If I could change one thing about myself, it would be to knock it off with all of the inconvenient blushing. People take too much pleasure out of making my face turn red. Even worse, it’s not something I can hide, so once a faint tinge of pink colors my cheek and someone notices, my face then goes fire engine red.
God, I hate it.
Edward is the worst. He’s always gotten a kick out of tormenting me, but he seems to have upped the ante lately. If he’s not joking about kissing, he’s giving me a soft-eyed look that makes me think maybe he wouldn’t mind kissing me again. And if he’s not giving me those looks that make my breathing go funky, he’s touching me—like if he has to pass behind me, he’ll sweep his fingers across my bare arm. Stuff like that.
Things have changed since The Kiss. Before TK, Edward could touch me and it’d feel like it always had—warm and comfortable. But now, it’s like I am hyper-aware of where he is in relation to my body. And if he touches me, I get goose bumps. Which he notices. And which, of course, makes me blush.
It’s the end of August and I’m in the kitchen peeling potatoes. The ree-ah bugs are going crazy outside and it makes me sad because when they start to sing, that means summer is almost over.
“What are you making?”
Edward’s behind me, close enough that I feel his warmth.
“Shepherd’s Pie,” I say and damn near shave off the skin of my thumb.
“Be careful,” he says and leans against the counter next to me.
“Do you want to help?”
He wrinkles his nose. There’s a scattering of light freckles across the bridge that makes him look boyish.
“Then you can’t stand there,” I tell him.
“You mean I can stand here if I help?”
I sigh. “You see that cutting board right there?”
“Right here? This one?” he asks and points to the cutting board with a big cheesy grin.
“You can quarter the potatoes I’ve peeled and drop them in that pan for me.”
He makes short work of them, then is arm-to-arm with me again. “Now what?”
“Want to chop an onion?”
“Okay, but if you tell anyone I cry, I’ll spank you,” he says and watches my face flame.
“You suck,” I say.
“Sorry,” he laughs and leans in to press a kiss on my hot cheek.
“No, you’re not.”
“No, I’m not.”
“I thought you had to work.”
“I called out today.”
“Where’ve you been all day then?”
He backs away to get the onion out of the fridge. “At Charlotte’s.”
My mood sours abruptly. Charlotte, a short redhead, is Edward’s latest girlfriend. She’s nice enough, but I don’t know. I don’t like her. Especially now that Edward is sluffing off of work to spend time with her.
I’m on the last potato when it happens—I slice a sliver of skin neatly off my thumb.
“Whoa, such language,” he sniffs. When he sees I’m hurt, he puts the knife down and comes to me.
“Don’t touch me with your onion stained fingers! It’ll burn! Ow!”
He cups my hurt hand in his and holds it under the water while we watch it bleed. His chest is practically leaning against my back and I want to shove him away. I’m mad.
“I’m okay, I’m fine,” I say and move to the paper towels. “I’ll be right back.”
He follows me all the way to the bathroom. When I try to shut the door, he pushes his hand against it. “What are you doing?”
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“I’m going to clean and bandage your cut.”
“I can do it myself.”
“Let me do it, Bella.”
I huff and slump onto the toilet seat.
“What’s wrong?” he asks as he sets the peroxide and box of Band-Aids on the counter.
His face is all concerned, green eyes all dark, brow all furrowed. He’s one of the few people I know who looks cute when he’s sad, mad or bored.
I hold my thumb up in answer. It’s not the entire truth, but I don’t understand the entire truth enough to begin to explain it.
Edward treats my cut with the tender precision of a concerned nurse, then places a kiss just below the Band-Aid when he’s done. My breath catches, but I don’t blush this time. Probably because I’m mad? Whatever the reason, I’m grateful.
“You’re welcome,” he calls after me.
I turn at the doorway and see he’s still kneeling in front of the toilet. And then? I flush, but this time it’s with embarrassment at my behavior.
“Thank you, Edward. Really.”
And then I hightail it back to the kitchen, hoping he doesn’t follow. When he doesn’t, I tell myself that I’m glad.
. . .
I watch Rose study herself in her full length mirror as she turns from side to side to see how her butt looks in the jean mini skirt. Looks damn good. I’m jealous.
“You ready for tomorrow?” she asks me.
“Not at all,” I tell her and point to the huge zit on my chin. Maybe I should wear a mini skirt tomorrow, too, so people won’t notice my chin. “People are going to take one look at me and run the opposite direction.”
“It’s not that big. Shut it. You’re beautiful.”
“You don’t think the zit makes me look fat?”
She rips a pillow off the bed and clobbers me with it.
“You’ve got classes either with me or Jasper,” she says. “You’re set, biatch.”
I shove my hair off of my face from the pillow smack, and glare at her. “Can I wear your dark blue top with the ruffled collar?”
“Depends what you’re going to wear with it.”
“My black mini?”
She smirks. “Now you’re talking. Who are you wanting to impress?”
I shrug. “Anyone who might look too close, I guess.”
“Wear your black booties. If you wear your Converse, I’ll rip the shirt right off your back.”
The next day, Edward looks like he wants to rip the shirt right off my back.
“Who are you dressing up for?” he wants to know.
“No one. Me. It’s my first day at high school. Me and my zit, anyway.”
I won’t shut up about the zit. Good thing I hardly ever get them.
He glares at my bare knees after I slide in to the passenger side of the car.
Surprised at my sharp tone, he blinks at me. “You don’t usually wear miniskirts.”
“That’s right. But I’m wearing one today. I’m hoping people will notice my legs and not my zit, okay?”
He snickers. “I’ve had a lot worse than that little thing.”
“Yeah, but you’re a boy. It’s different for boys.”
“Don’t bend over,” he tells me as he backs the car out of the driveway.
“Yeah, I won’t bend over like Jessica or Vickie always did,” I snort.
“You’d better not.” He gives me a sharp look.
“I’m not stupid, Edward. I’m also not a slut.”
“Did Dad see what you’re wearing?”
Now I’m getting pissed. “Did Dad see what you’re wearing?” I glance exaggeratedly at his old, torn t-shirt and baggy jeans.
Edward clenches his jaw and is silent until we get to Jasper’s house, which suits me just fine. If this is the way he’s going to be every morning on the drive to school, I’ll just hitch a ride with Emmett, Alice and Rose.
“Hey, Jasper,” I say and slide out of the passenger seat. “I’ll sit in the back.”
“You don’t have to,” he says.
“I want to. You sit in the front.”
And I glare back at Edward through the review mirror.
Jasper turns and gives me a questioning look.
“Edward’s got gas,” I say.
. . .
Throughout the day, I notice that I get a lot of looks directed at my legs. My plan works! No one is really looking at my face.
Well, except for this James guy in my English class. He’s got long blond hair, which is kind of weird for a guy, but pretty eyes. Every time I catch him looking at me, he’d drop his head and act like he was doing something else.
“He’s cute,” Rose said when she noticed him looking at me.
“If you like long hippie hair,” I say. Privately, I agree, though. He is cute.
I hope he’s actually looking at me and not my zit.
. . .
My last period of the day is history, which I have with Jasper. Our teacher is a kind-looking, silver-haired man who likes to teach behind his desk and sitting in his chair. As his voice drones monotonously on, I chance a glance over at Jasper. He rolls his eyes at me, then has Sprock peek around his free arm. He makes the sock contort and act like he’s dying.
And this is just our first class, which doesn’t bode well for the year.
“Maybe we should see if we can change classes,” Jasper says afterward.
And so we stop in at the office to see Mrs. Cope, who looks decidedly grumpy behind the glasses that are sliding down her nose. She has a picture of an o-possum on her desk. When she sees me looking at it, she perks up.
“That’s Possy,” she says. “He’s dead now, poor thing died right on my foot one night. He liked Cheetos of all things.”
Jasper and I look at each other with glee in our eyes. “Wow. Cheetos.”
“That’s right. He wouldn’t eat the cat food I left for him if I had Cheetos.”
“Cheetos are really good,” Jasper says.
“Um, we need to see if we can change to a different history class,” I say.
We slide our class schedules over to her and she starts typing on her keyboard and glaring at her computer screen.
“Ah … this might wor—doggonit. Maybe we can—well, phooey. Let’s see if this—oh, drat, that won’t work, either.” She peers up at us myopically. “Do either of you kids want to take French instead of Art?”
Jasper and I settle for Mr. Robertson the Droner.
“How come we didn’t sit with Edward at lunch?” he asks as we walk to the car.
“You saw all those girls at his table, right?”
He grins. “Yes. So? Why?”
“I didn’t feel like eating with his harem.”
“You two are fighting, aren’t you?”
“No. We just have a difference of opinion on appropriate school attire,” I say loftily, which makes Jasper laugh.
“But Edward’s part of the cool clique. Don’t you want to sit with the cool kids?”
“No. You, me and Rose will have our own table. Emmett and Edward can have theirs.”
Jasper makes a face at me. “I don’t think Rose is going to go for that.”
“I don’t care. I don’t want to sit with Edward this year. You can, though, if you want to. Really, Jasper.”
“I’d rather sit with you,” he says as we near the car where Edward’s already waiting.
“Good,” I whisper with a smile.
“Where were you two?” Edward looks cranky.
“We were trying to see if we could change history classes,” I tell him.
“Well next time, text me if you’re going to be late, okay?”
We climb into the car. Jasper makes sure I get in front.
“Who’d you get for history?”
“Robertson,” Jasper says. “He’s like, got one foot out the door, I think.”
Edward barks a laugh. “Oh, man, I feel for you two. His class is the only one I’ve ever fallen asleep in.”
Right then and there, I decide I’m going to have a Mountain Dew with every lunch.
. . .
Edward knocks on my bedroom door and immediately pushes it open. I’m on my bed reading my first reading requirement in English: Romeo and Juliet. It’s absolutely horrible.
“You can’t just barge in here,” I tell him. “What if I’d been undressing or something?”
In answer, he just looks evilly joyful.
“No. You wait for me to tell you that it’s okay.”
He waves his hand at me. “Fine. I know what you look like, though. It’s not like your bathing suit this year left anything to the imagination.”
“Most bathing suits don’t,” I tell him. “Are we going to argue about what I’m wearing again?”
“No. I came to see how your first day went,” he says and lays on his stomach beside me. He even raises his legs and hooks an ankle around mine.
“It went fine. I’m really glad that I have either Rose or Jasper in all of my classes, though. There are a lot more people I don’t know now.”
His ankle pulls mine in his direction, then moves it back. “I saw you at lunch.”
“Yeah? I saw you, too.”
“I thought you’d eat with me like you used to.”
“Didn’t look like there was room.”
“There’s always room for you, Bella.”
“Most brothers wouldn’t want their sister eating at the same table as them.”
“I’m not most brothers. But I get it. You should have your friends, and I should have mine.”
Why does this hurt?
“Right,” I say. “So why wasn’t Charlotte at your lunch table?”
He pokes me in the side. “She has a different lunch period.”
“Does she know you eat with all of those girls?”
He pokes me in the side again. “They weren’t all girls. And I can eat lunch with whoever I want. So can she. They’re just friends.”
“I saw two of the girls hanging on you like they wanted to be more.”
When he pokes my side again, I grab his finger hard. “Stop.”
We wrestle a little, which ends up with me being on the bottom and him sitting on my stomach.
“Are you spying on me?”
I give him a look. “Why yes, Edward, since I have nothing else to do with my time. After all, I’m looking for tips on how to handle friends who want to be more than friends. Do you have any advice for me?”
“Oh, I have some advice for you,” he says and stretches my arms high above my head.
This position brings him almost chest-to-stomach with me, which of course trips my heart into overdrive. Not thinking, just panicking, I try to buck him off like I usually do. Once my boobs press against his stomach, he pushes himself down against me. And then he slides down until we’re chest-and-chest and face-to-face.
My eyes are wide. Probably wild, too, just like his. We’re like two deer caught in each other’s headlights.
“Why did you do that?” he whispers.
“Panicked. Why did you do this?”
“Couldn’t help it.”
His eyes are getting darker and darker.
“Aren’t you going to move?”
He slowly shakes his head, then lowers it until his lips are against mine. It’s been four weeks and three days since the last kiss, but I can tell that I’ve already forgotten the power of the hot, sweet sensation of it because it takes me by surprise all over again. It must take him by surprise, too, because he’s gasping and breathing as hard as I am. He releases my hands and brings one of his to my face, where he begins stroking the corner of my mouth with his thumb, until he’s able to insert the tip between my lips. On my next gasp, his tongue lightly teases the inside of my lower lip.
“Let me,” he says brokenly and takes my lower lip between his teeth, then sucks it gently.
I make a sound suspiciously like a moan and try to imitate his sucking motion. And then we’re open-kissing, not exactly French-kissing, but the closest thing to it. He alternates thumb stroking with lip stroking, and it’s like he’s worshiping my mouth. And I’m definitely worshiping his because he obviously knows what he’s doing, and I’m lost and spinning and so hot.
“Edward,” I gasp.
“So sweet,” he says and on the next wet press of his lips against mine, his tongue sweeps into my mouth fully.
“Yes, just like that,” he whispers as our tongues touch. “Don’t be shy.”
There’s something hard poking my hip. He’s hard. Every time he sweeps his tongue into my mouth, he presses that hardness against me until I can’t bear it anymore. My hands pull his head away from me by his hair.
“Edward,” I gasp. “You’re hurting me.”
In the space of two seconds, he goes from looking half-asleep and sexy to panic. He rolls off of me and onto his stomach, where he pants face-down against my bedspread.
“Are you okay?” I ask softly.
He groans. “Are you?”
“Yes.” I swallow and take a big breath. “I can see why the girls like kissing you.”
He lifts his head to glare at me. “You’re too easy to kiss.”
I frown at him. “What does that mean?”
He groans again and then shoves himself off my bed. “Damn it. I didn’t mean to do that.”
I look up at him in confusion, but he turns his back to me. “But I liked it. I don’t mind.”
It looks like he palms his crotch and my eyes widen. What’s he doing?
“This won’t happen again,” he tells me over his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Bella.”
And then he leaves.
And doesn’t come back all night.