Title: Truth or Dare

Pen Name: AngelGoddess1981

Rating: NC-17

Genre: Suspense/Horror

Pairing: Bella & Edward

Summary: A series of disturbing phone calls leads to a seemingly innocent game, calling into question everything Bella thought she wanted . . . and the things she gave up to get them. Be careful what truths you spill, because the consequences could be fatal. Make your choice . . . or pay the price. Are you ready to play?

Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. Any similarities to the original characters or themes from the books or media franchise are used here for entertainment purposes only, with no monetary gain for me, the FanFiction author. All original content, ideas, and intellectual property of Truth or Dare are mine.

AN: So, this was a one-shot I wrote for the "Countdown to Halloween", hosted by Breath of Twilight. It was a lot of fun, and we got to pick a movie prompt to work off of. I chose Scream. I changed it a bit to make it "mine," obviously ;)

As twisted as it sounds, I had a lot of fun writing this story. It may not be for everyone, though, as it is based on a horror movie, and will contain murder ;)


Part One | Old Friends | BPOV


Orange and yellow leaves scatter across the pavement of the fast-filling school parking lot as I step out of the passenger seat of my boyfriend's Camaro. It's almost the weekend and everyone is already buzzing about the party that's going on at my place tomorrow night. It's Halloween, and my parents have gone to Mexico for two weeks—what better time to let loose and have a few friends over, right? While I never outright asked to have a party, they pretty much expect that it'll happen, but they trust me enough to be "responsible."

"No drinking," my dad tells me as he ushers Mom for the front door.

"Of course, Daddy," I'm sure to innocently reply, kissing him on the cheek for good measure.

Now, clearly, there will be alcohol, but I know well enough not to drink if I'm going to make sure this party stays under control and the cops don't get called. The last party I went to—at Jessica Stanley's house—was a disaster. It started off great; everyone drinking, dancing, generally just having a good time, but then she got a little too hammered, which led to everyone else getting a little too hammered . . . Well, the cops showed up, and chaos ensued. Her parents were not happy.

My feet have barely touched the pavement before Jake has taken me by the hand and is leading me toward the school. We've been going out since the beginning of our junior year, and things are mostly good. I mean, there've been a couple of times I've caught him leering at another girl, or sometimes he turns into a jealous freak because I'm seen talking to some other guy about something entirely school-related.

We fight. We break up. We kiss. We make up. Lather, rinse, repeat; this is the story of us.

Right now, we're in the make up phase after I caught him hanging off of Leah Clearwater the other day following practice. He assures me that he was the one being hung off of, but I saw the way he was looking at her.

I get that as the star quarterback, the girls fawn all over him, but what the hell? Does it not matter that he has a girlfriend? Of course, the same could be asked of him. I mean, I'm attractive, I'm popular—but not a bitch, I'm head cheerleader . . . I know I should stop taking him back, but I'm weak. He flashes me that panty-wetting smile of his, and I turn into jelly . . . plus, he's got that whole "bad boy" angle working for him, and my father hates him. The way I see it, it's programmed into my teenage DNA to be attracted to him for as long as humanly possible.

Our friends see us coming, so they stand from their seat in the courtyard and join us, falling into step as they laugh and talk about the party this weekend. Jake releases my hand to high-five Embry when he tells him that he nailed Lauren Mallory—not that this is a huge accomplishment; half of the males who attend Forks High have fucked her—teachers included. She's not exactly one to play hard to get with the guys.

I fall a step behind and start talking to Emily and Claire as we make our way into the school, when all of a sudden I hear Jake shout, "Hey, loser! Watch where you're walking!"

I look up just in time to see him ram straight into Edward Cullen, and my hand flies to my mouth as my stomach clenches. Naturally, everyone laughs as Edward's things fall to the ground, his papers scattering through the hall. With a irritated sigh, Edward runs his hand through his messy copper hair and pushes his black glasses up his nose as he falls to his knees to clean everything up. Jake steps over him, still laughing, and his cronies all follow him.

Don't get me wrong, I don't approve of what he's done, and he's not always this much of a bully; he only acts like this in front of his friends to assert his alpha-status in the school. In an effort to make up for the way my boyfriend acted, I kneel in front of Edward and help him pick his things up.

I reach out for one of his pencils at the same time as him, and our fingers touch. I pull my arm back suddenly, our eyes snapping up to each other's, and I smile weakly.

"I don't need your help," he seethes, his eyebrows pulling together angrily as he roughly pushes his hair back again.

"Edward," I try to reason, but he cuts me off with a loud sigh of aggravation and rolls his eyes. It doesn't take a mind reader to see that he hates me—he has ever since the beginning of junior year, actually.

You see, Edward and I used to be friends—best friends. Our parents had grown up together, so when they had us only months apart, it was inevitable that we'd be friends. We went to the same schools, had sleepovers, told each other scary stories, played silly childhood games, and confided in each other about who our crushes were . . . or, I did; Edward never really showed any interest in any of the other girls.

When our freshman year of high school started, Jake moved to town. Edward picked up on the crush I harboured for him immediately, but I figured that's all it was at the time: a crush. There was absolutely no way that Jake—who had no trouble finding his place in the popular crowd due to his general size and football prowess—would ever find me, geeky and scrawny Bella Swan, attractive . . . actually, my name was pretty oxymoronic given how I looked back then. I was more an "ugly duckling" than a "beautiful swan."

As I suspected, both my freshman and sophomore years went by, and I wasn't even a blip on Jake's radar—not that it really bothered me then; I was content to hang out with my best friend. Our parents were always joking about how we should just start dating each other, but that was a preposterous idea. He was my best friend. Why would we risk that with a silly high-school relationship that was doomed before it began like all the others?

Then something happened; over the summer before junior year, I started to fill out a little more, putting on just enough weight that my body was now curvy instead of too scrawny and boy-like. Sure, I "bloomed" a bit late, I suppose, but better late than never, as the adage goes. I can only attribute the sudden change to the fact that I had always been more on the active side, which probably stunted my development. It's really the only thing I can think of.

Whatever the reason, it was a nice change, and naturally, all the boys took notice on that first day of school.

Even Jake.

It was like all of my dreams came true; finally . . . the most popular boy in school had asked me out!

Edward hated the idea—kept telling me that Jake was an ass—but all I could focus on was that I had a date with Jacob Black and all the other girls were jealous. Dating Jake opened so many doors for me; not only did my popularity skyrocket, but I found an interest in cheerleading, too.

The down side? Edward and I started fighting. In the sixteen years we'd been friends, we'd never had a fight over anything more than what to watch on TV or what movie to go see. Now? It's all we ever seemed to do. For the first little while, it was as though a part of my soul was missing; he was my best friend, and I couldn't believe what was happening to us. I tried to reconcile, but he didn't want anything to do with me for as long as I was with Jake. I figured it was just a phase—that he'd get over it and we might go back to the way things were—but it wasn't, and eventually we just . . . ceased to exist in each other's worlds.

"I'm sorry," I say softly, my voice cracking with remorse—for our past, for Jake's behaviour.

Edward laughs dryly, shoving his crumpled papers into his backpack and standing up. "Whatever."

Holding his textbook, a few papers, and a couple pencils, I stand up. It surprises me to see he's so much taller than I remember . . . and his shoulders seem a little broader as well; he was always small compared to all the other boys, and now he could very well rival some of the football team.

I hand him his belongings, offering him what I hope is a warm smile. "He's a jerk," I confess with a laugh, but Edward doesn't appear amused.

"Then why are you still with him?" he demands angrily, but before I can respond, he shakes his head and starts to walk away. "You know what? Never mind . . . I know why you're with him."

"Edward, wait." Although I know he has no reason to after everything we've been through, he stops and turns around. Relieved, I smile and take a step forward. "Are you coming to the party tomorrow?"

Edward laughs, completely void of emotion. "Didn't know I was invited."

I shrug. "This is me inviting you."

Silence falls between us, and Edward runs his hands through his hair again. The anger seems to fade from his eyes, and for a brief moment, I catch a glimmer of my best friend. "It's not really my scene."

"BELLA!" Jake barks from the far end of the hall, making me jump, and I peer around Edward to see that he's not happy in the least. Great.

Ignoring him for a second, I look back up into the familiar warmth of Edward's emerald green eyes; his eyebrows are furrowed, and he seems tense now, so I lay my hand on his arm. "Just think about it, okay?" I give his arm a light squeeze as his gaze fixes on my hand, and he exhales a soft laugh before I say goodbye.

I leave Edward, looking back once more to see him staring after me somewhat bewildered, but I am torn from that brief moment we shared by a strong hand around my upper arm.

"OW!" I say, yanking my arm from Jake's iron grip. "What?"

"What the hell was that?" he asks, jealousy lacing every word.

I adjust my bag on my shoulder and look Jake straight in the eye. "I was helping him after you so nicely tossed his shit on the ground. So what?"

"Looked like you did a little more than help."

"Oh, pull your head out of your ass," I tell him, rolling my eyes for good measure as I move to walk around him.

"We're not done here." His voice is low and threatening, but I'm not afraid of him; he always gets this way when he's jealous. "You want to be with him? Fine, go on. Go back to the pathetic life you had before me."

His words are like a slap across the face, but I try not to let him see the effect they have on me; he's never been this mean before, and I don't understand what's going on with him. Before I can come up with a quick retort, he walks away. "Your choice, baby," he calls out behind him.

I'm left standing in the middle of the hall as Jake and our friends walk away. Claire and Emily give me weak shrugs as they follow behind like the sheep they are. Inhaling deeply, I try to piece together the shreds of my dignity before heading off to class. Once I think I've got it under control, I turn around and find Edward is still at the far end of the hall . . . watching me.

I smile, and for the first time since junior year, he smiles back, but it seems a little more genuine than past pleasantries. When the final bell rings, I wave once before scooting off to class. I still don't know if he's going to come to the party, but a small part of me hopes so, because until today, I never really noticed just how much I missed him.


Part Two | Unknown Caller | BPOV


I refuse to talk to Jake all day after how he spoke to me earlier. He tries at lunch, but I ignore him and sit with Claire and Emily on the other side of the table. They aren't sure whose side to take, but the minute I start talking about the new cheer routine I want to try out, they won't shut up.

The day goes on like any other: I go to class, I go to cheerleading practice, and I go home—by foot, because there's no way I'm getting into Jake's stupid car now. With my parents gone for the next two weeks, I decide to order a pizza. Once I place the order for my favourite—because I don't have to worry about Mom or Dad complaining about the toppings they don't like—I decide to hop in the shower.

The warmth of the water streaming over my body is a welcome change to the chilly fall air outside, and I stay in longer than usual. The room is filled with fog as I step out of the shower, and I have to wipe the mirror clean so I can comb my hair. I leave my hair down to dry and then change into a tank top and a pair of shorts before heading downstairs.

With my pizza set to arrive sometime in the next twenty minutes, I pull out my homework and sit at the kitchen island. Sure, most kids would go to the comfiest spot in the house—their room, the living room—but I know if I do either of those things, I'll turn the TV on for background noise and easily get distracted by it. So, the kitchen it is.

I open my history text and begin to read, occasionally jotting down notes in my binder, when the shrill ring of the house phone startles me. My heart is racing, and I have to laugh at myself for letting it frighten me like that. When the slight tremble in my hand subsides, I pick up the handset and look at the caller ID screen. "Unknown Number" flashes on the screen, and I shrug, setting the phone down and ignoring the last few rings; the last thing I want to do tonight is talk to some telemarketer about whether or not I'm happy with my long distance service.

I return to my studies, but it seems that I'm not capable of avoiding distractions regardless of where I am in the house. My thoughts stray from my history text, and soon I'm thinking back to this morning's run-in with Edward. I should call him . . .

Without another thought, I reach for the phone beside me and pick it up. I quickly dial his number and hold the phone to my ear, but instead of being met with a ring, I'm listening to silence. I pull the phone away and look at the screen to make sure I turned it on, and see that it's lit up. When I bring it back to my ear again, I think I can hear the faint sound of someone breathing.

"Hello?"

Silence.

"Helloooo?" I sing into the phone. When I hear nothing more than heavy breathing for a reply, I huff. "Okay, mouth breather, I'm hanging up now."

"You don't want to do that," an unfamiliar voice says.

"Oh, don't I?" I go through a list of names in my head, trying to figure out who this is, but I can't. Finally, I just flat-out ask, "Who is this?"

The caller laughs in response. "Come on, you don't know?"

"If I did, would I have asked?" I quip.

"True," he replies. "But, isn't the mystery kind of fun?"

"No. Not really. So why don't you tell me who you are before I hang up."

"Aw, Bella, don't hang up," he coos into the phone, his voice deep and somewhat hypnotic. "We haven't even begun to have fun."

When I register that this person used my name, I pause. "So, you know who I am, but I'm not allowed to know who you are?" I ask, trying to sound more playful than annoyed in hopes that he'll cooperate.

"In time," he promises. "All in due time."

It suddenly occurs to me that this could very well be Jake's way of trying to get me to talk to him after today; he's always screwing around like this, so it wouldn't surprise me. "Look, it's getting late, and I'm hungry. I really don't have time for your games tonight," I tell him. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Now, how can you do that if you don't even know who I am?"

Even though his voice is different, I have a pretty good feeling that it's Jake. I've heard you can get apps on your phone that can change your voice—it's creepy, but Jake's into pranks, so this sort of thing is right up his alley.

Before I can call him on it, though, he speaks up again. "Well, how about we play a little game to see if you're right?"

"A game?" I repeat, finding the idea a little juvenile, but willing to play along if it means he's ready to stop acting like a douche. "What kind of game?"

There's a brief moment of silence, but eventually he proposes his game, and I'm instantly taken back to my childhood. "Truth or dare."

The last time I played truth or dare was with Edward when we were thirteen. It wasn't often we chose "truth," so we were always getting ourselves into precarious situations with the dares. One time, I dared him to run down the block naked. He tried to bargain with me to do something else, but I wasn't hearing it—not after he dared me to phone Tyler Crowley and tell him I had a crush on him . . . when I didn't. Thankfully, Tyler never really knew who the call came from, so it saved me a lot of embarrassment come Monday morning at school.

"Okay," I say, feeling a bit cocky. "Truth or dare?"

On the other end of the line, he laughs. "Truth."

I smile, because this just got too easy. "Who are you?"

"Ah, ah, ah," he playfully chastises. "Too easy—especially since you claim to already know."

"All right, then . . ." I bring my thumb to my mouth and begin to nervously nibble on the nail.

The caller tsks. "Bella, don't bite your nails."

I freeze, the fine hairs all over my body prickling with alarm as I slowly turn my head to the large patio window. Beyond the deck is our small backyard, and then it's nothing but trees. It's hard to make out each tree or who might be lurking in them as the sky darkens, and I instantly move away from them—hopefully out of sight of prying eyes.

"Where are you?" I ask, my voice trembling slightly.

"Outside," is his only reply. "Truth or dare?"

Shaking my head, I drop to the floor, my back against the end of the island, and hug my knees to my chest. "I don't want to play anymore, Jake. You're freaking me out."

"Truth or dare?" he repeats.

I decide that letting Jake dare me to do anything is probably not a good idea, so I choose truth.

He doesn't take as long as I did to come up with his question, which I find kind of surprising. "Tell me your biggest regret."

"Not hanging up earlier," I reply, slowly peering around the end of the island and out the patio window.

My answer causes Jake to laugh heartily through the phone, and I smile, feeling a little more at ease. Just as I am about to ask him his next choice, he interrupts me. "Funny. But I meant ever. Not in the last five minutes."

"Ever?" I repeat, a wave of remorse and regret washing over me like a tidal wave. "Forgetting myself." My voice is so soft, I'm not sure he even hears me.

"How so?"

This isn't really the conversation I want to have with Jake because it's only going to set him off on another jealous streak, so I shake it off as best I can. "Forget it . . . and besides, you already got your question. Truth or dare?"

"Truth."

I smile. "You're such a chicken," I tease, thinking again about something to ask him. The most obvious question comes to mind, and while I doubt he'll honour the rules of the game and be completely honest, I have to at least try. "What was really going on between you and Leah last week?" There's no hiding the hurt from my voice, and my eyes burn with tears that threaten to fall.

I hear nothing on the other end of the phone for a minute or two, and I can only assume he's trying to come up with some elaborate lie. Again. "Jake?"

Instead of hearing his voice, I hear a light click, and then the line goes dead. As I pull the phone from my ear and hang it up, I stare at it; I can't believe he hung up on me. If that's not the ultimate admission of his guilt, then what is?

Before I can think too much about the meaning behind his behaviour, the doorbell rings. With a sigh, I push myself up off the floor and grab some of the cash that Mom and Dad left for groceries, and head for the door to pay for my pizza.

While I know I should call him back, I can't really stomach the thought of talking to him right now. In fact, I'm finally starting to see that maybe he's not worth any more of my time, and that it might be time I ended things. For good this time.


Part Three | Rumours | BPOV


After tossing and turning all night long, I pull my tired ass out of bed and hop in the shower, making the water a little more on the chilly side in hopes it will help wake me up. It fails, so caffeine is my next attempt.

Low on time, I throw a couple Pop Tarts in the toaster, pour my coffee, and throw my books into my bag before grabbing everything and heading outside to my mom's car. When I arrive at school, the usual energy and chatter seems somewhat lacking. As I make my way into the school, I hear bits and pieces about some recent tragedy, but no solid details. People all around me are hugging and crying, and when I reach Claire and Emily, their eyes are red-rimmed and glistening with fresh tears.

"Oh, Bella, isn't it awful?" Emily cries, wrapping her tiny arms around me.

I look around for some kind of clue as to what exactly is going on. Behind Emily, I see Jake leaning against his locker, and even he looks upset. Confused, I pull away from Emily. "What's going on?"

Sniffling, she wipes her cheeks. "Y-you didn't hear?" I shake my head. "Leah Clearwater was found dead last night."

I gasp, covering my mouth with both hands and letting my bag fall to the floor. "What? How?"

Emily shrugs. "Nobody knows for sure. I heard her mom and brother came home from visiting her dad in the hospital last night and found her dead in the upstairs hall. Stabbed or something."

"Oh, god," I whisper. "How awful. Do they know . . ." I swallow thickly after choking on my words. "Do they know who did it?"

Emily shakes her head. "Nope. No one has a clue."

The news of Leah's death is hard to believe. While I may not have liked her, nobody deserves that. Glancing back over to Jake, I notice that he's looking at me intensely. "Jake, I'm sorry. I know you and Leah were . . ." I pause, trying to find some way to, I don't know, console him. "Close." How close? I'm still not very sure, to be honest, but it's all I've got.

"Whatever," Jake says, pushing off the wall and walking away. He doesn't seem overly upset, and he definitely doesn't want to talk to me; I can only imagine he's still upset because I asked about him and Leah last night.

When the bell rings, the hallways empty. It's not the usual rushed behaviour, but more of a sombre pace that the students have set in light of what happened last night. The teachers are just as upset about the news, which is understandable, and the beginning of each class is met with a moment of silence before we begin the day's lessons.

Throughout the day, the rumour mill has picked up speed, and people are saying several things in regards to how Leah died. Emily's initial suspicion seems to be the most popular one, but I've even heard that she was strangled, and others say that she was hung, while some are saying she was thrown from a third-storey window. Regardless of what really happened, it doesn't make the news any easier to take.

Jake is absent from lunch, and even the rest of our friends are pretty quiet as they all push their food around their plates. At one point, I suggest calling off the party, but everyone seems in agreeance that it might be just the thing we all need. I'm not sure they're right, but I also know I don't want to be alone tonight. They all fall silent again, and it's unbearable. Unable to take it anymore, I stand up and grab my still-full tray and head for the trash. After tossing my lunch, I turn to leave the cafeteria when I run smack into the person behind me.

"I'm so sorry," I quickly say, moving to walk around them as I lift my gaze, and I'm surprised to see it isn't just anybody that I've run into, but Jake. "Oh, hey."

Instead of speaking, Jake takes me by the hand and pulls me from the cafeteria and to the nearest abandoned stairwell. He immediately pulls me to him and presses his lips to mine. Something feels off about his embrace, and when his tongue forces it's way between my lips, I taste the alcohol on his breath.

I press my hands to his chest and try to push him away. "Mmm, Jake," I mumble against his insistent lips. "Jake, stop."

Slowly, he shakes his head, pulling back less than an inch. "I'm so sorry, Bella. I've done terrible things. Please forgive me?"

"It's not that easy," I tell him.

His hands start roaming all over my body; he gropes my ass, moving his hands roughly up my body until he's palming my breasts, and I push a little harder to get away. "Jake, stop!"

"Come on, baby," he says, turning us and pressing me between him and the wall so I can't struggle quite as easily. His hands continue to paw at me, lifting my shirt so he can get at my breasts.

"No," I tell him firmly, but he refuses to relent. Suddenly, his body is being ripped from mine, and I watch as he stumbles back a few steps away from the man between us: Edward.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you that when a girl says no, she means it?" Edward snarls, taking a sideways step to shield me from Jake.

Before I know it, Jake is rushing across the hall, wrapping his arms around Edward's waist and tackling him to the ground. Punches are thrown, knees connect with ribcages, and blood begins to flow from lips and noses.

"Stop it!" I cry out, looking around for someone to help break this up. Jake stands up and begins kicking Edward repeatedly in the side, making it impossible for him to recoup and fight back, and I start to panic. "Jake, that's enough!"

I reach out to grab his arm in an effort to pull him away, but Jake shakes me off, the momentum of his arm bringing his elbow back to connect hard with my eye. The pain is blinding, and I stumble back a few steps until I'm pressed against the wall, unshed tears burning my eyes.

Jake looks horrified as he turns around and reaches for me. "Shit, Bella . . ."

I recoil from him, truly afraid of him for the first time. "Don't touch me. Don't you ever touch me again." As the first of the tears falls onto my cheeks, I run to the bathroom.

The entire area around my eye is red and already beginning to swell, which means I will be sporting a fair-sized black eye in the next day or two. What was I thinking trying to get between the two of them? Why couldn't I just call out for help?

When I emerge from the bathroom, I see Edward sitting on the floor across from it. He's holding his glasses in his hand, his shirt collar is stretched a little wider than it should be, and his bronze hair is messier than usual. Upon seeing me, he quickly stands and offers me an apologetic smile, his lip still bleeding slightly. "Are you okay? I didn't mean for you to get hurt."

"It's fine," I assure him. "I should actually be thanking you. He'd been drinking, and—."

"That doesn't make what he did okay," Edward argues as though I was making excuses for Jake.

"I didn't say it did." Sighing, my entire body slumps, the exhaustion from my lack of sleep and today's news finally taking its toll. "Look, I'm going to head home. I need to put some ice on my eye so it doesn't bruise too badly before the party tonight. Thanks again."

I make it all of two steps before Edward runs after me, his hand wrapping lightly around my upper arm. "Let me drive you?"

I shake my head. "Thanks, but I brought Mom's car."

"So? I'll drive, and then I'll walk back later to pick up my car." His hand slides down my arm until he's grasping my hand in his, and my heart flutters unexpectedly. "I'd just feel so much better knowing you got there safely."

My head bobs before I've given it permission, and Edward beams.

After gathering our things, Edward and I walk together across the lot, and he opens my door for me before climbing behind the wheel. As we drive, I occasionally glance over at him, still in slight disbelief that he's the same person. He looks like the same person for the most part, but I can't get over how much taller and broader he's gotten over the last year. How had I not noticed this?

"So, pretty crazy, huh?" he says, turning onto my street.

"About Leah?" I confirm. "Yeah. I can't believe it."

"I suppose it's safe to say that Jake isn't taking it so well, huh?"

I shrug. "I don't know. I haven't really spoken to him about it."

"Weird."

I laugh dryly. "I guess," I tell him with a sigh. "He's acting kind of strange."

"How so?"

"Well, for starters, what happened today was new. Plus, he's been overly jealous when he really has no reason to be," I explain. "I don't know . . . he just seems angry lately."

He pulls into my driveway and puts the car into park before unbuckling his seatbelt and looking at me. "Then why are you still with him?" he asks, repeating his question from yesterday, only this time he doesn't sound angry or hurt; he sounds confused.

"Honestly?" I avert my gaze from his, because he's looking at me so intensely that it's a little overwhelming. "I don't know anymore. I think I just got used to the way things were for me when we were together, and I wasn't ready to give it up. I know it sounds stupid and superficial—I get that—but it was nice to finally be noticed by someone."

"I noticed you, Bella," Edward confesses softly, a lonely sadness haloing his words.

"I know, but that was different. You looked at me like a friend—a sister—whereas Jake looked at me with desire." Edward falls silent, so I feel it okay to continue. "Plus, my brain is still kind of hard-wired to rebel against my parents' wishes." I'd meant that last part as a bit of a joke, but Edward doesn't seem to think it's very funny. "I'm breaking up with him," I whisper, slowly looking up at him through my eyelashes.

His own eyes widen, and I think I see a gleam of excitement in them. "Really? When?"

"Well, I was going to do it today, but then everything with Leah happened . . ."

Edward shakes his head. "That's no reason to prolong it," he reasons. "Something tells me he'll move on just fine." Something in his tone suggests he knows about Jake's wandering eye, and I wonder if I was the only one blind to it until recently.

"Maybe, but I don't want to make everything worse."

Edward chuckles darkly. "I don't know that anything could be much worse."

"Well, if after this afternoon's altercation he still thinks we're together, then I'll set him straight," I promise. "Listen, thanks again for stepping in today . . . and for driving me home."

"Sure," he replies with a soft, nervous laugh. "It was no problem."

"Will I see you tonight?"

The smile falls from his face, and he looks conflicted. "I don't know, Bella."

Disappointment clenches in my chest, and I nod. "Okay. No, I get it. We still have a ways to go before we're friends again."

"It's not that," he assures me. "But if Jake and his merry band of goons are there, they're not going to like my being there."

While I know he's got a point, I need him to know that I want him there. "They don't get a say in who comes to my party."

He sighs loudly, rubbing his hand over his face. "Look, I'll think about it, okay?"

After I agree, Edward steps out of the car and walks me to the door, waiting until I am safely inside before he starts his walk back to the school for his car. I watch from the front window until he disappears from sight before I decide to tend to my still-throbbing eye.


Part Four | Showtime | BPOV


With nine o' clock approaching fast, I put the last piece of my costume in place and give myself a very disapproving look in my full-length mirror. Whatever happened to when Halloween was about being scary? People used to dress up in scary costumes, and now? Well, the girls dress up as slutty versions of animals, super heroes or . . . well, just sluts. Period. Of course, I've become no better since I started dating Jake, and am currently wearing black heels, the tightest and shortest black skirt, and a black corset that pushes my breasts up and in. Oh, but that's not everything; on my head, I've put a tiny headband with cat ears, and I've painted the tip of my nose black.

I considered scrapping the idea altogether, but there was no time to find anything else—not to mention there would be very little to choose from in the one costume store our podunk town has on Halloween.

The phone ringing distracts me from my most recent task of fussing over my hair, and when I see it says "Unknown Caller" like the night before, I glare at it and answer it.

"What do you want, Jake?" I demand.

"Easy, kitten," the distorted voice says with a laugh. "I was just calling to . . . play."

"No more games. I figured after today you'd take the hint," I tell him. "We're through."

"On the contrary," he replies. "You and I are just getting started, kitten. Truth or dare?"

"I'm not playing your games, Jake."

"Kitten's got her hackles up tonight."

It's the third time he's called me that, and when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I suddenly realize why; he's watching me again.

The doorbell rings, startling me, and I drop the phone to the floor. My heart pounds harder, and my body breaks out in a cold sweat as I stand in the middle of my room, afraid.

Then I hear it: the hoots and hollers of my classmates anxious to come in and forget today's troubles. When I open the door, several students start filing in, carrying various kinds of alcohol and howling about how great the party is going to be. More people arrive, the DJ shows up to set up the sound system, and soon the party is under way. Jake still has yet to show his face, but I have no doubt in my mind that he will. Another person not yet in attendance is Edward, and I find myself really holding out hope that he'll decide to come.

After grabbing a beer from the keg, I head back to the living room to find Emily, Claire, Sam, Quil, and a couple other classmates sitting around laughing. As I make my way over, Emily sighs. "We need to play a game," she says.

"Like what?" Claire asks with a drunken giggle. It disgusts me a little that once the alcohol started flowing Leah's death was practically forgotten. True, Leah was not my favourite person, but surely she deserved better than this from her true friends.

"How about truth or dare?" The deep tenor voice startles me, and I turn to find Jake standing in the entryway between the front door and the living room. Not only does his sudden appearance catch me off guard, but his suggestion of that game only makes me more certain of my mystery caller the last two days.

As I continue to stare at him, he smiles, bringing his cup to his lips for a drink. "What do you say, Bella?"

Before I can answer, Emily and Claire quickly recruit several more players and begin the game. I stay as far away from them as possible, trying to distance myself from the game as I watch Jake nervously. Alcohol and teenage hormones steer the game toward dares of girls flashing their boobs, girls kissing boys, girls kissing girls, and sometimes even boys kissing boys. Sure, they argue, but they do it because they figure if they don't then that means that the girls won't follow through on whatever lewd dare they come up with next.

"I don't think Bella's gone yet," Jake so kindly points out from his perch on the arm of the couch. "But I'd skip asking . . . she's bound to just pick truth anyway."

"You don't know me as well as you thought," I tell him. "Dare."

Emily and Claire whisper to one another, occasionally giggling, before looking my way again. "Okay," Emily speaks up, her words slurring slightly. "I dare you to kiss—and I mean kiss, not just a peck on the lips—the next guy to walk through your front door. I don't care who he is, you're going to stick your tongue down his throat."

I look to Jake, who doesn't look overly thrilled by Emily's dare, and shrug. "You picked the game."

Ten minutes go by, and the door hasn't opened. I'm starting to think that maybe I got off easy, because it looks like everyone might just be here, but then it opens, and I inhale sharply when I see who it is: Edward.

Naturally, everyone else bursts into a fit of laughter, thinking it hilarious that I have to kiss him. Me, however? I find I'm surprisingly okay with this, and I stand up and make my way toward him. Even with the music blaring, I can hear them all whispering and laughing, but all of that fades away the minute Edward smiles at me.

"Hey," he says happily. "So, I made i—"

I don't let him finish as I place my hands on either side of his jaw and step up onto my toes, looking him deep in the eye and pressing my lips to his. It doesn't take long before his body relaxes, his lips conforming to mine as he places one hand on the small of my back and pulls me closer. Pressing my body flat against his, my hands fall from his face and to his shoulders. With a sigh, my lips part, and Edward deepens the kiss, bringing his right hand up to cradle my face. His fingers reach the back of my neck, tangling into my hair and making me shiver, and something comes over me in that moment. It's as though nothing else seems to matter as the music fades away into nothingness, and I'm only vaguely aware of the fact that we're being watched.

My tongue moves with his, and his fingers curl into my hair a little more, tugging it and making my scalp tingle. He groans, and I fold his sweater in my hands, pulling him impossibly closer as his other hand moves more toward my ass. He pulls my hips toward him, and I can feel his arousal press against me. The tingling sensation moves all throughout my body, intensifying as it settles in my belly and between my thighs, leaving my arms and legs numb with pleasure.

In all our years as friends, I never once thought that kissing Edward Cullen would turn me on quite like this—Jake didn't even make me feel this way, to be honest.

When my lungs begin to burn and I feel slightly light-headed, I pull my lips from Edward's and smile lazily up at him. "Hi."

He laughs, his green eyes sparkling and the outer corners of them creasing. "That was some welcome. You greet all your guests this way?"

"Only the ones who matter." I shrug and look up at him coyly, taking a step back and releasing his sweater; he's a little more reluctant to let me go, however, his hand moving from my ass to my hip, and then taking mine firmly.

"Can I get you a drink?" I offer, suddenly feeling as nervous as I would if this were a date.

Edward nods. "Sure, I'll come with you."

"Oh, that's okay. I'll be right back," I assure him. "Just make yourself at home."

I don't remember ever feeling this giddy before in my life; it's like kissing Edward has unearthed a piece of myself I didn't even realize I was missing. But . . . did he feel it too? Or is it just me that feels this way? When he said that he noticed me, was that him implying that his feelings for me back then were more than just platonic? If so, why didn't he say something?

"That was some kiss," Claire says, following me into the kitchen. "I'm surprised you left him standing."

"Just doing as I was told," I tell her, trying to make it sound as though it was all because of the dare . . . even though I'll admit that I really want to do it again.

Emily flanks Claire, both of them coming to stand on either side of me once we reach the keg. "You know, Bella, people are going to talk."

Confused, I turn to her. "About?"

"How you're starting to hang out with him again. It won't be good for your reputation. Jake is."

Exasperated, I huff. "Jake can suck a bag of dicks, for all I care. And as for my reputation: if people are so shallow to think that who I choose to hang out with changes who I've been this past year, then they weren't true friends."

"Hey," Emily says, holding her hands up in surrender, "don't shoot the messenger. I'm just saying that you're going to do more damage than good by hanging out with a freak on the lower rung of the social ladder."

My blood feels like it's boiling, and my hands begin to shake as I hold Edward's beer in my hand. Trying hard not to slap the shit out of her, I lean in to Emily, clench my teeth together, and tell her, "Edward is not a freak." Before I realize what I'm doing, I lift my arm and pour the contents of the red Solo cup over her head, revelling in the sound of her shrill shriek as I grab another beer and head back out to find Edward.

I've barely made it out of the kitchen before a strong hand grabs my arm and yanks me to the side, spilling a bit of beer over the top of the cup in the process. "What the hell?" I exclaim, looking up to see Jake.

"Took the words right out of my mouth," he says angrily, the smell of beer and tequila on his putrid breath. "What the hell was that kiss all about? Are you still pissed about this afternoon?"

My eyes widen in disbelief. "Oh, you mean when you elbowed me in the eye? Yeah, can't say I see me getting past that any time soon."

"Jesus, Bella, it was an accident."

I shake my head. "Maybe, but you kicking the shit out of Edward wasn't. I've seen a new side of you these last few days, Jake, and quite frankly, I don't like it." I pause, but only briefly, because I don't want to give him the opportunity to make more excuses. "In fact, I think this—what you and I have—is over."

"Excuse me?" he demands, crossing his arms. When I refuse to repeat myself, I make a move to walk away, but he grabs my arm and throws me back up against the wall, making the pictures on the walls rattle and more beer hit the floor. "Oh, we're not done here."

"I beg to differ," I tell him, yanking myself free from his hold on me. "We are most definitely done here."

Pushing past him, I walk away, but not before I hear his low and menacing final words. "Nobody breaks up with me. You'll regret this."

What sounds like a threat chills me to the bone, and I find myself hurrying back to the living room to find Edward. I find him there, sitting alone in my dad's chair and playing with his phone. When he notices me walk up, he slips the phone into his pocket and looks up at me with concern.

"What's wrong?" he asks, taking the beer from me as I hold it out. All I have to do is look at him, and he knows. "Where is he?"

He makes a move to get up, and I place my hand on his chest. "No, don't. I don't want any trouble here. He's drunk, just let it go for now. I'm sure he was just upset because I broke up with him."

Edward seems both shocked and pleased to hear this, and he takes my hand, pulling me closer so I can sit on the arm of the chair. "You did?"

"I told you I would," I remind him with a laugh, not failing to notice that he's still holding my hand. While this is not the first time we've held hands, this is the first time I've ever felt any kind of spark because of it. "Edward, I—"

Always seeming like he knows what I'm about to say, he chuckles nervously. "I know, you just got out of a relationship, and we still have so much time to make up for."

"Exactly." Tucking my hair behind my ear, I look down to where his thumb is moving back and forth over the back of my hand. "Can we just . . . I don't know . . . start off as friends again?"

"Nothing would make me happier." Smirking, Edward gives me a little wink. "For now, anyway."

For the first time, I see him in a whole new light. The boy who was once nothing more than my best friend—the person I told all of my secrets to—is now the guy who makes my heartbeat quicken and my knees weak.

As the night wears on, Edward and I talk about our past, and also about what's been going on in our lives up until recently. Jake is nowhere to be seen, which can only mean that he's left the party after his almost-tantrum. Edward and I are so deep in conversation that I almost don't realize that the house has mostly cleared out and that the DJ is packing up his gear.

"Guess that means the party's over," Edward says with a laugh. "Do you want me to stay and help you clean up?"

I shake my head and stand up to walk him to the door. "No, that's fine. I'm still pretty wired. I'll take care of it."

After saying goodbye to Edward, I start tidying the entry and living room. There are still a few people milling about, drunkenly trying to locate their jackets or friends, and I shake my head at them. After grabbing a garbage bag from under the kitchen sink, I see my cell phone, and when I pick it up, I notice that I have a missed call and several unread text messages.

I'm just about to check my messages when Claire appears from behind me, startling me. "Have you seen Emily?"

I look around the kitchen, then down the hall, and shake my head. "Nope, sorry. Did you check upstairs?"

"Yeah, and she's not there."

Shrugging, I start tossing the used cups that were left on the counter into my trash bag. "Sorry. I don't know what to tell you, then. Maybe she left already? When did you see her last?"

"Not for a while," she tells me. "About thirty minutes ago. I just assumed she hooked up with someone, but now I can't find her anywhere."

"Well, like I said," I say, cleaning as I talk, "she probably just left without you."

Claire accepts this as an answer to Emily's disappearance, but not easily; she grabs her phone from her pocket and phones her, getting her voicemail. Watching Claire walk away while leaving a message for her friend reminds me that I have a couple of messages to tend to as well. I abandon my cleanup, scoop my phone up off the counter, and turn it on. My missed call is from an Unknown Caller a few hours ago, which means that Jake tried to contact me sometime before he arrived at the party.

"So glad I missed that," I mutter to myself as I flip through my phone's main screen to read my missed text messages. Both messages are from the same unknown number, and I feel my irritation with Jake's sick persistence grow . . . especially when I read the first message:

Truth or dare, kitten?

His obsession with this game has ruined any fun memories I ever had of playing it in the past. I scroll down and read the next:

All right, since you're too busy to choose, I'll choose for you . . . I dare you to open the file I've attached.

Sure enough, as I scroll down, I see he's sent me a picture. I can't really make it out from the tiny thumbnail image on my phone, so I click on it to open it, and am instantly horrified, dropping my phone to the floor.

The image is forever burned into my memory, though: Leah's broken and bleeding body lying on the floor of her home, her eyes frozen wide in terror. Jake killed her and sent me a picture . . . why?

Tears burn my eyes before flowing freely onto my cheeks when his words from earlier repeat in my head: You'll regret this.

Shaking uncontrollably, I wipe the tears from my eyes to clear my vision and kneel down to pick up my phone so I can call the police. I'm all alone in my house, and there's no guarantee that he's not out there somewhere lurking—waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. When I turn my phone over, I see a huge crack in the screen, and it won't turn on; I've broken it. Fabulous.

I look around the kitchen for the house phone, finally locating it on top of the fridge. I rush across the kitchen to grab it, and I quickly dial 911 and hold it to my ear. Nothing. There's no sound coming through at all.

He's tampered with my phone lines.

"The neighbours!"

Dropping the phone, I dash from the kitchen and head to the front door. The minute I pull it open, I see Jake's car at the end of my front yard, and I slam the door shut and lock it. I'm screwed. He's going to do to me what he did to Leah, and no one will find out until my parents return.

I realize then that my only other option is to go through the patio door off the kitchen, and I can only hope he doesn't beat me there. I know I have to be fast, and the adrenaline pumping through my veins fuels my strength and speed as I run back through the house and throw the patio door open. I take all of three long strides out, and have almost reached the stairs, when I trip over something and miss the stairs entirely, landing on the grass below the deck. When I turn around to see what I tripped over, I scream, my voice echoing in the night and startling the birds in the trees just past my yard.

There, on my back deck, lies Emily. Her arms and legs are covered in blood and dirt, and in the dim light cast off by the porch lamp, I can see the sheen of more blood on her costumed torso. Like Leah, her eyes are wide and terrified, and there's dirt and blood under her nails—almost like she'd been pulled somewhere or even fought back.

"Bella?"

I slap my hands over my mouth to silence my screams when I hear Jake's voice rounding the house, and I quickly scramble to my feet, running back up the stairs and hopping over Emily before throwing myself into the house. I get the glass door closed just in time, being sure to lock it as he follows me up the stairs. He steps over Emily as though she's nothing more than trash, and as he steps into the light, I see the blood on his hands.

My entire body begins to shake and more tears fall down my cheeks. "G-go away, Jake! I've called the cops! They'll be here any minute!"

"Bella, wait, you don't understand," he tries to say, pressing his hands on the pane of glass, smearing blood all over them, as he looks back at Emily and then to me. "I found her!"

"You k-killed them!" I shout, backing into the island stool and almost falling over it. "Why?"

"Bella, listen to me!" he shouts, making me jump.

I shake my head furiously, trying to blink the tears from my vision as it begins to blur more. He starts to tug on the patio door, making it rattle and tremble, and I know it's only a matter of time before it gives under his strength. Thinking fast, I run around the island and grab the biggest knife I can from the knife block and head for the front door.

"BELLAAAAA!" he screams, making me pick up the speed.

I struggle with the lock for a second before finally getting it open, and I propel myself over the threshold and down the front steps. I don't make it very far before I slam right into a hard body.

My survival instincts kick in and I begin to scream for help before a hand gently covers my mouth. "Bella . . . Bella, it's me." Upon hearing the soft and soothing voice, I look into the familiar green eyes of Edward—my saviour. He removes his hand from my mouth, and I throw my arms around him, being careful with the knife I still hold tight in my hand and relaxing slightly in his arms. "It's Jake," I try to tell him, panting. "He's gone crazy."

"Bella!" The sound of his voice from the side of my house pulls my attention from Edward, and I whimper in fear.

Edward works the knife from my hand and ushers me back toward the house. "Get inside and lock the door!" he orders, kissing my forehead softly.

"No!" I say in defiance, fear forcing me to reach out and clamp his hand in mine. "Not without you!"

"Just GO!"

"Bella, no. Don't listen to him!" Jake says, rounding the corner.

Panicking with every step he takes, I run inside the house, leaving Edward on my front porch with my crazed ex-boyfriend who's trying to kill me. I look out the window to see Jake approach Edward. His lips are moving, but he's speaking so low I can't hear him. I faintly hear Edward quip something in return, flipping the knife around in his palm confidently, and then Jake strikes.

Their bodies are thrown against the door, and I scream when the hinges threaten to give out. The door holds, thankfully, and the struggle moves away from it. I rush back to the window and watch them roll around on the lawn a few times. They're moving so quickly that I can't see the knife, and I start to scour the porch through the small window. Then, something glints in the light, catching my eye, and when I turn toward it, I see that Edward's got the knife and has just thrust it into Jake's chest.

I inhale a sharp breath, pressing my hands to my mouth. "Oh, god," I whimper, my chin trembling as he pushes it further into Jake's chest and the life slowly leaves his eyes.

Edward remains straddled over Jake's body for just a moment longer before he pushes himself to his feet and limps toward the stairs. His eyes lock on mine through the window, and his forehead furrows with worry.

"Bella, it's okay. It's just me," he says in a soft, soothing voice. "You have nothing to be afraid of anymore."

The minute the words leave his mouth, I release a loud sigh and yank the door open, throwing myself into Edward's arms. He groans slightly, and I know instantly he's been hurt as he slowly lowers us to the ground and holds me. I cry into his shoulder, soaking the blood-spattered fabric of his sweater, as he rocks me back and forth, alternating soothing "shhhh's" and kisses on the top of my head.

"It's okay, Bella," he whispers again. "I've got you. I'll keep you safe." Somewhere in the distance, sirens are heard, and I wrap my arms around him even tighter. "No one will ever hurt you again."


Part Five | Protector | EPOV


Red and blue lights flash, illuminating the entire neighbourhood in their colourful glow. Upon hearing the sirens, all of the neighbours have emerged, trying to get a closer look at what happened here tonight so they can gossip about it at work or during play dates or whatever else it is that they do.

In my arms is a tiny, trembling body. My Bella's been through so much recently, and she's handling it a lot better than I figured she would. She's been looked at by the medics and has been given a clean bill of health . . . physically, at least. I'm pretty sure the events of tonight will haunt her for years to come—but I'll be sure to help her move past it.

She doesn't see it now, but this was all for the best. If none of this had happened, she'd probably still be with him, and I'd be stuck on the outside looking in. I've missed her over the past year, and have loved her for much longer than that. I could never tell her that, though, because she didn't feel the same way. I think that's changing, and I couldn't be more excited by the idea.

"Okay, you two," Officer Crowley says. "I think that's about all we need for right now." He looks down at the two of us sitting on the front step of her house, wrapped in a flannel blanket for warmth.

Instead of heading inside right away, we watch as the coroner loads two gurneys into their vehicle and wait until all of the emergency vehicles disappear. Bella is still trembling next to me, visibly shaken by what's happened.

"Why don't we head inside?" I suggest, running my arm up and down hers to warm her up—even though the chilly night air is not the reason for her shakes. "I'll make you some hot cocoa."

Instead of looking at me, she continues to stare where Jake's body used to be. "Did this really happen?" she asks. "When I wake up tomorrow, will all of this be a dream?"

"Hey," I tell her, turning her body and holding her upper arms so she'll focus on me. "I told you, nobody will ever hurt you again. Do you trust me?"

She hesitates briefly before nodding, but I'd like to think it's because she's still traumatized. "Yeah. Of course I trust you. You're the only person I've ever been able to trust, and I'm so sorry for ever hurting you."

She throws her arms around my waist and holds me tight. I return her embrace, inhaling the sweet scent of her shampoo when I press a kiss to the top of her head, and I smile triumphantly.

For the last year, I sat back and watched as she got herself so deep into her new life that she was blind to Jake's constant betrayals, or how her "friends" would talk to her or belittle any of her decisions. Yes, Bella's had her fair share of heartache and hurt in the past, and I'll be damned if I ever let it happen again..

I meant it when I said nobody would ever hurt her again . . .

. . . because I'll do to them exactly what I did to Leah, Emily, and Jake if they do.

::: THE END :::