"Hey." I move to close the door again when I see who it is, but Edward's faster than me, wrapping his hand around the edge of it so I can't. I consider slamming it as hard as I can to force him to let go, but even under the circumstances, I can't bring myself to be quite so mean.
"I have nothing to say to you," I tell him, not quite able to meet his eyes through the gap I refuse to widen.
"Isabella, I know how it looked, but-"
"Stop," I demand. "You don't have to explain to me, I'm not your girlfriend. Or your wife." I glare at him now, my anger at myself fuelling a sudden surging bravery.
"I want to explain, because you have it all wrong," he says, the strains of frustration licking around his words.
"It doesn't matter what you tell me, how can I believe it? You're a cheater, Edward, this is what you do." I can feel myself beginning to tremble.
"No." He shakes his head. "That's not what I am or what I do. It was a one-time thing, a huge mistake, but one that I learned from. And besides, the last time I looked you were guilty of the exact same thing, so don't you dare get all high and mighty with me when I've done nothing wrong."
I look at him and raise my eyebrows.
"I'm serious," he insists. "Ask Mike if you don't believe me, he was there too, which makes your reaction even more ridiculous."
"Oh, you think I'm ridiculous now? Nice."
And then my brain catches up and registers exactly what he said. "Wait, Mike was there? But his car wasn't on the driveway…"
"He'd lent it to his mom, hers was at the garage."
"But…" I scramble for more facts that prove I was right. "Jess was in her robe, why would she be-"
"She was about to take a shower and the lever for the controls came off in her hand. I was downstairs watching the game with Mike and went up to help him fix it. We just needed an extra set of hands when you called round, which is why I was shouting down to Jess."
It sounds almost plausible…
"And Mike will back this story up, you say?" I realize I've relaxed my hold on the door and it's opened up a little further now.
"Okay, then I'm sorry."
I see his shoulders relax and he smiles, almost knocking the air from my chest with his beauty.
"So can I come in?"
I hesitate, thrown off guard again, this time by the fact that nothing much has changed and yet he so clearly thinks it has.
"I'm sorry. I still can't…" I take a deep breath. "I think this all just proved that things would never work between us."
"Isabella, please." I close the door quickly, but not before the image of his face is burned onto my eyes. He looks devastated.
"Bella, please don't shut me out," Jess pleads. It's the third time she's called me today, but the first time I've answered.
"I'm not, I've just been kind of busy." Busy wallowing in self-pity over my life, that is.
"I know you," she reminds me. "I'll bet you've been sitting around feeling sorry for yourself."
"I just really don't want to have to go over everything again."
"Edward said he came over."
My stomach turns at the mention of his name.
"Yeah. I'm...sorry I jumped to the wrong conclusion."
"You know I'd never do that to Mike."
I feel a pang of guilt at misjudging my best friend. "Yeah, I know. I guess I didn't have my rational head on."
"I'm still not sure you do. I had a long chat with Edward," she tells me.
"Oh, here we go."
"Do you really think I'd encourage you to go into a relationship with someone I thought might not treat you right?" she asks.
"That depends," I say. "Are you about to start telling me how great Edward is again? Only if you are, then that's a yes."
"I honestly don't think he'd ever consider doing anything like that again, he knows what a mess it causes. I mean, look at all the fallout with you, Conner and Riley. Do you really think you'd put yourself or anyone else through that kind of crap again?"
I don't reply fast enough, my pause giving her enough time to put two and two together and get the right answer. "Oh my God." She gasps quietly. "It's not about Edward at all. You don't trust yourself, do you? All this time I thought you were playing the victim. Were you actually trying to protect him?"
"No, it's not like that," I protest weakly.
"Bella." She only says my name, but I hear enough sympathy and affection to feel a lump appear in my throat. "You should talk to him. I'm pretty sure you'll find he doesn't think he needs protecting from you."
"But I like him way too much, Jess. What if I fuck things up?"
"What if you don't try at all? Bella, that's way worse. I spent an entire evening with the two of you, remember? There's something there, something I never saw with you and Conner or any other guy. I think you have to try. I don't think you'll ever forgive yourself if you don't."
Jess's words play on my mind constantly over the next couple of weeks, to the point I've started to drive myself crazy. It's this mental state, combined with the bottle of wine I've drunk, that leads me to Edward's door at close to ten o'clock on a Friday night.
I think I woke him. He's looking sleepy and ruffled, and altogether too cute for words. I stare for a moment, then I nod seriously, trying to hide the fact I'm struggling to keep from swaying.
"Yeah. Hi." I lift my hand and swipe it left to right in a kind of wave.
"Do you...want to come in?" He stands back a little and I look at the gap he just made, squinting slightly to try and get my eyes to focus as I consider.
"I probably shouldn't." I get lost in his face and lose my concentration for a moment, the sway winning out and making me stumble back. Edward takes a couple of steps forward and grabs my arm to steady me.
"Are you okay?" he asks, all concerned green eyes and face only inches from mine.
"I'm fine," I tell him. He twists his head away and laughs.
"Have you been drinking?" he asks, still amused.
"A little." I close my eyes and shake my head, waving my hand as if to dismiss it as inconsequential. He catches me as I stumble again.
"Come on, I'll make you a coffee."
He tries to steer me towards the door, but I dig my heels in.
He stops and turns to look at me, his hand burning my arm with its very presence. I was going to say something; attempt some kind of apology or explanation, but my head has succumbed to the alcohol, leaving my heart in charge, so instead I throw myself at him and close the distance between us, planting my lips on his. He grunts in surprise, kissing me back for a moment before gently pulling away.
"This isn't-" he begins to say. Panic hits me in the face at full-speed.
"I'm sorry," I cut in, embarrassment washing over me as I turn to leave. "I shouldn't have-"
"Hey." He catches me, wrapping his hand around my arm again and pulling me gently back to him. "I was going to say this isn't how I wanted our first kiss to be - you drunk and me at risk of being accused of taking advantage." I laugh, because if anything I'm the one taking advantage here. Then something else occurs to me.
"You've thought about our first kiss?" I ask, grateful for the confidence boost the wine has given me.
"Oh yeah, a lot. Come on. Coffee." He smiles at me and I melt, as he guides me inside the house.
"Good morning. Did you sleep well?"
I think about answering, but my tongue is stuck to the roof of my mouth as thoroughly as my eyelids are fused shut, so I groan in reply instead. "Here." A hand takes my own and wraps it around a glass. I take a long drink of the cold water, cracking my eyes open as I do.
"Thank you," I croak, now my mouth is refreshed slightly. As soon as my body is a little more functional, my brain catches up quickly. "I turned up here drunk didn't I?" I ask Edward. His brow furrows.
"You don't remember?" he asks. I take another drink.
"I guess I do. I'm trying not to though."
He laughs quietly. He looks so good, even first thing in the morning.
"There's not much to recall, you fell asleep while I was making your coffee."
I wince. "I'm so sorry," I tell him, not sure if the warmth in my cheeks is from embarrassment or last night's wine. He's still smiling, but I get the sense of fondness rather than ridicule from it and I'm grateful.
"Don't be. Do you have plans for today?" he asks, sitting down at the opposite end of the couch as I pull myself up a little, tucking my feet out of his way and hugging the thick blanket he must have covered with me when I fell asleep.
"No, nothing. Don't worry though, I'll leave as soon as I've finished my water." I raise the glass, aiming to drain it as I avoid looking at Edward.
"I was actually going to suggest we spend the day together," he says. My hand lowers as I look up at him quickly, wondering if he's messing with me. The way he's watching me intently as his tongue wets his lip makes him look uncertain, and I know then he's serious.
"You were?" I ask. He nods. "Okay." I draw the word out and his nerves get the better of him.
"If you don't want to-"
"No, I do, that's not it, it's just I could really use a shower and a change of clothes."
Relief passes over his face like sunlight following shade across a landscape. He smiles and the effect is equally as bright.
"Okay, well when you're ready I'll drive you home."
"You really don't have to…"
"I know that, I want to. You think you can manage some breakfast?" he asks, standing.
"I guess I could try," I tell him, anxious to please. He reaches down and takes my hand in his.
"Come keep me company while I cook." He tugs me gently to my feet, the blanket falling away as I rise. I make a move to pick it up, but he pulls on my hand again. "Leave it. I'll get it later," he says softly. I smile and let him lead me, the sense of being looked after warming me through.
A/N - Hi, thanks for sticking with this despite me being such an update fail!
I'm planning one more chapter for these two before it's marked complete xx