Chapter 24: Last Dance

Surprise for Moonburn followers! Due to FF fail, you're getting to see this before anyone else. Don't you feel special?

. . .

It’s a long time—three months later in fact—before Rose gets her swagger back. After she told us she was okay soon after the attack, she didn’t want to discuss it much. Or ever. It was like she was determined to pretend that it never happened.

“I have to talk about it with my shrink, and that’s more than enough,” she told us. “I don’t want to rehash what I can’t remember. And don’t want to remember.”

But she won’t go out after dark, and she won’t wear anything even remotely provocative.

She’s not dating anyone anymore. She kind of hangs around with Emmett, who obviously wants more, but Emmett is smart and doesn’t push her. He’s just happy she wants him around at all.
When winter rolls into spring, they’re quasi-dating. They eat dinner together, watch movies and hold hands. They are known as Rose-and-Emmett, not just Rose and Emmett.

And her attackers are still free, something that the rest of us actively hate whenever Rose isn’t around. Jasper and I are always looking at people who look at Rose. Could that boy be the one? Is his stare a little long, a little derogative, a little too self-satisfied?

We become unsuccessful sleuths, but we’re not giving up.

The summer Jasper turns 17, he finally grows into his gangly limbs and I tell him that he has a sexy nose. His features, no longer too thin and pointy, are as patrician as Edward’s, only in a different way. Where Edward’s all jaw and cheekbones, Jasper is all eyes, nose and lips.

Which doesn’t go unnoticed by Alice, which thrills Jasper to Kingdom Come and back. Sprock doesn’t appear as often as he used to, but Jasper still keeps him in a pocket and by his side at all times. Except when Alice is around. For some reason, he likes making Sprock talk to Alice. And Alice, who is nervous around Jasper sometimes for whatever reason, loves trading quips with the sock.

I don’t get it, but Jasper is in 7th heaven. If he was any more thrilled, he’d float.

In the fall, we learn that a Notre Dame scout has seen Edward win enough fencing bouts that they want to give him a scholarship. Dad is through the roof and thinks Edward should accept, but Edward and I are reluctant to be parted and so Edward takes his time thinking about it.

“It’s only a couple of hours away,” he tells me. “I can come home on the weekends.”

I nod and try not to let him see how sad I am at the thought of his absence. There’s no way he can’t not accept.

“Your professors will all probably be priests,” I tell him.

He winces and shrugs. “They can’t stop us from talking every day,” he says and squeezes my hand.

“I’m going to miss you so much,” I cry.

“Bella. I’m not going anywhere for another year,” he says.

But I have the feeling that the year is going to pass like wildfire.

. . .

Nerves and stress do strange things to my body—they make me itch in embarrassing places at the worst possible moment. We actually have quite a few photos of baby, toddler and little girl me scratching inside my nose or at my crotch.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed about,” Mom had giggled when I demanded to know why the photos had been saved, let alone taken. “You were just a little girl.”

I’m no longer a little girl, but I’m still feeling the worst urge to scratch somewhere embarrassing.
It’s the spring of my junior year, and I’m taking the SAT on a Saturday morning in the Liberal Arts Building at IPFW. I’m feeling constipated, nervous and itchy. This is my dry run, because I’ll take the SAT again in the fall.

Are people better at making observations, discoveries and decisions if they remain neutral and impartial?

Maybe if we when we were born, we stayed that way, I write. But we’re not, because everybody’s opinionated and biased and reality keeps defining itself and ugh. I erase everything.
I hate writing essays. They make my brain hurt.

An hour later when I have to try and calculate the growth of bacteria, I scratch the inside of my nose unobtrusively.

Edward’s waiting for me when I get done. We decide to go out for lunch to celebrate me getting through the test.

“How do you think you did?” he asks.

I shrug. Under the table of the booth we’re sitting in, his foot hooks mine.

“Pretty sure I did poorly in math, a little better at the science part, and a little better than that at the English part.”

Edward took the test last year and got a score of 2100, which is way above-average. With his fencing skills, he could probably get into Harvard, but he doesn’t want to be that far away. Thank God.

“I’m sure you did great,” he says and goes to grab my hand which is laying on the table, but we’re interrupted by a girl who comes to say hi to him.

“Jane,” Edward acknowledges the blond girl who’s standing at the side of our table. She must know I’m his sister, because after a glance at me, she completely ignores me.
“I haven’t seen you around lately. You’ve been missed.” And she flips her hair behind her back and then leans against our table.

“I’ve been busy,” Edward says shortly.

He hates this as much as I do. Girls are always coming on to him, at least it seems that way to me because they always seem to do it when I’m around. And I can’t say or do anything that would suggest he’s mine, that he’s taken, and neither can he.

“Doesn’t look like you’re busy now,” she says playfully. I’m concentrating so hard on the menu that it would burst into flames if my stare was any hotter. “Why don’t you come sit with us in the back?”

Edward feet encase one of mine and squeezes.

“No,” he says, also shortly. “We’re fine right here, but thank you.”

Her stare swings to me. “Jamie’s there, too.”

If she knows that much, then she knows that Jamie and I are just friends.

“I said no, Jane. I’ll see you around.”

She straightens with a hiss. “Geeze, what crawled up your ass? I’m just trying to be friendly.”

He levels her with one of his cold stares. “If that was true, then you would have said hi to Bella, too.”

After Jane flounces away, his hand brushes mine briefly. “I’m sorry,” he says.

I smile sadly in answer. It’s not his fault Jane wants him and he just won’t give in.

“You handle this so well,” he tells me lowly. “I don’t think I would if it was some boy over here for you.”

My smile widens. “I know you wouldn’t. Good thing I’m not as pretty as you are.”

“It’s me that stops them, Bella. The boys know better than to mess with you when I’m around,” he says darkly. “Next year when I’m not here …”

“Nothing’s going to happen with anyone,” I say. “I’m not that kind of girl. There’s only one person I’m interested in.”

The stormy look on his face lessens somewhat, but he’s obviously still thinking of next year when he won’t be here, so I kick him lightly.

“How am I supposed to know what you’re going to be doing next year when you’re gone?” I ask. “Who’s to say you won’t fall for some smart Notre Dame chick?”

He answers me simply by the look in his eyes, and I go breathless at the soft, tender look of love I see in them. I want to go to him, be by him. I want to kiss him. And I can tell he does, too.

But of course, we can’t.

. . .

In mid-April, Edward is nominated for the senior prom King and is less than thrilled because if he wins, he’ll have to attend prom.

Against Edward’s wishes, me, Rose and Alice start a don’t vote Edward Swan for Prom King campaign. Only I didn’t count on anybody thinking that was just a joke, and how popular the idea would be. Before I know it, the whole school seems to be pro-Edward for prom King.

“Whose stupid idea was this?” he wants to know as he glares at the three of us.

“Mine,” Alice says. “You weren’t going to win unless we did this campaign.”

Rose and I gasp and turn on her.

What the?

“Sorry,” she shrugs. “But I didn’t want Levi Johnson or Stuart Plant to win.”

“Traitor!” I hiss.

“Good one,” Rose laughs.

“You’re going to pay for this,” Edward tells her with a glare.

“Oh come on, Edward. You’re the closet we’ll get to knowing someone on the Royal Court. Plus, the girls want to see you with that crown on your head.”

I don’t want to see him with a crown on his head. Or, dancing with some girl in front of the whole school. No, I’m sure I can’t see that without suffering somehow.

“Like I said, Alice,” Edward growls.

“Don’t do anything to hurt her,” Jasper tells him. “She didn’t do this to be mean.”

Edward glares at him and they trade looks for long seconds, but Jasper doesn’t back down.

“Edward’s not going to do anything to Alice,” I tell Jasper. “But she better watch out for me.”

“Piece of cake,” Alice says and she and Rose crack up laughing.

They’re both dirty traitors.

And now I have to decide if I want to go to prom or not. Would it be easier if I was at the dance, too, or easier if I just stayed home?

Neither idea sounds promising, but when Jamie asks if maybe I want to go with him, I say yes.

Edward’s not happy about it.

“So you’re going to dance with him all night because I’m going to dance once with the prom queen?”

“I doubt we’ll dance all night,” I tell him. “I have two left feet, remember? And besides, we’re going as friends and that makes all the difference.”

“If you’re just friends, then why did he ask you to go?”

“Because Jamie knows prom is a girl thing. He probably thought I wanted to go.”

“Don’t you?”

“No. But I think it’ll be better than staying at home and wondering what’s going on,” I say and wrap my arms around him. He’s stiff, even as he wraps his arms around me, too.

“I don’t think that would be better,” he says.

“Of course you don’t.”

“Why doesn’t Jamie get himself a girlfriend? Hasn’t he given up on you yet?”

I sigh. “He’s not trying to push himself on me, Edward. He knows we’re just friends.”

“How can you be so sure? Have you seen yourself lately?”

I frown up at him. “What do you mean?”

He gazes down at me with black eyes. “Well, you’re gorgeous. Irresistible.”

I burst out laughing, but his lips against mine silence me. It’s a hard, desperate kiss that lets me know he isn’t joking.

“How can you be just mine if you’re going to the dance with him,” he growls in between kisses.

“Same way you’re just mine,” I growl back.

His new thing is sliding a leg between mine and pushing it up against me. He won’t let us get naked to give each other orgasms, but he doesn’t mind doing it while we’re clothed. So right there against the wall inside the front door at home, he kisses me breathless, palms my breasts, and makes me rut against him until I see stars.

“You are mine,” he says after.

I don’t know how he can doubt it.

. . .

My prom dress is almost scandalous. It’s a low-back chiffon A-line, floor-length dress with thin straps and a lace bodice. The champagne color almost matches the tone of my skin, and it looks like a nightgown. I feel like a beautiful princess in it.

I decided at the last moment that I wanted to wear something daring. I don’t get a lot of male attention at school, I know Jamie and I are just friends, and I want to drive Edward a little crazy. Which is kind of mean of me, because I know he’s already crazy at the idea that I’m going with Jamie, but I want to be sexy for him. Just for tonight. And privately, I know he’ll know it’s just for him.

Dad about swallows his tongue when he sees me. Edward goes ram-rod straight and his face appears star-struck. And then? Then his eyes go ice-cold and disapproving. In his toe-to-black suit with a dark gray undershirt, he looks like a sexy god. An angry, sexy god.

I want to burst into tears.

“You’re not going to let her wear that, are you?” he asks Dad.

Dad sputters, and then the doorbell rings.

Jamie looks as star-struck as Edward did. His face stays that way, too, something I’m relieved to see. I don’t know what I would do if he looked at me with distaste like Edward did. I’m already oh-so-close to running back upstairs.

Jamie’s fingers tremble as he affixes the white Calla lily on my wrist.

“Are you okay?” I whisper and hope Dad and Edward can’t hear.

“Yes,” he whispers back. “I’ve just never seen you look so beautiful before.”

“It’s just me,” I whisper.

“Excuse me,” Edward barks and startled, we break apart and away from the front door. “I’m late to pick up my date.”

My mouth pops open. “You’re taking someone?” I gasp.

“That’s right,” he glares at me.



And I have to swallow a few times before I’m able to talk. “Well, have fun. I guess I’ll see you there.”

He doesn’t answer, just leaves, and Jamie doesn’t understand the tears in my eyes. Neither does Dad, who wants us to pose for pictures before we leave.

There’s not much worse than having to smile and pose when my heart is breaking.

. . .

Prom is being held at one of the hotels on the outskirts of town. The first thing I see when we step inside the ballroom is Emmett, because he’s so tall, and Rose. Frantically, I look for Jasper—I need him right now—but he must not be here yet.

“Oh. My. God,” Rose says when she sees me. Even Emmett is openly gaping.

I duck my head. I didn’t realize the dress was this bad.

“You look amazing,” she says.


She sees the tears in my eyes and pulls me aside so we can talk in private.

“What’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

“I’m not crying,” I tell her.

“Well, you’re about to,” she says and uses the tail of her single braided plait to wipe playfully at my cheeks. She’s beautiful in a powder blue, short sleeved gown. A year and a half ago, she would have worn red.

“I just … Edward didn’t like my dress,” I say and look back down again.

“Of course he didn’t,” she says. “His little sister looks like a wet dream in that dress.”

“I do not,” I gasp.

She looks at me. “Bella. Every guy who’s passed you tonight has given you a second look, girlfriend.”

“Do I look like a slut?”

“No. You just look very, very sexy.”

By the time Alice and Jasper arrive and eye me up and down like I’m a piece of art, I’m ready to find somewhere to hide. I feel a little better at seeing what Alice is wearing: a fire engine red, form-fitting dress with a thigh-high slit. Jasper, seeing my unhappiness, squeezes my arm and gives me a small smile.

“Hang in there,” he whispers. “It’s just one night. It’ll be over soon.”

I see Edward across the ballroom sitting a table with Jane and her friends. When they get up to dance a few songs later, I see Jane’s wearing a dress that’s as scandalous as mine, if not more so. It looks like she’s wearing a nude sheath over a bikini.

“That’s … tacky,” Rose says.

I’m not going to sit here and watch Edward’s hands on her all-but-naked back, so I pull Jamie out onto the dance floor. He’s a good dancer, doesn’t hold me too close or too far away. Plus, he somehow manages to keep me from stepping on his feet or tripping over my own.

And then something past his shoulder catches my eye. It’s Edward, and he’s looking right at me. He and Jane have moved right next to us.

I avert my eyes, but just as soon, I’m trading a glare with him again until Jamie turns us and I can take a breath.

My heart is still smashing to pieces. I’m feeling the same hurt I felt when Edward asked Jessica out. Back then, I thought it was to deliberately hurt me. Is he doing the same thing now? Just because I agreed to go to the prom with Jamie? Is he punishing me because I didn’t stay home? Because it’s not fair if he is.

Edward and I trade looks again just as the song is coming to an end. His eyes flick down my body, but I see appreciation mixed in with the derision, and turn my face away. I won’t let him try to shame me, not when his date is wearing that.

After we’ve eaten dinner, which was dry chicken and runny rice, the principal announces the prom king and queen. And surprise, it’s Jane and Edward. I want to barf.

Instead, I ask Jamie to take me home, but he has to use the restroom first.

As I’m waiting at the doors to leave, Edward finds me. His jacket is unbuttoned. Yeah, I bet he’s hot from all that dancing. I walk away from him and head for the exit doors. Jamie can come find me.

Edward catches my wrist. “Leave the dress on tonight and meet me in the basement,” he tells me lowly.

“Why? For what? You obviously don’t like the dress,” I say and try to act like I’m not hurt.

“I want to dance once with you, okay?”

“What if I don’t want to dance with you?”

He gives me a look. “You’ll dance with me.”

Jamie sees us and looks at us like we’re crazy. “Are you two alright?”

Edward releases my wrist. “See you shortly,” he tells me and leaves, ignoring Jamie.

“What was that about?” Jamie wants to know as we walk to his car.

“Just Edward being Edward,” I shrug.

“He’s never liked me being with you, has he?”

I sigh. “No. But then he wouldn’t like anyone with me.”

And that’s a truth I have no problem admitting.

Jamie tries to kiss me at the front door, but I turn my face away so he gets my cheek.

“Sorry, Jamie. Just friends, remember?”

He smiles with regret in his eyes. “Couldn’t help trying.”

So I kiss his cheek goodbye. It would be so much easier if I felt for him what I feel for Edward.

It’s late when Edward gets home an hour later, almost midnight. Against my better judgment, I left the dress on for him. I don’t know who I’m more irritated with right now: myself for doing what he wants, or him.

I’m not in the basement though, so he comes to get me.

I glare at him wordlessly as he stares at me from my bedroom doorway. He doesn’t move, so I hold my skirt as I climb off the bed. He picks up the shoes I wore and waits for me to move past him.

In the basement, I don’t give him a chance to talk first.

“Why did you take Jane to the prom?”

“She asked me,” he said and bends down to slide the first shoe on my foot. “And I didn’t want to sit at a table all night watching you, so I said yes.”

No, instead he watched me all night from where ever he was. Just as I watched him. Jasper had to tell me to knock it off more than once.

I growl and use his back to stabilize myself as he lifts my second foot. Once he has it on, he backs away from me and deliberately runs his gaze slowly up and down my body. I go instantly hot at the look in his eyes, which are no longer coldly disapproving.

“You don’t hate this dress?” I ask softly.

“Hell no, I don’t hate the dress. I hate that you wore it for others to see, though.”

And I finally see the look I was hoping for from him. He’s visibly affected by the dress and I finally feel sexy and wanted and beautiful.

Edward switches the sound system on low and Nickelback’s Far Away begins as he slides his arms around me. Since I’m wearing heels, the top of my head comes to his mouth and it’s not such a strain on my neck to look into his eyes.

“You’re the only one I wanted to dance with tonight,” he tells me and brings me flush up against him.

He’s hard and hot all over where ever we touch.

I have to look away from his pretty, seductive eyes, because I have something to say.

“I know you have every right to take whoever you want to prom, but you had to know that you taking Jane was going to hurt,” I say and look back up at him.

His hands tighten on my waist. “I don’t have every right to take whoever I want to the prom,” he tells me lowly. “I belong to you, no matter who I happen to be with at the time.”

The way he stared at me then, and the way he’s staring at me now, lets me know the truth of that.

“But why didn’t you tell me?”

He closes his eyes and brings his forehead to mine. “I didn’t want to hurt you. Until … I did.”

I don’t understand that. “But why would you want to hurt me at all?”

He inhales and gives me a tortured, angry kind of look. “Because I am a selfish bastard, that’s why. I didn’t want you going anywhere with Jamie looking the way you did.”

I frown at him. How could he not know? “I wore the dress for you. Not him.”

He looks like I’ve sucked the breath from him. “For me?”

My fingers climb his shoulders and anchor in his hair, and then I pull him down to me. “Yes, for you,” I say against his mouth and then bite his lower lip. “I guess I should have shown it to you first.”

“No,” he says as we kiss frantically. “I never would’ve let you wear it.”

When the song ends, we’re on the floor and Edward is dragging the hem of my dress up to my thighs. At first, it used to be that I was holding us back from going sexually further, but now it’s him. Only it doesn’t seem as if he’s going to hold us back tonight …

But then he suddenly, abruptly, comes to his senses when I see his fingers go to his belt. The tortured, angry look is back as he pushes himself away from me.

Throbbing and angry myself, I sit up to yank my dress back down. “How long are you going to do this?” I demand. “How long are you going to keep turning me away?”

“I’m not going to fuck you for the first time on the basement floor,” he tells me.

“Are you ever going to fuck me at all?”

He pulls me to my feet, hugs me, then moves us to the stairs.

“Don’t tempt me.”

But that’s the thing. Tempting doesn’t seem to work with him.

At all.

. . .

Every time I see the 50 Shades of Grey movie trailer come on, I have to stop whatever I’m doing and watch it. I must have seen it 50 times now.
Who’s going to see it? Tell me, tell me, tell me.

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