Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.

MariahajilE is a ninja beta - fast and lethal. M and Nic pre-read for me and also help make stuff prettier for y'all. I love these ladies.

Music: "I Won't Let Go" – Rascal Flatts

Mississippiward is mine. So are any leftover mistakes.


The nights get cooler, and eventually, the days do, too. By the time Fall Break rolls around in late October, we've seen a frost or two. Edward has traded t-shirts for flannel when he's working and Under Armour pullovers when he's not. I've given up dresses, with the exception of Sundays and the occasional days we see temps in the seventies. They're rare in October, but they happen.

Layers. It's the only way to go in the fall. It's frustrating in moments like this one… We haven't seen each other for days and can't get naked fast enough.

Edward is still kicking off his jeans and boxers when he settles on top of me, kissing me soundly and sweetly and moving slowly, teasing but not taking. My hips shift, and he pulls back and onto his knees.

"Turn over." When he lightly swats my butt, I roll over quickly. His hands grip my hips pulling me against him. "I think you missed me." He pushes in slowly and gently, but I can feel the urgency in the tips of his fingers on my skin.

"I did," I say, settling on my elbows and letting him take over.

He moves slowly at first, giving me a little more with each thrust until my backside is flush with his hips. "Jesus, Bella. You're gonna be the death of me."

"Then make it a good one."

Being the good, solid country boy that he is, he accepts my challenge, giving it to me hard, relentlessly, until my knees shake and I scream into his pillow. He slows when I finally relax, leaning down to kiss my shoulder.

"I want to see your face, pretty girl." It's a whisper against my skin and then he's gone, leaning back on his heels, waiting for me.

I roll onto my back, and he doesn't waste any time picking up where he left off. Only now, his lips are on mine and I'm digging my heels into his butt, trying to bring him even closer.

In a true moment of grace, the crown of my head starts banging against the headboard.

"I'm sorry," he laughs, sliding his hand between my head and the hard wood.

"Don't be." I wiggle beneath him, making him groan and shift. "And don't stop." I push against the headboard with my palms flat, moving with him and scooting at the same time.

"Damn, I love you."

I can't answer because he's added his thumb, and I'm moaning incoherently. He kisses the corner of my mouth, my cheek, my jaw…

"Give me a hickey."

I can feel his smile against my neck, then a nip. His hand moves from between us and he rests his body on mine, never losing pace or letting me come down. He kisses a path from the skin beneath my ear to my collarbone, and just when I've started to accept that he's only teasing, he sucks my skin between his lips… Gently, at first.

Until I moan.

Then he adds his teeth, pulling and kissing and sucking until I yell his name and grip the back of his head. My orgasm triggers his, and he tears his lips away from my skin to kiss me as we ride it out.

"I love you, too," I tell him after I've had a chance to catch my breath.

"Thank goodness for that."

I spend a good two minutes standing in front of the mirror in his bathroom, examining my first hickey when I'm supposed to be taking care of business.

"Are you all right?" he asks when I finally rejoin him under the covers in his bed.

"I'm fine. I was just admirin' your handiwork." My fingers brush over the quarter-sized purple love bite at the base of my neck.

"Are you havin' hickey regret?"

"Heck no." I scoot closer and rest my head on his shoulder. "I only regret not askin' you to do that sooner."

Listening to his soft laughter is the best way to fall into sleep.

Saturday morning, he gives me a fifteen minute head start and then follows me home for breakfast. Over coffee, he offers to help Daddy switch out the top on my Jeep. It's too cool now to put the soft top down, and the hard top helps retain the heat. The two of them disappear after wolfing down Momma's grits and bacon.

They're laughing and talking when I find them out in the garage an hour later. I stand in the doorway for a few minutes, watching them and listening to Daddy tell Edward about the stupid stunts the high school boys are pulling these days.

Tyler had tried to impress my father on several occasions. The only time he did it was during a discussion about Old Red. He played that card too early, though, and they never really managed another full discussion. Tyler was intimidated. Daddy was bored.

Sometimes, I forget that Edward and Daddy have a relationship independent of me. I love Esme to death, but before last month, I'd really only spent time with her at church events. Edward has been fishing and hunting with my father for years. Not to forget all the times Daddy drove him home after he got caught raising a ruckus.

It might not be a perfect one, but they have history.

Edward sees me first and smiles, waving in acknowledgement but staying focused on his words.

"What are y'all up to today?" Daddy says, inviting me to the conversation.

"Paintin'." I smile when Edward lifts his arm so I can tuck in next to him.

"Bella offered to help me this week while we're on break. She claims to be handy with a roller."

"If next weekend is no good…"

"It's fine, Chief. I've got all week to work on the house. One mornin' out in the woods isn't gonna hurt anything."

"All right, then. I'm headin' to work." He leaves us to hunt down Momma for a goodbye kiss.

Edward and I leave shortly after he does. We spend our day painting the master bedroom. The ceilings are vaulted and there are built-in shelves, nooks, and crannies on every wall. Being on an extension ladder is nerve-racking for me, but he acts like he doesn't have a care in the world. I'm not sure if that's a result of work and what he's used to or that bulletproof syndrome.

I convinced him to go with a whitewash effect. I'm regretting it now because of how many coats it requires. It's perfect, though. There aren't any curtains hanging, yet, so the sun shines brightly, making the room look spacious and cozy all at once.

By sundown, I'm achy, tired, and starving. Edward doesn't look affected at all.

"I don't know how you do this every day," I say, following him over to the trailer.

"Multi-vitamins in the morning and Red Stripe as a reward at the end of the day."

He surprises me with deer meat chili he's had simmering in the crock pot since this morning. I almost cry when he fries cornbread in an old iron skillet. It's been so long since I've had good cornbread. All the restaurants around Oxford serve cornbread that looks more like cake.

Edward's cornbread crumbles perfectly in my closed fist over my bowl. Adding it helps since he wasn't exaggerating. He does make mean chili. It's got a kick that burns and a touch of maple to sweeten the sting.

We both doze off while watching an old Pawn Stars rerun after supper. He wakes me a few minutes before midnight and gets me home shortly after.

Hours later, he's back, kissing me hello this time and helping me into the beast so we can get to church in time for me to walk in with the choir. Today, he stays in the parking lot with our fathers after giving me a sweet kiss on the corner of my mouth.

We stay after the service for the monthly congregational potluck. Edward is itching to get the smallest guest room painted, but neither of us can turn down the opportunity to have my Momma's chicken, Ms. Cope's lasagna, and Rosalie's corned beef and cabbage in the same meal. Not to mention the dozens of casseroles and desserts to choose from.

He drops me off at home after lunch so I can change into some old clothes for painting; jeans and a Quitman High homecoming t-shirt from our senior year.

The doors are never locked at the house, so I walk in without knocking and find him already hard at work on a ladder, edging where the wall meets the ceiling.

I really like painting with him.

He's in old, ripped jeans – like mine – and a t-shirt with his arm extended and muscles flexed… Sometimes, the view is a little distracting.

"Hey, pretty girl," he says with a grin. "There's your roller." He uses his brush to point in the direction of a clean roller on the ground.

"I see how you are… flauntin' those muscles and barkin' for me to get to work."

"I'm a tough boss. You should hear what my guys say behind my back." He laughs, turning back to the wall and the small tray of paint in his other hand.

I know what they say. Jake's in the business, too, always doing electrical work for Alec and Edward. When he and Tanya were still speaking, he told her that they're known for being tough, but fair, and always honest.

A good name means everything in this town.

We spend the afternoon listening to Edward's Outlaws playlist and matching our strokes to the rhythm of steel guitars and fiddles. He invites me to come and spend a Friday night in Starkville with him so we can go the Bulldog Bash. There's going to be a huge pep rally for the Dawgs the night before their big game against Texas A & M. Afterward, there's an entire festival down at the Cotton District with vendors and free concerts.

It will give me a chance to meet his friends, see his apartment, and spend some time with him on his stomping grounds away from home.

I'm only sorry it's two weeks away.

Tuesday morning, Tanya asks me to ride with her to Jackson the next day. She doesn't say why, and I don't ask since we're at the breakfast table with Momma and Daddy listening to every word. It leaves a bad feeling in my gut, but I agree to go with her.

She and my parents leave for work, and I kill a little time cleaning up the kitchen. It's supposed to rain later this week, and Edward is cutting his parents' grass for his momma. This should be the last time it needs to be done until spring.

I don't piddle for too long, though. I don't want to miss all the action.

The front yard is already cut when I park in front of the Cullens' house. I don't hear the tractor, so I walk around back to see if it's already done, too.

"He's cuttin' down by the dock right now, honey. You want some tea?" Esme is sitting on the back porch, rocking in an old wooden swing.

"That'd be great." It's warm again today, and the Jeep didn't really have a chance to cool off during the four minutes it took to drive over.

She waits for me to join her on the porch before moving to the back door. "Are you enjoyin' your break?"

"I am." I walk in a few steps ahead of her, praying my cheeks will cool off by the time we get to the kitchen. I've been enjoying every moment of my break, especially the ones I've spent with her son.

"Edward says y'all are makin' progress over at the house."

"Yes, ma'am."

She fixes two glasses of sweet tea, and then we make our way back out to the porch swing.

We talk about school for a little while. Eventually, she asks about Angie and baby Cole.

"They're doin' fine. He's rollin' over and gigglin', last I heard."

"He's an adorable baby," she says.

"He's a keeper, for sure."

"Do you like children?"

"I like some children a lot. I've met a few whose necks I'd like to wring."

She laughs at my subtle aversion. "It's different when they're your own."

The sound of a tractor engine distracts us both, and we glance over our shoulders in time to see the huge John Deere clear the hill on the north side. Edward hasn't shaved since we got home Friday, and I have to admit that – combined with the Dawgs cap and black t-shirt – the beard is driving me crazy in a very good but entirely unwholesome way.

He catches me looking more than once, giving me a grin and wink every time. When he's finished, he drives it out of sight, following a path on the south side of their property. Fifteen minutes later, he's back but on foot.

The shirt is clinging to him as surely as each tiny bead of sweat at his hairline. He gets annoyed with both, pulls the shirt over his head, and uses it to dry his face.

Good Lord.

I don't care how many times I've seen it. When Edward is shirtless, it's worth giving thanks.

He asks her if she has any other chores for him, and when she says no, he excuses us so he can get a shower and fresh clothing. I follow him across the highway and right into his shower.

It's nice to start my day a little sore from something other than painting.

As we spread tarps on the floor in the bonus room upstairs, I tell him about Tanya's request. He says not to worry about skipping out on him tomorrow. He messages Riley, offering him grilled steaks and beer in exchange for his help.

With that settled, we spend the rest of the day across the room from each other, him on a ladder edging and painting areas that I can't reach and me on the ground with a roller. He hasn't decided yet if he wants to make this space an office, a game room, or a man cave. We discuss the merits of each. Edward is leaning toward man cave, only because he knows he can build a bar. He's never tried to build a desk.

Around seven, we stop for the night. We're starving, and I'm stiff from reaching all afternoon. Edward follows me back to my parents' house and joins us for dinner. He knows Tanya and I are leaving around eight in the morning, so he doesn't linger after dinner.

Tanya waits until we're on the highway, well on our way to Jackson, to open up about the reasons for this little trip: She put in for a transfer to one of the Jackson branches. They've scheduled an interview with her for next week, and we're scoping out the area today.

I'm stunned silent at first, wondering why in the heck Tanya would want to move to Jackson. I keep coming up blank, so I give in and ask her.

"I'm tired of livin' with Momma and Daddy. You wait 'til next year. You've spent the last four years on your own. It sucks to come home and have to follow curfews or call if I'm stayin' out all night."

"But Jackson…"

"You know of some apartment complex they've recently built in Quitman that I somehow missed?" She's challenging me with her tone and glance in my direction. I see her point. There's nowhere to go back home. "I didn't think so."

"What's the big deal about callin'? Daddy has been lenient with my curfew as long as I call or text to let him know what's goin' on." He's been fair since I started coming home more.

"That's not the point, Bella. I don't want to move to Jackson, but I don't want to live at home, either."

"You want to live with Jake."

"I want to live with Jake, and that's never gonna happen because he wants me locked down with a ring and marriage license before he even knows what I'm like twenty-four seven."

I know there was a boy, Lee, that she lived with for a semester during her sophomore year. Momma and Daddy don't know. I only found out because I drove up with Tyler to surprise her the weekend we visited to tour the Ole Miss campus.

She was very surprised and so was her boyfriend. He never left the couch all weekend unless it was to relieve himself or turn in for the night. The rest of his time was spent watching football on the couch and sucking down Busch tall boys that he made my sister fetch from the fridge.

I'm guessing she wants to live with Jake for a while to make sure he's not going to turn her into a maid or a waitress before she agrees to marry him.

I can't even imagine him treating her like that, but she said that Lee had been smitten, too, in the beginning.

She drives to the bank first, making sure she's got the directions clear. Then she parks at a Hampton Inn a few blocks away, and I wait in the lobby as she books a reservation.

The first couple of complexes are nice enough; bland but spacious, with all the amenities. The third is dumpy, even from the outside, so she leaves without even touring one of the apartments. The last one we visit is farthest from the bank, but it has tracks for running, several swimming pools, and a really nice fitness center.

"This is the one," she says.

"Don't put the cart before the horse," I say gently. "You haven't even had an interview yet."

"I know." She nods, smiling and changing lanes. "But did you see that fitness center?"

"Why don't you just talk to Jake?"

"He hasn't called or come by. He even deposited several checks after hours using the ATM." I should've let her smile and dream about the perfect treadmills instead of causing the frown and sadness taking over her voice. "This is one thing I just can't bend on."

"You know, Edward is plannin' on med school here in Jackson next year. Would you be interested in a roommate?" I want her back home. With Jake. But if she's determined to do this, I'll stand by her. I'll even live with her.

"Well, hell yeah. I'd love to have you as a roommate, but what would you do in Jackson?"

"I don't know. There are plenty of jobs with the Department of Wildlife in Jackson."

"Those are office jobs."

"It would only be for a few years," I assure her. "Until he finishes school."

"You're gonna give up all your hard work… just like that?"

"First, I wouldn't be givin' up anything. There are a lot of jobs there that would help me get the experience I need to really qualify for field work. I could also work on a Master's. If I'm gonna get one, now's as good a time as any." I take a deep breath before I tell her the last and most important thing. "Second, it's called compromise. Flexibility. Every relationship needs wiggle room."

She doesn't say much, just drives to the nearest mall. We partake in retail therapy without much chit chat for the next couple of hours. She's cheerful again by dinner time. We decide on sushi and stuff ourselves at Bonsai before making our way back to Quitman.

Edward still has company according to the text he sends. Riley is there and so are Sam and Collin. He's been working hard all week and he deserves the chance to spend some time with his buddies, unwinding over a few beers.

We agree to plans tomorrow, depending on the weather and what time he wakes up. I'm assuming the boys are going to make it a late one tonight.

The weather girl gets it right again. Thursday morning dawns with gray clouds and cool, much needed rain. I send Edward a text, letting him know I have a few errands to take care of for Momma before I come over.

While I'm out, I run smack into Jake Black as I'm leaving the post office.

"Sorry, Bella," he says, holding an umbrella over my head and escorting me over to the Jeep.

"It's all right." I open the door, ready to hop in and mind my own business, but something nags at my heart. I'm not sure if it's the circles under his eyes or the memory of Tanya saying she'd rather be here with him. "Do you have a busy schedule today?" I ask.

"Actually, no. I'm pickin' up some stamps to mail off some bills, and then I'm free until this afternoon. Why? Does Edward need me to come by for something?"

"No, nothin' like that. We're paintin' this week. Do you, uh, have time for a cup of coffee over at Hardee's?"

He looks puzzled but nods and closes the door for me when I finally climb into my Jeep. I crank the engine and turn up the heat while I wait for him to take care of his business. When he's done, I follow his truck over to Hardee's.

Over coffee (and a pork chop 'n' gravy biscuit for him), I tell him that Tanya is trying to transfer to Jackson. At first, he's mad. But when I tell him we spent yesterday looking at apartments, he looks crushed.

He doesn't ask for advice, and I don't give any. If he's good enough for my sister, he'll figure out what to do. If he's not, maybe Jackson won't be such a bad thing.

I leave him when I'm done with my coffee. He has time to kill until this afternoon, but I have someone waiting for me. "Good luck, Jake." Either way, he'll need it.

"Thanks." He stares out the window at Tanya's car parked across the street at the bank.

On my way out, I stop to order lunch for my hardworking boyfriend; a Jim Beam Bourbon burger combo with onion rings. He probably ate cereal for breakfast, and he'll be starving soon.

Edward's drive is muddy and so is the yard in front of the house. He's on the porch waiting and motions for me to drive around back. The garage is open, so I pull in and park next to his 4 wheeler.

He shortcuts through the house quickly enough to open the Jeep door for me.

"When did you start parkin' that thing in here?" I ask, pointing to the ATV.

"I drove it over here last night. If it stops rainin', we can take it out for a spin later, kick up some mud." His arms wrap around me, pulling me in for a hug and a hello kiss.

"Sounds like fun." I hold him to me, making him give me a proper kiss (with his hands on my butt) before I hand over his lunch.

The boys got a lot done yesterday, and the only room left to be painted is the family room. We open a can of paint and get to work once he's had time to let his food settle.

The rain slows to a stop late in the afternoon, and he repeats his offer of taking me mudding before it gets dark.

"I want to drive." I take the front spot, and he climbs on behind me without any argument.

He tells me which direction to take, and I steer us over roots, leaves, and fallen branches. I'm shivering despite my jacket and his body heat against my back. The rain brought on the chill but good.

"Stop here," he says over the rumble of the engine.

We're at the edge of another clearing. This one is smaller than the one he chose to build on, and it's obvious the edge of the forest around it has been cut recently. There are saplings lining the edge of the woods as far as the eye can see.

"I shaved a little over five acres of oak and pine right after I bought it from Dad. Every piece of wood in that house came from this land. The rest I sold. It covered the millin' costs, the reseedin' costs, and left a nice chunk for the house."

"You shaved around the edges of the property." He nods.

"I didn't want to affect Mother Nature any more than absolutely necessary. I reseeded more than the required percentage. For every tree they cut, another was planted. Once the house is finished, I'm gonna plant more, but those will be for fruit and to pretty up the yard."

"Azaleas would be nice along the porch, maybe some of the dark red ones. Or if you like flowers, lilies are sturdy. They can withstand the heat and the sun 'round here."

"Which do you prefer? Shrubs or flowers?"

"I like both. It would depend on the size of flower bed your landscaper is planning."

"Technically, I'm my landscaper. Other than a few peach trees and apple trees out back, there are no real plans. I'm thinkin' I should hire you for the job. You tell me what to put where, and I'll pay you."

"I'm not going to take your money."

He pulls me against him when I try to lean away. "I'm not talking about money." His lips drag across the skin beneath my ear.

"That sounds like a good trade."

I can feel his smile against my skin. "I thought you'd see it my way."

We sit quietly for a few minutes, cuddled and staring at the sinking sun. This second clearing is almost as pretty as the one Edward chose to build on… but not quite.

"That far tree line is where my property ends and my parents' picks back up. They've got another forty on this side of the highway and ten on the lake over yonder. Alec's land picks up on both sides where ours ends."

It's easy to see why this land means so much to him… why he's building his home from the wood at the heart of it… It's family and roots.

"It's beautiful."

"It is."

Edward offers to drive back since it's getting darker by the minute. He finds a mud hole between two ancient oaks and thoroughly soaks us both. The mud is cool, and I'm shivering against his back when we finally break the tree line.

He stops the 4 wheeler next to my Jeep so I can get my backpack. I've got to change clothes.

"You go on in and warm up with a shower. I need to check on something over at the house."

It's not like Edward to miss out on an opportunity to shower together, so whatever it is must be important.

I have to wash my hair twice to get all of the mud out. After that, I linger, killing time, hoping Edward will join me. I try not to get my feelings hurt when the water runs cool and he hasn't shown up.

The hurt quickly turns to confusion when I walk out of his bedroom a few minutes later and find him standing in the middle of the living room, freshly showered and wearing clean jeans, a flannel, and his boots.

"You showered."

He nods. "Over at the house." Slowly he walks across the room until he's right in front of me, reaching for my hand. "Come and take a walk with me."

We stick to the grassy patches that lead from the trailer over to the house, entering through the garage door since the backyard isn't as muddy. There's a nice spot for muddy boots next to the three steps leading to the kitchen entrance. Most of the tile and stone work is done, but there's still a lot of work to be done. The custom cabinets haven't been installed, and the island will come last.

He stops when we reach the living room, giving me a chance to inspect our work. "It's gonna need a second coat of paint," I say, running my fingers over the blue wall.

"Maybe even a third on that section with the beams." He squeezes my other hand and resumes walking, tugging me along, until we get to the end of the hall. "Stay with me tonight. Here." He pushes open the door of the master bedroom. There's a fire burning in the fireplace and ivory pillar candles lining the shelf above it. There are more candles lighting the small, framed mirror tucked into the nook above a new king bed. The white down comforter looks inviting in the soft flickering light from the fire.

And here I thought he was relaxing with the boys last night.

He was doing this.

"I want to stay here every night." It's the most honest answer I have for him.

We undress each other slowly, and he smiles when I push against his chest to get him to lie down. "I put that mirror there for a reason," he says, teasing me and rubbing his tip over my clit. "I want you to see what I see… how fucking beautiful you are when you're lovin' me like this."

In reality, my hair is frizzy and damp, I'm not wearing a stitch of make-up, and my tan from our month together this summer has completely faded, leaving me entirely too pale.

Still.

Flushed cheeks and lips swollen from kissing don't look bad on me. A week old fading hickey still graces the skin along my collarbone. And there's a smile on my face.

"You're a dirty boy, Edward Cullen."

"You like it." He grins evilly and punctuates his words by finally lining us up and pulling me down as he thrusts.

"God, yes."

I'm not sure I'll ever get enough of this man. The way he looks at me… touches me. The way he sees me.

We move together slowly, letting the tension build and coil, and when he's close, he sits up to hold me in his arms. My legs move to hug him closer, pulling him against me every time I shift my weight.

His lips and tongue find mine, kissing away the small moans the rest of his body is responsible for. We cling to each other, riding out the end. Then, his kisses slow to gentle pecks, and he pulls me down with him and covers us with the sheet.

He's quiet for a while, content holding me and watching the fire.

We haven't really talked much about what's going to come after; after graduation, when it's time for me to leave Oxford and him to move on from Starkville.

"Tanya put in for a transfer to the Jackson branch. If she gets it, I might have a roommate lined up for next fall."

"Jackson?" The puzzled look on his face hurts.

"I… Well, that's where you'll be. For school."

He's quiet, and I'm starting to wonder if it's me. Maybe I assumed too much.

"First, I have to apply," he says softly.

"You know you'll get in. What are you waitin' for?"

"A kick in the pants. I've tried several times, but I can't finish a single application." He rolls over onto his back, pulling me with him. "Med school seemed like a logical and easy choice a couple of years ago."

"Easy? You thought med school sounded easy?"

"No. Choosing it was easy. Dad's a doctor. I'll be a doctor. Done deal. Now…" He shakes his head and tugs the covers up to our waists. "I'm not sure. I hate school, and I'm tired of it. The thought of startin' all over again isn't very appealin'."

"I thought you loved school, Mr. Valedictorian."

He turns his head until his cheek is touching his pillow and he's looking at me. "Bein' good at somethin' doesn't necessarily mean you love it."

"What do you love?" I ask, pushing up onto my elbow so I can look down at him.

"Huntin', fishin', bein' like this with you…" He slides his hand over my hip and gives my butt a fond squeeze. "But I don't think anybody is gonna pay me to do those things."

"I'm serious. If you could choose any job, what would it be?"

He's silent for a few moments, staring first at me, then at the fire crackling across the room.

"Right after Granny died and I bought the land from Dad, Alec offered to make me a partner in his business. It was around the same time Dad told me I'd been pussyfootin' around long enough and it was time to choose a major. Katie had been talkin' about her friend's wedding nonstop and droppin' hints that I should go to med school with her, become a doctor…

"It seemed easy. Proposin' to her should have been easy. But I carried that damn ring around in my pocket for three weeks before we even left for Chicago. Fillin' out applications for med school should be easy, but I haven't managed to finish one yet."

Those hardly sound like good reasons to go to med school and become a doctor. And from the sound of it, Katie may have been the one filling in a blank.

"Okay," I say quietly. "Tell me the pros of becomin' a doctor – outside of pleasin' your daddy and Katie."

The words are quick and practiced on his lips. "Job security, steady paychecks, health insurance, 401k…"

"Cons?"

"Spendin' all of my twenties cooped up in classrooms or hospitals, graduatin' with a hundred grand in debt, bein' away from home, workin' all the time, even after I'm done with school… My dad saw most of my accomplishments in pictures."

"Okay. Tell me the cons of workin' with Alec." Putting the negatives back to back makes it easier to compare them.

"Cons?" He tilts his head, thinking. "Ninety percent of the work is dependent on the weather and not knowin' where the next job is gonna come from is frustratin'. Construction can be dangerous…"

"Now, the pros."

"Bad weather makes you take breaks, gives you a chance to breathe that you wouldn't take without it. If I want to take off in the middle of the day to go fishin', I can. Being able to go to church with my family every Sunday and not having to carry a cell phone with me when I do. Never missing a fishing rodeo. The feeling of accomplishment when you've built something from the ground up and you finally get to see it finished."

"I can't believe you called me stubborn."

"I love it. I won't lie. But how many years am I good for?" He shakes his head, mouth set in a stubborn frown. "Bodies get old, Bella. People age… get weak. I could get hurt. Then, what?"

"So you'd rather break your spirit instead?"

"There's more to it, and you know it. What about money? There are good years and bad years."

"Well, we both know you can run a trot line, and I'm pretty good with a rod and reel. You hunt deer, turkey, and ducks." I scoot closer so I can curl in next to him. "I'll show you how to start a garden. Between the two of us, I don't think we'll starve, even durin' the bad years."

"I love you," he says, leaning in to kiss me. Then, he pulls back until we're staring at each other. "Someday, I'm gonna ask you to marry me."

"Is this a preview? A warnin'?" I giggle when he brushes his fingers over my ribs. My heart is racing, and I wonder if he can feel it trying to beat right out of my chest.

"I'm just coverin' all my bases."

"Well, if that's your plan, you're gonna have to let me help with some of that stuff you've been worryin' yourself over." I love that he thinks he has to do it all, and at the same time, I want to bop him on the head with a frying pan – 1965 style.

"I don't like the idea of ever havin' to tell you no. I want to be able to give you nice things… dresses, books, whatever you want."

"I don't need much. Just you and a fishin' hole. The rest will turn out in the end." Lord. He's got me sounding like Momma.

"I'll have to talk to Alec before I make a decision. See if his offer stands." There's a bright flash of lightening followed by thunder and rain pelting against the tin roof. My stomach answers by rumbling almost as loudly. Edward jumps on the opportunity to change the subject. "Momma dropped off some supper while you were showerin'."

We devour cold, fried chicken and all the fixings while sitting on the floor in front of the fire, wearing nothing but t-shirts and underwear. Esme packed paper plates and plastic utensils with enough food to feed a small Sunday School class.

It's easy to understand Edward's love of rain on a tin roof now that I'm experiencing it for myself. When the storms get worse, I send a text to each of my parents.

It's nasty out. I'm going to stay here tonight.

Momma's is the only reply.

See you tomorrow.

When the fire settles to glowing embers, we move back to the bed, losing the clothing along the way.

"You are gonna talk to Alec, right?" I ask before he drifts off to sleep. "At least ask if a partnership is still on the table?"

"I'll talk to him tomorrow… see how he feels about it now."

"How do you feel about it?"

"I don't know. I'm gonna have to talk to my dad when I'm done with Alec. And Chief is gonna want some answers Saturday mornin'…"

"It's all gonna be fine. You'll see."

I'm one of many that voted him Most Likely to Succeed. Even then, I knew he could do anything he put his mind to. If this is the road he wants to take, I know he'll make it happen.

He might not end up rich, but he'll end up right.

I have faith.


A/N- If you'd like to read about that festival at Edward's school, I've decided to write it as an outtake for the Fandom for Oklahoma fundraiser. I haven't "officially" signed up yet, but I will this week. I've got family and friends (some of them fandom) in OK, and I'd love to see this cause do well. More info at oklahoma dot fandomcause dot info . Just remove the spaces and put in real dots. :)

I'm going to have to spend some time writing that and the B Sides futuretake soon, so DH updates may be slow.

I love you guys for reading. Thank you for every single review. Your feedback means the world to me.

See you soon.

-MSC

PS- Twitter recently acted like an asshole and unfollowed some people for me. If you were one of them, it was NOT intentional. Let me know and I'll follow you again. :)