-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-
Bella introduced herself as my fiancée to Maggie, making me want to pump my fist in the air. Take that you money grabbing human life preserver.
But Maggie looked back and forth between all of us, from Bella to me, then to Alice and Jasper and back to me again, as if her words could have some other meaning. “You’re serious?”
I slid my hand up from Bella’s waist to her shoulder to show her I was. “I can happily say I’m off the market.”
I couldn’t hide the grin that took over my face. I meant it. Bella was my one. I think I’d known it all along, but suddenly it was crystal clear. My life was empty without her. I found myself picturing my future, and she was at the center of it.
Looking down at Bella’s wide eyes, I wondered if she felt the same. I knew she wanted more than a weekend, but did she want a lifetime? She was blinking tears away, and she looked… off. I furrowed my brow, trying to figure out what she was thinking. She looked as if she didn’t believe me.
“Hey,” I turned and put my hands on her cheeks, pushing her hair back. Searching her face again, I saw nothing but uncertainty. It wasn’t the time for us to have a heartfelt discussion, but she needed to know that I meant what I said.
“You know I really mean that, don’t you?” My voice was soft so no one else would hear. I knew they could see us, but they didn’t need to know what we were saying.
Her breath caught, and her eyes got wide. She still didn’t get it.
I licked my lips and caressed her cheek with my thumb. “I don’t think I can go back to my life without you.”
She closed her eyes, and a tear slid down her cheek. I wiped it away as she opened her eyes and met my gaze. Her hands slid up my body to rest on my chest, her fingers playing with the button on my shirt. She quickly looked down at her hands before looking back up at me.
“I can’t imagine my life without you.”
She felt the same! I couldn’t hold back my smile. I tilted my head to lean down and kiss her, but Maggie’s voice interrupted us.
“Oh, no. Is Becky crying?”
Maggie’s whiny voice startled me. I’d been so focused on Bella that I’d forgotten we weren’t alone. I turned to put my arm around Bella, looking around to see what she was talking about.
Bella giggled. “She meant me.”
How childish. “Ugh. Don’t be stupid, Mags.” I looked down at Bella and winked. “We were having a moment.”
“Oh, Jesus,” Jasper was chuckling behind us. “Don’t rile her up.”
“How sweet,” Maggie sneered, making it clear she thought it was anything but.
She and the twins stood on the beach looking at us with thinly veiled contempt. I didn’t get her at all. How could she expect me to want anything to do with her after being so rude to Bella? She’d certainly changed in the last year, and not just in terms of her cup size. A year ago she had been only casually acquainted with the Denali twins whose family rented the same house at the beach for two months every summer. They ran in a different crowd, more slutty and less classy group than Maggie’s usual friends, but the three of them stood united in front of us like best of friends.
“Alright, she’s kind of crazy,” Bella gave a wry laugh. “I hope your other friends are nicer.”
“We are!” I heard Riley’s voice the same time I felt his hand on my shoulder. “Margaret, go put some fucking clothes on. You look ridiculous.”
“Fuck you, Riley.” She rolled her eyes before turning on her heel and heading towards the ocean, the Denali twins following behind her like puppies.
“Kids,” he joked, shaking his head, and we all laughed, albeit a little uncomfortably.
He greeted us, shaking hands with Jasper and hugging Alice before turning to me with a tight smile and a nod. Bella squeezed my hand, and I knew I should have done something more, hugged him or something, but it was too awkward.
“You must be Isabella.” He took her hand, charming her the way he usually did with women. He had this whole sweet and harmless vibe about him that made women feel comfortable. Since his marriage, he’d learned that he could push the boundaries and be flirtatious as well, because he seemed safer. “I’ve heard great things about you!”
“You have?” she laughed, and I knew we were both wondering what the hell he’d heard since she’d just met the majority of my family the day before. But Bella was so smooth she didn’t let it faze her, easily returning his teasing tone. “Well, I’ve heard all about you as well. And please, call me Bella.”
He threw back his head, laughing. “I can only imagine what you’ve heard. Please tell me that they’ve shared some embarrassing stories about our childhood escapades and not just my current situation?”
“Of course we did.” I tried to sound amused and not hurt that he’d assumed the worst. “I told her a bunch of stories that made me look good and made you look responsible for all of the trouble we got into.”
“Oh lord! Alice, you let this happen?” he glanced at my sister and laughed before turning back to Bella. “We need to talk later. You find me or Randall, and we’ll give you the scoop.”
Someone called his name from near the house, and he groaned.
“Duty calls.” He shrugged before turning to Bella and me. “Nice to meet you, Bella. Edward, let’s be sure to catch up tonight, yeah?”
Bella murmured a goodbye, and I nodded. I wasn’t looking forward to catching up with him. It had the potential to be all kinds of weird.
“That was nice, only a little awkward,” Alice said before taking a drink.
“Hopefully we’ve set the tone for today,” Bella smiled. “I can deal with a little awkward.”
I said a silent prayer that a little awkward was the worst we had to deal with.
We smiled at each other, and I leaned down to kiss her forehead, trying to convey how sorry I was for my fucked up family. I had no idea if she understood, but she tightened her arm around me and leaned a little heavier into my side.
It turned out the afternoon wasn’t awkward at all. We mingled with old friends of my parents and a few friends from college. Mostly though, we spent time with my family. I was worried when Alice and Bella joined Rose on the beach to play with the kids, but Bella squeezed my shoulder on her way by, assuring me that she’d be fine.
A little while later, she stood at the water’s edge with Rosalie watching Alice and the kids splash in the shallow surf. I could tell they were talking, and they both appeared calm. I hoped Rose was apologizing. She’d tried to explain herself to me when we sat down to talk after my run, but her reasoning seemed ridiculous.
I sighed. “So, you going to tell me what it is you’ve got against my fiancée?”
“Ugh. I don’t have anything against her.”
“You were a total bitch to her. What the hell was that about?”
“Who the fuck is she? You haven’t dated in years. We don’t hear anything about you meeting anyone or going out and then suddenly you’re engaged? Excuse me if I think something isn’t right.”
“You can think something is off all you want, but you don’t get to be rude to her. Just because your family can’t be trusted as far as you can throw them doesn’t mean the whole world is out to get you.”
“Oh, that’s rich.”
“Like your family accepted me with open arms.”
“Don’t ‘Rose’ me.” She pointed at me, and I closed my mouth to let her finish. “Your family treated me like shit, and you know it. Your grandfather ran a background check on me!”
“You made a comment about spending a night in jail. The man was from another generation, he was worried that you were some kind of felon or a drug addict. How was he supposed to know the charge was dropped?”
“Well, he knew when he threw the papers at Emmett during a family dinner, but he still had to try to stir shit up.”
I sighed. “What does this have to do with Bella? You got raked over the coals so you had to harass her?”
“When it was all said and done everyone told me to forgive your grandfather. ‘He was only looking out for the family, Rose.’ I didn’t do anything any different.”
She started to stand, and I grabbed her wrist.
“You called her a pregnant gold digger. You had to know how much that hurt her.”
She stood still for a second, looking down me as she bit her lip. “Okay,” she sighed, sitting down. “I could have gone about it differently.”
“Ya think?” I shook my head. “I get it. You were tested before you got accepted into the family. You think we’re all a little nuts because we fall in love so fast. You want to protect us, and that’s great, but you can’t do it by being disrespectful to my fiancée and pushing her away. She’s my one, Rose.”
She turned to look at me, her mouth open slightly in shock. “She’s your one?”
I’d been over it in my head so many times it wasn’t funny. I knew there was something special about Bella—but on the flight out with her, our heads leaned together, her headphones stretched between us…I’d had this overwhelming sense of rightness. That everything had fallen into place. The thought that Bella and I could have never met, or that I’d go home and never see her again made me feel physically ill.
I met Rose’s eyes so she could see how serious I was. “Yes. She’s it, Rose. Make your peace with that, and apologize to her, please.”
“I just don’t want you to get hurt.”
“You have no control over that. Apologize. She’s important to me.”
She nodded, resigned. When she stood up again I didn’t stop her. She walked off down the beach.
I still didn’t fully understand what was behind Rose’s attitude. She’d given me her reasons, but I wasn’t sure I was buying it, at least not entirely. But in the scheme of things, who was I to question her? Here I was faking an engagement, I had no room to judge. All I cared about was that Rosalie got her attitude in check and accepted Bella, or at least treated her as if she did.
They continued talking, occasionally glancing at each other, but mostly looking out at the water. I tried to imagine their conversation, desperately trying to read their lips whenever I caught a glimpse of them, but it was like watching Kung Fu, the words I imagined didn’t match their movements and I felt lost.
I sighed and put my empty beer on the railing. I turned around to look for the rest of my family, but before I could find any of them I saw Riley heading straight towards me.
“You need a beer?” He held out a bottle as he came to stand beside me and leaned on the railing.
“Ry.” I nodded and accepted the beer and took a long drink.
“So, I hear congratulations are in order.” He raised his eyebrows as if he needed confirmation.
“I guess they are.” I smiled but gave him a shrug trying to play it off as no big deal. It was a huge deal, but I didn’t want to rub it in. The poor guy was stuck in a shitty marriage. I supposed he could have gotten out of it, but Charlotte had destroyed his self-image and basically just fucked him up. I never imagined that he loved her, but it had become apparent that he had, at least until he learned the truth about why she married him.
Riley took a swig of his beer and gave me a hard look. “Don’t, Edward.”
“Don’t downplay it. I’m happy for you.
“Yeah?” I hadn’t expected him to react anything close to favorably, so I was shocked.
“Yeah.” He shook his head. “I never meant for things to get so fucked up between us. You and me, I mean. I know that my life is not what we thought it would be, but I’m still me. I’m still the guy who carried you home when you fell off your bike and sprained your ankle when you were six. The guy who double dated with you at the prom and roomed with your for four years of college.
“I know shit got weird, and I avoided you for a while. That’s on me, but, Jesus, Edward, I’m still your cousin. Your friend.”
“I know that, Ry.” I looked out at the beach where Bella and Alice sat in the sand. Rose had moved into the water with the girls, and they all looked as though they were having a great time.
I sighed and ran a hand through my hair before turning to my cousin. “I feel like I don’t even know you. How the hell did you fall in love with Randall’s mom behind my back? How is it possible I didn’t know? You just disappeared and called to say you got married. What the fuck? Do you know how much shit I took because everyone thought I was covering for you?”
“No. You have no idea. Fuck. Our dads, Randall, the rest of our friends, even my mom, they all thought I knew. I looked like a jackass, but the worst part was that I couldn’t believe you would keep that shit from me. I would never have told them. I would have covered for you, but you didn’t even give me the chance.”
To be honest, I had always wondered if I could have prevented everything if I’d known what was going on.
“You couldn’t have saved me,” he said, practically reading my mind.
We’d been like that once, full of inside jokes and able to finish each other’s sentences. There were a few years I’d been closer to Riley than I’d been to either of my siblings.
“I fell so hard and fast for her it wouldn’t have mattered what you said. She completely snowed me.” He laughed bitterly. “Remember when you were sick that fall, you had mono, and we all stayed as far away from you as possible? I went out to dinner with Randall and Charlotte. We ended up getting shitty drunk, and I woke up in bed with her. We had this heart to heart, and I was all in. We met a few times over the fall semester and then at Christmas… well, you know the rest. Nothing you could have said would have changed it.”
“I know, divorce her. Take her for all she’s worth, or for all her ex is worth. I’m getting there. I just don’t see the point. Who wants some dumbass who fell for a cougar’s bullshit?”
He was breaking my heart all over again. I couldn’t believe how much she had messed with his head. I swore to God if Charlotte ever came anywhere near me I was going to fuck her up, or let Rosalie do it. But that certainly wasn’t what he needed to hear.
“You’ll never know until you start looking again.” I hoped I sounded sincere, because I meant it, but he did have a point. How did you get back out there and date after what he’d been through? I couldn’t even fathom it.
“Yeah?” he chuckled. “How’d you meet Isabella? I can’t imagine you have a lot of time to date during your residency.”
My brain froze up. I didn’t want to lie to him. I’d just given him crap for keeping things from me, but I had to tell him the story Bella and I had agreed on. I wasn’t ready to tell anyone besides Bella the truth.
“We met through a friend.” If you considered Craigslist a friend. Shit. He probably knew I was lying. Bella was the only person I wasn’t lying to anymore. I finished with a truth, well a semi truth. “My friend Garrett dates her roommate.” If you considered going out twice so far dating.
“Emmett says she’s awesome.” He smiled as we watched the scene on the beach. The twins had started to bury Alice in the sand.
“She is pretty great.” I smiled, thinking of how amazing Bella was, and lifted my beer to my lips.
“Does she have any single friends?”
He caught me mid sip, and I coughed, trying not to spit my drink out.
“Just kidding man,” he laughed, and I realized he was joking. No matter how fucked up it was, he was still married. Then he shrugged. “Seattle’s too far away, anyway.”
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I shook my head as he took a drink of his beer and turned around to see what was happening on the deck. The change in him over the last year was unexpected, and maybe we’d both changed, but I felt like I had my best friend back.
We spent a good half an hour together, maybe more, people watching, talking about my residency and catching up on news about old friends. Eventually my parents waved me over to where they were standing with Bella and another couple.
I told Riley I’d see him later, and he grabbed my arm as I started to walk away.
“Edward, don’t fuck this up,” his voice and eyes were full of concern.
“Okay.” He really seemed to need me to agree.
“With Bella. Just… what you have is special. Take care of it.”
I nodded, feeling a little dumbfounded. He couldn’t know how true his words were. What Bella and I had was special, and I didn’t want to fuck it up. Our relationship still had the potential to implode if anyone found out the truth, and that scared the shit out of me. I hoped that by the end of our trip we could get beyond that, but we needed to talk.
He held my gaze for a second before turning and walking in the other direction. I stood rooted to my spot and watched him go, slightly unsettled by our entire interaction. It was awkward at times while at others it was like the past few years had never happened.
“Edward,” Bella’s voice interrupted my thoughts, and she took my hand between both of hers. “Your father wants to introduce you to someone.”
She looked happy. Her eyes were bright, and her hair mussed from the breeze. Her cheeks were pink, either from the time in the sun or the alcohol she’d been drinking. Her happiness should have been infectious, but I felt emotionally off balance. So much had happened in only a few hours that my head was spinning. I needed a minute with her, even if we were in a crowd, just a minute before she led me back to reality.
“Bella, wait.” I wanted to pull her into my arms so I could breathe in the scent of her hair and body wash. Something about the way she smelled soothed me.
She put her hand over my heart and gazed up at me. “Are you alright?”
This time when I looked into her eyes I didn’t see uncertainty. I saw concern and hope, and quite possibly love. That was all I needed to know.
I ran a hand through my hair and let out a steadying breath.
“I am now.”
-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-
*sigh* Poor Edward. He’s sure about Bella, but he’s not sure about much else right now. Thanks so much for reading. I’m so glad you’re all enjoying these goofballs and their stumbling through romance. I know you’re looking for a little more discussion between Edward and Bella and that’s coming. Hang in there. 🙂
I’m kind of late in mentioning this, but I am donating an outtake from AiL in the Fandom4TwiFanG compilation. It’s not too late to donate, and thank God it’s not too late for me to finish the outtake cuz it’s only half done. LOL Anyway, if you want to contribute, $5 gets you the compilation – and there are a ton of authors involved.