Ink & Nails





1.

They’d had it all planned out.

They were going to get married in the garden of their new house, once the carpenters finished working on it, of course. Bella would wear a white flowing dress and Riley, a fancy grey suit that he’d picked out. For their honeymoon they would go to Italy because Riley always wanted to go there; Bella’s mom would take care of the dogs.

In a couple of years they would have kids, at least three, because Riley loved children and they’d be the picture of a happy family. Bella would sell her Mustang and buy an SUV to cart around the kids. They’d have barbeques in the backyard and maybe a horse or two in the old barn out behind the house. They would be happy, beautiful and carefree, living the life Riley always dreamed about.

Except, it turned out, that Riley always dreamt of living the life of a vagabond, traveling the world with a raven haired photographer whose piercing blue eyes had him falling before he even asked Riley to take off with him. A week after they had moved into the new house, Riley left with a superficial sorry and ‘this was never your dream anyway’. Leaving Bella alone in the old two-story house, with the torn wallpaper, creaky floors, and barren rooms.

2.

Bella missed him like a limb; they’d been together for years, they’d been high school sweethearts for Christ’s sake, and she’d never thought she would have to get used to life without him.

She’d thought they were good, happy even.

Sure, he’d invested an unhealthy lot of time into plotting their happy future life, but she’d believed his fairy tales. Bella hadn’t had a clue that they were just stories he told her to survive another day being with her.

He’d called once, a couple weeks after leaving, giving her an earful of hurtful words, pissed off that she was drunk in the middle of the day. He’d thought she would handle it better, that she was stronger than that, and she hadn’t known what to tell him.

She’d built her life around him and without him, there was nothing left. She sat on the run down couch in their—well—her, near empty living room, downing glass after glass of straight vodka until she passe

d out; only to start over again the following morning.

3.

Her mother call

ed three times a day, dismayed to hear the slur in her daughter's voice, but not yet ready to forcefully pull her out of her misery. She’d rescued the dogs a couple of days into Bella’s drinking binge, but other than that she let Bella be, maybe picturing what losing her own husband might be like.

Bella knew that her mother had never really taken to Riley, never really trusted him despite all the years they’d been together, and she hated Riley for proving her mother right. She hated him for walking out on her, hated him for shattering their dreams for the future, and she missed him so much she hardly remembered how to breathe.

No one came to visit her in her new house.

She hardly had any friends outside of her and Riley, so therefore the doorbell startled her when it woke her up about a month after Riley had left.

4.

She’d fallen asleep on the couch again, her mouth tasted like something had died in it and her head was pounding dully. With a groan, she staggered to her feet, blinking against the harsh sunlight pouring in through the almost floor to ceiling windows.

The doorbell chimed again, only it was more of a groan than a chime; it was old and run down like the rest of the stupid house.

She made her way to the front door and pushed it open, expecting to see her mother coming to rescue her from her misery, or Alice coming back from her vacation to beat some sense into her

drunken brain.

It was neither of those options; a pretty, no, a damned gorgeous guy was standing on the doorstep, dressed in blue workman’s pants and a dirt-streaked white t-shirt. Bella peered over his shoulder at the assortment of vans parked on the front yard, all bearing the same Cullen Construction logo.

Oh, right, the carpenters.

5.

"Good morning, Ma’am," the guy on the front step said with a near blinding grin, like he could tell that Bella was having anything but a good morning. "I’m Edward Cullen. We’re here to start working on your house."

"Uh… Morning," Bella said, her eyes travelling over the other two workers that were milling around the vans talking to each other and laughing in the early morning sunshine.

"Now your fiancé sent us a very detailed plan on what he wanted done on the house, so you don’t need to worry about a thing," Cullen said, still smiling.

"I… um… yeah... good," Bella said, unable to wrap her mind around what was happening.

"Are you okay?" Cullen asked kindly. "You look a bit… under the weather."

Bella shook her head slightly, wincing when it felt as if her brain was sloshing around in there, then she shrugged. "I… I don’t know."

6.

"Well, never mind us," Cullen said. "We’ll start on the second floor and work our way downward. There is a lot of work to be done."

"Oh… Okay," Bella answered quietly.

"You are Bella Swan, right?" Cullen asked, with a lopsided grin.

"I… yeah… sorry," Bella mumbled, trying to get her sluggish brain to work properly.

"Good, just checking. You weren’t around the last time I was here, would have remembered you," Cullen explained, and suddenly Bella got a picture of the gorgeous carpenter pounding into Riley from behind in her brain.

She grimaced. "I… need something to eat," she said vaguely and turned on her heel, heading for the kitchen still not entirely able to process the fact that Riley left her for a man.

She heard Cullen shouting something to his workers behind him, before she shut the door to the kitchen. Of course, Riley hadn’t slept with the carpenter, no matter how good he looked, that would be too cliché.

7.

She opened the door to the refrigerator, looking for something to eat, but the only thing in there was a moldy piece of cheese, so she shut it again when her stomach flip-flopped.

With a groan, she sank down to the floor with her head in her hands, back pressed against the cold metal of the fridge. She couldn’t keep going on like this, drinking herself into a stupor every night, living off vodka and the occasional package of instant noodles every now and then.

The door to the kitchen opened, and Cullen stuck his head inside.

"Hey," he said softly, and Bella lifted her head to look up at him. "Why don’t you take a shower, and I’ll fix you some coffee while you’re at it."

Bella blinked. "I don’t think I have any coffee."

Cullen just grinned, flashing the package he had in his hand. "I do," he said kindly, "and you look like a woman who could use a cup."

Bella just nodded, pushing herself up from the floor and grimacing when her head throbbed uncomfortably. "Thanks," she murmured.

"No, worries," Cullen said kindly, shrugging a little.

8.

Bella found a couple of painkillers in the bathroom cabinet, swallowing them down with the lukewarm water from the tap.

She barely recognized the woman looking back at her from the cracked bathroom mirror. Her hair was hanging in greasy strands around her face and she’d lost so much weight that her face looked sunken in. The dark smudges underneath her eyes stood out in stark relief against her pale complexion, and she immediately understood why Cullen thought she looked like a woman that could use some coffee.

She grimaced at the smell wafting off of her as she stepped out of her clothes; she reeked like a wild animal. It was a wonder Cullen was even able to keep his face straight when he greeted the mess that was Bella right now. Had it been the other way around, she was pretty sure she would have stepped back and crossed herself.

9.

The hot, near scalding water felt good on her skin and she scrubbed herself down thoroughly before washing her hair three times in a row. She almost cried when she found one of Riley’s conditioner bottles that had cost about three times as much as the one Bella used on her own hair, but she bit back the hurt and picked up her own bottle.

She almost felt human again when she shaved nearly two weeks worth of stubble from her legs and under her arms.

Stepping out of the shower, she felt even better. She combed her too long hair back from her face, brushed her teeth and wrapped a towel around her body, feeling ready to venture to her room for some clean clothes.

She could hear the workers milling around in one of the spare bedrooms, but there was no sign of Cullen as she stepped out of the bathroom. Feeling like an intruder in her own home, Bella walked along the creaky old floorboards, almost walking into Cullen as he came thundering down from the other way. The sexy carpenter stopped dead in his tracks when he caught sight of a wet and toweled Bella, his eyes flittering up and down her body.

10.

"Did you have a good shower?" Cullen asked, his eyes lingering on her exposed flesh.

"Yeah," Bella said, wondering if the hot carpenter was really checking her out and why. If he was, Bella thought maybe that was a good thing.

Cullen grinned. "Coffee’s ready when you are," he said, brushing past Bella and continuing downstairs.

Bella fought the urge to look after him and continued towards the master bedroom.

A stab of hurt wrenched her gut when she looked at the rumpled sheets of her four-poster bed; she hadn’t slept in it since Riley left and she wondered if the pillows still smelled like him. She forced herself not to find out and opened the door to the closet instead. The empty shelves where Riley’s clothes had been glared at her, but she ignored them, finding a pair of panties and pulling them on.

She let the towel drop to the floor and grabbed a bra and pulled her oldest pair of jeans on, the soft fabric feeling comforting against her skin. Riley had always been on her case, trying to get her to throw them away, but now she was glad she’d kept them. She found a ratty old t-shirt with a frayed collar and pulled that on as well, amazed by the way it hung on her small frame. She must have lost ten pounds in the last three weeks, making her leaner than ever.

11.

She closed the closet door, looking at herself in the full-length mirror on the back. It wasn’t exactly a fashion statement, but at least it was better than the old sweats and the dirty t-shirt she’d been wearing earlier. The lack of smell certainly helped, since she felt—and smelled—much better now.

Bella made her way down the stairs, feeling a little more human and a lot less hungover. There was a rolling wave of emptiness inside her stomach though, telling her it needed feeding. She walked into the kitchen, breathing in the scent of freshly brewed coffee. Riley used to do that for her, make coffee to coax her out of bed in the mornings.

She smiled over at Edward, watching as he used his tape measure on the kitchen windows, which were made of old wood and rotting. Bella found she couldn't remember if she had felt as cold when Riley was still there, but lately the whole house seemed to be cold, especially at night. She supposed it could be the lack of body heat too, or the weight she’d lost.

"Sorry, I know I said we'd start upstairs, but these windows are pretty bad, it'd be in your best interest if I took care of these first," Edward told her as he jotted down some measurements in his note pad and let his tape zing back.

Bella took a sip of the hot coffee, closing her eyes as the velvety liquid slid down her parched throat. It burned a little, probably due to the vodka she drank the night before. "No," she answered after swallowing. "It's fine. I can set my laptop up in any room."

12.

Edward nodded, his piercing green eyes taking in her appearance. She had dark circles under her slightly bloodshot eyes, indicating that she had either been crying or drinking, possibly even both. "You work from home?"

Bella sat down at the breakfast bar, another thing that was going to be ripped out and replaced. Riley wanted black counter tops and pine wood cabinets. "Yeah, I'm a writer," she said, wishing she had thought to bring down a sweater. "Though, I haven't written much these last few weeks."

Edward nodded and continued to watch her as he moved to the other window and measured it up. They were installing new PVC, double-glazed ones. He noticed how shadowed Bella’s hazel eyes were, and found himself wondering what had happened. When he had finished measuring up he turned to leave, to go upstairs with the others, but he stopped and turned back to Bella, who looked far too young to own such a house.

He guessed her books must be fairly successful.

13.

He went over to his bag and pulled out a box that they had stopped off for on the way. Every morning on their way to work they stopped at a bakery so that they would have fresh donuts and rolls for lunch. He fished out the chicken salad roll that was meant for him and put it down in front of Bella.

"We always get extra, just in case," Edward explained with a smile before turning and leaving.

"Thank you," Bella called after Edward's retreating back, grabbing the roll and practically inhaling it in four bites.

She really should get some grocery shopping done, maybe today she could be bothered to do it. She was running out of vodka too, but maybe it was time to stop moping. Riley had left her and it hurt like a bitch, but it wasn't like she'd benefit from turning herself into a drunk.

With a start she realized that this was the first time in weeks she'd been completely sober, and that was a scary thought.

What the fuck had she been doing to herself?

14.

"I forgot to ask you something," Edward said, walking back into the kitchen.

"Yeah?" Bella enquired, looking up from her perusal of the empty roll wrapping.

"Is it okay if I bring my dog tomorrow? I left him with a friend today, but generally I try to bring him with me."

"Uh... yeah. If he plays well with other dogs... I better pick my mutts up from my mom's place or she'll make them fat."

Edward laughed. "It's not going to be a problem. He's so nice, he loves other dogs."

Edward eyed Bella's hollowed cheeks with worry, the girl hadn't been eating enough. Not feeling the slightest bit ashamed, he pulled Emmett's roll from the pastry box and handed it over to Bella who grabbed it eagerly.

"I'll buy you new ones, okay?" Bella said, tearing at the wrapping.

"It's okay," Edward said smiling. "You look like you need them."

Bella let out a humorless laugh. "Yeah," she said, running her hand through her still damp hair. "I haven’t been eating much."

15.

Bella knew that she'd have Alice on her case again if she didn't send her at least four pages by tonight, but she really needed to get out of this house, and she also needed to get some food, if not for her, then for the dogs.

"Listen, I'm gonna go out and get some groceries and pick up..." she trailed off, putting her head in her hand.

Edward frowned and took a step closer to her. "You okay?" he asked, placing a hand on Bella's shoulder.

"I have a two-seater, Harper Lee and Poe can't... I'll have to make two trips," she concluded with a sigh.

If she didn't at least have something to send to Alice then she'd end up with one pissed off agent on her doorstep. She vaguely remembered a drunken phone call from her agent and friend last night, threatening her that if Bella was drunk again when Alice called the next day she was coming over to stage an intervention.

16.

Edward licked his lower lip and shrugged. There was something about this girl, something that made Edward want to take care of her, make sure she was alright. In some ways she seemed older than her twenty-three years, but in other ways she seemed very young still, perhaps even a little vulnerable. "I could give you a ride. I have to make a run to the hardware store anyway."

Bella looked up at him, eyebrows raised. "Really? Are you sure? 'Cause I need to stop at the grocery store too."

Edward just laughed. "Yeah, you do, you don't even have milk. I had to use my stash of the powdered stuff."

Bella smiled, showing dimples that had been hidden before under layers of sadness. "I was wondering why this coffee tasted so good, it's more creamy."

Edward nodded with a smile. "I actually prefer it. Working on building sites I got used to the coffee machines and this is what they use. Listen, take your time with that roll, I'll just go tell the guys I'm going out for a bit."

Bella smiled at him again and nodded, knowing full well the delicious roll would be finished in mere minutes.

17.

Edward made his way upstairs to the master bedroom where he found his two friends, and colleagues, stripping the tattered wallpaper. "Hey, I'm gonna drive Bella into town, I'll be back in an hour or so, you two all right here?"

Jasper looked up from his task with a bright smile and a nod. He was a hard worker, someone who enjoyed what he did. He was the kind of guy who always had a smile on his face. "No problem. Just gonna get these walls stripped and then start on the windows."

Edward clasped him on the shoulder with a grateful smile. Jasper made his job easier, he thought to himself, unlike Emmett, who he had only hired as a favor to his uncle.

"Driving the new employer," Emmett said with a pointed leer. "Oh Edward, always falling for the ones you can't have."

Jasper frowned, like he often did when Emmett found it funny to put someone down or insult them, but he never said anything.

"I'm just driving her to pick up her dogs because she's only got a two-seater," Edward defended himself. "And Jasper is in charge while I'm gone, and he has my full blessing to dole out whippings as punishment for slacking," he said before leaving the room, winking at Jasper who grinned back at him.

18.

Bella was standing in the hallway when Edward came downstairs, having put on a black hooded sweatshirt over her t-shirt. She looked good enough to eat and Edward had to admit Emmett might have a point, even if he was a total brat.

Edward always fell for the girls he couldn't have, or the ones that were bad news.

Bella might actually be a bit of both, given the state she was in when he met her; so he studiously ignored the little voice at the back of his mind that wanted to take care of the obviously lost writer.

"It's a good thing you're driving," Bella said introspectively as they walked towards the truck. "I've been drinking so much lately, I'm probably still drunk."

Edward winced. There was so much hurt and self-loathing in Bella's voice. "So... he left?" he asked. He'd assumed that was what had happened as soon as the ghoul that was Bella had opened the door.

"Yeah," Bella said, sliding into the passenger seat of Edward's truck. "Found someone else."

"I'm sorry," Edward said and he meant it. He knew what it was like to have his heart trampled on.

Bella shrugged. "It's life, I suppose. It's been too easy up until now, it was time I got my share of the bad times."

19.

Edward frowned at Bella's words and refrained from calling Riley an asshole. It was one thing to fall out of love with someone and drift apart, but to plan a future together, to let someone believe in something, only to run off with someone without giving a person warning, that was just wrong, in Edward's opinion.

"So how many dogs do you have?" he asked, wanting to change the subject to something happier.

"Two," Bella replied with a slight smile as they pulled out of her drive and away from the old house. It was a shame, she genuinely loved that house, but she couldn't live in it now. She'd have to sell it once it was all done up and maybe get an apartment in town.

She and Riley had brought the dogs out on their second look at the place, they'd been in their element running around on all the grounds, now she was going to have to move them back into a one bedroom, no yard apartment. "Harper Lee and Poe, how about you?"

20.

Edward drove down the roads of Spring Creek in his pickup truck. He had an old Chevy for his everyday use, but he needed a truck for his work. The radio was on low, playing some shit that Emmett had tuned into on their way to work that morning.

"I’ve got a mutt named Jake. Had him for two years now. My dad actually found him when he was about six months old. We were doing up a house and found him squatting there. Don't know if his previous owners lived there and left him or what."

Bella turned her head to look at Edward, suddenly feeling like she knew this guy. He was clearly also an animal lover, just like her. "So you took him in."

"Yeah, well, I'm living with my dad and his girlfriend, Esme. He brought Jake home with him and he sorta became mine."

Bella had to wonder if this guy was for real or if she were actually in some kind of vodka induced coma right now.

21.

Bella sighed and wondered if maybe she should have taken four of the pain-killers this morning, her head wasn't half mad at her. "Riley wanted to take Harper with him, can you believe that? They're both my dogs, and he's the one who left. Harper will miss him, though."

Edward turned and looked at her, he had to resist the urge to reach out and pat her knee. "I'm sure she would have missed you more, though, if Riley had taken her."

"I think so," Bella said. "She's my girl, you know... us girls need to stick together."

Edward nodded, keeping his eyes on the road. He just wished he could take Bella's pain away, and wasn't that silly of him after knowing the girl for an hour?

"I'm sorry," Bella said suddenly, her voice tinged with sadness. "I'm horrible company, I know."

"Don't worry about it," Edward said kindly and this time he did pat Bella's knee. "We've all been there."

Bella smiled at the contact. "Yeah?"

"Oh yeah," Edward confirmed, his eyes firmly on the road as he pulled into the parking lot of the hardware store. "I was with someone for a little over a year. It ended pretty badly."

Bella turned to look at him as Edward parked the truck. "What happened?"

"She was married," Edward told her, then turned to Bella with a sheepish grin.

22.

"Oh." Bella frowned, confused. "Yeah, well, that'd do it."

"Thing is, I'm not that guy. I would never do that. Didn't even know she was married for a whole year," Edward told her as he opened his door and stepped down. Bella stared after him, amazed, before mentally shaking herself and getting out too.

"How? I mean, how did she manage to keep that from you?"

Edward looked down at the keys in his hand. It was still, even two years later, painful for him to think about. "She worked half the week here and half the week in Magdalene. She had an apartment here, and a house, complete with a husband and a couple kids, over there."

Again Bella shook her head. "Bitch."

"Yeah, I think so. What really pisses me off is that she knew I would never do that to her family, and she made me think we had a future together," Edward told her as they walked towards the entrance.

Bella was still looking at him like she couldn't quite believe it. "Does her husband know?"

Edward shrugged. "I dunno, when I found out I ended it and never saw her again."

"That must have been awful."

"Yeah," Edward said tersely. "It was. Believe me, I've been where you are."

Bella felt like hugging Edward, but that might send the wrong signals, so she just clasped his shoulder.

23.

Their visit to the hardware store was brief, Edward just picking up something he'd ordered, telling the guy behind the counter to put it on his tab. The man that clearly knew Edward just nodded, busy with another customer. Bella had never really thought about the fact that she was living in a small town now, the kind of town where everyone knew each other.

"Have you lived here long?" Bella asked as they walked out of the store and back to the

truck.

"Yeah," Edward said. "Pretty much my entire life."

Bella looked around, it was a typical idyllic little town with maybe 5,000 inhabitants tops. She couldn't imagine growing up in a tiny place like this. Her family had lived in the city, and had only moved here a few years back. Bella had moved into an apartment in the city and had only moved out here when she wanted to settle down, wanting to be near her family. "You like it?"

"Yeah," Edward said. "It's small, but I know everyone and it's not like it's far to the city."

"So, are you seeing anyone now?" Bella asked quietly.

Edward let out a soft chuckle, ducking his head as he started the truck, "No, I'm not. There have been a few girls that I've dated, but nothing serious. Hey, Bella, I know this isn't what you wanna hear right now, but it is true what they say about time. I mean, now I can actually see myself trusting someone again, you know?"

Bella looked at him hard. If anyone else would have just said that to her, she would have told them to butt out, that they didn't know anything. But for some reason she actually found comfort in Edward's words, already having found someone she trusted, which was completely insane, since she’d known the guy for all of two hours.

24.

They drove on in relative silence to the grocery store, Edward talking only once to point out his dad's house to her as they passed it and telling her that he knew he should get a place of his own, but it was kind of nice coming home at the end of the day to people who loved him.

Once at the store, they walked around pretty quickly, Edward putting more in the cart than Bella did. "You can't live off canned food and microwave meals alone."

"How do you think I got through college?" Bella asked with a smirk.

Despite what she said, it felt kind of nice when Edward put some apples in the cart, along with various vegetables and fresh milk, cheese, bread and eggs. It felt like someone still cared. "I don't know how to cook this stuff, you know," Bella warned him.

"I'll get you a cookbook," Edward replied with a grin. "So, college, where did you go?"

"Stanford," Bella replied.

"Cool... Major?"

"Literature," Bella said with a grin.

"I should have figured."

Bella laughed. "Yeah."

25.

"So a writer, huh? And you can live off it?"

Bella grimaced. "Yeah... Well... I freelance some as a journalist, write reviews for a few papers and such. I couldn't live off my books alone."

"I've never met a writer before. It's cool."

"Well," Bella said. "I've never met a carpenter before. I admire guys that can, you know... work with their hands. I'm hopeless, can hardly change a light bulb."

Edward laughed. "You're exaggerating to make me feel better about not having a higher education."

"No, seriously, it's cool. There has to be all kinds you know, if everyone went to college and sat on their pasty white asses, we'd still be living in caves."

Edward shoved at her playfully and Bella almost toppled over a pyramid of cans as she stumbled.

"Jerk," she said, shoving at Edward in revenge.

"Smart ass," Edward responded, and at that moment Bella knew she'd found a friend.

Bella actually found herself smiling as they went through the checkout. Her head was starting to feel better, the pills working their way through her system. "So how long do you think you'll be working on the house?" Bella asked as Edward helped carry the four shopping bags back to the truck.

"You want us out of your hair already, huh?" Edward asked with a smirk.

"No, not at all. I just, I have to make some plans and it'd help to have a time frame."

"It'll probably take a couple of months. Beautiful house," Edward informed her as he let them into the truck and started it. "My favorite kind of job, restoring something so old, with so much history. I'd like to buy a place like that someday, do it up."

26.

Bella turned to look at him as they pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road, she told Edward to follow the road south for now. "Really? 'Cause I'm looking to sell."

Edward's eyes flickered over to her for just a second, not wanting to look away from the road for too long. "You serious?"

Bella just shrugged and looked out of the window. "I dunno. I'm not sure I can live in it on my own, not without wondering what my life could have been like. Besides, I'll be like a guppy in a shark tank in there. All I need is a bed, a couch and a desk."

Edward chuckled. "Yeah, I suppose."

"You can always think about it," Bella said. "I mean, if you can't afford to buy it, maybe you could rent it."

Edward smiled fleetingly. "Yeah, I suppose."

"So um... I should have warned you that there's a forty-five minute drive to my mom’s. That okay?"

"Yeah, sure," Edward said, secretly happy to be spending more time with her. It was stupid, but the girl was irresistible.

They talked about all and nothing on the way, conversation flowing smoothly between them. It was weird how they just took to each other, after half an hour they were basically finishing each other's sentences. Edward hadn't experienced anything like it since kindergarten, at least not in this way. Sure, he'd experienced instant attraction a couple of times, but this wasn't really attraction, it was more like instant comfort, or friendship.

27.

Bella wasn't stupid. She had purposefully planned to pick the dogs up now, while her parents were at work. She loved them, but she really couldn't sit through another lecture on taking care of herself. The dogs took to Edward right away. Bella guessed it was because he had one of his own, but that didn't really explain why Bella had taken to him so quickly too.

By the time they got back to Bella's house, Emmett was outside on the front lawn, talking to two girls, who Bella recognized as the teenage daughters of the family down the street.

"Oh, God," Edward groaned. "Tell me they're over eighteen."

Bella laughed and opened her door, letting the dogs out. "I think they are, yeah. Barely."

"That's funny, the house doesn't look finished," Edward said loudly, making Emmett turn around with a start and hurriedly bid the two girls goodbye.

"They were just asking for directions," Emmett told him before flashing a grin at Bella. "I'll go..."

"Slack off somewhere else?" Edward asked, smiling back at him, though it was one of his do-not-cross-me smiles, the kind where his eyes were flashing daggers.

Emmett, at least, had the good grace to look a little sheepish as he went off back into the house.

28.

Edward bent down and ruffled Harper's head gently, as she had been leaning against his legs, trying for his attention.

"I'll let you get back to work now," Bella said, giving Edward a smile. "I should think about writing or my agent will come up here to chew me out, and I'd rather not deal with her at the moment."

Edward chuckled. "I'm sure we'd all like to listen to the sound of you getting your ass handed to you."

Bella grinned. "Yeah, well... Alice

is kinda intense."

Edward unloaded the bags from the trunk and handed them over to Bella, who looked at them like they might bite her.

"It's just food," Edward said with a grin. "It's not dangerous."

"Uh huh," Bella answered. "I wasn't exactly the cook of the family."

Her face fell a little and she chewed on her lower lip, reminding Edward that she had actually just lost someone she loved. Bella was not exactly in the right state of mind to be hit on, but damn, it was tempting when she was all gorgeous like that.

"Thanks for today," Bella said. "I think I'll hire you to be my friend instead of

the carpenter renovating my house."

"I'll be your friend for free," Edward said easily, drawing a smile from Bella.

"Thanks," Bella replied, lifting the bags a little as she walked back into the house. She unpacked the groceries, not entirely sure where everything should go, but she just used her common sense.

29.

After making herself a coffee, and some for the guys, Bella set up her laptop in the living room and started to write. It was a story of a girl and how she fell in love with a vampire.

It wasn't on the bestsellers list or anything, but the series had developed a small cult following, which was better to Bella than any critical acclaim. She was about a quarter of the way through the third book in the series and the vegetarian coven of vampires were about to be attacked by a newborn army of human blood drinking vampires.

She smirked to herself as she wrote the character’s sarcastic response to the vampire who thought he had captured him. Edward actually reminded her of the main vampire in the book. She'd never really developed a complete image of how the character looked in her head, but she'd written him with short, dark copper hair, green eyes (when he was human) and a bit of a charmer. She wrote

productively for a good hour before she was interrupted.

30.

"Wow,

did a tornado sweep through here without my knowing?" said the unmistakable voice of Alice. Bella sighed and shut her laptop, not wanting Alice to read what she had written until she was happy with it. She swiveled around in her chair and looked over at the petite woman in the hallway with her dark sunglasses on and a fine tailored suit, despite the hot weather. She was looking up as someone dropped a trash bag filled with wallpaper scrapings down over the landing.

"In here, Alice," Bella called to her. "I'm having some work done."

Alice looked through at her and grinned, taking off her sunglasses and stepping forward. "Well look at you, all showered and writing. That's what I like to see."

Bella grinned because she truly did love the woman, despite the fact that she was constantly on her case. But Bella knew that if it weren't for Alice constantly getting on at her, she would never meet any of her deadlines.

"This place looks worse than it did when you bought it," Alice complained as she made her way over to Bella, her friend and client, looking down at her shoe upon realizing she had stepped in something gooey. Her new Italian heels were ruined. "Just great."

Bella smiled and got up out of the chair, stretching her back until it popped. "Yeah, well, I’m hoping it’ll look better once they’re done."

"So… you look good," Alice pointed out as she sat down on a couch that was covered by a sheet. "How are you doing really?"

31.

Bella shrugged and looked anywhere but at Alice. She still felt like her heart had been put in a blender, but with some food and coffee inside her, and no alcohol, she was feeling a little more like she had rejoined the human race.

"I’m okay," she lied. "I might actually get this new chapter to you on time."

Alice raised her eyebrows at that. "Wow, then I guess workmen are good for something."

Bella looked down again, feeling a slight heat in her cheeks. She’d only just met Edward today, but already she felt like she’d made a new friend, someone who made her feel better about everything.

"Now wait a minute... What's that blush all about? Did you meet someone? Bella, you have to tell me."

"No," Bella blushed even harder, giving Alice a nasty look. "Jesus. They're just working here."

"And? You think I don't know when you’re lying to me?"

"Alice," Bella whined. She really didn't want to think about Edward in sexual terms, she was too happy to have found herself someone that could be a friend.

"Whatever. So are there any other hot workers for me to come around and ogle? You know I have a thing for

hard working men."

"I would never have guessed," Bella dead panned, even though she knew Alice's extensive porn collection was almost entirely made up by titles like ‘Men With Hard Hats and Harder...’

Alice shoved her good-naturedly with her foot and Bella grinned. She was definitely feeling better today.

32.

They sat and talked for a while about the book and the changes that Bella wanted to make from her original outline. Her readers seemed to focus on the relationship between the main characters much more than anything else, and she really wanted to add something to that.

By the time Alice was ready to leave again, Jasper came into the living room, laughing as he brushed down his pants, which had several muddy paw prints on them. "Your mutts like me," he drawled, grinning as he walked over to them.

Alice rose from her seat instantly, her eyes travelling down the gleaming chest of the six foot two man before her. "Alice Brandon," she quickly introduced herself, holding out her hand. "It is very nice to meet you," she said in an appreciative way that left neither Jasper nor Bella in any doubt that she was flirting.

Bella shook her head at her friend’s obvious behavior. "I’m sorry about your pants."

Jasper just waved it away. "These are my work pants, they’ve had worse treatment, believe me. I was actually wondering if you’d like me to build a kennel for them out of the timber that we have left over."

Bella looked at him, stunned. She couldn’t believe what nice guys her new employees all were. Well, maybe not Emmett, the jury was still out on that one.

"It’s just ‘cause it gets hot here and it’d give them a place to lie down in the shade when you leave them out in the yard."

Bella nodded. "Yeah, that’d be great, if you’re sure you don’t mind."

"Not at all," Jasper assured her, turning back to Alice. "It was nice meeting you. I’m sure I’ll see you again," he said with a smirk as he left the room to go back to his work.

"I'm in love," Alice says theatrically, throwing herself down on the couch in a sprawl. "That man is pure perfection."

"Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you had company."

33.

Bella looked up at Edward, who was standing in the doorway of the living room looking sheepish. She felt her mouth pull into a smile and decided that Jasper, the man of perfection, had nothing on Edward’s picture perfect face and fuckhot body. So maybe she was feeling a little better than she thought she was.

"It’s okay," Bella said quickly. "This is Alice, my editor. Alice, this is Edward, the guy who owns the construction company."

"Can I buy Jasper from you?" Alice asked Edward, seemingly completely oblivious to the fact that Edward was at least five times hotter than Jasper. "Or at least hire him by the hour... I need some work done around the house... my bed, it needs shackles."

Bella reached over and slapped Alice on her arm. "Never mind Alice," she said to Edward. "She still hasn’t quite grasped the concept of how to behave in public."

Edward grinned. "I don't mind, and about selling Jasper... you better talk to him about it first. I wanted to talk to you about some of the changes we're doing upstairs, Bella, but if you're busy it can wait."

Bella looked at the open document before her and then at Edward. It really wasn't that hard to choose. "I'll be right with you," she said, saving the document and closing the laptop. "Behave while I'm gone," she said to Alice before getting up and walking over to Edward.

34.

She followed him into the kitchen, very aware of how warm Edward's skin looked. She bet if she reached out and touched him, he'd be burning hot. "So this is about the bedroom?"

"Yeah," Edward told her as he pulled out the page of the catalogue that Riley had chosen. "Your... um... your ex picked out these window panes, and they're nice and all, but we haven't ordered them yet and they don't really feel right for the period of the place."

Bella nodded, taking the catalogue from Edward, amazed that someone had mentioned Riley and she hadn't flinched or crumpled to the ground like a sobbing little girl.

"I mean, it's none of my business. Tell me to shut up and just do my job if you want, but I was thinking that these would give a much nicer finish to the exterior of the place," Edward quickly added, leaning over Bella and pointing to the windowpanes he had spotted. Bella breathed in deep, letting Edward's scent fill her nostrils, and she unconsciously moved closer to him.

She licked her lips and coughed into her hand. "Yeah, I think you're right. And you should absolutely feel free to make suggestions to me about this kind of stuff. I mean... I have no clue about any of this."

Edward grinned at her and took the catalogue back. "They're actually a little cheaper, too."

Bella grinned back at him. "See? I feel very safe in your hands." She very quickly realized what she had said when Edward's eyebrows lifted. "I mean... my house feels safe with your recommendations."

Edward smirked at her knowingly and nodded before leaving to go back to work. Bella let her head fall against the cupboards and she let out a pained groan.

35.

Forgetting Riley was easier than Bella ever thought it would be in the weeks following her first meeting with Edward and his team of carpenters. Many nights when she went to sleep, she found that she hadn't thought of Riley once all day and it kind of made her feel guilty, like she was cheapening their love. Then she remembered the part where Riley set their love on fire and pissed on the ashes, and the guilt soon dissipated.

Edward turned out to be a great guy, and three days into their friendship, Bella gave up and admitted to herself she had a crush on the guy. There was just no avoiding it after the first time she woke up with Edward's name on her lips, sweaty and flushed with arousal. He was smart, gorgeous, talented and kind; all the things Bella had once loved about Riley, but in a much sexier package.

She tried to tell herself it was just Riley's betrayal and her broken heart that made her think about Edward in romantic terms, but somehow it just didn't cut it. Bella wasn't looking for a fling, or some cheap sex, which was why she kept herself from asking Edward out. She didn't want to ruin their friendship with sex, and Edward was turning out to be the best friend she'd ever had.

It was a good thing, too, since the previous contestant for the best friend position, Alice, had all but forgotten about Bella in the face of her dream man, Jasper. The two of them spent all their free time together and the rest of the time Alice hung out at Bella's house watching Jasper work. Bella had never seen Alice so smitten by anyone before, and she had to hide her grins behind the back of her hands so as not to offend either of them.

36.

The house was slowly starting to take shape under Edward's careful supervision. It looked nothing like it would have if Riley had been the one calling the shots. Edward had vetoed pretty much everything Riley’d planned in the house and Bella cheerfully agreed, because Edward undoubtedly had an eye for stuff like that.

The finished rooms looked great and Bella really liked that her house reflected Edward's taste rather than Riley's. Suddenly it felt like a place she could keep on living in and she no longer thought about selling it.

Last week, when they had finished with the kitchen, Bella decided they should celebrate, so she had called her mom and asked for an easy recipe and set about cooking a meal in it for Edward, Jasper and Alice. She had invited Emmett as well, but Emmett made some excuse that his life was already full enough of ‘bonding’ time, what with spending all day with Edward and Jasper, without adding dinner parties to the mix.

So today when Edward brought a bottle of wine up to Bella's bedroom, after having just finished working on it that day, and then staying late to help Bella bring her new four poster bed up the stairs, Bella laughed and went to get some glasses.

"So, are we going to christen every new room once it's done?" she asked upon coming back.

Edward looked up from the bed where he was making it up with the new sheets Bella had bought. "Given that we're in your bedroom, Bella, that could be interpreted the wrong way," he said with a smirk.

37.

Bella was used to Edward's jokes, most of them laced with innocent innuendo. The sight of Edward making her bed up made her chest tighten, as had the sight of Edward moving around her kitchen as he helped her cook.

Bella poured them both a glass of the wine and came to sit down on the bed, even as Edward was still smoothing out the bed spread. She handed a glass to Edward as he joined her and they both looked around the room, admiring it.

"You've done an awesome job on this place," Bella told him as they clinked their glasses together.

"It's been fun," Edward answered, sipping his wine with a smile.

Bella found herself grateful for the fact that there were still a lot of rooms to go through before Edward would be done. She didn't want to lose his constant presence in her life and her home.

"Where did you get this bed?" Edward asked, looking up at the midnight blue satin covering the roof of the bed. "It kicks some serious ass."

"Found it at a yard sale of all places, although I admit it wasn't looking this nice. I found an old guy that specialized in restoring furniture and this is the result."

"It's awesome." Edward put his glass down on the nightstand and let himself fall down on his back. "You should put, like, glow in the dark stars on the roof... It would be like having your own night-sky."

Bella licked her lips and stared at the sliver of Edward's stomach that had been exposed when he laid down, barely a hint of golden skin and it still had her aching to reach out to touch it.

"Hey," Edward said, bumping her thigh. "Are you even listening?"

38.

"I, uh..." Bella dragged her eyes away from Edward’s stomach and took a huge gulp of her wine, breaking out in a coughing fit as soon as she swallowed. One would think that with the excessive drinking she’d been doing just a few weeks ago, she would be accustomed to the burn of the alcohol, but apparently not.

With a laugh, Edward sat up and started rubbing circles on her back as she coughed. "Stronger than you thought?"

Bella cleared her throat and took a small sip of the burgundy liquid to lubricate her throat. "I guess so."

They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes before Edward fully pulled his legs up onto the bed, crossing them under his body. "So, you’re staying here now, right?"

Bella looked around the room again. The walls were a slightly blue-ish white. It looked like the inside of a beach house, all fresh and sharp. The chair in the corner was white with a blue pillow, matching her bed linens. She couldn’t even imagine the colors that Riley had picked out for this room now.

The blues and whites fit so well and they fit her too. The dark green floral curtains that Riley had ordered had made her feel a little sick to her stomach, if she was being honest. She much preferred the floor length, pale blue drapes.

"Yeah, I kind of love my house," she said with a grin. "Mostly thanks to you and your keen eye."

Edward chuckled and looked around the room before pouring them both another glass of wine. "Yeah, I kind of love your house, too. I’m going to be sad to say goodbye to this project."

Bella looked at him sharply, any happy feelings she was having before, now completely gone. "You’ll still come over, though, right, I mean... we’re friends, so you’ll still come over?"

Edward smiled at her reassuringly and nodded. "Sure I will. I just won’t be spending as much time here, I’ll be working on another house. We’ve already been booked."

39.

The idea of Edward not being in her home everyday made Bella feel sicker than Riley’s curtains had. She looked at the face that was so close to hers, so beautiful and kind. She’d already lost Riley, she couldn’t lose Edward, too.

"You should move in with me," she blurted out before thinking it through.

Edward looked at her incredulously. "Are you drunk?"

"No," Bella replied defensively. "I mean, think about it. You love this house. We get along great. I have two spare bedrooms that apparently aren’t being filled anytime... ever. And you said you wanted to move out of your dad’s place."

"Oh..." Edward looked slightly disappointed, like maybe he had hoped that Bella meant something else, but then Bella could just be imagining things, this was very potent wine after all.

"I... um, wow... that’s quite an offer."

Bella looked down at the almost empty glass in her hands. Of course Edward wouldn’t want to move in with her. It wasn’t like Edward didn’t have other friends besides her, and those friends probably had big ass houses too and would love to put Edward up.

40.

"Just think about it," Bella said quietly, turning the glass around between her fingers. "I could use the company and your dog already loves my dogs, and your friends already love and make nice with the sexing of my friends. Even my mom loves you, and I kinda think she kinda thinks you’re my boyfriend, and it’s totally okay if you don’t want to, it was kind of... stupid I guess, I... I just... thought-"

"Breathe, Bella," Edward said with a chuckle and she gulped for breath, cutting herself off mid-rant. "So, your mom thinks I’m your boyfriend, huh?"

Bella blushed. Now why had she felt the need to blurt that out? "Well, she never said it out loud. There’s just something in the way she sneaks in questions about you."

"Your mom totally loves me," Edward said smugly, because of course he had not only won over Bella’s dogs and her friends, he’d also wrapped Renee around his sexy little finger the moment he met her. She had seen the positive change in Bella and upon seeing her with Edward, had put it all down to him.

41.

Bella huffed out a laugh and took another sip of her drink. "Yeah, maybe even more than she loves me."

Edward just laughed and patted Bella’s knee, unknowing of just how much her entire body liked that. "So, if I move in with you, do you think she would bake me pies, too?"

Bella smiled and shrugged one shoulder. "I’m sure she would, ‘cause you know there is no way you’re sharing mine."

Edward laughed again. Being with Bella was so easy, so comfortable. He felt relaxed here, in the house and in Bella’s company. "You know what? Yes, I’d love to live here with you."

Bella’s face broke into the biggest smile Edward had ever seen and it was almost enough to knock the wind out of his chest. "Really? That’s great. ‘Cause living alone in this big house wasn’t looking like fun."

Edward rubbed the back of his neck. "Are you sure your Mom's gonna be okay with this? I mean, with us living in sin and all?"

Bella just laughed and shoved Edward lightly. "

I’m a big girl, she'll have to be."

42.

It took another week before Edward finally moved in, because they still hadn’t finished working on the new spare bedroom, but as soon as they were done, Edward brought all of his stuff over from his dad’s and set up residence in the bedroom right next to Bella’s.

Bella soon found that asking Edward to move in had been both the best, and the worst, idea she had ever had.

It was the best idea because Edward was an awesome roommate, he was effortlessly neat, a great cook and he actually liked doing the laundry.

It was the worst because Edward was impossibly gorgeous and unbelievably grumpy in the mornings.

She never dared to talk to him before giving him at least two cups of coffee, so she spent most of her mornings staring in awe at Edward's sleep mussed hair and his sculpted bare legs, while waiting for the coffee to kick in.

It was the worst because Edward fell asleep on the couch while watching TV with Bella, looking cuter than words could ever describe, and it was the worst because every day

that passed Bella just found herself wanting Edward more and more.

43.

Edward couldn't recall ever being happier than when he was living with Bella in this big old house.

He loved the fact that Bella had coffee ready for him when he woke up, sticking a cup into his hand before she even said good morning, and he loved the fact that Bella had taken to taking all three dogs with her on her morning runs.

He loved making dinner now that Bella was actually eating again on a regular basis, and he loved falling asleep on the couch next to Bella, because Bella always woke him up when she was going to bed and they made their way up the stairs together.

Most of all, though, he loved the beautiful, doe-eyed brunette owner of his new residence, and he was beginning to worry it was going to be a problem.

At first he'd told himself it was just a passing thing, and that Bella's allure would soon wear off like it had with so many other women. Then he told himself that living with Bella would surely make him hate the woman when he learned all of her annoying habits.

When that didn't happen, because he happened to find all Bella's annoying habits, like dropping her clothes where she was standing and coloring Edward's whites every time she did the laundry, unbearably cute, he decided that maybe he was made to love Bella all along and that spelled trouble in big letters.

44.

They supported different sports teams, but found themselves rooting for each other's when their own team wasn’t playing. It became a regular thing for them on Sundays, watching a game together.

Bella had been going to her parent’s house for dinner on Sundays ever since she'd moved out. It was the second Sunday after Edward had moved in with her, that Bella's mom had discovered that while they were all eating together, Edward was at home doing nothing.

Since then, Edward was always invited for Sunday lunch, something he was thrilled about because Bella's mom cooked like no other. He especially loved the end of the meal, when they were going home together, and she would load up their arms with food to take home with them.

Given that he could make money in a roadside freak show for how much he could eat, they usually weren’t through the door long before he was throwing himself down on the couch and tearing into the food they'd brought home with them. They'd sit together, side by side, and watch TV. It had become Edward's all-time favorite day of the week.

45.

Today, however, Edward was far too full from the barbeque that Bella's dad had put on earlier today to even think about eating again, at least until next Sunday. Bella, on the other hand, sat beside him picking at the leftovers alone. She'd take a bite and give the other half to one of the dogs, making sure that all three of them got a fair share.

"I can't even look at you right now," Edward groaned, letting his head fall back against the couch.

Bella chuckled and handed Edward's dog, Jake, half of a sausage, laughing as the dog licked her fingers. "I'm just making sure the dogs get some too."

Edward smiled and let his head roll to face Bella. "Yeah, cause they don’t eat enough already."

Bella grinned and Edward felt his throat close up. Why did she have to be so goddamned gorgeous? He forcibly tore his eyes away and stared blankly at the TV instead.

"Something wrong?" Bella asked, nudging Edward's knee with her own. "You look... sad."

Edward turned his head to look at Bella again. "I look sad?"

"Yeah... or, I don't know... wistful?"

"Wistful?" Edward's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "Seriously, who died and made you Dr. Phil?"

"Shut up. I'm serious."

Edward blinked and smiled a small half a smile. "I'm not sad. What you're seeing might be constipation from all that delicious food."

"Ew… gross," Bella said with a grimace, shoving at Edward again, but there was a smile tugging at her lips. "Why do I put up with you again?"

46.

"Uh... maybe because without me you would have become an alcoholic and starved to death, lying around here rotting until your dogs got so desperate for food, they ate you for dinner."

Bella’s face turned serious and she clasped Edward's knee for a second. "It's true, I owe you a lot."

"I was just kidding."

"I know. It doesn't make it any less true though. If you hadn't come into my life, I would have moped over Riley until my emo took over and killed me."

Edward swallowed, because he didn't really see himself as any kind of almighty savior. If he hadn't shown up, he was convinced that Bella’s mom and Alice would have pulled her out of her depression.

"Well," Edward said, his voice a little louder, breaking the moment, "I only did it 'cause I wanted your house," he said with a smirk, patting Bella's knee and pushing himself up off the couch.

"Where're you going? The game's starting," Bella reminded him with a frown, not reprimanding Harper when she jumped up onto Edward's empty spot and laid her head on Bella’s lap.

"I'm going to find some Tums before I die," Edward told her as he left the room, making Bella laugh.

47.

When Edward returned and flopped back down in his seat, after having picked Harper up and moving her to the other side of Bella, she reached over with her hand and started rubbing Edward's stomach, not thinking about what she was doing until it was too late.

Edward looked at her for a moment like he couldn't quite believe Bella was doing that. Their eyes locking, the feel of Bella’s hand rubbing so close to his dick was making him harden. The space between their faces was next to nothing and Bella didn't even make a conscious decision to kiss Edward, she just found herself leaning in and pressing their lips together softly.

Almost as soon as she'd done it, Bella pulled away and sat forward on the couch. "Oh, shit. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to do that," she quickly assured Edward, thinking that he must think she was stupid for ruining this, or worse, that she had only invited Edward to live with her so that she could make a move.

"Bella," Edward began, putting his hand on Bella's back in an effort to let her know that it was okay. Bella just shrugged away from the touch and stood up, making her way to the stairs.

"No, I'm really sorry, it won't happen again. I made a mistake." And with that, she took the stairs two at a time, leaving Edward alone with the dogs, feeling like his stomachache was the least of his problems.

48.

It was a week later that the house was finally completed. And while Edward and his team had been working hard on the house, Bella had been working hard on her book, studiously trying to avoid her new housemate and friend.

Alice was so impressed by the way Bella had gotten her act together, that she had insisted on throwing Bella a party, at her house, now that it was finished.

Bella had tried to protest, but Alice had assured her that she wouldn't need to do anything, Alice would get caterers in and cleaners the next morning. Bella hadn't been too keen on the idea at first, and Edward had just shrugged when she mentioned it.

Things had been weird between them ever since the kiss and Bella just wished she could go back in time and just not kiss Edward. They bobbed around the house like guppies in a shark tank, doing their very best to avoid each other.

Bella still made Edward coffee in the morning, but she'd stopped staying around to watch Edward drink it, she just nodded in greeting before going for her morning run and then locking herself in the recently finished office to write the rest of the day.

49.

She poured all of her frustration into her writing, amping up the angst levels for her poor characters to almost unbearable heights.

Luckily, Alice thought it was golden and that the underlying sexual tension would make the fangirls squee. Bella found that a little bit disturbing, but since the male lead looked more like Edward with every sentence and the female lead was looking more and more like Bella herself, it was pretty hard to avoid.

Of course, the female lead had always been modeled after herself, but it was becoming stupidly obvious now, to her anyways.

Bella wished she could find a way to talk to Edward about the kiss and set things right between them, but in her head the conversation always ended with Bella on her knees getting a mouthful of Edward's cum, and she was afraid that she'd manage to fuck things up even further between them if she actually brought it up.

She just couldn't stop thinking about the kiss, or how soft Edward's lips had been, and in all honesty it had hardly even been a kiss.

Just a quick press of lips against lips and thinking about it shouldn't make her soaking wet, but it did.

50.

The party guests, plenty of people that Bella didn't know, and who she was pretty sure Edward didn't know either, began arriving after seven. She wanted to lock herself back in her office, where she had spent all day.

When Alice finally arrived with Jasper by her side, Bella let out a sigh of relief, finally there was someone she could talk to who she actually knew. She smiled at Jasper and grabbed Alice's arm, pulling her to the side of the room.

"Who the fuck are all these people?" she demanded, looking around at them. Alice had gone all out with the catering and the decorations. She'd even hired a bartender for the night and everyone was dressed way too nice to just be attending a house party.

It was rare to see Edward in anything other than his work clothes, old jeans or his pajama bottoms, but tonight he was dressed in black pants with a black shirt that made him look so delicious that it made Bella ache.

Everywhere. The only other time Edward had made an effort to scrub up like this, was when they'd gone to have dinner with Bella's family.

Alice grinned and waved at several people. "They're friends."

51.

"Yeah, of yours, not mine," Bella insisted, looking around at the strangers invading her home. She felt uncomfortable having them there, she kept wondering what Edward thought of it all and how he felt about strangers touching the house he had so lovingly restored.

"Well, of course they're my friends," Alice said as though it were obvious. "If I'd invited all your friends, you'd have a maximum of six party guests, and that includes your parents... who, by the way, just walked in."

Bella looked over to the front door and saw her mom and dad standing there waving at her happily.She waved back and was about to go over to them, when she saw that Edward had gotten there first. She watched as her friend talked and laughed with her parents, accepting the dish of food that her mom had brought with her and going into the kitchen to put it away. She made her way over as soon as Edward had disappeared into the kitchen, giving her mom a hug and her dad a kiss on the cheek.

"I'm glad you could make it," she said with a genuine smile.

"Me too," her mom replied, petting her hair. "But then I wouldn't miss my daughter's engagement party for anything in the world."

52.

"Engagement? … Alice!"

Bella turned on her heel and scanned the room for Alice's familiar form, but neither Alice nor Jasper were anywhere to be seen.

"Anything wrong?" her dad asked, looking genuinely worried and Bella shook her head stiffly.

"I just need to have a word with Alice, that's all. I'll be right with you."

She found Edward before she found Alice, or rather, she walked into Edward while looking for Alice. "Hey," she said a little stiffly.

Edward, who was putting a cocktail sausage into his mouth, frowned at her. "Is something wrong?"

"Did you know that Alice told everyone this is an engagement party? Our engagement party, to be exact?"

Edward choked on the sausage and grabbed his beer to wash it down with. "Are you serious? Why would she do that?"

Bella sighed and leaned back against the counter. She felt tired, this thing between her and Edward this past week was exhausting her. She missed her friend. "I dunno. Her sense of humor, I guess."

Edward smiled at her almost shyly and came to lean beside her. This was the closest they had been all week and the most they had said to each other. "What about your parents? Surely they don't think..."

"Oh yeah. They're over the moon. They can't wait to have you as their son-in-law," Bella said with an incredulous laugh.

53.

Edward smirked and turned his head to look at Bella. It was killing him. Every night as he lay in bed he repeated Bella's words over and over in his mind.

It was a mistake.

Just a mistake.

It meant nothing.

Only it meant everything to Edward. He was falling in love, something he didn't think would ever happen again after Lauren. Maybe he could have gone on pretending they were just friends, if Bella hadn't kissed him, but she had, and Edward couldn't pretend anymore.

"Listen, I wanted to talk to you," he began, his breath catching as Bella turned to look at him, her beautiful eyes locking with his own. "I was thinking that maybe we jumped into this roommate thing a little too soon."

"Don't move out," Bella blurted out and then she blinked, looking slightly confused.

"I just... Look... The people out there think we're getting engaged and I like you, but..."

"Not like that," Bella filled in, her face falling.

Edward chewed on his lower lip. "Well... that's kind of the problem. I do like you like that, and I can't keep living here pre... hhmmppffmm."

54.

Bella didn't make a conscious decision to kiss Edward, much like she hadn't done the last time, but it felt so damned right. She brought her hands up around Edward’s neck, sliding her tongue along the seam of Edward's lips until he gave in and opened up with a tiny desperate sound that set her blood on fire.

This kiss was nothing like the first one, there was nothing chaste or short about it. It was a full frontal attack on the senses, Edward's lips against Bella's, her tongue in his mouth, teeth clicking as they both struggled to deepen the kiss further, until Edward pulled away to rest their foreheads together.

"If you say you're sorry, I will seriously kill you," Edward panted.

"If you say you're going to move out, I will tie you to my awesome bed," Bella responded.

Edward moaned. "Oh God, do it anyway."

Bella chuckled, feeling a little light headed from the kiss and tilted her head up to capture Edward's lips again. Edward's lips were so full and warm and Bella thought she could spend forever just doing this. Then she felt a hardness press against her leg and she suddenly thought of many other things she could fill forever with.

55.

"Oh, I'm sorry," Bella's mom said with a laugh from the kitchen doorway. "I didn't realize it was that kind of party."

Bella and Edward broke apart and looked at her sheepishly. "We were... um," Bella tried to explain, but her brain cells had taken a serious hit with that kiss.

"No need to explain," Renee said, walking over and kissing Bella on the cheek before kissing

the man who she thought was her son-in-law-to-be, on the cheek as well. "You're young and in love."

Renee's heart had broken seeing the mess that Riley had left behind. She was a good person who believed in forgiveness, but she hated that man for what he had done to her daughter. Bella was always so full of life, it was how she was meant to be. After Riley left, she had become a shell of her old self, that was until Edward had come into her life and put her back together again.

"So have you set a day yet?" Renee asked, unable to keep the smile from her face. She didn't care that Bella was thinking about marriage so quickly after breaking up with Riley, as long as she was happy, and she clearly was; it was written all over her face.

56.

Edward looked down, blushing in a way that made Bella want to jump him right there in the kitchen. "Um, we were thinking of next year sometime."

Renee's smile left her face at that. "Oh, I see. I was hoping it would be sooner rather than later."

"We don't want to rush into things," Bella said easily, giving Edward a furtive look.

"Oh... I suppose that's alright then." Renee smiled. "Now

, come on and join the party. You are the guests of honor, after all."

She shooed them out of the kitchen and Edward grabbed a hold of Bella's hand, not wanting to lose sight of her again. Her fingers curled easily around his and she looked up to find him grinning at her. She smiled back, her grin getting wider by the second until they were standing in the middle of the living room, grinning at each other like idiots.

"This party," Bella murmured, "can't end soon enough."

"Don't be disrespectful. It's our engagement party," Edward answered with a chuckle. "Speaking of engagements... When did I ask you?"

"You asked me? Was it romantic?" she teased back.

"You bet it was." Edward grinned. "Flowers, violins, white doves, and I totally got down on one knee, too."

"Doves? Really? I'm not so sure about the doves."

"Ouch," Edward said, pouting slightly. "That hurts, you don’t even like my fake proposal?"

"I'll make it up to you," Bella promised, her eyes speaking of all that would happen once these people left their house.

"You're right," Edward said, moving so that their sides were pressed together. "This party can't end soon enough."

57.

It had been a long night filled with longing looks across the room and promises of Sunday dinner at a restaurant so that just the family could celebrate. Renee had asked Edward to invite his father and his father’s girlfriend out with them. Edward had been ready to make up an excuse, not really wanting to tell his father he was engaged when he wasn't... or was he? But he decided that he wanted his dad to meet Bella and her family, so he'd have to figure out what to tell him later.

As soon as they had shut the door behind the last guests, Alice and Jasper, who they had no problem in kicking out, Bella and Edward looked at each other shyly.

"Are you sure..." Edward began, leaning against the front door.

"About us?" Bella asked, her smile a little hesitant. "Yeah. Definitely."

Edward nodded, feeling a little nervous now. He had found himself in a relationship, living with a woman, who had been in one long term relationship and dumped recently. He had this fear that Bella might not really know what she was getting into.

There were already too many feelings involved.

He thought about suggesting they take it slow, ease into being together, but the words didn't get time to come out before Bella was pressing against him, her hands sliding around to grasp Edward's ass.

"I want you," she whispered, before covering his mouth with her own.

58.

Bella, it seemed, was not rooting for the taking it slow option and with her tongue in his mouth and her hands cupping his ass, Edward had no problems whatsoever in changing his view on the matter. Fast was good, fast was better than good. In fact, Edward couldn't wait until she was spread eagled on the bed with his cock buried inside of her.

Somehow they managed to make it upstairs, stopping every two steps to kiss and touch, leaving them both in disarray when they finally stumbled into Bella's bedroom.

Inexperience did not stop Bella from knowing what she wanted, and Edward found himself being quite expertly undressed amidst kisses, nips and licks from her clever mouth.

"On the bed," Edward ordered once she'd succeeded in stealing all of his clothes and his breath.

She didn't hesitate in complying, pushing the bedspread out of the way and spreading herself out on the pristine whiteness of the sheets. Bella stopped undressing herself in favor of staring at Edward's body.

"Jesus Christ," she muttered, eyes sliding up and down Edward's naked form.

59.

Edward hurriedly shed her of her clothes without taking his eyes off her, letting the clothes pile up at his feet. Bella felt oddly self-conscious, even though she knew for a fact that she was damned good looking, and she almost reached to cover herself, opting to grab hold of the sheets with her hands instead. He licked his lips as he took in Bella's naked body for the first time. He'd seen Bella in varying states of undress before, but he'd never seen all of her.

She was even more beautiful than he’d imagined.

Edward was, for lack of a more eloquent word, huge. He was hung like she’d never seen and she felt herself moaning at the very idea of being stretched by him. She let her head fall back against the soft pillows, that Edward had helped her pick out, as he climbed over her.

"Shit, wait," Edward said, lifting himself up onto his elbows. Bella snapped her head up and looked at him, thinking that he might have changed his mind.

"Condom," Edward breathed out. "In my room."

Bella let out a relieved laugh.

"One second, I'll get one," he whispered, dropping a kiss on the corner of her mouth. He scrambled off the bed and practically ran to his room.

60.

When he arrived back, he dropped the condom down onto the bed and covered her body with his own, their bodies aligning perfectly and making them both groan from the sensation.

"I want you to fuck me, Edward."

He groaned, sinking his teeth into her shoulder, before soothing the bite with his tongue. "You have to tell me," he murmured against her skin as he moved lower, "that you’re sure."

"I’m sure."

He tore open the condom wrapper and carefully, but quickly, slid it down over his achingly hard cock. He moved to kiss her, wanting to feel her breath on his face and see the look in her eyes as he entered her for the first time.

She kissed him back hungrily, her hips pushing upwards, looking for some sort of friction. With their faces just inches apart, he reached between them and guided his cock to her entrance, pushing just a little at first, then deeper. Her eyes went wide and her hands came up to clutch his back. It was a tight fit, but it felt wonderful for both of them.

Edward slowly pushed in more, resisting the urge to just push in all the way and claim her for his own. Bella was making a stupid amount of noise, keening and mumbling and essentially not making any sense at all. Her fingernails were digging into his back, trying to pull him closer while her body seemingly fought to keep him out. Once he was fully buried inside, Edward paused, lifting a hand to turn her flushed face towards his.

"You okay?" he asked, hardly recognizing his own voice.

"Yeah," she answered, shuddering when he shifted slightly within her. "Just... fuck me."

61.

He licked his lips and shifted his hips, starting a slow rocking motion into Bella’s unbelievably tight body, making both of them groan. She was writhing underneath him, heels digging into his ass as she begged for more, faster, harder, anything. It felt amazing to watch her come apart at the seams, completely delirious by pleasure, and Edward was pretty sure he could come just from watching Bella’s face.

He pulled out a little further and pushed back in, making her arch up from the bed with a guttural moan, making her start to clench and tremble around him, so he did it again, and again, and again, until her head was lolling limply back and forth on the pillows, noises spilling continuously from her lips.

"Fuck," Edward groaned. He felt like he was experiencing sensory overload. He kept his eyes on Bella as he pumped his hips a little faster, watching as her eyes rolled back.

"Edward," she moaned, her hands sliding down to grasp his ass and try to force him in deeper. She felt so incredibly full and knew that as soon as Edward pulled out she'd feel like a part of her had been taken, too.

Edward was supporting himself on his forearms, but he could feel them begin to shake a little as he grew closer and closer to his orgasm. He wanted to try and make it last forever, he wanted to stay right where he was, he never wanted this to end, but when Bella started mumbling, "Fuck me, fuck me," incoherently, over and over again, Edward felt his balls pull up. He quickly reached between them, his fingers finding her clit.

It only took a couple of seconds for her to fall apart. He kept thrusting into her pliant body for a few more moments before it became impossible to hold back. His orgasm began somewhere around his toes and hit him like a blow to the stomach, making him grind his hips into her, pushing in deep and hard.

He just barely avoided collapsing on top of her, choosing to roll to the side instead, keeping one hand around the base of his cock to keep the condom from slipping. Bella protested weakly as he rolled away from her to dispose of the condom, reaching out to keep him close. He dumped the condom in the trashcan next to the bed and rolled back to pull her firmly into his arms, pressing a soft kiss against her temple.

Bella made a pleased little sound and rolled closer, nuzzling her head in under Edward’s chin and sliding an arm around his waist. Within minutes they were both sound asleep.

62.

Bella looked in the rear view mirror of Edward's truck and tried to make her hair do something other than just hang around her face. Edward, who was sat beside her looking impossibly gorgeous without even trying, laughed.

They had been parked outside the restaurant where Bella and her family were going to meet Carlisle and Esme, Edward's father and step-mom-to-be.

"Bella, you look beautiful," Edward assured her, reaching out his hand and messing Bella's hair up again. It just didn't look normal when it was smoothed out and flat. Bella's hair was meant to be a little messy and wavy so that Edward could run his fingers through anytime he wanted.

Bella just laughed and shoved Edward playfully. "I'm a little nervous, okay? I mean, if they don't get along, then we're screwed."

Edward tried really hard not to laugh at Bella's overreaction. It was actually kind of cute. "Your parents are cool. My parents are cool. We make each other happy. I'm pretty sure it's going to be fine."

Bella closed her eyes, took a deep breath and snorted at herself. She couldn't believe she was freaking out over this. "You're right. And besides, we're grown-ups, it's not like your dad can forbid me to date you."

Edward raised his eyebrows and laughed when Bella paled. "He's not gonna forbid me to date you," he said, giving Bella's thigh a loving squeeze. "You're the best thing that ever happened to me."

She grinned, flashing her impossibly gorgeous smile at Edward. "Really?"

"Yeah, really, and I'm pretty sure my dad recognizes that fact, too."

Bella leaned over and gave him a soft kiss. "Okay. Let's do this. Also... for the record, it's totally unfair that my parents are already eating out of your hand."

Edward chuckled. "I can't help that people love me."

63.

They walked side by side towards the restaurant, not quite holding hands, but walking close enough that they could if they wanted to. The gossip around town had pegged them for a couple long before the engagement party, and no one really raised an eyebrow when they saw them together.

When they walked into the restaurant, both sets of parents were already sitting at a round table with drinks in front of them. It looked a little stiff, but at least they were not arguing over how fast they were moving, considering their ‘fake engagement’, like Bella had envisioned.

Carlisle stood up upon seeing his boy and pulled him into a hug, not the manly hug that guys often gave each other where they tried their hardest not to touch hardly at all, but a real hug that spoke of the closeness between them.

"Bella, this is the old man," Edward said, nodding to his father once he had let Edward go.

Bella held out her hand formally, her mind going back to her prom night and how it had felt meeting Riley’s stiff parents. "It's nice to meet you, Sir."

Carlisle chuckled and took Bella's hand, pulling her into a hug. It wasn't as full on as Edward's had been, but it surprised her just the same. "Sir?" Carlisle asked with a smirk as he let Bella go. "Hell, I ain’t your drill sergeant."

Edward laughed and patted Bella on the back before moving to greet Bella's family.

"So, where do you get off not telling me you're getting married?" Carlisle asked as they all finally sat down at the table.

Bella and Edward shared a look, both of their eyes questioning. They hadn't spoken about it, what with it being so soon after they got together, but neither of them had mentioned a plan to get out of the whole engagement thing. It made Edward wonder if it wasn't secretly what they both wanted.

"Well..." Bella started, her eyes searching Edward's face. "We... uh..."

"It's not like it has to be right this minute or anything..." Edward continued.

"But we..."

"Really..."

"Do want to get married," Bella finished, her face almost split in half by her enormous grin.

"Yeah," Edward said, releasing a breath he hadn't known he was holding. "Yeah, we do."

64.

Their parents were looking from one to the other as they beamed at each other across the table. Edward kind of wanted them to just vanish so that he could throw himself over the table and just maul Bella.

"That's wonderful," Esme, Edward's so far unofficial step-mom, said with a smile. "I'm happy for you, Edward, and for you, too, Bella." She reached over and patted Bella's hand. "Even if my horrible step-son, or my fiancé, didn't bother to introduce me."

Bella shook herself out of her eye lock with Edward and turned to her with a grin. "Well," she said. "I'm Bella and I figured you must be Esme. I'm delighted to meet you."

"You too, honey." She gave Bella a wink and picked up her glass of wine. "You know, my parents have a ranch up in Irving. It's got lots of open space. I reckon it could be made up real pretty," she said with a knowing smile.

Bella and Edward both just looked at her with a frown, thinking that was nice, but not sure why she was bringing it up now. Was she inviting them up for a vacation or something?

Renee rolled her eyes at how dense they both could be. "She's offering you a venue."

Bella's eyes went wide and she turned to Edward, hoping that, as it was his step-mom, he would reply.

"Uh, well, thanks," Edward said, looking around for the waiter. He was going to need to drink tonight. "Maybe next spring. Give us time to plan... and stuff."

Bella nodded, thinking it was a sufficient amount of time, considering they had only been dating a week. Bella briefly thought of Riley and how it had taken her years to decide she wanted to be with him for the rest of her life, and only a week to realize it with Edward.

65.

They got through most of the meal without any problems and their parents really seemed to hit it off. Bella and Edward weren’t expected to put much into the conversation, which was good because they spent most of the time staring at each other over the table and playing footsie underneath it.

Edward couldn't stop thinking about the fact that he was actually, really, going to get married to the greatest woman in the world. It was more than a little surreal, especially since he hadn’t actually proposed and he hadn't even told Bella that he loved her yet.

Despite what everyone else was thinking, their relationship was still really new, and even though Edward was absolutely certain he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Bella, it was also a little scary to be planning that far ahead.

He had a feeling that Bella wanted to talk in private about it as much as he did, so when Bella excused herself to go to the bathroom, he only waited a couple of minutes before following, ignoring the knowing looks thrown his way. Bella was indeed waiting for him in the hallway by the bathrooms, leaning against the wall and looking good enough to eat.

66.

"That was... weird," Bella said, but she was grinning.

"Yeah," Edward admitted, leaning against the wall next to her. He looked down at his feet a little shyly before glancing back up at Bella through his thick eyelashes. "It's moving kind of fast."

Bella nodded. "Look, if you wanna come clean to them all, I totally understand." She looked into Edward's eyes, waiting for him to say something. "I don't want you to feel forced into this."

Edward started laughing at that and reached out, pulling Bella into his arms. "You idiot."

"What?" Bella asked, pushing herself back enough to look into Edward's face.

"I fucking love you. Of course I wanna marry you," Edward said, bringing his hand up to cup Bella's face. "So I guess the question is… do you wanna marry me?"

She grinned and leaned into his arms. "God, yes."

They shared a kiss, standing in the middle of the hallway, not caring who saw them. When they finally pulled apart, Bella had a pensive look on her face. "You know, spring is a long time away."

Edward smirked at her and nodded. "A very long time away." They started walking back slowly, both smiling to themselves. "Hey, you know what's great about being our own bosses? We can take vacation time whenever we want."

"A long one, too... that possibly includes Irving and then a lot less of our family than they would like."

They shared a grin and Edward curled his fingers around Bella's, squeezing them slightly. Their future was looking brighter by the second and they were finally getting their much deserved happily ever after.

1 comments:

I loved this story. It was so romantic in the best of that tradition! I loved that she was writing that oh so familiar story....I loved that they just knew right away but it took some pushing to get them to where they were meant to be.

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