigh of relief, called out the homework assignment, and immediately turned his back on the class to write out what his second period would need to see on the board.

He could feel when Bella left the classroom, and he hated the emptiness she'd left behind.

~*~DH~*~

The rest of the week continued much the same that Monday had. Every day, Bella tried to engage him in class. Every day, Edward tried to avoid as much eye contact as possible, while still unable to keep his eyes from straying to her at least a handful of times each class. He'd hoped that as days went by and he ignored his feelings, his desire for her, it would get easier to be around her and those feelings would lessen. So far, neither of those had happened.

At least it's the weekend, Edward thought as he began to pack up the papers he needed to grade before Monday.

Just as he slid the last paper into his messenger bag, he heard the quiet squeak of sneakers on the floor of his classroom. Somehow, he knew it was her before she spoke.

"Mr. Masen? Do you have a second?"

Bella's voice hit him like a wrecking ball straight to the gut. Desire, fierce and strong, raced through his veins as he tried to to control his body's reaction to her. With a determination he'd only come to realize he had in the last few months, he locked himself down and looked up.

"What do you need, Miss Swan? Is there a problem with the assignment I gave you earlier today?"

She blushed, the pink spreading across her cheeks and down her neck, and briefly, Edward wondered if that pretty color continued past the neckline of her shirt and onto the round softness of her breasts.

Christ, Masen! Get a grip!

"N-No, no problem," she said, hesitating. "I..." She sighed, fidgeting with the strap on her backpack. "I was wondering if I've done something wrong. You've seemed...angry with me ever since last Saturd—"

"I'm not angry," Edward interrupted, shaking his head. "You've done nothing wrong. That's all on me."

Her brow furrowed, and she tilted her head in curiosity. "I...I don't understand."

Edward swallowed, preparing himself to deliver the painful but honest truth. Looking around to make sure they were still alone, he explained, "Last Saturday should never have happened, Bella. I'm sorry. I should never have come to your house, and..." He blew out a harsh breath, afraid to look up at the young woman who had come to mean so much to him, afraid that he would see hurt in her eyes.

"D-Do you want the b-book back?" she stuttered, splintering his heart with her uncertainty.

He quickly shook his head. "No, Bella. I gave that to you because I knew how much you would appreciate and enjoy it. It's yours. I want you to have it. If I gave you the impression that there was more to the gift than a simple book, I apologize. But the hug was inappropriate. This—" he motioned between them "—can't...I, uh, don't see you that way. Do you understand?"

Edward felt sick to his stomach at his lie, which was glaringly obvious to him, but as Bella's face crumbled, he knew she believed every word.

"But you did—"

Edward scooped his things into his arms and began walking away, calling over his shoulder, "I'm sorry, Miss Swan. I...I need to go. I'll see you Monday in class. Have a good weekend."

With a sinking heart, Edward hurried out of his classroom, down the hall, and out to his car without another word.

~*~*~DH~*~*~

"Sweetie, listen," Jacob said, tugging Bella's hands away from her face. "It sounds like Mr. Sexy is just confused and trying to do what he thinks is the right thing to do, but I'm not so sure it's what he wants to do."

Bella sighed, turning to face him. She'd confided in him the week before about what had happened when Mr. Masen came over to bring her the book, and he'd told her then that the teacher wanted her. He'd sworn that if anyone knew how guys felt, whether eighteen or twenty-eight, it was him.

~*~DH~*~

"Bitch, please..." Jacob huffed, rolling his eyes. "The man wants you. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Well...maybe some butts," he teased, wiggling his eyebrows suggestively. "I know guys. Even a gay man wouldn't give a student a book worth thousands of dollars and then hold them, kissing their forehead—"

"Temple," Bella murmured.

"What the fuck ever!" Jacob rolled his eyes again. "No man would do all that if he didn't have some feelings for the other person."

Feeling hope well up inside her, she began to smile. "Really? You think so?"

Jacob grinned and began to chant in a sing-song voice, "He thinks you're gorgeous; he wants to kiss you. He wants to love you; he wants to hug you."

"Really, Jake? Miss Congeniality?" Bella snickered, shaking her head.

"Hey, don't knock Ms. Sandra Bullock. The woman knows what she's talking about!"

~*~DH~*~

Jacob had been her best friend from the moment they met her first day in town after moving to Forks the year before. She'd known him slightly from her visits home, but he'd changed dramatically, turning into a buffed-out, short-haired, sexy...and openly gay version of the young kid she'd last seen the summer before. They'd quickly become "besties," as Jake liked to call them, and he was the only one she'd even considered confiding in about what had happened that morning with Mr. Masen.

Curious now, Bella asked, "So you think he wants me, but doesn't want to want me, and...what? Is trying to play Mr. Detached so I'll forget about him? Why would he do that?"

Jacob nodded. "I'm sure of it, Bells. The man clearly wants you. But think about it... How old is Mr. Sexy Teacher-man?"

"He turned twenty-eight this summer," she answered automatically.

Raising an eyebrow, Jacob continued, "And he's your teacher. He could get in a lot of trouble if people were to find out he had a relationship with a student."

"But I'm eighteen now! I'm an adult."

"You know that. I know that. And he knows that. But to the school—not to mention your police chief father—that doesn't matter."

Bella frowned. "I don't want to get him in trouble, but...God, Jake. I like him. I mean, I really like him. It's more than a crush on a teacher. He's smart, so funny, and he's a great guy. I know he volunteers at the hospital and nursing home sometimes, doing whatever they need done. When I saw him at the diner this summer, he told me that he was grabbing a quick lunch before heading over the Sunshine Center to play the piano and sing for the old folks there." She was quiet for a moment, chewing her bottom lip. "So what? Should I just...move on? What if..." Her voice grew soft. "What if I can't? What if he's the one I'm meant to be with?"

"Is it worth it to put yourself out there and risk your heart if he rejects you, to risk both your reputations and his job if word gets out?" Jacob looked at her with a raised eyebrow, uncharacteristically serious for her best friend.

After thinking about it for a moment, Bella nodded. "It is. He is."

"Then there's only one thing you can do, Isabella Swan." After a dramatic pause, Jacob suddenly pointed to the door and grinned. "Go get your man!"

~*~DH~*~

Of course, it wasn't that simple, and Bella knew it. For one, even if she was successful, that didn't mean things would be easy. For another, she was so nervous about what she was about to do that her heart was in her throat. She had almost zero experience at this sort of thing. Putting herself out there—her heart and her body. Sure, she'd dated. She'd even had a boyfriend her sophomore year in Phoenix, but nothing had ever gone beyond kissing, and even that hadn't truly involved her heart.

Bella knew this was her only shot at a relationship with Mr. Masen. If he rejected her again like he'd done at school, it would hurt too much to try again. As much as Jake had tried to tell her on her way out the door that she was a strong woman and she could do this, inside, Bella was scared out of her mind that she would be hurt. To feel that rejection once had hurt. To feel it a second time would be even worse. She didn't think she'd be able to handle a third time.

Luckily, Mr. Masen lived just on the outskirts of town, so there were no nosy neighbors to see her truck parked in his driveway when she pulled up. Fingering the strap of her bag, she nervously took the few stairs up to his front door and then reached out and pressed the doorbell.

After hearing the bong, bong, bong from inside, she heard soft footfalls, like sock-covered feet on a solid floor, and then the snick of a lock before the door swung open, revealing Mr. Masen in jeans, a black T-shirt, and white socks. Why Bella noticed the green line of stitching on the toe of his socks, she didn't know, but when she brought her eyes back to his face, his eyes were dark...stormy.

"Bella? What are you doing here?"

"I..." It took a few seconds for Bella to find her voice, but when she did, it came out strong. "I wanted to talk about last Saturday...about what happened at—"

Mr. Masen shook his head, interrupting her. "I already told you, Bella. Last Saturday shouldn't have happened. I made a mistake coming over there, and..." He sighed, sounding frustrated. "I'm sorry, but you can't be here."

"I felt something when I hugged you," Bella rushed to say, holding her hands up to her chest and stomach.

She watched his hand move to his hair, tugging at it hard, as if frustrated.

"Bella, whatever you think you felt—"

"Don't tell me how I felt!" Her voice was louder than she'd expected. Lowering it again, she continued, "I know you felt it, too. I saw it in your eyes...that same need, that same desire I was feeling. You—You can't deny that, Mr. Masen."

"Bella..." With a sigh, he began to turn back into the house. "Go home, Bella."

Bella didn't move, but her next words stopped Mr. Masen cold.

"So I guess I'm good enough to stare at in a bikini, but..."

When he slowly turned around, Bella swallowed hard at the expression on his face. He seemed fierce, almost angry, yet his eyes were wide, fearful.

"Did you think I wouldn't notice?" she pushed, feeling anger welling up inside her. He was dismissing her without giving her a chance to talk about it. "After that first day? I wore the blue one just for you. I thought you liked it."

She reached out, needing to touch him, to remind both of them of what they'd felt.

He groaned, his hands curling into fists at his sides as he pulled away. When he spoke, it seemed to Bella that it was more to himself than it was to her.

"I'm a monster, Bella. You don't know what you're talking about...don't know what you're asking. I'm a grown man, and you... You have your whole life ahead of you."

"I'm almost out of school. If we'd met on the street, at the park...in the fucking grocery store, it wouldn't matter. How we originally met shouldn't make a difference on how we feel." Bella knew she was begging, but she couldn't help it. She was watching him slip right through her fingers. "Please," she whispered as her eyes began to fill with tears.

He closed his eyes, shaking his head. "Go home, Bella. This?" He motioned between them. "This won't happen."

With a broken sob, Bella pulled the book he'd given her, back in its black box, out of her bag and thrust it at him so he had to take it. "The monster couldn't help what he was. He just...was, and he had to learn to accept it. Just because it wasn't normal didn't mean he wasn't real. You, Mr. Masen, are no monster. You're a coward...and you can't lie worth a damn, either."

She turned, trying to contain the tears that were threatening to break free. As she hurried back to her truck, her anger returned, and she muttered, "The only thing that makes you a monster is the way you've treated me the last week."

Bella had the truck door open and was about to climb in when it was slammed shut and she was whipped around, coming face to face with Mr. Masen as her bag dropped to the ground. She gasped, feeling penned in with his arms on either side of her head and his body crowding hers.

His breath was heavy against her cheek as he brushed her nose with his, up one side and down the other. His eyes were closed, his lashes fanning against his cheeks, but Bella couldn't stop staring.

"I shouldn't," he murmured, his lips only millimeters from hers.

Bella nodded minutely. "I know." As if they had a mind of their own, Bella's hands slid up his chest, coming to rest on his shoulders.

He groaned, squeezing his eyes tight for a moment before opening them to peer into hers. "I could lose my job, Bella."

She whimpered as he moved his hands to her hair, tangling his fingers in the long tresses. "I was leaving..."

His eyes fell closed again, and his next line was whispered against her lips. "I couldn't let that happen, either."

"Mr. Mase—"

"Edward," he interrupted, his voice a low growl. "Call me Edward, Isabella."

Gasping in the taste of his breath mixing with hers, Bella nodded, and it seemed like her breathy, "Edward," snapped his control.

Bella closed her eyes as Edward lowered his head that scant amount and finally—finally!—captured her lips with his. It wasn't soft or romantic, like Bella had always dreamed her first kiss with him would be. There was a desperate edge from both of them, as if they stopped, the other would disappear. Bella felt his hands grasp her hair and tug, tilting her head to the side so he could ravish her mouth. As his tongue slid between her lips to tangle with hers, she wound her arms around his neck, pulling his body closer until there wasn't a bit of space between them. The truck handle was digging into her back, but all Bella could feel was the press of Edward's body, the slippery slide of his tongue gliding along hers, and the heat of his thigh as he wedged it between her legs.

Slowly, Edward's kisses softened, becoming tender, caressing rather than ravishing. Bella's insides turned to mush as he began murmuring between kisses.

"I'm so sorry I lied," he said, brushing his lips across hers. "God, Bella, it killed me that I put that look on your face." He drew her bottom lip between his, suckling it for a moment before speaking again. "I didn't know how to deal with the feelings I was having, and I reacted..." He blew out a sharp breath, pain flashing across his features. "Poorly doesn't even describe it. Can you ever forgi—"

Bella kissed him, stopping his apology. She saw in his eyes how much he truly meant what he was saying, and she knew she needed to stop him now before he went any further.

"Edward," she whispered, threading her hand in his hair and tugging so he was looking at her. "Yes, it hurt, but I understand why you said everything you said. There's nothing to forgive, okay? We're here now, and the only thing that would hurt me now is if you pushed me away."

"Never," he said, groaning as he pulled her to his chest. "I can't let you go now, Bella. You know that, right?"

Bella nodded fervently. "Kiss me again, Edward. Show me I'm yo—"

The rest of her words were swallowed in his kiss, which was once again demanding and all-consuming. Bella whimpered into his kiss when he slid one hand to her chest, cupping her breast through her shirt. His fingers plucked at her nipple until she was writhing on his thigh. Feeling like every nerve was standing on end, Bella couldn't help but touch him. Her palms slid down to his shoulders, feeling the muscles flex with every movement. As he moved his hand down yet again to cup her behind, Bella broke away from his mouth, her eyes drawn to his Adam's apple as he swallowed. Leaning in, she placed an open-mouthed kiss to that spot on his neck.

Edward shuddered, using his hand to tug her hair, pulling her head back so he could reach her throat. He suckled lightly, making Bella gasp, and she jerked her hips as he used his hand on her ass to press her down and into his thigh.

She rode the hard muscle until she was a quivering mess, but it wasn't enough. Bella begged him, "Please, Edward, take me inside."

Edward leaned down, scooping her bag from where it had fallen, and as he stood, one arm slid behind her knees. She was suddenly cradled in his arms against his chest. Without a word, he began carrying her to the house as she nuzzled his neck, feeling the five o'clock shadow rough against her lips. It made her ache even more, imagining that feeling brushing all over her body.

At the door, Edward paused and looked down at her, his eyes the darkest she'd ever seen them. "Are you sure, Bella?"

Rather than answering him verbally, Bella cupped his cheek, brushing her lips across his once before nodding. She was nervous, but she'd never wanted anything more.

~*~*~DH~*~*~

Edward looked at Bella for a moment, his eyes searching, reading the truth in her face, and then he nodded and reached back with his foot to close the door.

He dropped her bag on the table where he'd tossed the box she'd thrust at him and then strode down the hall to his bedroom. He felt like he should give her a tour, but he knew there would be time for that later. Reaching the bedroom, he set her on her feet, giving her a moment to get her bearings.

Edward knew what Bella would see as she looked around. The room was masculine, without being dark. The cream color of the walls from the entry and hallways extended into his room, and the floor under their feet was cherry, giving it a warm feel. The furniture complimented the floor and the wall and looked old, but was beautiful. He'd put up black and white Ansel Adam prints—rocks with mountains in the distance, a towering tree with limbs spread wide, a waterfall taller than he'd ever seen in person. The only pop of color in the entire room was the bed behind her, its comforter a deep blue, with sheets and pillows in a slightly lighter shade.

When Bella turned back to face him, he teased, "You wanna explore more?"

Bella blushed, shaking her head. Her hands trembling, she reached for the bottom of her T-shirt, looking nervous.

Edward stilled her hand with one of his own, using the other to tilt her head up so she was looking up at him. "Slow down, sweetheart. We have time."

Nodding her assent, Bella bit her bottom lip, fidgeting in place.

Everything suddenly fell into place for him and nearly made him gasp.

"Look at me, Bella, please." His voice was soft, but brooked no argument. When she did, he continued. "Have you ever done this?"

Bella shook her head slowly, abusing her lower lip with her teeth.

"Baby..." Edward groaned, closing his eyes for a moment, and then reached out and tugged her lip loose with her thumb. "You're gonna make yourself bleed," he murmured, leaning in to brush a kiss across the tender flesh. "I'm gonna ask you one more time, Bella. Are you sure you want this?"

Her eyes were deep pools of chocolate as she gazed up at him and nodded, and Edward felt himself falling into them, into her spell, so far he would never be able to climb out.

"Then let me."

Lowering his hands to her waist, he moved them under her shirt until they were resting on warm, soft, smooth skin. Slowly, he slid the shirt up, exposing her bit by bit to his view. Bella raised her arms for him so he could pull the shirt off over her head, giving him a chance to look at her without her watching him. Her chest was rising and falling with each heavy breath, her nipples straining to poke through the deep blue lacy bra she was wearing. He was still staring as he tossed the T-shirt aside and she lowered her arms.

Squatting to his heels, Edward reached for her sneakers. Bella balanced herself by placing her hands on his shoulders as he untied first one, and then the other, slipping them off her feet and out of the way. While he was down there, he pulled off her socks, her neon green polish on the toes making him chuckle.

Standing and keeping his eyes glued to her face, he watched her reactions as he reached down to undo the button on her jeans. Her eyes closed when he lowered the zipper, and she sucked in a breath as his fingers brushed the top of the lace of her panties. The rasping noise of the metal seemed to echo in the large room, the only sound aside from their breathing. He pushed the denim gently over her hips until it pooled at her feet. When he took her hands in his to help her step out of them, her eyes opened, and he smiled.

"Beautiful," he murmured, leaning in to kiss her once more before scooping her up and into his arms again.

Bella was light in his arms as Edward leaned over the bed and deposited her right in the middle. To his chagrin, it wasn't as smooth a landing as he'd hoped, and she bounced a few times before settling onto the mattress. Bella giggled, watching him as he stood back up straight, toeing off his socks.

Reaching back over his shoulder, Edward grasped his T-shirt and pulled it up and off over his head. When he looked back at Bella, she was biting her lip again, her eyes wide as she watched his hands move to the button of his jeans. He raised an eyebrow, making sure she was okay with him continuing, and when she nodded slightly, he popped the button and slowly slid the zipper down, avoiding his erection, which was nearly shouting at him to touch it. Bella's eyes widened even more as his cock came into her view. Edward knew he wasn't small, but he certainly wasn't one of those monster men seen in adult magazines, either. His cock was just over seven inches long, and when he was fully aroused like he was at the moment, it pointed straight up, the mushroom head slapping at the skin of his stomach and leaving a sticky spot of pre-cum.

Reaching into the bedside table drawer, he pulled out a foil-wrapped packet and set it on top. As he slid onto the bed beside Bella, she gave a shuddering breath, her eyes closing. Pulling her into his arms, he kissed each eyelid and then down her cheek to her lips, slowly teasing them with his own until she had relaxed in his embrace.

The lace of her bra scratched at his chest, making Edward's cock throb at the thought of taking it off her. He continued to kiss her, little teasing licks and nips and then sucks of her tongue into his mouth to kiss her more deeply, as he reached behind her with one hand to unhook her bra. As he pulled the strap down her shoulder, he trailed kisses along her skin and gently maneuvered her to her back. By the time she was lying flat beside him, she'd shrugged the lacy garment off so he could toss it beside the bed.

Reclining on his side and leaning on one elbow, Edward took a long moment to just look at her—her breasts were lush and high, the nipples pink and puffy. They looked like they were begging to be touched and suckled. Edward kept his eyes on Bella's as he lowered his head and pressed a kiss gently to the skin above her heart before kissing his way over the curve of her left breast, finally making his way to the crest. Instead of latching on immediately, he took his time, teasing her skin with his tongue, leaving a damp trail around the nipple and making it pucker into a hard little nub.

Bella's breathing was heavy, and as he finally drew the little nubbin into his mouth, she gasped out, "Oh!"

While he sucked and massaged with his tongue, Edward brought his free hand up and began to massage her other breast. He'd been right. She fit perfectly into the palm of his hand. He squeezed gently before moving up and plucking at her nipple with his fingers, echoing with his fingers what his mouth was doing on her other breast.

"God, Edward," Bella breathed, her hand moving up and tangling in his hair, pressing his mouth harder against her chest.

Edward nipped with his teeth once gently, just enough to make her gasp, before trailing open-mouthed kisses across to her other breast, intent on paying it the same attention he had the first. By the time he pulled away, Bella's eyes were glazed, and she was nearly panting.

Kissing her once more on her full lips, Edward kissed his way along her stomach, pausing to tongue her navel, before coming to a stop on his knees at her feet and pressing one more kiss to the top of her mound through her lacy panties. He hooked a finger in either side of the fabric and slowly drew them down her legs, tossing them off to the side with her other clothes. Then he sat back, hands on his thighs, and just stared at the beautiful creature laid out in front of him.

Her long, wavy hair was spread out on the pillow behind her. Still aroused from his kisses, her nipples were red, like ripe strawberries. Her body was still taut with youth, but unlike the unhealthy bodies of many teenage girls nowadays, Bella had beautiful curves. Her belly was gently rounded, her hips flared slightly and led to strong thighs and legs that seemed to go on for miles on such a slight young woman.

"You're gorgeous, Bella," he murmured.

Chewing her lower lip nervously, Bella gestured to her lower half. "I'm, uh...not shaved," she mumbled. "Sorry if you're used to..."

Edward shook his head, feeling his cock jump as his gaze zeroed in on the triangle of trimmed hair at the apex of her thighs. He was glad she wasn't shaved, as was the trend lately. He had feelings for Bella, yes, and she was a young woman, but she wasn't a prepubescent young girl. "You're perfect," he promised.

Picking up her left foot, he placed a kiss to the arch and then flicked a toe gently. "I like the polish."

Bella laughed softly. "Jake loves to paint them crazy colors. Be glad you missed the black."

Edward knew she meant Jacob Black, and from what he knew of the boy, the news didn't surprise him. He nodded, smirking, and set her foot down gently before sliding to his stomach. After adjusting himself so he wasn't going to break off the steel rod between his legs, he settled in to what he knew could be his favorite place from that point forward.

Kissing the inside of Bella's thigh, Edward caught the musky scent of her arousal, and it made his own arousal spike. He'd always liked going down on a woman—he liked the taste and the smell, and knowing that he was bringing pleasure to his partner was a huge turn-on. Bella tried to close her legs, making a noise that showed she was clearly uncomfortable having him there.

"Let me love you, Bella," he murmured, using his hands to gently move her legs apart farther. "Let me make you feel good, okay?"

He watched her for a moment as she seemed to think it over, and then she relaxed further—her fists unclenched, her legs relaxed near his shoulders, and she closed her eyes, breathing deeply.

"There you go, sweetheart. Just relax."

The first touch to her lower lips made them both gasp. Her flavor exploded on his tongue, like a tart green apple, and made him want more. Flattening his tongue, he swiped from the bottom to the top of her slit, running his tongue in a circle around the bud that was beginning to peek out of its hood.

"Oh, Gooooood," Bella moaned, drawing out the word as her hips bucked.

Edward used one hand splayed flat on her lower belly to hold her still while he moved the other to trace the crease of her thigh, where he knew the skin would be sensitive. Then he licked again, going a little deeper in her slit this time, inching closer to her clit. Finally, he couldn't stand it any longer, and his tongue delved between her folds, going deep into her to catch every drop of her arousal. Bella continued rocking her hips as much as he would allow, whimpering every time he got close to the top of her slit.

"Please," she begged, her fingers clawing at the blanket underneath her.

Gently, Edward circled her entrance with the tip of his finger, entering just enough to feel there was no barrier. When Bella whimpered, thrusting her hips, he slid his finger in more, feeling her heated liquid center already fluttering around him. He lowered his head and darted his tongue to her clit, circling it over and over as Bella's cries got louder, her breath coming out in pants. Sliding a second finger in with the first, he curled them, finding the spot to the front that he knew would drive her over the edge. At the same time, he sucked her clit into his mouth, scraping his teeth gently over the sensitive tissue, and that was all Bella's body could handle.

She came, clenching around his fingers, her cry of his name making him shudder. He had to lock his body down tight in order to keep himself from coming with her.

Slowly, he withdrew his fingers, kissing the inside of her thigh before moving over her. "How ya' doin', sweetheart?" he murmured, leaning down and nuzzling her cheek with his for a moment.

"Mmm," Bella hummed, smiling as she turned her head and kissed him. "Fantastic."

Edward reached over and grabbed the condom, quickly unwrapping it and sliding it onto his erection. Thrusting his hips once, his cock slid through her wetness, the head tapping her clit and making her whimper. "Are you ready for me, Bella?"

She nodded quickly, sliding her hands up his chest and around to his back and pulling him down until he was flush against her.

Reaching between them with one hand, Edward guided the head of his cock to her entrance and slowly began to press in.

"Oh, fuck," she gasped as he filled her.

Edward watched for any pain, but all he saw was a slight grimace as he buried himself to the hilt inside her. "Doing okay?"

She nodded, her eyes closing as he began shallow thrusts, letting her get used to his size.

After several minutes, Edward could tell she was still uncomfortable. "Relax, baby. It'll feel better if you aren't tensed up."

When her eyes opened and she smiled, Edward knew the discomfort had passed. "That's it, Bella. Good girl."

Bella moved her legs up until her feet were digging into his ass, humming in pleasure as Edward pulled out until only the head of his cock was left inside her and then thrust in harder. He continued the long, slow thrusts, feeling his balls thump against her skin. With every thrust, her breasts moved, and he couldn't help but bend his head to capture a nipple between his lips. Dragging his teeth across it, he stretched it gently before releasing it, making her whimper and beg him to do it again. Pleased, Edward repeated the action on the other breast, teasing it with his tongue before biting gently.

"Fuck! Do that again," Bella breathed, her eyes fluttering closed once more as Edward swiveled his hips again in order to hit her g-spot.

With Bella writhing underneath him, her taste still on his tongue, Edward knew he wouldn't last much longer. Moving his hand between them once more, he rolled her clit between two fingers, pinching lightly.

Bella shattered around him, her pussy squeezing him so hard that it pulled his own orgasm from him. He cursed loudly and thrust his hips once more, tingles racing from his cock to his toes, the top of his head, and back down, until he could feel his release almost explode out of him.

Resting his head in the crook of Bella's neck, Edward took shuddering breaths until he could finally breathe normally again. Bella ran her hands up and down his back, her nails scratching lightly, as she got her own breath got under control.

Leaning up, Edward kissed her gently and then held the condom as he withdrew, quickly moving to the bathroom to dispose of it.

As he slid back onto the bed, he pulled the comforter out from underneath them and then covered them both. Bella turned onto her side, curling up against him and pressing a kiss to his chest. Edward held her, beyond thrilled at what had just occurred and scared half out of his mind. What he'd done wasn't illegal according to Washington State law, but he knew the school and Bella's father wouldn't see it that way.

"You're thinking awfully hard for someone who just blew my mind...twice," Bella murmured, squeezing him.

Edward smiled softly, brushing a kiss across the top of her head. "I just don't want you to regret this," he admitted. "I feel like I took advant—"

"Edward, stop," Bella interrupted, leaning up on one elbow so they were face to face. "I don't regret a minute of it. I wanted it to happen. You didn't force yourself on me."

"No, I know, but Bella, you're eighteen, and I'm twenty-eight. Ten years is a big difference to someone your age, even someone as mature as you. Maybe not when you're twenty-eight and I'm thirty-eight, but now..." Edward knew he was rambling, but it seemed he was unable to stop himself. "Besides that, I'm your teacher. I want you to know that if you ever do regret it, or you want to stop being with me, it won't affect your grade or how I treat you in—"

Bella laughed softly, stopping him with a finger to his lips. "I'm so not worried about that, Edward. I know you aren't that kind of man. As far as I'm concerned, the moment you kissed me, Mr. Masen and Edward became two different people. Will it be hard, sitting in class and knowing I can't act any different around? Of course. If I thought I wanted to kiss you before, when you stood up there, looking all—" Edward chuckled as she waved her hand around him "—well, hot and fuckable, imagine how hard it's gonna be for me now!" She leaned in and kissed him sweetly for a moment. "I know we'll have to sneak around, and I know we can't tell anyone, but I'm okay with that."

Quiet for a minute, Edward finally nodded. "Bella..." He stopped, taking a breath to work up his courage. "This...us...it's more than a fling for me. More than just some crush. If this is a school-girl crush, I need to know. It's... It's okay if it is, but—"

Bella stopped him, her finger tapping his lips gently. When he was quiet, she smiled softly and murmured, "This was never about a school-girl crush, Edward. I wouldn't risk your job and your reputation if that's all it was. I'm not that type of girl, and I think you know that. You're a smart guy, someone I enjoy speaking with, whether it be about a book we're reading or what's going on in the world. I value your opinions, and everything I learn about you makes me want to know more. I didn't risk my heart coming over here today for something I want to end tomorrow, next week, or even six months from now. Okay?"

Feeling his heart skip a beat at the thought that she might feel for him what he felt for her, Edward nodded. "Good. Then Mr. Masen at school, and in private, Edward. We can do that."

Bella's face lit up, and she squeezed him tight. "Good. Then Edward, kiss me again."

Edward smiled at her giddy expression, knowing it matched his own, and then leaned in, murmuring, "With pleasure, baby," before doing exactly that.

~*~*~DH~*~*~

Eight months, two weeks, and three days after her life changed forever, Bella walked across the stage to receive her diploma. She caught Edward's eye for a moment as she left the stage and smiled before turning and finding Charlie, who was sitting with her mother and stepfather. They'd flown into Seattle and driven down to Forks two days before for her graduation. Unfortunately, that meant her time with Edward had been limited, since her mother had wanted to spend a lot of quality time with her.

Bella took her seat and watched the last of her classmates, including her friends Angela and Eric, cross the stage. She couldn't help but laugh when Angela's boyfriend Ben, who'd been in one of the first groups to receive their diplomas, shouted out her name, cheering and hollering for Angela. Bella thanked her lucky stars that no one had done that to her. She'd have probably tripped and fallen in front of everyone.

When Mr. Greene announced the class of 2006, Bella stood with the rest of her class and cheered, throwing her cap into the air and laughing as she tried to avoid the sea of them raining down on her head. Once she'd found hers—thanks to Tyler Crowley, who brought it over after it nearly took off his ear on the way down from the sky—Bella headed back to find her family. She wanted to find Edward, too, but she knew their celebration would have to be done privately later. Even though she wasn't a student anymore, they knew they still couldn't announce their relationship to the world. For the moment, only Jacob and Angela knew, and Bella was content with that until it was okay to spill it to everyone.

On the way back to her parents, Bella spotted Edward standing with Mrs. Cope, Mr. Banner, and Mr. Varner. Mrs. Cope was one of Bella's favorite people at Forks High. The front office lady had always been a friendly face and always had a smile and cheerful word for the students. Veering their way, Bella smiled as they welcomed her, giving her a round of congratulations. She gave Mrs. Cope a hug and then shook hands with the other two before turning to Edward. Holding out her hand, she smiled when he shook her hand, squeezing it gently and telling her congratulations.

"Thank you," she told them. "I just wanted to say hi. I've got to meet my parents for dinner."

"All right, dear. Have a good evening. Good luck at UW next year!" Mrs. Cope told her.

Bella had been accepted to the University of Washington a few months before, happy that she would be close enough to see Edward as often as their schedules allowed. She thanked Mrs. Cope for the well wishes and then waved before turning and making her way to her family.

~*~DH~*~

Dinner was a loud affair, and even though Bella had fun, she was anxious to be free to go see Edward. Finally begging off after two hours of dinner and family time, Bella told them she was going to a graduation party to see her friends and that she'd be home in the morning. They hugged her good night, and then Bella grabbed her wallet, phone, and keys and headed out to her new car—a 2006 Toyota Camry. It wasn't fancy, but her parents had gone together to buy it for her, and she loved it.

Once on the road, she called Edward.

"Bella," he answered, his voice husky.

His voice did all sorts of funny things to Bella's insides, even when it was just her name. "Just letting you know I'm on my way," she said, drumming her fingers on the steering wheel while she waited at a stoplight.

"Good. Be safe, sweetheart. See you when you get here."

"Always," Bella said, smiling as she clicked off the Bluetooth that allowed her to talk hands-free.

The six minutes it took to get to Edward's house seemed an eternity for Bella, and by the time she turned onto the long driveway, her entire body was humming. It had been two weeks since they'd had any quality time together, and tonight, they had the whole night. It wasn't the first time she'd spent the night—Angela had covered for her a handful of times over the last eight months—but it still thrilled her when she got to fall asleep and then wake up in his arms.

When she pulled up to the house, she grabbed the clicker she'd hidden in her console and pushed the button to open the second garage door, allowing her to park beside Edward's car. Before she could even get out of the car, Edward was there, opening her door with a huge smile on his face.

"Now I can congratulate you properly," he teased.

Bella squeaked as he swooped her into his embrace, pinning her to the car much like he had the first time he'd kissed her. Their kiss seemed to last hours, hands moving over faces, fingers threading into hair and down necks.

Bella finally pulled away, laughing. "Let's go inside, Edward."

She turned and led the way through the garage to the door of the house, letting him open it for her. Once inside, she set her things down on the table, noticing the bottle of champagne sitting in an ice bucket with two glasses beside it.

"What's this?" she asked, smiling as Edward shrugged.

"You said you've never tried champagne. I figured your graduation was a good enough reason to try it," he said, picking up the bottle and raising an eyebrow.

Bella nodded, kicking off her shoes and pulling her hair out of the twist she'd put it in for graduation. Once Edward had poured her glass, she took it, waiting for him to pour his own.

Raising his glass, he said, "To the young woman who stole my heart. Congratulations, baby. I love you."

Smiling, Bella leaned in and gave him a kiss, murmuring, "Love you, too," against his lips.

They each took a drink of the champagne, Edward's expression curious as he watched her.

"It's...interesting," Bella said with a grimace. "I liked the wine last month better, but so far, alcohol just doesn't do it for me."

Edward laughed and swallowed the rest of his glass before reaching for hers. "I'm not a huge fan of this, either. Well, it was worth a shot." With a wink, he downed her glass and then set them on the table. "Come on. I have a graduation present for you."

Bella followed him down the hall to his bedroom, and when she walked in, she smiled. The room was dark, save all the flickering candles, and there was some classical piano music playing softly on the stereo.

"It's beautiful," she murmured, turning to give him a kiss.

He chuckled. "Glad you like it. You seemed to the last time, and I was feeling romantic. But that's not your gift," he added, smirking.

Bella tilted her head in question, turning back to survey the room again. That's when she saw the manila envelope in the middle of the bed, which had been turned back, ready for them. She started to grab it, but Edward stopped her with an arm around her waist and a shake of his head.

"First one naked gets to open it..."

Bella laughed, racing to pull off her clothes. Edward had her beat by a mile, since all he'd been wearing was a pair of jeans. She watched as he pulled them off, waggling her eyebrows as she realized he hadn't even worn underwear. She laughed again as he jumped onto the bed, holding up the envelope teasingly.

"So not fair," she groused playfully, tossing her dress over the back of the chair in the corner and then unhooking her bra and letting it fall from her arms. She realized she was getting her revenge when Edward's attention focused on her now-free breasts. Keeping his focus, she turned and slowly slid her panties down over her hips, bending at the waist to drag them to her feet before straightening up and stepping out of them. By the time she turned around, Edward looked like he was about to crawl off the bed to get her.

"Come here, you," he growled, crooking his finger.

Grinning, Bella slid onto the bed beside him, holding her hand out for the envelope.

Edward handed it to her and then reached across and turned the bedside lamp on low so she could see whatever was inside.

As she pulled out two sheets of paper, Bella began to read, her heart pounding.

To whom it may concern:

I regret to inform you that I am resigning from my position at Forks High School and will not be returning next fall.

Thank you for the support and the opportunities that you have provided me during my time with the school.

Sincerely,

Edward Masen

"What?" Bella questioned, looking over at Edward. He was resigning? Why?

Edward smiled gently at her, motioning to the papers in her hand. "Keep reading..."

Biting her lower lip, Bella pulled the second paper to the front and gasped.

Dear Edward:

Congratulations! On behalf of the Admissions Committee, I am pleased to inform you that your application for admission to the University of Washington's English Language and Literature (PhD) program for the term beginning in the fall of 2006 has been accepted.

"What?" Bella was having trouble comprehending what the papers meant. Surely Edward wasn't... "Are you going to Seattle with me?"

Grinning, Edward nodded. "I told you I'd been thinking about going back to school and getting my doctorate?" At Bella's nod, he continued. "Once you got your UW acceptance, that sealed the deal for me. I was prepared to find a school somewhere close to wherever you got in anyway, and since UW was my undergrad school, I—"

Bella didn't even let him finish what he was saying. Tossing the letters to the floor, she tackled a laughing Edward, smothering his face with kisses.

"I guess that means you're excited?"

Instead of answering him aloud, Bella poured all her enthusiasm into her kiss, giggling when she felt his cock pulse between them.

"Someone else is excited, too," she purred, rocking her hips so she slid over him, coating him with her arousal.

Edward nodded, grinning. "Always, baby."

Bella positioned him at her entrance and slowly slid down on his erection. Both of them sighed as he filled her. They'd stopped using condoms a few months before, after Bella had been on the pill for months without any issues. She was a fanatic about taking it at the same time every day, so they felt as safe as could be about going without any wrapping on Edward when they made love.

Sitting up straight, Bella began to ride him. This was Edward's favorite position, she knew, because he loved to watch her breasts as she moved above him. Leaning back with her hands on his thighs, she gave him the ultimate view: body stretched out for his pleasure so he could see her breasts bounce and watch the place where he disappeared inside her body, something he'd told her he found "fucking hot."

As Bella's arousal increased, she ran her fingers down to the place they were joined and circled her clit. She watched Edward's eyes focus on that spot, and she felt him twitch inside her. It wasn't long before she felt her muscles tense, and the coil snapped, flinging her over the edge.

When her movements faltered, Edward took over, his cock sliding out of her as he turned them so Bella was on her knees and forearms and he was kneeling behind her. Her body clenched in anticipation. Out of all the positions they'd tried, this was her favorite. Edward always seemed to be a bit more animalistic this way, and with her upper body resting on the bed, she could reach down and play with her clit as he fucked her from behind.

Edward thrust in hard, making her gasp and push against the headboard to hold herself in place.

As always when they were like this, he fucked her hard, their thighs slapping against each other with every thrust. His hands had a vise-grip on her hips, and she knew she would have bruises there come morning—and not for the first time. She always wore them as a badge of pride, loving that she could make him need her that much.

"God, baby, touch yourself. Come with me, Bella," he groaned, his thrusts becoming uneven.

Breathlessly, Bella reached between her legs and began rolling her clit between her fingers, grazing his cock as he continued to fuck her. Within minutes, she was right back on the edge, and when he growled out, "Now, Bella. Come now," she pinched her clit, crying out as her orgasm flew through her.

Edward made a noise that was a cross between a cry and groan and thrust one last time, and then she felt him pulse inside her as he came.

When he could finally move, Edward collapsed beside her, breathing heavily. "Fuck. I think you're trying to kill me."

Bella laughed, still trying to catch her breath, and turned over on her side to face him. "Come on, old man. Let's go soak in the tub."

Edward raised an eyebrow and smirked. "Old man, hmm?" At her nod, he grinned. "I'll show you old man..."

It was a long time before they made it to the bathtub, but Bella couldn't have been happier about that.

~*~*~DH~*~*~

Edward sat in the front seat of his car in the parking lot outside the building where Bella's psychology class was held. Twirling the new key ring on his finger, he thought back over the last eleven months.

Bella had been excited at the thought of moving into an apartment together, but Edward had vetoed that idea, much to her unhappiness. He'd wanted her to have at least one year's experience at living in the dorm like a real college freshman. Their relationship was unorthodox enough. He wanted her to have at least that little bit of freedom so that later, if she made the choice to stay with him, she wasn't doing it without at least having had the option to make a different, informed choice. He'd promised her that as soon as she finished her first year, if she still wanted to move in with him, he would move her things in himself.

That wasn't to say they hadn't spent most of their time together. They had. Their schedules hadn't been perfectly complementary, so sometimes they went a couple of days without seeing each other for longer than a cup of coffee between classes. Bella was taking a full load as well as working a few hours a week in the campus bookstore to help her parents with the cost of school. Edward had offered to help her out so she wouldn't have to work, but she'd refused, saying she needed to stand on her own two feet—as much as she could, what with having her parents pay for the majority of her expenses. The bookstore gave her spending money, which she used when she wouldn't allow Edward to pay for things like dinner and coffee.

They were openly a couple on campus and around Seattle. Both Angela Weber and Ben Cheney were attending UW as well, and they were still close with Bella. The four of them had doubled many times throughout the year, and much to Edward's relief, they didn't treat him any differently than they would have anyone else, even though he'd once been their teacher and was ten years their senior.

Bella had laid down the law and told him that this summer, when they went back to Forks to see their families, they were returning as a couple. They wouldn't admit to having been together before Seattle, but they could say they met up once they were both at school and had begun seeing each other. Edward was worried about her father's reaction most of all. His parents and siblings would be worried for him, but he knew they would love Bella. But Charlie Swan... Edward just hoped the man didn't shoot him the moment Bella re-introduced him as her boyfriend.

Remembering the last two years, he knew it would be worth it.

Glancing at his watch, Edward realized Bella's last final exam would be ending any minute, so he got out of the car and went around to the front to lean on the hood to wait for her. He'd been outside for less than five minutes when he saw her come walking out of the building, backpack slung over one shoulder and ponytail bouncing with each step. She was talking with a tall, slender girl, hands gesturing wildly as she talked. She looked relaxed, not tense, so he assumed her exam had gone well.

When they stopped at the intersection of another sidewalk leading to another building, Bella and the girl hugged, and then the other girl turned and walked away. Bella turned back to the parking lot, and her face lit up when she caught sight of him.

Standing up, Edward began walking to meet her, and when she got close, she jumped into his arms.

"I killed it—I swear I did," she crowed, laughing as he swung her around.

"I never doubted you," Edward said as he set her on her feet, dipping his head to kiss her. "Congratulations on finishing your first year of college, baby."

"Thank you," she said happily, holding out her hand.

Pretending to not know what she was asking for, he smirked and raised an eyebrow, watching her smile turn to a mock-glare.

"Keys, please."

Edward grinned and held up the key ring. "What...these?"

Bella reached for them, but he held them up and out of her reach.

"Edward!" she growled playfully. "Come on, babe. I want to go home."

Home...

He immediately lowered his arm and handed her the key before pulling her in for another long, heated kiss. When they broke apart to breathe, he rested his forehead on hers, feeling like the luckiest bastard on the planet.

"Okay, sweetheart," he murmured, brushing her lips softly with his. "Let's go home."