This is my entry for the Lyrics to Life Contest. I'm happy to announce that it won for Best Supporting Character. My wonderful beta Daphodill already has chapter 2 in her hands. I'm not sure of the posting schedule for this fic, but I will sure try my best to write as much as I can. Thank you to all that read, reviewed and voted for my fic. I'm so HAPPY!

Careless Hearts

Rating: M

Careless by Amos Lee


Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.

Summary: Love shows up and bends under the pressure of two hearts: one careful, the other careless. How much can Love take when it comes between best friends, before it breaks?

I remember the first time I laid eyes on Edward and Garrett, in that stuffy classroom lined with chalkboards and desks in rows like toy soldiers. They were sitting in the far row next to the wall of windows, sunlight shining in on them, illuminating their bodies like they were angels there to take care of me. Garrett smiled, while Edward had trouble meeting my eyes. I was told to take a seat, so I gripped my lunchbox and took the only available one next to the smiling boy that made me feel instantly comfortable, and the green eyed boy that made my stomach twist in knots and my heart feel funny. Little did I know that the three of us would be inseparable, and that those boys would change me forever. How could I have known all these things? I was a sixth grader for God sake. We were fast friends from the word GO, until …




Bella squatted by the side of the dirt road to relieve herself. She had to pee so bad that she had asked the guys to pull over. Just as she pulled up her pants, tires kicked up dirt and she was staring at tail lights.

"Edward, Garrett, it's not funny. Stop!" Bella ran down the road after her two best friends who had taken off in Edward's pickup truck without her. They weren't really going to ditch her, only tease her a little bit. Every time she would catch up to the truck, Edward punched the gas. Both boys laughed at her, making her laugh as well. She stopped running, bending at the waist laughing, and then flipped them the bird. Finally, they relented and let her back into the cab of the truck. They nudged her with their elbows, still teasing. Next time, she swore she would just hold it, or not drink as much Dr. Pepper at the movies.

"When we graduate next month, will you both still be this immature?" She faked disdain, and tried to hide her cheesy smile.

"Probably so."Garrett snickered, pulling a strand of her hair.

"Bells, if we didn't give you crap you'd think we didn't love you anymore," Edward added.

Edward, Garrett, and Bella were the three amigos. They had been friends for years, and she loved the easy way the three of them fit together, like pieces of a puzzle. Bella had girlfriends, but she preferred hanging out with the boys. They knew how to have fun, so that's what Bella did most weekends: she hung with Edward and Garrett. They never minded either. Bella completed their trio. It was always a given that Bella would be right there with them.

As the years passed from grade school to high school, Garrett became more of the brother Bella never had. She knew she could count on him for anything. He picked her up before school and ate lunch with her in the cafeteria. He fought many a fights for Bella, when other boys paid too much uninvited attention to her. He was loyal to a fault.

Edward, on the other hand, made Bella's heart flutter. He was tall, handsome, and Bella thought he had the most endearing crooked smile and the most brilliant evergreen eyes. He had a mess of copper top hair that Bella wanted to run her fingers through, but she never worked up the courage. He also was a loyal friend and didn't take kindly to boys making eyes at her. He had a soft spot for Bella, but she never caught on, always believing his protectiveness was because of the tight bond they shared. Bella loved when Edward fought a good fight in her honor. She never told him, though. Instead, she secretly thought of him as her knight in shining armor. Edward was the total package. He made Bella's heart melt like ice cream, on a hot summer's day.

Edward and Bella had a habit of late night phone calls with one another. Both would tell a secret—a hope, or a dream. It was the highpoint of their conversations, but neither one ever shared the most important secret, hope, or dream: the feelings they had for one another. Instead, they continued to play their game over the phone, wishing the other to say something that might change the status of their friendship to an exclusive relationship. On a few occasions, Bella slipped up, tongue tied and declaring his beauty.

"You're beautiful, Edward." Bella's thoughts escaped her mouth before her brain could stop her. She slapped her hand over her mouth, not believing she had blurted out those words.

"What?" Edward questioned, chuckling. His pulse thundered through his body at her admission.

Laughing and turning crimson red, Bella blew Edward off. "You know you're a pretty boy, Edward Masen." Thankfully, he was on the other end of the phone, miles away, and couldn't see the shade of red she had turned. Bella sort of lied, he wasn't only beautiful; she thought he was gorgeous.

Edward, too, slipped once or twice, during their phone calls, using endearing names like sweetheart or love. Bella would stop speaking after catching the endearing words that had flowed out of Edward's mouth. It was music to her ears. She was overjoyed, and at a loss for words for a split second, upon hearing how natural those words sounded to her ears. Thrills shot through her body. Edward laughed, but a part of his heart froze, mistaking her pause for rejection. He had always wanted to hear how love and sweetheart sounded rolling off his tongue when it referred to Bella. The words came easily and naturally, making his heart pound, the words 'would you be my girlfriend' sit at the tip of his tongue.

"Um, Bella … I was just wondering if … you would want to, you know … go out with me?" Edward held his breath for a few seconds. When she didn't respond, his stomach flipped, making him feel sick.

"Bella? Hello?" It was then he heard her soft snores. It was the sound of her sleeping peacefully. He closed his eyes, imagining that he was lying next to her, holding her tightly to his chest. He reluctantly hung up the phone, after whispering, "goodnight, Love." He hoped his courage didn't waver; he'd try again another time, perhaps in person. Another obstacle was, that Garrett seemed to always be with them, a third wheel, since the three of them drove to school together, and then home again, it was nearly impossible to get Bella alone.

So, Edward and Bella continued their late night calls, depending on them, because they had developed a special bond while deepening their knowledge of the other.




Right out of high school, the three amigos separated, following their own paths. Edward joined the military while Garrett took over his family's construction business. Bella went to the community college and got a degree in General Studies. She didn't quite know what she wanted to do with her degree or her life. She ended up staying in Small Town, USA and hung out with her friend, Garrett, wishing that their third amigo was with them. But Edward was off fighting wars. So, she went about her life, working at Newton's hardware store and hanging on to each Skype conversation she and Edward had. They wanted to keep the late night phone call tradition alive, even though Edward was thousands of miles away. They still had not come clean with one another about their feelings, but the butterflies in Bella's stomach had multiplied over the years each time she spoke with Edward. Just the anticipation of each call sent her body in overdrive. Each time they spoke via Skype, the sight of his messy hair, crooked smile, and the way he rubbed his chin during their conversation, sent tingles through her body, making her blush, like he was reading her mind. On several occasions, Edward asked if she was feeling well because of her pink cheeks. Bella would bite her lip, and nod her head saying she felt just fine. Bella wondered how long it would take for Edward to finally clue in to the tale tell signs of her being head over heels for him.

The same went for Edward; his body was like an alarm clock, set for Bella. His fingers would twitch knowing it was time to dial her number, and have their nightly conversations. Each time wanting to reach through his computer screen, and touch Bella in ways he had dreamt of for far too long, hold her, kiss her, and tell her precisely how he felt.




Ten years after high school graduation

The silent, dark night was calming, that's why he usually ended up in this same spot most nights of the week.

"Hell, what am I doing? I can't do this anymore," Garrett thought out loud. The only ears that heard his words belonged to his dog, Jake. His old dog raised an eyebrow and cocked his head at him as if to say, you know damn well what you're doing, before laying his scruffy head back down on the soft grass and closing his eyes.

"I should kick my own ass for never telling Bella how I feel about her; it's my own damn fault. Now, Ed's in romance mode, probably lighting candles and shit as I sit here and talk to my damn dog … sorry, Jake." Jake's ear lifted telling his master he heard.

The drink Garrett held in his hand, numbed his fingers, while the alcohol warmed his insides. Sitting in the dark in the solitude of his backyard had become a ritual of sorts as he tried to deal with his feelings for Bella. He stretched out in the hammock and closed his eyes, deep in thought. One hand clutched his heart, the other the glass with his half drunk Screwdriver.

Each time Edward leaves, I'm put in the same fucking position to watch over Bella. It wasn't so bad at first; I loved spending time with her. At least I got Bella all to myself. Garrett closed his eyes tightly, wishing away all his thoughts about Edward and Bella.

Thoughts of Bella made him dizzy, or maybe it was the vodka in his drink, whatever it was, he was a little drunk. As the years passed, there was a noticeable shift in Bella's reactions where Edward was concerned. Garrett noticed Bella got a bit more excited when speaking of Edward's Skype calls. She'd twirl her hair and almost bounce with excitement when she spoke of him. He wanted to roll his eyes, but he never did. Instead, he just listened and cringed when she acted like a giddy school girl.

Garrett thought it was plain as day how he felt about her, even though he had never come right out and said it. He purposefully stood a bit too close to Bella, lightly touching her arm when they were out in public, or putting his hand on the small of her back, silently staking his claim. His closed mouth smiles felt seductive to him, but when he smiled that smile at her, she never clued in. The obviousness could have slapped her in the face, in his opinion, but still, she never caught on. Instead, she continued to act like he was her brother, nothing more.

Garrett didn't think he would ever come completely clean with his feelings towards Bella. He never wanted to jeopardize their friendship. She was too important to him, to lose her. Her presence in his life was wonderful, yet unbearable. The way she laughed at his jokes, smiled and flipped her hair when she told funny stories to him, pinched and played with her earlobe while they watched scary movies, it was the little things that added so much to his life. She fit comfortably and he cared for her, and didn't want to live without her, that much he was aware of. However, it seemed she couldn't live without Edward.

Life wasn't fair. The girl he wanted was within arm's reach, yet miles away.

At about the same time that Bella started showing interest in Edward, Garrett noticed how Edward started changing. All the years they had been friends, never once had he acted like there was anything other than a friendship with Bella. Edward had his pick of any girl, and usually had a plethora of them around. But, when Edward started casually bringing Bella up in conversation, that's when he knew Bella would likely never be his. He never stood a chance against Edward Masen. All girls fell head over heels for Edward's crooked smile and charming ways, as far back as he could remember. He internally kicked himself for waiting too long to make his feelings known to Bella. He was chicken shit for not coming clean years ago. He didn't have the guts to tell her how he truly felt.

Gulping down the last swig of his Screwdriver, he drifted off to sleep in the hammock attached to the tree in his backyard. Sleep wasn't a reprieve for him. Bella danced through his unconscious thoughts; she was always on his mind. Her sweet laugh reverberated in his ears, even in slumber. He enjoyed tickling her just so he could hear her high pitched squeals. He also loved the way she tucked her hair behind her right ear, or chewed her lip with her front teeth when she was nervous. He had memorized all her little quirks and mannerisms. And her scent—her scent was delicious. He could smell her, even in his dreams. Her unique scent always took him back to the sixth grade when she moved to town, her desk sat next to his. He noticed that she would apply Cotton Candy Lip Smacker on her lips, throughout the day. He could practically taste her sweet, soft lips, even though his had never had the pleasure of touching them. Only in his dreams. He always smelled cotton candy; it was his favorite flavor for as long as he had known Bella.




Edward's kitchen window was open, and his stereo speaker sat on the window sill playing soft music, into the backyard. He wanted a romantic setting for Bella. This was the first time he had ever planned, and pulled off, such a special date for a girl.

"Love, close your eyes." His velvety voice was music to her ears. She felt Edward's calloused hand covering her eyes as he lead her to the gazebo in his backyard. Her eyelashes touched the rough patches on his palms.

"Baby, where are you taking me?" Her breath was shallow in anticipation.

"If I told you I'd ruin the surprise, wouldn't I?" He kissed the back of Bella's head.

"Now open." He took his hand off her eyes and turned slightly toward her to gage her reaction.

Bella gasped. "Edward! It's beautiful!" Her hand covered her mouth in shock.

"Do you like?" His voice was low and sexy.

"I love!" She jumped into his arms, wrapping her legs around his body as he carried her to the gazebo he had decorated with white candles of all sizes and shapes. Every candle was lit, and flickered in the light breeze. Edward's array of candles lit up the yard with a yellow glow.

"Who are you? Martha Stewart?" She peppered his cheeks, lips, and neck with kisses. "What's going on?" She questioned as she pulled her face away from his skin.

"I wanted to romance my best girl. Is that all right with you, Love?"

She nodded her head, giggling as she lightly bit the sensitive lobe of Edward's ear, then sucked it into her mouth. His body responded with goose bumps and a shiver down his spine every time Bella sucked on his ear.

"This is breathtaking, baby." She cupped his face with her delicate hands and placed a lingering kiss on his lips.

"Here, sit down." He set her at the picnic table he had covered with a white table cloth, and sat right next to her. He had two champagne glasses and a bottle of Perrier Jouet champagne at the ready.

After uncorking Bella's favorite champagne and pouring each of them a glass, he handed his sweet girl some bubbly, and made a toast.

He held Bella's small hand in his much bigger calloused one, rubbing circles on her satiny skin. She was the perfect image of his ideal woman. Soft curves in all the right places, with milk chocolate brown eyes silently begging for his touch, he could get lost in those eyes for days. He swore he could see straight through to her soul. Her love and devotion to him was evident, the way she squeezed his hand gently, telling him without words that she loved him. Her gentle gestures made his heart soar, making him high on her love.

"To the absolute best summer of my life." Edward paused, taking a breath before continuing. "For years I've dreamt of you becoming mine, but never in my wildest dreams did I think it would become reality. I think I've loved you ever since you walked into Mrs. Cope's sixth grade classroom." One of Edward's cheeks rose as he gave her his crooked grin. "I love you with all my heart, Isabella Swan. Thank you for making my dreams come true." Unshed tears lined Bella's eyes, the corners of her perfect pink lips turned up into the sweetest smile. Edward's heart pounded with love and adoration for the beautiful girl, who, not long ago, he had only been able to call friend.

Bella leaned forward pressing her lips to his, she whispered into his mouth, "Happy three month anniversary, baby." Her sugar sweet voice sent a thrill to the tips of all his nerve endings. Her tongue sought his, sucking it into her mouth, teasing him. He gently pulled away, to clink his glass with her's, then sipping his champagne, Bella followed his lead, fluttering her eyelashes at him. He knew that was her way of coming on to him, so he would take it from there.

"I have another surprise for you, Love." He took a hold of her hand and walked her to the barn that was lit with lanterns and where he had spread a blanket over a few hay bales. Her eyes were open wide with curiosity. They had made love in the barn before, but never had he spread a blanket out and lit lanterns. But the times before weren't planned. They had gone to the barn in search of fishing poles, but quickly got side tracked. Bella found herself, more than once, being made love to against the tractor.

In this moment though, Edward led her to the hay bales, looking deeply into her eyes. No words were worthy enough to describe how beautiful she was to him. His hands smoothed over Bella's back, traveling lower. He dipped his finger into the denim waistband of her jeans, earning him a low moan. She was putty in his hands. Since they had been together, he had memorized every inch of her body, knowing just how to work her up and turn her on. He was rock solid, anticipating the inevitability of her warm, wet center. She finished undressing herself, with Edward's help, and then he laid her down on the soft blanket. He reached into his pocket to retrieve her gift, before taking off his jeans. Bella pulled him closer, begging him to make love to her.

"Please baby, I need you. Now." Her breath was but a whisper.

Edward was more than happy to oblige. He had planned a surprise and luckily it was going just as he had imagined.

"You want me, Love?" He kissed her neck, taking his cock in his hand and teasing her pussy with the head. Her slit was wet and ready, for him. He moaned in anticipation.

''Yes, Edward. Now! I need you so badly." Her lips were kissing and sucking at his neck and chest. Her pelvis was lifting and grinding, trying to hurry his cock into her body.

He couldn't hold off much longer; he needed to get inside his girl quickly before he ruined his own plan and came on her belly instead of inside her.

"Oh, yes. You feel so fucking good, B." Her tight, wet pussy warmed his cock as he slid it deep inside her. Edward pushed his cock in and out in a slow, steady speed, and then rolled Bella until she was sitting on top of him. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever laid eyes on. Her dark hair was a veil around her face. Her eyes were hooded, her mouth was parted, and her chest was heaving with desire. Bella looked like an angel to him.

As their hips circled in perfect rhythm, Edward took a hold of her hand and placed a promise ring on her finger, briefly stopping her gyrating hips.

"Keep going, Love." Edward said through a moan.

"Edward?" Her questioning voice was whisper-soft as they easily regained their rhythm.

"I love you."

"Love you too, baby." She leaned down kissing his lips, tasting the champagne that lingered on his mouth.

Edward grabbed her hips, grinding her at a faster pace. They were both barely holding on.

"Come for me, Love. Let me see what I do to you." She sat up, gripping her hair into her fists, her breasts bouncing as Edward continued thrusting hard, their bodies making loud slapping noises.

"Yes baby, right there. Don't stop. Please don't. Ever. Stop!" Her screams were music to his ears. When he felt her contract around his cock, he let go.

He whispered breathlessly into her ear, "Mi Ami Sempre,love me always, B," as she relaxed on top of his chest.

"Forever," Bella whispered back.

Two Weeks Later

The summer breeze blew warmly over the silhouetted lovers, who stood next to the old tree near the faded red barn. The burnt orange sun was setting on the horizon, casting its last rays of light on them. His long fingers played with her soft, brunette hair, streaked with auburn highlights. Her fingers were hooked through the loops of his jeans, thumbing the muscled V on his abdomen. Her tears started flowing, and she silently cursed herself for being weak. She had been so strong, but knowing he was leaving again, crushed her.

"I'm not sure when I'll be back, B." Edward smoothed his fingertip down Bella's cheek, interrupting the steady stream of tears sliding down her face. "I'll call as often as I can, promise." He placed a soft gentle kiss on her forehead, playing with a strand of her hair. He'd always cared for this girl more than she understood.

She shook her head, closing her eyes tightly. Her lips pressed together defiantly. The nose Edward loved to peck with his lips, started to run. She wiped it with the back of her hand, and then ran a hand across the side of her dress. She sniffled to keep her runny nose at bay with no such luck. At this point, her nose was out of control, just like the rest of her.

She didn't understand how Edward could leave her after the perfect summer they had just spent together, laughing and carefree, yet the love between them intense. Years of friendship had turned into love over these summer months, something she had waited for, for years. The passion between them was something she'd never felt before, making her body weak in his presence. She had been completely open lying bare to her lover. He was the only person she had ever been this intimate with. Now he was leaving.

She didn't care about the new job he was offered. She was pissed when he had told her about it weeks ago. They were perfectly happy, just like this—nothing else mattered.

For security reasons, Edward couldn't divulge any information about his new job, making her even more apprehensive. The secrecy of it all frightened Bella; she worried for Edward's safety. She had worried when he had been deployed in Afghanistan, and she didn't want to worry about his safety yet again. She wanted him to keep working for Garrett here in their home town. At least it was safe. Construction here in the States wouldn't get him killed, unlike this new government job.

"Please say something, B." Edward took her face in his hands. He cupped her cheeks and lifted her face to his.

"Love, look at me. Open those beautiful eyes."

"I can't." She cried more.

"I'll come back to you, I promise." He kissed her lips softly, willing her to open her mouth and kiss him. The back of his long fingers skimmed over her soft cheek, down her neck. The other hand pulled her so close; he could make out the pounding rhythm of her heart.

"I'm going to be training, and then I'll be sent on a few assignments. You can't come with me, and even if you could, I wouldn't want you in a strange city all by yourself." He placed more soft kisses on her nose, lips, and chin. "At least here I know you'll be safe, Garrett has always watched out for you when I've been away." He leaned his forehead to hers. "This time is no different, B." He looked into her eyes. Her lashes were wet with tears, making his heart seize. She placed her hands on his well-defined chest and forced herself to push him away.

"You can't even tell me how long you'll be gone. How long I'm going to be without you." She turned her back to him and sobbed into her hands. Her hair fell around her face, and it took everything Edward had, not to grab her. She would miss him twice as much now that they had finally established a relationship. The other times he had been away, she knew she didn't have the right to be upset, they weren't a couple. But now, she hoped that he'd never leave again, because they were in love. It broke her heart to know he was going to be out of arm's reach. She had come to depend on his warm arms wrapped around her body at night as they slept, and his texts throughout the day. Bella was giddy every time she'd receive a new text from him. Mostly they made her blush. She'd giggle, anticipating their evenings alone. Bella's heart was completely whole with Edward home. He was situated perfectly in her life—right where she wanted him.

"Because I don't know, Love. Honestly." He scrubbed his hands over his face, pacing back and forth between the barn and tree. He wished she understood how much he loved her, that he would be back for her as soon as humanly possible.

"I'm not them, okay? I'll be back. I love you, B!" Edward knew she was thinking of her parents, who died when Bella was twenty, while vacationing abroad. He tried to reassure her, he would be fine. Edward walked straight to where Bella had crouched down, with her back leaned on the scratchy bark of the old tree. Her head was cradled in her own hands, and elbows propped on her knees. He scooped her limp body into his arms, cradling her like a baby. He held her close, but somehow she didn't feel close enough. Bella's arms hugged his neck for dear life as a few sobs escaped her throat.

"This is not how we are going to say our goodbyes." He had his arms around her petite body, carrying her into the barn, before placing her on the soft blanket; he had spread out on the rows of stacked hay bales. Their dinner was long since forgotten and sat untouched in the picnic basket. He would try, wholeheartedly, to salvage the romantic evening he had planned for her.

Placing Bella gently on the blanket, he leaned over her and kissed her softly. His heart ached to see her chin quiver.

With tear-blurred eyes, Bella gazed up at her man, hovering just above her. His brilliant evergreen eyes yearning to please her.

"May I take your dress off B ... and love you?" His hands skimmed along her arms.

Bella nodded her answer and bit her lip to keep from crying yet again. She wanted their goodbye to be sweet, but the circumstances were anything but. Bittersweet would be how she would describe it. She couldn't imagine saying goodbye to him. Her heart literally hurt.

She felt as if she was losing him, and the feeling had lodged its way into her heart. The lump in her throat was burning her esophagus and wouldn't dissipate. She swallowed thickly, trying to force it down, to ignore it. But she couldn't.

"Lift your arms, Love." Edward gently slid Bella's navy baby doll dress over her head, discovering her pert, naked breasts. He dropped the blue fabric on the barn floor. His jeans grew tighter and uncomfortable; as he watched her nipples harden even further. He didn't take his eyes off Bella or her pebbled nipples. His hands were now on her brown boots, slipping them off her feet. Her panties were the last item to be stripped from her soft, ivory body; he slid them slowly down her thighs, savoring the act of undressing his girl, this very last time before departing. His clothing was next; he stripped quickly, he couldn't wait to nestle his body between hers and love his girl.

Beautiful, naked Bella lay on the blanket before him making his heart swell and quicken with love and desire. He knew she was his, and he would be back for her regardless of what she was imagining. He wanted to make their last night together special and show her how much he loved and cherished her, how much she meant to him. He was going to miss her playful sexy morning texts before he left for work and her evening hellos where she'd be waiting on his porch, reading her book and petting his old tabby cat, Felix. He would miss everything in between as well, and he'd be damned if he was going to leave his girl without showing her exactly how much she meant to him.

She put her hands on Edward's neck, pulling him closer. Her lips found his; they kissed with a passion that neither one had ever felt before. His skin prickled with chill bumps when his body pressed to hers. Her hips rose slightly, gyrating, seeking friction to soothe the ache between her legs.

Edward conveyed through his actions the love he had for her, by taking his time; their lovemaking was sweet and unhurried. Loving, not lustful. He cherished the girl that had become his one constant for years; he was finally free to love her fully. His sweet girl laid bare before him.

More tingles coursed through Edwards's body when Bella reciprocated with tongue twirls. Her fingers played in his hair, massaging over his scalp. The shiny gold promise ring he had given her just a few short weeks ago pulled strands of his unruly hair every so often. She loved the saying that touched her skin from the engraving on the ring. Mi Ami Sempre, 'love me always'. He whispered in her ear every time they made love.

Low moans were prevalent from both of them, echoing through the rafters of the old barn. His hands skimmed her body: shoulders, breasts, stomach, and thighs, coaxing her legs to wrap around his waist. She swore she could feel the details of his fingerprints, so sensitive on her warm flesh. He ghosted one hand down to her warm, wet center, taking his time rubbing lightly and savoring every last second with his lover. His other was on her cheek, his thumb lovingly stroking her silent tears away. They were joined in the most intimate of ways, and he felt entirely connected to his girl. He loved her with all his heart.

"I love you B ... always. Don't you forget that ... you hear me?" His voice cracked. She whimpered. He

kissed her with more force than necessary, but his emotions had risen to the surface. The tightening in his chest reconfirmed that he indeed loved this girl wholeheartedly, not that he doubted it, but now he second guessed his decision to take a new assignment thousands of miles away.

"I've got your heart, Love. I'll protect that precious piece of you, don't you worry." The tightening in his belly signaled his impending orgasm. Their slow love making took them both over the edge with an explosion of emotions.

"I love you, Edward Masen ... please come back to me." Her eyes closed tightly as her toes curled. Her whole body shook with a mixture of the wonderful high of their climax, and the painful low of his leaving. As she begged him, her orgasm intensified her emotions.

As much as he wanted to give in to her pleading, he knew that the job opportunity presented to him was one he couldn't pass up. This would give him even more financial stability, and he could offer Bella a wonderful life with him. He'd only have to work a few years and then he could retire for good. His days in the U.S. Marines were some of his proudest moments. He had served overseas in the war and saved many soldiers. The government had sought him out specifically for this job. Otherwise; he would still be on Garrett's payroll as foreman of his construction crew.

Edward knew Garrett, who he thought of as a brother, would watch over his girl while he was training. Garrett would have his back—there was no doubt about that. Bella and Garrett survived without Edward while he was in Afghanistan, and they would survive this too. They would be waiting for Edward when he returned.




Weeks passed slowly. Bella worked as much as possible to pass the time. When she kept her mind on other things the time alone wasn't so bad, but then several months went by with a few inconsistent phone calls from Edward. She had been at work those times, and dropped everything to run to the break room to talk to him. They were never long calls, but she heard his voice and that was what mattered.

The times in between Edward's random phone calls, Bella would find herself in a funk that she couldn't shake, when thinking of him. Sometimes she'd find herself, brows deeply furrowed, chewing on the inside of her mouth until she tasted blood, wishing she'd receive another call. Her stomach would begin to gurgle with acid and she would have to run to the restroom to relieve the contents therein.

Garrett had asked, on several occasions, for Bella to join him at Tillie's Tavern on the outskirts of their little town. Bella's excuses were becoming less and less believable. The only excuse she hadn't pulled out of her bag of lies was that she needed to wash her hair.

Garrett had had quite enough of her excuses. The few times he ran into Bella in town, she looked thin and sad. He knew that he needed to intervene, and quickly. It wasn't like them not to hang out on a regular basis, she had been avoiding him. Bella knew she needed companionship to help her deal with Edward's absence, but the thought of putting on a happy face for someone else wasn't appealing. She'd rather be alone.

Even Garrett was missing his best friend. This was different than when Edward was deployed and could Skype on a semi-regular basis. He hadn't heard from him at all. Even he had started to doubt the safety of Edward's new job, but he didn't divulge his fears to Bella.

"Bells, I'm not buying the load of shit you've been feeding me. I'll pick you up at eight, and you better be ready. I'm not taking no for an answer. I'm getting you outta the house if it kills me, and don't think I won't toss you over my shoulder and put your little ass in my truck." She heard the loud beep of what she imagined was a concrete truck in the background, and then Garrett clicked off the line before she could make a rebuttal.

Bella only did what was absolutely necessary to get through each day: wake, barely eat, work, sleep, and repeat. She hated that her whole existence was strengthened by Edward's presence, but he had quickly become her life. Once he arrived back from the war overseas, they finally gave into what they had always felt toward one another. Somehow being just friends wasn't going to cut it, they fell in love hard. In the few short months that they had become 'official', they talked marriage, babies, and life in general. It was something she had always dreamed about and especially with Edward. He was the most respectable man she'd ever met; he had always been her protector. She'd known him forever. He had been right under her nose for years, but they had always been just friends. She wanted all of those things; she yearned for them.

Bella was but a shell of herself now that Edward was off training in God-knows-where. Garrett knew it. He wasn't giving her an out this time.

She huffed, "fine!" into the phone even though Garrett had hung up on her, seconds ago. She would make the best of her time with Garrett and show herself, and him, that she could have a decent time. She just hoped that the evening would fly by so that she could take her sleeping pill, crawl back into the bed that she and Edward used to curl up on, and dream of her man. Dreams were the best. It was the nightmares of Edward never coming back that rocked her to her core; she could live without those. She had them almost as much as she dreamt of the good times. It scared the ever-loving hell out of her, so she reached for her phone after each episode, to call the man that the terrors had been about. But each time she dialed his number, it immediately went to his voicemail. She found herself shaking, redialing his phone just to hear his voice; she needed to make sure he was okay. The depressing news reports that she tried so hard to avoid, somehow crept into her head while she slept. Even though she had no idea what he was actually doing, it made her worry more for his safety. She hated that she was losing her faith in Edward since he left; and had little contact with her.




Everyone in town must have been at Tillie's that night. It was crowded with barely enough room to move to the bar and order drinks. Every few steps Garrett and Bella took; they were stopped by someone that just wanted to say a friendly hello. She loved her little town; living there all of her life, she had come to know everyone. Not all were friends, some were just acquaintances, but even so, the friendliness was a great feeling. She was glad that Garrett forced her to pop her bubble of gloom and venture out for the night with him. She could feel the energy of the music running through her body, making her glad she was there. The gloominess she had been feeling was being peeled away from her like the skin of an onion. Each layer making her feel a bit more like her old jovial self.

"Sweetie, whatcha drinking tonight?" Bella smiled at Garrett, the first real smile in quite some time.

"Um, I'll just take a beer. That'll be fine, thanks." Bella looked over her shoulder to the dance floor. She knew the music playing tonight would be an eclectic mix of country, soul, jazz, pop, and even a little rock. She bit her lip, chewing it as she remembered when Edward took her hand and pulled her to the dance floor, swaying to the music of Amos Lee, a few nights before he left town, all those weeks ago.

"Here Bells. Cheers!" Garrett handed her the cold bottle of beer and clinked his to hers, giving her a wink.

"Cheers," Bella responded with a tight smile. She was suddenly lost in the memory of one of the last, best nights of her life with Edward. It tugged at her heart strings, bringing a mist to her brown eyes, knowing he wasn't waiting for her on the dance floor or trailing his soft lipped kisses down her neck in a booth, or even going home with her to make mad passionate love at closing time. She took a long pull from her beer bottle, holding the crisp carbonated beer in her mouth, before swallowing it. Her happy thoughts of Edward were washed down with that last cool swallow.

"Come on sweetie, why don't you let me take you for a twirl on the dance floor? You look like you need to loosen up, and this song makes me wanna dance." Garrett set their beers on the bar, took hold of her hand, and pulled her to the dance floor. She felt different when Garrett slid his fingers over her beer-cooled palm to twine through hers, coaxing her to dance. It was too intimate … too familiar … too much like Edward for Bella's liking. She quickly pinched her fingers closed, clasping his hand instead. She wasn't as accepting of his offer to dance as she had been with Edward. She would have followed Edward anywhere, anytime, in fact, she felt like she had followed him, whether he knew it or not. The tenor of Edward's laughing voice had always drawn her as if she were a magnet and he was metal. She would do anything for him. His green eyes were hypnotizing; Bella had always been powerless against him. As long as Edward was by her side, she could do anything, even dance. Bella shrugged as Garrett pulled her to the middle of the worn, hardwood dance floor. He had a swagger in his step; as he shoulder shrugged to 'Sexy Back'. He made her laugh as she watched how he could dance with ease. It was much harder for her, but she got into a groove that made her feel good. This was a good stress reliever and for a moment her mind was occupied, listening and moving her body. She watched Garrett's big, muscular frame glide to the upbeat tune of Justin Timberlake.

Garrett rested his hands on Bella's waist from behind, and they swayed their hips in perfect rhythm. It felt good to have a man move with her in that way. Bella's guilt surfaced for a split second, but she tucked it away in order to have a good time with a friend who cared about her well being. When the song faded into a slow melody, Bella exited off the old, wooden floor and carefully pushed her way back to the bar.

"Can I get another beer, Rose?" Bella shouted over the loud music. "Sure, girl. One cold one coming up." Rose winked at Bella.

"There you are! You kinda hightailed it off the dance floor. I swear it took me five minutes to make it over here to you. This crowd is insane." Garrett put his big hand on Bella's shoulder and gave her a pat; his body towered over her. "I think I saw a booth over by the pool tables. Grab me another beer, and I'll go see if I can snag it for us." He threw some cash on the bar and retreated to the open table.

"Rose, can I get one more, please?" Bella held up her beer showing Rose what she wanted.

"Of course." Rose popped the top off the bottle and slid it toward Bella.




The crowd dwindled as the night progressed. Bella and Garrett kept drinking, watching people bet on their pool games, and talked about nothing in particular, which Bella was thankful for. The last thing she wanted was to start crying in a room full of people, if the subject of Edward was brought up. Garrett must have known to avoid the topic, because he never mentioned his best friend, not even once.

Closing time was nearing, but for the last hour Bella drank only water in hopes of sobering up. She knew that she was now the DD since Garrett had no intentions of ending the night sober. He ordered another beer when Rose shouted 'last call'. Bella wondered how she was going to get the hulk of a man to his truck, let alone up into it if he were too far gone. She looked around for anyone she knew that would be able to help her. The only person that could possibly help was Rose's boyfriend, and bouncer, Emmett, so she guessed she had their exit planned. The problem after that would be how to get him into his house and to bed.




Garrett was seated in the passenger side of his truck while Bella drove the darkened roads. The moonlight glinted off the blacktop, and she wondered briefly if Edward was looking at the same full moon, thoughts of him always on her mind. She needed fresh air to clear her mind, so she rolled down the window, letting the cool evening air tangle her hair as it whipped it back and forth. Unshed tears were blinked back and held at bay.

Bella knew there was no way to get Garrett into his house. The stairs up to his front door would take her hours to ascend with a drunken man to contend with. Instead, she drove the familiar roads to her own home. She could pull right up to the side door of her house since there were no steps to maneuver; and more easily get Garrett to her couch.

"Garrett, we're here. Wake up buddy ... time to get you inside." She stood at the open passenger door trying to rouse him. She shook his shoulder until she barely saw the whites of his eyes.

"Bells. You're sweet as honey … I need a kiss."

"Nope, you're three sheets to the wind. I ought to make you sleep here in your truck. Now get your ass in my house." Bella kicked herself for thinking this was any sort of a good idea; Garrett was heavy as a ton of bricks and wasn't much help getting himself inside and to his designated sleeping space. But they finally made it. She threw a blanket over his loudly snoring body.

"Goodnight, Gar. I'll see you in the morning," she said as she walked the few steps to her bedroom. She knew good and damn well that he never heard her.

Bella took her nightly sleep aid and nestled her body into her warm blankets. She hoped that tonight would be filled with good dreams and not the others that she dreaded.




Training was as expected. Edward had been used to pushing himself while in the Marines, and loved how his body ached; working muscles he hadn't felt in a while. His arms and legs burned from the exertion of running obstacle courses and lifting weights, and he could now see even more definition in his limbs and torso from the drills. His new team members were great and knew exactly what they were doing as well, but they continued to train together to establish camaraderie. They needed that bond if they were going to make it out of life and death situations. They'd have to have each other's backs on covert missions, so training days were long and exhausting.

The miles that separated him and Bella were taking a toll on Edward's psyche. His missions were stressful which he knew in advance, but now with Bella more firmly in his life, they didn't seem worth the monetary gain he thought of in the beginning, when accepting the position.

It made him miss his girl, something terrible.

The destinations were always top secret; even he didn't know where he was going until they got there. They had successfully rescued hostages from militant groups in the jungle. He had been to hot, sandy deserts and to cold mountains in countries he had never heard of, rescuing the innocent. He'd been shot at, and his chopper had been hit several times on several different occasions. He'd been lucky, to say the least, he was the first to admit that this was not the way he wanted to live his life, especially now that Bella was by his side. Danger was always present. The construction job he left behind, along with the love of his life, was looking far more appealing than the tax free contract money he was making. Right now he couldn't hold his girl every night, but the one thing Edward could do was call her twice a week, even for a few, short minutes at a time. His calls, regrettably, happened when it was night time for Bella. Each time he called, it took her a dozen rings to answer her phone, but eventually she would pick up and utter his name.

"Ed...ward?" Her sleep-filled voice always answered the same way.

"Yes, Love, it's me."


"Yes, B, it's me. I love you so much, Love. I miss you. I miss your soft body pressed to mine."

"Miss you too ... love you." Her voice was tired, and she sounded incoherent, but he talked to her until her responses were barely there, and her sleep was imminent.

"I have your heart, Love, always. I know you're tired, so I'm going to let you go. I just wanted you to know that you are always on my mind… always. I'll be home as soon as I can. Just a few more missions."

"'Kay, baby," she uttered slowly, completely oblivious to the phone call.

"Night, sweet girl, mi ami sempre." He blew a big kiss into the phone each and every time before he hung up.




Edward didn't realize his absence was making Bella depressed, he figured she was still upset from him leaving, but not depressed. In the last few months, there were only a few daytime phone calls, and she never alluded to the fact that she was struggling with him being gone. She put on a good front, saying she was fine and keeping busy. The rest of his calls were in the middle of the night. Little did he know that she was taking meds to help her sleep. It would have explained to him why she always seemed a little bit off, not completely there with him in the conversation. He chalked it up to him disturbing her sleep.

Bella's picture was always with him; it helped the ache in his heart since he couldn't reach out and touch her. The only time it wasn't close to his body was when he was in the shower. They had been inseparable once they became exclusive, neither one spending anymore nights alone. He would stay at her house during the week, and she would occupy his bed on the weekends. He could almost smell the sweet scent of her in his nose when he thought about her wrapped around his body. Thoughts of Bella were on his mind the majority of the day.

"B, you don't know how much I have always wanted you." He placed kisses along her collarbone as they lay in bed, after making love. It made her shiver with desire to hear how he craved her.

"If it's half as much as I've wanted you … then I know." She smiled as his kissing progressed further down her body. She playfully pushed his head down to where she needed him most. She spread her legs and invited him once again to make love to her.

His thoughts were always on Bella. He stroked himself to release, remembering every detail of her luscious body.

Edward talked to Bella's picture like she was a real entity lying right next to him. He missed her soft skin pressed to his body, and her silky hair that he loved running his fingers through. He missed her kisses, how delicious she tasted. Making love to her was always on his mind but he wasn't greedy, he loved all of her. But most of all he missed the companionship, their lazy times, daily routines, all of those mundane things that people take for granted. He knew that each moment was special, and as soon as he was home, he was going to make her his forever. No more waiting. The separation was killing him.

Each night before bed he wrote in his small leather journal, the one his father had given him before he had deployed to Afghanistan. He didn't write every night overseas; he wrote when the inspiration hit him, and lately, his inspiration was Bella. He wanted to give his journal to her when he made it home so she could see just how much he had missed her while he had been away.




Garrett and Bella grew closer as the days and months passed, even though they had been friends for years. She came to rely on his company to keep her thoughts of Edward at bay. Frequent calls and texts helped as well as lunches together in the break room at Newton's.

Too much time on her hands never ended up well. She would've sat in front of the TV and cried with a tub of Neapolitan ice cream, had Garrett not occupied her time. Fridays consisted of dinner at Bella's, with an action movie afterward. No chick flicks. They made her miss Edward too much. She envied the love struck couples that eventually found their 'happily ever after', at the end of the movie. NO thanks, she was not going to cry like a baby in front of Garrett, or anyone else for that matter. Then, Tillie's was a given on Saturday nights; moving to the music, drinking beer, playing pool, and hanging out until closing time.

Bella truly appreciated Garrett continuing to fill the void in her life while Edward was out of town working ... in God only knows where.

"So, B ..." Garrett had taken to calling her B, which was one of Edward's nicknames for her. She never corrected him by saying that that moniker was already taken by her man. He should have known it. He had heard Edward call her that many times. Instead, she smiled and let it go, because he was one of her best friends. "It's almost Christmas and you have yet to get a tree." He shook his head in mock disappointment, shaking his finger in her direction, his teasing made Bella laugh. Lately, he always said or did something that put a smile on her face.

"I'm not really in the mood to decorate this year with Edward away."

"Ba Hum Bug! Last time I checked your name wasn't Ebenezer, so put on your coat, B, cause we're going' a tree huntin'."

Bella knew there was no arguing with Garrett; it was best she just shut her mouth and get her coat, because he wouldn't take no for an answer. He never let her say no. She secretly liked the way he took charge; she shuddered to think if he hadn't stepped in where she would be—most likely still in her bed with a box of tissues, and thirty additional pounds on her slight frame from all the ice cream she would have consumed.

"Okay Garrett, you are such a pain in my ass," she teased. "Let's get this over with." Bella slipped on her puffy coat, grabbed her scarf and opened the door to brave the cold winds slapping her in the face. She heard Garrett chuckle, and she cursed him and the frigid weather.




"How bout this one?" He held his hand in the direction of what she thought was the worst tree in the field. It was bushy on one side and so thin on the other; a few of the branches were almost bare of pine needles. It looked like it had some disease such as alopecia for pines. She giggled to herself.

"You need glasses ... that one sucks, big time."

"I love this tree. Just because it's not full on every side doesn't mean it's ugly. Even ugly trees need love." He stuck his bottom lip out into a pout, hoping to change her mind. This tree reminded him of one he had picked out as a little kid and since then, he never picked out a perfect tree, to him that just wasn't Christmas. He loved making it look as if it were the best tree on the lot. It was a challenge of sorts.

"Is this the one you seriously want me to take home?" He nodded his head vigorously affirming his choice.

"'Kay ... cut her down then. But if it falls over from lack of symmetry, then I'm blaming you. Oh and you get tree removal duty, as well. I hate all those dry, prickly pine needles that fall off."

"You got it B ... this is going to be the best Christmas ever." His toothy, white smile was adorable to her, and she didn't have the heart to tell him that she pretty much dubbed this Christmas the worst one in the history books. Without Edward, it would just be like any other normal or not so normal day in the life of Bella Swan.




The tree was actually pretty when dressed up in all its white-lighted glory and sitting in the corner of Bella's tiny living room. She had a few glass ball ornaments that she hung, but that was the extent of her decorating this year. The fancy ornaments in the plastic tubs in her storage room would have to wait another year, before adorning a Christmas tree.

Garrett had whipped up a pitcher of his signature spiked eggnog and already gulped down his third cup while he watched Bella move around her small living room. Now on her fourth cup, Bella felt warm and nearly boneless by the time she finished her weak attempt at decorating, and plopped down on the couch beside Garrett, before stretching out to rest her head in his lap.

"Once again I'm glad I didn't take no for an answer. The tree is beautiful."

"You're beautiful." Garrett pulled his fingers through Bella's long hair; he had always wanted to feel just how soft it actually was. Her locks slid through his fingers easily. He was careful not to pull it. He imagined it was soft, but not like this. It felt like satin.

Bella's breathing hitched at his soft touch and his declaration; her heart pounded behind her ribs with something: want…desire…need?

Thoughts of Edward came to Garrett's mind, Edward was fucking up in his book, he was hurting Bella. His thoughts were outweighing his common sense at the moment. Garrett had kept his distance and stayed in the' friend zone' for entirely too long, but now was his opportunity to change that status. He wanted a chance to show Bella how she should be treated. He'd never leave her; he hadn't left since they had met in the sixth grade.

"See, I know what's good for you most of the time. You just have to trust me." He winked at her, and she felt her stomach flutter. She hated that her stomach did that when Garrett winked at her. This wasn't the first time he made such a gesture. At times, she chalked his winking up to a nervous tick, but each time he'd tug on her ponytail or touch the end of her nose with his finger, in a teasing fashion. It never failed to make Bella's insides quiver, leaving her confused. This time there was no teasing gesture.

Bella started to remove her head from his lap, but he stopped her from her retreat. The backs of his fingers touched the heated blush on her cheeks. The gentle pressure of his fingers felt like a lead weight to her, pushing her head back into his lap. She couldn't take her eyes off his face. It was like her first time really looking at him. He had always been a friend, nothing more. His light brown eyes with golden flecks were staring intensely back at her; she imagined running her tongue over the stubble on his cheeks and chin. She must be tipsy … these thoughts were brand new.

Garrett then coaxed Bella by taking hold of her biceps and bringing her to straddle his lap. Their lips were mere inches away. Their spicy sweet breaths were mingling in the few inches of space between them, and the thickness of his thighs under her rear end made her wet. She knew the bulge a bit higher would feel even nicer.

Bella had never noticed how perfect his lips really were. His lips were beautiful, his top lip was plumper in the middle, almost like a pucker, and when his pink tongue darted out to moisten it before speaking, Bella watched with bated breath.

"Do you trust me B?"

She slowly nodded her head, but her eyes darted off, looking past him, but then immediately focused back into his trusting eyes.

"You're beautiful, you know that?" She shook her head minutely, not believing what he was saying. She had only ever felt beautiful in Edward's presence. It had been far too long and she missed that feeling of being admired. Bella put her hand to Garrett's chest and gently tried to extract herself from the position he held her in. Before she could distance herself, Garrett cupped her face and brought his lips to hers. Bella's eyes closed for a brief second; she missed kissing. It was wrong on so many levels, yet she gave in to his soft, pouty lips that were seeking hers.

Tears pricked her eyes; emotions that she had tried so hard to conceal resurfaced. She wondered why Edward had only called her three times since he had been gone. She began to think that he was being careless with her heart. That he no longer loved her. He had promised her the world, yet he couldn't even take the time to call her. The only thing she looked forward to, when it came to Edward, was the few nights a week she actually had good dreams of him. The other nights were pure hell. The only other goodness in her life right now was the man kissing her ever so sweetly. He was the man that was taking his time to make sure she was okay and as happy as possible, given the shitty way her boyfriend had left her with an aching heart, and no consistent contact.

She finally pulled away from Garrett's sweet kiss and whispered, "Garrett, we … we should've never kissed." Even though she was feeling no pain from the delicious eggnog, she knew between right and wrong, and needed to stop his advances. But there was a part of her that told her to let go and give in.

"Let me show you how special you are to me, B." He ran his hands down her sides and rested them on her hips, pulling her closer to his body. Now Bella felt his erection under her, and it made her miss Edward so badly. Garrett leaned his head forward, resting his forehead on hers, his pretty eyes connecting with her brown ones.

"This isn't right, Gar. None of this is … right." She motioned between them with her hands.

He took a deep breath and asked, "Just one night B ... just one night?"

Bella didn't know why she gave his request even the slightest consideration, but the next thing she knew Garrett had her cradled in his arms, carrying her to her bed. Her nose was pressed into his neck; the scent of his cologne was intoxicating. Her traitorous body was responding to his.

Garrett was gentle with her, and she was gentle with him. She savored every touch he ghosted over her body, and her touches sent a thrill directly to his core. She didn't love him like she loved Edward, but feelings pretty damned close to love, had developed in the past few months, for the man that had always taken her under his wing and made her feel wanted. His feelings deepened with her underneath him, he never in his wildest dreams thought he'd be lucky enough to be in this position with Bella, his secret crush.

Their naked bodies felt nice pressed together; she imagined it was Edward at first. She craved his scent and the feel of his body. Garrett's scent was way different—it wasn't bad at all, but it wasn't the same, and his body ... it wasn't Edward's either. But the warmth and weight of his muscled body felt heavenly. The connection was comforting and satisfying, like a blanket. The all too familiar ache between her legs, intensified.

Bella bit her bottom lip waiting as Garrett entered her slowly, he didn't force her by any means, and she thought this was what she wanted. She needed to take the edge off her hurt. Part of her wanted to hurt Edward like he was hurting her, even though she missed him so badly … in this moment she knew she was using Garrett.

Garrett's erection slowly slid in and out of her, stretching her, she heard herself moan, partly in pleasure but mostly in pain, for the act she was committing. Garrett felt good, yet very wrong. She knew that this made her a cheater. Her tears started flowing uncontrollably, and Garrett panicked, suddenly realizing that Bella was far too fragile, too fragile for a one night stand. Even though secretly he never wanted it to be just one night, he had hoped she would finally see how good he had always been to her, for her.

"Oh, B ... I'm so sorry honey." He withdrew himself from her warm, sweet body with neither one of them reaching a climax. It was heaven while it lasted though, he thought to himself.

Shaking her head, she looked into his eyes. "We shouldn't have done this, Gar. I'm a horrible person. I love Edward." He rolled off her body and turned her on her side to where she was facing him. She sobbed into his chest, and he soothed her. His chest hurt, his heart was now broken. She didn't want him like he had wanted her.

"I'm so fucking sorry. I ... I don't know what I was thinking." His voice was remorseful, but Bella wouldn't let him shoulder all of the blame. She had consented.

"I should have stopped the kiss, Gar, but I missed his lips on mine and for a moment I imagined you were him." He wiped her tears and hugged her tighter. He had prayed she wasn't thinking of Edward while he was on top of her moving in and out of her warm body. He didn't like that thought, but he knew ultimately she was not his. He had been in Heaven while it lasted, he pushed his tears back. He had no right to cry over this girl.

That night she fell asleep without her sleep aid, tucked into the comforting arms of another man, her best friend. Garrett knew that this would be the only time he'd ever hold Bella in this way, so even though he was hurting, he held her close to his heart, until the morning sun shone through her bedroom window.




The days following the illicit tryst, Bella became more and more withdrawn. Every time she thought about what she had done … what they had done … her skin would crawl, and she felt as though she needed to scrub herself clean with bleach, to remove the evil deed that had been done. She wasn't answering Garrett's phone calls at all; she had even called into work at the hardware store claiming sickness for the week.

Christmas was around the corner, and she couldn't stand to celebrate anything, let alone Christmas by herself. She needed to get away. She knew she couldn't continue her relationship with Garrett that was for sure. The more she thought of what had happened the night of the Christmas tree cutting, she got angry. How could Garrett have taken advantage of her fragile state of mind? He knew that she wasn't strong enough to stop his advances, but yet he continued them. Yes, she knew that it was her fault as well, but she was weak, and she felt like a complete failure now. He was supposed to help her survive Edward's long absence, but instead he took advantage ... and she let him. She couldn't even keep the home fires burning while her man was away. Bella knew the right thing to do would be to end it with Edward as well. He deserved much better than a lying, cheating, whore-of-a-girlfriend. Edward would never cheat on her, and that thought alone—while it should be comforting—only made her feel worse about herself.




When Garrett woke up the morning after he and Bella had sex, he slipped his clothes back on and took one last look at her beautiful body, and kissed her head lightly, before leaving her house. He was ashamed of himself and tried to call Bella over the past few days to apologize. There was no way that he would go to her house if she was avoiding his phone calls and ignoring his messages. He didn't know if he could look at her and not want to touch her, kiss her. He knew that he had fucked up royally, and he didn't know how to fix any of it.

He felt sick to his stomach.

He had been so careless.

He betrayed his best friend ... his brother.

And the girl he was supposed to protect while Edward was away.

Garrett wasn't blaming Bella, but he hated the way she unintentionally crawled under his skin, worming her way into his heart. If he were an honest man, he would admit to her, that he loved her too. But he was a coward, a lying, cheating bastard. Edward would find out, most likely it would be by his own admission, if and when he ever made it home. He knew it was the right thing to do.




Bella was curled up into a tight ball on her bed. Her arms were wrapped around her legs that were tucked tightly to her chest. Her hair was a mess; her body was cold yet sweaty, and she needed to shower. It had been days that she laid in the bed that was once her and Edward's love nest, it had since been desecrated and she punished herself by lying there remembering how awful of a person she was. The punishment wasn't enough though; it hurt but not as bad as it should for acting like a whore.

Bella packed her car with just the necessities—she was leaving. She felt as though the townspeople knew of her indiscretions with Garrett, even though in all likelihood they did not. She decided that she couldn't face Edward when he finally returned home. She had to leave this tiny town before everyone found out about her whorish ways. She was thinking solely of him and his feelings. Not that she had thought of his feelings the night that she let Garrett take her to bed, but now she would make up for that. She would leave in hopes it would be better for him.

Boxes were piled high in her living room of the things that she would send for later. Her cousin, Alice, lived two hours away and offered for her to stay in her spare bedroom until Bella could find a place of her own, and get back on her feet. Bella reluctantly accepted her offer. Maybe spending time with Alice would help mend her.

On the way out of town, she pulled into Edward's driveway and placed the pink envelope in the mail slot in his front door. Bella covered her mouth with her gloved hand when she finally mustered the nerve to let the letter fall from her fingers through the metal opening. There was no turning back now. Edward would know exactly what kind of woman she had turned out to be ... one not worthy of his love.

Hot tears marred her cheeks. If she had had the energy to put on makeup this morning, she surely would have had black streaks marking her pretty face.

The pink envelope addressed to Edward had tear stains and smeared words of apology. The pieces of her broken heart were spelled out in great detail in the two page letter that she had so carefully written in the early hours of the morning. The broken icicles lying on the ground mirrored the way she felt.


Flat out broken to pieces.

Bella slowly walked the stone path leading back to her getaway car. She wanted to memorize the stone pathway that her feet had walked a thousand times before this dreadful day. She wanted one last time to think of how happy she and Edward had been holding hands walking into his cozy home. She knew this would be the last time her feet would carry her on this path, and if her heart wasn't shattered enough, it was pure dust in this moment.




Edward was ecstatic that his last mission was over. He had decided to surprise Bella, with his return a few days before Christmas. He also had two other surprises. One, he wanted to ask for her hand in marriage. He had practiced a speech about how much he adored her and couldn't live without her in his head, the entire flight back to his home town. And two, he gave his notice; he had quit the job that had taken him so far away from Bella for so long. The danger and distance between them wasn't going to work in their favor any longer.

The first stop was to his home to take a quick shower before surprising Bella. He wanted to have the ring to offer her. His grandmother's vintage diamond solitaire ring was in his safe at the back of his closet in safe keeping. It meant the world to Grandma Elizabeth to pass it down to Edward for his future wife. It was a precious token that Edward never, until now, wanted to offer to anyone. No one had been worthy of this heirloom, or his heart—not until Bella staked a permanent claim on his heart, body and soul. As far as he could remember, she was always the first person he thought of when he needed an ear to listen or a shoulder to lean on. In return, he was the same for her. They had been each other's rock of Gibraltar. They were friends before lovers.




The pink envelope in Edward's hand was shaking uncontrollably. When he had opened it, Bella's promise ring fell out, clinking to the wood floor. Bile rose in his throat and his lungs barely held enough breath to function. He felt light headed, and needed to sit. He read the letter in his hand, never imagining when he started, how appalling and heartbreaking it truly would be.

"Motherfucker!" Edward spat. "I'm going to kill that son of a bitch!" He grabbed his keys and ran to his car. He needed to settle a few things with Garrett before going after Bella.

He couldn't even call Garrett a friend or brother anymore. Garrett was now just a backstabbing bastard. He was dead as far as Edward was concerned.

Garrett knew the moment Edward stepped inside the construction trailer that all the ugly truths about he and Bella had been revealed. Edward's face was red hot and contorted. Garrett had never seen Edward this enraged—he practically saw fumes spewing from his ears. His fists were clenched so tightly, his knuckles were white under the strain. He knew Bella had spilled her guts, but that thought was interrupted by a solid fist connecting with his chiseled jaw. He was thrown back into the file cabinets by the sheer force of the attack, and his face throbbed in pain. Garrett knew he deserved that hit and much, much more, so he didn't fight back. One punch seemed to have alleviated some of Edward's aggression. He waited for him to unleash more pain, but his aggression seemed to wane after the sole punch was thrown.

"What the fuck man?" Edward yelled as he paced the floor of the office, glaring into the eyes of the man who had fucked his girl. His eyes were wild and bloodshot, making him look crazy.

Garrett just shook his head, rubbing his jaw. He had no excuses. He wanted to say that he loved her, but it seemed trite. She was never truly his to love.

"I leave to better my future. To give Bella security of a life with me, and this is what you do to me, man?" His words were loud, accusing. Hostile. He shook with fury as the words left his mouth.

"It's no excuse Ed, it was stupid of me. It's my fault, not Bella's. We became so close when you were gone. Neither of us knew where you were, what was going on. For all I knew, you weren't coming back. You never called me. You barely called Bella." He placed his hands on his desk, and then looked straight in Edward's eyes.

"You broke her, Ed. You broke her fucking heart! She was so sad—she cried all the time. She didn't think I knew, but I did." He paused minutely. "I comforted her so many times, and I'm sorry... I fell for her. I ... I love her too." He shook his head and then straightened his body to his full height. He waited for another assault from Edward, but instead Edward turned around and walked to the door. He paused for a brief minute.

"You speak of love? If you loved her, you wouldn't have fucked with her heart, if she was so broken. I should have known, you'd have to get her, that you'd want her for yourself. I saw some of the looks you shot her way—I dismissed them, thinking it was just my imagination. You were a friend, more like a brother." Edward's hands went to his disheveled hair, pulling the mess tightly. "You are nothing to me now! Fuck you, Garrett!"

He opened the door and turned once more to look at Garrett. Edward's eyes were murderous. If looks could kill, Garrett would be lying on the dirty floor of the work trailer. "How could you be so careless?" The door slammed, stilling the air in the construction trailer. Garrett had never felt as sick to his stomach as right in that moment. He sat hard into his chair not knowing what to do. Tears came to his eyes. His life was forever changed because of sweet Isabella Swan. At least now his conscious was clear, he'd have to find a way to move on. For his sake, he hoped he could.




Edward needed to hightail it to Bella's house, the distance he felt between them now was even greater than what it had been while he was away. He wanted to pull her into him and soothe both their weary souls, wrap them in a cocoon and never leave.

Gravel spewed from under his tires, pelting the trailer as he made a hasty retreat from the construction site.

The CD that Bella had given him one night while they were on a romantic date was still on continuous loop on his car stereo. The words of Amos Lee made him want to pull to the side of the road and vomit. He had forgotten that he had put it in the stereo after his last night with Bella, after they made love in the barn.

And I'm sure

That we both still both love her

And it's a shame we both lost her

And in time lost each other

But a trust has been broken

And words have been spoken

Ejecting the depressing CD, breaking it in half and hurling it out the window, his only thought was getting to Bella as quickly as possible. He needed to let Bella know that he didn't blame her. Yes, he was upset about the affair between her and Garrett, but he still loved her. He wanted their relationship to work. The promise ring gripped tightly in his hand, the one he punched Garrett with, was ready to be placed back onto her delicate ring finger. Edward knew he loved Bella and there wasn't anything he wouldn't do to try and make it work, but proposing now was the furthest thing from his mind. Bella had broken up with him in the letter. She had cheated. He needed to get her, get her back, work on them and forget the past. He hoped he could do it … he would try to do it.

Edward missed everything about her while he was away. His only thoughts were of her, his girl and making her his for eternity. Waking up and ending each day with her was what mattered. She was his best friend. No monetary gain or outside forces would be more important than his B. Making her happy and loving her as he did before he left was what he wanted, more so than precious air for his lungs.

His tires slid to a halt in Bella's snow covered driveway; he didn't even remember the drive to her house. He had been lost in thought, thinking about how he was going to react when he saw her for the first time. Would he grab her and hug her tight? Cry the tears that had been threatening his evergreen eyes since he read the letter? Yell and scream that it didn't matter? That he still wanted her? He would probably do all of the above.

The house was dark; he saw no movement through the window by her front door. The curtains had been pulled open just enough for him to see the Christmas tree in the corner of her tiny, familiar living room, next to her TV. But there were boxes stacked up next to her couch that caught his eye, and he began to panic. He started knocking so hard that the glass on the window beside the door rattled. He could have given two fucks if it had broken. He wished it did so that he could crawl through the window and find out for himself what the hell was going on. Her letter never said anything about leaving ... moving.

His knocking was in vain. Bella didn't answer the door. The only movement was the whipping wind blowing the accumulated snow on the porch railing toward him. His heart seized up again, and his emotions overtook his body. This time he lost all the contents of his stomach into the bushes lining the wooden porch. He sobbed like his heart had been ripped from his chest ... it had been, so to speak.

"Bella!" The cry of devastation could be heard by the neighbors. Edward crumpled to a heap on the snowy porch with his head in his hands. He had just been to hell and back with his job, making it out of godforsaken places primarily unscathed, to feeling like he had just been painfully gutted with a rusty dull knife. He would certainly die from a broken heart if his girl had left him forever. He needed to get her back ... find her.

"Please baby, I love you. I forgive you." His whispered pleas barely making it from his throat, "please forgive me for leaving you, mi ami sempre." He spoke to the picture he now held in his hand. The one he had talked to all those months while he was away... the picture of Bella, smiling at him while he held the camera under the old tree next to the faded red barn.

His fingers were numb from the cold, and his tears were frosty streaks on his reddened cheeks. If he was going to get his girl back, he needed to get up, dust himself off, and find her.

If anyone knew where Love, ran off to, it would be her cousin.

He dug his phone out of the breast pocket of his coat.

The first person he dialed was Alice.