Sunday, June 9, 2013 | By: Jenny

In Pursuit Chapter 12

Chapter 12
Bella POV
I hurried inside, deciding I needed to change clothes before Edward and I left. When I passed through the living room, I grabbed Alice, who was sitting on the couch as she flipped through channels on the newly installed cable.
“Come with me,” I hissed, dragging her up by the hand.
“What? What happened?” She scrambled to her feet and gripped my hand as we rushed to the stairs.
Giggling, I said, “Edward’s taking me on a tour of Forks, and I have to tell you something, but not until we get upstairs.”
We raced up to the third floor, waving to a confused-looking Jasper as he came out of his room.

In my bedroom, I shut the door behind us and then jumped face first onto the bed, smothering my girly squeal in the pillow.
Once I’d gotten the initial excitement out, I sat up and looked at Alice. “He kissed me again. Like...really kissed me, Ali. He apologized, said he was sorry for everything he’d said, that it wasn’t true.”
I continued telling her all about it, about how he’d kissed me until I hadn’t had a single clear thought in my head, and by the time I finished, she was fanning herself.
“Whew!” she said, giggling. “Who knew he had it in him?”
I did, but rather than say that, I simply nodded and said, “Okay, so, help me figure out what to wear? Please?”
Alice spent less than five minutes sifting through all my clothes, finally deciding on a new pair of jean shorts I hadn’t worn yet, a thin, sky blue T-shirt with flutter sleeves, and a long, single strand necklace dotted with pearls and beads. I slipped my feet into a pair of cute summer sandals as Alice started messing with my hair.
“It’s fine,” I told her, trying to brush her hands away.
She chided me with a cluck of her tongue. “I’m not doing anything fancy. Just hold still,” she huffed.
In the end, she was happy with the results, although when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t really tell much difference. It looked a little neater since she’d run the comb through it, but she’d left it down around my shoulders to show off the still-new cut.
“Thanks, Pix,” I told my sister, giving her a quick hug.
I touched up some lip gloss and let it go at that. If we’d been going out to a bar or club, I’d have added a bit more makeup, but I didn’t want to look too done up just to tour Forks. I didn’t wear a lot of it on a normal basis anyway, so if Edward was expecting that, better I find out now instead of later.
Just as I put my hand on the doorknob, Alice spoke.
“He knows. About Mike, I mean.”
I froze, my heart plummeting to my stomach. “How?” I whispered, already knowing the answer.
“I...I told him.” As I turned to face her, she rushed to me and continued speaking quickly. “He needed to know, Bella. He needed to know that even though neither Jasper nor I didn’t believe him – and hell, sweetie, even he didn’t believe it – he needed to know what his words had done to you. He needed to know what he had done when he lied to you – because that’s what it was; you know that now.”
“Oh, God,” I gasped. “He pities me. That’s why—”
“No!” Alice growled, cutting me off. “This is not a pity thing with him, M—Isabella Swan. Did he feel sorry for you? Yeah, maybe. But only because he knew how wrong Mike was, just like I knew. Bella, you should have seen him. He was ready to fight for your honor against a man he’s never met – not because he felt sorry for you, but because he knows you didn’t deserve anything Mike said or did to you. You’re the only one that’s ever thought you did. So he had to hear it because he had to know he was hurting you more than he ever thought possible.”
Breathing deeply, I closed my eyes for a moment. “That...wasn’t your call to make, Alice. That was my story, my past. Not yours.”
“Maybe not, Bells,” she sighed, finally reaching out for me and pulling me into a hug as I stayed stiff in her arms. “But you’re my sister, and I love you, and if I can prevent you from being hurt further, I will...even if you don’t like it.”
I finally melted against her, my will to fight gone. “He really isn’t doing this – kissing me or saying he wants me – to prove a point or...whatever?”
She shook her head. “He looked...ruined when I told him that you weren’t pissed at him, that you’d believed him because you didn’t think yourself worthy, sweetie. I think whatever happened in his past affected him a lot like Mike affected you, and to know that he’d hurt you like that just about killed him.” She pulled back and looked up at me. “Please, Bella. Give him a chance, okay? I think he’ll surprise you.”
I wanted to believe her... I wanted to believe him. I thought about his face when he told me he wanted me, that he didn’t have the strength to stay away from me anymore. And his apology, I knew it had come from his heart.
Suddenly, I knew Alice was right. Edward hadn’t said those things because he felt sorry for me. If he did, he could have just apologized for snapping at me and told me he was afraid to get too friendly because it could compromise my safety – or a variety of other excuses he could have made – and then gone on being aloof. But he hadn’t. He’d apologized for what he’d said and it seemed like he wanted...more.
I smiled, feeling the rest of my apprehension and worry melt away. “Thanks, Alice,” I whispered, hugging her tight. “Love you.”
“I love you, too, Bella,” Alice replied, squeezing me. “Now, Edward’s wait—”
A knock on the door interrupted her.
“Ladies, everything okay in there?” Jasper asked. “Edward is about to crawl out of his skin downstairs, worried Miss Bella’s changed her mind. You all right, darlin’?”
I laughed, swiping at a few tears that had fallen before opening the door. “Yeah, Jasper. I’ll be right down.”
Jasper raised an eyebrow, but Alice shook her head and smiled. “We’ll be down in a minute,” she said.
He nodded and then turned and headed back down the stairs, and his muttered, “Women!” as he shook his head made us both giggle.
“You ready?” Alice asked, smoothing my hair by my ear one last time.
Taking a deep breath, I let it out slowly and nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “I am.”
“What about that booth there,” Edward said, pointing to one alongside the right wall of windows.
“That’s fine.”
I smiled as he put his hand on my lower back and guided me over to the booth. We’d decided to visit the infamous Forks Diner for lunch since I hadn’t eaten anything yet and he’d sheepishly admitted to abandoning his sandwich making when he caught wind of Seth’s flirting.
Sitting down across from him in the booth, I couldn’t help but think back to a few minutes before, when I came down the stairs.
There you are,” he huffed, stalking over until there was little space between us. He didn’t touch me, but his eyes moved over my face, as if searching for something. “You okay?” he asked quietly. He frowned, worry lines appearing in the middle of his forehead. “You were crying.”
I smiled gently. “I’m okay.”
After another moment, he nodded, appearing to take me at my word. “You look—” he huffed again, shaking his head “—fucking beautiful.”
I felt my face heat. “Thanks.” In an effort to take the attention off me, I asked, “Ready to go? I wanna see all the big tourist attractions this big ol’ city has to offer.”
Edward laughed and guided me to the door, pulling his keys out of his pocket. “We’ll be back in two minutes – or a couple of hours, if Bella lowers her standards for what she considers tourist attractions,” he called over his shoulder to Alice and Jasper, who were standing together at the bottom of the stairs, grinning at us.
I was pulled out of my musings by the sound of the waitress.
“Welcome, folks. What can I getcha?”
Looking up, I saw an older lady, with obviously dyed red hair and a rather large chest. And then she smiled as she looked over at Edward.
“Why, Edward Cullen, as I live and breathe. How are you, honey?”
“Melva,” Edward said with a grin. “I thought for sure Fred would’ve convinced you to retire by now.”
The waitress, Melva, chuckled. “You know me, child... They’ll have to roll me outta here when the time comes.” She glanced at me. “And who’s this pretty little thing?”
Edward smiled, reaching over to take my hand. “This is my girlfriend, Bella.”
I had to keep from jolting at the feel of his hand on mine and the word girlfriend attaching my name to him – it was a long-forgotten feeling, but I liked it.
“We’re staying at my folks’ old house for a bit with some friends,” he continued, oblivious to my inner thoughts. “You probably saw Jasper in here the other day – tall, skinny, bit of a cowboy. He’d have been with Bella’s sister, a short little thing.”
“Why, Lordy me! Alice, right? Yeah, sure, I remember them. It’s nice to meetcha, Bella honey.” She smiled before turning back to Edward. “How’s your family? Still in Seattle?”
Edward nodded. “Yes, ma’am. They’re still doing the same as they were here. Rose and Emmett are having a baby.”
The woman shook her head and smiled sadly. “Time sure flies. I remember when the two of you were just kids, and now you’re having babies of your own.”
I couldn’t help but like the plump waitress with the sweet smile and obvious affection for the man across from me.
Oblivious to the customer in the corner trying to get her attention, she continued, “And you’re a year older now, right? You just had a birthday?”
Edward shrugged. “Yes, ma’am.”
“June eighteenth? Nineteenth? Something like that, right?”
“The twentieth,” Edward said, shrugging sheepishly when I raised an eyebrow.
“Right, the twentieth. I always got yours and Steve Spencer’s mixed up, they were so close together.”
He nodded. “His was two days before mine, yes.”
Melva smiled. “That man has three little girls already. Keepin’ him on his toes, they are. You’ll have some little ones of your own soon, I hope?” She patted his shoulder. “Well, anyway, that’s enough from me. You two know what you want yet?”
“Burger?” Edward asked, looking over at me. When I nodded, he said, “Two of the burger specials – one fries, one onion rings.”
“And to drink?” Melva asked without bothering to write anything down.
“Two Cokes,” Edward answered.
“All right, I’ll be back with your order shortly,” she said, smiling before she hustled away.
“Your birthday, huh?” I asked as his cheeks tinted pink and he shrugged. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Edward looked sheepish. “Because I was acting like an ass and figured no one was in the mood to celebrate.”
I nodded, thinking I’d have to figure out a way give him something for his birthday without actually buying anything, since I didn’t have access to any funds at the moment.
The next thirty minutes was a mix of short conversations about nothing of great importance – what movie we wanted to watch after dinner, whether we had the stuff to make Edward’s French toast, that sort of thing – along with eating the juicy, greasy hamburgers and splitting the fries and rings Edward had ordered. We’d also run into a handful of other people he knew from his time in Forks: the new chief of police, an old buddy from high school; Paul and Embry, two of the guys from the local rez, as they’d called it, who he’d partied with in high school; Sue, an older Native American woman who had recognized Edward and said her son Seth had been the one to install our cable earlier that morning; and then there was Claire, who we ran into on our way out of the diner.
“Oh my God! Edward Cullen?” The young blond woman’s voice was nearly two octaves too high, and the way she threw herself into Edward’s arms made me want to rip her face off. “How are you? Oh my God, it’s been like...years!”
Edward pried her off him and moved her away as much as he was able while smiling what I’d come to know was his polite smile and saying, “Hey, Claire. I’m good, thanks. Yeah, it’s been a while.” His smile turned genuine and he slipped his arm around my waist, pulling me close. “This is my girlfriend, Bella.”
Claire’s smile dimmed, although she tried to stay upbeat as she nodded at me. “Hello.” Turning back to Edward, she asked, “So like, are you here in town for long?”
His hand clenched on my hip as he said, “We’re not sure yet. Hey, listen, Claire. I’m sorry, but we’ve gotta run. It was good seeing you.”
Her smile dimmed again as she forced out a cheerful, “You, too, Edward!”
Edward quickly led me back to the Jeep and shut the door for me before jogging around to the driver’s seat and climbing in, promptly turning the key and backing out of the parking lot.
I giggled at his obvious hurry. “Oh my God! She was so friendly!” I chirped, squealing when he reached over and poked at my side with his finger.
“Can’t believe she’s still the exact same as she was in high school.” He looked pained as he raked his hand through his hair. “The exact same, Bella! Valley Girl voice and all.”
I laughed. “Yeah, but you totally thought it was great back then, didn’t you?”
He groaned and said, “Yes, dammit. I was stupid.”
Giggling, I reached over and put my hand on his leg, patting it gently. “It’s okay, Edward. All teenagers are stupid. If it makes you feel young again, I can like...totally talk like her!”
Edward growled and then picked up my hand and kissed the palm once before setting it back on his thigh. “How about a walk on First Beach down on the rez? Then on the way back to town, I can show you the hospital my dad worked at, we can stop at the bookstore, and then head over to the high school.”
I smiled, nodding. “Sounds perfect.”
We were quiet as Edward drove out of Forks and to the beach. Once he parked, he came around and helped me out, holding my hand as we stepped down to the sand.
“It’s so pretty here,” I said, looking out at the water.
“Mmhm,” Edward agreed, but when I glanced over at him, he was looking at me, not the waves.
My face warmed with a blush, and he reached up and brushed the backs of his fingers over my cheek.
“I love that,” he murmured. “Such a pretty pink.” Then he grinned. “I wonder, though... How far down does that pretty blush go, Bella, hmm?” His eyebrow waggled suggestively.
Laughing, I shook my head. “I’m sure you’ll find out...someday,” I teased, turning to pull his hand to get him moving again.
“Bella!” he groaned, and I laughed as he bumped my hip with his.
There were families and young people scattered all up and down the beach, enjoying the sunny day. Before long, both of us were ready to go.
“We’ll have to come back with Alice and Jasper and plan to swim,” I told him as he helped me into the Jeep.
Edward nodded. “Sounds fun. I haven’t been to the beach in years.”
“Me, either, actually. Not since we moved away...”
He smiled sadly and then closed my door and jogged around to his side.
“Okay, so...” I started in an upbeat voice, not wanting a mention of my past to bring down the fun afternoon we were having. “You mentioned a bookstore?”
Thirty minutes later, I had a new mystery to read, as well as a new puzzle book, and we’d been by the hospital where Edward’s dad had worked until they moved to Seattle.
Edward pulled up to the high school – which consisted of a small group of buildings, almost house-like, that didn’t look anything like the high school Alice and I had gone to – and parked in a lot close to the football field. “This is it,” he said. “Good old Forks High.”
I grinned. “I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but... What was your mascot? A spoon?”
He laughed and shook his head. “The Spartans, actually, silly girl.” He took my hand and led me along a path to the entrance of the field. “I played running back all through high school. Got scholarship offers to play at a few schools, but I wasn’t good enough to go pro, and I knew that wasn’t what I wanted, so I turned them down.” He chuckled. “Can’t say my mom wasn’t disappointed about that...”
“I bet,” I laughed. “Probably worried her baby would be hurt.”
Edward grinned. “Damn straight.”
We walked up into the stands, and then I climbed up to sit on the sun-warmed rail. Edward slid his hands up my thighs and then stepped up to stand between my legs, wrapping his arms around my waist as I looped mine around his neck.
“This feels...familiar,” he teased, leaning in to press a long, slow kiss to the soft spot under my ear.
I tilted my head, allowing him better access to my neck and whimpering when he suckled lightly at the skin, teasing it with his tongue.
“Fuck,” I hissed when he drew the skin into his mouth, biting down gently.
I scratched lightly at the back of his neck with my nails, whimpering when he kissed his way up my neck and across my jaw to my lips, hovering there for a moment. We shared a breath, in and out, the electricity nearly arcing between us before he finally lowered his head and brushed his lips across mine once, twice. On the next kiss, I couldn’t resist the need to really taste him. He met my tongue with his own, tasting and teasing, light tickles and firm strokes, until I was panting for more.
“God, Edward,” I moaned when we pulled apart to breathe.
He immediately moved back to my lips, sucking the top, then the bottom, then top again, teasing them as he nibbled softly. I could feel it down to my toes and everywhere in between.
“Get a room!” a male voice called out as another cheered.
We broke apart, laughing, as two guys continued to jog their way around the track.
“Shit,” he laughed, sighing as he dropped his forehead to mine. After a moment, he pulled back to look me in the eye. “Bella, I... I need to admit something.” When I didn’t say anything, he said, “I... I know about Mike.”
I blew out a breath, nodding. “Alice told me she told you, Edward.” I shrugged. “It’s fine, really.”
He rushed on. “Don’t be made at her, B. She was simply trying to protect her sister. I would do the same for Rose. She wasn’t trying to betray a conf—”
I stopped him with a finger on the lips, shaking my head. “I know,” I said, smiling to soften my words. “Really, it’s okay. I...I thought at first maybe this—” I waved my hand between us “—was because you felt sorry for me...that you pitied me, but—”
“Christ, Bella,” he growled. He thrust his hips, letting me feel the hard length of him pressed against me. “Does this feel like pity? Like I feel sorry for you? Damn it, Bella. I’m hard all the fucking time around you. And no matter what that fucker told you, a frigid woman wouldn’t make me feel this way.” He was still thrusting his hips, and the friction was damn near enough to light me on fire, I was so hot.
I needed him at that moment like I’d never needed anyone. Throwing my arms back around him, I used them and my legs around the backs of his thighs to pull him in tight against me, and then I latched onto his mouth, feeling his answering kiss like a siren’s song.
I barely paid any attention to the runners’ yells a few minutes later, concentrating as hard as I was on Edward’s lips on mine and his hands gripping my ass like a lifeline.
Edward POV
It felt like one of my many dreams. My hands were touching, gripping, kneading places I never thought would be allowed, but damn, they were, and it was only making me want more.
But even more was the amazing feeling of introducing Bella to people I’d known ages ago – people I’d grown up with. My girlfriend. And while it was the easiest coverup for why we were in Forks, in my parents’ old house, it didn’t exactly feel like a lie. It was real, what I wanted.
“Forget the room! Do her here!” I heard from behind me.
I growled, literally growled, breaking away from the most fuck-awesome kiss I was participating in, only to lock gazes with Bella, her amusement showing clearly in her deep brown eyes. I, on the other hand, was not amused.
“I’m gonna shoot a motherfucker,” I muttered, starting to pull away.
Bella cracked the fuck up, holding me right there with strong arms and even stronger legs. “Edward, stop. They’re just kids.”
Her laugh was contagious, and I smirked, rubbing the tops of her thighs. She was so beautiful, and I wasn’t sure there had ever been anyone that could have stopped my temper like that before. Not even...
I frowned, swallowing thickly and stepping back a little to give myself space. I needed to tell her. It was only fair. It was one of the questions that I’d denied her weeks and weeks ago. I owed it to her. Bella hadn’t deserved my temper then, and she sure as hell had no idea just how much we had in common.
“Edward, you okay?”
“Yes. I just...” I nodded, shoving my hands into the front pockets of my jeans. They touched on my pack of cigarettes, and I couldn’t stop from pulling one out. Gazing around the playing field, I held up the cigarette. “I know you hate it, but I need to answer another question you asked me before, and this helps. Okay?”
Her face morphed into an adorably confused expression, which only confirmed just how...sweet Bella was. I’d snapped at her, told her that certain subjects were off limits, so to her, they were truly off-fucking-limits. She’d never ask again, most likely forgetting they even existed.
Blowing out a lungful of smoke, I gripped my hair as the two assholes that had been jogging the track slowly made their way back to the parking lot.
I huffed a humorless laugh at the memories of high school, looking back at the patient girl still sitting on the railing.
“Before I do this, I have a question of my own, Bella,” I hedged, shrugging when she gazed at me. “You don’t have to answer, but...”
“Edward, just ask.”
“Why were you crying? Before we left, why?” I asked, assuming I knew the answer.
She smiled sadly, playing with the hem of her shorts, but looked up at me. “Alice admitted to me just before I left the room that she’d told you about Mike. I thought... Well, you know what I thought.”
I nodded, because that confirmed my suspicions. “Would you have told me about him? Eventually?”
Her nose wrinkled at the same time that she shrugged a shoulder. “I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t like to talk about him, so Alice kind of saved me on that part. What he did...the things... Well, they stuck with me. Sometimes, I feel weak for allowing him to get away with it for so long, and sometimes, I feel he was just being honest.”
“I know,” I sighed, nodding a little and dropping the cigarette butt to the ground. “And believe me, I get it. But I don’t fucking pity you. Please know that much. If you trust anything I ever tell you, trust that.” I waited until she nodded before saying, “You also need to know that you are none of the things he called you. None.”
I could tell by the look on her face that she didn’t quite believe that shit, and that was okay. I understood it, and I could certainly work with that. If I did anything good for Bella, then proving this asshole Mike wrong would be a damn good goal. Though, my dick had a long, twisted list of things he wanted to accomplish.
Shaking my head to clear it, I gazed around the school grounds again. “I thought I knew it all here. I had the fucking world by the balls,” I started, smiling a little. “My parents did okay, so Rose and I had our own cars, a decent allowance, and really good friends.”
“Ben and Angela,” she supplied, smiling fondly.
I grinned. “I’m glad you liked them. They’re good people.”
“I miss them.”
“Me, too.”
I wanted to tell her that she’d see them again someday, but I wasn’t so sure that was the truth. The Cheneys could be trusted, but the future was uncertain with Alice’s and Bella’s new identities.
Studying her face, I sighed. “You and me... We’re a lot more alike than you think, Bella.”
Her brow furrowed, and she shook her head, which made me chuckle.
“Trust me, we are.” I nodded, shoving my hands into my pockets again. I didn’t light another smoke. I knew Bella didn’t really care for that shit, so I’d have to cut it down if I wanted more kissing. And yeah, totally needed more kissing. I fought my smile at that thought, but said, “You asked me about the ink on my back. If you still want to know, I’ll tell you. I owe you that, Bella.”
Something like recognition dawned across her pretty face, but she shook her head. “Edward, you said—”
“I know what I said, but I was scared. Plain and simple. I don’t talk about it, but... You deserve to know why I’m fucked up. Why I’m so damn bitter. Until you.”
“You aren’t fucked up,” she stated. “But I, of all people, should know that some stories are too hard to tell.” She waved me forward, and I went to her without even thinking twice. She cupped my face as I stepped between her legs again. “Did she hurt you?” she asked in a whisper, her eyes raking warmly over my face.
“Yes.” My voice was barely there, but Bella heard me.
“What was her name?”
“Maggie.” The name came out easier than I’d expected.
“Did you love her?” she asked, her brow furrowing a little.
“I thought I did, yeah. I’m not so sure,” I told her, and it was as honest as I could get. It had been so long that whatever feelings I’d had for Maggie had turned into hate. Bitter, ugly hate.
“If you want to tell me, Edward, then go ahead, but I’m not making you,” she finally said softly, leaning in to kiss my lips.
Something about that simple, sweet, chaste kiss relaxed me to my very bones. I took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and stole one more kiss before backing away. Rubbing my face, I groaned, trying to think of the best way to start, but where we were was probably the best place – the beginning.
“Here,” I said, pointing toward the school, “I was a big fish in a little pond. I played ball, had a girlfriend or two, partied. Rose kept me grounded. She was the more level-headed of the two of us, but she gets that from Dad.” Bella smiled, but I went on. “We didn’t go to the same college, so I was kind of lost at UW at first. Uncle Al had explained exactly what classes, what degree I needed, so I went in with a pretty set path. Becoming a marshal was all I wanted.
“I made friends in the dorms pretty quickly. My parents hadn’t moved to Seattle yet, so I had to stay on campus. My roommate...” I huffed, rolling my eyes and shaking my head. “Randall – though, we all called him Randy – was one of those weed-smoking, beer bong-guzzling, man-whore musicians. I thought he was cool.”
Bella snorted, raising an eyebrow at me.
“Right. I know. Idiot,” I said with a chuckle, pointing a thumb my way. “I never smoked weed. I couldn’t with what I wanted to do with my life, and I never really cared for the shit. But the rest? On it. Like a fly to honey.” I frowned, thinking about how I wanted to explain, finally just going for it. “There were lots of parties, lots of girls, and lots of drinking. It was at a frat party that I met her. Maggie. She was a friend of Randy’s. They were in a few music classes together. She was pretty, Randy said she was cool, and we hit it off.”
I shrugged a shoulder, shuffling my feet. “We became boyfriend and girlfriend. Exclusive. You know?”
Bella nodded, slipping from the rail and taking a seat on the bleachers. I climbed up and over, plopping down next to her.
Let me clarify... I was exclusive. Not her,” I said cryptically. “Though, I didn’t know it at the time and I never really found out for how long.”
“Oh, Edward,” Bella groaned sadly.
“Told you we had a lot in common,” I snorted, nudging her shoulder with my own. “And there’s even more.”
Bella laid her head on my upper arm, and I couldn’t resist leaning down and kissing the top of her head. The smell of her shampoo – sweet flowers and fruit – grounded me, gave me focus that what I was talking about was a long time ago.
“Things were good – really good – for a while. Most of my freshman year, actually. I made new friends, partied, and I got this,” I said, shifting us a little so that I could lift the sleeve of my shirt to tap the tattoo of the scales of justice on my upper arm. “I wasn’t kidding. I was drunk when I got it, but I’d sort of wanted it for a long time. It just took alcohol to give me the courage, and Randy’s friend was a tattoo artist, so it was done quickly. Mom was pissed, even more when I got the other one,” I said with a grin, tapping the angel on my forearm. “And I also wasn’t kidding that it was almost the Batman symbol.”
Bella giggled, tracing the razor-like edges and then the scales themselves with a single finger. “You should totally add it.”
“We’ll see.” I chuckled, shrugging a shoulder, because I certainly wasn’t opposed to more ink. “I haven’t thought about another tatt since this one.” I pointed over my shoulder, and what had lightened up was now serious again.
“Anyway,” I went on, “Maggie, Randy, and I hung out in our dorm. They’d smoke, I’d drink, and we all tried to get through classes. I was barely keeping my head above water with my grades, and I knew it was my social life. I couldn’t admit it then, but I can now. Everything became about her. I’d shared everything – my car, money, food...hell, I even paid for her books one semester. I thought that I was taking care of my girlfriend, you know?”
Bella’s eyes narrowed as she nodded slowly, and knowing she wasn’t stupid, I could see her starting to piece shit together. “Go on,” she said carefully, but she reached up to run her fingers through my hair.
I sat forward on the bleachers, my elbows resting on my knees as I stared out over the football field. “I swear to God, Bella. I didn’t know they were using more than weed. And I didn’t know they were” I shook my head, rubbing the back of my neck. “Both Randy and Maggie were local students, meaning they were like me – from Washington. They were there on partial scholarships, and whereas I had parents that had planned for my education, they...didn’t.” I glanced over at her, and she was waiting patiently, though I recognized the angry look on her face. I’d worn the same one when Alice was telling me about Mike. I sniffed once and went on. “I knew they’d started selling drugs in order to make money. I tried to overlook it, but it’s hard when there were knocks on the doors of my room at all hours. I should’ve told someone, but I didn’t. Which was stupid as fucking hell, considering what I was going to school for! I thought I knew it all. I also couldn’t bear the thought of Maggie getting into trouble. I protected her. And that, right there, was my biggest mistake.” I held up a finger, smiling humorlessly at Bella.
“She knew I’d protect her, hide her, pay whatever debt she’d accumulated,” I continued. “She exploited it.” I sneered, biting on my bottom lip against the anger that this shit still brought up in me. “By the beginning of our sophomore year, things had gotten way out of hand. Maggie and I were fighting because I really fucking had to pull up my grades and keep them up. She was always high, but she knew how to work me – apologize, fuck with my heart and my body, and then go about doing the same shit.” I snorted, shaking my head but looking over at Bella. “I’m a sucker for tears, Bella. I hate it. Can’t fucking stand it. I’ll do anything not to see the women I know cry.”
Bella picked up my hand. “That’s not a bad trait to have, Edward. It means you care. Even when maybe you shouldn’t.”
“Oh, hell, isn’t that the truth,” I sighed, sitting back against the bleacher seat behind me, but I kept Bella’s hand in mine. I brought it to my lips, kissing the inside of her wrist. “I was starting to drown,” I admitted. “Maggie’s problems were dragging me down with her, and more than once, my parents asked me what was going on. They finally sent Uncle Al.”
“Oh boy.”
I laughed. “He’s tough, yes. But he’s always been able to get through my thick skull when no one else could. It’s just the way he talks to me, the way he treats me.” I smiled over at her. “He’s the one that... Well, let’s just say he read me like a book when it came to you.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “Wait... What?”
“Later. Let me finish this, okay?” I snickered, mentally vowing to still punch my uncle in the face. Now it was for just being a wise-ass.
“He showed up one night out of the fucking blue, pounding on my door in the dorms. Scared the ever-lovin’ shit outta Randy. Al snatched me up, shoved me into his car, and took me to dinner. He set me straight. Like really straight. He never mentioned Maggie, but he knew all about Randy. He knew about my grades, and he reminded me of the end goal. If I really wanted to work for him someday, I needed to get my head out of my ass.”
“Did it work?” she asked with a smirk.
“A little. I started to back away from Randy. I’d study in the library as late as I could. Maggie didn’t complain much, and that should’ve been my first clue.” I paused for a moment, readying myself for the rest. “Several things happened just before Christmas break. I started noticing shit going missing in my room – radios, TVs, DVDs, CDs, even Randy’s precious guitar had disappeared. Though, when I asked him about it, he said he’d left it in the music room across campus. The night before we were supposed to go home for the holidays, I was in the library writing a paper. Thinking I could finish at home here in Forks, I wrapped up earlier than usual.” I squeezed Bella’s hand, looking down at how our fingers were woven together. It just looked...right, and I knew I could finish this story. With a deep breath, I turned to face her, not letting go of that hand. It was a lifeline at this point. “On my walk back to the dorms, my dad called me, wanted to know what the hell I’d spent all my money on. The account he’d set up for me was completely empty. Fuck, not only empty, but in the damn red!”
“Oh no...”
“I swore to him that it wasn’t me, that the last thing I’d bought was a few groceries the day before. I’d sent Maggie with my card, you see.” A string of curses left the girl in front of me, and I nodded. “Exactly. Pretty much verbatim what I said. I told Dad I’d call him back, and I rushed to my room, where I found Randy...with Maggie.”
“All on the same damn day?” Bella squeaked.
“Yeah.” I rubbed my face with my free hand. “I lost it. Completely. Not only did I beat the fucking shit out of my roommate, but I called my dad – in front of Maggie, mind you – telling him that I’d been robbed, to press charges. He called Al...again. There was a shit-storm of cops that rained down on my dorm.” I gazed out at nothing, remembering that night, but I must’ve been too quiet for too long because Bella’s voice broke the silence.
“What did she do?”
“Sobbed, begged, pleaded, bargained,” I said without inflection. “When that didn’t work, she spat the most awful things at me – how I was a fool, how they’d planned it from the beginning because I had money, how I thought I was better than them and she hated me for it.” I sighed, shaking my head. “I was a mark, a target. From the very start.”
“What happened to them?” she asked, shifting so that she was practically in my lap, but I gave up trying to fight it and pulled her completely onto me, straddling my thighs.
“We were all arrested,” I told her. “Randy was beat to shit, so they took me in on assault, though the charges were eventually dropped – totally Uncle Al’s doing, I’m sure. Randy and Maggie were both taken in on larceny charges, but they were both holding, so they had possession charges tacked on, as well.” I snorted a little. “I sent my girlfriend to jail. She did more than a year, if I’m not mistaken. Randy did more. They got him for possession with intent to sell. They’d owed some pretty bad people a lot of money, and they unraveled on each other in the interrogation room.”
Good,” Bella grunted, her brow furrowing when she grasped either side of my face. “She was not your girlfriend. She didn’t deserve the title, Edward. And everything she did...she earned the result.”
I nodded, looking down between us. “I know that now. I wanted it all with her, or so I thought. But what I didn’t know was that I would’ve truly lost everything. I wouldn’t have what I have now if I’d have continued on that path.” I meant the amazing girl in my lap, but I wouldn’t have her without my career, so it was a two-fold blessing in disguise.
“And the tattoo?” she asked me.
“The tattoo...” I sighed, sitting back a bit. “Well, I went home for Christmas, and Rose slapped me around for being an idiot. I got tested for everything under the fucking sun because I didn’t trust anyone at that point. I didn’t have to testify or anything because those two pled out to the D.A. But I took a look at my family when I was in Forks...and realized that not only had I let them down, but I’d fucking let myself down. I ran, focused on the upcoming semester, and talked with my family – mainly my sister and Uncle Al – a lot. When I returned to school, I didn’t live on campus this time; Al had found me a small place to rent. I’m still there, actually.”
I smiled up at her, and I wanted to chuckle at the curiosity written all over her adorable face.
“Anyway, once I hit school, I did it with a new focus. Classes meant more than partying. And I ran into Garrett, the guy that inked me before. He’s a good guy; you’d probably like him, the talented bastard. We had a few beers one night, and he told me that he’d heard all about Randy. We took our chat from the bar back to his apartment, and I told him that I wanted to forget about it all. On the coffee table were a few drawings, and this was one of them.” I tapped my shoulder, pointing to my back. “We fucked around with it a bit, but it was when I asked him what it meant that I finally decided to do it.”
“What’s it mean?”
“Celtic knots have different meanings, but I kinda latched onto one in particular. My birth father was Irish, and so is my adopted father. Maybe my mom has a thing for tall, pale guys, I don’t know,” I joked, grinning when Bella giggled. “Anyway, the tri-knot means ‘life, death, and rebirth.’”
“Like a phoenix,” she stated in a whisper.
“Yeah, Garrett said something about that, rising up outta the ashes and all that shit.”
“You’re not an idiot, you know,” Bella stated firmly. “She knew what she was doing. She knew how to use your good qualities against you.”
“As did Mike.”
She grimaced. “Touché, Edward.” We were quiet for a moment, simply being, simply touching, but she locked gazes with me. “We both came out of college with hard lessons.”
I studied her face for a moment, and fuck, she was just breathtaking sometimes. “I’m not a saint. I’d like to say that I was, that I treated women better, but I didn’t. I’d been used, and I never really stopped being angry, so I—”
“Did the using,” she finished for me. “It doesn’t help, I know. It’s kinda empty.”
It was.” I leaned on the past-tense word, making sure she was looking at me. “It ends now. I think that’s why I fought so hard. I don’t want that anymore.”
“Me, either.” She shook her head, leaning into my touch when I tucked her hair behind her ears. “It doesn’t help that we don’t know what’ll happen, if we’ll even make it.”
“No one will touch you, of that I’m fucking certain, Bella. I swear it,” I vowed to her. “I’ll get you to Seattle or die trying.”
She flinched at that, but looked down. “And once there?”
“That’s the big question, isn’t it?” I asked, waiting until she met my gaze before smiling. “I don’t know, sweetheart. I just don’t. There are rules Jasper and I are breaking with you and Alice, and I’m really not sure the two of us give a shit anymore. But you may get sick of me between now and then,” I teased, but she barely cracked a smile as I rubbed the outside of her thighs. “All I know is that I can’t give up before it’s started, and I can’t stay away from you anymore.”
She smiled, slipped her arms around my neck, and kissed me. “Then don’t. But please don’t push me away again.”
I was shaking my head before she had even finished that sentence. “I won’t.” I gazed out over the field, seeing the sun starting to set. Rubbing her legs and knowing the temperature would drop a little, I said, “We should head back.”
She nodded and smiled, but made no move to get up. “Thanks for the tour, Edward. And thank you for telling me.”
I kissed her once more, deeply, causing a moan from the two of us. Fuck, I wanted her like I’d never wanted anyone in my entire life, but I was determined to let her set the pace, despite the fact that my dick was so anxious to get closer to the beautiful girl on my lap that it felt like he would break the zipper of my jeans soon. Bella and I were both starting over with this shit, and I could tell we were both stumbling blindly into it.
I was finally able to pull myself away and walk her back to the car. I opened her door, raising an eyebrow at her. “Think the cable guy could’ve done better?”
Bella giggled, rolling her eyes at me, and sighed. “Nah, I totally had like...the hottest tour guide in town. For sure.”
Fuck me, if I didn’t puff up at that shit, despite the fact that she was teasing. “Damn straight, baby.”
My girl was still giggling when I got in and cranked the engine.


Evelyne-raconte said...

An other excellent chapter. The more I read IN PURSUIT, the more I love it. Thank you for sharing.

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