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Bremerton, Washington
December 26
1:41 pm

After eating breakfast with the Cullens, I thank them for allowing me to crash their Christmas, and for letting me steal Edward. They seem more than happy, Emmett even telling me to keep him as long as I want. And soon enough, we find ourselves back in the car.

It's familiar and easy to fall back into the routine we've created over the last few days: Edward drives while I pretend to navigate for him.

"Do you have an address yet?" Edward asks, glancing over my way.

"No-o," I say, drawing out the word.

We've been driving for two and a half hours, without really knowing where we're going. I mean, we know the general direction of Nisqually River, thanks to Google Maps. But the exact location of the cabin? Isn't exactly known.

I check my phone and see that Sue hasn't responded yet. I sent her a Facebook message before we left Forks, telling her my plan and asking for directions to the cabin. I've only been there a couple of times, and wouldn't have any clue of how to get around those back roads.

"We're gonna hit Tacoma soon. In like…" he looks over at his phone that's mounted to the dashboard. "Half an hour. Thanks for being such a wonderful navigator, by the way. I'd be lost without you."

"You're welcome."

"I was talking to my GPS."

"Oh, fuck off," I laugh. "I'm pretty useless without the address, okay?" I stare out the window, at the gray sky. "Hey. Question. When do you fly back to Colorado?"

"The twenty-ninth. I think it's a pretty early flight. You?"

"I think the day before you. Or after you."

He breathes out a laugh. "You should really figure that out."

With playfully narrowed eyes, I ask, "What area of Denver do you live in?"

"Park Hill."

"Shut up."

"What?"

"I live in Park Hill. That's kind of crazy?"

"What street?"

"I live in a duplex on Rosemary Street. It's by Roslyn Park." Edward shakes his head in disbelief. "What? Do you know that area?"

"Yeah, 'cause I live a few blocks away, on Poplar."

"What are the fucking chances?"

"I don't know," he laughs lightly. "I have no idea."

"Have you been to The Metro?"

"The dive bar by the railroad tracks? That place is awful. Which makes it so great."

"Thank you!" I say enthusiastically. "None of my friends ever want to go there. And yeah, it's kind of gross, but that's part of the charm. Now I know who I'm taking with me when I go."

Edward nods in agreement. "It's a deal."

"Oh, thank fuck. Sue just responded. She said my dad told her and Billy he'd be there until the twenty-eighth." I grab Edward's phone from the mount and type in the address. "Looks like we have a little more than an hour to go."

We decide to stop for a quick lunch in Tacoma, just in case Charlie isn't prepared to feed two extra people. That was Edward's suggestion. I kept it to myself, but his concern for others is insanely attractive. And maybe he's right. Maybe I am softening up. Maybe he has that effect on me.

XXX

The rest of the drive is quick, zero traffic. The slowest part is when we take an exit off the highway to a two-lane road, and have to make our way slowly around the curves and bends. There's a light dusting of snow, maybe just an inch, definitely nothing like what we left behind in Colorado.

It's a quarter past four when we finally pull up to the cabin. I spot my dad's old Jeep out front, and that familiar sight alone brings so much joy to my cold little heart.

We get out of the car and grab our jackets from the backseat, pulling them on but not zipping them up. Edward motions for me to lead the way, so I do.

"Wait," I say, stopping suddenly and turning around to face him. I think about how we're basically reenacting yesterday, except he's about to meet my family, and he doesn't look nearly as nervous as I was.

"What's up?"

As he searches my face, he slightly parts his lips, and then I'm thinking about the kiss he gave me seconds before walking into his house.

"I just… wanted to thank you," I murmur. "Seriously. No one's ever done anything like this for me before. And I really fucking appreciate it. And I'm being sincere, so don't make it all awkward or anything 'cause—"

A warm smile spreads across his face, and he closes the distance, pulling me into a hug.

He breathes you're welcome into my hair, and we stand here, hugging for a good minute, but when I let go, he doesn't, so I keep staring up at him, waiting, and then his lips are on mine and his mouth is warm and wet and insistent, like there's more passion behind this kiss than there was last night and I want to do this forever crosses my mind, which scares the crap out of me, and the fact that I'm thinking in the longest run-on sentence ever is equally frightening so I find the strength to kiss him one more time before finally pulling away for air.

"Shit." The front of his shirt is in my fist. I let go, smoothing it down, kind of tugging his jacket to hide the crumpled collar. "Sorry. I got kind of carried away," I breathe out, my lips warm and chin burning from his stubble.

"Don't worry about it," he says, voice heavy. "Should we go? Not that I don't want to keep standing here, kissing you. Because I do. But it's not really… how do I put this? It's not really helping," he says, raising his eyebrows.

"Got it. Yeah. Let's go."

With a quick peck to his cheek, I head toward the cabin, and he follows behind. We stop in front of the caramel-colored wood door, and I knock a few times. A minute passes, and I knock again before checking if the place is unlocked.

"Maybe he's out fishing?" Edward offers, scrubbing a hand over his mouth. "You said the river is in walking distance of here, yeah?"

"Yeah. Let's check the back door and see if it's open. If he's gone, we can just wait inside."

There's a gravel path that winds along the outside of the cabin, which eventually leads to the stairs of a deck. We follow the path, and I can't help but peek inside the windows as we walk past them. The living room is first, and then the hallway. And when we get to the last window, the one that allows you to see all of the kitchen, I spot Charlie and a woman. A topless woman. The first part would've been shocking enough, but I can honestly say that when I thought of my dad being here, at the cabin, this is not what I had in mind. I doubt Sue knew, either, because I doubt she'd give me the okay to come if she did.

"Oh my god," I whisper, suddenly ducking.

"What?"

I pull Edward down with me, so we're both half-squatting under the window.

"Fuck. Shit. I saw my dad."

"Okay?"

I shush him and his normal-volume voice. "With a woman," I stress. "I saw… boobs."

"Is that what helped you determine she's woman?"

I open my mouth, but can't really form a sentence quite yet.

Edward starts to laugh, and I shush him again. Which makes him laugh harder. And realize how crazy we must look right now. So I start to laugh, too, because why the fuck not? This is insane. And kind of hilarious.

"Bella?"

Charlie's voice calls out behind us. I stay squatting and kind of half turn, giving him a sheepish as fuck smile.

"Hi, Dad."

He's standing a few feet above us, on the deck. His hands are on his hips, and I don't want to say he looks unhappy, but he definitely doesn't look thrilled.

"What are you doing here?"

"Funny story," I say with a forced laugh. "Shall we all go inside and partake in a beer or two while I tell you?"

Charlie's eyes cut from me, to Edward, and a look of humor passes over his face.

"Better be a good story, kid."


Thanks to Renewagain for quickly reading over this chapter for me! You are the best!

And thanks for all the reviews and lovely words of encouragement.