Summary: When looking through a peephole, life can pass you by and not everything is as it seems.

AN: Last summer, the two of us paired up again to write something for the fundraiser in memory of an extremely amazing woman we lost at Comic Con, Gisela, a.k.a. mad4hugh. She had been a reader of both of ours for a very long time, and was one of the sweetest and most supportive ones we had for every single word of ours that she read. Her loss was felt by the entire fandom, and we wrote this story in honor of her memory, trying to include a little bit of everything that she seemed to enjoy so much in our stories, and it was included in the compilation for the fundraiser. And as this was dedicated to her, we have decided to post it for all in this fandom that she loved to read within. She is still very missed by us both.

It was going to be another boring Saturday night, drinking a beer alone in front of the television, Edward thought when his attention was caught by a knock from across the hall. The building was notorious for its paper thin walls.

"Bella," Edward heard his brother's voice draw out the "a" in her name and groaned with a roll of his eyes. "I come bearing Starbucks."

The cheeriness in his voice made Edward curious and his heart race. He stood, making his way to the door and leaning his shoulder against it, listening for her response with stilled breath. The click of the lock, the creak of the hinge, her soft "hey", which he could envision the accompanying smile in his mind—it was too much. He loved her smiles, even if they weren't all meant for him. He turned toward the peephole, bracing his hands on either side, and gazed out to the warped view of the hall, but there was no mistaking that face.

Flawless skin, almost perfect teeth framed by full lips, tilted up into a smirk, a riot of curls tumbling over her pert breasts, dark brown eyes that lit up for the person at her door. God, she took his breath away.

"Caramel Macchiato for the lady," Jasper said in a far too jovial tone. Edward froze, because he knew the infliction in his brother's voice and what it could mean.

"Chocolate. She likes chocolate, you moron," Edward grumbled under his breath as she smiled politely at Jasper, which brightened into a grin when he produced a pastry bag as well. "Oh, you are slick, brother of mine."

Edward's heart twisted at the way Bella took Jasper's hand in hers and the adoration in her gaze. He'd tried to ignore all the signs, but they had become glaringly obvious. At first, they had just seemed friendly after he had introduced them two months before, only days after she had moved in. There had been lots of laughs, plenty of talking and shared meals between the three of them, occasionally joined by other friends. It wasn't until a couple of weeks earlier that Edward started to notice the way she touched Jasper's shoulder or thigh sometimes when she laughed. Or the way his brother seemed to trip over himself to get her whatever she needed when they'd gone out somewhere together. However, the shared looks while they cooked dinner in one of their apartments were still subtle enough to only be considered friendly.

Until now, he thought bitterly.

Edward knew Jasper's ways of getting into a woman's bed. If simple friendship and dates didn't work, he plied them with sweets, gifts and his charm. Would Bella fall for it?

He watched with rapt attention, trying to catch the conversation, but only managed to hear a few whispered words like "dinner," "celebrate," and "tonight." He was close to his breaking point, and when Bella opened the door to allow Jasper inside, it was officially too late for him to ask her out now that his brother had taken the initiative.

Pulling a dark blue hooded jacket over his bare chest, he zipped up and grabbed his guitar. He desperately wanted a cigarette, but he was trying to quit. If there was ever occasion to have one, it would've been then.

He didn't even want to think about what was happening in her apartment, so he left his. As he passed her door, he cringed when he heard Bella moan softly. His grip on the guitar tightened as he made his way quickly down the hall and toward the stairway, not having the patience or inclination to wait for the elevator.

He loved his brother, but the way he was with women had never bothered Edward more than it did at that particular moment—and not in its usual way. As he pushed the door leading outside open a little harsher than necessary, for the first time, he nearly wished he could be more like him. Jasper carried himself with such confidence that most women simply flocked to him, and it was never a battle for him to summon up the courage to ask any woman he wanted out for "dinner".

Even if it was one of the main reasons he'd ceased being Jasper's roommate three years before, though more out of annoyance than jealousy.

Yet everything about Bella was different. From the day she moved in at the start of summer, Edward was struck dumb with the instant attraction he'd felt toward his beautiful neighbor. Thanks to steamy weather of the season, she'd worn tiny shorts quite often that showed off her smooth, toned, and exquisitely sexy legs. She'd introduced herself to him that first evening, asking if he'd be interested in sharing a pizza with her; hating the quiet, but being new to the area, she hadn't made any friends yet to keep her company.

They'd quickly progressed from acquaintances to friends, to inseparable buddies. They frequently had "dinner and a movie" nights at one of their places—but strictly platonic.

A growl of frustration rumbled in Edward's throat as he sat down in the lounge chair he kept up there for just such times, laying the guitar across his lap and picking at the strings distractedly. There had been so many instances when he'd been so close to asking her for a date, but he'd always fallen victim to loss of nerve, a wave of anxiety, or a twist of dread that he would scare her away with the awkwardness it would cause between them, if she wasn't interested.

Then, he'd made the colossal mistake of introducing her to Jasper, and thus led them all to that particular night. The sun still had over an hour before setting, forcing him to wear his sunglasses that were in his jacket pocket. For a moment, he wished he could erase his overactive imagination and plucked at the strings some more, shaking his head in the hopes of dispelling the images from his mind.

It was his fault, not his brother's, Edward reminded himself. Jasper had asked him more than once if there was something between him and Bella, but he'd always denied it, to keep his brother from interfering with his love life. Jasper's previous attempts had always ended in disaster.

Edward's gaze turned toward the grimy concrete wall across from him, but instead, there was a large canvas painting of the beach displayed there. He rolled his eyes; of course, he wasn't the only one to make the rooftop a place to hang out. But who'd leave something like that out there?

Sitting up, he looked at it carefully and recognized it as a painting he'd seen in Bella's apartment when she first moved in. The tiny scribble of her name in lower right corner confirmed it was an Isabella Swan original, and he smiled wide.

She had to have put it up there after he'd complained about the view the day before. The roof was overcrowded with ac/heating units, ductwork, and satellites, so there was little room for much else. His heartbeat picked up again at the thought that Bella had made his spot a little nicer for him.

Then he remembered that she was downstairs, in her apartment with his brother. Probably naked.

"Fuck my life," he hissed under his breath, fingers tightening around the neck of his guitar. "Why did you wait?"

He knew the answer, though. She had come to mean a lot to him and he feared her rejection. Just asking for more could've risked everything, and if she'd said that she didn't feel the same way, it would've ruined their friendship.

There would be no more movie nights. No more fighting over the last cookie in the Oreo bag, or having candlelight dinners because she wanted to test out her latest scented ones. He'd have no reason to watch her paint as she concentrated so fucking intensely, or playing his latest jingle for her and receiving an honest opinion.

They'd shared so much since she'd come to his life and he didn't want to risk all of that. However, it seemed that there was still a chance that he'd lose everything they shared, anyway. Would they still do all those things if she was dating his brother?

The very idea of double dating with them, of watching them share a kiss or do more than hold hands, sent a shudder down his spine. Would he be able to share a beer with his brother as he talked about his love life with his beautiful Bella?

Edward groaned and shook his head again. His thoughts and heart were in turmoil. What if Jasper and Bella got married? Would he be able to stand beside his brother as his best man and watch him marry the woman of his dreams? He could almost hear a brown-eyed little girl call him "Uncle Edward."

Again, it was too much for him. Unbidden, his fingers vigorously played a song as an ache swelled in his chest, the notes hanging thick in the oppressive humidity. He was playing so hard, he felt the sensitive pads of his fingertips protest as he continued. What was he going to do?

Suddenly, he heard the squeak of the door that led to the roof swing open. "Dear God," he heard Bella moan. "It's so fucking hot up here."

Edward's brow furrowed and looked at his watch. He'd only been up there for seven minutes. The asshole in him snickered at the poor job his brother must have done to finish in less than ten minutes. The other part realized that maybe Bella wasn't ready to sleep with his brother.

Could he still have a chance?

Damn it, he cursed under his breath. He couldn't move in on his brother's girl, no matter how badly he wanted her. Then, of course, there was the fact that if he hadn't worked up the courage before, what made him think he could now.

The toothpick between his lips and teeth was worn so thin by his insistent biting that it toppled from his mouth in pieces. Groaning, he grabbed another one from the pocket of his jacket as Bella rounded the corner.

She dropped a blanket and a couple of pillows across from him, pulling her sunglasses up from her face and set them on top of her hair. "Hey," she said, smiling down at him. "I was looking for you. I thought I'd ask if you wanted to hit that thrift store down the street with me later. "

Edward only shrugged, looking away from her. Did she blow off his brother to see if he wanted to join her instead? He was oddly pleased by that. She walked up to his chair and placed the drink Jasper had gotten her on the ground beside him. "You'd think after a dozen trips together to Starbucks, he'd know I don't like caramel."

The mention of his brother darkened his mood again. "No thanks. Just toss it out," he grumbled, feeling every bit the child he sounded like.

"Well," she scoffed. "Someone's pissy."

Edward turned to watch her recline back on the blanket she'd laid out, fluffing the pillows and opening the book she'd brought outside with her.

"Sorry," he said, trying hard not to notice the length of her legs in her small denim shorts. "Bad day."

"That's obvious," she said, smiling coyly at him before putting her sunglasses back on. "You looked all intense when I saw you through the window."

Not having anything more to say about his mood, he asked, "Why did Jasper get you Starbucks, anyway?" He wanted to hit something or someone as her smile widened further.

"He finally got a call from Alice," she said with a shrug. "They have a date tonight."

The chord he'd been playing came to an abrupt end. "What? Why the hell would he tell you he's going out with someone else?"

She sat back up, crossing her legs in front of her, looking thoroughly confused. "Why wouldn't he tell me? We've been working pretty hard to get Alice to give him the time of day for weeks now."


"Yeah, didn't he tell you?" Edward shook his head. Bella's jaw snapped shut and her hand clenched tightly. "He was supposed to tell you, that fucker."

"Tell me what?"

The question seemed to catch Bella off guard as she looked down at her lap, flipping through her book as if she didn't want to answer. When she shrugged, he was even more confused.

"Tell me what, Bella?" he tried again.

"That we'd be hanging out so we could work out a plan to get Alice's attention."

"Alice?" he repeated like an idiot. Alice was a new friend of hers; she worked at the gallery where Bella's pieces would be displayed in a show soon. She was a tiny little thing, often bubbly, cute even. And nothing like the women his brother had dated before.

Bella rolled her eyes, relaxing again and leaning back against the wall and pillows. Her hand ran through her loose hair, jingling the bracelets on her wrists.

Dear God, he said internally, she wasn't wearing a bra with the double layered tank tops she had on. Although she was mostly in the shade, the angle which the sun hit her gave him the perfect view. He tried to focus on her face rather than the outline of her breasts.

"Yeah," she continued, unfazed or maybe unaware that he was sweating and tense. "He came to me a few weeks ago, asking about Alice and what he had to do to get her to notice him. You know, she's kinda high class, smart, and nothing like those dimwits he brought around before. I told him I'd help him but that Alice wasn't a fucking snob or anything. She's really down to earth. She loves a reason to go out, don't get me wrong. But her idea of a perfect date is a home-cooked, candlelight dinner. Why do you think he started coming over when I cooked?"

Because he wanted you.

Edward cleared his throat and tried to come up with a logical reason without sounding like he hadn't enjoyed having his brother around.

He shrugged and said, "For free food, what else?"

She laughed and nodded. "That's one reason. The other was so he could learn. He'd come to watch me cook and he said you wouldn't mind."

"Why would you think I'd mind?" he asked, curious about why Bella needed the reassurance.

"Because it was our thing to do, and I invited him over," Bella looked down at her lap again, shrugging and gesturing between herself and Edward. "But I also didn't want him to feel like a third wheel."

Edward's hands clenched into fists as his hopes rose. "Why would he?"

Bella brought her eyes back to Edward's and lifted her brow, as if suggesting that he was missing something.

Edward sighed and looked down at his guitar. "So he has a date with Alice tonight."

"Yeah, so he came over to kiss my ass for helping him," she said, flipping to a page in her book and giggled with a snort. "He even asked for fashion advice. Like I know anything about that."

"Don't know what he was thinking, considering your wardrobe consists of tank tops, jeans and shorts, and on occasion, t-shirts."

She stuck at her tongue at him, but smiled as she went back to her book. "I never heard you complain about my clothes before."

"Of course not. I'm a guy," Edward said, nearly groaning as she lifted a leg high in the air. She grinned, but her smile fell as she looked at her thighs.

"You'd think I'd have some color on me by now," she whined. "I only burn when I do use sun tan lotion."

"I like the color of your skin," he murmured, unable to meet her gaze when she looked up. For a few minutes, neither of them said a word, finding the silence between them comforting, as it often was. The nervousness finally consumed him and he cleared his throat, focusing on his fingers pressed against the strings on the neck of the guitar. "So are we still going to that new Thai place for lunch tomorrow?"

She tapped her boot on the floor to go along with his music and shrugged. "Unless you'd rather go for dinner tonight instead, and hit the thrift store on the way back."

"Didn't you just have something from Starbucks?" he asked, smiling when she threw her bookmark at him. He dodged it, laughing. "Where do you put all this food? You eat like a linebacker."

"I do not," she grumbled and then sighed. She lifted her glasses and his breath caught at the look in her eyes as she sat up, resting her arms atop her knees. "And how about, instead of changing the subject, you ask me about Jasper again, Edward."

Edward's forehead creased as he ran her statement over in his mind repeatedly, attempting to decipher what she'd meant by it. He backtracked through their conversation, to any question involving his brother that she hadn't already answered. And only one came to mind. "Why would he feel like that?"

She reclined against her pillow again and gave him a satisfied smile. "Because I'd already told him that I was hoping something would happen between you and me."

Edward ceased to move, breathe…anything. Well, that definitely wasn't what he'd been expecting. Why hadn't she ever said or even hinted at anything like that before? And as he stared at her face, watching the way she was biting back that secret smile of hers and those brown eyes holding his that way, he felt like kicking himself.

Those candlelight dinners had stopped when his brother joined them, and she'd always worn jeans instead of the tiny shorts whenever she knew Jasper would be there. She didn't touch him as often as she had Jasper, but he'd been the one who tended to avoid it. It was so hard to keep his desire and emotions in check if she was touching him. Though there were the occasional times that he would allow himself to enjoy the feeling of her head resting on his shoulder while they watched a movie together. Everything combined was all the confirmation he needed.

He smiled and realized that she must have just been waiting for him to make the first move. How did he not see those things before?

Edward sat up further on his chair and gave her a feigned look of confusion. The sounds of horns, whistles and revving engines from the street below made it especially hard to hear up on the roof. Although he hadn't missed a single word, he wanted to hear her say it again.

"I'm sorry, I can't hear you," he said a little louder, leaning forward and cupping his ear. His words were punctuated when a car backfired nearby. She said it again, but Edward shook his head, as if he still couldn't hear. "Come here."

She bit her thumb, a nervous habit he'd seen her do on numerous occasions. He realized that she would often do precisely that during love scenes in movies they'd watched together. I was so fucking blind, he thought.

She placed her book on the blanket, unfolding her gorgeous legs and rising to her feet. She approached his chair cautiously, tugging the hem of her top with one hand until she stood right beside him.

Edward looked up at her, waiting for her to say something. He groaned softly when she bent down to whisper in his ear, the scent of vanilla and cherries filling his nose.

"I'd already told him that I was hoping that something would happen between me and you." Her words were a balm to his nervous heart, but the breath of them against his skin made his blood heat.

With her so close, logic and thought escaped him. His hand on the arm of his chair slowly slid up the outside of her thigh, loving the sweet gasp and moan that tumbled from her lips. Keeping his eyes on hers, he lifted his sunglasses off to see her more clearly.

"Is this all right?" he murmured. When she nodded, his fingers climbed higher, dipping beneath the hem of her shorts, as he set his guitar on the ground beside him.

Their eyes were still locked as his fingers curled over the curve of her ass. "Why didn't you say something sooner?" he asked.

She shrugged, reaching for his hair. "I could ask you the same thing."

He smiled at her, and with a little tug on her thigh, she fell into his lap and barely managed to capture her sunglasses before they fell. For a moment, neither said anything and they burst out laughing. His hand traveled up her back, his palm pressing between her shoulder blades to pull her closer. "We're idiots."

Bella's laughter toned down to soft chuckles and he felt her fingers gliding through his hair as she shifted closer on his thighs. "Definitely. You, for taking so long, and me, for letting you."

Edward quickly raised his other hand to cup her jaw. "All this wasted time."

Bella's response was cut off by Edward's lips sealing firmly against hers, blending into muffled groans of satisfaction echoing from both of them. The feeling of her body against his and the motion of her rocking hips made him hold her closer, kiss her deeper, never wanting the moment to end, in case it was a dream. He needed to soak her in and savor her taste, her scent, the way she felt in his arms.

Edward reluctantly parted from her when her breathing became heavy, yet she still held him as close to her as she could. Their foreheads pressed together and their noses brushed softly against the other's with each inhale and exhale.

"Wow," she whispered, still as breathless as he was. The light touch of her fingers along his jaw had their eyes meeting once again.

"You are so beautiful," he said, kissing the tip of her nose. "But you still eat like a linebacker." She laughed and pinched his arm, making him yelp.

Her hands bracketed his face and she skimmed her lips along his nose and eyes. "What am I going to do with you?"

He couldn't help himself and waggled his eyebrows, but said, "Feed me?"

"In a bit. First," she said, still laughing and shifting so she could pull his guitar across their laps. "Can you show me that chord again? The one you taught me last time?"

Edward loved that she took interest in everything he did. She had asked him to teach her only the week before, and though it had been tough to have her so close, he hadn't regretted it. As she sat on his lap, looking so earnest, he knew he'd never deny her.

Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, he took her hand in his and helped her with the chord. He thought it was cute how she concentrated on the strings and her finger placement, much like she did when she painted.

"Like this?" she asked, as she tried it on her own.

He nodded, kissing her temple. "That's perfect."

She tried it a few more times until she got the hang of it and placed the guitar back on the ground beside them, her body shifting to wrap her arms around his neck. They wore matching smiles, a little too wide and goofy. Yet somehow, it was perfect for them.

Though obviously, neither had wanted to only be friends since they met, Edward didn't regret that they'd taken the time to become just that. Under the guise of friendship, he'd learned about her and vice versa. He knew all her favorite movies and books, her life goals and dreams. She knew almost every secret and wish he held close to his heart, except for one.

In time, he'd find the courage to tell her, but not yet.

The feel of her lips was amazing as he reveled at her exploratory touches. Her stomach growled and he watched the color rise in her cheeks, snickering and earning another pinch to his side.

"I think it's time to eat," he murmured, brushing her hair back from her face. "You ready to go now?"

She nodded. "I locked up before I came out here."

He lifted her in his arms quickly, making her squeal in surprise and her hold tighten around him. Setting her on her feet, he smiled at her.

"Grab your stuff, we can leave it in my place."

She only shrugged. "Leave it. We can come back after we grab take out," she suggested. "Lay out and watch the meteor shower tonight."

Instinct and desire had him kissing her hard, and after a few breathless minutes, he whispered, "You're fucking perfect."

She couldn't have made a more spot-on suggestion for their first real date. He'd been afraid she'd think he was a geek if he had said something.

She grinned up at him, put on her sunglasses and took his hand. Her skin was soft against his calloused fingers, but she didn't seem to mind. He grabbed his guitar and led her toward the door.

Together, they traversed the stairs. He was aware of her every move as he'd never been before. The brush of her bare shoulder and arm against his made him wish he'd grabbed a t-shirt instead of a jacket, to feel her skin against his. And after a quick stop at his apartment to drop off his guitar and change, they set out for the thrift store.

The sun had already set by the time they made their way back to the apartment building. Edward didn't think the day could get better as they walked along the sidewalk, with her telling him about her latest piece. His arm was draped along her shoulders, her hand linked with his there, while his other carried her bags from the shop and dinner.

"They're going to extend my show since there's been a lot of buzz on the website about the preview they provided. So they want more of my work. Instead of fifteen pieces, it's now twenty. Thankfully, I had some already done that they loved, or at least, already started. I only have one more to finish in the next few weeks."

He smiled down at her, thankful she'd left her sunglasses behind. He loved watching the expressions and emotions through her eyes, especially the undeniable twinkle they'd get whenever she talked about her work. Now, though, it was even brighter.

"When's the opening?" he asked once they'd dropped her purchases off in her apartment, suddenly feeling nervous.

"August twenty-second," she said, looking up at him. "You're free, right?"

"As if I'd miss your big night," he said, grinning.

"Admit it," she said with that smirk of hers, holding the roof door open for him and walking toward the lounge chair. "You want to see me all dressed up in that little black number I bought tonight."

"Well, I've only seen you the one time in your meeting attire," he said, avoiding her eyes.

Bella cocked an eyebrow. "And what did you think about my meeting attire?"

"You want the tame version or the 'I'm a man' version?" She only raised her eyebrow further, kneeling on her blanket she'd left there earlier and unpacking their food. Be honest, he told himself. "You were gorgeous and made me think of my naughty librarian fantasies I had as a kid."

Bella laughed, shaking her head with a small smile. "I used to work in a library through college."

"Fuck," he hissed, trying not to be an ass and just grab her like he wanted to. "You're a little bit evil, you know?"

"That, I do know," she said innocently, setting his carton in front of him and sticking it with one of the plastic forks. "So, about the opening. Any chance you can be my date?"

Edward smiled, but kept his eyes averted, just to be a little evil, too. As if she could read him so easily, she slapped his arm. Laughing, he took her hand and lifted it to his lips, kissing her knuckles gently.

"I'd love to be your date," he whispered in her skin and she seemed to let out a soft sigh of relief, as if he'd have said no. He sat down beside her on the blanket, waiting for her to get situated with her food as well before continuing, "It's a good thing I got my suit dry-cleaned last week."

"I've never seen you dressed up like that," Bella replied, leaning back against the pillows and shifting her food around in its container. "I just might like that opportunity."

"And here I thought you wanted the moral support," Edward teased, nudging her arm lightly with his. "There's nothing I want more than to be by your side on such an important night, even if I do look like a penguin."

"It's not a tux, Edward," Bella replied with a roll of her eyes, but he could see on her face how much it meant to her. She knew he hated suits and the corporate world. "Are you sure you don't mind?"

"Of course not, Bella," he said, leaning over and brushing his mouth over hers.

Bella smiled and totally ruined Edward's sappy thoughts by saying, "My dad is going to be there." At his groan, she laughed and shook her head. "It'll be fine."

"I answered your phone once and he interrogated me," Edward said, falling back against the wall. "I can't imagine what he'll do once we're face to face."

"You'll survive," she said, kissing his cheek. "Besides, I'll be there to protect you."

"Better be," he grumbled. "He won't be armed, right?"

"Of course not," she replied, though to Edward, it sounded more like a question.

"Well, just in case he is, I better do this while I still can," Edward began, setting down his food in front of him and lifting the front of his shirt. Tucked into his waistline was a plastic bag from the shop and he pulled it out, handing it to her. He smiled and watched as she opened it, retrieving a tiny beaded purse. He'd noticed that she seemed to like to collect them, and had found one that night and bought it while she was trying on the dress. She grinned and hugged it to her body. She was so easy to please and he always did what he could to make her smile that way.

Bella rose to her knees and pecked his lips softly. "You're the best," she whispered, before she gave him a heart-stopping kiss that seemed to last for hours and left him short of breath after. She brushed some of his hair from his face and lightly kissed him one more time. "Now, let's eat. The light show is gonna start soon."

"You're lucky I'm hungry," he grumbled, trying to discreetly adjust himself. From the corner of his eye, he swore he saw her blush, but he chose not to comment to save themselves the embarrassment.

Bella's iPod crooned some oldies in the background as they casually talked. He was surprised to find that, though some things between them had changed, others hadn't. They still enjoyed each other's company, loved the same kind of movies and books, and argued about what was the best sitcom ever. They were still them; the only added benefit was that now he had the liberty to kiss and touch her like he'd always wanted to.

Once they finished with dinner, they laid back to watch the night sky. Though the city lights normally didn't allow such a great view of the stars, on the rooftop and with a new moon, the dark sky was blanketed with stars.

With their hands clasped, they pointed out constellations to each other. It was Edward who caught the first meteor as it streaked across the sky.

"Make a wish," Bella said, squeezing his hand and turning to see his face.

He shrugged. "My wish already came true." Though he could barely make out her features, the way her breath caught and her silence frightened him. "Oh hell. That was cheesy as fuck. What is wrong with me?"

His hand released hers as he started to roll to the side to sit up, but before he could, Bella straddled him and cupped his face. Confusion had his breath coming in pants and his brow furrowing.

"Don't," she whispered. "You surprised me, Edward. That's all. It was the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me." He could see the sincerity in her eyes, accompanied by a breathtaking smile.

He shifted his fingers through her silky hair that fell around them. Love and simple adoration mixed equally with the sudden lust heated his blood. His hand moved to cup her neck but it was Bella that closed the distance between their mouths.

Moans and soft whimpers filled the surrounding thick air. The usual sounds of the city below seemed to fall away, making him aware of only her. His hands roamed down her back, loving the warm feel of her skin that seeped through her shirt. Her hips shifted against his groin, reminding him of where they were and that this was still all new to them.

Which meant he had to be a gentleman and slow things down. He shifted until they laid side by side, lips and hands still lightly exploring. The slow kiss seemed to help keep his control in check. That was until he felt her hand traveling down his stomach.

"Bella," he groaned, resting his forehead against her hair. "Oh God." His body responded to her touch, bucking instinctively toward the heat of her hand. "Baby, we should, um, stop and go inside." Her hand stilled for a moment and then quickly fell between them. He felt the tension in her body before she started to pull away. He didn't let her go and tipped her chin so he could see her eyes.

"We have plenty of time to explore this thing between us," he murmured, kissing her forehead softly, earning a sweet sigh. "There's no rush, okay?"

He felt her nod and bent to kiss her one more time. He hoped it was enough to reassure her and to continue watching the sky above. An hour later at her door, she promised to have coffee ready in the morning before she set off for a meeting at the gallery.

"Good night, Bella," he said, taking another second to hold her to him.

She entered her apartment a moment later, smiling. "Night, Edward."

When he returned to his apartment, he made his way to his closet. "Oh fuck. I'm gonna kill him!" His suit was gone. That meant his brother had let himself in and likely used it for his date with Alice. He quickly sent his brother a text to bring his suit back the following day. Checking the time, it was well after one in the morning.

Without overthinking it, he sent Bella a text. Is it morning yet? ~E

Her instant reply made him smile. I was thinking the same thing. See you soon.


It was after lunch the following day when Jasper showed up at Edward's door. He was ready to snarl at his brother's incessant knocking and it was grating on his already bad mood.

Earlier that morning, Bella had come to his apartment in a whirlwind of explanations and apologetic eyes as she served him her amazing coffee. Apparently, her show had been moved up by two weeks because of some big shot insisting on the space the original day of her opening for his west coast tour. They wanted her final piece by Friday morning.

As an artist himself, Edward understood her regret that she'd be busy the rest of the week so she could finish on time. Once in the zone, a person tended to lose track of time, and with a deadline that much closer, it would be worse. He kissed her worries away for a few minutes before she left to meet Alice at the gallery.

She'd already returned hours earlier, and her playlist for the particular mood of her piece had been playing ever since. Twice she texted him, to let him know she was gonna get started and another to answer the one he'd sent her to make sure she ate.

However, the music made his mind wander to the night before and all the moments since. With nothing concrete to work on besides his own music, it made him realize it was going to be a very long week. Then he thought, had Jasper just told him about having Bella help him out with Alice, Edward might have made a move earlier.

He knew it was a total lie, but it justified his need for vengeance. The moment his suit passed the threshold of his apartment, he grabbed it, placed it on the coat rack, all the while his free arm slid over Jasper's shoulder as he brought him into a headlock.

"What the fuck, Edward!" Jasper cursed and tried to shift Edward's arm off. All that did was practically stuff his nose into a rather smelly region. "Oh fuck. You were fucking working out and haven't showered!"

"I was working out my frustrations and annoyance with you," Edward said, rubbing his knuckles onto Jasper's head, hard.

"Fuck, man," Jasper groaned and he planted his feet so Edward couldn't move him. It didn't last long. Edward stomped on his foot, giving him further advantage. "It's only a damn suit!"

"There is that," Edward said, struggling to keep Jasper from flipping him over his back. "And considering it's what I was planning on wearing to Bella's opening at the same gallery your date works at."

The silence from his brother proved to Edward that there was some deliberate withholding of information about his lovely neighbor.

"Aw, man," Jasper hissed and managed to turn the tables on Edward, forcing his arm over his head. "I was only trying to help."

Edward glared at his stupidly grinning big brother. His careless shrug only pissed him off more. "By making me think you were trying to start something with Bella."

Jasper rolled his eyes. "You assumed," he stated simply. Edward growled and barreled into his brother's gut with his shoulder, sending them tumbling onto his plush rug. They wrestled, both managing a few grunts and curse words. There were never any actual fists involved, but Jasper's foot caught the lamp, breaking it.

"By not telling you the real reason behind my sudden interest in all things Bella," Jasper said as he got Edward into a choke hold. "You started to regret not asking her out first. And how, if things were different, you'd tell her how you really felt."

Though Jasper's words were nearly breathless and raspy, Edward heard everything. "One semester of Psych 101 doesn't make you a shrink, asshole," he grumbled and got out from Jasper's clutches.

He then wrapped his legs around Jasper's neck in one of his signature moves that always worked in taking his brother down as a kid. He had strong thighs. "Say uncle."

"Never!" Jasper's hands desperately sought purchase, to find Edward's weak spot but his ears had zeroed in on something. Did the music get louder? He looked toward the door, gasped when he saw his salvation, "Bella!"

"Bella?" Edward loosened his hold on Jasper and turned to look to find her with her jaw on the floor.

Her eyes were wide, her long legs exposed in her gray cutoffs—his personal favorites—her hair all bound in ponytail as she glared at Jasper. She turned back toward the hallway, calling over her shoulder before pulling the door closed behind her.

"Kick his ass, baby." Grinning, Edward proceeded to do just that.

Several minutes later, they sat on his couch, still trying to catch their breath. Edward handed Jasper a beer and asked him about his date with Alice. As brothers, they'd always been able to address their issues with a wrestling match and call a truce with a tall one.

Clinking their beers together in celebration for their successful dates, Edward said, "I totally kicked your ass. But don't do shit like that again."

Jasper nodded and shrugged. "In the end, you got the girl, right?"

Before taking another soothing drink, he laughed. "I did, didn't I?"


The week apart had been torturous for both of them, but when Friday evening rolled around, Edward was impatiently pacing the floor of his entry way, listening intently for any sign of her arrival. He knew he should just be patient, but he wanted to see her, hold her, everything he'd been denied for the last week aside from random—though sweet—texts.

He checked his watch yet again and groaned, running his hands through his hair. She should have been home ten minutes before; what was taking so long? He tried telling himself to calm down, but he thought he could literally hear the clicking of his watch taunting him with the passing seconds.

Finally, the sound of jingling keys and hurried footsteps echoed from out in the hallway. Though he promised himself he wouldn't, he rushed over to the door and peeked through the peephole for even the slight chance of catching a glimpse of her. And there she was, still in her pencil skirt and blouse from her meeting, hair pinned up with tendrils hanging down her neck, having loosened from her twist. And those gorgeous black, five-inch heels that nearly made him bite his fist with the effect they had on her legs.

"Give me five minutes, Edward, and I'll be ready," Bella's hurried voice carried across the hall, fumbling with the key in the lock before she finally got it open and disappeared inside.

Edward released a contented sigh and turned to lean back against the door, a smile stretching across his face. She was home, and in the matter of minutes, he would have everything he needed; Bella in his arms, her lips against his, before they went out and spent the entire evening together.

He hurried back to his bathroom, running a brush through his hair, rinsing with mouthwash one more time, and adjusting the collar of his shirt. Making his way back out to the living room, he started reminding himself that Bella was his girlfriend; he didn't need to spy on her through the peephole like a creepy neighbor guy.

That was null and void the second he heard the click of her door and he ran to his, looking out into the hallway to see her again. She wore a long black trench coat, her hair freed from its twist, and those sexy legs peeking out from underneath and still in those damn shoes. There was no way he was getting through dinner in one piece that night; she was going to be the death of him.

Edward furrowed his brow as she made no movement toward his door, but instead, began looking around the hallway, as if nervous about something. He was just about to open it to ask her what was wrong when their gazes met through that tiny hole and she began pulling the two sides of the coat apart. His jaw nearly hit the floor at the nearly see-through, lace dress that ended just above the knee, and hugged her curves so enticingly, he audibly groaned.

A smirk touched Bella's lips and she crossed the hall the remainder of the way, running her tongue over her lower lip slowly before knocking on the door. Edward swallowed hard and cleared his throat, attempting to compose himself before opening it and taking her in completely, without any distortion whatsoever. He watched as she tilted her head, smiled a little more, and rested her hand on the doorframe before speaking. "You know, it's really impolite to spy on your neighbors. Just saying."

Edward rolled his eyes, but couldn't hide a smile of his own as he pulled her into his arms and kissed her firmly. She gave a soft contented moan and her fingers found their way to his hair, and her lips closed around his bottom one. With the soft, tentative stroke of his tongue, she met it with hers and he lifted her feet from the ground, carrying her into his apartment. He closed the door with one hand while his other arm stayed wrapped around her beneath the coat.

Bella never lowered from her toes, her hands framing his face to keep him from pulling away and holding his lips to hers. When he finally needed to part from her, her neck arched slightly with a soft whimper escaping her from the loss of contact. "God, I've missed you so much."

Edward's hold on her tightened, with both arms finally secured around her waist, his fingers curling around her sides. "I've missed you, too. This has been the week from hell. Let's not do that again anytime soon."

"No plans of that whatsoever," she replied breathily, kissing him again with an urgency and desperation that set every nerve ending in his body on edge, and left them both breathless. Her body glided along his while her fingers entangled themselves in his hair, finally opening her eyes to gaze up at him. "Would you be too upset if we didn't go out tonight?"

Edward didn't respond for a moment and unconsciously pulled her a little closer, as if she'd run away from him if he wasn't holding on tight enough. He didn't want to appear so childish and crestfallen, but he'd been looking forward to spending that time with her so much, he couldn't seem to help himself. "You're too tired or something?"

"Not at all, actually," Bella replied with a smile and unhooked her arms from around his neck long enough to send the trench coat tumbling to the floor. Tilting her head to press her lips to his jaw, she pulled him back into her embrace and lifted onto her toes to whisper in his ear. "I can't wait any longer to just 'stay in' and have you all to myself. All night long. And I definitely don't want to share you with anyone tonight, for any reason."

Edward's eyes widened at the sultry and suggestive tone of her voice and pulled back enough to look at her. Bella's gaze was dark and heated, but her lips twitched in a hinting smirk, and yet again, he was struck dumb. "Um, what?"

Bella kissed along his cheek to his ear again, pressing her body more firmly against him. "I want you, Edward. Tonight. Now. Please."

Edward took a shaky breath at the vision of lust, desire and pure need written all over her features, mirroring his exactly, and then groaned at the added pressure of her body against him. His arms gripped her waist inescapably, wondering how this woman seemed to have read his mind so clearly—she really was fucking perfect. "Oh thank God."

Bella's giggle melted into a moan as he kissed her with a fierce passion, her fingers tightening on his hair when his lips moved to her neck. "Did you really think I would wear something like this in public when I wouldn't even willingly wear shorts in front of your brother? And this much skin is for my man's eyes only."

Damn, he loved the way 'my man' sounded and felt the shiver of pleasure from her words.

Edward's hands moved along the lacy fabric covering her back until they slid over her ass, mumbling softly against her skin. "I was actually wondering how on earth I was going to remain the gentleman I was determined to be tonight and not completely ravage you."

"No objections to this, I hope," Bella replied with the first hint of nervousness in her voice as her fingernails traced lightly along the back of his neck.

Edward lifted his head to meet her eyes and her expression matched her tone; questioning and uncertain. He brought his hands up to cradle her face between them, kissing her gently and running his thumbs along her cheeks as he pulled back to gaze into her eyes again. "Why would I?"

Bella shrugged, resting her hands on his chest. "Too soon? I'm being too pushy? I don't know."

"Bella, I didn't stop last week because I didn't want you. I do. You have no idea how much, or for how long," Edward answered breathily, pressing his forehead to hers. "There is nowhere I would rather be than right here with you, just like this. I wasn't going to push you for more than you were ready for. Didn't mean I wasn't thinking it, though. I didn't know how to tell you exactly how much I wanted you without sounding like a complete jackass, but I am a red-blooded male."

The tension in Bella's body began to relax as her arms encircled his waist, her fingers gliding up his back to hook around his shoulders and her nose brushing gently against his. "Well, as you so delicately put it before … oh, thank God."

Edward sealed his lips to hers again with a groan, his hands lowering from her face to slide around her. "You sure you don't want to eat something first?"

Bella only shook her head as he spoke, pulling him back to her firmly. "Later."

He began guiding her back toward his bedroom, peppering feverish kisses against her lips as they moved down the hallway. If he couldn't tell Bella exactly how he felt yet, he could at least show her by not allowing their first time to be a desperate couch encounter. With the door finally closed behind them, they stood beside the bed and gazed at each other for a moment.

A smile came across Bella's lips as she began to turn away from him, lifting her hair and looking over her shoulder in a silent gesture for him to unzip her dress.

Once he'd finally lowered it to the small of her back, he began to kiss her neck as he glided the fabric off her shoulders, stunned to find her completely bare underneath. "Someone was expecting to get lucky tonight?"

"And that 'someone' wasn't you," Bella whispered as she kissed his temple and then jerked her chin toward his unmade bed. Edward buried his face in her neck, mumbling an apology for the rumpled disorder of his bedding, and her hand reached back to weave her fingers into his hair. "It's okay. We'd only be messing it up now anyway."

Edward chuckled softly as she kicked off her shoes and stepped over the pool of her dress at her feet, turning to face him again. "Good point."

Bella's fingers made quick work of the buttons of his shirt, seeming just as eager to dispel everything between them as he was. And the first touch of his bare chest to hers caused them both to moan and cling more desperately to one another, and they lowered onto the bed together.

A soft growl emanated from her and he slowly broke their kiss, gazing down at her questioningly. "The condom is in the pocket of the trench coat. I really didn't think this all the way through."

Edward smiled in amusement, capturing her lips with his again as he reached into his bedside table drawer and then pressed the small foil packet into her palm. He felt her arms come around his shoulders, rolling their bodies until he was flat on his back and her knees framed his hips on either side. Her lips broke from his to move down his neck, chest, and abdomen, and she nimbly maneuvered the button of his pants free and held his gaze as she lowered the zipper. His fingers itched to touch her more the further she shimmied down his legs to remove his shoes and the remainder of his clothing.

Bella placed a teasing kiss on the inside of his knee before crawling back up his body, rolling the condom into place and situating herself above him. His hands ran along her sides to her hips and she lowered to brush his lips with hers, resting her forehead on his as she took him inside her.

Edward's eyes closed tightly once she was finally flush against him and at the sight of her taking her bottom lip between her teeth with a moan. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Bella whispered back and then rolled her hips over him, pressing him deeper. "Perfect, actually."

Edward swallowed hard, overwhelmed by the sensations rushing through him, but opened his eyes to look at her again when she gently grazed his cheek with the backs of her fingers. She held his gaze as she began to move, occasionally brushing soft, breathy kisses on his lips, her hair surrounding their faces like a curtain to shut out the rest of the world. Nothing existed then but the two of them, to enjoy every sight, sound, and feeling of the moment. He knew in that instant exactly how hard and deep he'd fallen for the woman above him, and it had nothing to do with the pleasure she was giving him.

Edward was so in love with Bella, it was overwhelming. He began imagining having her beside him every single night, waking up to make love to her just as he was right then. Her taking his name and that little brown-eyed girl of his imagination looking up at him, calling him "Daddy", instead of "Uncle". The visions were so clear in his mind, he'd nearly lost himself in them as he watched her face contort in pleasure, tightening his arms around her waist and gently thrusting against her movements.

"Oh shit," Bella panted, her lips parting and her head falling back with the increased pressure he was causing inside her.

Edward's hand ran along the damp skin of her back and her body tremored with a chill, so he rolled them over again, pulling the comforter around them. She moaned with a smile as his weight settled above her, hugging him against her and tilting her chin toward him for a kiss, which he happily granted.

Bella's back began to arch beneath him and her fingertips gripped his shoulders tightly, muffled whimpers vibrating her lips against his, and he knew she was as close as he was. He slid his hand along her thigh and she lifted her hips, causing them both to groan loudly with the shift in angle and sending them tumbling together into an intense orgasm.

Both he and Bella seemed reluctant to release the other as they came down, holding each other's gazes and exchanging soft kisses. Their breathing slowed, as did their touches, until he finally rose from the bed and made his way to the hall bathroom. While he quickly cleaned up, he looked up to his reflection in the mirror.

Bella was perfect for him in nearly every aspect, from how she complimented so much of his life, down to how she felt against him in the most intimate of ways. She was everything to him and he would endeavor to be that for her as well.

"We have plenty of time," Edward reminded himself in a hushed whisper before returning to the bedroom, spotting Bella sitting up with the comforter hugged to her chest. She gazed at him and smiled nervously as she brushed her hair back from her face, and he crossed the room to rejoin her on the bed. His lips skimmed across her bare shoulder and up her neck until they met hers, and he slowly guided her back to lay down with him again. Feeling her arm drape securely over his abdomen, he nuzzled her hair and ran his fingers through it as her leg hooked around his. "Please stay with me tonight."

Bella tilted her head to look up at him, her eyes flickering between his and her fingers rose to trace over his cheek. "You sure?"

Edward answered her with a passionate kiss, locking his arms around her in a secure embrace—it was the only response needed.


"Dad! I can't believe you!"

Edward heard Bella's voice echoing down the hallway, and he turned his head to look over his shoulder toward his door. Her opening was only a few days away, and as she had mentioned, her father was coming in to attend—which also meant the first face to face meeting with his daughter's boyfriend.

Bella had told him not to worry and he'd convinced himself to believe her, until once again, he found himself at that damn peephole, looking out.

Charlie Swan might not have been a physically intimidating man, only a head taller than Bella herself. However, the black uniform he donned, complete with holster and gun, did the job. Edward felt his stomach plummet and he braced his hands on the door, and then looked to Bella.

"You're not funny, Dad. Was the uniform and freshly cleaned gun really necessary?" she hissed through clenched teeth, and then unfolded her arms to point at him firmly. "He's important to me, so you better be nice. I love him, he's the one."

Edward smiled as his heart began to race at her words. Bella hadn't even said that to him yet, but in that moment, it didn't matter. He knew she meant it by the look in her eyes and the expression on her father's face. He appeared both relieved and heartbroken all at once, as any father would at the knowledge that his little girl had grown up and found someone special.

Bella took her father's hand and led him to Edward's door, knocking lightly. When he opened it, her smile mirrored his as she made the formal introductions.

Edward shook hands with Charlie, and then stepped back to invite them in. He bit his lower lip to contain the wide smile that wanted to break through until he caught her fingers with his before she moved past him, leaning down to kiss her cheek and whispering against her skin, "I love you, too, Bella."

Bella's eyes widened and she turned her head toward him quickly, but relaxed with the soft brush of the back of his index finger along her face. "Spying again?"

Edward shrugged unabashedly with a smile until the exaggerated clearing of a throat pierced through their bubble. Yet, as his eyes met Chief Swan's, he found something there that wasn't only moments before. Acceptance, as if seeing them together was what he needed to know that Edward would not break Bella's heart.

And Edward knew he never would.