Playlist: The World is Ours by Denora

Word Prompt: Summer

Chapter 23

Bella crosses her arms over her chest and plants her feet firmly in her bitch stance. "We were out."

"At this time of night? And what on earth are you wearing? I can see your—"

"Dad, it's no big deal. I was out with Edward, and—"

"No big deal? It's a school night! You have finals!"

"I finished my finals. If you had listened to me at dinner instead of watching the game, you would know that."

Charlie's eyebrows do something scary as he grits out, "It's still a school night. You're grounded!"

I hate when he yells at Bella. It doesn't happen often, but when it does it makes me want to choose a side, and I like them both.

"I am not grounded. You cannot ground me." Bella tilts her head in challenge.

"What is going on?" Renee asks, scratching her belly and yawning as she shuffles our way. "Hi, Edward."

I give a halfhearted wave. I don't want to be rude.

"Your daughter was out late traipsing around town, doing heaven knows what!" Charlie says.

"They just went to the water park," Renee says, turning away toward the kitchen. Wow, Renee can be cool.

Charlie spins, focusing his attention on Renee instead of Bella. "You knew about this?"

"You didn't?" Renee's nonchalant.

Bella and I enter the house. She makes a ruckus as she passes Charlie while I sneak in behind her trying to be invisible.

"I told you, Mom. I can't tell him anything. He freaks out. And it's Edward. You'd think he would trust us by now." She throws her arm out toward me like I'm no big deal. I guess I'm not in the grand scheme of things. And I'd keep Bella safe, that's for sure, not that she needs my help.

"Just Edward. Just Edward? Edward is a boy!" he shouts, then gruffly adds, "No offense, Edward."

"None taken." Now he's worried about my feelings? This is getting strange.

"I can see everything, which means he can see everything." He moves his whole arm up and down gesturing wildly at Bella's shirt.

"Well, did he like it?" Renee asks, and I break into a coughing fit. What the crap is going on in the Swan house tonight? This is crazy!

"Don't answer that," Charlie spits out. My eyes are wide; my lips closed tight. I'm not saying a damn thing.

"He loved it, just like you said he would. Thanks, Mom." Bella stands next to her mom, getting a side hug, and takes a sip of her mother's water.

This is bizarre.

"I—op—guh—ret—ppft." Charlie's given up. Me, too. I have no idea what's happening.

"You can't ground her, Charlie. I knew about it. And she's grown up. She's gonna be an adult in, like, a minute."

"Not true," Charlie grumbles.

"It is true," Bella says, munching on an apple she grabbed from the fruit bowl. Great, now I'm hungry. I gotta get home. Ramen sounds good. Or frozen grapes. Mmm.

"I called. I called you both. You didn't answer."

"We were at the water park. You want me to ruin my phone?" Bella's being so rude. Normally, I would find it hilarious, but I'm afraid Charlie has more sway than Renee, and I don't want Bella grounded. It's nearly summer. That would suck worse than losing State. I wish she would dial it down some.

"I want to know where you are, young lady, and don't get sassy with me." See? She needs to chill.

Bella huffs. "We didn't do anything wrong. We went to the park to play on little kids' water equipment. Sure, it was late, but Mom knew, and I was with Edward, and he keeps me safe."

Charlie runs a hand through his hair. The speckles of gray seem to stand out more right now than ever before. His breathing's labored, and his pits are sweaty. Is this what having a daughter does to a man? No thanks.

"I'm not grounded, am I, Mom?"

"No, honey. Why don't you go to bed? It's a school night." Renee gives Charlie a pointed look. She is still in charge after all these years. Even in his own house. Interesting.

"Okay. I'm glad you're here," Bella says calmly, quietly. It's sincere.

"Me, too."

Bella walks to me boldly with a clear intention to kiss me in front of her dad. This is different from our end of game celebratory kisses. This is flipping her dad the bird. I'm terrified of what he'll do to me. But I'm more terrified of not being on Bella's side, so I stand stock still and hope I don't look like I'm about to pee my pants.

"Goodnight, Edward," Bella says. She runs her hands around my wet shoulders and into my hair, pulling me toward her. Charlie's eyes are burning a hole in my head. I have to make a quick get away when she's done in hopes he doesn't kick my ass.

Her lips are on mine fast and sure, and as much as I want to speed things up, I can't because as Charlie said, I am a boy, and I like kissing Bella. My arms wrap around her waist, and I give as good as I get, almost forgetting we have an audience. Almost.

Bella slips down the hallway and into her bedroom, and I'm left to fend for myself.

But not for long.

"Go home. Now." It's official: Charlie Swan hates me. And I didn't even deflower his daughter yet. That must be some kind of record.

I don't even say goodbye. I pass Renee, who's smirking. She's such a strange woman, but I have a new respect for her. I can see where Bella gets her toughness from. I arrive home in two point three seconds and release the breath I didn't know I was holding.

A light flips on when I get into the kitchen.

"Ack!"

"Sorry," Dad says, chuckling. "You okay? Manhood still intact?"

"Yeah."

"Charlie was so mad," he says, trying to hold in his laughter. I'm glad he finds joy in my fear, but this is suspiciously happy for him. I lean in, sniffing. He doesn't smell like alcohol. Hmm.

"He's scary as hell."

"You never saw your grandfather angry. Now he was scary. I avoided him as much as possible. Spent more time going in and out of your mother's window than I did using the front door."

"Really?" I grimace. TMI, Dad.

"Not that I condone that," he says, clearing his throat. "You are safe though, right?"

"Yeah. We were just at the park. We're fine."

"No, I mean, you're being safe? You have condoms or Bella's on birth control?"

"Oh, blah. Mom just gave me this lecture. It's not like that. We . . . never mind."

"You haven't?"

"No."

"Oh."

"It's Bella. I want to . . . I don't know . . . do it right."

"You will. You're a Cullen." Dad smirks, looking a hell of a lot like Garrett, and walks away. "Night, Edward," he says as he passes me and heads to his room.

"Weird night," I mumble to myself as I get out my frozen grapes, hoping they'll stave off nightmares of Charlie chopping my body into bits and throwing them into some ravine.

-NSID-

Bella apologizes the next morning for being so indignant with her dad. She was worried I'd been uncomfortable, which is nice because I was. But I'd never tell her that. She did what she needed to do. Plus, she didn't get grounded (Thank you, Renee!), so it's no big deal.

I finish up my first final and meet her at the end of the hall before lunch for our obligatory kiss. I'm surprised people aren't sick of us yet. We're not obnoxious PDA'ers like some people, but we're happy. Blindingly so.

On occasion Peter and Charlotte will look uncomfortable around us, like at lunch today.

"Can I have a sip?" I ask, nodding to Bella's Coke. She lifts it to my lips, and I take a slurp, eyes on her, smiling around my straw.

Charlotte points her spoon at me. "See?"

"Don't know what you're talking about," Peter says.

"They're nice to each other. All the time," she says, glaring at her boyfriend.

"I'm nice," he grumbles, giving me a grimace with his mouth full of sandwich.

Sorry, dude. Looks like you should be sweeter to your girl. Then again, Bella and I are new. I don't know what it's like to date someone for so long. Peter and Charlotte have been together for over a year and a half. Perhaps I'll get lazy, too. Bella as well. Only time will tell. And we've got loads of it.

The thought puts a dopey grin on my face, and I turn it on Bella.

"What?" she asks, looking at me curiously while sipping her soda, her head tilted in that strange way of hers.

"Northern is what."

"Hmm . . ." She hums around her straw, her eyes smiling.

"Hmm . . ." I echo, tipping my baseball cap up and leaning in for a quick kiss. Okay, maybe our PDA is that bad, but if it doesn't bother Bella, then it doesn't bother me.

"What time's the party Friday?" Marcus interrupts, clearing his throat when we don't come up for air.

"Seven," we both say simultaneously.

"You guys make me sick," Jane says, but she smiles despite her words.

"We can take 'em, babe," Marcus says, and the next thing I know both couples are macking in the cafeteria trying to one up us. High school is stupid. Thank goodness, it's almost over. I graduate tomorrow. We graduate tomorrow. Hell, yeah.

-NSID-

The last day of school sucks. I'm stuck watching movies in class all day because what else are we going to do? I've watched half of an edited VHS tape of Dangerous Minds twice when the final bell rings.

Final bell.

It's about time.

After school Bella and I celebrate our freedom by making Gran Swan's most complicated cookie. There's chocolate squares, canned pumpkin, and milk involved. I don't know how any of it works.

Renee was going to help but had to run to the store to pick up the chocolate squares, so we're enjoying our alone time. Well, I am.

Watching Bella bake is hot. Watching Bella bake in my Cullen jersey is super hot.

She's lodged herself in the corner in her flamingo baking stance. This is such serious business that she's sweating a bit, her flyaway hair sticking to her forehead and bugging her. But she's in the zone, so she won't do anything about it.

I pull her hair up and off her shoulders in a messy ponytail. Holding it in my hand, I blow lightly on her neck.

"That's so much better, thank you," she blurts.

"You know I love you in my jersey, but you should just take it off. It might help." I give her another cool breeze on her neck.

"It might help you."

"I'm just thinking of your comfort."

"Sure you are." She cranes her neck to give me a swift kiss before stirring the eggs and butter together. "Sugar, please?"

"I'll give you anything you want." I smooth a kiss over her neck and smile against the soft, sweet spot.

"Sugar, please." She persists.

"I think it might be . . ." Reaching around her, I unbutton the top button of the jersey and tug it away, peering over her shoulder and down the front. "In here maybe. Hmm." I undo another one and let my hands roam this time from the bottom up.

Bella drops her spoon and gives in. She melts into me, leaning against my chest.

"I'm positive there's some sugar in here. I know that's where I'd keep it. All the best things are in here."

"All?" she breathes.

"Okay, some. Some of the best."

"Should finish these before my mom comes back from the store."

"Yeah, finish," I mumble against her skin, letting my hands smooth over her torso, sweeping inside her basketball shorts. Her flamingo perch fails, and she nearly topples sideways. Oops.

"Edward, you have a one track mind."

"Never said I didn't."

"It's really hot." She picks up her spoon and starts to stir again, though it's not very convincing. "I mean it's getting hotter. I mean . . ."

"Why don't you take a break?"

"I'm almost done."

"You will be soon." I drag my hand down her inner thigh.

A chill runs through Bella's body, and she shakes it off, shaking me off.

"My mom is coming back home. We can't . . . I can't . . ."

"Okay," I say, tilting her head. "Sugar?"

She gives me my favorite kind of kiss: familiar, sweet, and warm, leaving my body toasty and wanting.

I slowly detach myself from Bella and hand over the sugar container. "You do look hot."

She turns her head and smirks.

"Like temperature hot. Or both. I can take over," I offer.

"And ruin all my hard work? Forget it."

"Hey, I can cook."

"Uh huh."

"Well, I can try. Practice makes perfect, right?"

"Sure," she says. Then steps away from the bowl. "Fine."

She disappears while I scan the recipe. "One tbls of pumpkin pie spice," I mutter. "What's a TBLS?"

"Tablespoon," Bella says, rounding the corner and pulling an elastic around her hair. She washes her hands and stands next to me, looking amused. "Go ahead then. Figure it out, future engineer. Make me some cookies, boy."

"Just watch." I crack my knuckles and pick up a measuring cup so I look like I know what I'm doing. "These hands are magic."

"I know." She stands beside me and instructs me on what to do, humming the I Dream of Genie theme song absently between directions. As we're putting the first batch in the oven, Renee returns home, laden with groceries.

"Look at you guys, all domestic. I was worried I'd walk in on something inappropriate." She smiles as she says this. Such a strange woman.

"Sorry to disappoint, Mom. It's just me, Edward, and sugar." Bella pinches my butt before finding the chocolate squares in the mess of groceries.

-NSID-

Bella and I graduate in the evening and find each other through the fray in our goofy gowns, our caps lost in the ridiculous obligatory throw. She flashes me her outfit underneath—jeans and my JV Cullen jersey, creating a surge of memories from earlier in the day. She's awesome.

My family finds us first and, to my surprise, Garrett hugs me.

"Um, okay," I say, because he's never affectionate.

"Look, I know I'm, whatever, just you've always been this annoying little brother who got everything he wanted plus all my hand-me-downs even when I wasn't ready to hand them down."

"Uh huh." My eyes search for Lauren, who's chatting with Katie, Caleb on her hip. She fits right in, like she never left. But I still wish she'd come interpret Garrett speak. What is he saying?

"The point is I'm a jerk. I've been a jerk, and the truth is, I've been miserable and without my annoying little brother who was born by mistake, mind you, I never would've had the courage to speak to Lauren again, let alone try to win her back. So, er, whatever." He slugs me in the arm and shrugs.

Ah, now I see. Thanks, Edward, you're cooler than I thought. And not useless after all.

"No problem," I say.

Mom squeals and hugs me tight, her arms soothing as they rub my back. Man, I miss her. I wish she'd come home to stay. I hope all those dates Dad's been taking her on are paying off.

Katie mouths, "I love you" from afar and has Caleb blow me a kiss. Greg gives me a card and a handshake.

Dad's got his arm wrapped around Mom, who's talking to Renee, and I don't think he's coming to say congrats anytime soon, so I seek out Bella again but am side tracked by Charlie.

"Got a minute?" he asks, and I nod, afraid to speak up. He was not happy the last time we spoke.

"Look, Bella is my daughter, and I can be a little . . ." He blows out a puff of air and starts again. "You're like my own kid. I mean, you helped entertain my mother, you played with Bella everyday when you were little, and you were a good friend to her. You've made you're share of mistakes, I'm sure, but I . . . Gran loved you, and Bella loves you, and I wouldn't mind it if someday in the future—way, way in the future—you became a part of this family."

I nod and duck my head, trying to hide my grin. What's with all the sad, manly apologies tonight?

"You know you have no hat to hide under right now, and I can see that stupid Cullen smirk on your face," he grumbles.

"Sorry, Coach. Hereditary," I say to appease him.

"It's fine, just, take care of my little girl."

"I will."

We walk the few steps together and find ourselves on either side of Bella. She slides her arms around both of our waists, giving each of us a squeeze and a warm smile.

After a few pleasantries between our families, we part when our parents separate us for a celebratory dinner.

I'm at a fancy Italian restaurant, Katie by my side, Garrett across from me, their significant others next to them. Our family's growing, and everyone seems so happy. Even my mom. I take in her serene expression and look toward my dad. He's goofy looking. What did I miss?

"So Caleb just went all by himself. I didn't have to wipe him or anything," Katie says, Greg grinning beside her.

"That's because he's a boy," Garrett snarks playfully.

Greg throws a napkin at him.

"What's going on, Mom?" I ask, interrupting the table banter.

"Um, nothing. Nothing." I know my mom so well; she's an awful liar.

I look to Katie who rolls her eyes. "Just tell him, Mom. He'll be happy for you guys."

"It's his night. I don't want take away any spotlight." Mom fiddles with her napkin on the table.

"Edward's always in the spotlight," Garrett interjects. "Let someone else have it for awhile." He gives me a genuine smile. It'll take me a while to get used to him being nice.

"Will someone tell me what's going on? It's good, right?" I ask Dad, turning toward him.

"Ask your mother," Dad says.

"Um, well, your dad's decided to take on a business partner," Mom says, a smile in her voice.

"I have a patient, Gladys, whose grandson was looking for a new office closer to home. His young family was suffering because of his long hours. We've decided to combine our forces."

"His workload will be cut tremendously," Mom says, eyes cheerful.

"That sounds perfect," I say. Good for him.

"Yeah, I hope so. He's a good kid, smart, has some great ideas on how to make things more efficient. It will affect my pay somewhat but not significantly, I don't think."

I look to mom, who's positively beaming. "That's not all, is it?" I ask.

"Dad's taking me to Nassau for two weeks." If my mother were the blushing type, I swear she would've.

"Wow."

"I tried to weasel my way in, but they said no," Katie whispers so everyone can hear. "So, don't bother asking."

"Girls' trip," Lauren suggests, and Katie gives her a high five over the table.

"Were you this cool the first time around? Because I like you. Don't screw this up, Garrett," Katie says, eyes narrowed.

"I won't. Edward will keep me in line," Garrett says.

His compliments are freaking me out.

"When do you go, Mom?" I ask, trying to get Garrett to stop looking at me with his body snatcher's kind eyes.

"Mid-June. Soon. And, well . . ." She looks to Dad, smiles, then turns back to me. "I've decided to let my lease go when it ends—"

"If things are going well," Dad finishes, looking hopeful.

And I feel hopeful. Things are getting better. For everyone.

After dinner, Bella and I hit up a couple grad parties but end up at the batting cages, keeping score. I've always been a better hitter than Bella, and it's fun to have the advantage. The competitiveness gets to her, though. It doesn't bother me, especially not tonight while everything is going so well.

"Hit the damn button," Bella barks, agitated with my better average.

"It's just for fun; don't get so upset."

"Get out of the cage and hit the button."

"No, I'm going to help you."

"I don't need your help." Her glare is sexy, making me want to get out of this cage or do dirty things in it.

"By the looks of the death grip you've got on that bat, I'd say you do."

"I hate you."

"You do not," I say, laughing and wrapping my arms around her. "If you're going to play ball at Northern, you'd better be the best hitter you can be. No one likes a crappy batting pitcher."

"Fine," she grumbles, then wiggles her butt against my crotch. That's just mean.

I position her hands, loosening them, and tuck her closer into my chest. She's warm, slightly sweating from our two rounds of hitting. She smells like baseball, and dammit if I don't want to pin her against the wire fencing and have my way with her.

I move her ponytail over her opposite shoulder and snuggle in close to her neck. "That's better. Don't think so much. Get out of your head. Feel the bat, hear the ball. Just know. Know it's a good one right before you swing."

"O-okay," she says quietly. I release her and smack the button.

I watch with rapt attention on the side of the cage as she hits every pitch, the crack of the bat against ball somehow putting fantasies in my mind. Ones that are making me lose control. So much so that Bella barely gets her helmet off before I attack her, pushing her up against the cage and covering her mouth with mine.

"I love batting practice so much," Bella pants against my mouth before kissing me again. Baseball is such a great sport.

-NSID-

"This is crazy," Bella says, entering my mom's apartment. Crazy is right.

The ceiling is covered in helium-filled balloons, a rainbow above us. Every flat surface is lit with tiny candles, giving the whole place a glow. If it weren't for the multi-hued balloons and streamers that hang from the walls, I'd think our moms were trying to make this party romantic.

"Isn't it great?" Katie asks, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel. She looks strange. Her face is made up but her lips are bare. It looks like she's dead or something.

"Do you need any help?" Bella asks.

"Yes, do you have any gloss?"

"Yeah." Bella pulls some from her pocket, and Katie applies it immediately.

"Thank you. All Mom has is that red crap, and I refuse to look like a whore."

"I do not look like a whore!" Mom yells from the kitchen.

"Who's a whore?" Renee asks, coming through the front door, hands full of dishes. "Here, Edward, grab these."

I take them from her hands and head to the kitchen, following her.

"My daughter thinks I look like a whore with my red lipstick. I've always worn red. It's my thing.'

"Uh huh. I remember," Renee says. I notice she didn't agree or disagree with my mother's supposed prostitute-like appearance. I think she looks nice. Maybe the color's a little bright, but it's fine.

"I don't miss you at all, Renee," Mom deadpans.

Renee slaps her butt as she passes with a, "Shut up, whore." Mom laughs and stirs her pot of deliciousness. I miss her cooking so much; I can't even be bothered by their display of Mothers Gone Wild.

The party picks up quickly when our friends and family arrive. The music's loud, and thank goodness all right, since the "DJ" that was hired is actually Lauren and Garrett with an iPhone and docking station. I was worried, but Lauren's a music buff, so it worked out well.

Bella and I dance with abandon, not caring about anyone else's presence. We stuff our faces with the Mexican buffet our moms put together and chat with our friends for hours.

Alice comes around every now and then to scare the hell out of me, and Jake passes by with a new girl on his arm to smile and generally make me want to vomit with his eternal freakish happiness. Only he can get away with lying about sex, getting beat up by a girl, and still maintain a friendship with her. That dude is something else.

Emmett shows up loud and proud with his date at his side—a beautiful Rosalie, wearing makeup and looking so much older. It's weird, and I want to hit Emmett for it, but when I see him doing the chicken dance with her, I know it'll be okay. He's not a schmuck. And I have a feeling my dad and Charlie would go nuts on him if he did anything inappropriate.

Peter and Marcus are the only friends that seem normal to me tonight—since they generally leave me alone, as do their girls. Bella has a few teammates that show up, and they do their own thing as well. That's what I like: low maintenance friends. It's what I need since my family creates enough drama. Though, hopefully, that's in the past.

As the night wears on, Bella and I tire out, and plop ourselves on the couch to talk more privately. She's on my lap, my arms wrapped around her, her head tucked beside mine even though we're both facing the same way.

"Are you excited to meet Carmen?"

"You have no idea."

"I might have a little idea. I get to spend the next four years with you. I'm elated."

"You are so sweet," she says, tilting her head back to kiss me. With tongue. It's so good.

"You taste sweet," I say against her mouth, and she covers it, eyes wide.

"Edward," she scolds.

"What? S'true."

"Just . . . not here." She shakes her head, turning it back to the crowd.

"Where then?" I give her a squeeze for emphasis.

"You want to go somewhere?" She reaches her hand around my neck and plays with my hair.

"I could go somewhere." With that, we're on our feet, hand in hand, escaping our own graduation party. We do not care at all.

Bella drives us to Green Point. I haven't been here since I took Tanya the night I kissed Bella. It's bringing back all kinds of memories. Of Tanya not saying the right thing. Of Bella saying all the right things. I love her so much.

Bella sticks her ponytail through my E hat before exiting the car. Her hair swishes as she walks; I love that.

We saunter the short path to the picnic tables, which overlook the scenic view. The stars are out, lighting up the night, making my glow in the dark stand-in constellations seem foolish now. But I could never get rid of them. Besides, any stars plus the girl I love equals immediate romance.

Bella sits atop a concrete table, adjusting her socks. I stand before her, watching. She leans back on her hands looking up at the sparkling sky. She's so pretty. The soft line of her neck draws my attention, and I follow down to her curves until I'm staring at her teal-socked feet. I can't keep the smile off my face.

"I missed you today," she says absently to the twinkling lights in the dark sky. She spent the whole day with Renee since she's leaving tomorrow.

This is the point where most girls want a kiss, where most girls are speaking in code, but not Bella. Bella's telling me the truth. I know this because I feel the same way: I missed her today, too. It's getting more difficult to be without her even for short periods of time. I think about her constantly when I'm not with her and wonder how long it'll be before we're together again.

"I missed you, too," I say, sitting beside her, covering her hand with mine, my fingers stroking hers.

"Can I tell you something kind of weird?" she asks, voice soft.

"Always."

"When I was with Jake—"

"I take it back. Do I want to hear this?"

She turns her head, smiling. "Don't be such a wuss."

I keep my mouth closed and wait for her to speak.

"I finally felt like I was over you, over this."

"Never," I mouth, and she grins ear to ear, nodding.

"I spent so much time with Jake getting to know him, his family. He's a really sweet guy, and it could've worked." I grimace, and she adds, "It could have, but you ruined it. You kissed me, and all of those feelings I had hidden, stuffed inside me for all those years, just came pouring out—"

"Like a waterfall of love."

"Shut up." She elbows me, and I snag her hand, kissing it and tucking it into my chest. "My point is no matter how much I tried, no matter how much I dated, no matter how much I wanted it . . . he just wasn't . . . you."

"Nope. Jake's not me."

"He's not. He doesn't even come close."

"Good. I'm glad."

"I'm glad, too." She rests against my side, snuggling in, her socked legs curled beneath her on the tabletop. We sit, listening to nothing but our breathing, doing nothing but sitting, being. Because it's that easy with her.

Bella shifts slightly, wrapping her arms around me, playing with the hair on the nape of my neck. She pulls her cap off and places it on my head, pulling the bill down.

"I thought I wasn't supposed to get this back." Her lips are so close to mine.

"I like it on you. I miss it on you, actually."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. I like the way your hair curls over your ears just beneath it."

"You noticed that, huh?"

"I notice everything."

"Like what?" I pull her onto my lap, my hands resting on her hips.

"Like the way you smile when we're kissing, and you're just happy not horny."

"I'm always horny."

"You know what I mean."

"All right. And . . ."

"And the way you pivot your toe before you swing. I know when that happens you'll get at least a double. It's the hottest thing—your control of that bat. And the flick of your arm when you throw the ball from your position to home. You get this look of, just, fury when that ball hits the catcher's mitt and you get your out. I think about that look all the time."

"Mmm," I say, nuzzling her neck and kissing her there softly. She smells so good. That vanilla has ruined me.

"And I notice the way your eyes drift over mine when you say you love me. You're not waiting for me to say it back. You're saying it because you want me to know. Because it's important to you that I know."

"Well, it is. I refuse to make my dad's mistakes. If I love you, you should know. I love you, Bella, I do."

She meets my mouth softly, her lips warm and molding to mine in a lingering kiss. It's familiar to me now, just like Bella.

"Remember when we started eighth grade, and you had to switch out of that math class?" she asks, fiddling with the buttons on my shirt.

"Yeah, and we ended up in bio together. That was great. I loved that Bunsen Burner."

Bella rolls her eyes but continues. "Mr. Selner told you to pick your seat. One was open next to Cara Franklin, the girl that—"

"Yeah, I remember her. She was so cute, then turned psycho stalker. Her tongue was weird."

"Well, there was another seat open next to me. You sat with me, even though you had the hugest crush on her at the time, and I think I knew then."

"Knew what?"

"That no matter what, no matter who you were with or who I was with, I'd always want to be with you." She takes a deep breath. "Because I loved you."

Bella runs her fingers lightly over my neck, her head low until she lifts it just so. "I love you, Edward," she whispers, her eyes on mine, serious and sure of the words she's just said. It's the best thing I've ever heard. And the best thing that's ever happened to me.

She presses me down against the table, sprawling out on top of me, and kisses me until the sun comes up.

As we say our goodbyes on her back doorstep in early morning light, I wonder what the summer will bring. What will we do? Where will we go? Will we get jobs? Will I have to ride in her stupid car every day? I smile against her lips, drunk on love and lust and so many different kinds of kisses.

"This game is better than baseball," I say, my voice groggy and needing to rest.

"That's blasphemy."

"Not when you and I are a team."

"True, and I'll make sure we win."

"I have no doubts," I say.

And that's the truth.

A/N: Holy crap! Another story marked complete. And people read it and liked it. Fanfiction is weird. But I love it. And I love yooooooooooou!

Thank you to my prereaders and betas and playlist buffs! I could not do this without you. For serious. I mean, you've seen my first drafts made of garbage and have helped turn them into this. So thanks. Thanks for your kind words and motivation and your need of ALL THE THINGS! I hope I do you proud and continue to do you proud (and finish all the half written stories I have ).

And thank you, dear readers. This experience is so fun because of you. The interaction I experience with you brings joy into my day, my life, and I thank you. You move me with your sweet words and thoughtful analysis of my own. I hope to see you again soon with a new story. In the meantime, find me on purelyamuse dot blogspot dot com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WeHeatIt, and, of course, here.

I adore you so much I'd defend you with a bat. For reals, yo.

Purely