I would really like to thank all of you who have read and/or reviewed this story, or my other one. You guys have helped get my ass in gear, and now THIS is finally posted! I don't know where all the sudden interest came from, but I'm not complaining!

Thanks to my wonderful beta, Marlena, who took on this monster for me in her spare time. She's amazing, and keeps my dependent clauses in check ;)

One last thing: if you're reading Life As I Know It - i know it's been like 4 months since I updated, and i'm sooooo sorry! After the move, it's been hard to get back into the swing of things. Rest assured, the next chapter is almost done, so i hope to ship it off to my betas before the weekend. They are usually pretty quick getting it back to me, so I'm hoping to post it soon. The story is really going to pick up from here, so the chapters should come faster. I can't promise weekly updates, but i CAN promise it won't be this long again.

As usual, i don't own twilight. (But BD was pretty cool!)

Without further ado... the WHOLE version of Anything But Mine

"Momma, tell me the story again. Please?" I hear a small voice plead.

I look down into the eyes of my beautiful five-year-old daughter, Clara, and just can't tell her no. With her dark brown eyes and dark brown hair, she looks just like me at that age.

"Why do you like this silly story so much?" I ask as I take her hand and lead her to the swing on the back porch. Our house is beautiful. We live in South Carolina - where it all began - right on the beach. It's a perfect, quiet place to raise our daughter and the baby that is due this winter.

"It reminds me of a fairy tale. Like you're a princess," Clara says with a smile. She opens the photo album she brought out with her, and I begin to tell her the story I've told her several times over.

"It was the summer of 1991, and I was seventeen years old. School had just let out for the summer, and I couldn't wait to do as I pleased for three solid months," I begin.

I smile at the memories flooding my mind. The summer of 1991 was, without a doubt, the best summer of my life.

Ten years earlier….

"Bella! Get your ass moving! You're wasting sun and surf, bitch!" Rosalie yelled from the bottom of the stairs. I loved my cousin, but she was incredibly impatient.

"Hang on, I'm coming!" I yelled back. I pulled the string tight on my shorts, grabbed my flip-flops and car keys, and ran down the stairs.

"Oh, thank God, you finallydecided to grace us with your presence," Rosalie teased. I rolled my eyes at her and found my mom in the kitchen.

"Rose and I are outta here, Mom. Is there anything you need while we're out?" I asked, grabbing the piece of toast out of the toaster.

"Not that I can think of. You two have fun and be safe," she said before kissing me softly on the cheek.

"Love you, Mom," I said with a hug and left the kitchen.

"Bye, Aunt Renee," Rose said, following behind me.

I walked over to the two-car detached garage and slipped into the side door. I hit the button for the overhead door to open and hopped into my cloth-top Jeep. The Jeep was my baby. I had begged and begged my parents for it, and they gave it to me as a present for making straight As the year before. It was black, with black interior, and it had a manual transmission. I felt like a race car driver when switching gears on the open road.

I popped my Marky Mark cassette into the stereo as Rose secured our surf boards into the back of the Jeep.

"Good to go," she said, hopping into the passenger seat. I cranked the volume and backed out of the driveway.

"Emmett coming today?" I asked. Emmett had been Rose's boyfriend for two years. She swore they were going to get married after graduation next year, and I believed her. Those two were sickening together. Their constant displays of affection were legendary in our school.

"Yeah, he'll be there after he gets off work at four," she answered. "What about Jake? Will he be stalking us today?"

I rolled my eyes. Jacob Black had been obsessed with me, constantly following me around school like a lost puppy. He was tall, with a good build, but it was the acne I couldn't get over. I was afraid that I'd try to kiss him and end up with pus all over me. Definitely a turn off.

"Jesus, I hope not. He asked where we were putting in today, and I lied about the beach. Hopefully, that will throw him off track for a while," I told her.

"Good. He seems nice enough, but I'm afraid one of his giant zits will put my eye out or something. Plus, he smells like a wet dog when he gets out of the water," Rose admitted. I wanted to chastise her for being judgmental, but honestly, I was just as bad.

About twenty minutes later, we were at our favorite beach. I slipped on my running shoes as Rose did the same. We always started our summer mornings off with a jog down the beach. Rose claimed the resistance from the sand would help us get "better legs and buns," and I couldn't disagree. By the end of the summer, we were always toned, tanned, and sexy as hell. Or so we thought.

I always thought Rose looked amazing, though. She was five-feet-ten, had long blond hair that got bleached in the summer, and the bluest eyes I'd ever seen. She had a tan year-round, either from the sun or from the tanning bed. Rose was captain of the volleyball and tennis teams and could easily be a model, if she didn't love eating so much.

I thought I was pretty average. I was five-feet-seven and had long brown hair and brown eyes. In the summer, the sun would grace me with natural highlights, but I had to pay for them in the winter when the sun-bleached strands faded. I played volleyball and tennis with Rose, and I was also president of our school's book club and junior editor of the school newspaper. Where Rose was into athletics, I was more focused in academics. Boys followed us around a lot, but I felt that they were being nice to me to get to Rose. She didn't see it that way.

After our jog we stopped off at Bob's Burgers, a small little shack of a restaurant situated on the beach, for some rest and rehydration. It was also where Emmett worked.

"Two of your finest waters, please," Rose demanded teasingly. Emmett laughed, shook his head, and handed us two bottles of water.

"How was the jog this morning?" he asked, resting his elbows on the counter and leaning over to peck Rose quickly on the lips.

"Pretty good. I think Bella's a little out of shape, though. She was having trouble keeping up," Rose teased, elbowing me softly.

"This is the first official first day of summer vacation. I had planned on sleeping in a little. I'm just tired," I defended myself, taking a long pull from the water bottle. Truth was, Rose wore my ass out. I never could keep up with her-her legs were longer than mine. I had to run twice as fast just to stay at her pace!

"So, it doesn't look like it's going to be a good surf day. What do you ladies plan on doing all day?" Emmett asked.

"Anything we want. Duh!" I replied smartly.

"What arewe going to do today?" Rose asked me.

"I don't know. I thought you were the one with all the plans. I wanted to still be asleep right now," I answered with a pointed glare.

"Belllaaaaa," Rose whined, "it's summer! How can you waste a single second of it in bed?"

"It's only a waste if you're alone," I heard a guy say behind me.

I smiled. I knew that voice.

"Jasper!" I yelled, jumping off the stool to give my friend a hug.

Jasper had moved here from Texas last year. His dad had been a roughneck on an oil rig until he got injured on the job. Now he taught the mechanics class at our high school. Rose was his prize student, a fact that she didn't try to hide. If it had an engine, Rose could fix it. She was awesome like that.

"Hey, Bells. I'm surprised to see you up before noon. I thought you said only the second coming of Jesus would get you out of bed early today," Jasper said while hugging me back.

"What can I say? The Wicked Witch of the South pulled my ass out of bed at seven this morning," I told him, sticking my tongue out at Rose.

"Wicked Witch, my ass. Bella's just pissed that she couldn't keep up with me," Rose teased. "You know she loves me."

Emmett and Jasper just smiled at our playful banter. Rose and I were more like sisters than cousins.

"I was planning on trying to find enough people for a beach volleyball game later. You two in?" Jasper asked.

"I'm game if Rose is," I answered.

"Yeah, count us in," Rose replied. "You know where to find us when you need us."

"That I do. Thanks for the water, Em. Later, ladies," he said with a nod, then headed out onto the beach.

"Well, daylight's a wastin'," I said, turning on my stool toward Rose. "The usual?"

"Yeah, let's go. Em, if you need us, you know where we are, right?" she asked, leaning in for another kiss. When it got almost R-rated, I turned to leave the burger shack. Rose could catch up when she was done sucking face.

I walked back to where the Jeep was parked and pulled my shoes off, dumping the sand out of them. It was almost eleven a.m and was getting rather warm, so I pulled my sweatshirt off as well. I was grabbing my bag of beach necessities when Rose finally joined me.

"Geez, Rose. You really have a future in the porn industry," I teased as I headed out to our usual spot. Rose grabbed her bag and the radio and followed me.

"You're just jealous. If you had a man, you'd be making out with him in public just as much as Em and I do," she said.

"Even if I had a man, I can guarantee that I wouldn't PDA as much as you two do," I asserted, pulling my towel from my bag and spreading it on the sand.

"Whatever. Hey, what ever happened with that Embry guy, anyway? He seemed nice enough," she asked, referencing a guy I had dated briefly.

"First, I just needed a date for prom, and second, he was Jake's friend. Jake kept hanging around all the time and it freaked me out. Embry was nice, but not long-term dating material," I answered, pulling off my orange Billabong tee and black shorts and spreading Hawaiian Tropic along my arms and legs. "Can you get my back, please?"

"Sure. So, are you going to try to find a random tourist and finally drop that V-card?" she inquired as she spread the tanning lotion on my back.

"Thanks," I said, taking the bottle from her. "And no, you know I'm not like that. I can't just hook up with some random guy in an attempt to not enter my senior year a pathetic virgin." I lay down on my towel on my stomach and moved my hair off my back. I was pasty-pale from the winter, and I was bound and determined to get a tan as fast as possible.

Rose got her stuff situated and laid down next to me.

"So, did you hear back about the lifeguard job?" I asked.

"Shit yeah, I did. I go in for orientation on Thursday. What will you do with yourself while I'm working?"

"Probably the same stuff I do with you. Lie out, surf, and hang out with our friends. Who knows, I might even attempt to drown so you can save me and become a local hero," I teased.

"Ha, ha, ha. It still sucks that Uncle Charlie and Aunt Renee aren't making you get a job. That's it, I want to switch parents," she whined.

"Dad said he wants me to enjoy my 'last summer of freedom' before I have to enter 'the real world'," I told her. "Too bad your parents aren't as cool. But hey, you still get to hang out at the beach all day."

"Yeah, and miss prime surfing time," she bitched.

"Yep. Sucks to be you."

We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on the beach until we got something to eat around two from Bob's. We met up with Jasper and played some volleyball with kids from school.

Emmett joined us after he got out of work, and he and Rose disappeared for about an hour. They came back all smiles – eww – and the four of us hung out until about seven.

"Hey, guys, I gotta head out. Dad should be getting out of work soon, and I promised Mom I wouldn't be out late," I told them. "Rose, you coming with me?"

"Nah, I'll catch a ride home with Em. Thanks, though," she answered from her seat between his legs.

"Alright, I'm out. Later, guys," I said with a wave.

A chorus of "bye" and "see ya" followed me back to my Jeep. I climbed in and headed home.

The rest of June followed pretty much the same way. Rose would drag my ass out of bed at seven-thirty every morning, we'd go for a jog, then either hang out on the beach, or surf.

Sometimes we played volleyball; sometimes we didn't. On the days she had to work, I found ways to spend my time – always at the beach. I loved living in South Carolina.

Some days I even let Jake tag along with me for a while, until he got on my nerves, then I send him off.

June twenty-ninth was the day that changed everything. It was a Saturday and Rose was at her post, guarding the beach dwellers from themselves, and I was lying on my towel reading a book when Jasper found me.

"Hey, Bella, I have a favor to ask of you," he asked sweetly.

I peeked up at him over the top of my sunglasses, and he had the most charming smile plastered on his face.

I sighed. "What is it?" I asked, trying to sound bored.

Jasper's smile grew wider; he knew he had me.

"There's a new family renting the house next to mine this summer. They're old friends of the owner, and I guess my parents volunteered me to show their kids around town," he told me.

"And why does this have to involve me?" I asked, confused.

"They have two kids, twins actually, that are our age – a boy and a girl. I figured that you could show the little lady around, while I show her brother where to pick up prime pussy," he answered with a wink.

"Gross, Jazz. Yeah, sure, I'll show the sister around, I guess. I don't have anything else to do before Rose gets off work. Just let me go tell her what's up, and then I'll follow you back to your house," I said, standing up. I brushed the sand off my legs, and gathered my things.

After promising to meet Rose and Emmett back at Jasper's at eight for a bonfire, I jumped in the Jeep and followed Jasper to his house.

Jasper's house was beautiful. Apparently, his dad had gotten a big settlement from the oil company after his accident, and they were able to afford a beautiful home right on the beach. Lucky schmuck. The house next door was just as nice. It belonged to an older couple who went up north to visit their kids in the summer to avoid all the tourists.

I pulled the Jeep up next to Jasper's beat-up Oldsmobile and hopped out. "So that's them, huh?" I asked, pointing to an SUV that was parked in the driveway.

"No, Miss Bella, that's their car. They are probably inside," Jasper replied in a smart-assed tone.

I huffed and slapped him on the arm.

"Look, if you don't want me to show the sister around, I can go back to the beach and work on my tan," I told him, quirking my eyebrow.

"So sorry, darlin'. Can you ever forgive me?" he asked sarcastically, kissing the back of my hand.

I rolled my eyes. "Come on, let's get this over with. If these two are the fricking Munsters, you owe me," I warned, crossing his driveway and into the neighbor's yard.

"Duly noted."

We stepped up on the large wooden porch, and I motioned for Jasper to knock on the door. A moment later, a kind-looking woman with long caramel-colored hair and pea-green eyes opened the door. She was about my height and had a warm smile.

"Hello, may I help you?" she asked.

Jasper cleared his throat. "Yes, ma'am. I'm Jasper Whitlock, and this is my friend, Bella Swan. My mom said you were expecting us," he told her, laying on the southern charm nice and thick. I had to fight not to roll my eyes at him.

"Oh, yes," she said, opening the door wider for us to enter. "Please, come in. I'm Esme Cullen. It's nice to meet the both of you. Please, don't mind the mess."

I looked around. Aside from a few suitcases and a box, the place was immaculate. Mess, my ass.

"So, Janet said that you would be showing my kids around today?" she asked, ushering us to the bar stools in front of the open kitchen.

"Yes, ma'am. I asked Bella to come, too. I admit, I wouldn't know what's fun around here from a girl's point of view," Jasper told her. I couldn't help the snort that escaped at the thought of Jasper and his "prime pussy."

"Oh, stop with the 'ma'am' stuff. Please, call me Esme," she told him, waving her hand in the air. "And I think that's kind of you to think of Alice. Thank you."

"You guys came at the right time; the Fourth of July carnival starts on Monday. It's the best week to be here, in my opinion, if you don't mind the crowds," I told her, sitting down on a stool next to Jasper.

"So, how old are you two?" she asked, pouring a glass of tea for herself and silently offering some to Jasper and me, too.

"Yes, please," I answered. "I turned seventeen in September."

Jasper got tea as well. "I'm seventeen as well," he told her.

"Oh, good. The twins – Edward and Alice – just turned seventeen, too. I take it you'll both be seniors when school starts back up?"

We both nodded.

"Good, then you all will have something in common. Let me go find them, and you all can be on your way," she said, leaving the kitchen.

"Wow, she's really nice," I told Jasper.

"Yeah, she is. And pretty, too. If her daughter looks anything like her, I may have to show her around myself," Jasper said with a wink.

I rolled my eyes at him and took a sip of my tea.

A couple of minutes later, Esme returned with a man by her side. "Jasper, Bella, this is my husband, Carlisle."

"So, you're the two showing the kids around today? Well, have fun and be safe," he said, kissing Esme on the cheek and heading out the front door.

"Don't mind him; he's on a mission to find meat to grill tonight. Edward and Alice should be down shortly," she told us.

I kicked Jasper's leg and raised my eyebrows in appreciation of Carlisle. He knew I was now thinking the same thing about the son as he was the daughter. Please, let him be hot!

I didn't have to wait long to see for myself. Moments later, I heard footsteps behind us. I turned around and saw one of the most attractive guys I had ever seen. Easily almost six feet tall, with the same shade of pea-green eyes as his mother, Edward, I assumed, was gorgeous. His hair was a sandy-blonde color and kinda messy, like he had just woken up or something.

I looked at Jasper, and he had a goofy grin on his face. Alice was a beautiful girl, all right. She looked to be about my height, with short, spiky, black hair. Her eyes were ice-blue, and she had a cute figure.

"Hello, I'm Edward, and this is my sister, Alice."

"Hey, I'm Jasper, and this is my friend, Bella," Jasper said, shaking Edward's hand.

"You really don't have to waste your day showing Alice and me around. Just point us in the direction of the beach, and we'll be happy," Edward said in a clipped tone. "We really don't need babysitters."

Edward's tone irritated me. How dare he assume we were just babysitters? If he didn't want my help, fine, fuck him. I had better things to do today, anyway.

"We were going to offer you a guided tour of the area. Jasper, here, was going to show you where to find the 'prime pussy,' even. But if you don't want our help, we'll just be on our way," I spat at him.

"No!" Alice yelled. "Don't mind my brother-he's just mad that he got pulled out of bed. I'd love for you guys to show me around, if you don't mind," she said, speaking mainly to Jasper. I saw a summer hook-up in the making there.

I just stood there waiting on Edward to say something, but he didn't. Screw this, I'm out of here.

"Jasper, have fun with Alice. If you want me, I'll be where you found me. Alice, it was nice meeting you, and I hope to see you again," I said, smiling to the girl, and completely ignoring her asshole brother. "Please tell your mom I said goodbye."

I turned and left the house in a huff. I stomped back to my Jeep muttering to myself about how much of an arrogant jerk Edward was. Who did he think he was, anyway? Jasper and I agreed to give up our Saturday to show them around, and he had to act like an ass. Whatever, I was over it. I didn't care how good-looking he was; I didn't need that shit.

I slammed the car door shut and jammed my key into the ignition. I was just about to throw it into reverse when Edward came running out of his house.

"Bella, wait! Please!"

I sighed and put it back into neutral and pulled the emergency brake.

"What do you want, Edward?" I asked bitterly.

"Look, I wanted to apologize. I shouldn't have been so rude to you. Can I make it up to you? Buy you a burger or something?" he pleaded.

I wanted to say no. I wanted to still be pissed off at him, but when I looked into his eyes and found nothing but sincerity, I said, "Hop on in."

The drive was silent, save for my REM tape playing. Even though I had agreed to let Edward come with me, I still hadn't forgiven him for being so rude.

"It sure is nice down here. A lot quieter than the city," Edward remarked after a few minutes.

"Yeah, until the tourists show up," I jabbed, looking pointedly at Edward. It was probably below the belt, but I was feeling childish.

Edward turned the stereo down. "Look, I'm sorry I was rude to you. Okay? Coming down here wasn't my idea, and I guess I took that out on you."

"What's the matter? Leave a girlfriend at home?" I asked. I couldn't help myself. I was curious.

"No, no girlfriend. I'm just not too excited to sleep in someone else's bed. Besides, I don't know anyone down here. And if I do start any friendships, they'll be over the minute we leave," he answered honestly.

"I get the part about sleeping in someone's house that isn't yours, but you could make friends if you didn't act like such a jerk. And who cares if you never see anyone here again. Isn't that the point of a vacation? To have a little fun?"

"Yeah, I guess. Either way, I'm sorry, and I hope you forgive me." I looked over at him and saw he meant what he said. He had had a bad morning and snapped at me. I had probably overreacted anyway. I was over it.

"Meh, water under the bridge. You are forgiven, Mr. Cullen," I answered teasingly.

"Thanks," he said with a smile. "So where are you taking me?"

"To my neck of the woods. Mainly locals hang out here because it's away from all the tourist traps, but they may let you live since you're with me," I told him. I gave him a smile to let him know I was teasing.

"I'll take you down to the burger shack for some food, and you can meet Jasper's and my friend, Emmett. Later, I'll introduce you to Rosalie. She's Em's girlfriend and my cousin."

"Cool. So is Jasper your boyfriend?"

I let out a very loud snort. "No, Jasper is notmy boyfriend. He has not ever been, nor will he ever will be," I told him.

"Wow, harsh. What, does he have a third nut or something?"

"No, nothing like that. Jasper is all about the pussy. He loves summer because he has his pick of tourist girls. He packs on that Southern Charm and the girls fucking melt for him. It's a little impressive, actually. If you want to get laid, hang out with Jasper. He'll get you laid," I advised.

"Shit. He was kind of eyeballing my sister. Maybe I should warn her," I heard him mumble.

"Well, unless your sister is looking for some vacation strange of her own, yeah, I'd warn her," I told him.

He physically blanched from my crass comment.

"Sorry, too much?" I asked with a grin.

"Ali's no virgin, but hell, I don't want to think about her screwing around. Gross," he said, pretending to gag.

I laughed as I pulled into my usual parking place. The locals had an unspoken agreement on where they parked. It was like we had all silently marked our territory or something.

"Follow me and I'll take you to Bob's," I said, climbing out of the Jeep.

"I thought we were getting burgers?" he asked, sounding confused.

I smiled. "Bob's is the name of the burger shack we're going to."

Edward nodded and blushed a little, then followed behind me. I looked behind me to make sure he was keeping up, and I saw him checking out my ass.

"Real subtle, Cullen," I teased.

He just shrugged. He's kind of cute when he's not being an asshole.

I shook my head and kept walking.

Edward caught up to me just as I was getting to the burger shack.

"What will it be, my dear?" Emmett asked.

"I want a Pepsi and a burger platter. Cullen's paying," I said, motioning to Edward as he sat down next to me.

Emmett stood up straighter and puffed out his chest. I knew that look. It was the "I'm going to protect Bella's virtue and scare the shit out of some dude" look.

I rolled my eyes. Boys are idiots.

"Emmett, this is Edward Cullen. Edward, Emmett. Edward and his family are renting the house next to Jasper's for a few weeks."

"Emmett McCarty, nice to meet you." He extended his hand for Edward to shake. I could tell Em was squeezing hard by the grimace on Edward's face.

"Emmett!" I yelled. "Stop being a douche and get my food, will ya? Edward, did you want anything?" I asked in a huff.

"Just…whatever you're eating," he replied, putting his hand in his lap. I shot cia glare at Emmett. I'd get Rose to kick his ass for me later.

"I have to warn you, Bella likes her burgers good and bloody," Emmett said with a smirk.

"I want mine medium rare. Keep the heartbeat there, just slow it down," Edward told him, smirking at Emmett's defeated look. Score one for Edward!

"Don't mind Emmett, he seems to think he has to protect me or something. It's really annoying. He sees me as his litte sister or something," I told Edward when Emmett left to put in our food order.

"Do you really like your burgers 'good and bloody'?" Edward asked, mocking Emmett's voice.

I laughed. "Nah, Em was messing with you. Actually, I like it medium rare, so he's probably thinking I told you to say that," I answered, rolling my eyes.

Edward just nodded.

I sat there tapping my fingernails on the counter, unsure of what to say next. Edward finally broke the awkward silence.

"So, is this what you do all day? Eat burgers and piss Emmett off?" he asked with a smile.

I shook my head and smiled back. "No. Usually I eat burgers, lie in the sun, chat with Rose – then I try to piss Emmett off," I replied with a wink.

"I see. So, what else is there to do around here?"

"Really, I kind of stick to my same-old, same-old. You'd probably have more fun hanging out with Jasper because he runs around all over the place. I just kind of hang out at the beach all day, lay out in the sun, surf when the waves are decent, and bug Rosalie when she's lifeguarding. Other than that, I don't do much but read books. I'm actually pretty boring," I told him.

"Wait, you know how to surf?" he asked, sounding impressed.

"All of that ranting, and you pick up on the surfing?" I teased. "Yes, I surf. I'm not fantastic at it but it's fun, and it's a total adrenaline rush."

"Don't let her fool you, Bella kicks ass on a board," Jasper said from behind us.

"Hey! You found us!" I said, giving Jasper a one-armed hug.

Alice sat down on the other side of Edward, and Jasper sat to my other side.

"Did you two kiss and make up already?" Jasper asked, motioning for Emmett.

"No kissing, but it's water under the bridge now," I answered.

"So, what's this carnival thing you mentioned to my mom?" Alice asked.

I looked questioningly at her. I hadn't realized she had heard us talking. I hoped she hadn't heard Jasper telling me about how hot her mom was. That would be embarrassing - for Jasper, anyway.

"Mom mentioned that you told her about a carnival when she came up to get me," she said, answering my unspoken question.

I let out a small sigh of relief. Edward noticed and gave me a look, but I ignored him.

"The Fourth of July carnival is awesome," I started. "It's a huge carnival that lasts all week, and there's a huge fireworks display on the Fourth. They take a boat out into the water and light them off from there, and no matter where you are on the beach, you can see them perfectly. We usually go over to Jasper's to see them – that way we avoid the crowds."

"Yeah, and the rides they have are usually pretty cool, too," Jasper added. "We also have a big bonfire at my house every night, too."

"Just make sure Bella's dad isn't there. Last year, he busted Rosie and me half naked. I swear the man has sex radar or something. I don't know how Bella gets away with anything," Emmett warned.

I shot Em a nasty glare. I didn't want the Cullens thinking I was a slut or anything.

"Bella's dad scares the shit out of me. It doesn't help that he carries a gun," Jasper added with a shudder.

"Is your dad a cop or something?" Alice asked.

"Yeah, a county sheriff," I answered, elbowing Jasper in the ribs. "He isn't as bad as these guys make him sound. He's just protective of his little girl."

"Whatever, dude. He's scary," Emmett mumbled and walked away to help another customer.

I shook my head.

"So, what else is on the agenda for today?" Alice asked.

I looked out over the sand and saw the swells rising.

"I was thinking about going into the water for a little bit," I told them. "What did you guys want to do?"

"Alice asked about shopping. I thought maybe I'd show her where the mall is," Jasper replied.

"You are going to the mall?" I asked sarcastically. I knew Jasper hung out at the mall. The mall was crawling with girls. Jasper hunted for "prime pussy" there – often.

Jasper flipped me off and then asked Edward if he wanted to join them.

"Nah, I'll just stay here with Bella, if that's okay with you," he said, looking to me for confirmation.

"Fine by me," I answered with a shrug.

"Cool. So I guess we'll meet up at my place a little before eight for the bonfire?" Jasper asked.

"Yeah," I answered as I grabbed my trash and headed toward the garbage can. "See ya."

I saw Edward lean over and say something to Alice, which earned him an eye roll and a slap on the shoulder from his sister. He raised his hands in defeat and headed in my direction.

"I tried to warn her about Jasper, but the truth is, maybe I should have warned him about her," Edward told me quietly.

I smiled and headed back to the beach.

"I just have to grab my stuff from the lifeguard stand, and we'll be on our way," I told him.

"Are you a lifeguard?"

"No, my cousin Rosalie is. I stashed my stuff there before I left."


I got to the lifeguard stand and saw Rose sitting up top of it, looking bored.

"Hey, Ro, anyone drown today?" I asked jokingly.

"Shit, no, not on my watch," she replied.

She looked down and saw me with Edward.

"Well, what do we have here?" she asked, eyeballing Edward.

"Edward Cullen, meet Rosalie Hale - the best damn lifeguard around," I teased.

"Best lookin', you mean," Rose corrected and hopped down from the stand.

"So, you're the poor sucker Bella has to show around all day? I feel bad for you. Bella's boring as hell," she quipped, elbowing me in the ribs.

I stuck my tongue out at her and she tried to grab it.

"Bitch, if you weren't on duty, I'd kick your ass," I warned playfully.

"Right. You'd have to catch me first! Ohhh, burn!" she taunted as I made a face at her.

I saw Edward physically shaking from trying to hold his laughter in.

"Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up, chuckles. I could kick your ass, too," I warned him.

"She could, too. I've seen it," Rose added.

Edward's face paled slightly and Rose and I busted out in a fit of laughter.

"Relax, Cullen. I'm just busting your chops," I assured him, patting him on the back.

"She could, though," Rose said, looking him dead in the eye. I didn't know why she was trying to intimidate him.

"Okay, enough of the dickery," I told her. "Can I get my stuff?"

Rose looked out at the rising swells and pouted. "Yeah, sure. Get a big one for me."

"Thanks," I said, and ran up the ramp to the lifeguard post.

I came down a few minutes later, changed into my wetsuit top and bikini shorts. I had my surfboard under my right arm and my towel in the other.

"I'm going out for a few minutes. You don't mind waiting up here, do you?" I asked Edward.

"I was thinking of going into the water, too. It's hotter than hell out here," he answered.

"That's fine, just stay to the right of the buoys. The left side is where the surfers will be," Rose informed him.

"Okay," he said, taking his shirt off.

My jaw dropped at the sight of Edward shirtless. He wasn't overly muscular, but had a defined six-pack and decent pecs. He wasn't nearly as built as Emmett, but it didn't make him any less nice to look at. I had to snicker at his ghostly pale skin, though.

"Here," I said, throwing him my bottle of sun block, "you'll need this, Casper."

"Hey, someday when you have skin cancer, and I live to a hundred, we'll see who has jokes," he said, catching the bottle.

I made a face at him, and threw my hair up in a ponytail. "Keep an eye on city boy, Rose. Make sure he doesn't drown in the big, bad waves," I told Rosalie, strapping my board to my ankle and taking off down the beach.

I hit the water running and laid my board down on the water. I paddled out several yards on my stomach until I saw the swell building in the distance. I sat up, straddling my board, until it got closer. I used my arms and legs to turn myself around, and began paddling furiously with my arms until I felt the wave touch the back of my board. I quickly jumped to my feet and balanced myself on the board. Like a newbie, I wiped out, falling off my board, and into the ocean. Pissed that I biffed a great wave, I resurfaced quickly, and grabbed onto my board to float for a moment to catch my breath. I watched my beautiful wave as it neared the shore and crashed into the beach.

"Fuck!" I yelled, slapping my board. I shook my head in disgust and climbed back on my board to paddle back out and wait for another wave.

After several more tries, and much more success with staying on my board, I paddled back toward the shore. Tired and thirsty, I headed back up to Rosalie.

"Looking good out there," she said, throwing me a water bottle from her perch on the lifeguard stand.

"I biffed that first big one, though," I muttered, opening the bottle.

"The rest of them looked pretty good. Don't beat yourself up. It's the first time you've been out all summer."

"I guess. Where's Edward?" I asked, toweling myself off.

Rose climbed down from the stand. "He's still out in the water," she said, pointing in his direction.

I raised my hand to shield my eyes from the sun, looking for him. I spotted him going under the water, then rising again a few feet away.

"He was watching you like a hawk the whole time you were out there," Rose said, looking over the top of her sunglasses at me.

"Yeah, so? He's a city boy. He probably hasn't seen surfing up close before. Besides, I wasn't the only one out there," I said with a shrug.

"Whatever, Bella. I was spying on him with the binoculars. He was watching you."

"Shh! He's coming. Just...stop, okay?" I pleaded.

Rosalie rolled her eyes and climbed back up to her post.

"Wow, Bella, that was really cool," Edward said when he got to me.

"Thanks. I was a bit rusty out there. It took me a few waves to get the feel for it," I told him, trying to act nonchalant over his praise.

"Well, I thought you looked great out there. Do you think you could give me a few lessons while I'm here?" he asked.

"Yeah, I think that could be arranged. Not today, though. I'm wiped out now."

"No, that's cool. We'll be here for two weeks. I've got plenty of time," he assured me, grinning.

I looked at him, reallylooked at him, and realized just how good-looking he was. His hair was wet and dripping droplets down his broad shoulders. I watched them fall, mesmerized, and traced them with my eyes as they slid down his pecs, over his abs, and down to the waistband of his swim trunks.

I heard Edward clear his throat and knew I'd been busted checking him out. My cheeks flushed, and I refused to make eye contact with him.

"Um, we should probably get going. I need to get showered and changed, and I'm sure you have other stuff to do, too," I stammered, bending down and gathering my things.

"Yeah, I guess it is getting late," Edward said with a sly grin on his face.

Looks like cocky Edward is back. Not that I can blame him – he did just catch me checking him out.

"I'll see you later, at Jasper's," I yelled up to Rose.

"Yep," she replied. "You going, Edward?"

"I don't know...it's a long way for me to go," Edward teased.

At the confused look on Rose's face, I said, "His family is renting the house next to Jasper's."

Recognition filled Rosalie's face, and she nodded. "See you guys later, then," she called with a wave.

Edward and I said our goodbyes and headed back to my Jeep.

"Need any help with that?" Edward asked when I started loading my board.

"Nah, I got it. Thanks, though."

Edward silently climbed into the passenger seat as I arranged all my stuff in the back so it wouldn't blow out on the way home. When I was finished, I climbed into the Jeep, pulled my sunglasses down over my eyes, and pointed us in the direction of Edward's house.

"Sorry it was so boring for you today. I really do suggest hanging with Jasper tomorrow. He's always on the move."

"Bella, you really have nothing to apologize for. If I wasn't having a good time, I would have told you."

I thought back to how rude he had been to me earlier in the day, and I realized he was probably right. He seemed to have no trouble at all expressing his feelings.

"You really were amazing on the board, too. The way you move with the water, like in sync with it, or something. It's a beautiful thing to watch," he praised.

I flushed at his compliment and thanked him.

We talked about random things, mainly the carnival and local attractions, the rest of the trip back. Conversation flowed freely, and all trace of the grumpy asshole from the morning was gone. I found myself enjoying my time alone with Edward and was a little sad when we got back to his house.

"Thanks for today, Bella. I really had a nice time," Edward said as he got out of the Jeep. "I guess I'll see you later?"

"Yep, I'll be here," I replied with a smile.

Edward just nodded and tapped the side of the Jeep. I watched him go into his house and let out a long breath as he disappeared inside.

What a fucking day.

"Mom! I'm home!" I yelled, slamming the front door.

"I'm in here!" I heard her call from the living room.

"Hey, Mom," I said in greeting, plopping down on the couch next to her.

"Really, Isabella, is it necessary to slam the door when you come in?" she chastised, pulling one of my father's shirts from the basket in front of her. She folded it and added it to the small stack on the coffee table.

"I'm sorry, Momma. I'll be a good girl," I told her in a high squeaky voice.

She laughed at my ridiculousness and nudged my shoulder playfully.

"You smell like saltwater. Were the waves good today?" she asked, continuing to fold the laundry.

"Yeah, not too bad. I biffed the first big one, though. It was embarrassing."

"Well, honey, it's the first time you've been out this summer. I'm sure it takes a while to get the feel of the waves again. I'm sure you'll be back aweing the tourists in no time," Mom said with a grin.

"Thanks, Mom. Rose said something like that, too." I appreciated my mom's support. She hadn't been thrilled with the idea of me surfing at first. Now, she accepted it and even encouraged it.

"How is Rosalie liking her job? Maria said she was quite resistant to the idea of a summer job at first."

I laughed. Rose wasn't resistant – she was pissed.

"She seems to be taking it better now. She did nothing but complain about having to work for the first two weeks, though. She even suggested we switch parents," I answered.

Mom turned and looked at me. "I'm sure she did. She probably thinks that they're being unfair, and that your dad and I are being too relaxed, but there's a big difference between you two," she said, taking my right hand in hers. "You're more mature and responsible than Rosalie is. I think my dear brother and his wife finally figured out that they have really spoiled her too much. That's why Charlie and I didn't want to make you get a job. We know that time comes for you to graduate and move on to college, that you'll handle yourself and your finances just fine. We have faith in your ability to succeed without us being there every minute."

My heart swelled at her praise. I had worked hard to make my parents proud of me, and knowing that I had done just that was incredibly gratifying.

"Now, if you ever tell Rosalie that I said any of this, I'll deny it and call you a liar," Mom teased with a smirk. She gave my hand a small squeeze and went back to folding laundry.

"Want some help with that?" I asked, motioning to the basket full of clothes.

"Sure, if you want."

We sat in comfortable silence while we finished folding the laundry. When it was done, I grabbed some of my stuff and prepared to head to my bedroom.

"Hey, Bella," Mom called just as I was getting to the bottom of the staircase.


"Who are the Cullens?" she asked.

I stood there dumbfounded. How did Mom know about the Cullens already? Our town wasn't large, but it wasn't small, either. It usually took more than a couple hours for gossip to get around, and not too many people talked about summer renters.

"They're renting the house next door to Jasper's," I answered, going back into the living room and setting my pile of clothes on the back of the couch. "Why?"

"Oh, I met a man in the grocery store earlier today. He was searching for meat to grill. I don't think he grills often, because he almost bought some really thin, cheap steaks. Anyway, he introduced himself as Carlisle Cullen. When I gave him my name, he asked if I had a daughter named Bella. He said you were helping Jasper show his kids around today," she told me.

"Yeah. Jasper found me and asked if I would help him out. The Cullens have twins our age, a boy and a girl. I was supposed to show the girl around," I said, rolling my eyes.

"And that didn't happen?" Mom inquired.

I sighed and sat back down on the couch. "Kind of. When the twins – Edward and Alice – came in to meet us, Edward was a real jerk and said that he didn't need babysitters," I told her.

"How considerate of him," she said sarcastically.

I snorted. "Yeah, it was. I basically told him he could screw off, and I left. But then, as I was about to pull out of Jasper's drive, Edward came out and apologized. I guess he wasn't too thrilled about leaving on vacation and kinda took it out on me. He made it up to me by buying lunch," I said with a shrug. "He really isn't too bad to hang out with, when he's not being a jerk."

"Did you take him to Bob's?" Mom asked with an amused look on her face. She knew how Emmett was with me.

I let out a small laugh. "Yep. And Emmett tried to scare him, as usual. But Edward was awesome – he gave it right back to Em," I said animatedly.

"How'd Em take it?"

"He seemed pissed at first, then tried another tactic – Dad."

"Oh, Lord. What did he say?" she asked with a small laugh of her own. My dad really was a big teddy bear; he just looked intimidating. Some kids were afraid to hang out at my house because he was a cop, though.

"He told them about Dad busting him and Rose sucking face last summer. Then Jasper added his two cents, saying that he was afraid of Dad because he carries a gun," I told her incredulously.

"Is Jasper afraid of Charlie, too? I thought the two of them got along just fine once your dad found out Jazz has no interest in you romantically," she teased.

I sighed. "Jazz is cool with Dad. I think he was just busting Edward's chops."

"Boys will be boys. I swear, they're no better than dogs. They have to mark their territory when a new dog comes sniffing around."

"Eww, Mom. And I'm not a bitch. Well, maybe I am," I said with a smile, glad she wasn't mad I'd sworn in front of her.

"Just be glad that you have friends around that care about you for more than what you can give them. Not every girl is so lucky," she advised.

"I'm grateful for Emmett and Jasper – I really am. They just annoy me sometimes," I told her.

"So, did you ever get to hang out with his sister?"

"No, Jasper took her to the mall. Edward ended up hanging out with me all day."

"Why did Jasper take her to the mall?" she asked, sounding confused.

"Because she asked him to," I told her smartly.

She made a face at me.

"Really, I think he has a little crush on her. They're both really attractive kids. I think I'll get a complex if I hang around them too long."

"Oh, Bella, none of that. You're absolutely beautiful," she said, laying a hand on my cheek and smiling proudly at me.

I blushed under her stare. "Thanks, Mom. Anyway, like I said, Edward's pretty cool when he's being mellow. He was impressed that I could surf, too. He asked me to give him a few lessons while they're down here," I told her, standing up and grabbing my laundry again.

"Are you going to?" she asked from the couch.

"I might, if he can keep his attitude in check. If not, I'll just have to drown him," I teased.

Mom just smiled and shook her head at me.

"Either way, we'll get to meet them tonight, I'm sure," Mom said, just as I was about to ascend the stairs.

I turned around and shot her a confused look.

She smiled. "Your dad and I will be joining you at the Whitlocks' tonight."

"Of course you are," I muttered under my breath, heading up the stairs.

Fuck. My. Life.

"I don't see why I have to ride with you guys," I whined, crossing my arms over my chest. Did I sound like a petulant five-year-old? Yes. But dammit, riding with your parents just wasn't cool. Dad had insisted I ride with them to Jasper's house to save my gas. I guess since he had paid for it, I should have listened and just shut up. But instead, I was pouting in the back seat of my mom's car.

"Just think, Bella, in about a year you'll be heading to college and, you won't have to ride with your boring parents anymore," Dad commented from his post behind the wheel.

I heard my mom sniffle. She was still touchy about me leaving next year.

I reached up and gave my mom a gentle squeeze on her shoulder. She turned and gave me a watery smile, patted my hand, and turned back to the front.

"So what's this about a new boy you've been hanging around with?" Dad asked.

I shot daggers into the back of my mom's head. Leave it to her to fill Dad in on my social life.

"It's nothing, really. Some new people are renting the house next to Jasper's for a couple of weeks, and I was hanging around with their son today," I told him.

"Is he a good kid?"

"I guess so. I only hung out with him for a few hours."

"Well, he better behave himself, or he'll have to answer to me," Dad warned sternly. The line between Charlie being in "dad" mode and "cop" mode was thin when it came to me and boys.

I rolled my eyes. "He'd have to go through Emmett and Jasper first, Dad. Don't worry, he was a perfect gentleman," I assured him.

Dad just grunted, and conversation died after that.

A few minutes later we pulled up to the Whitlock house. I couldn't stop myself from stealing a glance next door to see if Edward or Alice were outside.

As soon as Dad had the car in park, I was out the door. "I'm going to find Jasper," I told my parents before I slammed the door shut and ran up to the Whitlocks' front door.

I knocked on the door and waited for an answer. A moment later, Janet, Jasper's mom, opened the door with a smile. She was a beautiful woman. She was a little taller than me, with long, blond, curly hair and almost-gray eyes. Jasper was a spitting image of her.

"Bella, dear, hello," she said, giving me a hug. "Come on in. Jasper's out back."

"Thanks," I said, slipping past her and making my way to their back door.

I slid the patio door to the side to see Jasper sitting at their large patio table, talking to his dad.

"Hey, Jazz, Mr. Whitlock," I said, closing the door behind me.

"Hello, again, Bella," Mr. Whitlock said. "How many times do I have to tell you to call me Mark?" he asked with a smile.

"Sorry. Mom and Dad are here. I don't want them thinking I don't have manners," I said with a shrug, plopping down next to Jasper.

Just then my dad made his way out onto the deck.

"Charlie!" Mark said happily, getting up to shake my dad's hand.

"Hey, Marcus, how's it been?"

They walked back into the house to get drinks, I assumed.

"So, how was it hanging out with Edward all day?" Jasper asked.

"Fine. He mellowed out, and we actually had some fun," I told him.

"Yeah, Alice chewed him out after you stormed out of their house. What did he say to you when he went outside?"

"Just that he was sorry for being rude and that coming down here wasn't his idea."

Jasper nodded. "Alice said that he was whining that he didn't want to go on vacation this year because he was going to miss some sort of music camp. According to her, he's some sort of musical genius or something."

"Really? I wouldn't have guessed that he was into music. He never mentioned it," I said.

"He's kind of shy about it. I guess his friends kind of rip his ass about it. Honestly, I think it's pretty cool," Jazz admitted.

"Maybe I'll ask him about it. How was Alice?"

A bright smile lit up Jasper's face. "She's so cool, Bella. I thought she was going to be some ditzy chick when she asked to go to the mall, but she's funny, and smart...I kinda wish they didn't have to leave so soon. I really liked hanging out with her."

"Wow, sounds like Jazzy has himself a crush" Marcus said, coming back outside with a beer in his hand. My dad followed behind with a beer of his own. Looks like I'll be driving home tonight.

"Ha ha," Jasper replied, giving his dad the finger.

I loved watching Jasper and his dad interact. His parents were really laid back and let him get away with a lot. I guess they felt bad about having to uproot him or something.

"She's just a summer fling – a random tourist hook up, Dad," Jasper told him.

"Sure she is, son," he said, winking at me over Jasper's head.

I giggled a little. His dad was too cute.

A moment later, my parents and Janet joined us on the patio.

"I invited the neighbors over. They should be here soon," Janet announced.

"Will Mr. Cullen be joining them?" my mom asked sweetly.

Ohh...I think Mom's hot for Cullen!

"Why, yes, Renee, he will be," Janet answered with a sly wink. I think Mrs. Whitlock had a thing for him, too!

We all sat around chatting for a few more minutes about random things. Janet asked me about surfing, Dad and Marcus were talking about sports, and Jasper and I had to field questions about college.

None too soon, the Cullens appeared at the side of the deck.

"Cullen, party of two," Carlisle joked.

Esme rolled her eyes and hit his arm playfully.

"You can be such a dork sometimes, I swear," she said, opening the small gate at the edge of the deck.

"Hello again, Jasper, Bella," she said, making her way over to an empty chair. "How was your day?"

"Good," Jasper and I answered at the same time.

"The kids seemed to have fun, too. All Edward could talk about was you surfing, and Alice kept going on and on about all the small shops you showed her today, Jasper. Thank you both so much for that."

"You're welcome," Jasper replied.

"Yeah, no problem," I said with a nod.

"I want to apologize for my son's behavior this morning," Esme said, looking to me. "He's not happy about having to leave home this summer. I heard he was quite short with you."

"He was, but he got over it after I threatened to kick his butt," I teased.

"'Atta girl," Dad said, raising his beer. I rolled my eyes.

"Well, you do that, dear. Edward needs a good ass-kicking once in a while," she said with a smirk.

"Where are the kids, anyway?" Marcus asked.

"Taking their sweet damn time, apparently," Carlisle answered. "I swear, Ali spends more time in the bathroom primping than she does at the actual place she's going to!"

"We're lucky Bella isn't like that, then," my dad interjected.

"Oh, sorry to have been rude," Janet spoke up. "Carlisle and Esme Cullen, meet Charlie and Renee Swan, Bella's parents."

"We met earlier today. Nice to see you again, Carlisle," Mom said.

"You two have already met?" my father asked, sounding confused.

"Yes, dear, I told you this earlier. Carlisle and I bumped into each other at the grocery store. Do you even listen to a word I say?" she asked sarcastically.

"I got sidetracked when you mentioned Bella and a boy," he teased.

"Daaaad," I whined. "Stop being so..."Dad" about everything. When have I ever given you a reason to worry about my behavior with boys?"

"Since the day you were born and I had a daughter instead of a son," he mumbled under his breath.

I rolled my eyes and sighed. Dads...sheesh!

Jasper grabbed my arm and insisted that I play Frisbee with him. I was grateful that he was saving me from my dad and his talk of "boys."

We walked down toward the water and began playing. "Thanks, man. Dad was getting intense," I said, throwing the Frisbee in his direction.

"Yeah, I thought you needed out of there," he joked, catching it.

I laughed, and continued our game.

A little while later, Edward and Alice emerged alongside the house.

"Hey, guys!" Alice yelled right as I released the Frisbee. Jasper wasn't paying attention and it hit him on the side of the head.

"Ouch! Damn, Bells!" he hollered, rubbing the side of his head.

"Sorry! Pay attention!" I yelled back.

Alice rushed to his side to inspect the damage. "You're not bleeding, so I think you'll live," she joked.

"Nice throw," Edward cheered.

"You could be next, you know," I retorted, quirking an eyebrow at him.

He shook his head and smiled.

"So, what did we miss?" he asked.

"Just Bella's dad going totally mental about you two hanging out today. I'd watch myself when you go up there, if I were you. He keeps a gun under his driver's seat for emergencies," Jasper told him with a straight face.

Edward kind of looked like he might puke.

"Goddammit, Jazz! Stop trying to scare him! I swear, you're worse than Emmett!" I yelled, kicking sand in his direction.

Jasper just shrugged, the smug bastard.

"Don't freak out, Edward. Jasper's just being a dick, as usual. Dad was not going mental," I assured him. "You guys might want to warn your dad, though. I think my mom and Jazz's mom have the hots for him."

"That's nothing new," Edward mumbled.

"So, where's this bonfire I heard about?" Alice asked, looking around.

"I think Dad was waiting on Emmett and Rosalie's families to get here, but it looks like they're late - as usual. I'll go see if he'll start it now," Jasper said, taking off toward the house.

"I'll come, too," Alice said, running to catch up with him.

"So..." Edward said, rocking back on his heels.

"So..." I replied. "Uh...Frisbee?"

"Sure, but I'm not great at it," Edward admitted.

"What's there to be good at? You catch it; you throw it back. Five-year-olds can do it," I teased, running away from him.

I ran a few yards away from Edward and tossed the Frisbee. He had to run to his left a bit, but he still caught it.

"See? Easy, huh?" I asked snarkily.

"I can catch...I just can't throw," he said, releasing the Frisbee.

It came right to me and I caught it easily.

"Yeah, you're really bad at this."

"Just throw the damn thing!" he yelled.

"Yes, sir."

We played for a little while longer, and Jasper's dad started a fire in the sand several yards from where we were. That was a perk to owning "your own" beach – you could light that shit up just about anywhere on your property.

I thought I'd mess with Edward a little bit, and I started tossing the Frisbee closer and closer to the water. A few times he had to run in the surf, getting his shoes wet.

"You're doing that on purpose, aren't you?" he asked.

"Doing what?" I implored, feigning innocence.

Edward shook his head and tossed it back.

The next time I threw it; the wind caught it and took it out a bit further than I had intended. Edward had to run into knee-deep water to get it.

"You're going to pay for that, Swan!" he yelled.

"Yeah, yeah..." I challenged.

Suddenly, he came charging at me. I realized a moment too late what he was planning to do and didn't run away from him fast enough. I felt his arms around my waist as he lifted me off the ground. Before I could even try to struggle away, he was in the water. As soon as it was deep enough, he threw us to the side, landing us both underwater.

I surfaced, sputtering. "What the hell?" I asked, laughing.

"I figured if you were going to get me wet, I would repay the favor," he said with a smile, pushing his wet hair out of his face.

"You suck!" I said, splashing water up at him.

He ducked under the water quickly and pulled my legs out from underneath me. "What was that?" he asked when I resurfaced again.

"Maybe I shouldgo get my dad's gun. Jasper wasn't kidding when he said it was under the driver's seat," I teased.

"You don't scare me," he said, walking closer to me.

Considering the tricks he had just pulled on me, I was hesitant of his advance, and took a step away from him.

"You don't scare me, either," I told him.

"Oh, yeah? Then why are you backing up?" he asked, smirking.

I rolled my eyes and made my way out of the water, with Edward close behind me.

"Ugh! Now I have wet sand in my shoes," Edward whined. I looked down and saw him wearing sandals. Wow...that's kinda nerdy.

"So take them off," I instructed.

"Why would I do that?" He seemed completely perplexed as to why anyone would go shoeless on a beach.

"So you don't get sand in your shoes," I countered, the "duh" obvious in my tone.

"What if I step on glass? Or a crab? Or a crackhead's discarded needle?"

"Seriously, Edward? Where do you think you are, exactly?"

"Back home, you wouldn't go without shoes on the beach. Even though it looks clean, you never know what's lurking below the sand. I shit you not; a friend of mine had to get a tetanus shot because he stepped on a rusted-ass nail on the beach. I don't care to experience that," he said, sitting down to dump the wet sand from his shoes.

"Wow, that's lame. Where do you live, anyway?" I asked, sitting next to him.


"I've never been that far north. Is it nice there? I've always wanted to see the Sears Tower," I told him.

"I like it. But then again, I've always lived in the city. It's too quiet down here."

"Well, if I ever make my way to Chicago, I'll look you up so you can babysit me," I joked, nudging his shoulder with mine.

"I really am sorry about this morning. You aren't going to let me live it down, are you?"

"Probably not," I said with a smile, rising to my feet.

Edward put his shoes back on and stood up. "Looks like your other friends are here. Maybe we should head back?"


We walked in comfortable silence for a few steps. I saw Edward watching my feet as we walked.

"What are you doing?" I asked, completely confused as to what was fascinating about my feet.

"Why do you curl your toes like that when you walk?" he inquired, noticing how I grabbed the sand with my bare toes.

"I like the way the sand feels under my feet," I answered with a shrug.

"And you're not afraid of stepping on something?"

I laughed. "No, Edward, I'm not afraid of hurting myself. I've lived in this area all my life, and the sand is pretty clean. You get the occasional cat turd, but that's about it."

"That's gross," he commented.

"It is. But seriously, you need to lighten up. Take your shoes off and enjoy the beach, city boy," I advised with a smile.

"Bellsy!" Emmett bellowed as we neared the fire. He came running at me and grabbed me, throwing me over his shoulder.

"Emmett, you fucking ape! Put me down! Daddy, help!" I squealed.

"You're on your own there, Bells," Dad yelled, laughing.

Some protector he is!

I started pounding Emmett's back, and he just laughed.

"Hey, Jasper, is there a fly on my back? Something tickles," he taunted.

"Looks like an angry hornet to me," he quipped.

Whitlock's a dead man!

I reached down Emmett's back, grabbed the waistband of his underwear, and yanked hard.

"Ow! Bella! Not cool!" he yelled, setting me down on my feet. "Rose, did you see what she did to me?"

"Serves you right for acting like a Neanderthal!" she answered.

I walked past Emmett as he was digging the wedgie out of his ass and sat down on the blanket next to Rosalie.

"Way to go, Bella," Rose cheered. "Way to show Emmett who's boss."

I just shrugged and smiled.

"Looks like you were having fun with Edward out there," she said, looking over at Edward, who was talking to Jasper and Mark.

"Yeah, he's actually kind of cool to hang around with," I told her. I couldn't fight the smile that was forming on my face.

"Uh huh. You like him, don't you?" she whispered.

"What? No! We just hung out today! Sheesh, Rose! I'm not a slut!" I huffed.

"Just because you like a guy you just met, that doesn't make you a slut."

"Whatever. Yes, we hung out. Yes, he was fun to hang out with. End of story."

Emmett came over and plopped down behind Rosalie.

"You so owe me a new pair of undies. I think you ripped mine!" he whined.

"Undies? Really, Emmett? Are they pink and lacey, too?" I teased.

He flipped me the bird and snuggled Rosalie to his chest. She just rolled her eyes and let him hold her.

"Mind if I sit here?" I heard Edward ask behind me.


He sat down and tried to brush the sand off of his still-wet feet.

I laughed. "You know that's a losing battle until they dry, right?"

Edward just shrugged.

"You're not cold, are you? I didn't think before I threw us in the water," he apologized.

"Nah, I'm good. Thanks, though."

Silence hung between us. I sat idly, listening to the chatter around us. The parents were all grouped toward the other side of the large fire, Esme and Carlisle fitting in well with everyone. Jasper and Alice were sitting on a big blanket off to my left, deep in quiet discussion. Emmett was still snuggling Rose, whispering something in her ear that made her smack his arm playfully.

I turned back to Edward. "So, what do you do in Chicago?"

"Go to school, come home, hang out with friends. Nothing special, really," he answered with a shrug.

"Wow, sounds exciting," I deadpanned.

"Yeah, I'm not a really interesting person," he told me, looking kind of uncomfortable.

"Hey, I didn't mean it like that. Sorry, I was kidding."

"It's okay." He took a deep breath. "Truth is, I'm kind of a music nerd."

"How so?" I asked, even though I knew he was mad about missing a music camp. I didn't want to come off like a creepy stalker, so I let him tell me, instead.

"I love music. It pretty much consumes my life. Mom had me taking piano lessons since I was six years old, and I'm really good at it. I love it," he admitted.

"There's nothing wrong with being talented at something, Edward," I assured him.

"Yeah, well, it's not always that easy. If I was a girl and gifted at music, it would be okay. But boys are supposed to like football and baseball, not spend their Saturdays locked in their music room playing Bach all day," he said cynically.

"Says who?" I scoffed.

"Society, I guess. I've been labeled gay, socially awkward, nerdy…" he trailed off.

"Well, if it helps, I don't think you're nerdy or socially awkward. And it's still to be determined if you're gay or not," I said, bumping my shoulder to his and smiling.

He looked and me, stunned, then shrugged and shook his head.

"You're quite something, Miss Swan."

"You ain't seen nothing yet, city boy."

I woke up Monday morning to Rose sitting on my chest, dripping cold water on my face.

"Ahh!" I screamed, sitting up and shoving Rose off onto the floor. "What the hell was that for?"

"I tried yelling your name a few times, but that didn't work, so Aunt Renee said to come dump water on you. Count yourself lucky I only dripped it," she said, standing up and rubbing her ass.

"Your floor hurts, by the way."

I flipped her the bird and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.

"What time is it, anyway?" I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

"Eight o'clock. I let you sleep in today."

"How kind of you," I told her sarcastically as I stretched and threw my blankets off. "Can we not run today? I'm really not feeling it."

Rose narrowed her eyes at me, then shrugged. "Sure, I guess."


"So, you heading out to the carnival tonight?" she asked as I crossed my room and rummaged through my drawers.

"Hell yes. You know I practically live there this time of year. I'm going to ride the Scrambler until I puke!"

"I don't see how you can ride those rides over and over. Once is enough for me," she whined.

I rolled my eyes and headed for the bathroom with my clothes in hand.

"Give me a few, and I'll be down."

"I'll give you twenty, then I'm breaking the door down. Grab your suit – the surf's good today," she yelled as she went downstairs.

I changed quickly and joined my mom and Rose downstairs with five minutes to spare.

"Good morning, sweetie," Mom said as I entered the kitchen.

"Morning," I said, giving her a hug and sitting down at the table.

"Want some waffles?" she asked.

"That'd be great, thanks."

"So, I was thinking that we could hit the water for a while, come back and shower, and head to the carnival around six. Sound good?" Rose suggested.

"Yeah, sounds good. Is that okay, Mom?"

"That's fine, Bella. Just be back before eleven," she told me, setting the waffles in front of me.

"I will," I promised. I always made curfew. My parents were pretty lenient with me as long as I followed the rules. I wasn't about to do anything that would jeopardize my summertime freedom.

Rose and I secured our boards in my Jeep, and away we went.

We spent the day surfing with Emmett, and around noon, Edward, Jasper, and Alice joined us as well.

I tried to give Edward a surfing lesson, but he kept falling off the board. His biggest issues were keeping his balance and his knees from buckling. It looked, to me, that he was afraid of the wave – something he vehemently denied.

We all parted ways around four and decided to meet up at the carnival later. I drove home quickly and showered. Mom was kind enough to give me twenty bucks, and I was on my way.

I met up with Rose and Emmett at the ski ball booth, and we waited for the others to get there.

"So, it looked like Cullen and surfing don't mix," Emmett said with a smug grin.

"Lay off him, Em. He didn't grow up around it like we did. I remember a time when your beefy ass couldn't ride through a wave, either," I snapped.

Emmett put his hands up in defeat. "Yes, ma'am."

I rolled my eyes at him and gave the carny working the skee ball a ticket. He handed me my balls and I began rolling them up the slide. Unfortunately, they kept landing on the ten holes, and my score was really lousy.

"Here, let me try," I heard Edward say from behind me.

"Oh, hey, I didn't even hear you guys come up," I said, pushing my hair behind my ears.

"You looked pretty focused. Step aside; let me show you how it's done."

I smiled and bowed, allowing him to take my place. He handed his balls to me and I giggled. All I could think was I'm holding Edward's balls.

Edward didn't seem to notice my perverted inner monologue, and he sailed his first ball right into the fifty hole.

"Nice," I complimented.

"I'm not even warmed up. Another ball, please."

I handed him a ball, and he landed it right into the tiny one hundred hole in the top left corner.

"Wow, impressive."

"Thanks. So, Miss Swan, what animal would you like when I win?" Edward asked.

"Well, aren't you cocky?" I teased.

"Not cocky, my dear. Confident," he said, as he landed another ball in the top left one hundred hole.

"I want the panda," I told him, no longer doubting his skills.

His next two balls landed in the fifty and one hundred holes. Actually, all his balls landed in either fifty or one hundred. He was surely on track to get the high score for the night.

When he was finished, Edward had racked up six hundred points.

"High score!" the carny shouted.

"Wow, Edward that was awesome!" I praised, hugging him before I could even think about what I was doing.

Edward wrapped his arms around me as well, and I enjoyed the moment. It felt nice to be in his embrace, and I could smell aftershave, deodorant, and Edward's own unique scent. It was a lovely mixture that I wanted to keep smelling. However, when Edward suddenly tensed under my grasp, I realized what I was doing, and the moment was over.

"Yes, well, it's all in the wrist," he said, taking an uncomfortable step away from me.

"Pick your prize," the carny instructed.

"A panda for the lady," Edward said.

"Thank you, kind sir," I joked, and just like that, the hug was forgotten.

Edward tried to show me how to "properly" roll a skee ball, but I really sucked at it. He said his superior skills here made up for his lack thereof on a surfboard. I couldn't disagree.

I looked around to see that my friends and his sister were no longer around. I was so wrapped up in Edward, I hadn't noticed.

"Shit, I wish Rose would have told me she was leaving. We'll never find her now," I griped, looking at the large number of people walking around.

"Actually, Jasper said something about meeting them over by the rides when we were done."

"Oh, thanks. We better go then," I said, picking up my giant stuffed panda and walking toward the rides.

"Here, let me carry that," Edward said, taking the panda from me.


We found everyone over by the Scrambler, and I couldn't resist the urge to run up to the line.

"Come on, Edward. This one's my favorite!"

Edward stood behind me in line, with the others filing in behind him.

I turned to Rose. "You're riding this? I thought you hated it?"

"Well, once won't hurt," she said with a shrug.

Soon, it was our turn to enter the cars.

"Do you want the inside or the outside?" Edward asked, holding the door to the car open.

"You better take the inside, or you'll crush me," I told him.

We entered the car and waited for the carny to start her up.

I felt the jerk of the motor starting, and anticipation bubbled in my stomach. A moment later, the spinning started, and I giggled as I slid into Edward, unable to fight the centrifugal force.

"Sorry," I hollered to him.

"You're fine," he answered with a laugh.

After the Scrambler, we all went our separate ways, but oddly, in pairs – Edward with me, Rose and Em together, and Alice and Jasper. It was kind of nice the way it worked out in even numbers.

Edward and I rode all the rides, played almost all the games, and laughed a lot. It was so hard to believe that person who had been so shitty to me just two days before was the same person I was having such a great time with now.

Before I knew it, it was nine forty-five, and we were meeting up the others at the entrance. The carnival closed at ten, but since I had to be home by eleven, I decided not to follow the others back to Jasper's.

"Are you sure you can't make it, Bells?" Rose whined.

"You know how my parents are. And besides, when have I ever broken curfew?"

"Fine. Same time tomorrow?" she asked.

"Yeah, just no dripping water tomorrow, please."

"I make no promises," she teased, giving me a hug.

"See you guys tomorrow," I said, fishing my keys from my purse and heading toward my Jeep.

"Bella! Bella, wait up!" Edward yelled.

I turned around to see him running to catch up with me.

"You almost forgot your animals," he said with a laugh.

Along with the giant panda, Edward had also won me a smaller teddy bear and a turtle.

"Oh, thanks! I can't believe I almost forgot!"

I took the panda and buckled it in to the passenger seat.

"Think I can take the carpool lane now?" I teased.

"See you tomorrow, Bella," Edward said.

We stood there for an awkward moment. I wanted to hug him again, but I wasn't sure if I should. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just did it. I was pleasantly surprised to feel him wrap his arms around me.

"Bye, Edward," I said, stepping out of his embrace.

"Bye," he said, giving me a small wave and rejoining the others.

I got home to find my mom and dad up watching TV.

"Guys, I'm home!" I yelled, slamming the door.

"Isabella! Really…enough with the slamming," my mom scolded.

"Sorry. Hey, look what Edward won me," I said, showing her my animals.

"How sweet of him. Look, Charlie. Edward won your daughter some stuffed animals at the carnival," she said, nudging my dad's shoulder.

"How very John Cusack of him," Dad deadpanned.

"Don't worry, Dad. I doubt he'll be on the front lawn with a boombox anytime soon. Emmett and Jasper have him scared of you," I said, reclaiming my goodies from my mom and heading toward my room.

"Good," I heard him say as I started up the stairs.

I entered my room and plopped down on my bed. I rested my head on top of the panda's and realized it smelled like Edward. I was so glad he had offered to carry it now.

I went to bed that night snuggled with my giant Edward-scented panda.

The rest of the week followed in the same fashion. Rose would wake me up and we'd hang out at the beach, or the rest of us would hang out while she and Emmett were at work and then all meet up at the carnival that night.

On Wednesday night, my parents allowed me to stay out until midnight, so I was able to join the others at Jasper's and watch the fireworks – curled up in Edward's arms.

Edward spent pretty much all of his time with me, and I felt myself getting closer to him. I felt bad that I hadn't been spending much time with Alice, but she seemed pretty cozy with Jasper, so the guilt subsided fairly quickly.

The more time I spent with Edward, the more I realized how funny and intelligent he was. We didn't talk about school or college much; we just lived in the moment. We knew our time was limited, and we were going to make the best of it.

The worst part of it was that I realized that I was quickly developing feelings for him. That was why I never hung out with tourists. They would leave and go back to their lives, and I would still be here when they left.

It seemed Edward was starting to feel the same way. He was always finding ways to touch me – a nudge of the shoulder, softly brushing hair out of my face, or just straight out hugging me.

On Friday night, the last night of the carnival, a band was playing. I usually didn't stay to listen since I had to be home at ten, but Mom and Dad were letting me stay out as late as I wanted that night. It was times like that when I was grateful they had so much trust in me.

"Do you guys want to go listen to Newton's band tonight?" Jasper asked.

"Newt is in a band. Weird. Are they any good?" Emmett asked.

"I've heard them play a few times; they aren't too bad," Jasper said. "If you don't mind cover bands."

"I think it would be fun," I chimed in.

"It's five dollars per person," Jasper said.

I pouted. "Shit! I blew the rest of my money on food,"

"I've got a ten in my pocket. I can pay, if you want," Edward offered.

"I couldn't…"

"Bella, please. Let me pay for you," Edward said, stepping close to me, and pushing my hair behind my left ear with a smile.

"Yeah, okay," I said, entranced in his stare.

Edward paid for us, and we waited just inside the entrance to the pavilion for our friends.

We spent the night dancing like maniacs during the fast songs, though I usually sat out the slow songs.

Toward the end of the show, another slow song came up. I was sitting at the table drinking some sweet tea, when Edward sat down next to me.

"Want to dance?" he asked nervously.

"It's a slow song. I don't know how to slow dance," I told him.

"Nonsense. It's easy. Come on, I'll show you," he said, taking my hand and leading me on to the dance floor.

He wordlessly took my left hand in his, and wrapped his right arm around me, pulling me close to him.

"I'm afraid I'll step on your toes," I told him.

"I'll live," he said, swaying us side to side.

After a moment, I tightened my grip around his neck and moved closer to him, resting my head on his chest.

"This is nice," I murmured into his shirt.

"Yeah, it is," he said softly. "I can't believe I only have a week left. I didn't want to come here, and now I don't want to leave."

I nodded and fought the tears back.

I couldn't deny it anymore – I had officially fallen for Edward Cullen.

After the song ended, I started to step away from Edward, but he wouldn't allow me. I looked up to see his eyes swimming with unshed tears. Without a word, he leaned down and placed a soft kiss on my lips.

"I love you, Bella."

I had to laugh at the situation. Here he was, professing his love for me, and I had come to realize that I thought I loved him too, but he was leaving in a week. Nothing would change that.

"Yeah, I love you, too, Cullen," I tried to say sarcastically. If I acted like this was just a joke, it wouldn't hurt as much. Right?

Edward sensed what I was doing and let out a small, forced laugh. He nodded and hugged me. I took one last, long, sniff of his shirt, and released him from my grip.

We met up with everyone, and I said my goodbyes. Curfew loomed ahead, and I needed to get going. Edward walked me to my car.

"I had a really nice time tonight," he said when we finally got back to the Jeep.

"Me, too," I told him.

I shuffled my feet and stared at the ground. Emotions were swirling around inside of me, I was afraid if I looked into his eyes I'd start crying. Suddenly, he enveloped me in a tight hug. I hugged him back tightly and broke away quickly.

Without a word, I unlocked the door and slid into the driver's seat. I pulled away from Edward without looking back. I didn't want a chance for him to see the tears streaming down my face.

Thankfully, my parents were in their room when I got home. I yelled through the door that I was back and collapsed onto my bed, crying into the chest of my Edward-scented panda.

If Edward and I had been spending a lot of time together before, we were inseparable the last week he was in town. We spent every moment we could together, knowing that time was quickly slipping away from us.

On Tuesday morning, I woke up from the most delicious dream. I was dreaming that Edward was in my room, whispering in my ear.

"Bella. Bella, wake up," I heard him say softly in my ear.

"Edward…" I mumbled, and squeezed my panda tighter.

"Yes. Now get up," I heard dream Edward say again.

"No, not yet," I protested, not wanting my sweet dream to die.

"Isabella Marie Swan, get your lazy ass out of bed, pronto!" Rosalie's loud voice said.

"Fuck you, Rose," I said, throwing the pillow over my head.

Suddenly, the blanket was ripped from me, and the pillow was thrown on the floor.

"Dammit, Rose! I said not right…"I trailed off angrily, seeing Edward in the corner of my room, shoulders shaking from his effort to contain his laughter.

"Fuck!" I squealed, diving for the blanket. Edward had just seen me in one of my dad's old police tee shirts and my underwear. I was beyond embarrassed.

"Edward! OUT! Rose, why didn't you warn me? Fuck!" I yelled.

Edward lost the battle and was now fully laughing at me. Oh yeah, he'd pay for that later.

"I tried to get you up! But you wouldn't budge, so I sent Edward up. He was gone so long, your mom sent me up here to make sure you two were behaving yourselves. It's not my fault you're such a hard sleeper," she said and stomped angrily out of my room.

"What are you still doing in here?" I asked Edward.

"Enjoying the sight," he responded with a smirk, taking in my barely-covered body. I tried to pull the tangled blanket over myself, to no avail.

"No, please don't do that. You look too cute like that," he said, lust filling his eyes.

Oh no, this was not good.

I swallowed thickly. "I think you should go so I can get dressed. Mom is a crack shot, and that's no joke," I warned.

Edward took one last, lingering look at me and left my room.

I sighed and flopped on my bed.

Fuck. My. Life.

Sooner than I wanted it to, Friday came. Edward was leaving the next day.

I had asked my parents if I could stay the night at Jasper's house. We all were, since the twins would be leaving the next day. Thankfully, my parents cleared it with Mark and Janet, and I was allowed to stay. It wasn't that they didn't trust me, but I was a teenager staying the night at a boy's house. They erred on the side of caution.

I sat on a blanket by the bonfire in between Edward's legs. He was softly stroking my arms as Jasper played his guitar and sang. Jasper wasn't too pleased that Alice was leaving tomorrow, either.

All week we had been sharing small, chaste kisses. When we walked around, we held hands. I knew that if Edward was able to stay, he'd ask me to be his girlfriend. But no, the next day he would be heading back to Chicago. Far, far away from South Carolina – and me.

"Can we go for a walk?" he asked softly.


Edward stood and took my hand, helping me to my feet. We let the others know where we were going and set off down the beach hand in hand.

"I'm really going to miss you," Edward said.

"Please, don't," I pleaded. I didn't want to talk about him leaving. I didn't want to think about it. I wanted to pretend that it wasn't happening.

Without warning, Edward pulled me close and kissed me tenderly. I felt his tongue along my bottom lip, and I opened my mouth to him. I wrapped my arms around his neck, and I never wanted to let go.

We stood there kissing until we needed to break for air. I leaned my head on his chest and cried. I didn't even try to hide it this time. My heart physically hurt at the thought of him leaving. He was my first love, and he was leaving me. The pain was too much.

"I could say that I wish I hadn't run after you that first day, but I'd be lying," he said, rubbing my head, and placing soft kisses atop of it.

"Yeah, I'm glad you decided you needed a babysitter, after all," I said with a sniff.

I felt Edward chuckle softly under me. "I'm glad, too."

We stood there for a few more minutes just holding each other, both of us seemingly afraid to break the contact. The wind blew off the ocean, and even though it was mid-July, I felt a chill ripple up my spine.

"Let's get back to the fire," Edward suggested, and he pulled away.

We walked back to the fire just as we had walked away – hand-in-hand.

"Guys, it's time to get up," I heard Janet say.

I squinted at the light in the room and looked to the window. It was still dark out. I tried to tell myself that it wasn't tomorrow yet – the sun wasn't up. But logic took over, and I knew I was wrong. Carlisle wanted an early start in order to beat the traffic. The time had come… Edward was leaving me.

I tried to roll over, but two strong arms squeezed me to a warm, soft, body. Edward. He and I had fallen asleep on the fold-out couch in the living room.

"I don't want to go. Do you think I could live in your garage? I doubt anyone would notice," Edward joked.

I couldn't laugh. I didn't see the humor in him leaving.

"Come on, kids. I know it's rough, but Esme and Carlisle have already called. They want to leave soon," Janet said softly.

I sighed and pried Edward's arms from my waist.

"Where you going?" he asked groggily.

"Just to the bathroom. I'll be right back," I told him and placed a soft kiss on his forehead.

He looked up at me sadly, and I had to go. I didn't want to cry in front of Edward again.

I ran to the bathroom, locked the door, and dissolved into tears as I sat on the toilet lid. Deep, hard sobs racked my body. He couldn't be leaving today, he just couldn't. I'd never felt anything like this for anyone before, and for him to have to leave just wasn't fair. I silently cursed fate for bringing me such a sweet boy, just to have him ripped away from me. I wanted to scream and yell and throw things, but I couldn't. I just cried. I must have been in the bathroom for a while, because Janet knocked softly on the door and asked if I was alright.

"Yeah, I'll be right out," I told her, blowing my nose and flushing the toilet to hide the sound. I looked at my reflection in the mirror. I looked like hell – my eyes were red and puffy from crying, and my cheeks had obvious tear tracks down them. I splashed water on my face in a feeble attempt to hide the evidence of my breakdown.

When I reentered the living room, the bed had been put away and the blankets were neatly folded, resting on the back of the couch.

"Ready?" I asked Edward.

He took a deep breath and nodded.

We walked somberly out of the Whitlocks' home, Alice and Jasper behind us and Emmett and Rose behind them.

"It was nice to meet you," Edward told Janet politely.

"It was nice to meet you too, Edward. Take care of yourself," she said, yanking him into a hug.

"Thanks," he said, taking my hand again.

"Oh, Janet! I'm going to miss you!" Alice said, diving for her and enveloping her in a tight hug.

"I'll miss you too, sweet Alice. Thank you for entertaining Jasper."

Alice let out a small laugh. "It was no problem."

The two of them separated and Jasper tucked Alice under his arm.

"I'll try to call and write as often as I can," Edward promised. I knew it was a promise he was going to break. This was just a summer romance – a fleeting moment in time that we'd both remember for years to come. We were each other's first love, and even though I hadn't given him my virginity, I knew I would never forget him.

Edward pulled me into a soft kiss full of love and longing. Carlisle beeped the horn, and I knew our time was officially over.

I struggled to fight back the tears, and felt Edward doing the same. I looked to Alice and Jasper, and I saw that they were mirror images of us.

Edward pulled away from me and motioned for Alice. They walked to their car and solemnly got into the back seat.

As Carlisle backed out of the driveway, Edward kissed his fingers and pressed them onto the window. My dam broke and I allowed the tears to flow freely down my face. I kissed my fingers and raised them into the air, mimicking Edward's gesture.

I felt strong arms around me and looked up to see it was Jasper; silent tears slid down his face. I began sobbing even harder, and he gently led me over to Rosalie.

"I love him, Rose. And now he's gone," I cried into her shoulder.

"I know, sweetie. I know."

I turned and watched Edward – my first love – drive off with his family. The Cullens' car got smaller and smaller until I couldn't see it anymore. And I cried into my cousin's arms. Edward was gone.

I wipe the tear off my cheek at the memory of Edward leaving. Watching him drive away was the hardest thing I had ever done.

"Keep going, Momma. Tell the rest," my daughter urges softly.

I give her a watery smile and continue.

"After Edward left, I felt like a zombie. I didn't go out surfing with Rose, and I didn't hang out with any of my friends, at all. But a week later, I got a phone call," I tell her.

"From Edward?" she asks with a smile. She knows what's coming next.

"Yes, baby, from Edward."

"What did he say, Momma?"

Before I can answer her question, a voice behind me answers, "He told her that he felt lost without her and that he was trying to find a way to come back to her."

"Daddy!" Clara squeals and jumps off the swing and into his arms.

I smile at the sight of my husband and daughter embracing. Their grins stretch ear-to-ear, and I can't believe how lucky I've been in my life. I have an amazing husband and a wonderful daughter. In just a few short months, we will welcome another child into our family, too.

Clara drags her father over to sit with us on the swing. He sits down, and she climbs into his lap, photo album open across her legs.

"Will you guys finish the story, please?" Clara asks sweetly.

"Well, Edward was true to his word. He and Alice both wanted to come back to South Carolina to be with me and Jasper, and as luck would have it, they did. Carlisle just happened to get transferred to a hospital down here, and right before the school year started, they moved into their new house," I told her.

Clara looked up at her father. "Then what happened?"

"Well," he starts, "Edward and Bella were inseparable. They sat together at lunch, had a few classes together, and spent every weekend with each other. They went to prom, where Rose and Emmett were crowned the queen and king, and everyone had a big party at Jasper's house when they all graduated a few months later."

"Then what happened, Momma?" she asks, excitement growing on her little face.

"Then, baby, they went to college together," I answer.

Clara gives a frustrated huff. "Momma!" she whines. "You know what I mean!"

"When they were juniors in college, Edward asked Bella to marry him," her father tells her.

"I know that," Clara states. "But then what happened?"

"Well, baby, they got married and finished college. Then, they both got great jobs moved into a wonderful house, and started their family," I say.

The day I married Edward was the happiest day of my life. That was, until I found out I was pregnant. It's safe to say those days are tied.

Clara slams the photo album shut. "Nevermind. You guys aren't saying what I want you to say."

"What did we leave out?" I ask, completely confused at her outburst.

"And we all lived happily ever after!" she practically yells.

I look to Edward and see that he has the same smile on his face that I feel on mine.

"You're right, sweetheart, we did live happily ever after," he says before placing a soft kiss on my lips.

"Wait, is that why you said I'm like a princess?" I ask Clara.

"Yep," she says, and runs into the house.

She's right; my life is like a fairy tale. I have my Prince Charming, my children, and my castle. They are my happily ever after.

And with that, I dub this story - complete.