Title: Runaways

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Rating: M

Summary: You know those nights when you meet someone and they have you questioning the entirety of your existence? This was definitely one of those nights.

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. There will be language and lemons below.


We can't wait till tomorrow,

Now we're caught in the appeal baby,

Why you wanna hide it?

I turn the engine over and my body just comes alive.

Ain't we all just runaways?

I knew it when I met you,

I'm not gonna let you runaway.

I knew it when I held you, I wasn't letting go.

-The Killers

"GET OUT! JUST GET OUT, JACOB!" I screeched, my voice hoarse and raw from all the screaming I had done earlier. A few more decibel points and I would be shattering glass windows. I mean, how dare he! I have put up with a lot a shit from him over the last several years. There was no denying that he was a lazy ass, but sleeping with my boss? No, that was one step too far.

I wasn't stupid. Whatever had been between us had died a long time ago. It was just a matter of convenience at this point. I couldn't even bring myself to cry. I had let go of Jacob a long time ago, but I had still felt kind of bad for him. So I had let him stay in the apartment. He didn't pay rent and he didn't have a job. It was supposed to be temporary, just until he got back on his feet. It had been six months since we'd broken up, and I had put up with everything so far. My boss in my bed was just too much.

I pushed him out the door before slamming it in his surprised face. I should have felt better, but I just felt tired. I had spent the last twelve years of my life worrying about Jacob—first when we were kids, then we dated for five years, then over the last six months since we had broken up.

I honestly didn't know what I was doing. At twenty-five I had done exactly nothing but take care of that idiot. I worked nine to midnight, and while I didn't mind hard work, just once I would have liked to come home to dinner already made and a quiet night in front of the TV. I had given up on everything that I ever cared for, should I not at least be able to enjoy my complicity?

It wasn't like I had chosen to give up on everything. It was just the way things had happened. Jacob had always been stability in my life. We had met after I moved in with my Dad. I had grown up with my very bitter mother. She never missed an opportunity to grind into me how much men would never be any good, how they weren't worth anything, and how they just used women. She always talked about how my father would never live up to any expectations because he never left that podunk little town. I couldn't remember her once saying anything good about him. She blamed him for everything bad that had happened to her—the ironic thing being that most of their problems had been started by her— and most of all to me. She never told me she regretted having me, but her actions had spoken louder than her words. She wasn't caring, she wasn't gentle, and she never told me that she loved me.

And of course that was because she didn't believe in love. "Bella, put away those ridiculous novels. There is nothing real about them. There is no such thing as love. It's just a chemical imbalance that goes away. Don't worry about it." I think I was eight when she told me that. I never forgot it, and I didn't want it to be true. But as it turns out, she was more right than I had wanted to believe.

When I was fourteen I moved to live with my dad, but the damage was already done. My dad was a good guy, but with my mother's words ringing in my ears, I distanced myself from everyone—except Jacob. Jacob was fun and crazy, and nothing ever got heavy with him. I started dating him to piss my mother off, and after that, it was just comfortable. It wasn't hard, it wasn't a struggle, but neither was it fantastic and amazing. After a while it was just boring and normal. More and more Jacob started to piss me off with his adolescent attitude. I was worried about him in the big city. He was just such an idiot, and I had ended up doing everything for him. It wasn't my smartest move, I could admit, but he was still a kid in many ways. It was my fault that he was even here to begin with.

I had given up everything for him. I worked two jobs, I was still in school, and I hadn't been to see my dad in years. I used to dream about seeing the world, and traveling, and having new experiences, but instead I had stayed in one place and did the same thing day in and day out. It was never the plan, but somewhere along the way I became okay with it. There was no point worrying about it now. It was far too late to change anything.

I hadn't always been this way. I was just like anybody else. I wanted someone to cuddle and watch TV with or to fall asleep next to. I wanted someone who loved me unconditionally—the way no one else ever had. It wasn't that much to ask for, not really, or it wouldn't have been if the world worked right. I had just wanted somewhere safe, where I could just be me. The truth was that I wanted to run away and go somewhere where my life could never find me. Just somewhere that I could start over and shed all the things that I had been made to be by my mother and Jacob, only I had never done it and now it was too late. I was stuck in this stupid city and this ill-fitting life.

So of course, my friends—who really did mean the best—dragged me out to hit the town. "But, Bella, you live in the greatest city in the world. You should go out and enjoy it. Now you've got your chance." I finally got tired of fighting and let them drag me out of the apartment that had only recently become mine again.

We went to this bar that they liked, The Neon River. To be fair, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Although it had a dance floor, the music wasn't obnoxious or too loud. There was enough light that you could see and you could hear the people you were there with. All in all, it wasn't terrible. I just didn't enjoy going out. I liked my friends, but they were forever thinking that I needed to be more outgoing and "fun." I liked them, but there were times they really got on my nerves. I was over Jacob. I didn't need to go out and get him out of my system. Now if I could just get them to understand that.

"Bella!" Alice, my short, black haired friend, called me over to the end of the bar. Rose, tall and blonde, enveloped me in a hug when I got there.

"How are you doing sweetie?" I almost groaned at the pity in her voice. It was ridiculous.

"I'm fine, Rose. Jacob and I haven't been a thing for a long time."

Alice and Rose gave each other a look that clearly said, "That's what she thinks." I rolled my eyes and ordered a scotch just to stay away from their fruity cocktails. We talked about school and work for a while, letting them pretend to distract me. I didn't need cheering up, but if it made them feel better, then so be it.

Everything went fine for about fifteen minutes. I was even beginning to enjoy myself. I had forgotten how much fun just hanging out with the girls could be.

Then Rosalie waved toward the door and beamed at a tall, muscular man. I groaned. "You told me it wasn't going to be like that tonight."

"It won't be that bad, I promise." I had met Rose and Alice's boyfriends before, and they were good guys, don't get me wrong, but they had the tendency to be loud and obnoxious—especially Emmett. I just didn't want to deal with it tonight. Maybe I could use it as an excuse to get out early.

Emmett and tall, blonde Jasper weaved their way through the crowd toward us. Emmett leaned down and planted a huge, wet one on Rosalie's lips. Jasper wasn't too much better with Alice. I swear I saw tongue get swapped back and forth. I have nothing against making out, of course, but I sure as hell didn't want to watch it.

Jacob used to kiss me like that. I couldn't say that I had ever liked it. It always felt like he was showing off or marking his territory. I had gone along with it but always hated it. It was just one of those things that couples did, right?

Alice and Rose never seemed to mind however. They always enjoyed it and even started it on more than one occasion. I kinda hated them for that. I didn't hate them for liking it. I hated them because they could. I had never gotten to have that prefect innocence. They got to believe that everything would work out and the princess would get the prince and I didn't. It wasn't fair. It sounded childish but it was the truth. It wasn't fair.

"Are they always like this?" I didn't realize that there was anyone in the seat next to me, so I was a little startled. I was even more shocked when I saw him. He was, well, lanky was the only way to describe it. Everything about him was long—arms, legs, face, fingers. He had a predominate nose, not terribly large, but not small either, just the first thing that you noticed about his face. His broad shoulders filled out a royal blue button down nicely. His lips were thin and pink and his hair a gloriously bed ridden mop of bronze.

It was his eyes that truly caught my attention. They were deep set and a beautiful green. I had never seen anything like them. Light eyes had a tendency to look washed out, but these were bright, though I couldn't pin down the exact shade. There was an intelligence in them that one didn't normally see. It was highly attractive. Jake's dark ones always made him look like a dumb fuck. I had forgotten how open a pair of eyes could be.

This man, whoever he was, was very attractive. He could've been a model and on the cover of magazines. Movie stars would die for face like that. It was stunning.

I couldn't let him know that I thought he was attractive, so I let loose the snarkiest comment that my mind could come up with. "You mean sucking each other's faces all the time, nonstop? Yeah, sure, they do that all the time."

Rather than looking pissed and ruining the whole I'm-A-Hot-Motherfucker look, he grinned and looked even more devastatingly handsome. God dammit! What did I ever do to deserve this?

"Well, then it's a miracle that they get anything done. Emmett's grades aren't great as it is. This could hurt his grad school chances."

All right, well clearly he knew Emmett and probably Jasper as well. I wasn't sure if I wanted that, or if I would've preferred him to stay some stranger. I was leaning toward the latter.

I'm-A-Hot-Motherfucker ordered a beer. I watched as his long fingers wrapped around the neck of his glass. His Adam's apple bobbed as he drank, and I was suddenly feeling very hot and uncomfortable. I didn't like that feeling at all, so I lashed out at the source of the feeling.

"It's totally gross. Who wants to watch some people suck each other's faces and exchange spit? Just get a damn room."

"What? You don't believe in true love? In the power of love that makes you want to stick your tongue into another person's mouth? Or die for them, or live for them, whatever your definition is?"

Who was this guy? He sounded like he believed everything he had just said. I didn't think anyone believed in the "power of love" anymore, never mind a twenty something hot-as-fuck man. I mean what the hell? Was this guy a whack job or something? Of course the hottest guy I had ever seen, and a possible rain shower to my serious drought, would be some kind of romantic nut bag.

"No, I don't," I deadpanned. "Maybe in some kind of highly romanticized past it worked, but not here, not now in the 21st century. It just doesn't exist, and anyone who says otherwise has either never been in love or is lying."

"Damn. What bitch died and got stuck in your ass?"

I gasped in shock. More emotion than I generally showed to be sure, but he also just called me a bitch. What the fuck? Who the hell did he think he was?

"Oh, calm down. I didn't call you a bitch. I called whatever you have stuck up your ass a bitch."

"So what, you read minds?"

"No." He laughed, and I didn't know whether to jump him or punch him. "Everything you think is clearly printed across your face."

I sputtered. My mouth opened and closed like a dying fish. I'm sure it was very attractive, but God dammit, he had me speechless. I couldn't even figure out an awesome, snarky response to throw at him. I didn't know how to answer, and I didn't like that feeling at all.

"You know you don't need to do that, right?"

"Do what?" I was officially off my game. I never let anyone get to me like this guy.

"The whole sarcastic, bitter thing you have going. You don't need it. You're a very beautiful woman with the most amazing eyes. I haven't seen eyes like yours in forever. They're very deep and telling—" he paused and stared so intently at me that I blushed, "and also hide a lot of pain. I wish it wasn't there, but everyone has to go through things. It's how we grow. I wish I could convince you to let your guard down. You don't need to hide behind a cover with me."

I wanted to say something. I didn't know what, but I needed to say something. What did you say to that? He just saw through everything that I put to him. Who the hell was he?

Fortunately, Emmett answered my question. "Hey, Bella, I see you've met Edward. Edward, this is Bella. She just broke up with her boyfriend."

"I broke up with him six months ago, thank you very much, Emmett." Great, now if I tried to jump him I would look desperate. "I thought you were sucking Rosalie's face anyway."

They all laughed. I gave them a huge fake smile and went back to nursing my scotch. I tried to ignore the man sitting next to me. He joked with Emmett and Jasper, and Alice and Rosalie kept shooting me worried glances.

"Um, Bella, Edward is a friend of ours from high school," Jasper told me after I noticed Alice whispering to him.

"Bella. Did you know that means beautiful in Italian?" Edward flashed his most charming grin and offered me his hand.

I took it and fought the urge to moan as his long fingers wrapped around my hand. They were rough and calloused but very gentle. I tried to keep from letting the shiver that was racing down my spine show. I didn't want him to know the power that he had over my body. "Yeah, because I've never heard that one before, asshole."

He laughed like I expected he would. This time my skin prickled and broke out in goose bumps. "Yeah, I didn't figure that would work. Can't blame a guy for trying, and please call me Edward."

I'm-A-Hot-Motherfucker's name was Edward. There was something about that name that just seemed to fit him. It was classical without being stuffy. Common enough for everyday use, and yet special enough that you'd remember it. I liked Edward. He was weird and clearly a romantic, but there was something about him—something undeniable and unavoidable. It was fantastic, scary, and exciting. It had been a while since I had felt anything like it. I still didn't believe in true love or any of that shit, but whatever. I didn't need it. He was gorgeous, and I didn't care about the future.

"So, Edward," I said coyly, trying to make my voice as appealing as possible—trying to reel him in. "What do you do for a living?"

I've thought about this for a long time and I'm convinced that nothing could have prepared me for his, or rather Emmett's, answer. "He's a traveler."

"A what?" I asked confused.

"What Emmett means is that I travel," Edward explained. "I have a car and I kind of just go around town to town doing odd jobs and stuff. It's usually just enough to pay for the gas to get to the next town."

"So, you're a bum." I was trying to insult him. I mean, he traveled around in a car and didn't have a home or a steady job. What was his problem? The thing was, I didn't think I could insult him. The way that he spoke about his life, there was a certain pride in his voice. It was like he knew that he could do something else, but he wouldn't enjoy it as much. This thing he did, he liked it. He enjoyed it. He loved it even.

"I'm not a bum." He told me gently and a new kind of frenzy entered his voice, like I was important enough for him to want me to understand. "It's true, I could do hundred different things and get paid more, have a nicer car, and have the home my parents think I should have, but it wouldn't be me. I would be some shadow of me. This way I get to see things and places, and meet people. You have no idea how liberating it is to be able to do anything you want—complete freedom. It's all anyone ever talks about, but no one ever does it. I mean sure, there are days that I don't eat, and I've been stuck on back road highways that no one ever visits more times than I can count, but it's just the price you pay."

I hate to admit it, but he had me breathless. The image he had painted was just like the one I used to fantasize about. Open roads and small towns and somewhere that no one could ever find me. I just wanted a place where I could be me. I yearned for that kind of freedom. To not give a shit what everyone else thought and just go—no plan and no agenda. I had planned, summer after summer, to go on a cross-country road trip, but I always stayed for Jacob. Part of me had always regretted it.

Of course, he had me off guard, and I felt threatened so I lashed out. I was grasping at straws, however. "You know you can't do that forever?"

"Forever was never the plan, just until I find the Thing."

"What thing?" My voice had lost its edge. I had gotten sucked up into this world he created almost against my will.

"The Thing. The Thing that makes everything I go through worth it. The Thing that makes settling down bearable. The Thing that I'm looking for."

I stared at him in complete awe. He should have sounded stupid. He should have sounded corny and idiotic. This was the kind of thing that college seniors talked about doing before real-life kicked in.

However, he clearly believed everything he said. There was a kind of honesty that couldn't be disguised in his voice. Whether or not it should've worked, it did. It was clear Edward was more than just a pretty face. He was a romantic, a wanderer, a believer in lost causes, a runaway, and that made him all the more dangerous to me.

There was a part of me that longed to be that way. Deep down, I too was that person who would just up and follow the sunset with no thought as to how to get back. However, I had long since locked her away, too scared to ever let her out. Even if I had wanted to, I didn't how any more. I was ruled by my insecurities and fears. If he were to find a way to break her free, I know it would only crush me in the end, when I truly realized that there was no happily ever after—because damnit, there wasn't.

He captured my gaze inside his fascinating green orbs, and I wasn't able to look away. I had never met anyone like him. I didn't know that anyone like him existed. I tried to understand what he was trying to tell me with that look. It was like he was asking me something, but I didn't speak the same language. I wanted to, really I did, but there was something holding me back.

I had forgotten all about our friends and the bar that surrounded us. I knew to be more careful than that. I couldn't let him take over my complete attention. I wasn't even sure that I should sleep with him anymore since I realized that he was just so strange. So I turned my attention to my scotch and tried to ignore the very hot, very strange man sitting next to me.

Of course, he wouldn't go along with my plan. "So, Bella-who-doesn't-believe-in-love, what do you do with your life?"

I only looked at him out of the corner of my eye. I had to remain distant. I couldn't let him get under my skin. "I serve a bunch of rich bozos seven dollar coffee, go to class during the day, and then every other night I do the same thing for people who spend twenty dollars a plate for dinner."

"I'm sure you enjoy that." Edward smirked, but it was sympathetic without being pitying. "What would you like to do?"

I hated this question. I always had. I usually made up some kind of trite answer. "Oh, I want to help people. I want to make the world a better place." You know, things that make people go, "oh, right, sure," and then leave me the hell alone.

I was about to answer the same way to him, but then, as if he knew that I was about to lie to him, his eyes narrowed, his lips twisted into a smirk, and he shook his head just a little. I couldn't help but grin back. I shouldn't have, but I did. I rolled my eyes and muttered, "Ass."

He laughed. It was a beautiful sound that I wanted to curl up in. I decided that he should get the truth for that one. "I don't know. I don't know what I want, or what I need. I don't know if I want to do anything. I don't know if I want what people expect, or just what I want to do. I just don't know."

Edward stared in silence again for a moment before he smiled slowly. "What do you know; there is something more to you than a hard, bitter, sarcastic woman."

I stared because I was again speechless. I didn't know whether or not I liked that he always had me off guard. It was certainly different. What did you do when you no longer knew how to take a risk? Sleeping with him would be easy, almost too easy. I wasn't sure that we could stop at just sleeping, however. Edward didn't strike me as a one-night stand kind of person. I liked Edward, but I didn't want or need anything complicated. I may not have liked my life, but at least I knew what to expect. I knew how to handle that life. I didn't get questioned more than I knew how to answer.

Fortunately, Emmett captured Edward's attention and for the rest the night he seemed to have little interest in me. I sat, mostly quiet, and nursed my scotch. By the time Edward stood up, I was a little bit tipsy.

He gave Emmett and Jasper both the man version of a hug. It seemed that he was headed out in the morning and they wouldn't be seeing him for a while. Surprisingly, I felt my heart seize up. I might not see him again after he left the bar. I didn't know why, but I didn't want that to happen. I told myself that it was lust, that I liked his body, nothing more. It was a lie even as I thought it.

Before he left he leaned down over me, brushed hair off my shoulder, and placed his lips just against my ear. I could feel them brush against the shell and it caused me to shiver. "If you want to take a risk, maybe try to believe again, then meet me outside."

And then he was gone. I didn't even see him disappear into the crowd. He was just gone. I didn't need him or anyone else for that matter. I certainly didn't need to follow him into some kind of thinly veiled unknown. He had been wrong. I wasn't ready to take a chance. He wasn't worth it.

At least, that's what I told myself. My heart wasn't listening. Every beat sang for the beautiful stranger that got under my skin. Usually it was easy to tell my heart to shut up or at least ignore it. I had an untold number of excuses—it wasn't safe, I couldn't afford it, it wasn't the right time, I wasn't ready. It used to be that I could focus on the excuses and cling to them like a nun clings to a rosary.

There was a breath of freedom, however, that clung to Edward's skin. I didn't understand why he did what he did. It had to be lonely and scary sometimes. He had admitted that he didn't always have money to buy gas or food, but there was something romantic about it—to have the open highway as your plaything and the stars above as your roof. Were there things that were worth paying that steep a price for? Was it worth giving up comfort and safety just to bring a little bit of happiness into a life that was already too short?

I didn't believe in destiny or fate. That just wasn't the way the world worked. Edward had been right earlier—I was bitter and maybe a little angry with no reason to be. I just had always been a little lost. When you're lost for a long time you tend to give up on ever finding yourself.

Maybe you get so lost that you don't know the path out when you see it. Maybe you think things are meant to be one way, but then someone stumbles into you that changes everything. You know those nights when you meet someone and they have you questioning the entirety of your existence? This was definitely one of those nights. The question was, did I have the courage to let it?

I drained my third glass of the night and stood up. "I'm going home," I told Alice and Rose. I wasn't quite sure why I was lying. I guessed I didn't want to jinx my liquid courage. "I'll talk to you tomorrow."

I didn't wait for them to answer before I was out the door and on the busy city sidewalk looking for the stranger who had me questioning everything. At first I felt my heart sink. He had said he would be waiting outside, right? No matter which way I looked, I couldn't find the faceted green eyes or the odd copper hair. Against my better judgment, I felt my heart sink and my eyes began to burn. I had been right all along. Fate, destiny, and those other words from fairy-tales didn't exist in the real world.

"You're a little later than I thought you would be. That's okay, I like surprises."

I turned around to find him leaning against the mouth of an alley. It was a very James Dean look. It took everything in me not to smirk back at him. "Don't think this means anything. You're just really hot."

"Like I've never heard that before." He winked, throwing my own words back at me, and I tried to keep from blushing. What was it with this guy? Everything he did had me questioning everything I did.

I crossed my arms over my chest defensively and shrugged. "Where are we going?"

"I've got a hotel room tonight. We could go there."

I liked the sound of that. If I could just fuck him and get him out of my system then I would be a lot better off. I was sure of it. "Sounds great. I'll get us a cab."

"Don't worry about it." Edward pushed off the wall and started down the alley. He was so tall and his legs so much longer than my own, that I had to hurry to catch up to him. "I told you I have a car, well truck."

I didn't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't what I saw. It was a truck in only the lightest of terms. The cab was bulbous and the bed fairly short. It was a faded red color and looked to be at least sixty years old. I found myself staring in shock. "That's it? Does it even run?"

"I will have you know that it does. This baby has gotten me from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic and everywhere in between." He dug his keys out his pocket and opened the passenger door for me. He waited until I was in the bench seat before shutting the door and climbing in the other side. The truck started with an ear splitting roar and Edward patted the wide wheel with a certain amount of pride. "No knocking the truck. She's the best home I've ever had."

"She? Why is it that everything a man owns is a woman?"

He shrugged as he pulled into traffic and fiddled with the radio. "Because although we would never admit it, we are always looking for a woman who is as dependable as our stuff."

"This thing hardly looks dependable."

"That's part of the charm. She doesn't look like she would make it far, but she's stronger than she looks."

I didn't think he was talking about the car anymore. So, of course, I reacted the only way that I knew how. "You're really weird. You know that right?"

He smirked and nodded. "Trust me, I've heard far worse. I just happen to like lost things. There is something incredibly beautiful about them. No one else ever seems to care about them, but they are often just the things we need most."

"What would you know about being lost?" I snapped. Even though he wandered around everywhere, he hardly seemed lost. It stuck me suddenly that he seemed to know more about what he was doing than I did.

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Bella, than are dreamt of in your philosophies." Now he was flawlessly quoting Shakespeare. Damnit, was there nothing he could do that I wouldn't find attractive? I couldn't deny his point either.

"Well, you don't seem very lost." I finally muttered.

"There are lots of ways to be lost. A child who losses his mom in a store is lost, while at the time the man who seems to have everything—money, power, a family—can be called lost as well. Maybe we're all lost in a way until we find that one thing we're all looking for. Some of us just get more lost than others."

We finally pulled up in front of a small motel. "This is it?" It probably wasn't as bad as I made it sound, but I was trying to find something to be negative about.

Edward, who no matter what I tried, just let my negativity run over him like water. "It's not the best I admit, but it's better than spending the night in the truck."

"Have you done that before?"

"Sure." He shrugged while opening the door and ushering me inside. "Sometimes there's nowhere to stay, so I sleep in the truck by the road, and other times I just can't afford to pay for a room. Anyway, welcome to my current home."

It was a modest room. There was a queen sized bed and a TV. Bland, generic watercolor paintings hung on the walls and there were ugly bed covers and curtains. I couldn't resist telling him that either.

"Why are you always so mean? It has it get tiring. You're better than that. You may not believe it, but I do." Edward didn't sound mad or insulted. He was smiling as he fell back onto the bed. His hands went behind his head and the motion pulled his dark shirt up exposing part of his taut stomach and a copper trail of hair that disappeared into his jeans. I quickly swallowed the drool that I could almost feel escaping from my lips.

I kinda wanted to join him and make him stop asking questions. However, I just couldn't go over there. I was intimidated by him. That cool, natural confidence just got to me. "What did you ask?" I finally muttered.

"I asked why you're always so mean; and you don't have to stay over there you know." He patted the bed next him. "Come here."

Almost against my better judgment I sank into the bed next to him. I pulled my knees into my chest and struggled to keep my defensive mask in place. "I'm not mean all the time. I just don't see the point in being nice all the time either. No one out there is going to be nice to you."

I jumped when I felt his fingertips trace over my palm. I thought for a moment he was going to stop, but then they resumed their path over my skin. "Who did this to you?"

I sputtered, stopping and starting, uncertain as to how to answer him and how truthful I should be. "I, I just, I mean no one did this to me."

One long, dark eyebrow arched over his forehead. I could see the skepticism in his face. I supposed that I didn't make a good argument with my sputtering and half-finished sentences.

"Bella." I shivered as my name left his lips. There was just something right about the sound. "No one is as naturally bitter as you are. Something or someone made you that way."

"Well, maybe you're wrong. Have you ever thought about that?" I bit out at him. I thought about removing my hand from under his, but I was enjoying his rough fingertips on my skin. "Maybe life just sucks and nothing works. Life isn't a fairytale you know?"

His thin lips spread into a smile, but it was gentle and reassuring. "I know that, Bella. Really I do, but does being angry about it do you any good?"

"Well, it's better than doing nothing, which is the only other option I have. Why do you care anyway? You don't even know me."

Edward was quiet for a moment and I appreciated that. It meant he was really thinking and wouldn't give me some kind of trite, hallmark card answer. "Because you're real. Even as you hide things, the realness seeps through. You're gorgeous, sarcastic, and bitter, but heartbreaking, stunning, and somewhere in there you are a bright, happy, vibrant woman. I want to know that woman. That woman is you and she is worth fighting for."

My heart pounded inside my chest and palms became slick. My own family, the boyfriend I had gone out with for five years, had never said anything like that to me. Not once had I ever gotten the feeling that they would fight for me. Yet this man, who didn't even know me, was more than willing to fight for me. He was practically begging me to fight for myself. I couldn't be angry with him anymore. If he was playing me then he was doing a good job of it. I blinked back hot tears; refusing to let them fall and for him see me cry. "What are you anyway, some kind of therapist?"

He chuckled and I found myself inching closer to the sound. "I do have a degree in psychology."

"Then why are you living like this?" Town to town, random job to random job—it just didn't make any sense. He could have been a psychiatrist or a therapist and been making more money and certainly driving a nicer car than that junky truck outside.

"I told you, I like my life. I'm trying to live a little. I can go back to psychology whenever I'm ready. I'm not in a hurry."

"You can't really enjoy this?" I looked around the drab hotel room. I just didn't get it. I may not have enjoyed either of my jobs or school, but at least I had somewhere to call home. What did he have? He had a truck that, no matter what he may have said, barely ran.

"Yeah, I do." Beautiful green eyes full of fire and truth watched his fingers as they began trailing up my arm. It tickled a little inside my elbow, but I tried to ignore it. "I could make more money and drive a fancier car, but that wouldn't make me happy. I would be in one place and by myself. Where's the fun that?"

The truth? There was no fun in that. I knew that and he knew that. It was becoming increasingly difficult to argue with him, or ignore his fingers. "Well, what else are you going to do? You can't do this forever."

"I'm not going to. I'll find The One, and then we'll do whatever we decide to do together."

"Ah, the illusive One."

"What, you don't believe in The One?"

"I told you I don't believe in love."

"I don't believe you." He grinned and I gasped. "If that was true then you would have jumped me rather than sitting here talking to me."

"Well, maybe I'm old fashioned and think the guy should make the first move." I was grasping at straws and I knew it.

He shook his head, smiling the whole time. "Nope, I don't believe that either."

I shrugged and refused to look him in the eye. "Maybe, I'm just scared."

I wasn't looking at him, but I felt the bed shift and knew he must have moved. It wasn't until I looked up that I realized how close he had come. He was sitting right next to me, not an inch of air separated us. He was tall enough that I had to look up to see his face. Those green eyes that I had been obsessed with all night were filled with a soft, warm sympathy. They were so big, and so close, that I felt like I could drown in them.

His fingers left my arm and went to brush away hair from my face. I bit my lip to remind myself that I couldn't fall for his temptation. The physical was all I could have with him.

"What are you afraid of?" His warm breath washed over my face and I realized that I was closing part of the gap between us. I backed up a little and he let me go.

I was careful to keep my gaze in my lap and not look into his eyes as I answered, "I'm afraid of falling for someone because it will never last. It's just going to hurt in the end."

"Why do you think that?" His voice was almost a whisper, and I found myself curling closer to him.

"Because it's all I've ever seen. My parents were divorced by the time I was two. That leaves its mark. I was raised by a mother who assured me that it really wasn't worth it."

"How long did you go out with the boyfriend you just broke up with?"

"Five years. I started going out with him just to piss off my mom, and then it was just comfortable. I think I may have loved him at some point, but whatever we had died years ago."

He was silent and still. His head was bowed so I took a chance to look at him. His fingers were tracing mine so I knew he was paying attention to me, probably trying to find a way out of this. I was sufficiently messed up enough to scare him off. With his head bowed like that, his wild copper hair was right in my face. I found myself studying the blond, red, and brown highlights and resisting the urge to touch them. It looked soft, thick, and smooth. I was wondering if it would live up to my hopes. Most things didn't.

"So, that's it?" Edward was suddenly staring me in the eye; his gaze was steady and unwavering. He wouldn't let me go, and I wasn't sure I wanted him to anymore. "Just one try and you've given up on the whole institution?"

"Two." I argued, although from a certain viewpoint he would be right.

"You aren't your parents, Bella." He rolled his eyes, but I got the impression he was more amused than anything. "You have to make your own mistakes and your own victories."

"And you think you could be one of them?"

"I'd like to be."

"And if I said that I would rather just fuck you and leave before the sun came up?"

"Then I would be okay with that, but I would be highly disappointed."

During this exchange we had drifted closer and closer. Now just a breath of air separated us. It would be so easy to reach out and close the distance between us, to seal our lips together and put this endless conversation to an end. His tongue peaked out to wet his lips and his eyelids were drifting closed. I could feel every one of his breaths and wanted nothing more than for him to hold me. He couldn't though. I couldn't take that risk. It was just too much.

"Take a risk with me, Bella," he murmured, clear green eyes begging me for a chance to prove—what? That he could be the one? That he could make me believe in this ridiculous thing called true love? Any other time I would have declined and probably left, but there was something in his voice and his eyes that assured me that I should just give in this once, just one more time.

With one last breath I closed the distance, placed my heart on the line, and kissed him. I think he was a little surprised that I acted because he gasped and jumped a little. I took the chance and forced my own tongue into his mouth. At that point Edward caught up with me. He tangled one of his hands into the roots of my hair and returned my kiss with an equal intensity. His other hand found my waist and tugged me closer so that I was straddling his lap.

His fingers slipped under my shirt and traced over my spine. I shivered in his arms and blocked out any other thought or feeling than him there underneath me. My own hands found their way into his hair. Finally, after fantasizing about it all night, I twisted my fingers into his beautiful locks. I had been right in my earlier assumption—they were gloriously soft and smooth. He grunted into my mouth when I pulled at the ends, and I felt him twitch underneath me.

His lips left my own and nipped and licked their way down my chin and behind my ear. He sucked on my sweet spot and ground his pelvis up into me. I could feel his erection as he moved and found myself pushing back against him.

After that I lost track of who did what, our hands were everywhere, pulling and shoving, just trying to find bare skin to mark. His lips met mine again after he managed to get my shirt off. I already had his off of him and was squeezing the thick bands of muscle on his back. He was quite frankly very well built and he hid it well. His chest was covered in in very light bronze hair and he had an amazing six pack, which I wanted to explore. However, his arms formed a steel cage around me, preventing me from taking any kind of control, and surprisingly, I was okay with that. I just didn't need to be in charge here. For the first time in a long time I could let it go and just enjoy it.

I didn't even realize that Edward had removed my bra before it had joined our shirts on the floor and he had my breasts cupped in his hands. I pulled away from his lips when his thumbs brushed against my nipples causing them to tighten and send shock waves south to where I still grinding in his lap.

My forehead hit his shoulder, effectively hiding my face in his neck. Suddenly everything felt too real. I didn't want to stop, but there was too much—his hands, his lips, his body. I felt like I was in a cage and I could almost feel myself beginning to hyperventilate. This was a mistake. What had I done? What had I been thinking?

Edward must have felt my body tense as I realized what I had done. He wrapped his arms back around my back and crushed me into his chest. One of his hands began stroking my hair, his calloused fingers surprisingly gentle. "Stay with me, Bella," he murmured his voice warm and thick.

"I've never done anything like this," I admitted. I wasn't quite sure what I was referring to, but everything with Edward felt much more intense than it ever had with Jacob. Edward just felt more real, more solid, and more touchable than Jacob ever had, and that scared me.

"I know." Edward pressed a line of small, sweet kisses into my shoulder. "Just relax. I've got you. I'll take care of you."

I believed him. I shouldn't have, and the smart part of me knew that, but I was tired of fighting. I had been fighting a long time—not just him either, but everyone. It was so hard to keep myself apart, to keep from feeling and thinking. I didn't want to let go, but he made me want to. "I don't know if I can."

With gentle fingers and an undeniable strength, he pulled my face off his neck and cupped it between his palms. He made me meet his gaze and his affectionate green eyes. "Yes, you can. Just let me in. I promise you, I'll take care of you."

"And what if you met your Thing, your One?" My voice was bitter and hard just because I knew it was the truth. He was looking for the great romantic love story and I didn't believe that they existed. It could never work. There was no way.

He smiled, no tease in his face, just a little amusement and a lot of compassion. "I really don't think you need to worry about that."

"Why won't you just let me fuck you and then leave?"

"I won't let you do that because I can tell that you don't want it. Just let me in."

I stared, unable to breath, unable to move. I was nervous, sick, and excited all at once. "I don't know how."

And rather than give me more flowery words, he used actions. He leaned forward and brushed his lips against mine in a barely there kiss. After that I couldn't keep track of where they were. They fluttered over my forehead, over my cheeks, my eyelids, the corners of my lips and then down my chin before he was over my nose. That last one made me giggle and he grinned in response. "You should do that more often. That's a beautiful sound."

"Show me how."

He smiled again before pressing his lips into mine a little longer this time. He didn't try anything else. His hands were settled at the small of my back and everything else was still. He didn't try to force his tongue into my mouth. It was the most innocent kiss I had ever experienced, but was probably the greatest kiss I would ever have. It wasn't rushed, it wasn't hurried, and it didn't lead anywhere. It was just a kiss, and I knew in that moment I wouldn't be able to go back.

I don't know how long we stayed that way slowly growing braver and unfolding to demands that needed to be met. Eventually Edward pushed me back onto the bed and hovered over me, lips never leaving mine and my fingers still tangled into his hair. I toyed with it absentmindedly while we learned the rhythms of each other's bodies.

Edward pulled away and I pouted. I wasn't bereft long, however, as he was soon working his way down my neck and across my chest. I could feel my breathing pick up as his lips pulled little moans and sighs from me. He blew over my nipple, teasing me, causing me to wiggle and squirm before he would finally suck me in. I arched, causing my chest to push into him. He pulled away much sooner than I would have liked, and I let him know it by pouting.

He chuckled, and with him pressed against me the way he was, I could feel it. It caused a new wave of tingly feelings to shot down my spine and settle in my core. I tried to discreetly rub my thighs together to ease some of the ache. Edward noticed and slid a hand between my knees, tracing indistinct circle patterns on my thighs while kissing my stomach.

It was an odd thing. No matter what it may have started out as, the sex with Jacob had been good in the beginning. Yet, that I could remember, Jacob had never been slow. He had never taken the time to just casually explore. It was fascinating the amount of attention that Edward, a man who I had known a matter of hours, had paid just to my lips or my stomach. I mean there is nothing sexy about a stomach, it kinda tickled really, but there he was anyway. It was sweet and warm and sexy, not because it was rude, or arousing, but because it was honest. I didn't know what he was trying to tell me, but I liked it. I could feel tears pricking at my eyes even. I tried not to let it get to me. I was stronger than this, but I had never felt more, well, loved. I did everything I could think of to keep from feeling, but it was undeniable.

Finally, his lips and tongue found my hips and the tickle became too much. I laughed while he tormented me, and I hadn't felt that good, that light, in forever. I giggled and he didn't let up. I could hear his laughter join mine and I was struck by the thought that it was a beautiful sound.

Eventually we settled back down, shed the rest of our clothes and made love with the gentlest of barely there touches. Edward kept himself above me on his elbows, cradled between my thighs. The look in his deep eyes, bright green even in the dim room, was unfathomable. It was fate and destiny all rolled into one. I still wasn't sure that I believed in them, but for the first time I wanted to believe them, because in his eyes there was a home that I had never known existed.

Much later in the night, twined together in the dark, in between dozing, we began talking again about family and friends, hobbies, music and movies—just the little things that made us who we were. We disagreed and argued over more than half of them, but the barbs were traded in teasing sleepiness rather than anger.

During a pause in the depths of the night, I told him something that I had never told anyone—ever. I admitted to him that the one thing I wanted more than anything was to write. I wanted to pen the next great American novel, but what was the point? So did everyone else and they never did, so why should I think I was anything special?

He didn't say much, just held me a little tighter, kissed me in that sweet, reassuring way that only he had, and whispered into my ear that I should write more than the great American novel. I should write the great human novel. The one, he said, that explains how we are so small and yet so huge at the same time. The one that stands for centuries as a towering achievement that people never forget, even though they may forgot who wrote it.

It was after that that he asked, "Bella, did you ever dream about just packing a bag and heading out with no destination, no end point, no stopping, and just going whereever the road took you?"


"Then you understand where I'm coming from."

The sun was just beginning to peak through the blinds when I asked him, "You have a car?"

He nodded.

"And you're leaving?"

Again he nodded.

"Then take me with you."

* HEA *

The stars overhead were uncountable in number. There were thick bands and single pieces all arranged together in a disordered manor that created an ordered beauty. It was a sight that had become increasingly common over the last six months since I had run away with Edward. On some nights, if the sky was clear and the air cool, Edward would pull the truck over to the side of an empty backwoods road and we would make our mattress in the truck bed. We would curl up under a ton of blankets and sleep under the stars. The metal liner wasn't the most comfortable of beds, but I wouldn't trade it in for the world.

I would be totally happy anyway if I could just get off the phone. "Yes, Alice, I'm sure that will be brilliant and lots of fun." I paused and listened while she prattled on some more. I was doing my best to pay attention. "Alice, I really need to go."

"Oh, sorry. We miss you! Tell Edward we said hi."

"I will. I'll talk to you later." I was finally able to end the call and lean against the side of the bed. Edward had a flashlight between his teeth and was using the beam to read what I had scrawled in the cheap spiral notebook that he had bought me to write in. I always got nervous when he read whatever I had written during the day.

He took the flashlight out of his teeth and grinned at me. "Well, it seems she took that well."

"Oh, yeah. She's already demanded that we come visit soon."

"We could move back. There's plenty of schools there. I can finish up my degree and you can finish yours if you want, or keep writing."

"You really want to settle down?"

He smiled indulgently. "I keep telling you, Bella, this was never the end of the plan—just until I found you."

"Yeah, yeah, don't keep reminding me." In sight of recent discoveries we wouldn't be able to keep traveling, even Edward knew that. The truck just wasn't big enough. We had maybe a few months left to us. We needed a home, a little stability. That didn't mean that I hadn't loved the last six months, because I had.

They hadn't necessarily been easy, especially the first couple of weeks. Edward and I had fought and argued and then fucked almost constantly. I would never understand why he stayed with me after everything I said to him. I was cruel and heartless and quite frankly a bitch. He kept pushing however. He wouldn't let me get by with my pre-made assumptions. Every time I told him I didn't believe something, he would prove me wrong. He would listen while I ranted and raved and then he would calmly point out that I was still here with him in the middle of bum-fuck-nowhere. He wormed his way under my skin and chipped away at my rough edges.

"Well, what did you think?" I asked timidly. I was nervous about this. He had told me to write and so I wrote the only thing that I could think of.

"I didn't realize that you had a nickname for me before you even knew my name." Edward snickered and I could see him fighting a full laugh. "I'm-a-Hot-Motherfucker kinda has a ring to it."

"Shut up. I don't call you that anymore."

He pouted before pulling me gently down to back into his side, my head on his shoulder and our arms crossed over my stomach. Edward brushed his lips over my forehead softly. It was one of my favorite kisses—just sweet and adoring. It never ceased to make me feel safe and cherished. "I think it's great, Bella. This is fantastic. I love it and I am unbelievably proud of you."

I didn't know how he did it, but I couldn't imagine my life without him. His calm and gentle, trusting manner was the perfect antidote to my harsh cynicism. I may have missed my friends and the security of home, but I didn't think I would have changed the decisions that I had made since meeting Edward. It turned out that he was right all along—there were things worth paying a steep price for. For me all those things were in the back of a truck bed.

"Well, your friends know." Edward's voice jolted me back to the present with his arms around me and the stars overhead. "Now we just have to tell my parents and your parents."

I groaned. "Don't remind me." Not a day went by that I didn't get an irate call from my mother wanting to know why I had run off with a man I barely knew. Wasn't I smarter than that?

"Don't worry. I'll protect you. You, me, and this one." His fingers traced over the skin of my stomach where our baby was growing, softly cradled between us. "It's destiny. You can't fight against it."

I rolled my eyes, but the truth was he was winning me over.

"I love you, Bella."

"I love you, Edward."

And he did, and I did, and that was enough. All the answers we needed in just three little words.

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