Disclaimer: The characters as well as any other reference to the Twilight series belong to their respective owner, Stephenie Meyer. Everything else belongs to the author of this work, Forever 17/Foreverx17.
A / N: I hope my message found you all well. Thank you for the unwavering support and interest in this story.
Chapter Ten: All I See Is Gold
I press my fingertips to my tingling lips. I wait for several minutes after Edward has left the room before I come back to myself and quickly head upstairs to my bedroom, closing the door behind me and leaning against it.
The smile that spreads across my face is uncontainable. Edward just kissed me. He had pressed those soft lips, the ones I've dreamed about, right to mine. I close my eyes, wanting to bask in these few short moments of bliss before I have to come back to reality and face him all over again.
I don't reemerge from my room until I hear Charlie come home. I wait for a good fifteen minutes, not wanting to make it so obvious that I had been avoiding running into Edward, before I head downstairs to find Charlie standing in the kitchen, emptying out tote bags full of groceries.
"Hi, Dad," I say.
My father turns around and smiles at me. "Hey, kiddo. I bought some steaks and chicken. Thought we could barbecue tonight."
"Oh yea. Sounds good," I say, shuffling awkwardly from foot to foot as I slide my hands into my pockets. "So um...is Edward joining us?" I manage to make my voice sound as unassuming and nonchalant as possible.
"He actually just headed out," my father responds, distracted with taking the plastic off the steaks.
"Yeah, said he was going to meet up with some friends at Laurent's. I guess it's a bar in town."
"Sounds fun," I force out.
"Wanna get started on the vegetables?" my father asks me, completely oblivious to the sudden sour feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I call Rosalie after dinner, not able to handle the silence in my room. It only gives me time to think about Edward and the fact that I hid from him after we kissed. How hypocritical. I call him a coward then run away and duck after he kisses me. What did I expect? Of course he left. He didn't owe me anything. I wasn't anything to him.
Rosalie and I end up getting together just before ten. She comes over and we spend some time on the unfinished deck. Charlie comes outside and spends a little time with us, getting to know Rosalie a little bit. After my father announces he's heading to bed, Rosalie suggests we meet Royce and Emmett at a bar in town.
"I don't know if Royce would want me there. Not after...you know," I say hesitantly.
"Bella, he understands you just want to be friends. He heard you loud and clear. Trust me, my brother isn't one to get all butt-hurt about something like that. Besides, he likes you. We all like you. Now please...come hang out with us."
I sigh, trying to hold back my smile. "You're awfully difficult to say no to."
"I know," she says brightly. "Just ask Emmett."
My heart stutters when I realize the bar we go to is right across the street from Laurent's. While I hadn't been expecting to see Edward, a part of me knew it was a possibility. And frankly, that thought excites me.
Emmett and Royce are sitting at the bar when we find them. We order some drinks and spend some time at the bar, chatting. I look around myself every so often. I tell myself I'm just people watching, but deep down I know I'm waiting to see that flash of copper hair that makes my toes tingle.
Rosalie notices my distracted daze and questions me about it several times, but I brush it off coolly. My cool, however, is completely shattered when I spot a familiar pair of muscular arms and dark black hair approaching me.
"Bella!" Jacob says happily as he walks towards me, pulling me in for a hug. "Small world."
"Small town," I counter.
"Touché. Edward didn't tell me you were coming out."
"Yea, I didn't know he was going out either," I say.
"Sorry, I'm being rude. I'm Jacob Black," he says, extending his hand out to everyone and exchanging quick introductions. He looks back at me. "Well Edward, Jasper, and I are chilling outside if you wanna join us."
"Thanks...um, maybe..." I pause. I am about to tell Jacob I may see him outside later, but then leave and play it off later that I had lost track of time. I don't want to make a situation more uncomfortable and I definitely don't want to intrude on Edward's night. Another part of me, however, thinks 'screw it.' He kissed me. I wasn't going to hide from him anymore and I wasn't going to let him hide from me either. So, I square my shoulders and smile softly at Jacob. "Sure. Sounds fun. I'll be there soon."
"Sweet," he says, waving at Rosalie, Emmett, and Royce. "See you guys in a little bit."
After Jacob leaves, Rosalie turns to me. "Who's that?"
"He's friends with Edward. You know, the guy my dad hired to help build the house back up," I say.
"Oh, I want to meet this Edward. You've talked about him enough."
"I have?" I say, affronted. I glance casually at Emmett and Royce, thankful that they're deep in conversation again and not paying attention.
She laughs. "Relax. I just meant you're always mentioning the new projects he's working on at your place."
"Oh," I sigh. "Yea. He um...he's done a lot."
She gives me a strange look, but smiles. "All right. Well, why don't we go over there then? Since these two look like they're about to order another round of shots."
"Oh okay," I say, thankful that the guys won't be joining us. I know Royce understood when I had told him I just wanted to be friends, but I still think it would be weird to be around the guy I'd just kissed earlier today with the guy who had been pursuing me since I first came to North Carolina.
"We'll be back," Rosalie says to them before locking her arm with mine and leading us out towards the back patios.
I spot Edward, Jasper, and Jacob sitting by a fire pit. My heart drops when I see that two girls are with them, and that one of those girls is sitting exceptionally close to Edward. Instead of cowering, I sum up my confidence and walk with purpose towards the group, Rosalie following behind me.
"Bella," Jacob sings happily when I approach. He stands to give me another hug.
I can't help but smile at the way Jacob can make me feel so calm when I'm so wound up.
"Hey," I say, looking at Jasper and Edward. Jasper stands to hug me, but Edward stays where he is, instead smiling slightly before taking a swig from his beer. The two girls eye me and Rosalie, as if they're sizing us up. "Oh, this is my friend, Rosalie," I tell them.
Rosalie exchanges introductions with everyone else and we slowly integrate ourselves in the conversation. I sit next to Jacob, Rosalie at my side. She begins a conversation with Jasper as I watch the girl that was closest to Edward lean in further and whisper something in his ear, making him smile. I hold back my glare.
Rosalie and I chat with the guys comfortably for a while, the two girls immersed in one another, save for the one who becomes absolutely immersed in Edward every ten minutes. She's sitting much closer than two friends would and I find myself envious of their close proximity. I want to stand up and tell them that Edward had kissed me earlier, but I refrain, not wanting to make an even bigger fool of myself.
The conversation flows a while longer before the two girls bring up a house party nearby, inviting the guys. Jacob looks like he wants to go and Jasper seems on the fence. What shocks me, though, is when Edward speaks.
"I'm having fun here," he says, his eyes flitting to mine briefly. I look away.
"I know," the one who had practically been sitting in his lap says seductively, placing a hand on his knee. "But we can continue the fun elsewhere."
Edward looks at her and smiles without humor. "I'm good. I think I'll just stay here."
"I'm down," Jacob says, looking at Rosalie and I. "Ladies?"
I shake my head and Rosalie declines with a soft 'no thanks.'
"All right, then. Guess it's just the three of us," Jacob bellows, smiling as he stands. The other girl smiles and stands with him, but the one next to Edward pouts.
"Are you sure you don't want to come?" she says, her voice sultry as she leans impossibly closer to him.
Edward smiles beautifully. "I'm sure. Thank you."
She huffs and stands, taking her friend's hand.
"Catch you guys later," Jacob says, waving as he puts an arm around each girl's shoulders and leaves.
"Dude, she wanted you bad," Jasper tells Edward once they're gone.
Edward simply chuckles and takes a drink from his beer. A minute later, Emmett and Royce come outside and find us.
"There you guys are," Emmett says. "What's up? We've met briefly," he says to Edward and Jasper who both respond politely.
Royce introduces himself and they join us. I would have thought it would be uncomfortable for all of us to hang out, but it is surprisingly easy and natural. Jasper and Royce get into a conversation about classic cars and Emmett and Rosalie snuggle next to me. I'm startled when I feel a warmth beside me and look up to see Edward sitting next to me. He smiles slightly.
"Hey," he says.
"Where did you go earlier?"
I'm taken aback, surprised that he is bringing the subject up. Especially with everyone in such close proximity to us.
"I just went to my room to change," I lie easily.
He chuckles and it's obvious he knows I'm full of it. "I wanted to ask you to come with me tonight, but I didn't want to step over any boundaries."
"A little too late for that."
He winces slightly and I regret my joke. An awkward silence passes between us for a moment.
"Will you come talk with me?" he asks.
He nods and stands and I follow his lead. We excuse ourselves under the guise of going to get more drinks, but instead we find a secluded table inside the bar and sit down. Neither one of us speaks for several moments, instead ordering another beer each and waiting for the waitress to arrive with our drinks. Once she comes back and places a glass in front of us each, I know we can't put it off any longer.
"I'm sorry. About hiding earlier," I blurt out.
"What made you think you had to hide?" he asks me curiously.
"I just...everything seemed to happen so suddenly and I...I didn't want you to feel uncomfortable and...I didn't want to feel uncomfortable and...I don't know where I was going with this."
"And I didn't know if you regretted it and I...I just didn't want to assume anything...and I..."
"Bella," he says again, causing me to look up at him. "Bella, you are, without a doubt, unlike any woman I have ever met. I'm attracted to you."
I gasp softly at his confession.
"I tried...really hard not to be. But the way Charlie always spoke about you...about his perfect daughter...he painted this beautiful picture of you for me. I always thought the real thing could never compare to the pictures I'd seen of you or the way he spoke about you, but...I was wrong. You far outdo any description or photograph."
I'm stunned into silence and Edward continues.
"Don't you dare say that it was a mistake and shouldn't have happened," I say, finding my voice at last.
He is taken aback at my sudden outburst, but quickly recovers. "It shouldn't have happened," he says. "But it wasn't a mistake."
I inhale deeply, shaken by his honesty. We sit there and stare at one another, fleeting glances shared between us for a few minutes before,
"You have...really beautiful eyes," Edward finally says.
The laugh that erupts from my mouth surprises us both. Edward smiles.
"What?" he asks.
I shake my head, my laughter dissipating as I smile back. "Nothing. I just...I really like the way you talk to me."
"How do I talk to you?"
"You talk to me like...like I matter to you. Like I'm special."
"Bella...you are special."
"Doesn't feel that way all the time."
He sighs and I instantly regret dampening the mood. "Bella, I know it probably feels like I've put a distance between us and that's because I have." I open my mouth to speak, but he goes on before I can. "But it wasn't because I didn't want to spend time with you...it's because I did. And that scared the hell out of me."
"But why, Edward? Why is it so wrong for you to want to spend time with me? Why is it so wrong that we're...attracted to each other?"
"Bella...your father is a good man. He gave me a chance when no one else would. He believed in me. I respect him more than you can possibly know. I...I can't undermine that respect by going after his daughter. You deserve better. And he knows that."
"Edward, my father thinks very highly of you. I don't think you're aware of that."
"I know he respects me and trusts me, but I also know that he wouldn't want his daughter going out with me."
"You don't know that."
"Trust me, Bella. You're father...he expects more for you. It's just an unspoken truth. You have to see that."
"Well, I don't."
He lets out a frustrated sigh, leaning back in his chair and playing with the base of his beer glass. "You're so stubborn," he says, almost to himself as he watches the condensation forming on his glass. He looks up at me again.
"Why do you think so poorly of yourself?" I ask him.
"No, seriously, Edward, why? Why are you so self-deprecating? You act like you're this bad guy, but you're not."
"You don't know that."
"Well, despite you doing all you can to avoid me most of the time...you've never treated me badly. I go off of what I see."
"And what is it, exactly, that you see?" he asks, looking away again.
"I see...this really great guy that I want to know more...and I'm afraid that he won't let me," I confess quietly.
Edward looks up at me again, his eyes softening. I take advantage of his silence.
"Or maybe I'm just not your type," I say, trying to make my voice light. "Maybe that blonde who was with you earlier is more your taste."
Edward looks slightly stunned as he furrows his eyebrows. "Don't talk like that."
"Like what?" I shrug.
He leans forward. "Don't do that, Bella." His voice is low and eerily calm.
I'm taken aback by his sudden mood shift, surprised my words had such an impact on him. I had said it in jest, but I know it was underlined with bitterness. And he obviously sensed it too.
"Sorry," I say. "I'm just being silly."
His following silence makes me uncomfortable and I move to stand.
"Hey," he says gently, touching my hand. "Don't...don't go."
"Well if I stay, Edward, you need to tell me what you want."
"You said it, Edward. You're attracted to me. And I'm attracted to you. So tell me now what we're going to do about that since you're the only one with any reservations here."
"Well you're suddenly very vocal with your emotions," he snaps. I stand and am walking past him when he grabs my arm. "I'm sorry, Bella, stop." I stop in front of him, but my body is facing away from his. "Please just...stay here with me a little while longer."
"Why?" I ask, finally bringing myself to meet his gaze.
"I just..." He swallows. "I just want to sit here and look at you for a while longer."
My body goes numb at his words, my legs feeling as if they're about to give way underneath me. I exhale an unsteady breath. "And after?" I ask softly.
He shrugs. "I don't know. But right now I just want to stay here with you," he says, his voice quiet.
His hand on my arm is burning. His touch sets me on fire even when there's nothing erotic about it. After a moment of standing there, I nod and sigh.
"Okay," I say. "I'll stay."
Edward and I stay in the bar for an hour, talking. It isn't anything deep. He asks me more about myself, and I feel like I've told him everything. He, on the other hand, only gives me more snippets, but I don't push. He looks at his phone and mentions the time. I muse that our friends are probably wondering where we are. But neither of us make a move to leave.
A little while later, Rosalie and Emmett find us.
"Hey, where'd you guys go?" Rosalie asks as they approach, hand in hand. "Emmett and I were just leaving. We were all worried about you guys."
"Sorry, we ordered our drinks then lost track of time," I tell her. "Where are Royce and Jasper?"
"They're closing their tabs. You guys ready to go?" she asks, eyeing Edward and I suspiciously.
I look at Edward and he nods at her. "Yea," he says. "Bella?"
I nod in return. Edward heads to the bar to pay his tab and after arguing with him for several minutes, he pays mine too. Royce and Jasper join us outside. Jasper comments briefly on mine and Edward's absence, but Edward brushes it off casually and changes the subject.
"Bella, you need a ride?" Rosalie asks me.
"I can drive her, Rosalie," Edward says.
"Oh, okay," she replies. "Um, well it was nice meeting you guys."
The group exchanges 'goodbyes,' with Rosalie, Emmett, and Royce heading to Rosalie's car and me, Edward, and Jasper, heading in the opposite direction. We drop Jasper off, who isn't too far from the bar, before we head home. When we arrive, the house is quiet and dark. I make sure to lock the door behind me, but Edward double checks. His protectiveness makes me warm inside and I watch as he checks the back deck's French doors as well. I stand in the kitchen, watching him. When he turns around, we both stand there frozen for a few minutes, staring at one another. I look down, feeling my cheeks flame. After a moment, Edward comes and stands beside me, leaning against the counter.
"Tired?" he asks.
I nod, looking up briefly. "Yea. Sort of."
Another stretch of silence passes.
"Well, um. I'll head to bed," I say, standing up straight.
"Yea. Same," he responds.
We stand there for several more seconds.
More silence. More standing. My hand twitches to reach up to him and his eyes flicker down, noticing. After a moment, he steps forward, watching my hand as he slips his into mine, stepping in closer so that his body is almost flush against mine before he looks down at me.
"Goodnight," he whispers.
I arch my head up towards his, a smile playing at my lips. "Night."
He smiles slightly before cupping my cheek in his warm palm, leaning in, and pressing his lips to mine. This kiss is so much different than the first because this kiss holds a weight that I hadn't felt before. When we pull away, we're both left gasping for air. He smiles beautifully and I realize how different this smile is from the one he had given that girl at the bar. This smile is sweet. This smile is genuine. This smile...is just for me.
We walk side by side to the stairs where we will part to go to bed. We stand at the bottom of the stairs, our hands tangling with one another's again. He leans in and kisses my cheek, my neck, my lips. When I'm dizzy and barely able to stand, we say a final 'goodnight' and go our separate ways.