Wednesday, July 18, 2012 | By: Drotuno

Coming Home Chapter 97 - Bella


Tampa... Wednesday, June 23, 2010 at 8:35 A.M.

"Come on, ladies. Move it!" I heard Emmett call from the living room.

I grabbed my tote with all the essentials, from my Kindle to my sunblock to my phone and wallet, sliding my sunglasses on to the top of my head as I walked out of the bedroom. I knew we were running late already, so I hoped the girls were ready, too. When I met them in the hall, I grinned.

"You guys look great."

And they did. After Edward's invite the day before, we'd decided that since we were already at the mall, we should stock up on everything we'd need. We'd all bought cover-ups that we could wear from the house until we hit the beach itself, as well as the totes, sunscreen, and cute little beach towels. Rose was wearing a hot pink Ralph Lauren tunic with an empire waist and cap sleeves, while Alice was in a sleeveless scoop neck pleated A Line dress in white that showed off her black hair and fair skin to perfection.

"So do you," Rose assured me, grinning. "Edward is going to love that color."

We'd found a Nautica terry dress for me with a halter top that tied around my neck and had a rope tie right under my breasts, but the part that Edward would love was that it was blue – navy, but still blue. It just so happened to match the bikini I had on underneath.

"I do," a voice purred from behind Alice.

I looked up to see Edward watching me, his eyes dark, and laughed.

"C'mon, ladies," Jasper drawled from his spot in the doorway to his bedroom. "We're going to be late."

Edward reached for my bag, sliding his other arm around my waist as he walked with me to his SUV. I started to open the back door, but he opened the front passenger door and said, "They can sit in back."

When I looked up, he just grinned and motioned me into the car.

On our way to the base, the guys pointed out different landmarks and pretty sights. Tampa was a beautiful city, so different from Seattle and Forks. Washington was pretty, too, with all the green, but Tampa felt fresh and vibrant, the Gulf of Mexico combined with the warm sun giving it a whole different feel than the cloudy north Pacific Ocean.

When Edward pulled up to the gate at the base, the guys all passed him their military IDs, and he handed them all to the guard who had stepped up to the vehicle. "We have three visitors today."

The soldier looked into the windows as we all finger waved to him, and he smiled. "I'll need to see their IDs, as well, so I can make note of it on the log."

I got out my driver's license, and when the girls gave me their military spouse IDs, I passed them to Edward, who handed them over.

After a minute in the booth, the guard stepped back to the SUV and handed Edward back all six cards. "Have a good day, ladies. Sergeant."

"Thank you," Alice, Rose, and I said in unison, making Edward, Emmett, and Jasper smirk as Edward drove through the now open gate.

After driving around to where he could drop us off, Edward said, "I'll call you when we break for lunch, okay?"

"M'kay!" I leaned over and gave him a quick kiss, knowing they didn't have much time to get to where they needed to be. "Love you, babe."

He grinned. "Love you, too, sweetheart. Have fun, ladies."

The girls climbed out of the SUV, lugging the cooler we'd stocked earlier that morning with lunch stuff for the six of us, and we waved as Edward drove away.

"To the beach!" Alice told us happily, linking her arms with us as she stepped between Rose and me. "The sun is calling."


I was on my back on the towel, my eyes closed, when I felt something hit my foot. Propping myself up on my elbows, I looked down to see a volleyball nestled in the sand.

"Sorry about that!" a voice called.

When my eyes continued up, I saw that it had come from a cute guy that if I had to guess was barely twenty. He and two friends were jogging up to the three of us, boyish grins on their faces. All three were bare chested, wearing nothing but swimsuits and dog tags. They were cute – although nowhere near Edward or even Emmett and Jasper handsome – and their body language was completely open and flirtatious.

"Are you pretty ladies enjoying the beach?" asked the same guy who had called out an apology. "We didn't hit you too hard with the ball, did we?"

"That was my fault, by the way," the second one said, his face coloring slightly. "I'm Tim. This is Shawn and Ryder." He motioned to the guy closest to me first, followed by the one who was ogling Rose.

"Nope, it just bumped my foot. I'm Bella. It's nice to meet you." Gesturing to the girls, I said, "That's Alice, and Rose is on the end."

"Are you here visiting someone? I've never seen you around before, and I think I'd have noticed a pretty girl like you." Shawn was very definitely flirting with me, and while I was flattered, I was also totally not interested.

"Rose. That's a pretty name," Ryder told her. "Would you like to play volleyball? You could be on my team."

Looking over at Alice, I saw her smothering a laugh, and then I noticed Rose, who was trying her damnedest to flash her wedding ring without being obnoxious.

"Come on and play," he tried again when she didn't say anything. "If you don't know how to play, I can help..."

"Sorry," Rose said sweetly. "I'm married." She finally just held up her hand and wiggled her finger.

Alice jumped right in. "Me, too! Sorry!"

Shawn was looking closely at me. "What about you, Bella? I don't see a ring..."

I wasn't sure what to say. Obviously, I was going to tell him thanks, but no thanks, but I also didn't want to be rude. It wasn't his fault I was completely and utterly off the market – and happily so.

Opening my mouth to tell him just that, I didn't get a word out before a smooth, but deadly quiet voice came from behind me. "Not yet, but she's taken just the same. Move along, soldier."



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