Hello again!

Here's the first chapter of the second "new" story I'm working on. It's a bit longer than the first chapter of Between Two Trees because it was originally written as a one shot.

Now, just to be clear since so many of you wrote "I can't wait until you post the rest" in reviews of me posting the first chap of B2T:

THIS STORY (and the one from the last teaser posting) IS ALREADY BEING POSTED! I'm up to Chapter 6 with Chapter 7 on it's way ;) So please go to my profile and read the rest if you like what you see here.

I thank you.

2nd teaser:

Pretendre Desir Amour

(6 chapters posted so far)

Summary: Pretend. Desire. Love. Bella Swan is good at pretending. Edward Cullen is good at making it all too real. "You cannot desire what you do not know". ExB, some OOC, canon loves. Started as a one shot but now a full story


CHATPER 1 - The Pretender

"Keep you in the dark

You know they all pretend

Keep you in the dark

And so it all began"

- Foo Fighters "The Pretender"

Bella

No, I uncharacteristically did not have any interest in the party Jess begged me to attend tonight.

No, I did not want to get drunk and go through my usual round-about flirting routine with Jacob Black.

And, no, I definitely did not want anything to do with the dramatic love fest that was Rosalie and Emmett.

Not tonight. I was sick of it all.

I'd been away for the summer, this was only my second full day back, and it was odd returning. I chose to spend my summer break in Phoenix with my mother and Phil. It was a move no one had anticipated because I love my life in Seattle. It's no secret that for the past year I thoroughly enjoyed attending cosmetology school, my small but wonderful apartment, and nearly everyone I came in contact with... but late last spring everything that made my life special had just started feeling so mundane.

So I decided to take a break for a while. To escape? Run Away? I'm still not sure. Either, both, or neither, the point was that I had left and now I had to return and try to hold on to who I had become while finally letting go of the biggest reason behind why I had left.

Certain circumstances causing certain heartbreak over a certain boy (who was not worth it) were said "biggest reason" for my sudden summer departure. I don't care much for reliving the details of my horrid affair with James. Let's just say it was passionate, short lived, and devestating enough to make me second guess every single thing I knew about myself.

So after realizing I couldn't fully recover while trying to conceal my distaste for everything painsaking familiar about my life, I fled back to my home land, spending the summer searching the desert landscape for some sort of sun filled escape. My efforts had not been futile. During my 3 months in Arizona I had found myself again, simply by being with myself. I stripped away what I thought about the type of girl Jessica expected me to be, or the way I constantly compared myself to Rosalie's modelesque looks, or how I just wanted to be "cool" enough for the other girls at our fashion obsessed school.

Maybe it was all part of growing up, which, for the record, was not something I was in a rush to do, but I spent the summer becoming ok with being me. I had to take time to figure out who Bella Swan really was. And now that I had taken my summer of self-discovery (as horribly feel-good summer movie plot as that sounds) I could proudly say that Bella Swan was finally 100 percent pleased with Bella Swan.

It had made returning to school a bit difficult, however.

I still loved all of them dearly, my friends and confidants in life that surrounded me here in Seattle. Rosalie, Jess, Emmett, Mike, and Jacob were the small group of people that I was always around and always happy with. We had our routines and our inside jokes. We had a balanced ebb and flow within the group. We knew which hook ups you talked about, and which you didn't. We knew when to yell at each other, laugh, cry, boast... everything. It was a fantastic group of people. And the party tonight wasn't all that bad. I mean, Mike had definitely thrown worse parties in the past year I'd been involved in this crowd.

It was just all so... mundane these days. And I wanted to be shook up.

I looked around the crowded living room and sighed. The noise of my lifewas just too familiar to me. And the familiarity was scaring me. The me that I had found over the summer didn't fear change like I once had. I wanted it. Needed it, even. I was gazing around the room just begging someone to do something different.

Please Jessica, just this once do not follow Mike around like a puppy.

Please Rosalie, just this once do not check yourself in the mirror right outside of the kitchen before entering to grab yourself another vodka cranberry.

Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, Jacob Black do not come over here with your smile that reminds me of Phoenix sunshine and how much I just want to be loved.

None of them were listening to my silent pleas, however. So by the time I'd spent 30 minutes watching Jessica hold Mike's beer while played Rockband, seen Rose reapply lip gloss 5 separate times before entering the kitchen, and noticed a wide-eyed, bright smiled Jacob making his way over to me, the noise of their laughter, their flirting, their color coded music and their every day greetings had grown into too loud of a familiar humm around me. And I needed to get out of it. Now.

I wandered around the outside of the house, dodging the numerous bodies that were littered outside as well. I hummed along with "Things Aren't Like They Used To Be" by the Black Keys as it came throbbing out of the really awesome speakers Mike had just installed inside his house and out. As I made my way to the back yard I started innocently plotting my escape from all things familiar, thinking I'd flee to London or Norway or Peru this time.

It was a habit I'd picked up during the summer as I sat out by my mother's new pool. I read any fantasy novel I could get my hands on during my time in Phoenix. Isolating yourself from anything past Jessica Stanley's insesent text messaging gave one plenty of free time to read. Submerging myself in such a great amount of fantasy literature did a number on my imagination, and in the past few weeks I'd found myself using the new creative muscle to imagine myself escaping the every-dayness that was suffocating me and fleeing to some exciting foreign country and circumstance.

I'd met a girl at cosmetology school that had toured Norway with her band, so that was always an option in my made-up escapes. Paris, Rome and Spain played a part of my elaborate daydreams frequently as well. Pretending had become my biggest ally in escaping the suffocating feeling of all the noise. Childish or not, it was second nature to me now.

No one had to know I spent half of my time creating a fake life inside of my head. It kept me happy, sane, even, in an ironic kind of way. Funny how going borderline off-the-wall crazy can seem like the most grounding thing in the world sometimes.

I was searching out the quietest place I could find, pulling out a clove to smoke as I escaped into my imaginings, when it happened.

I stopped dead in my tracks, causing the person who'd been following closely behind me to bump into me but thankfully not cause me to tumble over like I'd been prone to do before, thanks to some not-so-great balance genes I'd picked up from some distant relative or another.

I was now in the very middle of the crowded back yard, parallel to the gaint gazebo Mike built last year. It looked really nice tonight, like something straight out of my imagination, actually.

The wooden structure was strung with thousands of tiny white lights all over it's supports and roof, no doubt Jessica's doing. She'd been scheming with her friend Angela on how to "vamp up" Mike's glamorous condo's features ever since she took up permanent residence in his bed last Valentine's day.

Anyway, the thing looked magical and stunning. But the enchanting glow dancing off of the gazebo was not what had taken my breath away.

Standing on the left side of the glowing scene, leaning as casually as possible up against one of the beams, was the most amazing man I had ever seen.

Man? No. Guy? God?

No words in my vocabulary seemed appropriate to describe him.

"Man" seemed to be too... adult for him. Although he was obviously taller than most others, and at least my age, 22, something about him was still playfull and un-manish. Almost boyish. But "boy" certainly wasn't correct, and "guy" seemed to plain a word for him. He was more extraordinary than any of those three letter combonations.

And "god", well... okay. That seemed the most accurate, actually. But even in my wildest imaginings no god was allowed to attend things like "Mike's Super Big Drink Your Face Off Fall Bash". Emmett's name for the party, not mine.

He was effortless perfection in his fitted, worn, dark brown jeans, plain white, somehwhat snug t-shirt, and beaten up red converse.

His forearms bore tattoos, though I couldn't see the details of what they were due to the distance I was at and the odd lighting he was bathed in. His face was angular, pale, perfect. But it was the hair that really did it for me. The hair was an absolute mess atop his head. It was thick and unruly. He pulled his hand through it as I stood there staring at him, as if he knew that would make me even more crazy.

The most surprising thing about him, though, was the fact that he was completely alone.

Surely at least one person was missing his company. Surely someone like him was constantly being sought after. He was probably waiting for a very Rosalie-like goddess to fetch him a drink or something. He was probably playing hard to get with some poor girl who was in love with him. The exceptionally good looking males were apt to do things like that.

That knowledge was one of the few helpful things James had left me with.

Or perhaps this beautiful person was alone by choice. Exceptionally good looking males did that as well. Pushed away those who would love them forever... I sighed and shook my head to clear the thoughts.

No James tonight. That familiar noise was not creeping back into my life, no matter what.

Shaking my head had also somewhat cleared my daze so I moved to the other side of the back yard where I had been headed initially. I perched on the small rock wall and made sure I had a very clear view of him as I sat, sipped my rum and coke, pulled the life out of the clove, and imagined this Adonis into my life.

Yes, I knew the very second I saw him that he would take the lead in anything my mind imagined from this point out. How could he not? He was leading man material. I wasn't entirely convinced I hadn't gone over the deep end and hallucinated him into existence myself.

I watched as he pulled a black lighter out of his pocket and flicked it on. His deep eyes watched the flame dance and he sighed heavily and licked his lips as he let the flame extinguish, only to light it again once it went out.

This brings us to the moment I lost control over my head.

I imagined him as mine. It was far too easy for me to sit 25 feet away from him and pretend he was my soul mate, just standing in the twinkling wooden dome, waiting for me to find him and kiss him hello.

I couldn't give him a name, because nothing in my brain seemed to fit him. He wasn't a Charlie like my father, or an Emmett like my self-proclaimed big brother currently inside playing video game drums. He wasn't a Mike or a Tyler or Ben. Nothing ordinary could contain him, name or otherwise.

Which only drove me farther in my new need to be as un-ordinary as possible. The changes the summer had brought me were suddenly very important to me, and I swelled with pride as I realized I wasn't as ordinary as I once had been. I'd found my own uniqueness. I dared to hope I was even interesting enough for someone like him. Perhaps I was unique enough not to be discarded from his life carelessly like I had been last winter.

I still wasn't what would fit with him though, surely.

I sighed and took the final drag of my clove, putting it out and turning back to the solitary figure in the gazebo who had no idea my mind was turning him into my in-my-head pretend boyfriend.

In my head were at this party together, in love, but skirting around each other in a flirty sort of way. We knew we'd be going home together, so we made a silent agreement to spend time with others until we returned home hand in hand, like we did every night before and would be doing every night after.

He would be standing in the gazebo with Emmett and a few other nameless guys that were his friends instead of alone like he was now, and I would be doing a shot with Rosalie and Jess, raising the small amount of alcohol in the air to praise the large amount of love we all held for our men.

In my head he stole glances from me across the backyard, pulling out his black lighter and standing next to me for a few seconds to light my clove for me before stealing a drag from it and kissing my cheek. I'd be sitting on this wall watching him walk back over to the guys, and Mike wouldn't be playing Rockband guitar right now because he'd be in a real band with my loving boyfriend, who was talented at... something interesting... like the dulcimer. Guitar and paino were all good and well, and my loving boyfriend could no doubt rock those, but he'd be more complex than that. He had to be.

Sometimes my imagination takes a few seconds to come up with something truly interesting, but it usually never fails.

I sighed and pushed off of the wall, needing to go back inside before I got caught blatantly staring at the angel under the white lights.

I would take him with me though, in the pretend way. It would help me get through the night, and the noise, and the suffocation of all things familiar if I could bring the Pretend with me.

I walked back around the house, taking one last glance towards the sex hair and the tattoos.

As my Pretend Boyfriend he glanced back at me and smiled before I turned the corner, making me a secret promise of making up for the time I'd be apart from him while we socialized at the party.

Oh the things he was going to do to make it up to me...

I shivered and smiled and loved my imagination even more as that thought came to me.

I pushed through the living room crowd and smiled at Jessica and Rosalie who were discussing hair and nails while perching on Mike's big leather couch. We were all cosmo girls, and we all loved the creative outlet our school offered, but sometimes I wasn't as into the materialistic side of it as they were. I was attracted to the idea of expressing individuality through looks. Providing that individualism for people was what sparked my interest to join the profession in the first place.

Bleach-blond Rose and low-lighted Jessica were more conventional in their reasoning for beauty school, but they honestly loved it like I did so there was no reason to judge.

As they smiled back to me I kept The Boyfriend in the front of my mind, finding his pretend presence in my heart comforting. Knowing he was out there, pretending he was out there waiting for the minute I could be there with him again, just helped calm the awful humming of the noise.

Jake was talking to Leah in the dining room and I avoided them both, thinking in my mind how The Boyfriend wouldn't appreciate the kind of looks I would get from Black. That's what Pretend Boyfriend now called Jake, despite how I rolled my eyes whenever it happened. Everyone The Boyfriend wasn't particularly fond of got the last name treatment, and my flirtacious history with Jacob had given Pretend Boyfriend enough reason to put him on the crap list. It was endearing, his protectiveness over me, so I let it continue and didn't miss Jacob's advances on bit.

I found myself smiling as I made my way into the kitchen and poured myself another rum and coke. I had no intention of getting crazy tonight, but I knew I'd be here a little longer so I filled up my cup for the second, and probably last time.

I turned around with my newly full drink but was stopped short in my action as something small and giggly crashed into me, making me spill almost half of it all over both of us.

"Oh eff," a beautiful high-pitched voice mumbled. "Not the new Chanel sweater! Damn. No, no, no."

"I'm so sorry," I gasped, setting down my drink and grabbing paper towels to wipe down this tiny stranger's apparently designer sweater before I tended to my less important 10 dollar black halter top.

"Paper towels?" she gaped at me, lifting her shining green eyes to me and pursing her lipstick tinted lips. "I think not!'

With that she stopped fussing over her sweater, which was actually a full dress, laughed one of the most light hearted, care-free laughs I had ever heard, and grabbed my wrist to pull me from the kitchen.

"Where are we going?" I asked, part of me thinking The Boyfriend wouldn't be happy if he couldn't find me when he came in the house.

I smiled to myself at that errant thought before we crossed the foyer. My pretending skills had gotten good.

"We are going to save my Chanel, of course. And your..." she looked over to my non-designer covered chest and quirked an eyebrow. "That."

She kept a hold of my wrist and gestured at my halter top with her other hand, letting out another small laugh and a warm smile when she met my eyes.

"It's from the vintage shop downtown," I explained with a shrug, not caring much for labels.

She grunted in approval and nodded once, somehow making me feel better by not judging me for my lack of interest in clothing preferences, though that sort of thing seemed to be extremely important to her.

We were headed up the stairs now and I glanced back down, wishing I could catch the eye of The Boyfriend to pretend more efficiently that he was worried about my sudden disappearance from the kitchen. No such luck though.

He was probably still outside, oblivious to the funny story I would have for him later, about the tiny woman that laughed like a fairy and pulled me around Mike's condo with authority.

"Bathroom," she commanded the second we entered the hallway at the top of Mike's stairs.

I obeyed her command slipping into the second door on the left while she disappeared in the guest bedroom door to the right. I was surprised at the tone she managed to speak with. It was both commanding and kind. Forceful but not pushy.

I'd never heard anything like it, and something about it drew me in.

A few seconds later she came into the bathroom behind me, pulling out some sort of wipe from her giant turquoise purse and dabbing her sweater where it was wet from my spilled drink.

She handed me one of the wipes and smiled, looking at me through the mirror as we stood side by side.

"Dab, don't swipe. The material doesn't like it when you rub in foreign substances."

"Who are you?" I asked bluntly as I started dabbing, apparently avoiding hurting my halter top's feelings.

"Alice Cullen," she replied, not in introduction but as a fact. This Alice knew who she was.

"You're new? To Mike's parties?" I asked, throwing away the used wipe and leaning against the counter.

I contemplated how nice it would be to take my cell phone out of my pocket to check for a text from Boyfriend, but I wasn't sure it would be realistic that he would be panicked about my being gone yet, so I erased the sensation all together.

"Yes ma'am," Alice agreed as she ran her hand through her spiky hair.

It looked a lot like the action of Boyfriend's in the gazebo, but her hand manuver was calculated while his seemed uncontrolled. She was methodically caressing the black spikes of her stylish do, while he had just been igniting a fire in my groin and going through the motion as some sort of habit.

"But don't worry, Bella, we'll be friends in no time."

She forsake the mirror then, turning to me and smiling at me in real life. I couldn't help but smile back. She was contagious all around.

"You know me, Alice?"

"Sure do. Most people already know me, too. You're just a little late."

I cocked an eyebrow at her and she laughed teasingly.

"I'm late... to knowing you?" I laughed.

"Well, you're later than everyone else. I've been in town for a few weeks, helping my brother get settled. Rosalie and I hit it off when I stopped in to your school to get my nails done last week. She didn't say anything about you until tonight, though. I find that odd seeing as how you're good friends and all."

She was leaning against the counter now, mirroring my stance, looking up into my eyes to calculate me.

"Oh. I sort of disappeared over the summer. I needed... a break. I love Rosalie to death, Jess, too, who I'm sure you've met. But I sort of disconnected myself from them up until about 2 days ago. Rosalie took my distance the hardest. I'm not surprised she didn't say anything about me. She doesn't take being ignored very well."

"Why'd you ignore your friend?"

"I didn't. I wasn't around, or calling regularly, but I was not ignoring. Rose decided I was ignoring her, so that's what we're calling it," I rolled my eyes and Alice cracked a slightly lopsided smile. "She's not mad at me anymore so I'm letting it be," I finished with a small shrug.

"Yeah, she's not fickle. She didn't seem mad at you when I asked."

I tilted my head in surprise as Alice started digging through her purse.

"Asked?"

"Yeah. About you."

Alice Cullen ignored my questioning stare and started applying clear lip gloss.

"Why?" I asked with a short laugh.

"You looked interesting," she shrugged. "Your tattoos caught... my eye so I decided I needed to know more about you. They're gorgeous, by the way."

I blushed and looked down at my arms. Comliments still make me a bit uncomfortable. All my mind could think about was the fact that stunning little Alice called something about me gorgeous.

The tattoos had been a growing obsession of mine. It was something I discovered I enjoyed around Christmas time the year before, when Emmett drunkenly decided he wanted to get a cheeseburger tattooed on his arm at "Mike's Super Big Drink Your Face Off Christmas Bash". Clearly by the time he'd sobered up the idea was out the window, but we ended up in a tattoo shop the next day anyway, and Rosalie talked me into getting a rose somewhere.

I never thought I'd do it. No one did. But it was the beginning of my need for change.

So I got 2 roses.

I now had the two flowers on each my shoulders, which began my mini obsession with halter tops, a small heart on the base of my ring finger, and on the inside of my right forearm I had the Eiffel Tower with red lettering at the base, wrapping round my wrist.

"Thanks," I responded to her compliment, sparing a look at my arm out of habit when the tattoos were mentioned.

"Desire," Alice sated in a soft voice as she gently lifted my wrist.

I instantly felt like a true friend was handling me, and it sort of shocked me that a simple touch from her had conveyed so much. Her declaration of our inevitable friendship from a few minutes prior was validified for me. This Alice Cullen knew what she was talking about, whether it be about who she is or who you will be to her... again she just knew.

"Yeah," I breathed, smiling at the new friend turning my wrist slowly as she read the foreign words of my tattoo.

"I'm sorry, I can't get the whole sentence. My French is a teensy rusty. What does it say?" she squinted up at me.

"On ne peut désirer ce qu'on ne connaît pas. You cannot desire what you do not know."

I spoke the quote quietly as she continued to hold my wrist. A silent, peaceful moment passing between us. I had no idea what Alice was thinking, but my mind was being flooded with the many reasons that quote had come to mean so much to me.

Despite the hurt, the pain, the tragedy of the past... I knew I still at least desired something. And I wouldn't know how to long for it properly if I'd never really had it. Right?

"You'd like my brother."

She said the words with confidence as she dropped my wrist and leaned down to adjust something on her black leather boots. It was another one of those sentences she just spit out into the universe, off her own accord. Something she said as fact and truth. Something not to be argued with.

"Ok," I replied, because she hadn't been wrong about anything yet.

I watched her pull a small blow dryer out of her purse and plug it in to the wall. She flipped the setting to "low" and started running the air over her sweater-dress and humming a song I'd never heard before.

I started to think that this night was getting a little weird.

It's not that the night wasn't a good one. I liked meeting Alice, and I really liked The Boyfriend, clearly. I liked being back in Seattle, and I liked the fact that I was currently away from all of the noise downstairs... but something felt weird about standing in a bathroom with a tiny woman in Chanel that was going to be my friend for, I don't even know how long, before she left her settled in, like-able brother and went home to who knows where.

In my head I needed to get back downstairs to see if Boyfriend was ready to go home yet. It wasn't late, but sometimes we escaped early, just to go back to my apartment or his to watch a movie, love, laugh, cook, or really do anything that involved being us.

Butsomething kept me in that real life bathroom instead of my silly imaginary relationship in my head. Something made me stay. Boyfriend could wait, anyway. He'd always wait for me. It was easy to put imaginary people on hold. Alice wasn't going to be around much longer, so time with her was important.

"When do you leave?" I asked over the blow dryer, suddenly curious.

"2 days," she answer-yelled back with a frown.

"Where do you live?"

"Chicago."

The same frown appeared.

"You don't like it?"

"It's great. It's been my whole life though. I'm ready to move on. Maybe New York. Maybe California. Maybe Seattle."

She turned off the blow dryer and started laughing when she mentioned Seattle. Nothing was actually funny, so I sort of just smiled at her as she continued her beautiful laugh until her little private joke ended.

"My brother likes to read," she announced once she sobered up.

I was starting to get a good enough feel of Alice Cullen to not be entirely surprised when she jumped subjects randomly like that.

"My boyfriend likes to read," I countered, not missing a beat.

What?

Her eyes widened a tiny bit and I bit my lip as I felt my cheeks heat slightly. I'm not sure why it came out of my mouth so naturally in an out-loud conversation. It was probably because my head was so far into pretending he was mine by this point, he had slipped into my subconscious and the whole thing was out of my control.

This happened once over the summer when I was making pretend escape plans to New York, to become the world's first professional Tambourinist. I accidentially told my mom that I was saving money for Del Sol, the bright yellow tambourine I'd fallen in love with in the obscure music store down the street from our houe. It slipped my mind that Renee knew nothing of my make-believe tambourine career while we were discussing how I was going to pay back my student loans. The questions that followed that particular slip up were colorful.

"Oh yeah?" Alice asked, as she zipped up her purse.

In those two, tiny words she sounded genuinely interested. She turned to me with a look on her face that told me she was one of those people that just loved hearing about this kind of thing.

So I decided to go with it. If she was going back across the country in 2 days then what could it hurt anyway? She'd likely never speak to Boyfriend and ask him about me. And after she left she'd probably never speak to me again either, so what would it matter if she did run into him tonight and find out I was living a fantasy life in my head? She could judge my insanity then, but I'd never have to hear about it.

"Yep. Not just anything either, he loves the classics. That's one of the reasons I love him. That and his hair."

I smiled wickedly at that comment, the picture of the wild mess popping up in my mind and teasing me with it's attractiveness.

"I love boy talk," Alice declared as she sat up on the counter. "I'm a hair girl too. I need something to hold on to, you know?"

We giggled together and high fived.

"What else do you love about him?" she sighed, dreamily.

"Well, he has tattoos, too. Which I clearly like. He's funny, but doesn't always have to be center of attention. He's a musician. He buys me cloves."

I shrugged and smiled, halting myself from spilling over the edge and tacking on details about how he kisses me slowly and traces patterns on my back at night.

Revealing make-believe intimate details to a friend I'll probably have for a total of 76 hours isn't exactly sane, and I still had some hold on reality.

"Wow. That's great, Bella. I don't have anyone to love. Yet."

Little Alice swung her feet and looked down at her boots, still smiling but hiding her eyes from me.

"You'll find him," I convincingly said, sounding exactly as one did when they had found the love of their life and knew that everyone could. Because most people in love do sound like that.

"I know," she replied in her special tone.

It was another Alice fact.

"Is he here?" she asked as she picked up a piece of my hair and twisted it around in the light a little bit.

"Uh, yeah. Outside. He's been in the gazebo all night, I think. He's had a rough day. He wanted quiet. You may have seen him, um, he has the tattoos, full sleeves on his arms, like I said before. And sex hair. And, um, red converse."

I dropped my head a little bit, because I'm a terrible liar and discussing my pretend boyfriend was one thing, but actually acting like he was someone who she could physically walk outside to see, and touch, and speak to herself took it a little too far. Also, I could tell my rambling due to my lying was a little annoying.

Alice didn't say anything or look up from where she was examining my hair. Her elegant fingers that had been twisting my hair around stopped suddenly, but started again a second later, as if the hitch in her pattern had never happened.

"Can I meet him?" she asked, using the quiet tone again.

Crap.

I opened my mouth to respond but nothing came out because, geeze, what the heck was I supposed to say?

"Oh sure, Alice, come on! I can't believe you haven't met him yet!"

Then we walk out to the back yard, I walk up to Gorgeous Stranger God, wrap my arm around him, kiss him for good measure, introduce him:

"Hey Pretend Boyfriend, this is my 76 Hour Friend, Alice. You're both going to think I'm crazy now, but it's ok because I am crazy! That's right, I spent all summer isolating myself from my friends, so they have no idea I do this fun thing now where I pretend my life it totally different than it is. That's how you became my boyfriend, Sex Hair. Isn't that funny, Alice? I'venever met this guy before, but he's so hott I couldn't resist dating him in my head all night, and then telling you that he really is my boyfriend. Aren't I fun?"

Yeah. Right.

"Nevermind, Bella, I have to get going anyway," she said suddenly, not looking up at me as she dropped my hair and jumped off the couter.

I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that tonight someone upstairs seemed to be looking out for me. Apparently I wasn't going to ruin the shortest friendship of my life by getting being forced to admit to my Pretend Boyfriend Syndrome.

She continued to not look at me and it made me nervous for a second. Alice had been really personable thus far, and I found myself actually missing her friendly gaze. Suddenly I was sad about the fact I was likely never going to see her again.

"Alice, I'm sad we can't be friends for a longer amount of time."

Her wide eyes turned to me, finally, and for a second they looked guarded. Then a very caring look quickly took over and Alice reached her hand out to clasp my wrist for the third time that night.

"We'll always be friends, Bella. Even if I never see you again. We were meant to be connected, even if it's only for this one night, in this one bathroom. I don't know though... I feel like... I might..." she sighed heavily and pulled me in for a hug without finishing her sentence.
She smelled of lilac and squeezed me tightly.

"You deserve happiness," she said into my shoulder.

Again the seemingly random comment surprised me, but again I found my self a little less surprised by it than before. She still sounded like she knew exactly what she was talking about.

"Thanks."

She started to walk out of the bathroom and I followed. As we neared the end of the hallway my steps slowed and my Alice induced lightness faded.

The noise was getting louder and louder as we approached the top of the stairs and I froze. I needed a second longer to be away from the familiar crowd to collect myself, along with my thoughts of The Boyfriend. I couldn't just waltz back down there and feel normal. It was still odd for me not to be by myself all the time after summer.

"I think I'm going to stay up here a bit longer. Text my boyfriend and, um, maybe leave soon as well. I have a head ache."

I rubbed my temple lightly, feeling bad about lying to Alice again, and hoping that even though the logic of my last sentence wasn't in order she would let it go.

"Ok. Good night, Bella. The room my purse was in had a comfy looking bed in it, if you want to lay down for a bit. You know, for the head ache."

I smiled at her offer and nodded as I pushed the door open and waved back at her before she started down the first step.

This room was one of Mike's 3 guest rooms. His condo was pretty large. He landed a job general managing the Seattle branch of his parent's store a few years back and now he was seemingly set for life. Apparently Newton's Outfitters was the place to go for all of your out door needs, and Mike was living great indoors because of it.

Alice didn't know me well enough to know I had spent the night in this room many times before. Before Emmett and Rosalie really hooked up, emotionally as well as physically, her and I would share this room after parties. The big white bed was as comfortable as it looked, but seeing as how I didn't really have a headache I didn't lay down in it.

I spent a few minutes sitting on the edge of it and checking my email on my phone. I took note that Pretend Boyfriend had not pretend texted me. I smiled at the thought of him anyway.

My mother had insisted on buying me an iPhone over the summer. Material things were made of love in her eyes, and I wasn't going to fight whichever way she chose to show affection.

I had a few emails from her, one from my father, and one from school reminding me of my schedule for the coming semester.

When I was in the middle of replying to Renee's numerous questions about whether or not her or Phil should get matching tattoos for their 2 year anniversary I heard movement in the hallway.

"Please do not let it be Rose and Emmett," I whispered to myself and to whomever was in the high heavens that had granted me mercy with Alice earlier.

Em and Rose normally used the larger guest room for their drunken love tumbles, but sometimes this one was more convenient for them to stumble into as it was closer to the top of the stairs.

The footsteps stopped right outside of my door, and I cringed prematurely, closing my eyes to prevent the scream I would have to emit if I saw any part of my 2 friends that were not Bella-friendly if and when they burst through the door.

No bursting happened however.

I tilted my head to the side in anticipation of my privacy being interrupted, but whomever had stopped outside of the door was no longer making any noise.

"You're sitting in the dark."

An unfamiliar voice spoke and I jumped a little bit, because they'd opened the door so quietly I hadn't even known they'd entered.

They'd entered? No. He'd entered. The voice was distinctly male. Smooth, velvety, and masculine.

Unlike anything I'd ever heard before.

Though something about it was familiar... but not familiar in the way I wanted to run from... familiar in a way I wanted to run to.

"And you have your eyes closed."

He spoke in facts.

He was like Alice.

The familiarity I was feeling was the way his tone mirrored Alice. The way he spoke simple sentences with the conviction of them being absolute truth was comforting after my encounter with my new little friend, but something about the feeling I had of him being in the room was unnerving and nothing like what Alice made me feel.

I heard the door click shut and I heard him take one step towards me, but I didn't open my eyes.

I think part of me knew who it was.

I know part of me knew who I wanted it to be.

But opening my eyes would ruin the possibility of what I wanted. Seeing the truth would kill whatever my mind could create him to be. Reality always ruined the fantasy. That was something I knew too well.

"Open your eyes, please."

I noted the way he said please. He chose not to command me to look at him, though we both probably knew I'd obey, and the warmth in his plea is what made me sacrifice what I had been holding onto.

"Sorry," I spoke when I opened my eyes and saw the magical gazebo God standing 4 feet away from me.

I felt the apology completely necessary, seeing as how when our eyes connected it felt right. It felt like I had been doing us both a disservice by keeping my eyes hidden away for so long after he'd entered the room.

He didn't reply. Didn't accept or deny my apology. Instead he smiled in a very crooked manner and took more steps towards me, turning slightly when he was about a foot away and sitting next to be on the edge of the bed.

It was almost difficult to be that close to him. Simply put, he was perfect to me and I was nervous. I couldn't even question how or why he ended up in this room with me, all I could do was look at him and try not to fall to his feet, or jump him, or search the house for handcuffs so I could bind us together with metal links.

"What's your name?" he asked softly, leaning into me slightly as he spoke.

"Bella. Isabella. But I like Bella."

He chuckled and I blushed.

"Me too. So far at least," he breathed.

Oh wow.

"Ok. What's your name?"

"Edward."

It fit him so well. I felt so proud of myself. I knew when I spotted him in the back yard that he couldn't be a Billy, or Jake, or Sam., or anything common.

Edward.

"Do you know Mike?" I asked, needing to know the origin of this Edward in my life.

"Mike? No. Not before tonight. I was invited by Emmett."

I nodded and was about to ask how he knew Emmett, but my words all left me when he reached over and tucked a piece of hair behind my ear.

"Your hair is radiant."

He leaned a bit closer but withdrew his hand the second the hair was in place, keeping our bodies from having any contact at all despite his leaning and my yearning for it.

The proper response probably would have been, "thank you". But I wasn't getting enough oxygen to my brain due to the way his eyes looked in the dim light, so instead I started laughing softly.

"What?" he asked with a smile in his eyes.

"My hair... isn't... your hair is fantastic," I admitted.

He leaned back a little bit and chuckled as he ran a hand through it, taunting me with each luscious strand.

He watched me stare unabashedly at the motion and when his hand dropped my eyes met his and he smirked. He so knew what he was doing to me.

It was sort of scary.

I stood up suddenly then, breaking our gaze and the spell he had over me.

This was ridiculous. Pretend Boyfriend wasn't supposed to walk in here all real and dangerous. I had to get out. Pretending was safe. Real boys were not. I didn't go through my summer of isolation to throw it all away over a Hair God that decided to escape my imagination.

"Where are you going?" he asked with a little less control in his voice.

I felt him stand up behind me, and I stopped right in front of the door with my hand on the handle. Something about him being close to me was so different from anything else I'd felt before and I couldn't decide whether I should stay, face the danger and explore that difference, or if I should just open the damn door and run back to Phoenix, or Norway, or the moon.

"Stay," he whispered in my ear, breathing hot breath down my neck.

I shuddered and closed my eyes, knowing my decision had been made because he'd managed to close the distance between us before I could fight whatever strange pull his body had on mine.

I shook my head a little bit, kind of trying to fight how right I was starting to feel with him so close to me. My instinct for self-preservation wanted me gone from Edward's presence, but the second his hand closed over mine I knew the head shake was the last effort I could physically make to stop this.

His long, pale fingers snaked down mine and he pulled my hand off of the door knob and down to my side.

I wanted to protest when I felt his hand slipping from mine, but before I could figure out if that was terribly insane or not, the hand I had just lost was settling on my hip and turning me around to face him.

"Stay?" he asked this time, but his voice was more firm than when he whispered it just a moment before.

I saw the green of his eyes for the first time and melted. In them I found something extremely significant. He was giving me a choice. Still not commanding anything. I felt like Edward would always give me the choice, if he could.

"Of course," I responded. Because... of course the choice had to be to stay with him.

"Bella," he said, smiling as my name rolled off of his lips as if he could say it just for fun in his spare time, "what's your favorite color?"

I felt my face scrunch in confusion and amusement as I laughed a little bit. His other hand came to rest on the other side of my hip and a little bit of the humor was replaced with desire.

"Um," I breathed, looking down from his eyes for a second to actually think, "usually it's something warm. Brown, or golden yellow..."

"But now?" he asked, understanding that many things had changed in a very short time.

"But now I see that green can be extremely warm as well," I responded as I reached a finger up and placed it gently on the outside edge of his left eye.

He smiled at me, unleashing the crooked stunning weapon as he leaned in a little bit closer to my face.

"I didn't know that brown could be so cheerful."

We smiled at each other, widely and brightly, and I forgot completely that I should be scared of this person effecting me so greatly.

His face turned serious and he took a small step closer to me, closing any of the small distance that had existed between our bodies.

"How do you know Michael?" he asked as his hands started moving up and down my sides.

"Through Jess. She and I go to school together. With Rose. Rose is how I know Emmett," I revealed in broken sentences because, holy crow his hands were being so innocent and I still felt like I was being touched more intimately than ever, ever before.

"Where are you from?"

"Phoenix."

"But you live in Seattle now?'

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Change. School. Love."

"What?"

I had confused him with that last answer, clearly, but it was his fault! His hands were talking away that ability to complete thoughts and rendering me useless in his odd little question game.

"I needed a change, I found a cosmetology school I like here so I moved, and I had to leave my mother because she fell in love with a guy half her age and it was... weird... living with them."

"Ah, so you left because your mother fell in love with someone you don't approve of."

Ah, the first wrong fact of the night.

"No. Phil is the best thing for my mom. I'm glad she found him. I left because she deserves that sort of love, and I love her enough not to hinder that."

I shrugged to convey that it was no big deal, and his eyes narrowed a little bit as he looked intently at me, trying to figure out if I was covering up any feelings about all of this Renee and Phil business.

When he realized that I was telling the truth about everything I felt he nodded once and moved his hands to my elbows. The devilish smirk reappeared on his perfect lips and his hands started gliding slowly down my forearms.

"What's your favorite song?"

"What's with the Spanish Inquistion?"

His hands stopped at my wrists and his face changed due to his surprise of my disruption in the gentle flow of question and answer we'd had going.

"You don't like answering my questions?" he asked smoothly, erasing the surprise and taking control again.

"That's not it," I spoke, trying out the tone he and Alice were both so good at, the one that spoke truth and fact.

This weird rightness between us had to be mutual, and if it was, it had to be obvious that I had to qualms with speaking to him in any fashion.

"I know that's not it. I'm sorry. What is it, then?"

His head tilted to the side and his thumbs started rubbing small circles in my wrists where his hands had stopped.

"Why do you need to know so much so quickly? I think we have time. To learn these things about each other. I mean... it feels like we have some time... do you live here? Seattle?"

He nodded slowly and bent his head down further to mine, bringing his fantastic emerald eyes and copper hair closer to me than ever before.

"Yes, I live in Seattle, thank God," he chuckled softly as his hands slipped from my wrists and around my palms. I giggled a tiny bit as his fingers found mine and began dancing in and out of their hold. "And we do have time, I believe..." he breathed as his face came even closer and ducked to the side of my own.

I held my breath in anticipation of any sort of touch from his lips. A lot of my concentration was focused on our hands, where our fingers were slowly caressing each other. I felt him breathe in and, before I was completely ready for more of his skin touching me, his nose grazed the underside of my jaw.

"However, despite the time we may find ourselves with in the future," he murmured into my neck as I wrapped my hands around his lean hips and squeezed out of need, "I feel it necessary to get some facts out of you tonight... since I'm supposedly your boyfriend and all."

I stiffened on the spot, hating the blood that I knew was rushing to my cheeks and the fact that this perfect creature knew how insane I could really be. Suddenly I was second guessing everything I'd been feeling wiht him in this room. I second guessed the rightness of his touch, his words, his proximity.

He could be playing games with me. Even seemingly perfect boys did that. He couldn't be much different from what I learned in the past. He wasn't the perfect pretend person my mind tried to create earlier.

He moved his head from where it'd been settled into my neck, our hands had stilled in their movement, his breath wasn't warm against my skin anymore, and I was scared to death.

"You're Alice's brother," I breathed, hating that it was so true.

I thrust my eyes shut, trying desperately to stop the angry tears from spilling down my face. I took in one long, audible breath as I tried to remain calm and soak in what were sure to be my last seconds with this perfection touching me.

How could I have let this happen? It made perfect since now. Of course they were related, they both had a air about them that was unique, and so inviting to me. Something about the Cullens just made sense to me, and all the things my heart felt it needed. And that gave them control over me, in friendship, in whatever this attraction was I had for Edward. The very second either of them came into my life they had control. Control that I was not ready to willing give to anyone quite yet, but couldn't rein in apparently.

I felt his head pull even further away from me and I kept my eyes shut to more efficiently concentrate on every single one of his fingers gliding out of my own. Once the tenth one had lost all contact I sighed again and waited to feel his entire perfect presence leave me.

Instead I felt both of his warm hands on my cheeks. Then two smooth finger pads wiped gently under my closed eyes.

"Technically she's my sister. I'm older. Is my relation to Alice going to be a problem for us?"

Upon their own free will my eyes shot open at his use of the word us.

"Us? There's an us? After I told your sister you are my pretend boyfriend? You don't want to commit me to a phsyce ward?"

I felt myself blush at my outright declaration of being crazy, but he'd already breached the subject himself so I suppose nothing really mattered at this point. Judging by the 2 letters he stuck together to make he and I into a single unit, I was starting to believe crazy was just up Edward Cullen's alley.

"Umm," he sort of chuckled, sort of hummed, "I guess I didn't mean to say that out loud. But, yes. If you are feeling what I am feeling then there is most definitely an us. Or, at least, there will be someday, since apparently right now we are simply pretending."

He smirked but kept his fingers running gently under my eyes. The soothing action of his fingers and the teasing look that overtook his mouth and eyes were very contradictory, and I was suddenly feeling far too overwhelmed.

"You don't think I'm crazy?"

He just had to...

"Not entirely."

"You weren't asking me all of those silly questions just to properly diagnose me with insanity?"

He must have...

"No, Bella," his voice caressed my name again, "I asked you all of those silly questions because I felt like I should know things about you. You aren't crazy. The crazy thing is, even before you gave me any answers, I knew I liked you. A lot."

He slid his hands from my cheeks to my neck and the sensation of his skin moving over mine made me shiver. He pressed my body further against the door as he pressed further into me and bent his head down towards my neck again.

"Really?" I asked dumbly. The scent of him was overtaking everything in my world and it was so hard to think of anything outside of the honey sweetness of Edward's smell.

"Yes," he whispered right before his lips connected with the skin under my ear. My hands reacted the most violently, reaching out and twisting themselves into the back of his shirt. He did nothing but nuzzle the shell of my ear and chuckle darkly.

"Either that or I just find you incredibly attractive," he mumbled.

Now that made me laugh.

"Ok, Edward," it felt too good saying his name out loud, "this is... we have to figure something out. I don't believe-"

"You don't want me?" he cut in sharply, not letting me finish a thought or a movement.

He brought his head back into the real world and away from my neck and hair so that he could look me in the eye properly with a desperate sort of stare.

I pushed him back a little bit with my hands so that I could get some breathing room and have as rational a conversation as possible with him.

"I didn't say that," I replied firmly. "I just need some time to figure out if you're real."

I sighed as I ran a hand through my hair. I had to attempt to hold back amused laughter when he did the same thing and then smiled at me. This smile was different from any I'd seen on him yet. It wasn't crooked and alluring, or teasing and condescending. It was genuine. Cheerful. Almost innocent.

"Well I'm not pretend, Bella, despite what you may have believed previously."

"I know that. That was just something I do... it was stupid. I should have never told Alice anything. I know I owe you an explanation, but I just don't have the energy tonight, so it'd be great if we could just forget this whole... thing."

I gestured back and forth between us with the hand that I hadn't kept knotted in my hair, hating that I was letting go of his shirt to do so, but knowing that if I didn't force myself to let go of him now, I never would.

And clinging to boys wasn't smart, I reminded myself. No matter how tall, tattooed, and bronze haired they were.

"We're not forgetting anything," he said almost immediately, frowning at my hand and shaking his head frantically.

"I've never felt like this before. I don't want to forget it. I have no idea where you came from, or rather where you've been my whole life, but I've been waiting for you, Bella. I can feel it. This isn't every day shit, this in once in a life time true lo-"

"Don't say love!"

I interrupted him by holding up my hand and practically yelling my demand. He stopped mid word and stared at me with his mouth still forming the "o" sound, his eyes darting between my panicked expression and my still outstretched hand.

"Love frightens you?" he asked incredulously, as if love had never torn anyone to pieces before. As if the tiny four letter word didn't have the capability to destroy lives.

"Yes, it does. I believe in it. I believe I will have it again someday. But I do not allow it to be thrown around lightly. If you need to know anything about me, Edward, that's it."

His mouth finally closed and his eyes made one more stop at my hand before settling in finality on my brown ones.

"Well, I don't do 'lightly' at all, Bella. If there's anything you need to know about me, that's mine."

I nodded a little bit and he took a small step closer, testing me. Our eyes were still locked and the tension in the air was thick. I felt so different in that moment, so alive. The familiar things going on just downstairs that I'd been longing so badly to be rid of felt terribly far away now, and "be careful what you wish for" was trying to take over my thoughts because this was the "all shook up" I was longing for my life to be, but it was scarier than I'd anticipated.

But most risk- worthy circumstances are a little bit scary. And nothing was going to cloud the Edward Cullen haze that had settled in my brain.

"Bella," he whispered suddenly, ending the silent tension in the room but raising everything else that existed between us. His voice was soft and smooth but his tone was desperate and rough.

I felt his fingers snaking their way up my still out stretched hand and as they became flush with mine his eyes asked permission to continue the action.

Swallowing my fear and praying that I would be strong enough to protect myself against Edward Cullen if need be, I nodded once and opened my fingers so that his could entwine with mine.

"What are we doing?" I asked in a whisper that matched his.

"We're pretending," he responded as he stared at our clasped hands and smirked.

I couldn't tell if he was mocking me, trying to make me feel like my crazy imagination wasn't a big deal by joking about it, or being dead serious because nothing between him and I could last in reality.

"I don't understand," I responded with a little bit of annoyance, in case he was mocking me.

"We'll do it your way. Ignore reality for something stronger. Pretend we don't feel what we do. It's necessary, for the time being."

Pretend we don't feel what we do.

I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and tell him I was ready now. I wanted to give this amazing boy everything I had, because everything about him, even the mysterious, conceded, confusing aspects of him made more sense to me than anything or anyone else I had ever ecnountered.

But that fact that I wanted to do all of those things, to surrender to him so completely, was the exact reason I couldn't. Otherwise everything I'd been through with James was a waste.

"Pretending. I can do that," I confirmed with a nod, even though it was highly unnecessary considering my pretending was what got us into this mess in the first place.

He smiled and nodded back once.

"For how long?" I asked quitely.

"For now."

I narrowed my eyes at him and his vague response, and he chuckled huskily, moving our hands so he could kiss the back of mine. As he distracted me with that he took the chance to step closer, pushing me back against the door as tightly as he had before. He leaned back down towards the side of my face and sighed happily when my free hand automatically wrapped around his hip.

"For as long as you need, Bella."

"I'm not sure I can pretend I don't feel this for you if you're going to continue touching me," I sort of joked, making us both bitterly laugh.

I felt more than heard him sigh heavily, and the joking nature faded quickly as his serious side took over again.

"We can't be real until you believe that what we have here isn't going to hurt as much as it's just right. Nothing in life is painless, so I'm not going to stand here and make you some bullshit promise about not hurting you. So we can't do this thing correctly until the trust is built, until we both believe that, even when we will hurt eachother once in a while, there will always be something stronger between us to fix it. So we'll pretend we don't feel what we do right now. It's irrational and unexplainable anyway. We'll do it your way, ignoring our odd reality for something easier, until we are ready to take this, us, on together. Becuase when we finally are ready for eachother, in the way I believe we're meant to be together, there's going to be a lot of questions about how sudden and crazy we dive into it."

I had no choice but to absorb everything he said and understand completely. We were the only 2 people in the world who knew that ignoring this pull between us would be the biggest pretend we'd ever perform. But he was right, I needed time to do things correctly, the world needed a show of us working into a relationship properly, and everything had to be solid whenever we unleashed the hold on this insane emotional connection we had.

I sqeezed his hips a little tigher and nodded silently in submission of his plan of attack.

And that was the moment I got truly involved with Edward Cullen.

Coming to an agreement on how we were to proceed ignighted a fire in Edward. In what I assume was the moment he realized we wouldn't be touching very much for a while, something changed in him, bringing him closer my body in a more desperate fashion than before.

When he kissed my ear I trembled. When he kissed my neck I moaned quietly. When he kissed up my jaw and to the very corner of my mouth and then stopped... I grew impatient.

After a few moments of waiting, of running my hand up and down his long torso, holding his hand like he was the only thing I could really feel... after breathing him in and staring into his deep green eyes and preparing my lips for what was surely to be the best thing they would ever know, I gave in to the frustration of him not making his move.

"Why aren't you kissing me?" I almost whined, digging up the confidence I'd found in my summer solitude and alluding to the fact that we both know he wanted to kiss me very badly but wasn't.

"Because my kisses aren't pretend, Isabella. When you're ready for me to be real, I'll kiss you."

I glared at him, hating that he was making this decision for us, but hating more that it was perfect of him to wait for the fantasy to become reality, something I was never patient enough to do.

I was simultaneously hating and loving this boy more and more for being able to see things in me that no one else had. He was calling out my need to pretend, seeing it for what it was. A mask against reality. A way to create perfect scenarios in which I couldn't be hurt.

It was all a mechanism I'd constructed to keep me safe.

But love was never safe. Not when it was real.

And Edward Cullen was not willing to pretend with love. With me. With us.

"You'll really wait?" I asked.

"I'll wait."

"For now?"

"Forever."

I closed my eyes and tried not to cry, forcing back the urge to tell him that I wasn't worth it, that this thing we were feeling could be broken if he wanted to go out and fall in love with someone normal... not someone like me who would be fixed someday, but not today.

I couldn't form the words though. I couldn't tell him to run.

When I felt his finger ghost a trail over my lips I smiled and decided he was stuck with me, waiting, if he was stupid enough to want to.

"And I suppose I should warn you..." he said in a louder voice than either of us had used in a long time.

"What?"

"I've never been known to wait patiently."

The look in his eyes was dangerous and possessive, and I liked it more than I ever should have. I felt my eyes grow wide and I could do nothing but stare at him as he pulled all of his body parts away from mine, one by one.

I missed the contact desperately the instant it was lost, but he was still standing close to me, as I guessed he would be for however long it took for us to figure out us.

"Now," he said in a rather cheery voice, pulling me away from the door but dropping his hand from my arm the second I was far enough away, "let's go down to your friends and find out if we can gracefully pretend none of that ever happened."

He opened the door and stepped out, reaching behind me to close it once I silently exited as well.

As we walked down the stairs to the party a smile grew on my face.

Of three things I was absolutley certain:

1. Edward Cullen was meant to be in my life, in an odd, unexplainable sort of fate-related way.

2. He was not going to make his stay in my life easy, but there was nothing about him that I wanted to be easy.

And 3. Pretending he was my boyfriend was quite possible the best thing I had ever, ever done.