Oh man, you guys spoil me, really. Thank you! :D
Midnight Cougar weaved her beta magic through this, and I love her for it. Joey and Mandi pre-read, as usual. This wouldn't be what it is without any of them.
Saturday couldn't come soon enough for Bella. She trudged through Friday praying the next several hours would go by quickly, until six o'clock Saturday when Edward had promised to pick her up for dinner. She had no idea what to expect, but she was ready for whatever they were going to do.
That kiss they had shared on Thursday had left her in quite the predicament. She was frustrated—sexually and otherwise—and it was more than noticeable by Mrs. Cope on Friday when the pair worked on some more wedding arrangements.
"If you're lucky, Bella, one day we can fix these up for your own wedding," Mrs. Cope teased. She had no idea how close Bella had come to marrying Mike.
Bella grew more and more frustrated as she repeatedly tried to tie a simple bow on to one of the bouquets. "Yeah ... ehm, no." She giggled nervously and finally tied the bow correctly so it looked perfectly imperfect. She didn't correct Mrs. Cope's assumptions nor did she elaborate. Her relationship with Mike was in her past and she had worked too hard to keep it there to bring it up again.
"Please, that boy looks at you like you're something to eat. Indulge an old woman; would you?" Mrs. Cope finished up her arrangement and washed her hands at the sink near the counter where they were working. "And invite me to the wedding."
Bella picked up more flowers to make the next bouquet. "I'll do that." She shook her head at the absurdity. The thought of marrying ... anyone hadn't crossed her mind in a while. Not since giving Mike his engagement ring back. But now, the thought of walking down the aisle toward Edward did some strange things to her belly. She felt giddy, something completely unexpected, and greatly welcomed. Oddly enough, she'd never felt this way about marrying Mike, and he'd actually proposed. "We'll start with a first date and see how it goes, all right?" she asked Mrs. Cope, who in turn just waved her off with a smirk and a nod.
The rest of the day passed by quickly and by Friday night, when Bella joined her father for dinner, she felt like she was floating on a cloud. Part of it was due to being nervously excited for her upcoming date, the other part was because she most definitely was falling in love and the realization chipped away at some of her earlier trepidation. She knew it was the real kind this time. She could feel it in her heart and soul.
Charlie was a quiet man. He worked as a security guard and knew everyone in town, but never indulged in idle gossip, preferring to keep to himself instead. Most of his work involved standing around and making sure the local kids didn't smoke behind any of the buildings he was in charge of watching. It was boring, but he loved it. Someone had to do it, and this was as close to law enforcement as he would get after being hurt in an accident when he was younger.
When he ran into Mrs. Cope at the grocery store on Wednesday night, she had been particularly verbose about her love for Bella. Charlie had felt nothing but pride as he'd listened to old Shelly Cope drone on and on about how wonderful of an apprentice and all around person Bella had turned out to be. What had really caught his attention, though, was when Shelly had mentioned Edward Cullen. He knew the boy and his circumstances. Edward Sr. had been a friend of Charlie's, and over the years Charlie had often wondered how the boy had fared alone with his mother. Charlie had tried to keep tabs on Edward, but had lost track, and had been surprised to hear they were back in town.
He'd met the good doctor on a few occasions, but hadn't seen Esme around. It was probably better that way, as seeing one of Renee's best friends would most likely open up wounds he wasn't sure he was ready to deal with.
Bella was quiet as she sat across from her father at the dining room table. He'd put together some mashed potatoes, green beans and grilled chicken for dinner, and although he'd never admit to it, he was more than happy for the company.
"So, I have a date tomorrow," Bella blurted out as she shoved a forkful of mashed potatoes into her mouth.
Charlie paused, fork in midair as his eyes met Bella's. "Hmm, with who?" He decided to play dumb since, as he'd learned over the years, relaying anything that Shelly Cope had said could lead to potentially dangerous situations. The older woman could be quite the gossip around Forks.
Bella's face heated as she blushed furiously. This was Edward. The Edward. Edward, the boy who shared his cookies at recess because Renee couldn't bake cookies, even though she was decent in the kitchen. He was also the same boy Charlie kept his eye on whenever he was around Bella, as the two children seemed so enamored with each other, even back then.
"Edward Cullen." Bella took a bite of her chicken and chewed it slowly, watching her father process this information. Her break-up with Mike had happened not too long ago and she wasn't sure how Charlie would react. She knew her father had been concerned for her well-being afterward and would be cautious of any new relationship she pursued.
"Hmm, well, he's a good boy, Bells. Make sure he treats you right." Charlie's eyes met Bella's and she could see the warmth and understanding in them. Even if he had lost his one true love, he wasn't going to stop his daughter from trying to find hers. She deserved as much, after all. He couldn't imagine her living a lonely life like he'd been living all these years, but he just couldn't put himself out there to even try.
After dinner, Bella helped her father do the dishes as the two discussed work. Bella recounted how Edward would come in and get his mother flowers. She gushed at how sweet she thought the gesture, and Charlie couldn't help thinking how right this was between his daughter and that fine, young man.
That went well, Bella thought as she left her father's house that night.
Once she'd gotten home and settled into bed, sleep had evaded her for a while as her mind reeled from all the day's events. After tossing and turning for what seemed like forever, she managed to drift off into a peaceful night's rest.
Saturday morning came and went, while Bella stayed in bed recuperating after a long, tiring week. She took advantage of these days where she could sleep in. She was completely aware of the fact that once the business was fully handed to her, she'd have to work Saturdays and most likely some Sundays, as well.
Bella had made an appointment with Kate earlier in the week to get a manicure and was looking forward to relaxing while having that done. She had planned to then spend the rest of her afternoon curled up on her couch with a good book before getting ready for her evening.
If there was ever a good time for a manicure, it was now. Flowers were rough on fingernails.
"Oh, my goodness, Bella, I haven't seen you in forever," Kate exclaimed, wrapping her arms around Bella's shoulders. "How are you?"
Kate was one of Bella's closest friends, but admittedly, Bella had been shying away from her since her split from Mike. After all, Kate was married to Mike's best friend, Garrett, and that just complicated things between them.
"I'm good," Bella replied, trying to sound just as excited but falling remarkably flat. "I mean, you know, I've been busy and stuff." She pulled back from the hug and met Kate's eyes tentatively.
Kate nodded in understanding. "We spoke to Mike. I called you ... left some messages. I figured you were busy with the flower thing and all." Kate waved her hand around dismissively. A gesture Bella didn't appreciate one bit.
Bella rolled her eyes and settled into the chair, while Kate got out the bowl and supplies to do Bella's manicure.
"It's not a flower thing, Kate, it's my business venture," she defended, trying to rein in her annoyance. "Mrs. Cope is retiring and I'm taking it over."
"Oh, I know, sweetie. I just ... meant you were busy, is all." Kate smiled apologetically and took Bella's hand and massaged it, applying cream to her cuticles. "I missed you."
"I missed you, too," Bella admitted softly, realizing she had been a bit defensive. The two women had been friends when they were in school together and had reconnected when Kate had offered her a coupon for a manicure, after dropping by the newspaper to place an ad. It had been a wonderful friendship and Bella had definitely missed it.
"I don't blame you for dumping Mike when you did. If you weren't feeling it, you weren't feeling it." Kate shrugged. She had seen how high maintenance Mike was as opposed to Bella's simple lifestyle and wondered how the pair got along so well. She now understood that things weren't always exactly how they seemed.
"Oh, so now you tell me?" Bella asked, shaking her head at her friend.
Kate sighed. "It wasn't my place to say anything, Bella. You two seemed ... happy."
"I thought I was feeling it, Kate. I just ... I'm glad too, actually." Bella wasn't' sure about telling Kate what was going on with Edward, but then decided against keeping any secrets from her friend. "I met someone and I've never felt this way about anyone. Ever." She chewed on her bottom lip, waiting for Kate's response.
Kate looked up briefly and raised an eyebrow. "I thought Mike was the one with the wandering eyes?"
Bella looked away; slightly disappointed that she'd never noticed that about Mike. "This happened after the break-up. We never cheated on each other, Kate. You know that."
"I know. I just ... Sometimes, I wondered. Garrett never said anything, but the way you broke up ... It was very sudden." Kate concentrated on Bella's fingers, making sure to get to all the freshly calloused skin.
"Yeah, well, this is different. He's different. I feel very ... connected to him," Bella explained as she relaxed against the chair and let Kate manipulate her hand.
Kate chose her next words carefully. "That's ... great, Bella. Really. But, how do you really know this time around and—" She leaned over the table and whispered, "Who is he?"
So, with a deep sigh and hoping she wasn't jinxing herself, Bella told Kate about the events of the past few weeks, starting with, "Do you remember Edward Masen?"
Edward hung up the phone and sighed. His mother had called to invite him to dinner later and he had declined, informing her of his date with Bella.
Esme was ecstatic as she grilled Edward.
Where are you taking her? You're going to be a gentleman, right? Oh, son, this is so wonderful! Esme had beamed, practically screeching into the phone.
Edward was evasive with his answers to his mother, only reassuring her that everything was going to be fine. Truth be told, he was nervous. He'd had it in his head that anything they did together would be okay; that each other's company would be enough, but now he wasn't so sure.
He ran a hand through his hair and stood from his sofa. "May as well do this," he said to himself before stripping bare and stepping into the shower.
The warm water splashed around the stall, cascading over his tense muscles and relaxing him enough to quell some of the negative thoughts from his mind.
"This is Bella," he chanted as he soaped himself up. "This is just Bella," he muttered while washing his hair. "She's a nice girl. She's the girl I've measured all the others against. She's the one I've known I always wanted ... from the very beginning." He swallowed back his nerves, replacing whatever adverse thoughts that had just crept up with ones of the soft and sweet florist he'd come to adore.
Edward hadn't dated in almost a year, preferring to stay single after his last relationship. He'd been with Heidi for a few years, but the two had drifted apart and he had ended it shortly before Esme got sick. Heidi was nice enough, but she didn't understand the relationship Edward had with his mother, and the continuing debate between the two became too much of an issue in their relationship. Edward refused to let his family go by the wayside for the sake of his girlfriend. Evidently, if she'd been the one, she would have understood why he was so attached to his only living, close relative.
Once Edward was out of the shower, he stood in front of the mirror and took a good look at himself. He could see the obvious resemblance to his biological father, but could also distinguish the features handed down from his beloved mother.
He still missed his father and smiled as he remembered a particular afternoon, about a week before his ninth birthday, spent with his father, Bella and Charlie.
"Stop tickling me, Edward." Bella's soft, childlike voice rang out in their backyard as Edward's fingers dug into her sides.
"Say uncle." Edward giggled as he held Bella close to his chest, his arms around her much smaller frame.
"No," she squealed. "Daddy! Daddy, help me!" She laughed as Edward fell in the grass, still holding on to her.
"Your daddy can't help you now, Bella," he told her, laughing, and finally let her go once her small hands wrapped around his fingers and pried them away from her belly.
With a huff, she sat up, her shorts riding up her slender thighs and her bare toes wiggling in the grass. "Why are you always tickling me?" she asked, her small button nose scrunching up.
"Because I know you hate it," he answered with a shrug as he sat across from her.
"Why do you do it, then?" Bella tilted her head to the side and frowned.
"I don't know, Bella, okay?" Edward shrugged. He could feel his entire face heat up and looked away from her. He didn't know why he felt like doing that to Bella. At that age, he thought that's what boys did as he watched his parents play together like that sometimes. His father would often run his fingers along Esme's sides, tickling her before wrapping her up in a hug. They looked happy and Edward wanted to be happy like that, too.
"You kids all right here?" Charlie asked, coming outside.
Edward Sr. followed with a tray of food. "Edward, be careful with Bella. She's smaller than you," he warned. The kids were almost the same age, only a few months between their birthdays, but Edward was almost six inches taller and a solid twenty pound heavier.
Edward rolled his eyes at his dad. "I know, Dad. I wouldn't hurt her."
"Yeah, Mr. Masen, Edward wouldn't hurt me," Bella repeated, scooting over to wrap a protective arm around Edward.
Charlie pointed between the two kids and narrowed his eyes. "Behave, you two. We'll be over at the barbeque."
Edward swallowed thickly and murmured, "Yes, sir," while Bella stifled a giggle, as Charlie winked at her.
Edward sighed and smiled at his reflection. How times had changed. He wondered idly if she still hated being tickled.
Once he got dressed, he was able to relax as he thought of seeing Charlie again. He hadn't seen him at all around town, but then again, Edward worked from his home and the only time he went out was to get either food or flowers.
Unlike the awkwardness he'd felt when meeting some of his ex-girlfriend's parents, knowing that Charlie already knew him and some of his background, regarding his parents, made Edward feel more relaxed. The less he had to explain about his past and familial circumstances, the better.
He took a deep breath and tucked his wallet and keys into his pockets. "It's now or never." He sighed nervously before leaving his house and going toward his destiny.
Bella had done everything she could to make herself presentable and was now waiting anxiously for Edward to arrive.
She couldn't remember the last time she felt so elated about going on a date and figured this was a very good thing.
As she watched Edward's car drive up in front of her house, a familiar feeling of warmth spread through her body and she couldn't help the smile that lit up her face.
"You look beautiful," Edward said, as she opened the door, not even giving him a chance to knock this time.
He couldn't help letting his eyes roam up and down her small frame. She'd completely taken him off guard. The sun dress from the other night was stunning, but this—a mid-thigh length denim skirt paired with a fitted, deep red blouse—left a lot to the imagination, yet skimmed her body and showed off her curves in just the right way.
Edward also loved when Bella let her hair down; something he noticed she didn't do much at the shop. But right now it hung down her back in large waves, and his fingers itched to run through them.
Bella watched him look at her for a moment and decided she liked the way his gaze fell on her body. She'd always felt like she was a pretty girl. Nothing had ever given her a reason to think otherwise, but the way Edward looked at her made her feel amazing, like he truly saw her; like she was beautiful.
"You don't look too bad yourself," she replied, taking a step toward him and skimming his clean shaven cheek with the palm of her hand. She'd never seen his face so ... smooth. It made him look younger than he was, and even though she loved it when he had a little scruff on his cheeks, she really liked this look on him, too.
She also liked that he'd worn some dark washed jeans and a black, crew-neck dress shirt. That shirt would be the death of her, as it showed off his lean muscles and tapered off in all the right places. She also couldn't help but notice how his hair—which was usually an unruly mess—was a little shorter than usual.
"You got a haircut?" she asked after a moment of debating whether or not she should kiss him.
He looked away shyly, the tips of his ears pinking slightly. "Yeah ... I ... I wanted to look nice."
"You always look nice, Edward," she admitted, and since he towered over her and all she could reach was his chin, she kissed it softly, reveling in the feel of his smooth skin under her lips.
His eyes came back to hers, and they regarded each other for a moment. "How do you do that, Bella?" His voice was a soft caress as he wrapped his arms around her waist.
She smiled and rested her arms around his neck. "Do what?"
"You dazzle me." He smirked and leaned down, pressing his lips to hers.
She wondered briefly if it wasn't the other way around because from where she stood, Edward was the one doing the dazzling.
Their kiss was soft and sweet; their lips moving together in a glorious tango that ended too soon as Edward pressed two pecks to Bella's lips then stood to his full height, twining his hands with hers.
"Shall we?" he asked, motioning toward his car, his voice sounding deeper than usual.
Bella simply nodded, unable to form a coherent sentence to save her own life, and let him lead the way.
I hope you guys enjoyed a little glimpse into their past.
As always, thank you so much for reading!