A/N: ( I don’t usually leave my A/N’s in over here…but I have some nice things to say this week, so I wanted to leave them in.)
You guys…I had the worst Monday in the history of time yesterday, no really – it was the worst – and I came home wanting to drown my sorrows in vodka and junk food. Then – my inbox started filling up with alerts and favorites and I was like,what’s goin’ on? But it was awesome and I totally needed it! LOL Turns out DiamondHeart78 rec’d this story in her Delay update! How awesome is that? Big thanks to her and everyone that found their way here from her story. While I haven’t started reading Delay, I love her stories Evening the Score (my favorite soccerward) and Teacher of the Year. Go check them out if you haven’t read them!
ALSO – can you hear me screaming with excitement? AiL is up for Fic of the Week on The Lemonade Stand. No – really! I’m freakin’ out! Thanks so much to Mary Kitty Masen for the rec and to those of you that have wandered here thanks to her! There are some great fics nominated this week and you can vote for five. If you have a minute, stop over and vote, you know, for me and four others. LOL
Thank you to SydneyGen, Seastarr08 and E_Hunter for betaing and being all around amazing friends.
I’m gonna warn you, the prereaders will fight you for Garrett…
-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-
I walked into the hospital coffee shop and found Bella sitting by the window with two mugs in front of her.
“You got me coffee?”
“Yeah, dark roast with two creams, right?”
She looked nervous about her choice and I had to stop myself from reaching forward to rescue the poor lower lip she was chewing on. No matter how badly I wanted to, it felt a little too intimate to touch her like that, so instead I thanked her and kept my hands to myself.
Taking a seat, I grinned across the small table. I hadn’t realized quite how much I wanted to see Bella again until she was there in front of me. She was smiling too, and I felt hopeful that maybe the feeling was mutual.
I blew on my coffee and took a small sip while she watched me, her eyes wide. I wished I knew what she was thinking. After our conversation about me paying her, I was optimistic that she was interested in more than than just the weekend, but I had no idea how she really felt. I wasn’t entirely sure how to figure it out, either.
Running a hand through my hair, I tried to smile and apologized for the last few days. “I’m sorry I haven’t called or texted; my schedule has been out of hand.”
“It’s okay.” She reached forward as if to take my hand but caught herself and wrapped it around her coffee cup instead. “I was just a little worried when you didn’t respond after a couple of messages; it wasn’t like you.” Her head was cocked to the side, and I felt the weight of her gaze as she studied me.
“I’m fine, really.” I sighed and gave her a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry; there’s no excuse for for not returning your calls.”
“You’ve been working yourself into the ground. While I’m glad you invited me to coffee, I hope you didn’t do it so you could apologize. In the future, just send me a text message saying you’re alive but busy and I’ll understand.”
“In the future?” I grinned.
“Yeah, next time-” she stopped herself and bit her lip, blushing. She muttered something that sounded like “smooth, Nancy Drew,” but I wasn’t sure because that didn’t really make sense. Then she sighed, “You know what I mean.”
“I do,” I laughed. “Next time I’ll let you know.”
We smiled at each other over the table, and what had been awkward for a second was back to normal. There were only three more days until our trip, and I certainly didn’t want to start it off feeling anxious around each other.
“So, what else can I tell you about my family, to make you more comfortable with can meeting them?” While I was ready to get to know every little thing about Bella, I knew that it was important for her to be well versed in all things Cullen.
“How did your parents meet?”
I shook my head and chuckled, surprised at her line of questioning. “That’s random, but okay. They met when my dad was doing his residency at Lenox Hill in New York. He treated her in the emergency room when she slipped on some ice and sprained her ankle.”
“Oh, how sweet.”
“Not really. She was a total bitch to him. She scratched up her hands, broke a couple of her nails and nearly ruined her white Dior coat when she fell.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Dior?”
“Trust me, my mother never leaves out that detail. Anyway, she was awful to him. Then a few days later he was walking home during a rainstorm when he came around the corner and saw my mother in front of his building. She was soaked, leaning on her crutches, and wearing that same white coat, trying to flag down a cab. If you’ve ever needed to hail a cab in the rain in New York City…anyway, he decided to show her that despite her bad manners, he was a gentleman.
“He invited her inside to dry off and call for a private car. She was soaked and cold, and embarrassed about how badly she’d treated him at the hospital, so she said yes.” I laughed, thinking about the way my parents told the story, bickering and finishing each other’s sentences. “Dad says she pretty much said yes to everything he asked her from that point on. They were married within the year.”
“Wow. Romantic. So your parents fell hard and fast.?”
He nodded. “That’s kind of the norm in my family. Emmett met Rose after he chipped a tooth. Our family dentist had just retired, and there was a dentist’s office down the block from his precinct, so he stopped in to make an appointment. Rose was the hygienist there and somehow he charmed her into a date and never went home.”
“Alice and Jasper?” she asked with a laugh.
I nodded, smiling. “They met in an art history class. He didn’t stand a chance once Alice decided she wanted him.”
Bella snorted. It was adorable. “I can imagine. She’s very good at getting her way.”
“You think?” I laughed. My sister had been spoiled growing up, but as an adult she was simply driven. If she wanted something she figured out how to get it and would fight like hell to keep it. “She’s always been like that. But she’s a hell of a person to have in your corner.”
“Fiercely. Her and Rose.”
“I hope they like me.”
“Of course they will. Why wouldn’t they?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged, but I had a feeling there was something in particular she was worried about.
“What is it?” I asked quietly, finally giving in to the pull I felt and reaching across the table to rub the back of her hand with my thumb.
Her eyes focused on our hands for a second before looking at me sadly. “What if we can’t pull it off?”
“Don’t worry about that. You’re pulling it off now.” Garrett’s laugh boomed, startling us as he dragged a chair over to our table and spun it around before sitting between us. He took a swig of Mountain Dew and grinned at her.
Bella looked like a deer caught in the headlights, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
He gave her a nod. “I’m Garrett, you must be Bella. I’ll be your best man.”
My laughter turned into a choking cough at his best man comment. I hadn’t really thought about a wedding party, though suddenly I was sure my family was going to ask questions about it. I had always just assumed that Emmett would be my best man, and I told Garrett as much.
“Funny, I always assumed my brother would be my best man.”
“What?” he laughed. “Everyone knows it’s the BFF’s job. I’ve always assumed it would be me.”
“That’s what you get for assuming, jackass.”
Garrett rolled his eyes at me before looking at Bella again and turning on the charm. “Now, future Mrs. Cullen, tell me all about yourself.”
She arched a brow, and I loved that he didn’t seem to intimidate her. “Oh, you first…I insist.”
“Well,” he started, giving her a wink, “I’m a Capricorn. I like hiking in the woods and champagne in the morning. You’ve stolen my best friend and partner in crime, but I think you’ll probably give me better dating advice anyway. I have a feeling you and I will become great friends.”
“Interesting.” She smiled politely and gave him a nod, then launched into a random, and rather hysterical, bio. “I’m a Virgo. I like walks on the beach and champagne—anytime—but I prefer vodka tonics. I like things that are bubbly. I love coffee but hate coffee cocktails—I don’t see the point of combining a stimulant and a sedative. I like the Mariners but not the Seahawks. I could eat Mexican food every day and not get sick of it. My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice…I want someone to love me. Most ardently.”
She paused and sighed a little dramatically with a dreamy smile on her face, then gave Garrett a serious look. “I teach math to hormonal tweens so you don’t scare me, but I am sorry I took your wingman. I’ll bake you some cookies as a peace offering.”
I threw my head back laughing. She was amazing. Women tended to get all swoony around Garrett and do whatever he asked. Seeing her stand up to him was kind of hot.
Garrett looked at me with a straight face. “Do not fuck up the fake engagement with this girl. She’s a keeper.”
Bella blushed and tried to laugh it off, shaking her head at him. I wanted to give him a dirty look but I couldn’t pull my eyes away from Bella’s face. She was flushed and beautiful, trying to hide a smile that she couldn’t contain.
“And on that note,” he laughed and winked at her again, “I’m outta here. I’m sure there’s a nurse somewhere in this hospital who needs to be hit on.”
“Wow.” Bella laughed. “Is he always like that?”
“He’s usually worse.”
“He’s a good friend?” It wasn’t as much of a question as an observation.
“But it’s not the same as having your family nearby…”
“No, not even when your family is as crazy as mine.”
She shook her head. “Your family is nothing compared to mine.”
I smiled, wondering how crazy her family could be if it was just Bella and her father, but maybe she was talking about her mother. I’d already decided that woman was a serious piece of work.
“What made you move so far away from them—all the way to the opposite coast?” Her words were quiet and a little sad, as if she couldn’t imagine why anyone would move away from their family.
I blew on my already cool coffee to give myself a second before answering. “My dad is a pretty big deal in the medical circles in New York, the whole East coast really. If I stayed there, no matter what hospital I went to, I’d wonder if my successes were based on my connection to him. So…I put in for matches on the West coast.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t go to Los Angeles or something.”
“I was this close to going to Cedars-Sinai,” I held my fingers an inch apart and laughed, “but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. I really wanted a change.”
“I’m glad you didn’t go to L.A.”
She sipped her coffee, and I watched her thoughtfully. She was obviously glad to have met me, did she think there could be a future between us? When did I become so uncertain of myself? I’ve always been a confident person, you kind of have to be to a successful doctor, but here with her, I had no idea where I stood. I never seemed to when Bella was around. It was distressing and thrilling at the same time.
“What are your plans after residency? Will you stay in Seattle?”
She surprised me, digging for deeper information than she had on our past meetings. I supposed that it was something an engaged couple would have discussed, so maybe I was reading too much into it. I considered avoiding the question and telling her I didn’t know, but that wasn’t the whole answer, and to be honest I was tired of pretending I wasn’t interested in her. There was no denying it anymore, so I might as well let her in on it.
“Honestly? I never imagined that I’d actually have to choose. I just mean, I thought that by now I’d be settled here—you know, have something more than Garrett to anchor me?”
I ran my hands through my hair again, tugging a little, before putting it out there.
“I love it here, Bella. I just…need a reason to stay.”
Her eyes got wide and she licked her lips as a blush crept up her neck. Then, out of nowhere, she started to laugh. Loudly. She laughed until there were tears rolling down her face. I had no idea what was so fucking funny.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” She wiped her eyes and stifled a final giggle. “You need a reason to stay, but no pressure, right?”
I laughed, finally getting the joke, but before I could say anything my pager on the table began to vibrate. Despite my best efforts, I felt a crooked smile take over my face.
“Saved by the pager,” I joked as I stood. “Three more days. I’m really looking forward to our trip. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, I promise.”
“You realize this conversation isn’t over, right?”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s not.” I leaned down and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, then laughed as I started walking away. “At least we’ll have something to talk about on the flight.”
-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-
The next days flew by in such a rush that I found myself packing only two hours before I needed to leave to pick up Bella for the airport. I’d been awake for thirty-six hours and was running on a fuel of stale bagels, coffee and some vile Pepsi Max that I’d found in the lounge. I went through the suitcase one final time and felt certain that I’d forgotten something, but I had no idea what it was. I zipped it shut anyway, knowing I could buy or borrow whatever it was when we got to the beach.
I sent a couple of emails, threw away the take-out containers that had been molding in my refrigerator and I was ready to go. I managed to stay awake while I loaded the car and drove to Bella’s, but as I stood outside her door I felt my eyes closing. When I opened them she was standing in front of me in the doorway.
She reached forward to cup my face and ran her thumb under my eye. “You look rough, Edward. You need a vacation.”
“God, yes.” I laughed as I grabbed the suitcase by her feet. I felt like I was sleepwalking when I put my hand on the small of her back and led her to the parking lot.
After her bag was loaded in the trunk she surprised me by coming to stand on the driver’s side of the car.
“Give me the keys.”
Her voice was quiet but firm and when I looked into her eyes I knew she meant business. Arguing with her would be ridiculous since I could hardly form a coherent thought. I continued to look into her eyes for a second or two before giving up and handing over the keys to my Volvo.
She climbed in and slipped on her seatbelt before making adjustments to the seat and the mirrors. I was kind of impressed by how thorough she was.
I snorted. “It’s my family. The real question is are you ready?”
“The real question is how long is it going to take you to fall asleep when we get on the road?”
“Five minutes. Or less.”
She shook her head as she started the car and backed out of my parking spot. The next thing I knew she was waking me up after finding a spot in the Sea-Tac parking structure. I stretched in the seat, and she grinned at me.
“We weren’t even out of the complex before you were snoring, buddy.”
“Sorry,” I chuckled. “I just need a couple of hours and I’ll be all set. I promise.”
“Oddly enough, I believe you. I’m getting used to your crazy sleeping schedule.”
“That’s just it,” I huffed, “there is no schedule.”
“Aw…poor baby.” Her mouth turned into a fake pout and she batted her lashes ridiculously.
“You have no sympathy for me?”
We stepped out of the car and met at the trunk where I grabbed our bags.
She raised an eyebrow at me. “Do you have sympathy for me when I spend all week with hormonal kids who are making up and breaking up while staring at my ass and boobs all week?”
“No, but I so never thought of your job that way. It kind of makes me want to go back to middle school.”
“Nice,” she said with an eye roll. “It’s a wonder kids learn anything besides the birds and bees these days. They’re so hyper-sexualized it’s all they can think about. Sometimes I wonder if I taught sex math if they’d actually pay attention, but it’d probably just confuse them.”
“Yes, you know, if you’ve had sex with X amount of partners and they’ve had sex with Y, then you’re both having sex with Z.”
“I’ve never heard it called sex math,” I tried to sound serious, “but you’d really teach your kids about threesomes with Z?”
She groaned. “This conversation has taken such a wrong turn.”
“Let’s continue it when I’m more awake.”
“I think we have another conversation to continue first.”
I scrubbed my hand over my face and gave her a smile. “If you’re not sure how that conversation ends…”
She stopped and turned to me, stepping close. Her hands ran up my chest before resting on my shoulders. “I know where I want things to go. I just wasn’t sure we had the same ideas.”
I dropped the suitcases I’d been wheeling and brought my hands up to rest over hers. “I know that we met rather unconventionally but, I can’t stop thinking about you or wanting to spend time with you. It scares me a little, but it’s the kind of fear that makes me want to know more about you, not run away from you. This is about way more than a weekend for me.”
“Me too,” she sighed before leaning up on her toes and sliding one hand around my neck to play with my hair.
She stretched forward to kiss me and I loved that she was initiating things. I wrapped my arms around her and returned the kiss, letting her know we were on the same page. When she finally pulled away, just enough that our noses were almost touching, we stood still for a moment, embracing and catching our breath.
I’d meant to talk quietly with her on the flight, but suddenly I knew it was the right time.
“I need to ask you something.”
She nodded, her arms still around me.
“You’ve been amazing, getting to know me and learning about my family and coming up with a cohesive story about our relationship, but there’s one detail we sort of overlooked.”
Her brow furrowed as I reached into my pocket and pulled out a ring. I couldn’t say that it was just for the weekend or ask her to pretend it was real. I certainly couldn’t tell her that I had a feeling I’d be giving her my grandmother’s diamond in the near future as well, so I settled for short and sweet.
“I bought this for you. Will you wear it?”
I held the simple gold Claddagh ring so she could see it. When she whispered “yes,” I slid it on with the crown pointing towards her fingertip.
“Oh, Edward, thank you. I didn’t know how I was going to explain not having a ring. It’s beautiful.”
“You have nothing to thank me for. We’re in this together.” I cupped her cheek. “Have I thanked you lately? You’re the best thing that’s happened to me in a long time.”
She closed her eyes for just a second and smiled before taking my hand.
“Come on. Let’s go visit your family.”
-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-
Awwwwww. Confessions of – something. 🙂 And an awkward not-really proposal. Our kids have turned the corner… Coming up – do they stall-out or move forward? You’ll just have to come back in two weeks to find out!
Thanks so much for reading, rec’ing, reviewing – everything. I’m thrilled and overwhelmed by the response to this story so far and hope I can keep writing a story you all enjoy. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Since people are doing the kindness of rec’ing this story, I’d like to pay it forward. Two stories I’m loving right now –
In the Woods by Oprah Winfrey (and no, I don’ think it’s THAT Oprah, but it could be… I will drop everything when this updates. For real.)
Bella has a serious case of writer’s block. A retreat to an isolated cabin in the mountains is just what she needs. The only problem? She’s not alone and this mysterious, surly stranger is not looking for company. Mature content. Very AU.
Off the Record by Belladonna1472 (This is from the author of The Cullen Campaign – it is totally different, but equally captivating IMHO. I wasn’t sure I would like it at first – but there’s a mystery in here that I’m dying to figure out!)
“Friday, November fifteenth, 2024. Palo Alto, California. Interview with Edward Cullen, brother of missing New York Times journalist Emmett Cullen.” When reporter Bella goes on assignment, what complications will arise? ExB, AH/AU
And while I’m telling you what I’m reading fic wise – I’ll also pass on that my great friend and beta, E_Hunter, has some published original fic you should check out — Elemental Mysteries. They’re paranormal mysteries with a splash of romance. The first three are published and book four is on the way! They’re available on Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and CreateSpace.
Here’s the description for the first book, A Hidden Fire: A phone call from an old friend sets Dr. Giovanni Vecchio back on the path of a mystery he’d abandoned years before. He never expected a young librarian could hold the key to the search, nor could he have expected the danger she would attract. Now he and Beatrice De Novo will follow a twisted maze that leads from the archives of a university library, through the fires of Renaissance Florence, and toward a confrontation they never could have predicted.
Okay – I’m done. I’m not usually that long-winded in A/N’s. LOL