Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I always knew I would die alone; I just never thought it would be so soon. What else should I expect? I was living on borrowed time, and I knew it. He said he would come back for me. I barely escaped with my life after our first encounter three years ago.

That fateful day in my past altered my life permanently. I no longer trusted people. I didn’t see how I could, considering he was supposed to take care of my family. The only person I allowed into my world was my brother. Of course he endured that horrible day and had his world turned upside down as well. I have even kept my father at arm’s length. It took me three years to attempt to live my life again. I had finally let my guard down and found the best friends I could ever imagine. I also found the love of my life.

I was not surprised he found me. I think he waited until I was finally happy. He knew it would hurt more with so much to lose. This time he left a large body count in the wake of his destruction. Before, it was my mother who sacrificed her life in order to save me. Now, he was making me pay for getting away. Unfortunately, innocent people had to lose their lives.

So much unnecessary death and it was my fault. I survived the first time, and all it did was enrage him. He had three years to plan his next move. I never thought he would involve anyone but me. The first murder was a shock to the entire campus. There had never been such a heinous crime in the history of the college. I knew the minute the details were released that he had come back for me.

He thought this out too perfectly. For me, there was no escape this time. No one would hear my screams or even realize I was missing until it was too late. My friends believed I was going home for the weekend to visit my brother. I would not be missed until I did not show up back at the dorm Sunday evening. That was the way it had to be. I had to be sure he could not harm anyone but me. He had to finish with me this time. It was the only way to stop the senseless deaths that were my fault.

Tears were streaming down my face as I thought of all I was losing this time. Before, I lost my mother. This time I could lose my father, brother, the man I loved or my newly found friends. My life was finally coming together and I had to run away from it to save everyone that I loved. I knew what I was doing when I came here to meet him. I was on a head-on collision with my own death, but my sacrifice would be worth it to save the ones I loved.

Chapter 1

The butterflies in my stomach were in overdrive as I parked my old truck. Today I was moving into my dorm room with a complete stranger. I was starting my freshman year at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

My father was so proud that I was attending an Ivy League college, and it was a dream come true for me. He was even happier that he did not have to trade his soul to pay for it. I was awarded the J. Nicholls scholarship from the Pacific Northwest Trust. My entire college career was paid for, including room and board.

I chose Reed because it was close to Forks, the town I have called home for the last three years. My younger brother Tommy has been my best friend during that time, so I had to be close to him. I did not know how I was going to survive without him. Luckily Forks is only a four-hour drive from Reed, so I could go home often.

I was staying in the Old Dorm Block. They were the oldest dorms on campus and centrally located. I would be within a five-minute walk of the academic buildings and commons dining room. I checked in at the front desk and was informed that my roommate Alice would not make it until Friday. That gave me two days to get settled in the room and explore the campus. My room was located in the Abbington residence hall on the second floor. Unfortunately this dorm only had co-ed bathrooms. It would take some getting used to the idea of showering with guys in the shower next to me.

I was extremely lucky to end up in a double divided room, which was basically two rooms separated by a wall and a door. My room was actually pretty big. There was a twin bed along the left wall and a desk in the right corner. I had a wonderful window seat that would be perfect for curling up with a good book. I made my way back down to my truck to start moving my stuff into my room. I easily got the suitcases and boxes moved. It was going to be tricky getting the furniture and appliances that were left.

On the way back to my truck, I tripped over my own feet and fell into a guy, forcing him to drop the box he was carrying. He was not very tall, probably just less than six feet, very slender with short, blond spiky hair. He had a boy band look to him. Not handsome, but still cute.

“I’m so sorry. I hope there was nothing breakable in there.” I felt the blush rise to my cheeks as I spoke.

“No worries. Everything will survive. I’m Mike Newton.”

As I shook his extended hand I noticed how rough and sweaty his palms were. “Bella Swan,” I said, pulling my hand back as soon as I could. I had to wipe it dry on my pants. I figured I would be avoiding his hands at all costs.

“You need help getting your stuff to your room?” He had a hopeful gleam in his eye.

“Yes, please. I have a few things left I can’t get on my own.”

It took us an hour to get my truck unloaded. Mike took advantage of the time and told me all about himself. He was from California where his parents owned a sporting goods store. All he could talk about was sports, how good he was at everything, and how he was God’s gift to women. I was afraid to find out what delusional girls gave him that last idea. I was so relieved when we were finished with the last trip.

“Thanks for all your help, Mike.” I rolled my eyes behind his back as I said it. I tried to busy myself with unpacking, hoping he would get the hint and leave. I didn’t want to be rude and shove him out the door since he had helped me.

“So, it’s about dinner time, you want to come to the commons with me to grab a bite to eat?” I swear he batted his eyelashes at me.

“I’m really tired and would like to get unpacked and set up before I pass out.” Why did I feel so guilty for not going out to eat with him? Oh yeah, because I’m such a push over.

“No problem. Maybe we can get together another time.” He left me his number, and I locked the door behind him. I didn’t plan on using that number unless I was absolutely desperate.

Two hours later I had my room totally set up. Thanks to my wonderful scholarship, I was able to use my savings to purchase the necessities for college survival, including a laptop, mini-fridge, microwave, a decent CD player, and coffee maker. All of this helped make my dorm room the perfect safe haven. I had a feeling I would be here most of the time I wasn’t in class.

I tossed and turned all night. My usual nightmare had me terrified to close my eyes. Every time I slept I would see her and hear him, my mother’s murderer. I finally lost the battle and drifted into the nightmare.

It always started with my mom tied to a chair in my old ballet studio. She was blind folded with her red silk scarf. She was begging for him not to hurt me, while I was huddled in the corner trembling and crying. Our captor walked from the piano slowly toward my mother. He was winding one of the piano wires around his hands. He stepped behind her and whispered something in her ear. The look of sheer terror on my mother’s face at his words sent me into hysterics. As he lifted the wire to wrap around my mother’s neck, she let out a blood-curdling scream and told me to run. My mother’s scream and command would always pull me out of the nightmare.

It was seven in the morning and I was drenched in sweat and trembling uncontrollably. Thank God for double divided rooms. Maybe I could make it through this year without my roommate knowing about my nightmares and start asking about my past.

I grabbed my phone and dialed the one person who always calmed me after the nightmares. “Hey, B. How was your first night?”

“It was fine.” I tried to control the tears, but my hiccup gave me away.

“Don’t lie to me, sis. Did you have the nightmare again?”

“Yes. I know it’s just being in a new place. It will be fine. I just needed a distraction only you could provide.” My tears had finally subsided.

“Oh, Amy tripped in the cafeteria yesterday and dumped her tray down the front of her shirt. It was classic. She had spaghetti all over the front of her shirt. She even got some down her shirt. Everyone was cracking up.”

Tommy always knew the right way to cheer me up. “Thanks for the distraction. I need to get started with my day. I love you.”

“Okay, B. Have a good day. I love you too.” Then he was gone.

A nice hot shower and steaming cup of coffee later, I was finally recovered from my restless night. I spent the day exploring the campus and acquainting myself with my class schedule. I took my time exploring all of the dorms, academic buildings, library, sports facilities, and performance halls. I was so lost in my exploration that I lost track of time. I couldn’t believe the sun was already starting to set.

I quickly made my way to the commons dining room just before they stopped serving for the day. I took my time eating, hoping to delay the inevitability of the nightmare. It was nine o’clock when I started back to my room. I had this creepy feeling like I was being watched, so I kept looking over my shoulder as I walked. I was ten feet from the entrance to the Old Dorm Block when I heard it. It was barely a whisper, but I clearly heard, “Sugar.” I was frozen with terror and couldn’t breathe. I wanted to run, but my feet refused to move. My shock only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like hours. I gasped and made a mad dash for the doors. I was praying the whole time I would not trip. I did not stop running until I was in my dorm room with the door locked. Of course I knew if he were here, a locked door would not stop him from getting to me.

I grabbed my phone and hit the familiar speed dial number. I hated calling Tommy, but knew it was the only way I would calm down. It took thirty minutes of mindless chatter about nothing at all to settle my fears.

I hung up the phone and changed into my Garfield pajama pants and a tee shirt I had stolen from Tommy. I curled up on my bed with Killer, the stuffed cat he gave me before I left. I laughed when he handed me the cat. He said Killer would help me through the nights he couldn’t be there with me. He was always right. I was so exhausted from my tour and scare that I had no problems falling into a dreamless sleep.

I could see the brightness of the sun behind my closed eyes. I wasn’t ready to end my wonderful sleep. It had been at least a month since I slept a dreamless night. I was ready to turn over and try to sleep longer when I heard the whispers.

“Do you think she is waking up?” The mystery guy said with a deep voice.

“I thought she was. I can’t wait. Should we wake her?” This came from a girl’s voice that chimed like bells.

“Maybe you should let her sleep.” It was the most wonderful, velvet voice I had ever heard. I would lay here feigning sleep for hours if it would keep him talking. “Is she seriously cuddled up with a stuffed animal?” the velvet voice asked incredulously.

My eyes shot open, and I felt the heat of my intense blush rise up my neck into my cheeks. I was facing three pairs of curious eyes. Two of the pairs were blue and the third was the most striking emerald green I have ever seen. I could get lost in those gorgeous eyes. I finally regained my composure and tried to figure out what these people were doing in my room.

“I know I locked the door, so who are you and how did you get in my room?”

“I’m Alice. I’m your roommate this year.” Alice was tiny, almost pixie-like. She was no taller than five foot and her short black hair was spiked in every direction. She had a creamy pale complexion, and she was beautiful. Alice was bouncing up and down as she spoke. How could she have that much energy this early in the morning?

“Oh. Well, I wasn’t expecting to see you so early today. I’m Bella, and this is Killer.” I held up my stuffed cat for the introduction. All three of them giggled and looked at me like I was crazy. Luckily my phone beeped and saved me from their comments on my sanity.

“Excuse me one second.” I opened my phone and my whole face lit up with a huge smile. It was a text message from Tommy.

hope you slept well and killer kept the dreams away.

tackle hugs and luv u. -t

I quickly replied.

yes, killer was a life saver. thank you for him

and last night. tackle hugs and luv u 2. -b

Alice was reading over my shoulder and had a curious look on her face but said nothing.

“Sorry about that. So, who are you two?” I asked pointing at the two guys staring at me.

“These are my brothers, Emmett and Edward.” She playfully punched each of them in the shoulder as she introduced them.

Emmett was huge. He was tall and extremely muscular with curly brown hair. He looked like a body builder, but not intimidating. He reminded me of a big teddy bear. His crystal blue eyes held nothing but kindness.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Bella and Killer.” Emmett pulled me into a big hug. I was shocked, but it was nice. It reminded me how I felt when Tommy hugged me.

“Emmett, let poor Bella go before you smother her.” The wonderful voice belonged to Edward. The way he said my name sent chills down my spine. I definitely needed him to say it more often.

Edward also was tall and very lean. He was muscular, but not to the extreme. I had never seen a guy as beautiful as Edward. He could put a Greek god to shame. The piercing green eyes belonged to him. His hair was an unusual brownish-red shade and was in perfect disarray. I don’t think any stylist would be able to tame or duplicate it. It was perfect. I wanted to run my hands through it.

I looked back at Alice and figured we’d better get this day started. “So, you need help moving and unpacking?”

Alice clapped her hands and started bouncing up and down again. “Thanks, Bella. That would be great. Of course, the boys will move everything if you could just help me unpack and set up.”

“Sure, just let me get dressed and I’ll be happy to help.”

I shoved the three of them out of my room, started a pot of coffee, and dressed in a comfy pair of jean shorts and a blue tank top. After eating a pop tart I walked into Alice’s room sipping my coffee ready to help her unpack.

“Why did you choose the other room?” Alice seemed lost in thought as she asked her question

“I spend a lot of time in my room. I didn’t want you or anyone visiting you to feel bad about disturbing me by coming and going through my room.”

“Well, if I have anything to do with it, you and I will both be out and about a lot together.”

We spent the next hour unpacking while her brothers brought everything in. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Edward anytime he was in the room. I’m sure a guy that gorgeous had a girlfriend, but I would never have the nerve to ask him. Alice caught me staring and cleared her throat to break me out of my daze. My face blushed, and I quickly continued unpacking the box I was working on. Alice just giggled and danced out into the hall.

I stood up and headed to Alice’s bed to start on another box when I pulled a typical Bella and tripped on her throw rug. I braced myself for an impact with the floor that never came. A strong pair of arms caught me, and I felt an electric shock. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling; actually, it felt amazing. I looked up into a pair of gorgeous green eyes.

“You should really be more careful. I might not be there to catch you next time,” Edward said with a breath taking crooked grin. I was speechless. I didn’t want to leave his arms. It felt like I was made to fit there. I felt whole and safe in his arms.

That perfect moment was interrupted by a booming laugh coming from the door. “Do Alice and I need to give you two a few hours alone?” Emmett was wiggling his eyebrows up and down as he asked.

Edward quickly placed me on my feet and shot Emmett a death glare. “Thanks for catching me, Edward. I tend to trip a lot.”

The guys finished with Alice’s stuff and started moving into their dorms. Around five we were all finished and decided to head to the dining hall together. We were all seated with our dinner when I looked at the door and cringed. Mike Newton walked in and looked directly at me. Edward noticed my discomfort and asked, “Bella, what’s wrong?”

“Mike just walked in and saw me,” I said rolling my eyes.

“You know Newton?” I could hear the disgust in his voice when he said his name.

“Yeah, he helped me get my stuff in my room the other day. He asked me out and I turned him down. I’ve been avoiding him.”

Edward seemed pleased that I didn’t care for Mike. He leaned into my ear and asked, “Would you like some help keeping Newton away?” I lost all powers of speech at that moment. All I could do was look at him dumbfounded and nod yes. Edward put his left arm around me and pulled me into his side. I laid my head on his shoulder, and he held my right hand. Mike took one look at us and headed back out the door. I hoped Edward didn’t notice because I wanted to stay in his arms a little longer. He smelled wonderful. It was a heady scent touched with honey and vanilla. I had never smelled cologne like that, so it had to be all Edward. I kept taking deep breaths to inhale more of his intoxicating scent.

Five minutes later Edward leaned into my ear again and whispered, “I think it worked, Bella.” He was chuckling as he removed his arm and hand from me. I hoped my face didn’t show my disappointment when I lost contact with Edward. “Thanks for that. You saved me a lot of grief.”

I spent the rest of our dinner learning all about Alice and her brothers. Dr. Carlisle Cullen and his wife Esme adopted them all. Dr. Cullen was a famous heart surgeon in Portland. Edward and Emmett were both sophomores this year and played on the soccer team. Emmett was dating Rosalie Hale, the twin sister of Edward’s roommate and Alice's boyfriend Jasper. The Hale twins were also sophomores. The Cullens and Hales had been friends for the last six years.

My phone ringing interrupted our conversation.

It’s time for Animaniacs, and we’re zany to the max. So just sit back and

Relax, you’ll laugh till you collapse. We’re Animaniacs.

I couldn’t get my phone out fast enough, so it went through the whole ring tone. I rolled my eyes and got a huge smile when I saw it was Tommy calling.

“When the hell did you change your ring tone?”

“When you were finishing packing. Did it make you smile?” I just knew Tommy had a goofy grin on his face when he asked that.

“Yes, it did, but it is rather embarrassing to have the Animaniacs theme coming from my phone.” I blushed as I said that.

“Good, I live to embarrass you. So, is today better than yesterday? You had me worried last night.”

“Today was great. I met my roommate Alice and her brothers. I spent the day helping her get settled in. We’re actually eating dinner, and then I’m ready to hit the bed.” I yawned at the thought of going to bed.

“Okay, B. I’m glad you had a good day. Keep Killer close tonight and call me if you need to. I love you.” I smiled over Tommy’s concern.

“You know I will. Love you too.”

I closed my phone and was met by curious gazes from everyone. “Sorry about that. Tommy tends to worry about me.”

“No prob, Bella. I think it’s time to head back to the room. It looks like we worked Bella too hard today.” Alice grabbed my arm and led me toward the exit.

“I'm sure Edward had more of a hand in that than we did. He seemed to have his hands pretty busy with Bella earlier in your room.” Emmett slapped Edward on the back with pride.

Edward let out a frustrated sigh. “Bella tripped and I caught her before she hit the floor. Why do you think everything has to be about sex?”

“Eddie, when is anything not about sex? Oh yeah, when you're involved. You are such a prude. I swear you are going to end up a 100 year-old virgin.” Emmett gave Edward a triumphant grin.

Edward's eyes narrowed, and he looked at Emmett like he wanted to rip his throat out. “Don't call me Eddie.”

“Are they always like this?” I couldn't stop laughing at the guys.

“This is actually tame. Never a dull moment with these two around.”

“Ali is just jealous because she can't be as awesome as me.” Emmett grabbed Alice in a bone-crushing bear hug as he taunted her.

The teasing continued all the way back to the dorm. Edward and Emmett’s rooms were located in the Abbington residence hall too. It was nice to know they were close by. They made sure we were safely in our room before heading to theirs. I put on my pajamas and sunk into my bed cuddling with Killer and reflecting on my long day. I really liked Alice and her brothers. They were very nice and seemed to take care of each other and their friends. Hopefully they’d feel that way about me.

Before I finally drifted off to sleep I couldn’t help but think about Edward. The two times I was wrapped in his arms felt so right. I felt whole and completely protected. How could a guy like that ever think of a plain, ordinary Bella as anything other than his sister’s roommate? At least his scent was still lingering on my hair. I pulled a few strands to my nose and inhaled deeply before drifting into wonderful dreams of Edward.

Chapter 2

I woke up the next morning to find Alice staring at me. It would have scared me if I weren’t used to waking up to Tommy doing the exact same thing.

“Did you know you talk in your sleep?” Alice had a fascinated look on her face.

“Yes. I’m afraid to ask what you heard.”

“Not much. You said ‘Don’t let me go,’ and ‘God you smell wonderful.’ What were you dreaming about?” I know Alice saw the panic in my eyes. How could I tell her I had been dreaming about her brother? Luckily, the phone saved me. It was time for my wake up text from Tommy.

no calls last night. only good dreams? tackle hugs. love ya. –t

I know Alice was reading over my shoulder, so I had to be careful what I told Tommy.

excellent dreams :) will call later. tackle hugs. love ya. –b

I closed the phone and decided to stop Alice from attacking the topic of my dreams. “I heard there is a welcome back party at the Substance Free Dorm tonight. You wanna go?”

Alice started bouncing. I think she needed to lay off the caffeine. “A party would be great. We need to find something to wear and get Rose to help us with hair and makeup. She and Jasper got in late last night. You will love her.” Alice skipped out of my room to call Rose.

I lay back on my bed and took a deep breath. I was very tense. Meeting Alice and her brothers yesterday was extremely stressful for me. My brother had been my only friend for the past three years. Every time I would try to let a new person into my life, I would have a panic attack. After witnessing one of my episodes, which is what Tommy would call it, most people would avoid me at all costs. It only took one week after we moved to Forks to be labeled the freak of the school. By the beginning of my senior year, my panic attacks had almost stopped. I spent the last year of school trying to be more social by hanging out with Tommy and his friends. I was determined to go away to college and function like a normal person.

I decided the best way to relieve some of the tension would be a nice hot shower. I took my time in the shower and let the hot water relax my muscles. After my shower, I was shocked to see Edward standing at the sink with only a towel around his waist shaving. My jaw dropped as I looked at his bare chest. The boy was built. His chest was defined, and he had six pack abs. I blushed when I realized I was standing behind this Greek god wearing only a robe. I had to force myself to look at the floor before I cleared my throat to make my presence known. Edward looked at me with that sexy crooked grin. I slowly made my way to the sink next to him to brush my teeth and wash my face.

“So, what’s the plan for today, Bella?” I’m glad I was already leaning on the sink because my knees gave out when he said my name. Would I ever get used to that?

“Alice is planning a full day to get ready for the welcome back party at the Sub Free dorm tonight.”

“I heard about that. I think Emmett, Jasper, and I are going to be there too. I hope you’re ready for a day of Alice party prep.” He laughed as he was saying it.

Dear God, what was I getting myself into? “Should I worry?”

“Well, if she skips shopping for an outfit, you should survive just fine.”

“Ugh. I hate shopping. We unpacked a ton of clothes yesterday. There is no way she will need to buy a new outfit.”

Edward noticed the dread in my eyes. He walked over to me and placed his hands on my shoulders and started to massage them. I instantly relaxed and my bones turned spongy. The man had magic hands.

“Alice loves to shop. She looks for any excuse to abuse her credit card. You’ll get used to it. If it gets too horrible, call me and I’ll come rescue you.” My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest.

“Sounds great, but I don’t have your number.”

“Get it from Alice. I promise to be there anytime you call.”

Edward gathered his things and left the bathroom. It took me a few minutes to regain use of my legs. How would I survive a year around him?

Seeing Edward in his after-shower glory made me take a critical look at myself. I wasn’t ugly, but of course I wasn’t pretty either. I was just your typical brown-haired, brown-eyed girl. I was so horribly plain that I couldn’t understand how Edward could ever be attracted to me.

Alice was immersed in her closet when I got back to our room. I snuck past her and into my room. I put on my most comfortable pair of baggy cargo jeans and red fitted tee. I grabbed my phone and wallet and went back to Alice’s room.

“We’re going shopping for outfits for tonight. Rose is meeting us downstairs. We’ll take her car.”

“Hey, Alice. Edward told me to get his number from you.”

“Oh really?” Alice had a curious look on her face as she programmed his number in my phone.

“Yeah. I saw him in the bathroom and told him what we were doing today. He said I should call him if I needed a rescue. Is there something you need to tell me, Alice?” Alice linked her arm through mine, and we headed out of the dorms to find Rose.

“I can get a little obsessive while shopping. You have nothing to worry about. I promise to go easy on you your first time.”

“Just what every girl wants to hear her first time,” I answered sarcastically as we approached a gorgeous blond waiting in a red convertible BMW. Her wavy blond hair came to her waist, and she had violet eyes that sparkled.

“Alice, you aren’t supposed to start the guy talk until I can hear the whole conversation.”

“Rose, Bella and I were talking about her first shopping trip, not guys. Trust me; there will be plenty of guy talk today. Bella needs to fill me in on her bathroom visit with Edward.” Alice just batted her eyelashes at me and sat in the car.

“Oh really. That should be quite an interesting story. It’s nice to meet you, Bella.”

“Nice to meet you too. Alice and Emmett told me all about you last night.”

Rose took us to Pioneer Place Mall in Portland. Alice walked in like a woman on a mission. I reluctantly followed her into the first store. She quickly shoved me into a dressing room and started throwing clothes over the door at me. I might be calling Edward sooner than I thought.

That same pattern was repeated at every store we went to. I walked away with at least two bags from each of the five stores we visited including Victoria’s Secret. Alice would not let me pay for anything. She would sneak up to the register with the clothes she liked and paid for them while I dressed.

“Alice, I don’t need all of this, and I can’t let you pay for them.”

“Bella, you do need all of this. There is more to life than baggy jeans. You have a killer body and don’t need to hide it under all those clothes. I insist on paying for everything because you would never buy them for yourself.” Alice then stuck her tongue out like a five-year-old.

It was one o’clock and I insisted on a lunch break. Rose and Alice went to Subway to grab food while I found us a table. I decided to call Tommy while I had a free moment.

“Hey, B. What’s up today?”

“Torture is the main event. Alice and her friend Rose dragged me shopping and then we have a party to go to tonight. Oh yeah, and they are going to spend the rest of the afternoon doing my hair and make up for tonight.”

“Wait, my sister is shopping! How did Alice pull that one off?”

“I was completely resistant until I received an irresistible compromise. Her brother, Edward, offered to rescue me if Alice’s shopping became too much.” I had a goofy grin on my face as I spoke about Edward. Of course Alice and Rose made it to the table in time to see my grin. They raised their eyebrows at each other and listened carefully to the rest of my conversation.

“Edward must have made quite an impression on you to talk you into shopping. Would he happen to have starred in those excellent dreams you had last night?”

“Yes, and that is all the information you will get on those dreams.” My face flushed red, and I know the girls did not miss it.

“Hey, T, the girls are here with lunch, so I need to get going.”

“No prob. Have fun at the party tonight. Call me when you get back to your room with all the details. Love ya, B.”

“I promise. Love ya too.”

Alice and Rose looked like they were going to burst when I closed my phone.

“Bella, it is time for you to do some talking. I want to know all about the phone calls and text messages to T, the dreams you mentioned, and your bathroom rendezvous with Edward.”

Wow. Alice didn’t miss a beat. Maybe I could dance around the dream. Everything else she asked about was easy to explain.

“T is my younger brother, Tommy. We haven’t been apart for the last three years, so he worries about me. He gave me Killer before I left to remind me of him.”

Rose had a lost look on her face. “Who is Killer?”

“The cat stuffed animal I sleep with. I ran into Edward in the bathroom this morning and told him about our plans today, and he offered a rescue if shopping got to be too much.” I prayed they would realize I didn’t want to elaborate on Edward and hopefully move on to another topic. I would never be so lucky.

“There has to be more. Was Edward fully dressed in the bathroom?” Alice asked with a knowing look.

“He had a towel on.” My traitorous blush rushed to my cheeks. Then it was Rose’s turn to start asking questions.

“Oh. My. God. Most girls can’t resist a fully-clothed Edward, but him in only a towel? I’m surprised you were able to walk back to your room. Do you like him?”

“It doesn’t matter. I’m so plain and ordinary, and a guy like Edward probably has girls like Rose lined up around the block just itching to go out with him.”

“Bella, you don’t see yourself clearly. You are far from plain. Edward does not have a girlfriend. Lots of girls throw themselves at him, and he just ignores them. Rose’s roommate, Tanya, is the worst of them. She does not understand how he can resist her. Edward looks beyond the face. He wants someone who is fun and can have an intellectual conversation. You’ve already shown him that you are fun and smart. You’ve got a major advantage over most girls.”

“Okay, Alice. I am going to take it slow and get to know Edward better. We’ll see where it goes from there. Are we done shopping? My feet are killing me.”

“Nope. I still need shoes for tonight. Let’s hit Saks next and see if we can find some cute Jimmy Choos.” I could see Alice’s eyes light up when she said Jimmy Choos.

I had successfully avoided the topic of my dreams last night. It was bad enough my brother knew I was dreaming about Edward. I didn’t need Alice and Rose knowing it too. They would never ease up on me with that information.

As we walked to Saks, I decided to send out a text SOS to Edward

in desperate need of rescue. saks. shoes. PLEASE HELP! –b

I received a reply a minute later.

on my way. –e

Alice was in her element in the shoe department of Saks Fifth Avenue. All of the sales people knew her like she was an old friend. I’m sure she spent enough money here that they all clamored to help her when she walked in the door. She had a team of three sales people running back and forth for shoes to try. I cringed when I noticed she had a pile of high heel death traps for me. After trying on five pairs, I had enough.

“Alice, I trip over air and you want me to walk around in these? Have you gone totally insane?”

“Fine, we can work up to the heels. Here, these would look killer on you.”

Alice handed me the holy grail of boots, Jimmy Choo Yale Crosta Flats. They were brown suede, knee-high boots with a curvy side zipper and fur lining. They molded perfectly to my foot and leg and felt heavenly. I was admiring the boots in the mirror when my rescue finally arrived. Alice glared at me when she saw Edward walking toward us. He sat in the chair next to me.

“Bella, those are perfect for you,” Alice said with the biggest grin I have ever seen on her face.

“They are nice, but I really don’t need them.” My heart slowly broke as I took off the boots. I knew there was no way I could afford them or ask Alice to buy them.

“You need these, Bella. Edward, doesn’t Bella look great in them?”

“Bella, they look amazing on you, but don’t let Alice force you to get them.” I was so glad he was here now. Finally, someone to help me rein Alice in.

Once I had my shoes back on, Edward stood up and offered me his hand so we could leave. “Are you ready to go back to the dorm?”

“I was ready two hours ago. Please deliver me from this shopping hell.” Edward still had my hand in his and started to pull me toward the exit.

“Freeze. You can take her back to the dorm, but I expect you to start getting ready for the party. Rose and I will be right behind you.”


Once Alice and Rose returned from shopping, the Bella make-over torture started. It took them two hours to fix my hair and make-up. My hair flowed down my back with large loose curls. Surprisingly, Alice decided that less was more with my make-up. She only applied mascara and eyeliner and a light pink lip gloss. It was subtle but made a huge difference. I could not believe it.

Alice sent me to my room to change into the outfit she left on my bed. I found a bag from the Guess store and Saks Fifth Avenue. Inside the Guess bag, I found a pair of light colored skinny jeans and an animal print tank top. The top had an empire waist with a black ribbon tie. The adjustable spaghetti straps had tiny black bows where the strap met the top. It was a little more form fitting than the tank tops I was used to wearing, but it wasn’t obscene. In the Saks bag, I found the boots I had tried on earlier. I quickly got dressed, and we made our way to the party.

The Sub-Free Dorm was located on the north end of campus in the Sullivan Residence Hall. I would normally walk to the dorm, but Alice and Rose insisted on driving. They would never survive the fifteen-minute walk in the ridiculous heels they wore. We took Rose’s car again and I was surprised there was already limited parking.

The guys said they would meet us near the bar, so that was the first place we went. We weren’t surprised to find the guys already there with about ten girls surrounding them. I had to laugh at the sight. The girls were practically drooling. Rose and Alice pranced right up to Emmett and Jasper and wrapped their arms around them. There was a collective “humph” from the guys’ fan club as the majority of them turned to look for their next target.

Two girls remained next to Edward. One girl was taller than me with blond hair, and the other was slightly shorter than me with frizzy brown hair. They would both giggle and flip their hair every time Edward said anything. It was truly nauseating.

“Edward, do you like my skirt? Jessica said it makes my ass look huge. What do you think?” Lauren, the blond, had asked as she rubbed her breasts against Edward’s arm. He looked truly disgusted and frantically looked around the room. I saw the relief on his face when he made eye contact with me.

“Bella, I’ve been looking for you.” He brushed Lauren off as he walked up to me and put his arms around my waist. He leaned in to hug me and whispered in my ear, “Please just go with it. I need a rescue from them and you owe me.”

I gladly wrapped my arms tightly around Edward. “Sorry, Rose and Alice take forever to get ready.”

Lauren and Jessica both cleared their throats and gave me the dirtiest “go to hell” look I’ve ever received.

“Forgive my rudeness. Lauren, Jessica, this is my Bella.” He placed a chaste kiss on my cheek and held me a little tighter. Both girls looked at me in total disbelief. I didn’t blame them. They knew as well as I did that Edward was totally out of my league.

“Oh. Hi, Bella. Lauren, we need to go. Mike and Tyler will be looking for us.”

“Yeah, whatever. Eddie, you have my number. Please call me if I can ever help you with anything.” Lauren ran her finger down Edward’s arm then sauntered away. I could not believe the nerve of her hitting on him in front of me when he had implied I was his girlfriend.

“Thank you so much for that, Bella. I didn’t know how I was going to get rid of them.” Edward gave me a quick hug and let me go.

“No problem. You’ve already helped me several times. I don’t mind helping you too.”

Edward and I spent the next hour getting to know each other better. We talked about our favorite music, movies, and books. We had a lot of the same interests. I carefully avoided the topic of my family and my past. I didn’t want to scare him away yet.

Edward left to grab us some drinks when someone came up behind me and wrapped their arms around my waist. I jumped, and the person leaned into my ear and whispered, “I didn’t mean to scare you, Sugar.” My whole body tensed, I quit breathing, and then everything went black.

Chapter 3

My head was pounding, but I wasn't ready to open my eyes. I could hear everyone trying to figure out what had happened to me. Edward sounded absolutely frantic. I didn't want to upset him, but I had to know exactly what everyone had seen.

"Newton, I swear if you hurt her, I will rip you apart."

"Back off, Cullen. I just came up behind her and she jumped, so I apologized for scaring her. Then she collapsed."

I felt relieved that Mike was the person who whispered in my ear. I was so afraid that he was here. Now, I just needed to find an excuse for fainting. After a few more minutes I had an idea. I slowly opened my eyes and found myself still at the Sub-Free Dorm. I was on a couch and Edward was crouched on the floor next to me.

“Welcome back, Bella. How are you feeling?”

“I have a headache.”

“You scared me to death. What happened?”

It was hard to concentrate with Edward staring deeply into my eyes and rubbing soothing circles on the back of my hand with his thumb. I needed to pull myself together to pull off a lie to avoid the truth of my panic attacks being revealed.

“Alice and Rose were so busy playing dress-up Bella that I didn’t get time to eat. I tend to pass out when my blood sugar gets too low.” Luckily it was the truth. I was only telling a lie of omission so my voice did not waiver. Edward believed me.

“Sorry about that. I will make sure that you’re properly fed from now on. I think it’s time to get you home.”

Alice, Rose, Jasper and Emmett stayed at the party. Edward took me back to my dorm, and we ordered a pizza. He set up Alice’s TV/DVD comb in my room so we could watch movies while we ate. All of the day’s events had completely wiped me out. The last think I remembered was laying my head on Edward’s shoulder before my eyes closed and I was lost to my dream world.


That first week of school seemed to pass by in a blur. Edward met me at my room every morning to walk me to my first class. He was in our room when he wasn't in class or at soccer practice. My week fell into the comfortable pattern of classes, sleep, and Edward. By the end of the week I knew everything about him, but I was still reluctant to tell him too much about my past. I knew I would have to open up to him if I wanted our friendship to grow.

I woke up Saturday morning to the smell of coffee brewing. Edward was sitting on my window seat reading my copy of Dark Lover. He had a rather shocked look on his face.

"Morning, Edward. Are you OK?"

Edward shook his head like he was clearing his mind. "Hey, Bella. I'm fine, just a little shocked at some of your book choices. I never expected to find something like this."

"Edward, haven't you learned by now that I tend to not be what people expect. Just because I’m an English major doesn’t mean that I only read classical literature. I do enjoy my fair share of romance novels. I can't resist the Brotherhood. There is something to be said about sexy vampires in leather pants."

He looked at me like I told him I wanted him naked in my bed. I was always shy and reserved, so I guess my comments about sexy vamps caught him off guard.

"Wow. I will definitely have to remember that. Anyway, today is our first soccer game. I would love for you to come."

"Of course I’ll come. I don't know a single thing about soccer, but I think I should be able to keep up."

"Great. Game starts at two. Alice and Rose will be there so they can fill you in if you get too lost."

Edward returned my book to its place on the shelf, gave me a quick hug and left for his room. I decided it was time to do a little research on soccer so I wouldn't be completely lost at the game. Tommy was online, so I decided to fill him in on my latest episode.

book_worm913: hey t

how was party

good and bad. edward was great. i helped him fight off a skank. then we talked most of the night. i had an episode

what happened

creepy guy mike came up behind me, wrapped his arms around me and called me sugar. i passed out. edward was there when i woke up and took me home and i fell asleep watching movies with him

does creep not know the meaning of personal space? maybe him and skank should hook up.

i think they did. she wasn't happy that edward brushed her off for me. she kept giving me nasty looks all night

maybe mike can belt that girl, or tie her up... or feel her marshmallows...SOMETHING



feel her marshmallows...

let's not go into how wrong that sounded

didn't mean it that way!


have you had your marshmallows felt lately?

lol, no comment. thanks for making me feel better. i've got some research to do. i'll talk with ya later. love ya!

relax and i think you will start to have fewer episodes. i'm here if you need anything. love ya too.

I felt much better after my chat with Tommy. I love how his typos always give us such interesting conversations. I spent the next two hours learning all I could about soccer. Now I could at least keep up with the game a little.

I met Alice and Rose at the game. They were sitting front and center behind our team's bench. Edward gave me his crooked grin and a wink when he saw me sit down. My heart skipped at beat when I saw him. He looked beyond amazing in his red and white jersey and black shorts. Edward had told me that his position was striker, Jasper was a center forward, and Emmett was the goalie. The only one I knew anything about was the goalie. Edward told me that he and Jasper worked together to score the goals. I couldn't wait to see him in action.

Edward and Jasper were all over the field. They seemed to communicate without words. All they needed was a simple look to convey what their intentions were. The other team had a hard time keeping up with Edward. He was the fastest on either team. Edward scored two goals and Jasper scored one by half time. Emmett had kept the other team from scoring. Edward walked up to the fence separating the spectators from the field.

"Hey, Bella. Enjoying the game?"

"Yeah. I don't fully understand the rules, but I definitely enjoy watching hot guys run up and down the field chasing a ball."

"Hot guys, huh. I'll make sure Jasper and Emmett know you think they are hot."

He walked away smirking before I could try to save face. I couldn't help but ogle Edward as he walked back to his team. He was perfection. Seeing him sweaty and panting was almost too much to bear. I almost passed out when he lifted his jersey and wiped the sweat from his face with the bottom hem. I got a delicious view of his sweaty abs and chest. Perfection.

Neither team scored again the rest of the game. We ended up winning three to nothing. I enjoyed watching the game and looked forward to the rest of the season. Alice, Rose, and I waited for the guys to shower before we headed out for the evening. We decided to head into Portland for dinner and a movie.

We ended up at Chili’s for dinner. I was terrified they were going to choose some fancy restaurant that would make me feel out of place. It turned out the guys aren’t big on the fancy restaurants. Alice and Rose pouted. They were upset because they never got to any place nice. We had just ordered when Emmett decided it was time to embarrass Bella.

“So, Bella, you think I’m hot?” Emmett waggled his eyebrows as he asked.

Alice and Rose shot me a confused look. I gave them a mischievous grin and a wink before I turned back to Emmett to answer.

“Em, I’m an eighteen year-old girl with hormones coursing through her blood. Of course I think your’e hot. What girl in her right mind wouldn‘t?” I slowly got out of my chair and walked over to Emmett. I sat in his lap and leaned in to his ear.

“Want to have a little fun and tease your brother? He took it upon himself to take a general statement and focus it on you, so I think it is time for a little payback.” I leaned back to see his reaction. Emmett leaned into my ear and began to whisper. ” Hell yeah! I always love payback, especially when it’s aimed at Eddie.”

I glanced at Edward and noticed how tense he was. He obviously did not like me sitting in his brother’s lap and whispering in his ear. This was going to be so much fun. I just hoped that Rose would understand this was all a show.

“You know, Emmett, I don’t know how much longer I can control myself around you. You drive me crazy. I can’t stand to be in the same room as you and not be able to touch you.”

Emmett shot a glance to Rose, asking permission to go along with me. I noticed her give him a slight nod. With Rose’s permission, we continued the charade.

“Bella, I know I’ve got Rose, but I can’t fight the feelings I have for you. I can’t stop thinking about you. I’m a selfish bastard, and I’ve decided I want to have two girlfriends. Do you think you could share me with Rose?”

I looked at Edward. His jaw had dropped, and he was looking at Emmett like he was insane. I held in my giggle and looked at Rose. She looked like she was ready to die laughing.

“Rose, do you think there is enough of him to share?”

“I think we could work something out. Aren’t friends supposed to share everything anyway?” She got up and walked over to Emmett and me. She hugged both of us at the same time. “I’m so happy. We can be one big happy three-some.”

Edward had finally reached his limit. “What the hell is wrong with you three? That is wrong in so many ways. There is no way Emmett can have both of you.”

“You’re just jealous, Eddie. I am definitely the man and you aren’t,” Emmett was looking at Edward with a smug smile.

Edward’s face was bright red, and he looked like he was ready to pummel Emmett. “Bella, be reasonable.”

I got off of Emmett’s lap and walked over to Edward and leaned into his ear, “Payback’s a bitch, Edward.” I gave him a kiss on the cheek and sat back in my chair.

“You two are evil. I didn’t know you had it in you, Bella.”

“There is a lot you don’t know about me, Edward. Stick around, I might surprise you even more.”

The rest of dinner was nice. We talked about the game, our classes, and the gang told me some more fun stories about each other. The theater wasn’t showing anything good, so we decided to head back to the dorm and watch a movie in our room. We headed off to our own rooms to get changed into our pajamas and agreed to meet back in Alice’s room in 15 minutes.

Alice was busy getting the TV set up while I went to my room to change. I closed my door and froze. Sitting on my desk was a bouquet of blush roses. I slowly walked to my desk to read the card that was attached.

I've missed you, Sugar.

The tears started flowing, and my breathing became erratic. He had found me and had been in my room. I didn't know what to do. I picked up the flowers and threw them across the room. They hit the wall and the vase shattered and I dropped to the floor and pulled my knees up to my chest. I don‘t know how long I laid there curled in a ball crying before I felt strong arms pull me off the floor. Edward sat on my bed and pulled me into his lap. He was rubbing my back and rocked me like a child. I slowly relaxed into his embrace.

"Bella, what happened?" Edward barely spoke above a whisper.

I was terrified. I didn’t think I could put off telling Edward about my mother any longer. I didn’t know how I was going to tell him. I kept my head tucked under his chin and continued to cry.

Edward grabbed my chin and lifted my face until our eyes met. “Please don’t hide from me, Bella. Why are there flowers and glass all over your floor?”

I took a deep breath and tried to put on a brave face. “Edward, I know we have talked a lot this week and have become good friends. I haven’t told you a lot about my life. I think it is time I tell you a little about me. I don’t know how much I can get out now, so please be patient with me.”

“Bella, I don’t want you to think you have to tell me anything. I’m happy to learn what I can at a pace that is comfortable for you.”

Where did this guy come from? No one from school back home was ever this caring. They always demanded answers from me. Edward was truly a gift from the gods.

“Something terrible happened to me when I was fifteen. A guy basically stalked me and made my life a living hell. My life was irrevocably changed because of him. One of the things he did was send me blush roses. Those are the flowers you see on the floor. I panicked when I saw them on my desk. I don’t know how they got in my room or who sent them.” Edward continued to rock me and rub my back while we were talking.

“Bella, I’m so sorry you had to go through something like that. I promise I will keep you safe while you are here. Anyone that wants to get to you will have to go through me first. I think the first thing we need to do is get some new locks on yours and Alice’s doors.”

“Thanks, Edward. It is nice to know I have such good friends. I think I’m ready to watch a movie now. I’ll just clean up my mess and finish changing.”

“You get changed, and I’ll clean up the mess. Knowing you, we would probably end up at the ER with you needing stitches if I let you attempt to clean up this glass.”

Edward gave me hug and reassured me that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. I quickly ran to the bathroom to change. When I got back, the mess was clean and Alice was ready to start the movie. Edward had a place saved for me next to him. I sat down, and he wrapped his arms around me. I felt so safe in his arms. I wish we could be more than friends.

Chapter 4

I was totally freaked after finding the flowers in my room. My nightmares had returned with a vengeance. Alice heard me screaming in my sleep Sunday night. She ran into my room panicked.

“Bella, what happened?”

It took me a few seconds to realize I was safe in my dorm room. “I’m sorry I woke you, Alice. I’m fine, it was just a nightmare.”

“That sounded like more than a nightmare. Please don’t shut me out. I want to be here for you.”

“Honestly, Alice, it was nothing. I promise I will be fine. Go back to sleep.”

Alice reluctantly gave in and went back to her room. I glanced at my clock and saw it was three in the morning. I did not go back to sleep. I lay on my bed curled in a ball and cried. The nightmare was so vivid I could smell my mom’s perfume. It brought back all of the pain and grief over her death.

I finally decided at six to head to the bathroom to get a shower and start my day. Thankfully, it was empty. I needed some time to relax and think. Why was he coming after me now? It took me three years to get my life under control. I had finally made friends again, and I was starting to feel like the girl I was before he came into my life. Tommy would be so proud if he could see me with my new friends. I saw the sadness in his eyes when he would look at me. I knew he was tired of being my protector and caretaker. That was one of the main reasons I had to get away for college. He deserved to have a normal life.

The hot water calmed me and helped clear my mind. I stepped into the hall to find Edward waiting for me.

"Alice called me. She said you had a pretty nasty nightmare. Want to tell me about it?" I glared at Alice as Edward followed me into my room.

"It was nothing. The flowers really messed with my head. I'm fine. No need to worry."

Edward grabbed my hands and looked at me like his heart was breaking. "Bella, I’m worried about you. Those flowers really scared you. A stalker is a serious problem, and I don't think I could handle it if anything happened to you."

"Edward, I will be fine. It just spooked me a little. I promise to be very careful, and I will let you know if I get anything else, or if something scares me, ok?"

"Fine. Bella, I promise that I will not let anything happen to you." Edward gave me a quick hug and headed back to his room.

After our little talk, Edward refused to let me be alone. If he couldn’t be with me, he arranged for Emmett or Jasper to be there. The next week, one of the guys was always there to walk me to and from classes. They even sat with me in the library while I did research for a paper. No one had ever cared this much for me other than Tommy and Charlie. I just didn't understand why Edward was so interested in my safety.

Thursday night I had a rather nasty dream, and Alice had to call Edward to calm me down. I felt like he was in my room watching me. Edward checked every possible hiding place in my room to set my mind at ease. He refused to go back to his room that night. He sat on the floor next to my bed and rubbed circles on my back and hummed a beautiful tune to settle my nerves. I drifted off into a dreamless sleep. I woke up the next morning to find Edward still on the floor. His arms were folded on my bed. He was asleep with his head on his arms. I ran my fingers through his hair trying to gently wake him up. His hair was so silky. I never wanted to let it go.

"Edward, wake up."


"Wake up, we need to get ready for class."

"Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, thank you for staying with me."

"Anytime, Bella. You have anything planned after your last class today?"

"No. I was just going to come back to my room. Why?"

"We have soccer practice today. I would feel a lot better if you were at our practice so we could keep an eye on you."

"Hmm, sit in my room and do homework or watch a group of sweaty, possibly shirtless guys practice soccer. That is such a hard choice to make." I rolled my eyes at Edward.

"If the thought of watching us is that repulsive, I guess I could always send you shopping with Alice and Rose."

I playfully smacked Edward on his arm. "There is no way in hell I'm going shopping with them anytime soon, so I guess soccer it is."

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the guys during practice. I was graced with the glory of Edward shirtless and sweaty. I wondered if Edward took his shirt off just because of my shirtless comment. I didn't care. I desperately wanted to dream of shirtless, sweaty Edward tonight instead of my usual nightmare.

We headed back to the dorm once practice was over. I tried to tell the guys I didn't need them to worry about me so much. I didn't like them changing their lives to take care of me all day. They refused to change anything. I felt guilty and relieved at the same time.

We were about twenty feet from the dorm when I looked across the courtyard and dropped my bag and squealed. I ran as fast as I could and jumped into the arms of Tommy. He held me tight and twirled me around. I was still squealing when the guys caught up to me with panicked looks on their faces.

"Oh my God, what are you doing here?" Edward looked at me like I had just run over his puppy. I didn't quite understand why he looked so destroyed.

"Do you honestly think I would let this weekend go by without seeing you?"

"Umm, I was kinda hoping you would."

Edward cleared his throat to get my attention. "Oh, I'm sorry. Tommy, this is Edward, Emmett, and Jasper. Guys, this is my little brother Tommy." Edward's face lit up with his glorious crooked grin.

"Nice to meet you guys. I've heard so much about all of you. I'm glad you are taking good care of my big sister." Tommy leaned in to me and unsuccessfully tried to whisper, "So, that is Edward."

Edward's face lit up even more when he heard Tommy. I smacked Tommy on his arm and told him yes through clenched teeth.

"Tommy, what’s so special about this weekend?" I glared at Edward when he asked that question.

"Bella's birthday is tomorrow. I couldn't let that go with just a phone call."

"Why didn't you tell us it was your birthday? You know Alice is going to be upset you didn't say something." Edward looked hurt.

"Alice is the exact reason I didn't want you guys to know. She will go overboard with a party and presents I don't need."

"Well, that’s inevitable now. You’ll have it even worse because you didn't tell her."

"Great." I rolled my eyes thinking of Alice going overboard.

We made our way up to my room. Tommy brought his sleeping bag and was going to camp out on my floor tonight and tomorrow. Tommy was having a great time telling the guys some embarrassing stories from when we were kids. My face was bright red by the time we made it to my room.

"Bella, you haven't called me or talked to me in the last week. Does this mean that nothing else has happened since your second night here?"

"What happened your second night, Bella?" Edward asked, concerned.

"Edward, it was nothing. I just got spooked going back to the dorm from the dining hall. I thought I heard someone whisper ’Sugar,’ and it scared me. No big deal." I shrugged my shoulders.

"Last weekend Bella came home to a dozen blush roses and this note in her room. She has had nightmares every night starting Sunday. She told me about her stalker, and I refused to let her be alone this past week. We have made sure one of us guys was always with her roaming around campus." Edward was rubbing circles on my back as usual. Tommy crouched on the floor in front of me.

"Bella, why didn't you tell me? This isn’t like hearing something. This is physical evidence that he is here. We have to tell Charlie."

"NO! Charlie will make me come home. I don't want to leave. I like it here." I was in tears again.

"Fine, I won't tell Charlie, but you better not be alone at any time, and the next time something else happens or shows up in your room you better tell me."

“I promise.”

We spent the rest of the evening hanging out in my dorm room. We watched a few movies, and Tommy continued to tell the gang more embarrassing stories about me. Alice, of course, was upset and hurt that I didn’t tell her about my birthday. I talked her into not throwing me a huge party and not taking me to a ridiculously expensive restaurant. I finally agreed to a simple dinner at her house.

It felt like being at home with Tommy camped out on my floor. He always helped keep the nightmares away. I hadn’t slept that well since I arrived at school except when Edward stayed with me after my nightmare. I was so confused by Edward. Why did I feel so safe around him and why did the nightmares stay away when he was with me? I decided I didn't care why. The only thing that mattered was that Edward was my friend and I would do my best to keep his friendship and relish the little bit of comfort he provided.


I woke up the next morning to find Alice and Tommy huddled over my computer. They were talking in whispers and quickly shut down the Internet before I could see what they were up to. Alice had my entire day planned for me. We were going to have a girls day of pampering with massages, pedicures, and manicures before we headed to her house for my birthday dinner. Tommy would be spending the day with the guys and go with them to the Cullens’ house.

The massage was heavenly. No amount of time spent in a steaming hot shower could compare to the relaxation I felt after my massage. I wondered if my measly budget could stretch to accommodate this luxury every now and then. The manicure was relaxing too. Definitely not the torture I expected it to be. The pedicure was not my favorite part of the day. I had always had problems with people touching my feet. I don't know why, but I would always freak out if anyone even pretended to reach for them. I gritted my teeth and suffered through the torture. I refused to hurt Alice by letting her know I was not enjoying any part of the pampering.

Alice insisted on going to the mall to buy me a new outfit for my birthday. I tried my hardest to fight her on it, but she won out in the end. She used her secret weapon on me, the Cullen pout. She had perfected it and could get anything she wanted with it. Edward and Emmett weren't as good as Alice, but they still had used it successfully on me a few times.

Alice's idea of a new outfit did not consist of a simple pair of jeans and a top. No. Her first stop was Victoria's Secret for a new set of lingerie. Our next stop was the food court. I had a feeling Alice was letting me refuel because this was only the beginning of shopping hell.

"Bella, I can't believe you weren't going to tell me it was your birthday."

"Everything you have done and have planned today is the exact reason why I did not want to tell you. There is no reason to buy me all of this stuff and make a big deal about today."

"Everyone deserves to be pampered and showered with gifts on their birthday. Get used to it. So, you and Edward seem to be getting pretty cozy together."

Girl talk. The one thing I have been avoiding since our last trip to the mall. I had been doing a pretty good job of always having one of the guys with me and successfully dodging the whole girl talk thing.

"I guess so." I shrugged my shoulders and focused on my pizza.

Rose rolled her eyes at me. "Come on, Bella. Tanya has been driving me crazy all week asking me about you and Edward. It is killing her to see the two of you together. She is dying to get her claws into him. I need some details if I'm going to be able to hold her off."

"I honestly don't know what to tell you guys. We have become really good friends since the party. We have talked a lot. He knows almost my entire life story now. I don't know what he thinks or feels. All I know is I feel safe and protected around him. Emmett and Jasper make me feel that way too, but it’s different with Edward. It’s more intense. Everything with him seems to be that way. When we touch, I feel an electrical spark that runs through my body. I’ve never had that happen before."

I looked up from my pizza to see Alice and Rose staring at me with their mouths hanging open in shock. "Bella, you really need to talk to Edward. I think his feelings for you run deeper than friendship. Trust me. I have never seen him act this way over a girl. Not even ones he dated."

"Alice, I don't want things to get weird between us if what he’s feeling is only friendship. I rely on him too much to lose what we have over a misunderstanding." I was doing my best to fight off the tears that wanted to come.

"Bella, you won't mess anything up," Rose insisted. "I’ve seen what Alice is talking about. Promise us that before we go back to the dorm tonight you will talk to Edward."

"Fine. I'll try to talk to Edward. If you guys are wrong and this messes things up, I will make your lives a living hell the rest of the year."

We finished our lunch and headed to Saks. Thankfully, Alice already had an idea what she wanted to buy. She said she had been eyeing it when she was here yesterday. She bought me a purple wrap around sweater dress that came just above my knees. It had long sleeves, v-neck and a self-tie wrap belt. It hugged all of my curves and was so comfortable. I was so glad Alice didn’t go overboard. She finished it off with a pair of black tights and black Jimmy Choo patent leather pumps with an ankle strap. I had a problem with the shoes.

"Alice, do you really want me to spend my birthday in the ER? If so, then by all means, buy me these death traps." I had my arms crossed and was tapping my toe impatiently.

"Bella, you will be fine in these shoes. I promise you will not hurt yourself tonight. I picked a pair of heels that weren’t stilettos, so you’ll be fine. Besides, Edward would never let you fall." Alice had that knowing look on her face. I knew when I saw that look not to argue with her. What she was saying would have a way of coming true. Of course the idea of Edward having to keep me from falling all night was extremely appealing.

"Okay, Alice. I'll wear them, but I better not end up hurt tonight."

After Alice had thoroughly abused her credit card in the name of my birthday, we made our way back to the dorm. We had two hours before we were supposed to be at Alice's house for my birthday dinner. Alice and Rose spent an hour curling my hair and applying my makeup. Edward had mentioned to Alice how much he liked my hair the night of the party, so she fixed it the same way.

It took us thirty minutes to get to the Cullens’ house from the campus. After a five-minute drive on a dirt road, we stopped in front of a huge three story white and tan mansion. There was a series of waterfalls that led to the front courtyard. It was unbelievable. The front door opened into a huge living area. The furniture was white and cherry wood. Behind the living area was a room stocked with a huge flat screen TV and every game system you could imagine. The boys were already settled into this room and lost in a game of Halo 3. To the left was a room with a piano and to the right was the entrance to the kitchen. I had such a warm and inviting feeling the minute I stepped into the house.

Alice led me to the kitchen where Dr. Cullen and his wife were putting the finishing touches on dinner.

"Mom, Dad, this is my roommate Bella. Bella, this is my dad, Carlisle and my mom, Esme."

I put my hand out to shake Dr. Cullen's. "It is so nice to meet you Dr. Cullen. Thank you so much for having me over."

"Bella, please call me Carlisle. It is our please to celebrate your birthday in our home."

I turned toward Mrs. Cullen and attempted to shake her hand. She surprised me by pulling me into a hug that could rival one of Emmett's. "Bella, I'm so glad to finally meet you. I have heard so much about you from all of my children. You seem to have made quite an impression on all of them."

"Thank you Mrs. Cullen. I'm very lucky to have Alice as a roommate and Emmett and Edward as friends. You have such a lovely home."

"Please, call me Esme. Now, you girls go to the entertainment room and try to get the boys away from their video game. Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes."

Carlisle and Esme took their places at each end of the table. Edward was seated to the left of Carlisle. I was between Edward and Tommy. Emmett sat to the right of Carlisle. Next to him were Rose, then Alice and finally Jasper.

Dinner was amazing. Esme made a wonderful Italian meatloaf with mashed potatoes and corn. She even had pickles on the table to go with my mashed potatoes. Tommy obviously told her what my favorite meal was.

“Bella, is there something you forgot to tell us?” Edward looked very disgusted and sad at the same time.

“Umm, no. I think you already know just about everything about me, Edward. What do you think I didn’t tell you?”

“Well…umm…are you…you aren’t…pregnant?” Edward’s face was bright red by the time he finally finished his question.

I burst into laughter. “NO! Why would you think that?”

“Seriously, Bella. Pickles with mashed potatoes. That just isn’t normal.” The disgust was back on Edward’s face.

“Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. It’s my mom’s fault. She always ate her mashed potatoes this way and it just stuck with me. How Tommy didn’t develop a taste for it is a mystery to me.”

“You and Mom both used to gross me out every time you pulled the pickles out. Just be glad I made sure Esme had some handy. I figured I would be nice since it is your birthday.” I hadn’t talked about my mom since graduation night. It was hard and I was starting to feel the pain of her loss again. Edward noticed the look on my face and gave me a questioning look.

“Bella, you have never mentioned your mom before. Do you talk with her a lot?” I couldn’t bring myself to answer Alice. I was fighting the tears with all the strength I had. Tommy noticed my struggle and decided to step in.

“Bella doesn’t talk about Mom because she died three years ago,” Tommy replied sadly. “We still struggle with it sometimes.” Edward started rubbing my back, and the electric shock of his touch coursed through my body and immediately calmed my nerves.

“I’m so sorry, Bella. I didn’t know. I would never have asked.” Alice was on the verge of tears.

“It’s okay, Alice. You had no idea. May I be excused for just a moment?”

Esme stood up and motioned me out of the dining room. “Let me show you to the restroom so you can freshen up, dear.” She put her arms around me shoulders, and Edward followed us out towards the restroom. “Bella, if you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to talk to me.”

“Thank you, Esme. I’ll remember that. I’m much better now. I’ll be back in just a minute.” Esme gave me a quick hug and joined everyone else in the dining room.

Edward pulled me into his arms and started to rub my back. I relaxed into him and held on tight to him. I once again found myself marveling at the comfort and protection I felt in his embrace. I decided now was the perfect time to attempt to talk to him about my feelings.

“Edward, thank you so much for everything. I don’t know how I would have survived this past week without you.”

“Bella, you are more than welcome. Thank you for letting me. I don’t know how to explain it, but I feel this connection to you. It’s almost electrical when we touch. I want nothing more than to keep you in my arms and protect you from everything.” Edward was speaking just above a whisper, so only I could hear him.

“I feel it too.” I felt the familiar lump in my throat as my tears tried to break lose again.

“Bella, I know we are friends, and I value your friendship more than anything, but I want to be more than friends. Do you think that is possible?”

My heart started racing. He was feeling the same things I was and had the same concerns as me. I couldn’t believe it. He wanted to be more than friends.

“Bella, I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I didn’t mean to scare you. Please tell me this won’t mess up anything we already have established.” Edward had a terrified look on his face.

“Edward, calm down. You just shocked me. I have been thinking and feeling the same thing. I would love to be more than friends, but I would like to take it slow. This is all new to me.” I looked deep into his eyes. They were sparkling brighter than I had ever seen.

Edward pulled me into a tight hug again and kissed the top of my head. “I have no problem at all with going slow. I don’t want to mess up anything we have or could possibly have. So, I guess this makes me your boyfriend, huh?” He gave me his playful smirk.

“You would guess right. Now let’s go back to the party.”

We walked into the dining room holding hands and smiling. Alice gave me a knowing look. I simply nodded my head and smiled even bigger. She let out a small squeak and ran to our side of the table. She gave me a big hug and then headed into the kitchen with Esme on her heels.

Five minutes later they brought out this huge chocolate cake with chocolate covered strawberries covering the top, cascading down the side and circling the entire cake. It was beyond beautiful. Luckily Alice bought the number candles, and I didn’t have to blow out nineteen individual ones. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and devoured their cake.

Once we were done with the cake Alice set five gifts in front of me. Edward put his arm around my waist and encouraged me to start.

The first gift was from Carlisle and Esme. I blushed when I read the card and realized they gave me something. It was unlimited treatments for a year at the spa we were at today. “Carlisle, Esme, you didn’t have to get me anything.”

“We didn’t have to, we wanted to. Alice told me how much you enjoyed your massage, so I figured this way you could get one any time you needed it”

“Thank you so much.” I was getting choked up again. I just met them and they were treating me with such acceptance and kindness.

“I pampered Bella with a day at the spa, and I bought her the lovely outfit she is wearing tonight as her gift. You’re welcome, Edward. I already know you like it.” Alice smirked at him.

“Thank you, Alice. Bella looks more than beautiful tonight.” Edward tightened his hold around my waist and kissed the top of my head. This was definitely going to take some getting used to.

The next gift was from Tommy. It was a beautiful, brown leather journal. He knew that writing in my journal was my form of therapy. Every year he would get me a new journal. Last year he got me this cute Mickey Mouse one, and the year before he got me a “Wicked” themed one. This was the most beautiful one he had ever given me. “Thank you so much, Tommy. I almost have Mickey full. I think there may be five pages left.”

“I know. Since you’re a college woman, I decided to get you something a little more sophisticated. I love you, sis.”

“I love you too, little brother.” Tommy gave me a big hug and sat back down.

I received a gift card for Barnes and Noble from Jasper. We had a few discussions about books during one of his Bella-sitting sessions. I was touched that he realized how much I loved books.

Emmett and Rose gave me an iPod and an iTunes gift card. Emmett obviously got tired of my sneaking off with his. I couldn’t believe the gift card. There was enough money on it to buy music for the next five years.

The last gift was from Edward. It was a small box wrapped in shiny navy blue paper with a silver bow. I gasped when I unwrapped the gift to find a blue Tiffany & Co. jewelry box. I couldn’t believe he would spend that much on a gift for me. I opened the box and found a sterling silver butterfly pendant with aquamarines on a silver chain. I was speechless. It was beautiful.

“Edward, it’s beautiful. I can’t believe you would get this for me.” I felt a tear escape, and I quickly fought to hold back the rest.

“Bella, you are worth so much more than this. I would give you the world if you would let me.” Edward pulled me into a hug, and I thanked him again.

We stayed at the Cullen’s until almost midnight. I had a lot of fun talking with Carlisle and Esme and hearing all of the great stories about the gang. Edward drove Tommy and me back to campus. He walked us to my door and gave me a quick hug and kissed my cheek before heading back to his room.

“Well, B, I can see why you haven’t called me so much this week. It seems like I’m leaving you in capable hands. They all seem to care about you very much, especially Edward.” Tommy waggled his eyebrows at me.

“Yes, I am very lucky to have found such great friends. Edward and I have decided to take it slow and see where it goes from here.”

“I’m so happy for you, sis. Now, let’s go to sleep. I have a long drive tomorrow, and I need my beauty sleep.”

“Yeah, right.” I rolled my eyes and turned out the lights.


Tommy left the next day after breakfast. It was hard to say goodbye. I was in tears, and he looked like he was holding them back. The whole gang showed up to say goodbye. After thirty minutes, Tommy finally made it into his car and left. Edward put his arm around my waist, and we all headed back to Alice’s room and mine.

I froze when I opened the door to my room. There was a box wrapped in birthday paper sitting on my bed. I was terrified.

Edward pulled me to my bed and sat next to me. He grabbed the gift and opened the card. He read it out loud for everyone.

"Happy Birthday, Sugar. I couldn't let this day go by without letting you know I was thinking about you. Always, James." I started crying hysterically. That note left no doubt that he was back.

Edward tentatively handed me the wrapped box. I slowly opened the box with shaking hands, and lifted the gift out of the box. It was a red embroidered baby doll with matching G-string. I dropped it and started crying again. I looked at Edward, and he had a murderous look on his face. Emmett and Jasper looked confused and Alice and Rose looked disgusted.

"Guys, I think it is time to tell you about James. Everyone needs to get comfortable. This will take a while.”

Chapter 5

Everyone settled onto the floor and looked at me expectantly. Edward squeezed my hand and urged me to start.

“My parents were divorced when I was ten. My mom, Tommy, and I moved to Phoenix. Life was great. I loved my school and I had a lot of friends. My mother dated, but she never got serious with anyone. When I was thirteen, Renee met James. My mom was 31 and James was 22. She was head over heels for him. He would send her flowers every Monday. He said that every beautiful woman should always be surrounded by beautiful things.

“When Renee told James about Tommy and me, he was anxious to meet us. We actually didn’t scare him away. The revelation of us was usually the kiss of death for Renee's relationships. After we met James, he insisted on including us on every date. He seemed too good to be true.

“Things were great with James for a year. He had moved in with us and continued to be the adoring boyfriend who loved Renee and her kids. He changed after my fourteenth birthday, though. He would hug me and would not want to let me go. I would find him staring at me while we watched a movie or ate dinner. He started giving me flowers every week just like my mom. He always sent me a dozen blush roses. He said they reminded him of my beautiful blush. This behavior continued for three months.

“James crossed the line at Christmas that year. I woke up Christmas morning, and he was standing over my bed staring at me. I started to scream, but he covered my mouth before I could get a sound out. He told me he had a special gift for me and I needed to open it now. He had given me a red embroidered baby doll with matching G-string. I was shocked. I didn't know what to say to him, so I thanked him and made my way to the restroom. It was the only way I could think to get away from him.

“All day he would look at me with lust and longing. That night, I pulled my mom into my room and showed her my gift. She was furious. She said he had been very cold with her the past few months, and she wasn't sure what she had done. She threw James out and told him she never wanted to see him again. He left quietly but gave me a lingering look as he walked out the door.”

The tears were flowing down my face in a steady stream. I stopped for a moment to try to regain control of my emotions. I looked at Edward and received the encouragement I needed to continue my story.

“January passed without any further contact from James. Life was back to normal, but Mom still hadn’t started dating again. She had fallen hard for James and was completely destroyed by his actions.

“Valentine’s Day was the start of the nightmare for me. It started out like a typical day for me. School was nothing exciting, and I was expecting a quiet night at home with Tommy and Mom. Tommy and I made it home before Mom. Nothing seemed out of place, but I had a strange feeling the moment I walked through the door. It felt like someone was watching me. I walked into my room and froze. Sitting on my desk was a dozen blush roses and a note. I regained my composure and picked up the note and read it. Sugar, I have missed you. You will forever be my only Valentine. We will be together soon enough. Always, James.

“I started screaming, and Tommy came running into my room. He found me curled up in a ball on my floor crying uncontrollably. He saw the roses and the note and called Mom. She immediately came home and called the police. We filed a restraining order against James and changed all of the locks.

“After that day, every little sound would make me jump. I lived in fear of James jumping out of the shadows. Tommy refused to let me go anywhere alone. I continued to come home to flowers and notes on Mondays. It was pointless to change the locks. He was obviously skilled in picking locks. He no longer signed his name to the notes, but always called me ‘Sugar’ in them.

“The only contact from James for the rest of February and the beginning of March were the flowers. I was a complete mess. I couldn‘t eat or sleep. Anytime I would fall asleep, I had horrible nightmares of James sneaking in my room. Spring Break that year was when my life was completely changed.”

I again had to pause to compose myself. Alice and Rose were in tears. They were obviously affected by my story. Unfortunately they did not know that the worst was yet to come.

“Mom had taken the week off to spend time with Tommy and me. We weren’t going on vacation for the week. We just planned on spending the week together and doing things as a family. I was looking forward to the time with my mom and brother.

“Monday morning we had planned to go to the zoo. We loved doing things like that with Mom. We had packed a picnic lunch and made our way there. We had a blast goofing off, wandering around and checking out the animals. Around noon we decided to have our picnic. Tommy and I grabbed a table at the picnic area while Mom went to grab our lunch. Ten minutes passed, and she never came back. Tommy went looking for her. Another ten minutes passed, and Tommy didn’t come back. I decided to see what the problem was. When I made it to the car, I noticed Mom and Tommy sitting in the back seat. I opened the door to ask them what was going on, and then everything went black.

“I woke up and had no clue what was going on. I was in the ballet studio where I used to take lessons.”

“You took ballet?” Alice asked with a surprised look.

“Yes. Mom thought it would help improve my balance and coordination. It really didn’t. After six months, I ended up with a sprained ankle, a broken wrist, and finally a broken leg. The broken leg was the deciding factor that I would be a klutz for life,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

“I’m sorry I interrupted. Please continue,” Alice apologized.

“Anyway, it was completely dark in the studio. I heard my mom crying, so I knew I wasn’t alone. I struggled to my feet and started going toward the sound of her sobs. I was about fifteen feet away from her when a lamp was turned on. I saw my mom tied to a chair in the middle of the room, blindfolded with her red silk scarf. James was standing behind her whispering something in her ear.

“I had no clue where Tommy was. I was terrified for him and my mom. I didn’t know what James was capable of. James threw me back in the corner. He told me that he wasn’t ready for me yet. The whole time he was with me, my mom was begging for him to not hurt me and to let me go. He just laughed at her.

“James made his way to the piano and removed one of the piano wires. He slowly walked toward my mother, winding the piano wire around his hands. He stepped behind her and started whispering something in her ear. She had a look of terror on her face at whatever he was telling her. He lifted the wire to wrap around my mother’s neck, and she started screaming and told me to run.

“I could not believe what I was witnessing. James was killing my mother. I saw the blood trickling down her neck as the wire cut into her throat. James had a euphoric look on his face as he slowly choked the life from my mother. He was fully immersed in his pleasure of killing my mother and it gave me the chance to get away.

“I ran into the main entrance and found Tommy tied up behind the reception desk. I quickly untied him and we stumbled our way outside. It was dark and I had no idea what time it was. We ran as fast as we could to find help. The residents of the first house we came to were shocked to have someone knocking on their door so late at night. It was one in the morning. We called the police and waited for them to arrive.

“Fifteen minutes later, the police showed up and listened to my story. They called for back up to meet them at the ballet studio. Unfortunately, it was too late. They found my mother dead and no sign of James. They found a set of unknown fingerprints and hair samples throughout the crime scene. James wasn’t in the system. I found a few pictures of James to give the police. They had no luck finding him. I found another note from James in my room once we finally made it home. Sugar, I’m disappointed our fun had to abruptly come to an end. I am far from done with you. You will be mine forever. Always, James.

“Charlie, my dad, was in Phoenix the next day. He decided to bury mom in Forks, so we could visit her anytime we wanted. He made all the necessary arrangements, and we packed up and moved to Forks the next day.”

I looked at everyone in the room. They had silent tears falling down their faces. I know they were never expecting where my story would end. Unfortunately, that was not the end.

“Oh, Bella, I’m so sorry about your mom. I can’t believe you had to witness that.” Alice had jumped up and pulled me into a tight hug. Alice did not resume her seat next to Jasper. She stayed by my side, holding my hand.

“Thank you, Alice. I guess now you can understand the severity of my nightmares.” Alice lowered her head and nodded.

“My story isn’t finished yet. Tommy and I were now in Forks with Charlie. My life was a mess. I wouldn’t sleep or eat. I sat on my bed curled up and crying most of the time. Anytime I heard the word ‘sugar’ I would freak out. After a week of this, Charlie couldn’t take it anymore. He made me an appointment with a child psychologist. I spent the next year in therapy dealing with everything James put me through. My therapist was the one who suggested I write in a journal to help deal with my problems. Dr. Averett didn’t believe in the use of drugs, so she helped me with calming exercises to control my anxiety attacks.

“Tommy had no problems fitting in at school. Of course, he was unconscious for most of the James incident, so he wasn’t affected in the same way I was. He went through the usual grieving process, and life went back to normal for him. He easily made friends at his new school. The only problem with his social life was his crazy sister.

“He was still in junior high, but in a small town like Forks, gossip trickles down the different schools. The kids at school loved to make fun of the new crazy girl. The remainder of the school year was sheer torture. I shied away from anyone’s touch. I would burst into tears when anyone would mention their mother.

“My worst episode happened after my first month at school. I was walking into the cafeteria for lunch. I had just sat at my usual table to read when I heard someone say ‘sugar’ and I freaked out. I started screaming and crying. I was rushed the nurse’s office. It took me two hours to fully calm down.

“After that, I was the social outcast. No one would come near me. I spent the summer going to therapy five days a week. With Dr. Averett’s help, I was able to start the new school year a changed person. I no longer shied away from other students. I actually talked with a few.

“Tommy was a freshman and in high school with me that year. I was no longer the crazy girl, just the loner. I didn’t seek out any friends, but I didn’t avoid anyone either. I did my best to not affect Tommy at school. I would sneak off to the bathroom if I felt overwhelmed by anything. I didn’t want any of my issues to hinder him. It worked too. He was quite popular.

“Tommy was my rock these past three years. He was the only person who truly understood me and what I had been through. He was my protector. He slept in my room many nights to help keep the nightmares away. I felt like such a burden to him. I was so excited when I received my scholarship and was able to attend the school of my choice. This was my chance to break away and allow Tommy to enjoy his last two years of high school.”

I felt so much better after telling my new friends the truth about my past. They did not look at me with pity but with love and compassion. It was such a relief not to see pity.

“Bella, thank you so much for telling us what happened with James. I know it must have been very difficult. Please understand that we are here for anything you need. We will do our best to keep you safe from James.” Rose pulled me into a tight hug.

“James won’t get near you. He will have to go through Edward, Jasper, and me first. No one will hurt my new little sister.” Emmett put his arms around both Rose and me. His bear hugs always made me feel safe.

“We’ll continue to always have one of us guys with you. There is no way we will let him get near you.” Jazz squeezed my shoulder and then pulled Alice into his arms.

“Thanks, guys. James has already proven that locks will not stop him from getting in my room, so I really don’t know how you will stop him if he wants to get to me.”

“Bella, trust us. He will regret it if he attempts to get near you. I just found you, and I refuse to let him take you away from me.” Edward pulled me into his arms and held me tight. I believed there was nothing that could hurt me when I was in his protective arms.


The guys continued their routine of Bella-sitting. Edward took Tommy’s example and started camping out in my room. Thankfully, this kept the dreams away. I felt terrible that he was sleeping on my floor and not in his comfortable bed. He was stubborn and assured me that he grew up camping, so sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag was no problem.

It was Friday, and I had made it through the week without contact from James. Edward and I grew closer. He was so sweet and patient. We would hold hands, hug, and he would kiss me on my cheek or on top of my head. It was time for the uncomfortable talk of my lack of experience.

“Edward, can we stay in my room and talk tonight?” I blushed at the thought of the upcoming conversation and looked at my feet.

Edward placed his fingers under my chin and raised my head and smirked at me. “Please don’t hide your beautiful face from me. I’m curious to know what you want to talk about that made you blush like that.”

We brought Chinese takeout back to my room and got ready to stay in for the night.

“Okay, Bella, we’ve eaten and are in pajamas, so let‘s talk.” Edward sat back against the wall and pulled me by his side.

“This is hard for me to talk about, so please bear with me.” My face was bright red.

“Take your time, love.”

“Well, you know the last three years I haven’t had friends, so of course I haven’t had a boyfriend either. When I lived in Phoenix I had plenty of friends, but never a boyfriend. I have never kissed a guy. You are my first boyfriend, and I’m a little scared.” My last sentence was barely a whisper.

“I understand, Bella. I was thinking about this after you told us the full story about James. Please don’t be scared. I only want to spend time with you, and I love that we can hold hands and that I can hold you in my arms. I will not rush you into doing anything you are not comfortable with.” I threw my arms around Edward and kissed his cheek.

“Edward, I know you cannot be comfortable sleeping on my floor. Since you insist on being in my room at night, you can sleep in my bed with me. I trust you.” Edward pulled me back to look into my eyes. I know he saw no fear in my eyes.

“Bella, I am perfectly fine sleeping on the floor. You don’t have to do this.” Edward was too good to be true.

“I want you to. Nothing will happen but sleeping, so there are no worries.” I squeezed Edward’s hand to reassure him this is what I wanted.

We settled into my bed, and he wrapped me in his arms. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this safe and comfortable. Edward rubbed my back and hummed me that beautiful tune again. I quickly drifted into a blissful sleep.


I woke up the next morning with a huge smile on my face. I didn’t have nightmares. I dreamt of Edward and me. We were in a meadow full of beautiful flowers. We were lying on our backs finding shapes in the clouds. He sat up and leaned over me and looked deep in my eyes. He glanced at my lips and then back to my eyes. He slowly leaned closer to my lips. His lips had barely grazed mine when I woke up. I was so frustrated.

“Please tell me I have something to do with that glorious smile on your face, love.” Edward was stroking my cheek with the back of his hand.

“Of course. Waking up in your arms is more than enough to make me have this smile.” I blushed at the thought of my dream.

“Any dreams last night?” He had a glimmer of mischief in his eyes.

“No nightmares,” I tried not to elaborate.

“Okay, no nightmares, but what about other dreams,” he smirked.

“Why do you ask?” He knew something and wasn’t telling me.

“You talk in your sleep.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Oh, god. I’m afraid to ask what you heard.” I buried my face into his chest.

“You said my name quite a lot. You also said ‘it’s beautiful’ and ‘kiss me.’ Nothing too bad.” Edward smiled that glorious crooked grin I loved so much.

I’m glad he couldn’t see my face because it was bright red by now. I gave in and told Edward all about my dream. He seemed rather smug.

“Sounds like the meadow was beautiful. Of course it couldn’t compare to your beauty. Nothing could.” Edward glanced at my lips just like in my dreams. Was I ready for this? I didn’t have time to think about it. Edward lowered his lips and lightly grazed my lips. It was a chaste kiss, but it sent an electrical shock throughout my body.

“I think I could handle waking up like that every morning.” My fingers were touching my lips where his had just been.

“Come on beautiful, we need to get ready for the day. You have some more research to finish for your paper.”

We spent the next four hours in the library. Edward worked on his homework while I worked on my paper for English. He would follow me into the stacks every time I needed a new reference book. I didn’t mind. He would steal a kiss each time we were alone. He kept the kisses chaste, but I didn’t think I was ready for anything more intense yet. I finally finished my paper, and we decided to head back to the dorm and spend the evening watching movies with the gang.

We made our way back to the dorm, but we couldn’t get into the lobby. There were police everywhere. Edward found a campus security officer to get some answers. Apparently one of the students was found dead in the stairwell. The police were not giving out any specific details about the murder. I looked across the lobby and saw Rose in hysterics talking to one of the officers. Emmett spotted us and walked toward us.

“Edward, it was Tanya. That is all they will tell us. They’ve called her family. They will be here later this evening. Rose is freaked out.” Emmett was obviously shaken too.

Rose finally finished talking with the officers and ran straight for Emmett. She collapsed into his arms.

“Rose, what happened?” Edward asked cautiously.

After a few minutes, Rose had calmed down enough to tell us what was going on. “I don’t know. We just got back from visiting my house and were stopped from entering the stairwell. One of the officers pulled me to the side and started asking me questions about Tanya. Apparently, our RA pointed me out as her roommate. I didn’t have much to tell them. I hadn’t seen Tanya in a few days. I figured she was staying in Kate’s room. They said she was murdered. They didn’t tell me anything else. They aren’t ready to release any details.”

The police finally cleared everyone to return to their rooms thirty minutes after Edward and I arrived at the dorm. We slowly made our way upstairs. The guys refused to let any of us be alone. Jasper and Alice stayed in her room together, and Rose and Emmett stayed together in Jasper and Edward’s room. Rose didn’t want to sleep in the room she shared with Tanya. Edward stayed with me like usual.

Something about Tanya being murdered was bugging me. I wasn’t sure what it was yet. I just know I was getting a very bad feeling about all of this. It was almost like déjà vu. Maybe a good night’s sleep would clear my head and allow me to put the pieces together that kept eluding me. I was glad Edward would be in my room tonight. I climbed in bed and cuddled up close to him. He held me tight and hummed me to sleep.