6


The next morning, I woke to look out the window to make sure the plate was really missing from his porch and it wasn't just a dream.

Nope.

Not just a dream.

The plate was gone.

I had officially made the first move. The ball was in his court. Now I needed a Xanax and some coffee before getting started on a house full of distractions.

I started with picking up my meds of papers I had strewn all over the living room. Before I knew it I was dusting then sweeping then dusting some more.

After I scrubbed the dishes and got them put away, I grabbed the broom and stepped outside. Breathing in the surrounding pine, I shielded my eyes from the shimmer of the water before putting broom to wood and getting down to it. I had just about finished when a shadow cast over the steps.

"Mornin'."

Startled, I tightened my grip on the handle of my broom and a sharp piece of wood pierced my skin.

"Shit," we both hissed at the same time I dropped the broom and he caught it. Propping it against the siding, he sat my plate on the step to grab my hand. I jerked back by reflex when he lightly ran his thumb over the site of the splinter, but his grip held me still.

"You got tweezers?" he asked, the deep tenor of his voice vibrating from his hand to mine. The pads of his fingers were rough and calloused, yet unexpectedly gentle as he rubbed soothing circles around my palm.

No longer trusting my voice, I shook my head, sucking in a silent breath when he ducked down and took my finger into his mouth. Heat radiated through me from the warmth of his tongue. I was too shocked to stop him once I felt the light scrape of his teeth, and my entire body went numb.

All we'd ever done before this moment was wave hello and now my finger was in his mouth.

With a quick nip, the pain was gone before I could even flinch. But I did anyway, grabbing hold of his upper arm at the same time. I tried to focus on my breathing instead of his lips. How they pouted around my finger. How pink they were compared to his skin.

I tightened my grip on his bicep when he sucked in, creating a soft suction that slid along my flesh until he released my finger to spit the shard out onto the ground.

"Better?" he asked, running the pad of his thumb over the broken skin.

No longer feeling it stick like the first time, I nodded.

"Good. Now if only my morning wood was that easy to get rid of."

My reaction was between a cough and a laugh. His wide smile triggered my own, and I took back my hand, promptly crossing my arms over my chest.

"Good one," I said, nodding at the ground. Unable to stop smiling, I squinted up at him. "That was a good one."

"You liked that, huh?"

I nodded, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear, and smiled down at the ground again.

Yeah, I liked that. A little too much.

"So, are you the one to thank for the dinner last night?" He pointed to the plate.

"Yeah, that was me." I gestured to myself. "Bella."

"Well, it was delicious. Just sorry I wasn't there when you dropped it off. Would have been better warm. But it was good either way."

"Good. I'm glad you liked it."

"Yeah. Been forever since I had a home-cooked meal. Really hit the spot." Rubbing his stomach, he held out his hand as if he'd just remembered his manners. "I'm Paul. Sorry. Probably should have led with that instead of …" He nodded down at my hand.

"No, it's okay. Thanks to your fast thinking I still have my finger."

"How else would you have cooked for me again if I hadn't saved it?"

"Exactly."

The wrinkles at the corners of his eyes deepened with his smile, and I noticed the color for the first time. Brown as his hair but with gold specs. Same as mine.

As the sound of the waves hitting the cliff replaced our chatter, he shoved his hands in his pockets and started to back away. "Well, I gotta get going. But it was good to finally meet you, Bella."

"Yeah. You, too."

"Just wanted to stop by and drop that off." He tipped his head toward the plate. "Let you know it was the best chicken I ever had, warm or not. And uh, you can cook it for me anytime." He winked, and I probably flushed for the hundredth time since the start of our conversation.

"Yeah. Sure. Anytime."

With a nod, he took off for his truck. I watched after him until he hopped in the cab. Once he was out of sight, I picked up the plate and headed into the house. Already planning my next meal and unable to wipe the smile from my face.

.

"Hold up. He did what with your finger?" Lauren asked. Putting a hold on painting her nails, she absentmindedly blew on them.

"Put it in his mouth."

"He put your finger in his mouth," Lauren repeated.

Leah rolled her eyes. "That's what she just said. Or weren't you listening?"

Holding up her open palm toward Leah's face, Lauren shushed her with her fingers. "So now, you were saying, your finger …"

"Yep."

"Was in his mouth."

"Yes. But it was nothing. It was just so he could suck out the splinter. That's all."

"But your finger was in his mouth though."

While Lauren sat back and dreamily pondered that fact, Leah and I continued folding paper cranes for the reception tables. I was on my one hundred ninety-fifth and my fingers were killing me. The wounded one, especially.

"I just can't believe he stuck your finger in his mouth. I can't get over it."

Leah sighed loudly. "Obviously." Giving up on her crane, she turned to me. "So, are you planning on sleeping with him?"

Both Lauren and my mouths dropped as we looked up at Leah.

"What? I'm not the only one thinking it," she said, and a blank expression crossed Lauren's face before she turned to face me as well.

"Well, are you?"

Narrowing my eyes, I chucked one of the cranes at Lauren's head. "That's none of your business."

"It is if we're your true friends," Lauren argued, encouraging Leah to join in.

"Yeah. What she said."

I looked from one to the other in disbelief because of all things, knowing the details of my sex life was what they chose to agree on.

"First of all, knowing who I choose to invite into my bedroom does not a true friend make."

Lauren huffed, mumbling down at her nails. "Okay, Yoda."

Leah fell back in her chair, giving up on yet another crane. I was beginning to think I'd end up doing all one thousand of them all by myself.

"Look. I'm only asking because—"

"She's a nosy bitch," Lauren interrupted, and Leah gave her a death glare.

"No. I'm asking because I've seen how it works. You sleep with him, he breaks your heart and—"

"You pack up your bags and leave, taking the rent with you."

"Shut up, Lauren. That's not what I'm saying."

"Well, if you're so worried why did you offer to have Sam talk to him for me?" I asked. "Why would you encourage it? Why not warn me off then?"

"Because then, I didn't think you were interested. I just wanted to make sure you got along and were used to each other by the wedding."

"Why do we need to get used to each other by the wedding?"

"Because he's Sam's best man, and I didn't want it to be all awkward while you two were walking down the aisle."

"Oh."

"Yeah. So, see, if you sleep with him and it doesn't work out …" Leah shrugged.

"So you're just being selfish then," Lauren chimed in, waving her wet nails in the air.

Leah scowled at her. "And just how is that selfish?"

"You're willing to sacrifice a possible lifetime of your friend's happiness for just a day of your own."

"I would hardly consider a lifetime of casual sex happiness."

"Then you'd be doing it wrong."

Leah disengaged with an eye-roll and picked up a piece of paper to attempt another crane. She threw it back down halfway through. "Are you gonna help or what?" she asked Lauren.

"What," Lauren said.

Leah raised her voice. "I said, are you going to help or what?"

"And I said what I said. Besides, my nails are still wet." Lauren attempted to blow Leah off along with the wet paint on her nails. But Leah wasn't having it.

"Then why are you here?"

"Moral support for Bella, bridezilla. Why else?"

"I'm hardly that bad."

"I beg to differ."

"How so?"

Mindful of her nails, Lauren picked up one of the cranes. "A thousand paper cranes, Leah," she said then dropped it back down onto the table. "One thousand paper cranes."

While the two bickered back and forth, I reached for another piece of paper, but Leah was quicker. When she yanked it off the pile, it sliced me right below the site of the splinter, and I yelped.

"Oh, shit. Sorry, Bella."

"Quick! Somebody call Paul!" Lauren yelled and then laughed.

Leah fought a smile, claiming Lauren sounded like an idiot bird squawking, which only made Lauren laugh harder.

Chuckling myself, I noticed something moving in my periphery and glanced out the window to find a leggy blonde entering my neighbor's house.

An unexpected heat flashed through my body, and I turned back to the table to resume folding my one hundred ninety-sixth crane, acting as if I'd seen nothing.


Noncanon rec: Original Sin by BookwormBaby2580. Bella x Carlisle