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This book was automatically created by FLAG on January 1st, 2012, based on content retrieved from http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6683803/. The content in this book is copyrighted by xNimC or their authorised agent(s). All rights are reserved except where explicitly stated otherwise. This story was first published on January 24th, 2011, and was last updated on August 26th, 2011. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated - please email any bugs, problems, feature requests etc. to flag@erayd.net.

Table of Contents
Summary 1. Chapter 1 2. Chapter 2 3. Chapter 3 4. Chapter 4 5. Chapter 5 6. Chapter 6 7. Chapter 7 8. Chapter 8 9. Chapter 9 10. Chapter 10 11. Chapter 11 12. Chapter 12 13. Chapter 13 14. Chapter 14 15. Chapter 15 16. Chapter 16 17. Chapter 17 18. Chapter 18 19. Chapter 19 20. Chapter 20 21. Chapter 21 22. Chapter 22 23. Chapter 23 24. Chapter 24 25. Chapter 25 26. Chapter 26 27. Chapter 27 28. Chapter 28

29. Chapter 29 30. Chapter 30 31. Chapter 31 32. Chapter 32 33. Chapter 33 34. Chapter 34 35. Epilogue


Bella Swan is no stranger to hard work, but everything changes when she is forced to work in Cullen Manor, the home of America's royal family. Her encounters with a certain prince cause her to wonder if the rules are worth following. MODERN DAY. AH, OOC


Chapter 1
This is my second attempt at writing Twi fanfiction. I'm still no expert. ** This story does NOT represent my political views. I hate politics. I just liked the concept and this is meant to be a lighthearted story. Thanks to my beta Pinkaquaclouds for everything. Couldn't do it without her. Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight. This story is rated M for impolite language and sexual situations in later chapters.

Chapter 1- This Is Not Happening You are a criminal, Bella Swan. This is what I am thinking as I frantically drive down the damp streets of Forks. My wide brown eyes are wrought with paranoia as I repeatedly glance in the rearview mirror for any sign of flashing red and blue lights. Thankfully, there is nothing but the paved road passing beneath my wheels. I take a deep breath and keep my eyes on the empty road in front of me, continually telling myself that it's okay. No one saw. There was no one around. Besides, it isn't really hit-and-run if you hit a parked car right? I mean, who the hell squeezes a shiny silver Volvo into a small ass space in between two larger vehicles? How do you expect the red Chevy behind you to get out, or the blue van in front of you? Way to be considerate of others, asshole. See, my crime record is pretty freakin' clean. This is the first time that I have done something that would be considered breaking the law. Actually, I'm not even sure if it is breaking the law. I don't know what it is, that's exactly how inexperienced I am when it comes to crimes. I'm innocent, really. I had parked civilly right outside of the adorable bookstore in Port Angeles. Once I got out, I saw the fancy Volvo squeezed into the space in between my red truck and a creepy looking van. You know, the kind of van you would expect a kidnapper to be lurking in. There was also another car right behind

mine. So I thought to myself, what the fuck? How in the hell am I supposed to get out of that without hitting anything? I almost stayed behind to see who exactly the Volvo belonged to, just so that I could smack them around for their stupidity, but my dad was expecting me. Bummer. I had gotten into my truck and attempted to get out of the space but I ended up pressing on the gas just a little bit too hard, thus causing my truck to heave forward and leave a big ass dent in the back of the Volvo. Its car alarm went off and I almost had a heart attack. Then, I bolted. So, clearly, it wasn't my fault. It was the Volvo's fault for being in the most retarded place. Frankly, I'm glad I left a dent in the Volvo's ass. That would teach the idiot driver a lesson By the time I reach my dad's little restaurant in Forks, where he is the chef, I have talked myself out of feeling guilty. I feel good again. That is, until I see the paparazzi. Paparazzi? In Forks? What the hell I have to pull up a good twenty feet away from the restaurant because the crowd of paparazzi with their flashing lights is an intimidating sight. That could only mean that there would be a celebrity in there, but what would a celeb be doing in shitty little Forks? I climb out of my truck and walk over to the nearest pedestrian, a middle aged woman craning her neck to see more of the chaos. "Hey, what's going on over there?" I ask her. "It's the king," she says excitedly, eyes lighting up. "The king?" I echo in disbelief. "What the hell is he doing here?" "No one knows," she replies, her gaze locked on the crowd by the doors. There are

Secret Service guards trying to keep it under control. "But he was eating in the restaurant." I am speechless, completely baffled as to why King Carlisle Cullen would be eating in my dad's little eatery. It makes absolutely no sense. The United States of America has always had a royal family, where the members, the Cullens, are more celebrities than they are political figures. They don't do much except sit on their asses and, if they aren't sitting on their asses, throwing fancy balls with all of the country's elites. The President, Albert Greene, usually made the political decisions, but he was really bad at it. Like really, really bad at it. The Cullens have been royalty since the beginning of the USA's history, and ever since day one they have been absolutely useless. Now, in 2010, they are just as useless as they had been back in the day. Carlisle and Esme, the king and queen, seem like perfectly nice people. The only thing that pisses me off is that they don't even try to fix the issues in the country. Now, I actually hate politics. It bores me to tears. But I still feel like the royal family, having the prestige that they do, should step in and tell the president to grow some balls and do something with the power that he has. I'm not sure if it's that easy, but still. If I were part of the royal family, I'd punch the president in the face and be able to get away with it. The paparazzi suddenly go crazy as the doors to the restaurant open and King Carlisle comes out, looking amazing in his sharp suit and flanked by at least four Secret Service guards. The scene is crazy as reporters, most of them from Seattle, shove tape recorders and cameras in his face. He keeps completely calm as he is led over to a shiny black car with tinted windows. Even after he leaves, the paps and reporters linger, a few of them making their way inside. I wonder if my dad is okay, and I'm also dying for details, so I jog forward and push myself through the crowd. My dad's quaint little Italian restaurant is almost unrecognizable because of all the people that definitely don't look like they belong. Most of them are journalists and reporters from news stations, and I push my way past them to head into the kitchen.

My dad, Charlie, looks flushed with excitement as he speaks to a few reporters. "It was a complete surprise, totally unexpected," he's saying. "One second I'm making cannelloni for Mrs. Thorn, and the next thing I know a Secret Service guard comes in and says the king is here!" I am watching all this in shock when I suddenly have a tape recorder pushed in my face. "Bella Swan?" I am confronted by a reporter, a blonde chick with frighteningly white teeth. "You're Charlie Swan's daughter, yes? So, tell me, what's it like knowing you get to live in the manor?" "Um, what?" I stutter. What she is saying has barely registered with me, and once it does I don't want to believe it. "The Cullens, you get to live with the Cullens!" she says, obviously more excited than I am. "How does it feel?" My mind is spinning. I can't quite comprehend what's going on. People are talking, this reporter is annoying the shit out of me, and it's all so chaotic that I feel sick to my stomach. For the first time, I notice the cameraman right in front of me. Holy fuck, I'm live! "Well?" the reporter presses. She shoves the recorder so close to my mouth that I almost swallow it. "What do you say?" "I say I say I'm gonna be sick." I glance down at her shiny pumps. "You don't value those shoes, do you?" I know that my unnaturally pale complexion will scare her into believing me. The reporter blinks at me and then suddenly she's gone, leaving me to watch as my dad is continuing his interview with the other reporter. " It's amazing," he's saying. "This is going to be a big deal for both me and my daughter. It's going to change our lives." What is he talking about? I am starting to freak out just as my dad is done talking to Channel 4 News, and he finally turns to me.

"Bella!" he says, walking over to me. "Where have you been, kiddo?" "Dad, what's going on?" "Oh man, I don't even know where to begin," he says, and his eyes are bright with liveliness. He looks ten years younger. "The king stopped by, God knows why, and ordered the special. Next thing I know, he's ordering almost everything on the menu. You know what the best part is? He comes in here and asks me if I want to work in the manor! The Cullens' manor, Bells!" I can't breathe. It's slowly starting to sink in, and I don't think I like it at all. "What did you tell him?" I ask, and although my voice is barely audible, I know he hears me. "I said yes! We move in next week. Isn't that great, Bella?" He pulls me into a hug and I am frozen. Oh. My. God. This is not happening to me. Somebody pinch me so I can wake up from this nightmare. Unfortunately, I don't wake up from the nightmare. I get more cameras shoved in my face, more reporters harassing me, and more nausea in my stomach. No one leaves me the fuck alone until I throw up on live television.

I hadn't thrown a tantrum since I was eight and if someone told me I'd throw one at the age of eighteen, I wouldn't believe them. My dad and I never fight. We're pretty close and it has been that way ever since my mother passed away when I was three. He is my rock, my father, and my friend. So it almost ruins things between us when he decides that we'd be moving into Cullen Manor. At first I think he has said yes because he's excited. After all, people do stupid shit when they're all keyed up up about something.

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Boy, was I wrong. We argue. We scream at each other. I tell him I hate him and then start crying because that is a lie. We talk and he explains that it would be good for us. We'd be getting paid for our services and once we got enough money we would leave. Who am I kidding? Charlie wouldn't want to leave. This is the manor we're talking about. This is the royal family. Kings and queens and princes and balls and all that other fairytale bullshit. Except, we wouldn't really be a part of it. We'd be like slaves. Fine, not really slaves since supposedly the Cullens treat the staff really well. Supposedly. But I have no choice but to join him. I am a high school graduate with not enough money to afford college. My dad's excuse is that the money from his being one of the palace's chefs and me being a maid of some kind would go towards my education. How can I say no to that? Before I know it, I am towing luggage into the back of my truck and wiping tears away as I say goodbye to Forks.

It is with a heavy heart that I get out of my truck in front of Cullen Manor. It was either my truck or my dad's old Subaru. I didn't have the heart to part with my trusty old Chevy. The Cullens' palace/mansion/manor is gargantuan. The second I climb out of my truck, I am floored. It's even more intimidating in person, because of course I have seen pictures of it in all the tabloids and newspapers. It is absolutely ancient, but it has been renovated a little over the years so that it won't collapse when the wind blows or something. It looks like a cross between a castle and a mansion, not big enough to be a castle but way larger than any old mansion. It is straight out of some seventeenth century English romance novel, with its towering brick walls, narrow windows, peaked roofs, and massive gardens out front. The pathways weave through the gardens and stretch on towards the front doors. Not only are there beautiful gardens and perfectly cut hedges out front, but
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there is also a massive fountain with statues that squirt water out of one thing or another. Since the building is located almost in the middle of nowhere, I don't feel like I am in Washington State anymore. I feel like I am in England or France or some other place where old novels take place. It doesn't feel like reality. I can hear horses neighing, except I don't see any. There are Secret Service guards standing at the doors, sunglasses on even in the cloudy weather, backs straight, black suits pressed perfectly. "Miss, your keys?" I turn to see a man who looks like a bellhop from some fancy hotel, except his uniform is a dark purple and his hat isn't nearly as offensive. "My keys?" I repeat, confused. He nods, his face serious. "Yes." " Can I ask why?" He raises an eyebrow at me, unamused. "So I can park it, miss." "Park it where?" "Bella, just give the man the keys," Charlie says tiredly. He is straightening his clothes out; why he is dressed in one of his best suits, I don't know. I have been so enchanted by the palace/mansion/manor that I didn't even notice that more bellhop-looking men are unloading our minimal luggage from the back of my truck. I hesitantly hand the man my keys. "Don't hurt her, she's old." The man doesn't react to my comment, so he clearly has no sense of humor. Once the truck is driven away and our luggage is taken who-knows-where, my dad and I see a woman walking briskly over to us.
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She wears black pants and a white shirt under a dark purple blazer with a silver emblem on the right-hand pocket. Her black hair is chopped short in an Ina Garten sort of way, and her face is very serious. Jeez, does anyone around here know how to smile? "Hello," she says brusquely. "You must be Charles and Isabella Swan. I'm Kate, head of Palace Services." Ugh, she called me Isabella totally do not like her. "I prefer Bella," I tell her, shaking her outstretched hand. Her grip is firm and I wonder if she works out. "Get used to Isabella," she replies. "We don't use casual nicknames." What's got your panties in a twist, woman? "Please, follow me," she says, and turns her back on us to swiftly walk back towards the building. Charlie and I exchange a glance and follow. Kate walks fast and it annoys me; my legs aren't that long, and I don't understand how she can walk so quickly with such short legs. Instead of leading us through the front doors where the Secret Service guards stand, she takes us around a hedge and onto a darker pathway that is hidden from view. It seems like a long walk and I am overwhelmed by the towering building and the trees and hedges and grass that I almost walk right into Kate when she stops walking. She has stopped right outside a thick door on the side of a building, and she pulls it open with surprising strength, leading us inside. We step into a small hallway with shiny hardwood floors and velvet- yes, velvet- on the walls. Apparently simple wallpaper or paint is too lowly for the royal family. "This is the servants' exit and entrance," she says as she keeps walking. "It is the only way the workers, whether they be maids or butlers or handymen, are allowed to leave and enter the building. Unless you have been instructed to work in the front gardens, of course, then you may exit from the front doors."
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"Why?" I ask. I don't like the idea of being confined to one door. What if there's a fire, are all the workers supposed to go out through one way and step on each other in the fight for survival? In fact, I'm not so sure I like the idea of serving the wealthy, especially if they happen to be the biggest celebrities in the country. I don't know the Cullens very well, but I do know that they're all spoiled rotten. Who knows how they'll treat someone like me? I know what it's like to work my ass off for money. I have been working since I turned 15, in order to help my dad pay bills. Even when I was younger than that I had small jobs like selling lemonade or cookies door to door. All the money always went to my dad so that he could support us. Being dubbed a "servant" and being spoken to like I was shit did not sit well with me. "That is just how it is," Kate says by way of explanation. "This way, please." She shows us around more of the basement- since that is where we are, despite the velvet walls and shows my dad into the kitchen. He is introduced to the head chef and Kate drags me away from them so it is just the two of us. "This is where the maids meet every morning," she informs me as we enter a large room that looks like a cheap lounge. There are couches strewn all over the place and they don't look very comfortable. The windows are large, though, so the bright light filtering in gives the illusion that the room is cheery. "7am sharp, you are to report here immediately," Kate says, and she sounds like Trunchbull from Matilda, minus the English accent. "There will be roll call and then you will be assigned your chores for the day. This is also where you will report every Saturday to be paid." "Slow down," I say, trying to absorb everything. "How many days do I work, and what am I exactly, a maid? I don't really know what's going on" "You don't have a specific position," Kate informs me. "You aren't a maid or a cook or anything, as of yet. Since you and your father have been hired last minute, by the king's wishes, there hasn't been a position set for you. You will report to me each day and you will do the chores of the absent, unwilling, or incapable."
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"So if someone doesn't want to clean a toilet, I'll find myself on my knees with a toilet brush?" Kate stares at me, lips pursed, and I know she is not amused. Not in the slightest. "Not exactly," she says. "Everyone has their issues, however, and we try to be accommodating." Um okay. Whatever that means. She then shows me the other rooms down here, including the rec room and small library, only for the servants. It's small and I am disappointed that I'll be subjected to a small collection of what is probably crap. Basically, the basement of the mansion/manor is where the servants chill. It's not in poor condition, but it's still dark and it's still a basement. I am completely and utterly depressed about the whole thing, so it makes me feel better when Kate leads me out of the basement and onto the first floor. The first floor of the manor is like Treasure Island compared to the slums of India, the slums being the basement. That says a lot, considering that the basement was far from a slum. We ascend upon what I assume is the main hall, a massive room with marble all over. It's so much to take in, everything from the carvings in the marble pillars to the high glossy windows, to the massive staircase that curves upwards it's too much, and I'm suddenly overwhelmed. "This is the main hall, where many of the balls occur," Kate tells me, her voice bouncing off the walls. "There is a ballroom as well, but for the larger parties, this is the only room that suffices." "You're telling me this, because?" My tone isn't rude, though it's hard to keep it from becoming so, and Kate stares at me blankly. "You will be working here from time to time," she says. "At the balls?" "Yes. Now come this way."
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She shows me around most of the mansion, and I know her tour doesn't even begin to cover half of the building. She takes me up and down in elevators, showing me the rooms I am most likely to work in and clean. One of these rooms is the massive library, and I can't wait to get cleaning in there, just so I can run my fingers over the books. It's much more impressive than the servants' library. She takes me outside again, showing me the back gardens. Actually, "gardens" is the wrong word. It's more like a garden/field. I'll call it a Garfield. The Garfield is even more massive than the front of the house, because there's so much more going on. There are gazebos and fountains and I see stables with the horses in the distance. There is a pond and there are roses and it is all so devastatingly beautiful. "Will I get to work here?" I ask Kate hopefully. "Perhaps," she replies. "This area is usually off limits to servants, unless it is for work, as both the Cullen and Hale families enjoy spending time outdoors." The Hales are Lady Rosalie and Sir Jasper, the niece and nephew of Carlisle and Esme. They're brother and sister and they live in the manor because they're royalty by blood. Every state in the United States has some kind of nobility with the Cullens being the highest ranking nobles. These nobles aren't as prestigious as the Cullens, of course, but they are still elite. Usually the elite of each state would be the mayor's family, since each mayor of each state is very wealthy. Their children were forced to spend a lot of time with the Cullens and Hales, in the hopes that one of them would be married into the royal family, whether that be to Lady Rosalie or Sir Jasper or the snobby Prince Edward. It is tradition since the beginning of the government that the Prince or Princess of the Cullens marries a Lady or Sir from any given state. Prince Edward, for example, was said to have close ties with Lady Tanya Denali of Vermont. He had also been hooked up with Lady Mariah Greenburg of Michigan and Lady Carol Frances of Kentucky, though he was closer to Tanya. The point was that he'd have to pick a wife from one of the ruling families of any one of the fifty states. It had always been that way, and he'd be expected to do
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nothing less. Kate continues to lead me around the Garfield, almost like she's rubbing it in my face, and then she leads me back inside to show me my room and make me sign a contract of some kind. My bedroom is, surprisingly, not in the basement like the other servants'. It is actually on the second floor, the same floor as the library, and it is all the way at the end of the hall. The bedroom is not what I would have expected out of a servant's room. It is larger than my bedroom back in Forks, but there are two twin-sized beds so it looks like I will have a roommate. Both beds are covered in thick, cottony sheets and the curtains are velvety. There is also a bathroom. "Are all the workers' bedrooms like this?" I ask Kate in awe as I run my finger over the soft sheets. "Yes," she responds. "Your roommate, Alice, is visiting family today since workers have Sundays off. Every worker has a roommate and their own bathroom." "Wow. I was expecting a mattress in a cold room shared with five other people," I snort, and once again Kate does not look amused. "I see you think very highly of the Cullens," she says, monotone. "Oh very highly," I say sarcastically. "I think of them as highly as I think of communists in Asia." Kate's jaw drops and it takes me a second to figure out what I said that was so wrong. "I'm not calling the Cullens communists," I add quickly. "Shit, I mean, I just meant ugh, never mind." She closes her eyes and shakes her head. When she opens them, she looks tired. "Have you no filter, Miss Swan?" I smile sheepishly. "Not usually." "Develop one, then," she snaps.
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"What, do you expect me to grow a censor on my mouth that bleeps out every curse word or something?" For the first time, Kate's mouth twitches like she's suppressing a smile. "Be ready by seven tomorrow, Miss Swan. You know where to report to, and your uniform will be delivered in the morning. You are dismissed for the day." She leaves the room and I stand there, feeling overwhelmed again. I walk over to the shiny wooden dresser and open the drawers. My clothes have already been placed in there and I cringe at the thought of bell-hoppish men handling my bras and panties. It is still the middle of the day but I figure out where my PJs are and pull them on. The pants are pink with the Rugrats cartoon all over them. It was my favorite cartoon to watch as a kid, and I wear the PJs with pride. I pull on a tank top in a lighter shade of pink before pulling the curtains closed so that the light in the room is dimmed. I collapse onto the bed and revel in its softness, feeling exhausted and wondering what my dad is doing and how he is feeling. I realize that I don't even know where his room his, or how often I'll get to see him. The more I think about my new life, the more weighed down and miserable I feel. For the first time that day, I let myself cry.

I have cried so hard that it isn't hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. Usually when I cry, I get a headache and that forces me to close my eyes and keep them closed. When I wake up it is dark and I have no idea what time it is. It takes me a moment to remember that I am not at home but that I am somewhere foreign. The bed doesn't smell like me and it is a little too chilly. I suddenly become aware of my bladder and how it is about to explode. I groan and roll out of bed, my bladder aching with every damn move I make. I am still half asleep as I stumble towards where I think the bathroom is. Once I reach the door I throw it open and blindly run my hand along the wall for the light
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switch. My fingers meet something solid and I am suddenly blinded by bright light. "Shit," I hiss, squinting at the bathroom. I have to pee so bad that I don't even bother to look around the fancy bathroom, what with its shiny tiles and metallic gold lining. I reach the toilet and I am about to pull my PJs down, when I notice the sign on the closed toilet lid: OUT OF ORDER. Fuck my life. I mentally curse Kate for not telling me about the broken fucking toilet so I stumble out of the bathroom and into the hallway. The hallway is lit with lamps stuck to the wall, and the lighting is dim. I have no idea where the closest bathroom is, but I frantically turn every doorknob in the hopes of finding one before I have an accident like a two year old. Most of the doors on my floor are locked, so I hastily turn to the staircase at the end of the hallway. When I reach the third floor, I almost scream. There is a man standing at the end of the long hallway. He is just standing there, hands folded in front of him. "Miss?" he says, and I stare back, a little freaked out. In the dim light I see his suit and I realize he is a Secret Service guard. God, is his job to just stand there all night? I wonder if the pay is good, maybe that's why he does it "Um, I need the bathroom," I say, and voicing it out loud further emphasizes the pressure on my bladder. I bend my knees in a vain attempt to control my needs. The guard raises his brow and then points in my direction, but a little to the left. "Fourth door on your left."
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"Thanks," I mumble, embarrassed, before rushing to the bathroom. Once I am sitting on the toilet I slowly go back to feeling drowsy. By the time I walk out of the bathroom, I am half asleep again. Suddenly, I am lost. I don't know where I'm going and there is no SS guard in sight, so it is with great relief that I reach a hallway that looks exactly like mine. When I walk into my bedroom, it is dark and I can't wait to cuddle up in those soft blankets again. Sleepily, I crawl onto the bed and get under the covers. The blankets are very warm and smell different, better, but I can't place how. I don't care; the sleep is catching up with me. I am on the brink of unconsciousness when I hear the snoring. Right. Next. To. My. Ear. My eyes spring open and my head whips to the side as I see the contours of a male face in the darkness. What the fuck! Then, I scream. I'm totally freaked out and I shove the blankets off of me just as the guy in my bed lets out a startled cry of his own and bolts upright. I get all tangled up in the covers and fall off the bed, scrambling towards the door on my hands and knees. "Stop," he orders, and the sound of his voice makes me freeze. The light comes on when I stand, and I blink in the bright light, anxiously trying to make out what the hell is going on. I look around the room, realizing for the first time that the room is not mine. I look at the guy in the bed and I am filled with absolute horror.
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It's Prince Edward. His green eyes are tired with sleep, but their depths are still powerful as they gaze at me in bewilderment. His bronze hair is an unruly mess and he is shirtless, his broad shoulders and pecks attracting my gaze. And that jaw. That lickable jaw. Something deep in my belly clenches as I stare at his lips, so full and Suddenly, it clicks. Oh. My. God. I accidentally got into the prince's bed. Holy fuck. Normally, I am never at a loss for words, but now it is like his very presence has stolen my ability to speak. When I do speak, there is only one thing I am able to say. "I just wanted to pee!" With that, I turn and run out of the room.

A/N: Thoughts? Does this story float your boat? I don't know about you, but I like me some Princeward. ;) Updates: Once a week, probably Fridays or Sundays. The chapters are pre-written so RL won't be getting in the way of updates. Next Chapter: Sunday, January 30th. Twitter: I'm xNimC on there as well. Stalk me for teasers and all that fun stuff. Thanks for reading!
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Chapter 2
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight. My love to Pinkaquaclouds for the beta-ing. :)

Chapter 2- Shoot Me Now Somehow, I find my room- I'm sure it's mine this time- and I stumble in, heading straight for the bed to sit down and calm my racing heart. I am panting, still horrified, and I can't believe what has just happened. I could not have climbed into the prince's bed I just couldn't have. The very thought is absurd. Still, because I sometimes have masochistic tendencies, I replay the horrifying moment in my head. I see the prince's shocked face, his mouth slightly open, his brows furrowed while he has one hand on the lamp that he has just turned on. His green eyes are intense, and his hair is messy like he's just been fucked Fucked My God, has he always been that gorgeous? Of course I have seen images of the prince before, in tabloids and gossip magazines and all that. I won't lie, tabloids are my guilty pleasure. I know most of them are exaggerated, but they are all so juicy and entertaining and cheap. I have always found Prince Edward handsome, but I've never cared much for him as a person. He doesn't party as much as the other elites of the country, and I always thought he was a bit stuck up. He rarely ever does interviews and whenever the paps get a shot of him, his face is blank. I don't even know when the last time I saw a picture of him smiling was. I mean, the guy is twenty-two years old. He is still insanely young but he acts like he's forty. It irritates me for some irrational reason. The guy is a prince, for crying out loud. A prince. He has the country at his disposal (kind of), a ridiculous amount of money, and every single mayor's daughter on his dick. So why hasn't he taken
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advantage of it? It's almost like his ego is so big that he feels he's too good for all the money and chicks. He wants more, more, more, and he is never happy with anything he gets. The prince bothers me, he really does. The worst part is that I can't understand why. Still, I can't deny that the man is hawt. Not just hot, but hawt. Like, I-will-gladly-drop-my-panties-for-a-piece-of-that kind of hawt. He is blessed with good looks, and I somehow resent him for it. He gets everything handed to him on a silver platter, probably encrusted with diamonds and rubies or something, and yet he can't even act the least bit appreciative. There are people out there who are starving and who have to work their asses off to eat. There are people who have to put their children to work in one way or another, so that there will be food on the table. Yet here is the prince, who gets everything he wants, miserable as hell for no good reason. Okay, so maybe I'm being a little unfair. I don't even know the guy. Really though, if he's going to show his face in public with all the paparazzi, he can at least smile. I abruptly shut my thoughts of the prince off and fall back onto the bed, suddenly wide awake. I have no idea what time it is, so I search for my phone and glance at the screen. It's four in the morning and I have three hours until I have to go into servant mode. I am unable to sleep so I decide to turn the light on and personalize my room. I start by taking all the clothes out of the dresser and rearranging them how I'm used to. The bell-hoppish men have left certain things in the suitcase, like picture frames and girly accessories. I pull out the only three pictures that I have framed; one is of me and my mother when I was three, just a few months before she passed away from ovarian cancer. The second is of me and my dad on a fishing trip when I was twelve, and the third is of me and my best friends Jessica and Angela on my eighteenth birthday. Jess and Ang had been absolutely stunned when they found out I was moving into the royal family's manor. Jessica called me a lucky bitch and Angela was sad that I
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was leaving them. I promised to call them as much as I possibly could, but I didn't let myself cry until I got here. Now, I look at the picture with a small smile before setting it down on the side table. I then take out all my other personal items: the minimal makeup I own, cute little perfume bottles, stuffed animals, books. All things that remind me of home, and all things that don't fit in with the dcor of the room. When I am done with trying to personalize the room as much as possible, I pull back the curtains and see that dawn is breaking. My windows show part of the massive gardens, and I already see a few workers heading out to get started on whatever labor they have to commence. The gardeners' uniforms consist of black cargo shorts with dark purple polos. Purple and silver are apparently the royal family's color theme, so I assume that my uniform will be purple as well. To kill time, I head into the bathroom to shower and brush my teeth. Thankfully, the toilet being out of order has nothing to do with the functioning of the shower. I take my time in attempting to appreciate the marble tiles of the bathroom, all the while feeling awkward and out of place. The shower head is shaped like the head of what looks like a baby- though it's probably supposed to be an angel- and it squirts water out of its mouth. It is beyond creepy. I feel uncomfortable as I lather the shower gel over my skin, glaring at the shower head as I do so. Still, the water is hot and it feels amazing. The hot water only lasted for a short amount of time back home, and Charlie and I had to time our showers so that we both got hot water and so that the water bill didn't get too high. Once I am done showering, I pull on my robe and head back into the bedroom to change. When I enter the bedroom, I jump a foot in the air and choke on a scream as I put a hand on my racing heart. There is someone there. She is small, the biggest grin on her face and clothes over her arm. She is at least a foot shorter than me and her black hair is all over the place, like she's been
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electrocuted except electrocuted in a very stylish way. "You must be Isabella!" she says, and her voice reminds me of Tweety Bird. "Um, yeah," I say. "I prefer Bella, though. Are you Alice?" "Yep," the girl says, jogging over to grab my hand and shake it. "Alice Brandon." "Hi." I feel shy and slightly taken aback by this girl's energy, especially so early in the morning. I notice a small travel bag on her bed, and there are also some clothes lying on mine. "Is that my uniform?" "Sure is," she says, walking back to her bed and unzipping her bag. "You're really pretty." I blink at her. "Thanks." "Yeah. I think you'll be able to pull off the uniform. It just swallows me." I look at her and yes, she's right. The black pants and dark purple polo shirt with the silver emblem are too large for her. "It's the smallest size," she tells me. "They won't even let me alter it." "Did you just get here?" I ask, pulling the towel off my head and rubbing my hair with it. "Yep, I came in here just when you went into the bathroom." I nod, not knowing what else to say to the girl but also immensely grateful that she wasn't some psychopath. "If your uniform doesn't fit, let me know," she continues. "Though it probably should. Kate is good at looking at people and guessing stuff about them." I walk over to my bed and run my fingers over the embroidered emblem. It's silver, and I know it's the Cullen Crest. It's been around for as long as they have. "You really don't want to be here," Alice says quietly, sitting on the edge of her bed. I look at her and sigh. "Is the word 'miserable' written on my forehead?"
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She laughs. "No, but I can just tell. You'll love it here, trust me." I snort. "Highly doubt that." She cocks her head to one side. "Why?" "Lots of reasons; I just don't want to get into them now." "I understand. Well I'll be here if you want to talk. It's early, but I should probably head downstairs now. I'll see you in half an hour, right?" I nod and smile at her, because she's so nice and because her grin is infectious. Once she leaves, the room feels colder and I feel lonelier. With a sigh, I disdainfully eye the uniform before putting it on. It's a perfect fit. The polo shirt is snug and loose in all the right places and the pants are perfect. It's almost freakish how accurate Kate was in guessing my size, and I assume that she may have had to stare at me to figure it out. The thought creeps me out. I brush my hair and pull it into a ponytail before trying to figure out what shoes to wear. I should have asked Alice. I opt to wear my purple Chucks, because they match and because they're comfortable. I hope Kate doesn't give me any shit for it. I take a deep breath before leaving my room, a little irritated that I can't lock it since I don't have a key. I doubt that anyone in the manor would go in and steal my shit, but the thought still unnerves me. I try my best to not get lost as I make my way down to the basement where the servants hang out. The prince is still on my mind the whole way there. I wonder what he did after I left, if he laughed or if he didn't care and just turned the light off and went back to sleep. I wonder if he was pissed off, because I have heard rumors about this supposed temper that he has. The second I reach the basement, I hear the buzz of voices. It's actually pretty loud down here, and the sound is concentrated in that one room where everyone is supposed to meet for roll call. "There she is!" Kate says when I enter, and I see that she is holding a clipboard.
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There has to be at least fifty people in the room, all of them various ages and sizes and races. All of them wear the same uniform I do, and they stand in small groups, chatting and stuffing their faces. The tables in the room are covered in breakfast food, and my stomach growls as the scent of fresh donuts and bacon drifts over to me. "Bella!" I see Alice waving me over from across the room, and I walk over to her, making sure to grab a donut from one of the boxes. "Hey," I say, smiling at her. She's munching on a chocolate donut with sprinkles. "Is there always food in here?" "Only at mealtimes," she says cheerily. "Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in here." "When are mealtimes anyway?" I ask with a mouthful of donut. It's bad manners, but I'm ravenous so I could care less. "It depends," she answers, daintily nibbling on her breakfast. "Everyone has a different schedule, but we all have breakfast together at seven. Kate will tell you." "Fresh meat," a deep voice from behind me rings out and I whirl around to look at the large chest of someone. Looking up, I see his face, his ultra white teeth standing out against his tan skin and jet black hair. "Um, excuse me?" He laughs and holds out his hand. "Don't be offended. I'm Jacob, by the way. You?" "Bella," I reply, marveling at how my hand looks minuscule in his. Jacob has two donuts in his other hand and once he lets go of mine he takes a huge bite. "So, what's your position?" he asks, though he butchers the words because his manners are as bad as mine. I shrug. "Not sure yet. I don't have an official position." He nods, swallowing. "I fix shit." "Fix shit?"
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"Yeah. If something's broken, or not working, I'm your man." "Really? My toilet is out of order; do you think you can take a look at it?" He raises an eyebrow at me. "What's wrong with it? Did you take a dump too big?" I wrinkle my nose at him and smack his arm. "Ew! No, you nasty. It was like that when I got here." Jacob snorts. "Yeah, okay." "I'm serious! I don't know what's wrong with it since I wasn't curious enough to lift the lid, but you should check it out. You know, since you fix shit and all. Wow, that was a cheesy joke." Jacob laughs and Alice chimes in with her two cents. "Um, change of topic please?" she says. "Chocolate donut here." "Sorry, short stuff," Jacob says, reaching out to ruffle her hair as she swats his hand away. These two are so friendly that I want to dish and tell them about what happened with me crawling into the prince's bed. I am still recovering from the after affects, so I refrain. "Did you guys hear?" Alice says. The tone of her voice makes it obvious that she's about to deliver gossip, and I'm immediately intrigued. "Hear what?" I ask. Alice lowers her voice to a whisper. "Someone hit Prince Edward's car last week. We've only just found out about it." "What car?" Jacob asks. "He has, like, twenty. Twenty that he actually uses, that is." "The silver Volvo," Alice replies. I can feel the blood drain from my face. Oh no
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"No way," Jacob says quietly. "Seriously?" "Seriously. He had it parked in Port Angeles and someone hit it before just driving off. He was pissed." Oh my God "They're saying it was probably an accident," Alice continues. "But honestly, I think someone did it on purpose." My eyes widen and I gape at her. "Why would you think that?" Alice shrugs. "A lot of people don't like the prince. I don't see why, he's perfectly nice whenever I have to do something for him. People that don't really know him think he's all stuck up and stuff, so it could have been an act of hate." I try to laugh, but the sound is choked since I am so nervous. "Alice, that's that's a little much, don't ya think?" Jacob and Alice look at me like I have no idea what I'm talking about. "Um, it's perfectly possible," Jacob says. 'The prince has got enemies. Like, a lot of them. Even if he doesn't deserve them. People are just so quick to judge" "But what if it was an accident?" I say, trying to make myself feel less guilty. "Then that would piss the prince off even more," Alice states. "One thing he hates is when people don't have the balls to take responsibility for their actions." "You seem to know him so well," I mumble, staring at my feet. Alice shrugs. "I probably know him better than most. I've had to do things for him, put his laundry away and all that. We've chatted and stuff, he's a pretty decent guy for a prince. But it pisses him off when people can't own up, you know?" Oh, great. "Isabella, over here please," Kate's voice relieves me from the stress and guilt and I hastily make my way over to her. The second I reach her, she hands me a small blue card. It looks almost like a schedule of classes, with the time and location on one side and the chore on the
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other. "That's your schedule for the day," she informs me. "They're going to need help cleaning out some of the guest bedrooms; the king has guests who are coming over for dinner and then spending the night. Then I need you to help Andrea with the horses in the stable, her assistant is sick. Make it back here for lunch and then you need to help out in the kitchen with dinner-" "I get to see my dad?" "Yes. He said you have a fair amount of experience in the kitchen, so you will do whatever is asked of you down there." "Are you sure?" I ask nervously. "I go from cleaning bedrooms to horses to cooking How do you know I'll be good at any of that stuff?" "If you are unable to do what is asked of you, we will find another job for you to do. Simple as that. Now, once you are done assisting with the preparation of the dinner, you will serve it to the Cullens, Hales, and their guests." Shit I swallow. "Um, serve? How do I do that? Doesn't that require some fancy training?" "Alice will help you." "But, but" I trail off and Kate looks at me, her expression stern. "Do you have some kind of objection?" Yeah, I don't think I can face the prince after crashing into his car, getting into his bed, telling him I have to pee, and then running away, scared shitless "No. Just wondering, though, who will be at this dinner exactly?" "What does it matter?" "Just curious," I mutter. "If you must know, it's the entire Cullen and Hale families, plus the Smiths of Texas and the Kensingtons of Florida."
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Okay, so the prince will be there. Maybe I can pretend to be sick "Is that all?" Kate asks, one eyebrow raised. "Yeah," I mumble, and she turns away to keep handing out the little blue cards. I am going to be so screwed.

The day goes by faster than I would have liked. Cleaning out the extravagant guest bedrooms is a piece of cake, and I wonder what the king and queen's bedroom looks like if their guests (and servants, for that matter) have such fancy rooms. By the time everything is vacuumed, dusted, and wiped I am exhausted and looking forward to lunch. Then I remember that I have some stupid horses to take care of. Andrea, one of the chicks that takes care of the horses, is super nice and doesn't make me clean up the horse shit or anything like that. All I really have to do is groom them, and I find that it is relaxing to run the brush through their manes. "I don't know if I'll ever get used to this," I vent to a pretty white horse that I am grooming. "It's so different here. They keep throwing me all over the place to do such different things that I swear I am going to lose my mind. I kinda wish I had an actual position, ya know, horsey? It would be more predictable and not so nerve wracking." The horse lets out a sound of contentment and I smile. "You kinda stink," I tell him or her. I don't know the sex. "Do you have a name? I think I'll call you Snowflake. You're white, after all. God, I have no life. Look at me, talking to a horse and naming it. I'm losing my damn mind, I tell y-" I stop speaking when I hear a throat clear behind me. I jump a foot in the air and let out a loud squeak, whirling around to see who has interrupted me. It's Sir Jasper. His blonde hair is covered by a cowboy hat and he wears one of those outfits that horse riders wear. His lips are pulled up into an amused smirk and I feel myself go red. Shoot me now, please.
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I also notice, in my ten seconds of startled staring, that he looks different from how he does in the tabloids. He looks more human? I can't think of another word. He's handsome, yes, but now he looks real. It's so odd "Am I interrupting something?" he asks, and his voice is friendly. "Um, uh, n-no sir," I stutter, and he smiles. "I'd like to take Stevie out for a ride," he says. "Do you mind?" "Not at all," I say, taking a step back. "Snowflake- I mean, Stevie is all ready for you." He walks over and I instinctively take another step back. He's not threatening but being so close to royalty is putting me on edge. "Snowflake?" he asks, cocking an eyebrow as he pets the horse. "I didn't know he had a name," I explain, blushing and looking down at the brush in my hand. "Stevie Snowflake," he says, chuckling. "I think I like it." I watch as he starts to pull the horse out of the stall, and once the two are outdoors he effortlessly leaps on and rides away. I stand there, alone in the stables, in shock. I just spoke to royalty, and he just spoke to me. And he was actually nice. Holy shit It takes a while to sink in, and once it does, I manage to smile.

The kitchen is bustling with cooks, chefs, and servants, and I almost get knocked down within seconds of entering. There are so many different smells, and it's all so wonderful that I have to stand there and inhale for a moment.

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"Bells?" I hear my dad's voice and crane my head over the organized chaos to see him sauting something in a pan. Realizing how much I've missed him over the past twenty-four hours, I make my way over and try not to trip or get anything spilled on me. "Dad," I say, pulling him into a fierce hug. "Whoa, careful there, honey, hot pan," he warns, hugging me with one arm. "You here to help?" "Sure am," I say. "What can I do for the master chef?" He laughs. "Henrick is the master chef; I'm just the lowly Italian cook." "Nah, come on old man," I tease, nudging him with my elbow. "You're more than that." "Bella, we need you here," someone calls me over from the other side of the kitchen and I sigh, smiling at my dad before weaving through the flurry of workers as they move about. Much of my time in the kitchen is spent by getting this or that for the cooks or chefs, and occasionally getting to stir this or measure one thing or another. It's all enough to distract me from the task I am supposed to do after I am done in the kitchen. Unfortunately, time doesn't slow down for me. "Bella, hurry," Alice says, waving me over. "We have to serve now." My stomach clenches nervously and I feel nauseous. I can feel myself break out into a cold sweat and I slowly walk over to where Alice is standing. Another server, Valerie, is lining the rest of us up and handing everyone a plate or dish to walk in with. We have practiced before, and I have to remember in which direction to walk, who to serve, and how to serve. Thankfully, I would be serving one of the Kensingtons and not the prince.
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"Oh, Bella," Valerie says. "Switch dishes with Brianna; you're serving the prince." Or not "What?" I screech. "Why? I thought I was serving Mrs. Kensington?" "Yeah, but she's not sitting where she was supposed to, so Prince Edward ended up taking her seat. Brianna has his dish. Switch with her." I am horrified and I feel like throwing up. "Why can't I just switch places with her?" "It'll ruin the whole lineup," Valerie says impatiently. "Just do it, Bella." My hands are shaking as I switch dishes with the Brianna girl, and when the doors to the dining room open, I feel faint with anxiety. You can do this. All you have to do is put the plate in front of him and lift the lid. That's all. I give myself a pep talk in my head, but it all stops when I step foot into the grand dining room. He is the first person my eyes land on. Prince Edward is engaged in conversation with who I assume is either Mr. Smith or Mr. Kensington. He's wearing a navy blue, pinstriped blazer over a dark maroon button down, and he looks delicious. His hair is its usual casual disarray and I am glad that he doesn't notice me as we make our way around the room. I am supposed to move to his left and set the dish in front of him with two hands, lifting the lid with my left so I don't accidentally hit him in the face. Then I am supposed to take a step back and hold the cover with two hands in front of me until they are all done eating and it's time to bring the next dish in. I swallow nervously and my hands are shaking as I stand beside Prince Edward and set the dish in front of him. I am standing so close to him that I smell his cologne, and it is heavenly. I lift the lid with my left hand, as practiced, and then he speaks to me. "Thank you," he says, glancing up at me, and I am frozen.
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For one thing, I can't take my eyes off of his lips and his jaw, that lickable jaw. Secondly, his voice is so smooth and velvety that I get chills good chills. And thirdly, with the way he is looking at me, I know he remembers what happened the night before. My face grows red. His gaze is curious and speculative, and I am so lost in his eyes that I don't even realize that I am the only one still standing by the person I am to serve and staring at him shamelessly. The prince cocks an eyebrow at me and someone clears their throat. I glance up, horrified, and slowly step back with the cover of the dish clutched tightly in my hands. The people at the table continue their conversations after an awkward pause, and I am so horrifyingly embarrassed that I just stare at my feet until us servers are supposed to carry the dishes away. Since I am standing a few feet behind the prince, I don't feel as shameful staring at the back of his head. His copper colored hair looks so soft, and I imagine what it feels like to run my fingers through it. I take the time out to observe the other members of the royal family. King Carlisle is very handsome as well, his blonde hair classically slicked back. Queen Esme is a beauty, her caramel colored hair falling in soft waves over her shoulders as she sips wine and chats with Mrs. Kensington. Prince Edward is across from her, since the king is at the head of the table, and he is still talking to Mr. Whoever, who is next to him. Sir Jasper seems to be holding a group conversation with the Smith and Kensingtons' daughters. They seem smitten by him, blushing and giggling, and then my gaze falls on Lady Rosalie. She is staring at me. Her piercing blue eyes hold mine and I am slightly freaked out. She narrows her eyes at me and I look away and at the floor, feeling my face heat up again. I am so bad at this
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I hear the signal that they are all done eating the first course, and I quickly step forward to recover the prince's dish Except I almost elbow him in the face since I use my right hand instead of my left. He quickly moves his head back and dodges my elbow, leaving me horrified again. "Sorry," I squeak out, and he nods once, curtly, his expression blank. I take his dish away and hurry into the kitchen, wanting to puke. I have no time to be any more embarrassed because we have to quickly get the next dish and take it back into the dining room. I take a deep breath before reentering, and when I walk in the prince is watching me. It makes me nervous and as I approach him I am more anxious than ever. Don't screw this up, for the love of God That's when I trip and spill the entire contents of the dish onto Prince Edward's lap. FUCK! "Fuck!" I cry out loud and the prince hisses as the hot soup or whatever it is drenches the entire front of his pants. There is some kind of commotion and I don't know what is going on. All I know is that I have to fix it. "Oh my God," I say frantically, grabbing the nearest napkin. "I am so, so sorry!" I don't even realize that I am about to try and wipe the front of his pants (where his dick is), until he grabs my wrist. His grip is warm and firm and I can feel static currents run across my skin. "It's all right, I've got it," he says, and his tone is totally frustrated. "Bella, come on," Alice is tugging on my arm but I can't move because I am so utterly embarrassed and angry at myself.
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"I really am sorry, sir," I say, tears springing to me eyes as the prince lets go of my wrist and stands up to clean himself off. "I didn't mean to, I just tripped and the dish just- oh god, I'm sorry." "It's okay," he says again, and he sounds even more irritated, even a little pissed. "Bella," Alice hisses, and she jerks me to the side but I can't start moving and I can't stop talking because it's word vomit. "I'm sorry about the Volvo too!" I blurt out. "It's just, it was parked in the most ridiculous space, and I was there first and it was hard to get out and I pressed on the gas too hard and next thing I know there's a dent and I freak out and oh my god, what am I saying?" The room is silent, just like my tears. The silence seems to go on for decades, and I can feel every single pair of eyes on me. My own eyes can't look away from the prince's face, his expression frozen in shock. "That was you?" Prince Edward finally asks, and his tone is laced with absolute disbelief. "I'm sorry," I squeak out again, because I have nothing else left to say. I let Alice and someone else drag me out of the dining room and back into the kitchen.

Updates: I know this chapter went up a day earlier than planned, but I got bored and excited so I thought hey, why not? Next Chapter: Friday, February 4th... at the latest. I might get bored and excited again. Polyvore: The link to the workers' uniforms is on my profile. See you Friday. :)

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Chapter 3
Chapter 3- It Never Ends "Bella, it's all right, sweetie, accidents happen," Alice is trying to console me but it just doesn't work. The more I think about spilling hot soup on the prince's dick, I feel worse. It is humiliation at its worst. I am also afraid that I might get fired, and I don't want to do that to my dad. He needs me, and I need him. We are sitting in our bedroom because Kate has dismissed me for the night. Alice came up as soon as dinner was over, and has been trying to calm me down ever since. "I don't usually cry like this," I tell her, blowing my nose into the already-soggy tissue. "I didn't even cry when I threw up on live TV, and more people saw that than what happened down there." Alice pats me on the back, smiling sympathetically. "Maybe it's because they're aristocrats and you work for them? Them seeing you screw up will naturally be more horrifying than a bunch of strangers seeing you on TV." "Maybe," I wipe my nose on my sleeve because the tissue is useless now. "God, that was just so bad. First the Volvo, then I crawl into his bed, then I spill-" "Wait, what? Crawling into whose bed?" I feel myself blush. "Well, it all started when I woke up with a painfully full bladder" By the time I am done telling Alice about what happened with the prince, she is stunned into silence. Her hazel eyes are wide and her pouty little lips are open as she blinks at me. She lets out a laugh of disbelief and then giggles. "You're joking, right?" "Wish I was." "That's wow. Okay, now I get why you're so hysterical right now."
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I fall back onto my pillows and throw my arm over my eyes. "How am I supposed to face him, Alice? Doesn't the man ever leave the manor?" "He just graduated college," Alice states, lying next to me on her stomach. "I think he'll be around here a lot more than he usually is. This is around where he'll start doing more things with his father, kind of like training for when it's his turn to take the throne." "He must think I'm a complete idiot. I'm going to get fired. This whole servant thing is just not for me." "No, you won't get fired. You're not that bad." "Did you not just see what went down? I spilled hot soup on his dick!" Alice giggles but then stops abruptly as the enormity of the situation hits her. "Oh my God, you did!" "What if he's infertile now?" Alice gasps. "Oh no, I didn't think of that!" "Holy crap, I'm depriving the royal family of heirs!" She shakes her head in mock pity. "I feel worse for his dick." "Prince Edward's poor penis" "Poor Lady Tanya." "Oh yeah, she'll never get a piece of that. How sad." "I'd love a piece of that." "Oh yeah, me too." "He's a hunk, isn't he?" "Hunk? Please, try heartthrob. Fucking sexy." Alice sighs dreamily. "I prefer Sir Jasper."
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I prop up on an elbow. "Really?" "Mmhmm. He's so rawr," she claws the air with her hand. "Did you just roar at Sir Jasper?" "Yes. I'd love to roar at him in bed and call him sir like that." I laugh and fall back onto the pillows again. "Oh God, Alice, images! Get them out of my head." "What, he's hot! Especially when he rides those horses" She trails off suggestively and I hit her with my pillow and laugh. "Shut up! I am not having this conversation about the prince's cousin!" We fall into a companionable silence, both of us grinning like fools. I realize how grateful I am to have a friend like Alice, someone who can joke around with me to make me feel better about things. It wasn't like this with Jess and Ang. "Hey Alice, what can you tell me about Lady Rosalie?" I ask. Alice rests her chin in her hand and furrows her brows at me. "Lady Rosalie? Why?" I shrug, trying to seem nonchalant. "She was staring at me." "Huh. I don't know much about her, honestly. She's twenty-five, Sir Jasper's older sister. He's twenty. He loves horses and pecan pie, and you'd never believe that he knows how-" "Um, Alice? We're talking about Rosalie, not the master of your royal fantasy." Alice blushes. "Right. Sorry. Let's see, Lady Rosalie she's always cranky. Never smiles. Her aunt and uncle have been trying to find her a man to marry for a while now. The woman has suitors coming left and right." "Her aunt and uncle as in the king and queen?" "Yep."
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"She doesn't want to get married, does she?" "She doesn't want anyone hooking her up with someone. That's the thing. Yeah, we live in 2010, but sometimes this royal family functions like it's 1910. It's pretty unfair." "But the prince is allowed to marry whoever he wants?" "He socializes; Rosalie doesn't. She keeps to herself, and that makes it hard for her to find a husband." "But she doesn't have to get married. That's ridiculous. It should be up to her." Alice shrugs. "I know. It's tradition, though, and tradition is never broken in this family." The following silence is laced with something heavy.

"Fuck yeah!" I say. "It's about time!" Kate gazes at me disapprovingly. "Isabella, please refrain from using such language." I laugh and shrug, too excited to really care. It has been a week since the dreaded hot-soup-on-the-prince's-dick incident, and Kate has just given me my little blue schedule for the day. I get to dust the library. Finally. I have been itching to get in there all week, practically begging Kate to let me help out in there from time to time. She always rebuked me, saying something about how my chores were not mine to choose and how the manor ran on a strict schedule. So when she handed me my schedule and the first thing I read was, "Dusting: Library", I almost peed in my pants from excitement. "Don't get too eager," Kate admonishes, but I can swear I see the ghost of a smile on her lips. "You're there to work, not peruse the Cullens' possessions." I roll my eyes and grin at her. "When have I ever done anything other than my
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job?" She raises an eyebrow at me. "Valid point. Now, off you go. You have shelves to dust."

The library is my heaven on earth. It takes up a good portion of the second floor, and it smells heavenly. The center of the room is round, with shiny mahogany desks and leather couches. There is a massive fireplace with elaborate carvings on the mantel and the chandelier that hangs above is magnificent. The ceiling is high and looks like it belongs to a church; even some of the windows are mosaic. It will take all day to clean the entire library, but luckily I am not on my own. The shelves are set up in a confusing way, sort of like a maze. It would be easy to get lost around the books, but I have never been someone to complain about being amongst them and their lovely scent. I am supposed to clean the library with the assistance of Jason, Natasha, Lee, and Blake. We are all assigned different things for cleaning the library; I have to dust the shelves. We split up and I don't know where to start. I randomly turn to my left and pull my dusting supplies with me, ready to begin. Time passes by, but I have no idea. Yes, I am dusting, but I am also letting myself revel in the books. A lot of them are leather bound, with shiny gold or silver lettering on their bindings. Everything smells old, but in a good way. I try my hardest not to pick up any random book and sit on the thick carpet in between the shelves and start reading. Kate's stern voice repeats in my head, reminding me that I am here to work. I use that as a motivating factor to get shit done so that I can leave and relax. As I dust, I must have sneezed enough to get me into the Guinness Book of World Records. Every single sneeze echoes throughout the massive room. It is eerily quiet. I know that the other workers are there, but I don't hear them. Had I not been so into the books, I would have been creeped out.

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As I dust what must be my hundredth shelf, I become aware of how secluded I am. It's so quiet. Too quiet. Am I the only one still here? God, it's so easy for me to get attacked here. No one will know. I could get killed and then buried under the carpet and no one will be able to find my rotting corpse oh God My paranoid thoughts are interrupted when I sneeze yet again. I wipe my nose on the back of my hand and groan. All the dust is doing to make me sick. I can already feel an unpleasant tingling at the back of my throat. They should have given me a fucking mask or something. Maybe I can sue the Cullens for millions if I end up in the hospital from a dust-induced disease. Hmm I run the duster along one of the thicker books but freeze when I see the name Austen. A closer look shows me that it is every single one of Jane Austen's books, all in one binding. "No way" At that point, I don't care that I am just supposed to dust and not touch. This is Jane Austen we're talking about, the queen of literary epicness. I have always loved how the women in her books weren't ever damsels in distress; they were strong, independent thinkers with a reluctant but albeit romantic side. Kinda like me. Unable to contain myself, I reach up and pull the book down, almost tumbling off the little ladder when the heavy book falls into my hands. Holy fuck, this weighs a ton I carefully step off the ladder and run my fingers over the cover, which is unsurprisingly leather, and marvel at the gorgeous silver letters and designs. The Complete Works of Jane Austen is the title, but around the title is an elaborate design that looks like vines and flowers. It's shiny and it makes me smile. I flip the cover open and read that the book itself also contains works of Austen that were either incomplete or never published til then. Suddenly the excitement fades when I realize that no, I can't have this book. I don't know if servants are allowed to borrow books from the manor's library, but my
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guess is not. Feeling bummed out to epic proportions, I contemplate putting the book back. Then again, it wouldn't kill to read just a little bit

"Shit!" I am startled awake when my phone starts buzzing. I look around me, realizing that I had been sitting in between the shelves and reading, only to have fallen asleep for who knows how long. "Fucking stupid," I berate myself as I answer my phone. "Uh, hello?" "Bella? Where are you?" Alice sounds a little panicked. "I, uh where what time is it?" I am still a little disoriented and I pinch my nose, holding back another sneeze. "It's lunchtime." "What?" I stand up, my legs stiff, and clutch the book to my chest. "I've been up here for five hours?" "Up where?" "Library." "The others came back an hour ago. They said they thought you had left because they called for you but got no response." I sigh and smooth my hair back. "Yeah, I'm I'm coming now. Don't freak out." "Kate was worried." "Tell her to chill out, I'm alive." Alice laughs. "Okay. Hurry, though, there are paninis and they're amazing. Your dad might have made them." "Yum. See you in a bit."

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I hang up and glance at the time before pocketing my phone and eying the book in my hands. I really don't want to part with it. It's just so pretty and there's so much I want to read I start to reason with myself. It's not a normal library, so there isn't normal checkout. If I just take the book back to my room, it's still borrowing. So yeah. It's not stealing. I'm going to return it, anyway. Besides, my room isn't far. No one will know Mind made up, I tuck the heavy ass book under my arm and grab my dusting supplies. Because I sometimes tend to be a dumbass, I forget to move the little step ladder out of my way. I trip on its leg and tumble out from the maze of shelves, colliding into something rock hard something rock hard that holds me steady? What the fuck I drop the book and the dusting supplies, looking up to see what wall with arms I have crashed into. It is not a wall with arms, it is a man. And, someone please shoot me and put me out of my misery, it is the prince. Fuck. My. Life. To. The. Deepest. Pits. Of. Hell. He gazes down at me, slightly surprised, as I stare back in horror. My nostrils are assaulted with his scent, his clean scent. "Are you all right?" he asks, letting go of me, and I take two unsteady steps backward. "Yes sir," I squeak. I fucking squeak because apparently his very appearance has scared some of my vocal chords away. My heart is running a marathon in my chest and it is all I hear,
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loud and relentless. The prince gives me a funny look and glances down at the book and dusting supplies that I have dropped. Busted. He leans down to pick the book up, and I take in his experience. He is dressed in dress pants and a tucked in button down as usual, except this time there is no blazer or tie. The shirt is a solid navy blue, the sleeves are rolled up, and the pants are black. Clearly, this is casual dress for the prince. I have not seen this sexy creature for a week. Not since the hot soup incident. Instinctively, I glance down at his crotch, as though any signs of infertility or a scorched dick will be made obvious. I don't realize that I have been staring at his crotch for longer than necessary until he speaks again, his velvet smooth voice making me jump. "Were you going to borrow this?" "Huh?" I glance up at his face and he raises his brows expectantly. God, those eyes will be the death of me. "You can borrow it if you like" he trails off and watches me warily like I am about to do something crazy. He probably thinks I have a pot of hot soup hidden somewhere, ready to be poured upon his genitals I find my voice because I come to the realization that the man probably thinks I am an imbecile. "Oh, um, no," I say quietly. "I wasn't going to borrow it sir. I was just, um" He watches me, brows still slightly raised, and I wish that the ground will swallow me.
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His Royal Gorgeousness is intimidating somehow. The light in the library is dim, so his pale features are eerie. It's a good kind of eerie, like some dark temptation that you know means trouble but you can't stay away "Jane Austen," he murmurs, finally tearing his gaze away from me to look down at the book in his hands. Christ, his fingers are so long and slender. I bet they can work wonders on my body "Her unfinished works are better than her finished ones," he says conversationally. His fingers are roaming the cover, just like mine did. "You should check them out." He holds the book out to me and I stare at it, dumbly. My entire body feels heated, and there is something invisible crackling in the air between us. "Take it," he orders, and once again my body is compelled to obey. His voice gets all low when he's bossy. It annoys me but there's also something hot about it. I take the book gingerly, and my thumb grazes his fingers. Immediately it's like my skin has been static shocked, sort of like in the winter when you touch something metal and it shocks you. "Thank you sir," I say, and he nods before bending down to pick up my little bucket of dusting supplies. Holy hell, look at that ass. He stands up and hands me the bucket as well. "I'm probably keeping you from your work. I apologize?" "B-Bella," I stutter, and he smiles a little. "Bella," he nods, and my name coming from his full lips sounds so hot that I am about to drop whatever is in my hands, push him against the bookshelves, and"Your Highness?" Someone else's deep voice rings out and I jump, almost dropping the book again, before I turn to see a big, bulky man in a suit watching us. He is obviously a Secret Service guy, judging by the suit and sunglasses worn indoors.
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"Emmett," the prince says. "Your father wants you." Prince Edward nods and gives me one last curious glance before walking away. I don't move until my heart stops beating. It takes longer than I would have thought.

When I go into the servants' break room for lunch, I am still flustered. The smell of food does not register with me, nor does the fact that Alice is hot on my heels. The girl's chest is practically glued to my back and she is bombarding me with questions. Once I reach the table laid with food, I stop abruptly and Alice crashes into me. "Any closer and we'd me conjoined twins, Alice," I say, just a little bit annoyed. "You look flushed," she says, putting food on a paper plate and handing it to me. "Seat I need a seat" I am still in a daze. She pulls me over to a plastic folding chair and it is uncomfortable as hell but it is somewhere for my ass to be so I sit. Absentmindedly, I pick up a panini and it's a little cold but it's so good. Definitely one of my dad's recipes. Alice pulls a chair up next to me and sits down, folding her hands in her lap with her brows raised and her eyes open wide. The perfect image of bitch-you-need-to-tell-me-everything-right-this-second. I sigh and smooth my hair back again. When I speak, my voice is almost a whisper. "I ran into the prince again," I mutter. Alice gasps. "What did you do now?" I give her a look. "You expect me to screw up every time I'm around him?" She smiles a little too sweetly and I groan.
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"Okay, so I may have crashed into him." "Crashed into him how?" "What do you mean 'how'? My chest collided with his chest his really, really hard chest and I dropped everything I was holding. He picked it up for me, let me borrow the book that I wanted, and then a big guy called him away." "Big guy?" "Yeah, one of the Secret Service." "Must have been Emmett. That's his bodyguard and his BFF." I sigh, angrily taking another bite of my panini. "Why do I always make myself look like a dumbass when I'm around him? God, he must think I'm inane." "Was he mean to you?" "No, he was really, really nice. A little bossy, though." "Oh, they're all bossy. All the Cullens and the Hales. It just comes with being royalty. So used to getting what they want, when they want. So used to telling people to jump and having them ask 'how high'." "And he's so hot. It's almost painful to look at him. When he's around I feel like I'm either going to pass out or have a spontaneous orgasm." Alice barks out a laugh and I chuckle a little myself. It's all so absurd and embarrassing. "Did he bring up the hot soup incident?" Alice asks, suddenly wary. "No, and I'm glad he didn't. Hopefully he forgot." I shove down the rest of my panini just as Kate calls the room to order and tells us to get on with our day. Alice stands up, sighing. "What's your next job?" I try to remember but I have no clue, so I pull out my little blue card. I had been so excited about getting to be in the library that I didn't even bother looking at my
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other chores for the day. Maintenance: Prince Edward's Suite, Third Floor, Third Door On Right Great My stomach flip-flops at the thought of being in his bedroom again. That was where I first met him if "met" is the right word when referring to accidentally climbing into the bed of someone. "Isabella, over here please," Kate beckons me over and I saunter on over to her after giving Alice a small wave. Kate holds out a small set of keys for me. All the keys are numbered. "The silver key numbered one is for the prince's bedroom. Number two is for his bathroom, number three for his closet, and number four is for the second door to his suite. You don't need to know what the others are for." "Who has a key to their closet?" I muse. "You know where the cleaning supplies are," Kate continues as though I haven't spoken. "Make good use of them. Chances are that you'll have to make the bed and do some vacuuming. His bathroom may need scrubbing as well. You don't have to go into the main suite; that has been taken care of." "Main suite?" "The living area and the bar." He has a bar in his bedroom? Why didn't I notice? Oh, that's right, I was too busy telling him I needed to pee and then running my ass out of there. When I leave Kate to go do my job, I can't help but feel just the littlest bit of excitement. Getting to take care of the prince's bedroom This should be fun.

Prince Edward does not have a bedroom.

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He has a goddamn five-star hotel suite. There are two doors that lead into his quarters. One door leads straight into his bedroom (this is the one I had walked through that awful night) and the other leads into the living area. The living area is massive. There are leather couches around an enormous fireplace and even more bookshelves towards the back. The windows are large and bright light filters in. There is also a bar type of area, complete with shiny stools and glasses lining the shelves behind it. A large flat screen TV sits in one corner, along with a complicated looking stereo system. Modern art hangs on the walls, and the room doesn't look like it is lived in much. Everything looks so pristine and perfect. The bedroom, however, is a different story. The bedroom is to the left of the living area, right through a big wooden door close to the bar. You can tell a young man lives in the bedroom. For one thing, it's a fucking mess. Clearly the prince is a slob. The huge bed is unmade but it also looks like he had a hot romp in the sheets. Clothes are strewn on the floor and there are papers all over the desk. I almost trip over a dress shoe in the middle of the floor as I take a look around. The room may be a mess, but it smells amazing. It smells like man; it's all cologne and Axe and cleanliness, which is ironic considering it looks like a pigsty. I love it, though. I love that it's a mess because it makes the prince seem more human. The first thing I do is pick up all his clothes from off the floor. It feels intimate to be touching his sweatpants and t-shirts, things that I have never seen him in. I lift up a black tee from the floor and glance around, afraid that I might get caught. Then I sniff it.
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Okay, I don't sniff. I inhale. Deeply. Oh lord, this is like a drug. I'm going to get high off his scent His t-shirt smells amazing. It smells like him, like the room, like sexiness. I feel like a creeper so I toss the shirt into the hamper. Once his floor is cleared of dirty clothes and his shoes are placed neatly in his gigantic closet, the clothes of which I refrain from touching, I make his bed before heading into the bathroom. I feel even weirder being in his bathroom. Because, well, this is where he gets naked. Thinking of the prince naked does crazy things to my body and I have to push the thoughts aside as I scrub his toilet. When I am cleaning the tub, thoughts of the naked prince come back to me and I groan, feeling like a pervert. It is too much to imagine what he looks like naked and dripping wet from a shower. I can see his bronze hair hanging in his forehead and his broad shoulders sprinkled with drops of water. I can imagine the well defined muscles of his arm, and his abs Because I have crashed into his chest and I just know he has abs. Hard ones. I huff irritably and finish up scrubbing the tub before putting the cleaning supplies away and washing my hands. I am about to leave and I glance around the room, seeing if I forgot anything. Yeah. I forgot the desk. Sighing, I push the cart of cleaning supplies out of the room and into the hallway before walking back over to the desk. I hesitate, not knowing if I am allowed to touch any of these things. They all look
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like important documents, some of them in envelopes, so I don't know what I am supposed to do. A part of me is itching with curiosity. I wonder what the documents are, and whether or not they will reveal anything about the prince. I want to know more about him. He is an enigma, and I don't know how to deal with enigmas. Sometimes he seems human, like in the library, and other times he feels robotic and manufactured, like at the dinner. Before I spilled soup on his peen, that is. I look more closely at one of the papers, pushing a blank one aside to get a better view. It looks like a bill of some kind. Boring. Glancing down, I see that one of the desk drawers is open a little. I also notice that there is a lock on the drawer, a heavy, unattractive padlock thing, but the lock is open. That's strange. The drawer has a lock, but both are open. Why? Slowly, I lean down, though I'm not sure if it's to close the drawer or to open it further. I like to to tell myself that it's the former. "What do you think you're doing?" I literally squeal and jump like there are hot coals under my feet, whirling around to see Prince Edward glaring at me from the door. Oh my fucking God. I have never seen him like this. His eyes are blazing, he is scowling, his entire posture is tense, arms rigid at his sides, chiseled jaw set, lips in a thin line He is pissed. No, not pissed.
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He's fucking furious. "Get away from there," he says, and his voice sounds so forbidding that I'm suddenly afraid. "Now," he snaps, and I jump again, taking three steps away from the desk and away from him. We stare at each other, me with my heart beating erratically, and him with his eyes hardened and his nostrils flared. His once lickable jaw does not look so lickable anymore. I would not have put my tongue anywhere near his face at that moment, afraid that he would chop it off. Viciously. With his teeth. "Explain yourself," he orders, and my mouth gapes open and closed. I am withering under his angry glare. It's fucking terrifying. But it's not really my fault, so I find my voice. "I d-didn't know what to do," I admit, stammering. I am not used to being so nervous around a person. "I was cleaning and everything was clean except the desk, and I wasn't sure if I was allowed to touch it." "Obviously you thought that it was okay, seeing as you took it upon yourself to look in that drawer." His jaw is clenching and unclenching and I feel like crying. I hate that he does this to me. I hate that he always makes me want to cry. I am not used to feeling vulnerable. "I didn't mean to looksir," I tell him honestly. "Then why did you?" "I IUh" He raises his brows and steps into the room. He doesn't come too close to me, but
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the way he is walking towards me is intimidating. And a little sexy. But mostly intimidating. He gazes into my eyes evenly and I am frozen as I stare into their dark depths. "If I catch you touching my personal belongings ever again, I will personally escort you out of the manor and onto the street. Do you understand me?" Oh. My. Fucking "Yes sir," I whisper. "Out." I will my feet to move and then, for the second time ever, bolt out of his bedroom. I trip over the cart of cleaning supplies just as his bedroom door slams shut on me. Utterly humiliated, I pick up the supplies and hurry away. It never ends. But now there's one thing I know for sure. There's a lot more to Prince Edward than I thought.

A/N: Well... that took an unexpected turn... ;) Updates: A few people have asked me to update more often than once a week since the chapters are pre-written. I probably should have clarified that I do not have the entire story written. So far I have the next 8 chapters done. If I were to update every other day or every few days, I'd run out of chapters and then we'd all have to wait until I finish writing a chapter, which takes a while since I go to school full time. POVs: I also get asked about POVs a lot. As of now I plan on having the entire story as Bella POV, but it really depends on where the story goes. There may be an EPOV at some point, but I really can't be sure.
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Next Chapter: Tuesday, February 8th

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Chapter 4
We're actually on time. I should get a medal. Thank you all for your reviews from last time, and for putting up with this Bella and her shenanigans! Happy early birthday to Pinkaquaclouds- thanks for all the help, babes. Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.

Chapter 4- That Went Well I sigh in contentment and roll over in bed, throwing my arms out and making stupid noises as I stretch. My whole body feels refreshed and my muscles are washed over with that amazing feeling of relaxation. It's called getting a good night's sleep. It's Sunday, and all the workers have the day off. Sundays are usually when the royal family goes somewhere; it's another tradition. The manor is practically empty on Sundays, with the exception of security and the servants who don't actually have anywhere to go. Sleep deprivation usually puts me in a bitchy mood, so it is with a smile that I crawl out of bed. Yeah, I fucking love Sundays. I glance at the clock and see that I have slept til noon. I'm not surprised. The night before, we had been working in the Garfield all day. Alice's bed is made and I take my time in the shower and getting dressed. I am glad that I get to wear some jeans; I want to burn those annoying black slacks. As I rub my favorite strawberry shampoo into my hair (I have gotten used to the creepy head-shaped shower head), I find my thoughts drifting to Prince Edward. I'm not gonna lie; he invades my thoughts on a daily basis.
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It has only been a few days since the whole stay-away-from-my-shit incident, and once the horror wore off I was filled with some irritating kind of fascination. I told Alice what had happened and she couldn't remember a drawer with a padlock, even though she had cleaned in the prince's room countless times. We decided it was best that I didn't try and figure out what was in there and came to the mutual decision that it was probably just porn or something. But I cannot get him off my damn mind, and it's driving me crazy. I hate myself, I really do. I hate myself for melting whenever I'm around him, and for wanting to rip his clothes off. Never, in my entire life, have I ever let a guy have a strong effect on me. I have seen some pretty sexy men, but I have never been almost infatuated with them like I am suddenly becoming with the prince. I don't even know him, but he is all that is on my mind. The affect he has on me is something I am not used to, and I hate it. I should be ashamed and possibly even afraid after our four encounters, three of which have been disastrous. Instead I am fascinated by him, curious about him, and maybe even crushing on him a little. In other words, I am borderline obsessed with him. It is only a matter of time before I cross the border, do something really, really stupid, and then get deported back to Forks, unemployed and depressed. I climb out of the shower with a sigh, all of my woes in that one exhalation of breath. It is just not like me to be so shallow by crushing on a guy just because he happens to possess godlike beauty. Once I am dressed in my favorite skinny jeans and a comfy gray sweater, I pull on my striped toe socks and saunter down to the break room, hoping that there is food left.

When I reach the break room, I see that everyone is gathered around the flat screen that hangs from the wall. Apparently they are watching the news, though I don't know why.
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The screen shows a mass of paparazzi and their flashing lights, along with a couple that I can't recognize because other peoples' heads are in my way. It's probably a celeb couple so I shrug it off and head over to the table where brunch has been laid out. Normally I am updated on all the latest celeb gossip, but living in the manor has secluded me. Still, I am too hungry to care about who the couple is. I am pouring some cut fruit onto my plate when my ears perk up at the name "Edward" spoken by the news reporter. " Edward and Lady Tanya have been seeing each other for over two years now, so it is not a surprise that they will tie the knot just weeks from now. The king stated that he is elated with " My head whips towards the TV and I push my way through the crowd to the front, where Alice stands. Her eyes are wide and shiny as she stares at the screen. My stomach drops as everything starts to come together. The channel is a national news channel, and the headline on the bottom reads, "Cullen Prince Announces Engagement". The newscasters are talking over footage of the prince and his now fianc- Lady Tanya of Vermont leaving some fancy restaurant the night before. They are swarmed by paparazzi and the newscasters are explaining what went down. "In case you missed it, Prince Edward has proposed to his longtime girlfriend and childhood friend, Lady Tanya Denali of Vermont, just last night. They were spotted at five-star French restaurant Dchant and when they emerged, she had a stunning smile on her face and a massive diamond on her finger. Sources tell us that later they went to Lady Tanya's mansion, where both their families were present, and announced the engagement. Prince Edward confirmed this with the National Enquirer, and his statement is as follows. "'Miss Denali and I have been the best of friends since we were children. I am pleased to make her my wife.' "We also caught up with Miss Denali as she left her home for what may have been preparation for the engagement." They cut to a video of Tanya as she leaves her mansion, a maid on either side of
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her. She is dressed in a short fuchsia dress that she actually makes look classy. There is a sparkling necklace around her neck, a stylish hat on her head, and a handbag hanging from her forearm. She unnecessarily holds her hat down, obviously to show off the rock on her finger. The reporters are all firing questions at her and she stops just outside of her waiting car to speak to them. The biggest grin is on her face as she answers questions, "Why, yes, yes, I am very happy. Any regrets?" Insert super fake laugh here - "Of course not! Well, other than the fact that my darling Edward proposed in a restaurant of all places. What are we, common?" Insert gasp of shock from reporters and another fake laugh from Tanya - "Yes, of course you can see the ring. Here it is. Too small for my tastes, but it's very beautiful, no? I might have to make him get me a bigger one." Insert laugh - "I can't wait to be queen." Alice is shaking her head in disbelief. "I don't know if I should be excited that there's gonna be a wedding, or disgusted with his choice in wife." "I didn't know that she was that vain," Jacob's voice surprises me and I look up to see him next to me, scowling at the screen. "Yeah, she's hot, but really? 'I can't wait to be queen'? Gag." I let out a breath that I was not aware that I was holding, and put my plate of untouched food down on the nearest table. I'll admit, it bothers me way more than it should. Like I said, I don't even know the man and my insides are in knots over the fact that he is now engaged. Not just engaged, but engaged to someone who is apparently in it for superficial reasons. What does he see in her, other than her drop dead gorgeousness? Seriously, if she didn't seem so vain and greedy, I'd go gay for her. Maybe a one night stand type of thing. They're going to make insanely stunning babies, for sure, but is he actually in love with her? Then again, they have known each other all their lives This is some bullshit. She's all wrong! My irritated thoughts are interrupted when Jacob gently tugs on my ponytail. "Where's your head?" he asks.
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With the prince. In his bedroom. Under his blankets. With him next to me. Possibly naked. I sigh. "Just everywhere. The announcement is kind of a shock, isn't it?" Jacob shrugs indifferently. "Nah, not entirely. They've been together forever, so it was kind of expected. The biggest shock is that he's only twenty-two. I'm twenty-one and I can't imagine getting married a year from now." "Not if you're in love," Alice sighs dreamily. "It's so romantic." Jacob makes a face at her and I can't help but feel annoyed. I'm not annoyed with Alice; I'm annoyed at the situation. I'm annoyed that I actually care that the prince is engaged. If he had to get engaged, couldn't he have found someone who wasn't so shallow? The guy was educated at the top universities in the world, and he couldn't see through her ultra fakeness? "What are you guys doing tonight?" I ask. "Anyone visiting family?" "My dad's got plans," Jake says. "Fishing or something, and then dinner. He asked me to come, out of politeness of course, but it's too late to drive all the way to the rez. He won't miss me, not until I get my paycheck." "My mom is working late today," Alice says glumly. "And my little brothers and sisters are spending the night with my grandma. I'm not going anywhere." Alice, Jake, and I are all working at the palace for the same reason- financial issues. Each of us is trying to support our families, especially since the economy is currently shit. Now I just need something to distract me from all this prince crap. I come up with the perfect solution. "Let's get drunk."

The only one of us that is legally allowed to get drunk is Jacob. Alice and I are
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both underage, me by three years and Alice by two. I'm not much of a drinker but I will admit that Charlie used to let me have beer every once in a while, and I have taken a fair amount of shots at various high school parties. Still, I always drank responsibly and always had a Designated Driver to take me home. Jacob agreed to be our DD, and he told us he knew a night club in Seattle that would allow us to get in, even though two of us weren't twenty-one yet. He had "connections" and therefore we'd be able to get piss drunk without a problem. I am staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, marveling at my dress. Okay, so it's not my dress. It's Alice's and it is sexy. Apparently, Alice is good with fashion. I never would have known that, seeing as I've only ever seen her in the lame worker uniform. The truth is that, even though the girl is as rich as me, she knows where to find good clothes for an amazing price. Also, I am a lucky bitch because Alice and I share the same shoe size, therefore saving money. The little black dress that I am wearing is a combination of leather and sequins. It's short with thin straps. It hugs my hips and makes my boobs look bigger than they are. I didn't have any "clubbing" attire, so I asked Alice and discovered that we have both been cursed with having size nine feet. She is only about two inches shorter than me, so her big feet don't make her look like an alien. Luckily, her shoes are adorable, as are all her dresses. Most of them she has made herself, but they all look store-bought. The dress that I am wearing has been purchased at a thrift shop, but you never would have guessed it. Since Alice's boobs are lemons compared to my apples, it is tight around the chest and also shorter. It makes me feel sexy. Alice holds up a pair of blue shoes with a super small heel. "I once knew a guy named Paul. Ex-boyfriend. Douchebag. This looks like him." I laugh and she tosses the shoe over her shoulder and searches her suitcase for more shoes. There is no closet so whatever items that we can't leave lying around
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are kept in suitcases under our beds. In my case, there is one suitcase. In Alice's case, there are three. "Oh, perfect!" Alice holds up a pair of hot pink and black shoes. "The heels are safe for you and look how it goes with the dress!" "You are a genius," I say, folding my hands together and bowing Japanese style. Alice winks. "I know it. Let me just get into my dress and we'll do something with your face." I am not a fan of makeup but tonight I do not want to be me. I just want to party hard and forget that my life sucks, and forget where I live and who I work for. I want to forget the prince. So it is with closed eyes and parted lips that I let Alice paint my face. When I open my eyes I do not look like Bella Swan, but that is exactly what I need.

Two hours later we pull up in front of a little nightclub called Sizzle. There is a line outside and apparently the bouncer is being an ass about who gets in. "You sure we'll be able to get in?" I ask Jake hesitantly. "No worries; I know the owner. Sam and I are like brothers." Two minutes later we are already in the club, and the loud music is vibrating against my body. I can't help but dance. This is the only kind of music that I can dance to, only because I don't have to think or try not to look stupid. I let the music take me over, and I find myself moving without thinking. It's the most amazing feeling and it is exactly what I want tonight. I don't even remember when I start drinking. Jacob is handing us shots and we are taking them down. The more shots I drink, the more I forget about the prince. The more I am able to enjoy myself. The more I am able to believe that I do not have any responsibilities or any financial burdens. The more I am able to forget my occupation and who hired me.

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It isn't long before the alcohol has possessed me. Then I am grinding against someone's crotch, and I'm pretty sure it's Jacob. His hands feel so good on my waist and his lips feel good on my neck. I grind and grind and grind. Then it's not Jacob I'm grinding into, it's some other guy. Then there's another guy and another guy and another guy. They all lose faces. They just have hands and bodies and dicks that rub into my ass. I dance with Alice, too. We're practically chest to chest, since she's in heels that make her much taller. Both of us are crazy drunk but it feels so good. I don't feel like I am on earth anymore. I am in another dimension, where everything is dark and bright at the same time. There are a lot of different colors and tons of people who I don't recognize. It's a good feeling. Suddenly I don't feel so good anymore. I feel really dizzy so I have to sit down. I find a seat and it is really, really cushiony. "Hey there," the chair says. "You okay?" "Uh huh," I reply lazily, as though chairs talk to me every day. "You look pale." "Uh huh." "Need a ride home?" I laugh. "You're a chair. You can't drive." The chair stares at me. "You sure you okay, sweetie?" The chair has a nice face and a nice jaw. It reminds me of someone, but I don't know who. The chair is touching me now, and it's helping me stand. "Where do you live?" it asks me. "Manor," I mumble, confused. Where am I? "She's with me," a deep voice says and I turn to see Jacob. He is blurry and he
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takes me by the arm. "What were you doing on that guy's lap?" he asks "Do you know him?" "He's a chair," I slur. "Not a guy." Jacob makes a throaty sound; I think it's a chuckle. "Um, okay. Where's Alice? Oh, there she is. Hey wait, no, Alice, don't lick that!" Jacob leaves me alone for a second and then he's back with Alice in tow. She is laughing hysterically and I start laughing too. We are both laughing when Jacob takes us outside. When we are in the spaceship I start to feel sick again. "Take me back to Earth," I groan in the backseat of the spaceship. "Ugh." Alice is crying. "I miss my mom." "Alice, sweetie, don't cry," I slur, hugging her from where she sits next to me. "We'll save her from the aliens." Alice cries harder and the person driving is laughing at us. "You guys are hilarious when you're drunk," he says.

Jacob drops us off in our bedroom and Alice immediately runs to the bathroom, tripping twice on her way there. I kick my shoes off and slur a goodbye to Jake, who tells me something about taking it cheesy or something. "Ew, cheese," I mumble, and he sighs before leaving. The sound of Alice throwing up in the bathroom makes me feel sick, too, and I put my head in my hands and moan. "Shut up," I groan, but apparently she doesn't hear me because she keeps going. I get up and stumble over to the bathroom. I slump against the doorframe and once I am able to focus my eyes, I realize that I don't need to hold her hair back because it is so short.
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I stagger back into the bedroom and her heaving makes me feel dizzy so I have to brace myself against the dresser by the door. That doesn't help much and before I know it I am falling on my ass. Hard. That's gonna leave a bruise. I put my head between my knees, regretting having drunk so much. I forget why I even wanted to get trashed in the first place. Alice starts dry heaving and it's too much for me. The door is ajar so I crawl out on my hands and knees, welcoming the cool draft from the hallway on my face. My bare knees scratch across the thick carpet but I keep on crawling, all the way down the long hallway. I don't know why I don't stop; I am just too drunk to care. I may be mumbling to myself. The light in the hallway is dim, but I can make out the other doors that lead to rooms I have not been in. Suddenly there is a hand grabbing my arm and it pulls me to my feet. I start to fight but my arms are pinned to my sides and I am pushed against a wall. "You almost fell down the stairs," the velvet smooth voice says disapprovingly, and even though I am intoxicated, I know who it belongs to. "You," I slur. "It's you." There is no doubt that it is Prince Edward. Anyone would be able to recognize that bronze sex hair and green eyes. He lets go of my arms and I am still slumped against the wall as I watch him eye me up and down. Oh, yeah. I look like a whore. "You need to go back to your room," he says seriously. "Clearly you are in no state of mind to be wandering around." He is so bossy and the alcohol makes me bold, as well as a little pissy. "Don't you tell me what to do," I say, stabbing him in the chest with my finger. I can barely get the words to come out.
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He raises an eyebrow at me. "Excuse me?" "You and your hair. You and your lickable jaw. Ugh, you disgust me." "Where is your room?" "I don't give a fuck," I say, and every single word feels heavy in my mouth. "Is it on this floor? Down the hall, perhaps?" "You and your fianc with her fake smiles and fake tan and fake tits She's so fake she was probably made in China or Taiwan or Idaho. Wherever they make products through underpaid and overworked illiterates. Stupid whore." "Okay, this is getting out of hand." He runs a hand through his hair and glances up and down the hallway. "Where is Emmett when you need him?" I start to feel nauseated again and I can feel the discomfort in my stomach rapidly travelling upwards. I clamp my hand over my mouth and try to get out of the way, but because life is a bitch I end up puking all over the floor. Everything after that is a blur. I hear curse words. I smell something gross. I might be mumbling "fuck my life" over and over again. I hear Alice. I am floating. Everything is dark.

I have had hangovers before, but this tops them all. This is the mother of all hangovers. This is the king. This is the master. This is the fucking god.

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But when Kate hands me my little blue card, I know I can't argue. Kate is always so stern and disapproving of everything; it would be idiotic of me to assume that she'd be even a little bit sympathetic to my situation. Besides, I know I have a job to do. I have money to make. I need to grow a pair of ovaries and woman up. I need to suck it up and ignore the pounding headache and insatiable thirst. I need to ignore the fact that I threw up on the prince's shoes and made him carry me to bed. According to Alice, Prince Edward had carried me back to my room. Drunken Alice had left the room searching for me, and he followed her back and silently placed me on my bed before leaving. Alice had been too much in shock to say anything, and she wasn't sure if she was dreaming so she just collapsed onto her bed and passed out. When she told me about it in the morning, I almost threw myself out the window. Now I am staring down at my first chore on the schedule, and once again the large windows are looking very tempting. Laundry: Prince Edward's Suite, Third Floor, Third Door on Right I could never say it enough: Fuck my life.

The laundry has already been done so I am just supposed to put the clothes in his dresser and in his massive closet. Honestly, I am dreading being in his room again. Fate wants to be a meanie and keeps making me relive my worst memories at the manor. What a bitch. I pause outside of the prince's suite, unsure if I should go in through his bedroom or through his living room/bar/media center. I decide on going in through the main part of the suite because then I'd have time to calm my nerves while I make it to the bedroom. I wonder where the prince is. He had been here last night, but now it is Monday so maybe he is off doing something important and "princey". I honestly do not
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know what the man does in his free time. Ignoring the pounding headache, I put my key into the keyhole of the master suite. Then I hear the music. The sound is muted through the door, but it is very much audible. It is a haunting melody, and it sounds sad. Usually when I hear piano music I get a visual in my head, and this time I am picturing a rainy cliff with someone about to jump off. Then the music changes and it gets angrier. The tempo gets faster and louder and it sounds like he's going to break the keys. I remember how I had seen a piano in his living room, so of course he is playing it. I have to wonder though; why is he so emo right now? I finally realize that he is occupied, so I'd be able to get in and out of his bedroom quickly and without getting noticed. Still, the thought of him being anywhere near me makes me feel like I have leftover puke in my system. I quietly pull the laundry cart toward the second door that leads into his bedroom and unlock it. My eyes immediately shoot to the desk in the corner, and I notice how it is completely bare. I also notice that the bottom drawer is completely shut and locked properly. He isn't taking chances. I am still curious as to what he possible keeps in there. You'd think that the prince would have some top secret safe somewhere to store his valuables in and such. I push the cart all the way into the room, extremely grateful that I can use the music he's playing as an indicator of whether or not he's about to creep up on me. I work in a rush. I only have to glance in his closet and dresser drawers to know where everything goes.
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Majority of his clothes go in the closet, which is large enough to be a room in itself, and my job is made easier by the fact that everything is organized by color and clothing style. I'm glad it's not separated by thread count or fabric or something like that. I also notice how all of the clothes in his closet are dressy. All are button front shirts and dress pants and suits and blazers. Holy fuck, the man has a lot of these things. Once I am done placing things in the closet, I hurry back to the basket on the cart because I am almost done. I peer in and gasp. Jeans! Could it be possible that the prince wears jeans? It's almost too hard to believe. I have never seen him in them. It feels so scandalous. I can't help but giggle as I pull the jeans out. They are really worn out, like he wears them often. I glance at the tag in the back and it reveals that they are, unsurprisingly, designer. I am so giddy holding a pair of the prince's jeans that I don't even notice when the music stops. In fact, I am so busy staring at them that when he opens the door that leads from the living room into his bedroom, I have no clue. Prince Edward clears his throat and I jump, dropping the jeans back into the basket. "I'm, I'm, uh just putting laundry away," I mumble, my face growing warm. I'm not snooping through your shit again. He nods and leans against the doorframe with his arms folded across his chest, watching me. One corner of his mouth his pulled up slightly, like he's amused. Asshole. Does my nervousness entertain you? I pick up the jeans again and my hands are slightly shaky. I glance at him and
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notice what he's wearing for the first time. Sweet baby Jesus, he's in a t-shirt and sweatpants! Holy shit! Just like that I have dropped the jeans again, blinking at him like I can't believe my eyes. His t-shirt is white and his sweat pants are dark gray. The way he has his arms folded over his chest makes the muscles of his arms stand out and he's also wearing slippers. Slippers! He looks so normal, like just another twenty-something year old guy chillin' at home. Like a really hot, twenty-something year old guy chillin' at home. "Something wrong?" he asks, and for a second I forget who he is. "You're in sweatpants," I blurt. He cocks an eyebrow at me and the quirk in his lips becomes more pronounced. "Yes Is that a shock?" "Kinda." "Why?" "I, uh wasn't expecting that." He tilts his head to one side. "What were you expecting? Diamond encrusted silk?" Oh shit. How does he know how I feel about his family and their stupid wealth? I can feel my face grow red as I hastily look away and fold his jeans, walking them over to the open dresser drawer. "Leave those out," he says, and I jump again. I turn to look at him. "Sorry?" "Leave those on the bed," he says, nodding towards the bed. "I'm wearing them later."
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So bossy. Ugh. And why is he standing there and staring at me? It's making me so fucking jittery. I'm not going to steal his shit, or go through his stuff again. Distrustful little"It's Isabella, am I right?" I freeze in the process of folding a t-shirt. "Yes sir," I mumble. He nods to himself. "How old are you?" Okay, the fuck with the interview? "Eighteen," I mutter, avoiding his gaze. I can see his eyebrows rise from my peripheral. "You're young," he says, but he says it like he's talking to himself. So are you. "Shouldn't you be in school?" I freeze again, and look up to stare at him. His brows are furrowed and his lips are pressed together slightly. "I guess," I say softly. "Why are you here?" He says it frustratedly, like he doesn't want me to be. Like my very presence annoys him. It kinda hurts. "I have no choice," I reply, and I can't help sounding bitter. I occupy myself with straightening out the clothes in the drawer. "I can't afford college. My dad was hired by the king and I had to move in with him because I have nowhere else to go, seeing as I can't afford an apartment or anything. I wouldn't be able to pay off the mortgage without him, anyway." "Student loans?" Why do you care?
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"I doubt I'd be able to pay those off. Student loans are just another way to fuck up your life after college." I gasp when I realize that I have just thrown the f-bomb in front of the prince, but when I look at him he seems to be deep in thought. In a hurry, I put the remainder of the clothes away and grab the cart to leave. I am glad that he hasn't brought up the night before, or the time that I spilled soup on his dick or the time that he caught me being nosey. "How are you feeling?" he asks, and I freeze up again. He looks genuinely worried and I can't understand why. "I'm okay," I mumble. "You look like you had a rough night." His eyes glint slightly and I realize that he is amused again. I can't believe you're bringing it up, you beautiful asshole! I can feel my cheeks grow warm. "I did." "Underage drinking is illegal," he sounds like a lenient father pointing out the dangers to me without really telling me to stop. Ya think? "I know," is all I am able to say. He studies my face and I am starting to freak out a little on the inside. Is he going to tell on me? Will I get in trouble? Oh God He snorts to himself, as if at some internal joke, and I start to get angry. He just seems so damn arrogant. "Does that amuse you?" I ask, and I can't help that my tone is a little rude. Seriously though, I'm tired of making myself look like a fool in front of him. His smirk falls and my heart starts to hammer. It starts pounding a tattoo in my
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chest because he is still standing there against the doorframe, still looking hot, and his eyes seem to look right into my soul, like he knows all my secrets. It's unnerving. "No, it doesn't," he says seriously. The following silence is very awkward, and I don't know what to do. His presence is a little intimidating. He makes me feel small. "Can I go now?" I ask softly. He blinks. "Yes. Thank you." Um, you're welcome? I open the door and wheel the cart out, breathing a sigh of relief once the door is closed behind me. That went well. There were no spills or trips or murders or explosions. Huh. My heart is still hammering as I take the elevator down.

A/N: See? These two are capable of having a normal conversation. It's only going to progress from here on out. ;) Polyvore: Bella and Alice's clubbing outfits are on my profile. Next Chapter: Sunday, February 13th

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Chapter 5
As always, thanks for the reviews/alerts/favorites! I appreciate them more than I can possibly say using words! :) Thanks to Pinkaquaclouds for the reading, beta-ing, and reading again. Disclaimer: Twilight is not mine.

Chapter 5- Bluntness Bzzz. Ugh. Bzzz. Shut up. Bzzzzz. For fuck's sake I blindly reach out and search for my phone with my hand, knocking items off my side table in the process. They all clatter to the floor and I groan as their sound reverberates off the walls. My phone keeps up its incessant buzzing and I want to strangle whoever it is that is calling me before the ass crack of dawn. I find my phone and answer it none too kindly. "Argh, what?" "Miss Swan, I need you to meet me in my office at 6am sharp." "Kate?" "Yes." I sit up, disorientated, and look at the clock.
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Fucking 5:03. "Why?" I ask, and I can't help the whiny quality to my voice. Like I said, sleep deprivation makes me catty. "It's important," Kate says, and I can't understand how she can sound so awake and stern this early in the day. "No need to dress in uniform; just be here. Basement, last door on the right." "Fine." She hangs up without a goodbye, and I glance at Alice. She is snoring softly, because she is an extremely heavy sleeper and wouldn't know it if I was screaming bloody murder in my bed. Grumbling to myself, I throw the phone down on my bed and climb out, hoping for Kate's sake that whatever she needs me for so early in the morning is really damn crucial.

When I arrive at Kate's little office in the basement, she is not alone. She sits at a small wooden desk, across from a middle aged man who turns in his seat to watch me walk in. He has a thin face and blonde hair with graying streaks pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. Square-rimmed glasses sit on his nose and his blue eyes watch me appraisingly as I sit in the seat beside him. "Isabella, I'd like you to meet James Sullivan." Umokay? "Hi," I say uncertainly, and James sticks his hand out. "That's Professor James Sullivan," he says, smirking at me. He holds my hand a little too tightly and for a little too long so my smile is forced. "It has been brought to my attention that you're concerned about your education," Kate says, folding her hands on top of her desk. "It has?"
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She raises an eyebrow at me. "Did you not express your concerns to Prince Edward?" I blink at her. "Well, no, not really. He just asked why I was working instead of being in school, and I explained my financial situation to him." Kate's lips press together. "Hmm. Be that as it may, he has requested that something be done about your education. He brought the issue to our attention and personally recommended Professor Sullivan here as your tutor." What she is saying is hard to believe, not to mention completely random. "Hang on a sec," I say, sitting up straighter in my seat. "The prince recommended a tutor for me? To learn?" James chuckles and rolls his eyes. "No, Miss Swan, he requested a tutor to entertain you." Normally I'm a fan of sarcasm, but I'm not so sure I like this James. Kate answers me like James hasn't spoken. "You will be tutored by Professor Sullivan on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from eight in the morning to noon, in the library. Your-" "What about my work?" I interrupt her and she gives me her signature disapproving look, pursed lips and all. "You will still be required to do your chores, after lunch. However, that means your schedule will be a little longer than normal. Instead of getting off after dinner, you will be dismissed at 10pm." I sit back in my seat again, trying to absorb everything. Why in the hell would the prince go out of his way to get me a tutor? Am I supposed to be flattered by this? I clear my throat. "Why?" Kate raises a questioning eyebrow. "Why is he doing this for me? I don't know if I even want a tutor."
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"Don't you?" I can't help but let out a disbelieving laugh. "I don't know. I didn't ask for one. Yeah, I'd like an education, but I'm not the only one. Why have I been singled out?" Kate's eyes narrow slightly and I can tell she doesn't like not having the answer to any given question. "That isn't for us to question," she finally says, but she doesn't look very satisfied with her response. "It's a little unfair though, isn't it?" I say. I feel guilty and slightly disturbed that the prince would do this. "What about Jacob and Alice? I'm sure they'd love to get an education, too." Kate gives me an impatient look. "Miss Swan, we can't afford to let all of our young workers spend their mornings learning. There is work to be done. Now, please listen to Professor Sullivan explain the curriculum." She pointedly looks at James, who turns to me with a smile that I really don't like. It looks sly and sneaky, like he's thinking dirty things. He explains to me that it isn't going to be like normal college classes (duh) and that we'll be covering a new subject every hour. Apparently he used to teach philosophy at Yale, but he's good with many other subjects. As he tells me these things, I can't help but feel uncomfortable. I'm not talking about the creepy way that he is looking at me, although that does make my skin crawl, I'm talking about the situation. I don't like that I didn't have a choice in this. Yes, I'd like to further my education but I'd like it to be at a normal college. I want to experience the lecture halls and the dorms and the parties. Being stuck in the library for four hours with a creepy professor is not my idea of an ideal college education. Besides, the whole point of me moving into the manor with my dad is so that I can make enough money to pay for school. What is the point of me being here if I'm just going to be tutored for free? It makes no sense. "Wait," I say, cutting James off as he says something I'm not listening to. "How is this going to count? Is you tutoring me doing to transfer into actual college credits when and if I actually get a chance to attend? How does that work?"
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James runs a finger over his lower lip and gazes at me through narrowed eyes. He hasn't expected me to question anything. He looks to Kate, obviously not knowing the answer, and she returns his reluctantly unknowledgeable look. They have no clue. Clearly the prince has no idea what he's doing. "Do I have a say in this?" I ask them. "Prince's orders, Isabella," Kate says. "So what? If the prince requested for you all to cook me for dinner, would you do it?" James chuckles under his breath and Kate gives me the stern look that I'm so used to getting. "This is no joking matter," she scolds. "For the time being, His Highness wants you tutored, so you will be tutored. This is not a first; it has been done before. If I were you, Isabella, I'd jump on the opportunity. It all just comes down to how much you value your education." This is crazy. I don't know if I can deal with this. This man is creepy and this is not how I want to learn. What the fuck is the prince thinking? Is he really that controlling? Ugh. "We need your answer, Isabella," Kate is persistent. Decisions, decisions

Two hours later, I am sitting across from James at a table in the library, trying not to stab him with my pen. I'll admit, he's a good teacher. The man knows what he's talking about. It's the way he's looking at me that creeps me out. His eyes are like probes and I swear they wander down to my chest one too many times.

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He tells me I'm smart, surprised that math is actually one of my best subjects. So is English, as well as the basic bio. I've always worked pretty hard at school, adamant to make something of myself. I've never known what I want to do as a career. All I know is that I need to get smarter in order to get somewhere. It's four hours of torture. He talks, I listen. Am I supposed to take notes or something? I'm too busy watching him watching me. It's scary. His words seem to run together so that they are unintelligible and after a point he knows I'm not listening. James sighs and folds his hands on top of the table. "Listen Isabella-" "Bella." He smiles and leans in a little closer. I lean further back. "Bella. I know you're not into this, but it's important." "This makes no sense," I tell him honestly. "No sense at all." His brows furrow. "Well, if you need me to go over the theories of-" "No, I mean this." I make a waving motion in between us. "This whole tutoring thing. I really don't think it's going to work. It's a dumb idea." James raises an eyebrow. "Well, I think it was most kind of His Highness to do this for you, and me for that matter." I don't get his last comment, but I ignore it. "Yeah, well, giving a junkie some drugs because you want him to stop suffering is thoughtful and shit too, but it's still a stupid idea." James smirks, amused. "You compare this to drugs?" I roll my eyes, not even bothering to answer that. James sighs and sits back in his chair, running his finger over his lower lip again and gazing at me over the rims of his glasses. I squirm uneasily. I am getting bad vibes from this guy. "What can I do to make this more interesting for you, Bella?" he asks, and I can't
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help but hear some kind of innuendo in his question and tone. "Uh" I am so uncomfortable. I glance at my phone and- praise the Lord! There's five minutes left til noon. "Whoops, look at that," I say, abruptly getting to my feet. "Time is almost up." James stands up, slowly, and smiles at me. It doesn't reach his eyes. "I'll see you on Friday." Not if I have anything to say about it.

"What a creeper!" After lunch, I am venting to Jacob out in the Garfield. He is fixing the door on one of the stables as I stand outside of it, grooming a pretty black horse. "Maybe you should talk to Kate about it," Jake suggests as he screws a nail in the door hinge. "You know how she is. She isn't going to listen. 'Prince's orders' and shit." "Yeah, I don't get why he'd do that for you and not the rest of us. You just got here." Jacob sounds bitter and it further reinforces my guilt about the whole thing. "That's what I told Kate. She says it's been done before, but what I don't get is why. I mean, it's not like we have to pay the guy tutoring us. It would be great if a bunch of us got the opportunity together." "Why can't it run like a class, with a bunch of us getting taught?" "Right? That's what I was thinking. Besides, this one-on-one thing with James is a little scary." "I wonder if you're allowed to quit."
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"I tried to quit before we even started. Didn't work." Jacob stops what he's doing to gaze thoughtfully at me. "I wonder if the prince will listen to you." My stomach twists at the thought of talking to the prince again. "Uh, I don't know" "Hey, it was his idea." "His dumbass idea." Jacob sighs. "I don't know what he was thinking." The more I think about the whole tutoring thing, the worse I feel. I often tend to think about things so much that I go from being depressed about something to being angry about it. "The prince is such an ass," I say, trying not to brush the horse's mane too hard. "He thinks he can just control us, make us do whatever the fuck he wants. It disgusts me. Does he not see the unfairness of it all? Ivy League graduate my ass! Sounds like an idiot to me. He obviously doesn't care that I might hate it. "Honestly, Jake, I feel like a goddamn charity case. Clearly he took pity on me and got a freakin' professor from Yale, who is just creepy as hell. Well, I am not a charity case and quite frankly, it pisses me off that he'd see me as one. "God, just wait til I see him again. I'm going to kidnap him, tie him up, and cut off his balls!" Jake is looking at me in shock, but the corners of his mouth twitch up. "So much hate, Bella?" I am panting and I rest my forehead against the horse. "I don't know what I'm feeling, but I don't like it."

After my rant with Jacob, I feel good. We get a small half hour break, so I decide to go take a quick shower because I reek of horse and we're supposed to serve dinner to the Cullens and Hales again.
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Oh joy. I make it back to my room with twenty minutes to spare. I have enough time. I am in the bathroom, about to take my shirt off, when a thunderous knock on my bedroom door scares the shit out of me. "The fuck..?" I tug my shirt back down over my stomach and run out of my bathroom, heading straight for the door. There are two Secret Service guards, and I recognize one of them as Emmett, the prince's personal bodyguard. His hair is dark and cropped short, and he is frowning. The other guy is just as big, but not as tall in stature. They stand ramrod straight with their hands at their sides. Robots "Miss Swan?" Emmett says, and I eye him warily. He's frightening. "Um yes?" "You're under arrest."

"This is complete and utter bullshit! What the hell have I done to deserve this? Unhand me. I said unhand me, you ass!" We are in the elevator, and Emmett and the other guy are holding onto me like I'm even remotely capable of kicking their asses. I am completely terrified of whatever the fuck is going on, but I'll be damned if I let them see my fear. "Stop fighting, Swan," Emmett says, monotone. "You'll hurt yourself." "Screw you," I snap. "You have no right to just come into my room and grab me like that!" The other guy coughs. "Yes, we do." I huff irritably and try once more to loosen myself out of their grip, but Emmett is right and I can tell that my arms are getting to be pretty sore.

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"You haven't even told me what the hell I did," I say as the elevator doors open. We are underground, but it's not the basement. It looks to be even lower under the earth, below the basement perhaps. "All will be explained to you," Emmett says, marching me down the hallway. The underground floor is very high tech, but I don't have time to admire anything because I am still being manhandled. We reach a big metal door and Emmett enters a code. The door slides into the wall with a whoosh and he leads me through a massive room with screens displaying whatever the security cameras around the manor see. Holy crap, they watch our every move Scary. The walls are absolutely covered with screens, from wall to ceiling. Men in suits sit and observe these screens, fiddling around with very complicated looking tables of buttons. They don't seem to be SS, because apparently they aren't wearing the sunglasses indoors. I am being marched through this room, which is enormous, towards another door at the end. Once we reach that door, Emmett swipes another card and we enter a small hallway. The small hallway has metal, yes metal, walls and is lit by extremely bright fluorescents. "Gah, I'm blind," I hiss. We reach a thick wooden door and it flies open the second we get there. Must be the cameras. Sure enough, when I look up I see a little half-sphere stuck to the wall, a tiny glowing red dot in the middle. I glare at it. I am pushed into the room and the first person my eyes fall on is the prince. Of. Fucking. Course. He is standing to the side of a desk, behind which sits a man who looks to be in his thirties. His black hair is cropped short and he has very broad shoulders and a square shaped head. His expression is stern, and I briefly find myself thinking that
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he'd be a good match for Kate. The prince has his hands in the pockets of his pants, his expression blank as he gazes at me. His dark green button down and black blazer make his eyes even more intense than they normally are. "Miss Swan?" the man behind the desk says. Obviously you know who the hell I am since apparently you had me arrested. Asshole. "Yes," I say through clenched teeth. The prince's presence is putting me on edge and Emmett and the other guy are still holding on to me. Why the hell am I here? I try again to wrench myself free of their grasps but they hold on even tighter until the prince speaks up. "Emmett." His voice is fairly calm, but it's still an order as he pointedly looks at Emmett's massive hand holding onto my bony little arm. Emmett reluctantly lets go, as does the other, and I rub my arms. I wonder if I can sue if they left a bruise "Miss Swan, I am Peter Thorn," the man behind the desk says stoically. "It has come to my attention that you have recently expressed some rather dangerous wishes upon one of the royal family." Um what? Dangerous wishes? "I don't know what you're talking about," I say, folding my arms across my chest. I am defensive, yes, but I have every right to be. I'm fucking confused. Peter Thorn's eyebrows shoot up, almost disappearing into his hairline. "No?" I shake my head, making sure my gaze is locked on his gray eyes and not on His Royal Sexiness standing beside him. Peter sits back in his chair, putting his fingers together to form a steeple. He gazes at me suspiciously, and it bothers the crap out of me.
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"So, you mean to say that you have not threatened Prince Edward in any way?" "What?" My voice is a screech and my head whips towards the said prince, who is standing with one eyebrow raised expectantly. Other than that one quirk, he looks very bored. The entire room is silent and all eyes are on me as I try to recall anything I might have said to the prince to make him think that I threatened hm. I am horrified as I come to the realization that maybe I may have inadvertently spoken my inner monologue out loud. That means that he might know that I secretly resent him just a little. He might know that I think he's an ass. Still, when it comes to what I may have said that came off as a threat, my mind draws a blank. I swallow and my throat feels like it's layered in sandpaper. "I really, really don't know what you're talking about." Peter Thorn narrows his eyes at me and nods to the other SS guy. "Bring him in, Felix." Huh? What? Bring who in? Oh God, what if it's someone who's going to torture the truth out of me. 'Bring him in'? That's fucking scary. I turn to see Felix walk through a door that I didn't know was there. It is brilliantly disguised as a panel in the wall. A second later, Jacob is pushed out to stand next to me. I gape at him and he shrugs one shoulder, his usual nonchalance replaced by anxiety. "Mr. Black," Peter Thorn says. "We're hoping you can help us out here." Jake fidgets with the wristband on his left wrist. He doesn't respond. "Mr. Black, would you be able to tell us if Ms. Swan here threatened Prince Edward here in any way?" "What?" Jake says incredulously. "That's why you had me locked up in there this whole time? To testify against Bella?"
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"Answer the question." Jake lets out a huff of disbelief and shakes his head like he can't believe what the hell is going on. Quite frankly, neither can I. Suddenly, Jacob blanches. The guy has dark skin, yet right before my eyes it goes from copper to tan. Yes, there is a difference between the two and it's a scary difference. He looks at me, mouth slightly open. Then, he turns to glance between Peter and the prince. "She was joking!" he says. Peter smiles for the first time. "Oh, so you're saying she did make threats towards the prince?" "Yes. No. I mean, no, it wasn't a threat." What the fuck is going on? "What did I say, Jake?" I ask, grabbing his arm. Jake turns towards me. "Out at the stables. When you were talking about that tutor of yours, when you were venting to me." My mind flashes back to me grooming the horse and talking to Jacob about the prince's idiocy. "The prince is such an ass. He thinks he can just control us, make us do whatever the fuck he wants. It disgusts me. Does he not see the unfairness of it all? Ivy League graduate my ass! Sounds like an idiot to me. He obviously doesn't care that I might hate it. Honestly, Jake, I feel like a goddamn charity case. Clearly he took pity on me and got a freakin' professor from Yale, who is just creepy as hell. Well, I am not a charity case and quite frankly, it pisses me off that he'd see me as one. God, just wait til I see him again. I'm going to kidnap him, tie him up, and cut off his balls!" I feel the blood leave my face and then rush back up when I realize that it's all a massive misunderstanding. "Oh God, I was kidding!" I say, and I also feel a little relieved. "I didn't mean any
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of that stuff, it was a joke!" "That's for us to decide," Thorn says, and I despise his smirk. "Let's watch the footage." Footage? What? They have it on video? Prince Edward lets out an irritated huff and runs his hand through his glorious hair. I have avoided looking at him the whole time, but I can't do it anymore. He looks annoyed out of his damn mind as he looks at Peter. "Thorn, this isn't necessary," he says, and his voice is low and velvety and gah! It's sexy. "I told you that you're making a big deal out of nothing. Let them go." Peter looks flustered. "Your Highness, it is necessary to take precautions with this kind of thing-" "A person is allowed to joke," the prince says, leveling Thorn with a glare. "She wasn't plotting my murder. She was simply voicing her aggravation, and that's perfectly fine." He waves a hand at everyone in the room. "This entire thing is a waste of my time and yours." "What he said." The words are out of my mouth before I realize it and everyone looks at me. Peter narrows his eyes at me before turning to the prince again. "With all due respect, Your Highness, it's just manor procedure to analyze this type of thing to determine if there is a threat-" "There is no threat," Prince Edward says, and he looks pissed. "Unless you really think she's going to 'kidnap' me, 'tie' me up, and 'cut off' my balls, there's no need to interrogate the two like this." Everyone is staring at him because the prince doesn't usually say things like "cut off my balls", so it's pretty damn shocking. Emmett turns a laugh into a cough and I try to hold back my giggles. "Drop it," the prince demands of Peter. Peter looks uncomfortable and squirms in his seat. "It's manor procedure-"
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"I don't care about the procedure, Thorn. Drop this inane case. That's an order." Oh snap. His Royal Hotness is not playing around Peter sighs and shakes his head. "As you wish." He looks at me and Jacob. "You two are dismissed." I let out a huge sigh of relief and take Jake's hand, pulling him towards the door so we can get the fuck out of there. I don't miss how the prince's eyes zero in on our hands, though I don't see why he'd care. When we are in the big room with the screens, I realize that this is the best opportunity to voice my concerns about that creepy tutor. I abruptly let go of Jake's hand and turn to head back, but I find myself running smack into Emmett. "Ow," I mutter, taking a step back. "Where do you think you're going?" he asks. "Oh, uh, I need to talk to the prince about something." Emmett raises a brow. "What about?" I glare up at him. He scares me, but I don't let it show. "You don't need to know" "You're out of luck, kid. The prince isn't there anymore." I huff. "Can you tell him something for me?" "No guarantees." "Tell him that the tutor he got for me sucks and that it's not fair for others if I'm one of the few that's able to further my education. It's a dumb idea." Emmett's brows furrow and I get the gist that he doesn't have any idea what I'm talking about. "Never mind," I mutter, turning and walking back to where Jake waited. "I'll find a way myself."
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The idea comes to me when Alice and I are in the break room. The break room has three old-fashioned computers that we servants are supposed to use to keep in touch with loved ones. Our work day has ended and Alice is writing up an email to her mother. I am sitting on one of the couches with my feet propped up on the table, flipping through an outdated gossip magazine. "They seriously need to update these things," I mutter to myself. "Angelina had Shiloh ages ago." "There's really no point in writing so much to my mother," Alice mumbles her own monologue. "She never writes as much as me in her letters." Then it hits me, and it's like a megawatt light bulb has gone off in my head.

Dear That is all I am able to write. What do I call him? Your Highness? Gag. Prince Edward? That's better, but it sounds like something out of a fairy tale. Still, it'll have to do. Dear Prince Edward, Do you normally get letters like this? I'm guessing not. After all, this is the 21st century. Anyway, I have a complaint. Obviously I have no other way to get in touch with you, since you are obviously a very busy man always off doing royally important things, I assume. The thing is, I really, really, really am not cool with the tutoring thing. It's fucking insane. For one thing, it's completely unfair. Why have I been singled out for this? There are others around here who would like to further their education, know what I mean? So why me? I had no choice in this, and I do not like it.

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I want out, okay? Surely I can't be forced to stay in this ridiculous arrangement. Like I said before, it's unfair and I feel guilty about going through with it when I clearly don't want to and others do. Since this was your idea, I'm sure you can do something about it. You're the goddamn prince, after all, right? Quite frankly, I am not interested in this tutoring fuckery. That is all. Sincerely, Bella Swan (You know, the one that spilled hot soup on you, and accidentally ended up in your bed and puked on you. Sorry about all that by the way. This type of shit just happens to me.) I read the letter over and realize how ridiculous I sound. I have thrown in a few F bombs and it's just a little inappropriate. Then again, I have never been the most appropriate person. This letter is me. This letter is what I want to say to the prince. This letter is what I would say if I were talking to him in person. Besides, I have already done all sorts of fucked up things to/near him, so I think we are past the formalities. Before I can change my mind about the letter, I fold it up and tape it closed. I use a purple pen and write Prince Edward on the outside.

I hesitate outside of the prince's bedroom door. The letter is clutched in my hands, and my stomach is twisting nervously.
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If I push the letter under the door, there's no way I can get it back. I am only given the keys when it is my job to work in the room. I don't know where Kate keeps them, and I am not brave enough to steal them. Is this a good idea? I can't really get in trouble for it. Besides, chances are that he'll just ignore me. Screw it, I'm just gonna do it. This is my only chance of being heard. I take a deep breath and bend down, noticing that the light is on inside. I'm not sure if he is inside, though. Biting my lip and holding my breath, I slip the letter under and away.

"Um, Bella?" "Hmm?" Alice is shaking me awake and I lift my head to glare at her. "What is it?" I say, my voice thick with sleep. "You've got mail." I stare at her in confusion and rub my eyes. When I open them, she's pointing to the door. I sit up and stare at the door. Right on the floor in front of it is an envelope with my name on it. No fucking way I clamber out of bed and crawl towards the envelope on my hands and knees. The envelope is long and thick, and Bella is written in elegant script on the outside. Holy shit he replied!

A/N: If you've read my other story, you know how I am with cliffhangers. I'm
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sorry... okay, no, not really. I love writing them. ;) Not gonna lie, I'm really, REALLY excited for the next chapter. So... Next Chapter: Friday, February 18th.

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Chapter 6
Thanks for filling up my inbox with reviews/faves/alerts! They make me smile as big as when Maidella gets a letter from Princeward. :) And thanks to my babes Pinkaquaclouds for putting up with this story and where it heads... *wink* Disclaimer: Twilight is not mine.

Chapter 6- Letters I stare down at the envelope in my hands, my heart pounding. I cannot believe that he has replied, and only a few hours later! "Do you think it's from the prince?" Alice asks, eyes bright with excitement. She knows what I did the night before. "I'm assuming so" I trail off, my eyes glued to the envelope. Without thinking, I sniff it. Oh Lord, it smells like him. Just divine Alice is giving me a funny look but she shakes it off and starts bouncing on her heels. "Open it, open it!" she squeals. "Okay, okay." She bites her lower lip and I shakily open the envelope, which he has closed with candle wax. Candle wax! It's like the freakin' middle ages. I pull out the sheet of paper and unfold it, my eyes briefly running over the entire page of cursive. The handwriting is so fucking neat it's almost like it's been typed in some special font. If it weren't for the rough edges of the letters sticking out on the back of the paper, I would really have thought that he typed it.
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I take a deep breath and read. Dear Bella, I'm going to be very honest with you. I am not surprised that you are opposed to the idea of the tutoring. I expected it. However, I'm not so sure you understand how important this is. Professor James Sullivan is a brilliant professor, and he happens to be the most sought out tutor in the country. It wasn't easy getting my hands on him, but I felt that it was best. He is the best of the best. As for your guilt about being singled out, don't be. Trust me when I say that you haven't been chosen for any particular reason. It just so happens that you are the only one of the workers that has ever expressed any interest in higher education. It has been a goal of mine to find a way to give the workers a free education. However, seeing as many of the younger workers are of college age, it would be risky and inconvenient to pull them from their work for education. They are here for a paycheck, after all. My choosing you was a test of sorts. It's an idea, or an experiment if you will. Don't be offended. I understand your qualms but I can only request that you stay in this arrangement. After all, it is for your benefit Sincerely, Prince Edward P.S. I haven't forgotten the soup incident or the bed incident or the alcohol incident. Don't worry about it, though. P.P.S. Are you always this blunt? Just curious I read the letter three times, feeling twice as irritated every time. Alice has been voicing her opinion since the first time we read it together, but I'm not listening.
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Who the hell does he think he is? He's even bossy in written form. The James thing was an experiment? I'm not a goddamn lab rat. I take a deep breath. "Alice. Get me my purple pen." Dear Prince Edward, You have asked me not to be offended, but I am. You said that the tutoring thing was an experiment. I'm telling you right now- it failed. Epically. Here's the thing. I don't give a rat's ass how amazing James Sullivan is. He's fucking creepy. If he gropes me, it'll all be on you. Whatever happened to free will? I am just not comfortable with this arrangement. Is that not enough? Also, just because the workers haven't expressed their desires for more education, doesn't mean they still don't desire it. I never would have told you about my schooling situation if you hadn't asked. Know what I'm saying? You're the prince. If you have power enough to hire a tutor, you have power enough to fire him. You have power enough to actually create some sort of organization or arrangement where not just a few are being tutored, but all. As for what you said about not being able to risk workers- that's bullshit. I mean, really? There are tons of workers. I've seen them. I work with them. There are enough. Do something about it! I know you can. Sincerely, Bella P.S. Damn. I was hoping you forgot about all that. P.P.S. Yes, I am always this blunt and I am just worse when I am drunk.
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Alice is giving me a hesitant look. "What?" She shrugs one shoulder, her mouth twisted in uncertainty. "It doesn't bother either of you the way you talk to him?" I snort as I fold the letter up. "I spilled hot soup on his dick, climbed in his bed, and threw up on him after drunkenly insulting his fianc. We're past the formalities."

I slip the letter under the prince's door on my way down to work, and there's a strange mixture of anxiety and excitement in my stomach. Even as I scrub Sir Jasper's bathroom, help water the gardens in the Garfield, and vacuum the fourth floor, my thoughts drift over to a certain someone. I wonder where he is and what he's doing. I wonder if he'll reply and I wonder why he replied the first time. I think about what he might say in the next letter, if he replies. I hope he replies. I wonder if he slipped the letter under my door himself, or if he got someone else to do it. I resist the urge to run to my room every two seconds to check for his response. That's just scary obsessive. Besides, it's not like I like the guy Okay, who am I kidding? I'm crushing on him so hard he's pulp. I don't like this crush but hey, it's fun. Anything to make my life at the manor more interesting; anything that doesn't embarrass me, that is. When my lunch break comes around, I very discreetly sneak out of the break room and go back up to our bedroom. No letter. Bummed out, I return to pick at my lunch, attempting to be rational. He's a busy man; he doesn't have time to respond to my silly letters. He only replied the first time because he happened to be in the room when I slipped it in. He probably knew I knew that he was inside, so he couldn't ignore me. He's polite like
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that. I'm not going to expect him to reply. I sigh and take a big bite out of my sandwich, chewing a little too violently. When I go back to my room that night, I almost step on the envelope. My heart skips a beat as I bend down to pick it up. It's cold. It's been on the floor for a while. Alice is not here with me and I am glad. I secretly want this to be between just me and the prince. The letter is way longer than I expected. Dear Bella, Don't speak about the amount of power I have when you know so little about it. What gave you the impression that I am able to do whatever I want? Just because I am next in line for the throne? You make it sound as though I have everything and everyone at my disposal. You are wrong. Let me make something very clear. Although I am the prince, there is only so much I can do. Yes, most of the time I can do what I like, but you are forgetting that I have people to answer to, namely my father. I don't make the decisions, he does. Getting you a tutor was my decision, yes, but it was not like I picked up the phone and hired him. It was a process, and it wasn't an easy process either. I don't make the big decisions; I alter them to my liking within a certain structure. Basically, I can only do what I want to a certain extent. It depends on the situation. Now let's talk about the workers. I know you see them every day. I know you work with them. But I still think you need to think about exactly how many there are. You don't have an exact position. You get thrown around depending on who is sick or who has been fired. If there were enough workers, this wouldn't be happening. You would have a position. You wouldn't be out in the fields one day and putting my laundry away the next. There would be consistency, because there would be enough people to fill in. You wouldn't be a substitute.
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There is only so much the older workers can do. If we took all of our younger workers and put them in tutoring in the mornings, that would be a problem considering that the majority of the workers are young. Mind you, not many of the older workers are very well educated, either. Do you see my predicament? Sincerely, Prince Edward P.S. You thought I would forget? How am I supposed to forget when some strange girl clambers into my bed, tells me she has to urinate, and then runs away? It's pretty memorable when she spills hot soup on me, and also when she insults my fianc and then throws up on me. P.P.S. I find your bluntness very endearing. I've never come across it in a worker before... It's refreshing. However, you might want to be careful with it. I blink at the last line and then read the whole thing over again. It looks to me like I have hit a nerve. He sounds a little pissed, and kind of like a know-it-all. I agree with him on some points, but disagree with him on most. I flush when I read his P.S. and feel all giddy at his P.P.S. I snort when he calls me refreshing. What am I, lemonade? I try not to dream too far ahead. After all, I am way out of his league and I am just doing this for shits and giggles. I hunt down my trusty purple pen and find another piece of paper. Dear Prince Edward, Okay, yeah, I see your predicament. No need for the lecture. I wasn't aware you had so little power. I still don't believe that you are incapable of firing Sullivan, though. Don't complain about the "process" when no one asked you to do it. It was your choice. Fine, I see what you mean about the workers. I still think you should at least
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ask how many of us want to be educated by a tutor. Chances are that the older ones will be more willing. We younger workers want a real college experience- dorms, parties, lecture halls... All that fun stuff. The older ones would just want an education, period . So if the older workers are getting educated every other day, there will still be plenty younger ones to work. You know, since the "majority" of us are young. Since you can only do what you want to a "certain extent", I suggest going to the highest of all extents to do something about this. Know what I'm saying? Okay, I see what you mean about not being able to forget the bed incident and the soup incident and the others. Let's just forget it never happened, okay? And, what do you mean by "you might want to be careful" with my bluntness? Is that some kind of a threat? Bella I fold the letter up and tape it shut, sneaking out of my room and heading for the third floor. When I get there, it is dark under the door. He probably isn't there. Once I slip the letter under, I scurry away.

I can't sleep. I toss and turn all night, silently cursing the Prince for pitching a permanent tent in my mind. It's irritating and not something I've experienced before. My gaze keeps wandering toward the door, half expecting to see a pair of feet outside and then hear the soft sliding sound of an envelope being pushed under.

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It never comes.

There is no envelope in the morning, either. My bad mood is intensified by the fact that I haven't gotten a good night's sleep and because it is Wednesday. Another tutoring session with Professor Creeper.

He is flirting with me. He is actually flirting with me. For fuck's sake James laughs, a slightly maniacal sound which is not made any less creepy by the way he throws his head back. I have just made some sarcastic comment that I can't even remember because his excessive creepiness has caused my mind to go blank. "So, Bella," he says, resting on his elbows and leaning towards me. I am so far back in my own seat that I'll topple backwards if I move any further. "How about we cut this session short?" I hear a chorus of angels singing Hallelujah. "Can we?" I ask, sitting up straighter. "Sure," he replies, smirking at me. "Under one condition." No, I will not blow you. "What condition?" I am scared to hear the answer. "How about we leave the manor for a bit? We still have an hour and a half left; we can go get coffee?" Um, how about no? Creeper. I give him a look like he's out of his mind, because he probably is. "Oh, come on, don't give me that look," he says, and I can sense a serious undertone to his voice. "It'll be fun."

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"No thanks," I mutter, standing and gathering the one notebook that I have. "Please?" He stands up and blocks my path. "No." James sighs. "All right, fine. Whenever you feel like coffee, just give me a call." He jots his number down on the back of a random worksheet and holds it out to me. "If I want coffee, I go to the break room," I tell him. He laughs and takes my hand, causing me to tense up. His grip is tight as he puts the paper in my palm and then folds my fingers over it. "You don't have to call me for coffee, but if you need anything else" "Uh, bye." I bolt out of the library, crumpling up the paper on my way out. I can't find a trash can so I throw it in the next fireplace that I see, which just happens to be at the end of the hallway. Yeah, there are fireplaces in some of the hallways. Only in the manor

When I go to lunch, I am ready to vent to Alice about Professor Creeper. However, when I get there she has a huge grin on her face and she bounces up and down like a puppy greeting her owner who has just come home. "You've got mail," she sings. Just like that, my mood lifts. Alice pulls a folded envelope out of her back pocket and hands it to me. She hasn't opened it. "When did this come in?" I ask, fingering my name written on the outside. "This morning, after you left. I came out of the shower and it was there. Gah, this is so cute I can barely contain myself. Open it!"
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I don't want her to read with me so I pretend to tease her by making a point of turning away from her. She pouts at me the entire time and I tell her I want to read it alone before I show it to her. She agrees and lets me go off to the corner of the room. It's shorter than I expected, and I am disappointed. Bella, You are quite persistent. No, that was not a threat. When I said that you might want to be careful with your bluntness, I was merely referring to the incident the other day... You know, the one where you were overheard threatening to kidnap me and do some fairly violent things. Our security staff takes their job seriously. Just be careful the next time you're expressing your aggravation out loud. I wouldn't want you thrown in the palace's prison for no reason. I'm not sure if I can forget the bed, soup, and vomit incidents They're very memorable, not to mention highly amusing. I don't think I've been this amused in a while. I can try, but no guarantees. Prince Edward He is such a tease! And the manor has a prison? What? I sneak away before Alice can see me and reply. I need my purple pen.

Prince Edward, You are such a tease. I'd really like you to forget, okay? Please? This is stressing me out. Don't try to change the topic. If you can't do anything about educating the workers (for now) then can you at least get rid of Sullivan? I don't want to do this
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tutoring thing, and I'm doing it against my will. I thought this was a free country. Bella When I get to the third floor, I freeze in my tracks. There is a Secret Service guard standing at the end of the hallway. What the fuck? Why? I slow my power walk into a normal walk, and I can feel his eyes on me. I stop outside the prince's door. "Um, hi." He nods at me, but his brow is raised. I bite on my lip. "Is Prince Edward in there?" He nods again. I fidget with the hem of my shirt and bend down, hastily shoving the envelope under. The SS guy doesn't react. "I'm allowed to do that, right?" He nods, and I come to the realization that maybe he knows about the letters. Why else would he say that I was allowed to do that? Trying not to over-think about it, I turn on my heel and hurry away.

I am lying on my side, staring at the door when I see it. The room is dark since it is about one in the morning, but the slit under the door is lit from the dim light of the hallway. I see a shadow and then the envelope is slipped under. I want to run and open the door and see if it is him, but I am afraid that it is someone else so I chicken out. Instead, I climb out of bed and head for the envelope.
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I take the letter back to my bed and read it by the light of my phone so I don't wake Alice up. They just get shorter and shorter. Bella, This is a free country, but that still doesn't mean that every single thing is up to you. I'm sure there are teachers you have had in the past that you absolutely hated. Still, you dealt with them, didn't you? However, since you seem very adamant about quitting the tutoring, I'll see what I can do. But for the time being I'd like that you keep up with it. Until I find a way to let him go, that is. Don't be stressed about all the... accidents. I won't bring them up. Not in person, anyway. You can't see me, but I just laughed. I won't mention why. It might annoy you. You seem easily irritated. It's funny. Edward Edward. He signed it as Edward! I wonder what that makes us I don't even know. All I know is that I need to reply and keep this going because it's fun as hell. Edward, Thanks. I'm glad I won't be having to deal with him for much longer. Seriously, there are others who would love to be in my position. Have him tutor someone else. Someone male, preferably. Just so he isn't tempted to molest them. Okay, so if you aren't going to bring up the "accidents" that means you'll think about them, right? Please don't. Seriously, keep me out of your head. You don't get to laugh at my horrific tendencies. It's not funny, it's embarrassing. If I ever see you trip, I will hold it against yor forever. You're not the only one that gets to laugh at the memory of
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others' mishaps. Bella

There is nothing there in the morning. Or when I sneak away during lunch. Or when lunch is over. Or at night. There is nothing there the following day either, not in the morning or after another session with the Creeper or during lunch or after work. I try not to be entirely too bummed out about it. It was only for fun, after all. I couldn't have expected him to reply to me forever. Still, it wouldn't have killed him to tell me, "Oh, hey, it's been fun but I need to get back to my royally important shit now." Shouldn't leave a girl hanging Eventually I forget about the prince's abrupt lack of replies and focus on other things Like more work. Apparently there is a masked ball coming up the following weekend. It is going to be held at the manor, in the gigantic main hall and they are stingy about who can and can't attend. The masquerade ball is extremely prestigious, one of the biggest events to ever take place. People talk about it like crazy until it actually happens, and it is supposed to be like going back in time; nothing has changed. Everything from the ball gowns to the masks has been the same for years. It sounds pretty cool, and I can't help but feel a little excited myself. "Oh, I hope we're invited!" Alice gushes. She starts waltzing around the Garfield with an imaginary person, and I'm pretty sure it's Sir Jasper.

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"Why wouldn't we be?" I ask as I wipe sweat from my forehead. The one day when the sun wants to show itself in full blast is the day when they make us work outdoors. "Don't we have to serve or something?" Alice stops her dancing and gets on her knees to help me pull weeds. "No. When there's some big event they use other servants, servants that don't even live here! Like professional servants from outside or something." I snort. "Saves them from having to pay us." "Sometimes they use a few of the manor servants, only because we know how to get around the estate. I'm hoping we get chosen. I've heard so much about it; it sounds like something straight out of a fairytale." "Well, if we don't get invited at least we get the night off." Alice nods, her eyes distant and a small pout on her lips. Poor girl really wants to go. "Don't worry, you're a good worker," I assure her. "They'll pick you." She shrugs again and I sigh; it takes a lot to make Alice sad. The sound of hooves distracts us and we look over to see two horses racing down the dirt path that leads to the stables. "Ohmygod, ohmygod, it's Sir Jasper!" Alice hisses excitedly. And it's Prince Edward My stomach flutters as I watch the two men race down the path and then slow down when they're closer to the stables. Sweet Jesus, he looks amazing on a horse. Prince Edward makes Prince Charming look like every girl's worst nightmare. The two men are laughing and joking as their horses trot towards the stables, where a worker waits for them. They are too far from where we work for us to hear what they're saying, but there's no mistaking that hair. That bronze mess is probably visible from outer space.
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We stare as both the prince and his cousin climb off their horses, looking glorious in those riding uniforms. My God, how that outfit accentuates that ass of his They walk the horses over to the worker, who smiles at them as she leads the animals into the stables. I start arguing with myself. Apparently he has time enough to ride horses, but not enough to reply to a small letter Well, yeah, he's got better things to do, more important people to hang out with. I'm his subject; do I really expect him to choose me over horseback riding with his royal cousin? He chose me the first few times He must have been bored until Jasper asked him to go riding. He was using me to kill time. That's not true, he had places to go and things to do and he still replied. Ugh "Ooh, act natural! They're looking this way!" Alice's voice brings me back to reality and I glance at both the Prince and Jasper, who really are looking our way. I lower my head and tug on a weed, glancing at them from my peripheral. They are heading back to the manor, but they're staring at us. Why? I can't tell the prince's expression from here. I risk a glance up and am a little surprised when our eyes meet. His expression is cold, indifferent, like I really am nothing but a subject to him. It's like the letters thing never happened. I look away, unsure if my face is heated because of the sun or because I feel slightly embarrassed.
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Maybe I am imagining things. Maybe his expression wasn't so cold. After all, it's a little hard to tell when it's sunny and when we're a few yards away. I glance up again but he isn't looking at me anymore. He and Jasper are heading back towards the manor. "Going to the ball would mean getting to see Sir Sexalot in a tux," Alice says, smiling to herself. I chuckle. "Is that the only reason you want to go?" She shakes her head. "No. The millennium may be different, but as far as I know the masked ball hasn't changed much. It'll be like going back in time. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?"

Apparently I am not allowed to attend the masked ball because I am a hazard. Kate didn't exactly say that in those exact words, but I know she was thinking it. I might spill wine on someone's boobs or puke my guts out on their shoes. Wouldn't want that happening at the prestigious masked ball. Alice is trying to contain her excitement about being one of the wine servers, and she is absolutely over the fucking moon about it, but I tell her she can squeal all she wants. I've never been that great at hiding my emotions, so I try not to piss on her parade. We are both lying on her bed, talking about nothing in particular, when she bolts upright. Her head turns very slowly to the side, like something from The Exorcist, and a slow smile spreads across her face. I stare at her, just a little bit scared. "Um... hi." She grabs my arm and squeals. "You can go, Bella, you can go!" I am pulled up into a sitting position and Alice climbs off the bed because she is about to put her high school drama class to use. She starts to pace back and forth, gesturing wildly with her hands. "It's masked, right? So no one will see your face. You'll already be here in the manor so you just need to find a dress and a mask and you're good to go! It's so easy it's almost too easy!"

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The idea excites me a little, but that is not a good thing, "Yeah, I don't know about that, Alice..." "Oh, Bella, come on!" Alice gets on her knees and takes both my hands. "Please don't beg." "Please, Bella?" "It's a bad idea, Alice. I'm knee deep in shit if I get caught." "You won't. Once everyone on the guest list has arrived, you just go right on down. No one will notice." She gasps. "You could even get a dance with the Prince!" I gently push her hands way. "I'm not so sure I want a dance with him." Alice pouts at me. Damn her and her puppy dog eyes. She knows me too well. "It's not a big deal if I don't go," I tell her, standing up and walking towards the door. "I'll just sleep all day." "Where are you going?" "For a walk."

I don't know why, but I need to be alone with my own thoughts. I have no idea what I'm feeling about the whole masked ball thing. Alice's idea is tempting, but I know from personal experience that tempting things will land me in trouble. Hell, I don't even need to try to get myself in trouble. I just need to walk. I have never really wandered the manor on my own before. I've wanted to, I just could never find the time... or the reason. I find myself on the grand staircase that leads down to the main hall, exactly where the ball will take place. It looks extremely creepy at night; dark, quiet, and eerie. You could hear a pin drop. The marble walls and pillars stare me down like big bullies and the entire room looks like something from a medieval castle. It's beautiful, though. Hauntingly beautiful. I can only imagine what it is like when the chandeliers are lit and when there are people in ball gowns and tuxedos
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waltzing and drinking wine. My feet have a mind of their own and before I know it I am standing in the center of the room. It seems even larger from this point of view, the smooth marble under my feet expanding in every direction. There is a grand piano on a platform nearby, and the moon shines in through the tall windows. I feel cold and alone. I slowly turn to head back to the staircase, feeling depressed about everything all of a sudden. I really, really, want to go to this ball, just to experience something out of the ordinary. I feel his gaze on me before I see him. I am walking up the staircase with my head bowed and my head snaps up to where he stands. Fuck, was he watching me? He stands about four steps above me with a blank expression, his left hand resting on the banister. I can't tell if his button down is blue or black in the dark, but he has the top two buttons undone and the sleeves are rolled up. He's just staring at me and I am just staring back. The silence is not awkward how I thought it would be. It's tense, and I feel on edge. He doesn't make a move, and neither do I. I watch him and he watches me. We are two statues facing each other. His gaze is too intense so I glance at his shoes. Loafers, this late at night? "Hello," I murmur. I peek up at him and he nods.
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That's it? A nod? What the fuck... So he wants to act like the letters never happened. I don't have time for his bipolar bullshit right now. "Excuse me," I say. "I need to go to bed." Silently, he steps aside and I smell his cologne as I pass. That almost causes me to freeze in my steps, but I don't halt until he speaks up from behind me. "The letters were nothing." My entire body tenses up and when I turn around we are eye to eye. "Sorry?" He blinks at me, his expression serious. "The letters. They were a nice way to kill time, but nothing more than that." The air leaves my body in a huff and I feel an unfamiliar ache in my chest. I hate it. "Okay," I say, and I don't even bother to hide my irritation. "If that's what you want, fine. I'm sorry I wasted your time, Your Highn-ass." I turn and hurry up the rest of the stairs, and I feel like a dipshit because the grand staircase is massive and he's probably watching me run away like a scared little girl. He is such a fucking enigma. I don't understand him, I really don't. The man goes out of his way to get me a fucking tutor without asking, and then sends me teasing letters for three days, all handwritten and personalized. Then when I see him he acts like a coldhearted asshole. I want to get inside of his head, but I know he won't say anything to Bella Swan. I am panting when I reach my room, and I cut Alice's question off. "Find me a dress and a mask, Alice. I'm going to crash this ball."
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Next Chapter: Thursday, February 24th (at the latest)

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Chapter 7
Chapter 7- Masks and Mishaps "Simple elegance can go a very long way." That's Alice's advice, and that's what I try to keep in mind as I look through the dress racks at some shop in Port Angeles. It is the Friday before the masquerade ball, and I am as adamant as ever to crash it. There is so much built up emotion in me that I feel like doing something crazy, something rebellious. I want to break some rules. Everything about working in the manor is controlled. I have no say in anything, and it drives me crazy. I have been used to working hard, that isn't a problem, but it's just the fact that the ancient servants-and-royalty caste system bothers me immensely. I sigh as I look through a rack of ball gowns that scream PROM. They're covered in glitter or sequins, their skirts exploding with bright colors like neon pink and green and orange. They're all very tacky and they look like the Teletubbies made them. I really don't know what I'm doing. I skipped a tutoring session with the Creeper to come shopping for this thing, because Alice didn't have anything appropriate for me to wear. She herself is working like a good girl, and here I am completely lost. The only advice she was able to give me is that I should go for a simple gown since I don't want to stand out too much, and that the color should compliment my skin tone. Yeah, I have no idea what she meant by that. "You look lost, my dear," a voice speaks up from behind me and I turn to see a very gay man smiling sympathetically at me. His name tag reads Jos. "I am." "Anything I can help you with?"
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How about my life in general? "I need a gown," I tell him. "Something simple and elegant, though I'm not really sure what that means." "Oh sweetie, we don't do simple," he says sadly. "Look around. This is Tinkerbell's favorite place." I laugh. "I was thinking more along the lines of the Teletubbies going to prom." He throws his head back in a loud guffaw and then nods towards the back of the store. "Come on; I think I can find you something." Twenty minutes later, Jos has found three dresses for me and I would like to worship at his feet. One of the dresses is a hot pink that is a little too bright, so I put that one aside. It lacks embroidery, but it still burns my eyes. The second is a teal color and I love the way it flows to my feet but it makes my boobs look funny and I'm not digging the one-strap thing. The last one is the most boring of all, but it's perfect. Strapless on top and flowing down to the ground, it is a dull brown color that Jos calls "olive". It makes me look tall and it wasn't really until Jos said that it looks gorgeous with my hair and skin that I decided to buy it. After sending a picture of it to Alice and getting her text message of approval, of course. Of course, as modest as the dress is, it still isn't within my budget. Still, I hand over my credit card with every intention to return it once I'm done being reckless.

I have the first half of Saturday to myself. Normally I work on Saturdays, but since the masked ball is going on and I am not invited to serve, I have the day off.
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Before Alice left to work this morning, she whispered to my sleepy form that Stella would stop by to deliver my mask and then help me get ready. I don't know who Stella is, but Alice makes her sound awesome. Apparently she is a middle-aged worker who does arts and crafts in her free time, using her paycheck for supplies. Her handmade masks are, in Alice's words, "impeccable" and "chic". I am restless in the morning, unable to eat anything for breakfast other than a slice of toast. I keep staring at my dress, touching it and looking it over to make sure it didn't spontaneously tear on its own. I also keep glancing towards the dresser, beside which Alice left me the pair of shoes I am supposed to wear. She also left a curling iron, hairspray, and her makeup bag. I don't know what to do with any of it. The masked ball is said to begin at 6pm and Alice is supposed to text me when all the guests have arrived. Fifteen minutes after everyone has adapted to the environment and found something or someone to occupy themselves with, I am supposed to take the elevator down. If anyone asks, I have just returned from the bathroom. My goal for the ball is to blend in with the crowd and get information on the prince. Truth is, I want to get into his head. I want to know more about him. I thirst to know more about him. I am turning into an epic stalker, but I hate that this man has dominated my thoughts for so long, and without good reason. I am not myself when I am around him; he disarms me and I want to know why. There's something about him that I need to know, a level beyond the lickable jaw and lean muscles and full lips. There's more to him and if I have to do some digging to find out what it is, then I'll get myself a hard hat and a shovel.

Around 2pm, there is a knock on my door. The woman has to be in her late fifties or early sixties, with salt-and-pepper hair braided down her back. Her wide smile makes me feel like I've known her for years, like she's a friend of my grandmother's or something. "Stella?" I ask, and she softly tells me yes as I step aside to let her in. There is a
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small plastic bag in her hands. "Is that my mask?" "Oh yes," she says, and just like that I am reminded of my Grandma Pearl who had the same tone of voice. It's soft and gentle, like she's reading you a bedtime story. Stella pulls out my mask and it is almost as dazzling as the smile she gives me. The mask is gold and it is lovely. The outer edges are delicately roped and it's covered in crystals and intricate designs made of glimmering gold thread. It doesn't look handmade in the slightest. "I tried to make it Venetian style," Stella says, gently placing the mask in my hands. It's heavier than I expected. "The slits are very catlike; your eyes will be visible but not revealingly so. The elastic band in the back will be comfortable as well." "This is amazing," I tell her sincerely. "Just how?" She laughs softly and sits on the edge of my bed with her hands folded in her lap. "Oh, I've been making things like this for years. Ever since I was a little girl and my mother was a maid here." My head snaps up to look at her and she nods, immediately knowing my unasked question. "Yes, my mother was a maid here before I was. She used to get me arts and crafts supplies to keep me busy and out of trouble, and so the obsession started. I've always loved making masks in particular, don't know why. When I was a teenager, Queen Katherine, the queen before Esme, saw some of my work and ever since then I've been making masks for the masked ball." "You make the masks for the royal family?" I am pleasantly surprised. "Oh, I haven't made masks for the entire royal family since the eighties. They've forgotten my availability, I'm afraid." A look of forlornness crosses her soft features. I run my finger over part of the mask's embroidery. "Hey, Stella? Can I ask you something?" "Anything, dear."
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"Why are you doing this for me? You know I'm breaking the rules, right?" Stella smiles and there's a spark in her blue eyes. "Oh, but that's why I'm doing it."

By the time 6pm rolls around, I am a nervous wreck. Stella helped me get ready so I am donned in the gown as well as the mask, and I do not look like myself. My hair falls over my shoulders in dark curls and is only pinned up a little by my ears. We almost used the entire bottle of hairspray and I know it is going to be a bitch to wash out. Neither Stella nor I are experts on makeup, so we experimented a little and texted Alice pictures until we got her approval. The result was an even complexion, golden brown shimmering eye shadow with dark brown liner, and glossy pink lips. Simple, but elegant. Right before Stella leaves, she pauses by the door and gives me a once-over. She frowns. "Something is missing." I glance in the mirror, but everything seems to be in order. "Ah, yes," Stella says, smiling softly. "I know what." I watch as she reaches behind her neck and unclasps a necklace that I didn't see because it was under her shirt. She pulls it from around her neck and gently drops it into my palm. "It was my mother's," she says simply. I finger the necklace in my hand; it's very vintage, with a thick gold chain and a diamond-shaped pendant with the words ribelle del cuore carved in it. "It's lovely," I say. "But I couldn't possibly-" "No, no, it's fine," Stella says, pushing my outstretched palm back towards me. "I want you to have it with you. Ribelle del cuore. Rebel of the heart."

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"Is that what it means?" She nods and smiles. "My mother was quite the rebel herself, though she wasn't as headstrong and confident as you." I smile at her and we hug before she leaves me on my own. Half an hour past six, my phone buzzes. It's a text from Alice. Everyone has arrived! Get crashin'! - A My stomach twists nauseatingly. I stare at the gorgeous girl in the mirror one last time. Her mask makes her look mysterious and stunning and the necklace that rests at her heart glints in the light. She is also going commando, on top and on bottom. "Let's do this."

When I leave my room, I realize how the entire atmosphere in the manor has changed. For one thing, it's dead quiet on my floor. The only things I hear as I walk to the elevator are the rustle of my gown against the carpet at my feet and the thudding sounds from my heels. The inside of the elevator has an electric buzz that seems unnatural compared to how I look in the elevator's mirror. I don't look like I belong. When the elevator reaches the hallway that leads down to the main hall where the ball is taking place, I can hear the music while the doors are still closed. When the doors open, I am greeted by a loud burst of music and laughter. The atmosphere has changed again; it is filled with joy and excitement. I hear the clinking of wine glasses and the classical music is probably played by a live orchestra. I can totally tell the difference. Two women in masks and shimmering gowns pass by me in the hallway, laughing about something as they head to the public restroom at the other end of the hall.
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They glance curiously at me but I stare straight ahead. At the end of the hallway is the big archway that leads into the main hall. Two Secret Service men stand there, and both their heads turn in my direction. Act like you belong, act like you belong. Be stuck up and snobby and you'll be fine. I stick my chin up and head straight for the archway, but I almost trip when one of the SS throws his arm out to block my way. "Name," he demands. What the hell? My heart is racing a mile a minute as I wrack my brain for something to say. "Why, don't you know who I am?" I ask with fake incredulity, and for some reason I sound a little British. The two guards look at each other, their expressions uneasy. "How dare you," I continue. "I did not come to this ball to be treated like some trespassing commoner. I'll have to speak to the Cullens about this ridiculousness." What a way with words you have, Your Royal Dipshit. The two guards exchange another glance, behind those shades of course, and then one of them shrugs. "Our apologies, ma'am," the one who stuck his arm out says. "It's just that we don't recall you getting through us to go to the washrooms back there." I stick my chin up even higher and they can probably see up my nose. "Gentlemen, that is your problem, not mine." I go right on through them and enter the masked ball. Alice was right. It is exactly like stepping back in time. All of a sudden I am back in eighteenth century Europe. The men and women that are around me are dressed immaculately, with their tuxedos and ball gowns. Some
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women wear gowns like me, except mine is probably the simplest. They all hold wine glasses as they chat with one another, and some are already dancing on a dance floor. The music is played by a live orchestra, and I recognize the tune though I don't know the name. The entire room is bright, the massive chandeliers hanging like brilliant mistletoe from the ceiling. It doesn't look like the room I stood in just a few nights ago. This room is full of vivacity and life; it screams elegance and wealth and fun. The fact that everyone is wearing a mask adds a mysterious quality to the entire event. I have no idea who is who, but that's pretty much the point. I don't know where to start. I am so lost in the scenery that I forget what I am really here for: getting deets on the prince. Speaking of the prince, where is he? My eyes search the massive room for a bronze mess of hair, the only way I will be able to recognize him, but it's hard to tell from where I stand. There are so many people and dresses and masks that it's all a little overwhelming. "Well, Bella," I whisper to myself. "Nothing you can do now but join the party."

I think wine may be my new favorite thing. It has only been about half an hour and I have had two glasses. At first I hated the taste, but for appearance's sake I had to down it all. I also spoke to a few people, all of which approached me saying something like, "I don't believe we've met." My feet are aching from walking around, and everywhere I go I see eyes on me. It's extremely unnerving and it makes me nervous. All I can do is smile at those that smile at me, and make small talk with those that approach. It's all a royal pain in my ass. I have not seen the prince, either. I seriously hope he shows up, because I am
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doing this shit for him. Well, not for him, but about him. The people that I talk to keep asking me questions about myself, so I rarely have enough time to ask anything about the prince. I tell them all that my name is Marie and that I am from Alaska. It explains my pale skin, and Alaska doesn't have many people that are prestigious. I tactfully avoid questions about my parents and how I know the Cullens. I always pretend to see someone I know and then move away from the person I am talking to. "Bella!" I turn and finally see Alice, who is dressed in a fancier version of the uniform- black pencil skirt and deep purple blazer with a white shirt. I discreetly edge my way over to her, almost tripping on my way there. "You look amazing," she whispers from the corner of her mouth. She is facing away from me as she fills more wine glasses on a silver tray. "Thanks," I mumble, pretending to people watch. "Any deets on the prince?" "No, everyone keeps asking about me." "Of course, you look dazzling. Who wouldn't want to know everything about you?" "Maybe this was a stupid idea." "Are you having fun, though?" "A little. It's nice to be someone else." "Then it's worth it. Okay, I have to go." Alice lifts her tray of wine up but I stop her, grabbing a glass. My hand is only holding the glass of wine for two seconds before another, much larger hand gently pulls it away. I am about to protest this rude ass behavior, but I freeze when I see that the person who has taken my wine away from me has the messy head of bronze hair that I have been searching for all night.
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Oh my Alice is staring at him in shock as he puts my wine glass back on her tray and smiles at her. "Thank you, Alice. That will be all." What the? Alice nods and scurries away, but not after giving me a wide-eyed look. Prince Edward, who is looking drop dead gorgeous in a black tux and simple black and gold mask, briefly looks at me with those piercing green eyes before bowing deeply. Wow He's not hesitating with the old-fashioned thing. "May I have this dance?" he asks, looking up at me and raising one eyebrow. I don't know if it's an order or a request. I clear my throat. "Um, okay. Yes. Sure." He takes my arm and leads me over to the center of the hall, where people are doing the waltz. Oh God, I can't dance He slowly walks us to the dance floor, and I can feel that my entire body is stiff. I can only focus on the fact that my arm is linked in his. My heart is beating rapidly and I'm trying to concentrate on breathing evenly. Once we make it to the dance floor, we stand and stare at each other. I try to keep it together. You're Marie, not Bella. Marie is not shy; Marie is royalty. Now act like it! I lift my chin and the prince raises an eyebrow. "If I may?" he asks. If you may what?
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I nod curtly, not knowing what I have just agreed to, and I am caught off guard when he takes me by the waist and gently pulls me toward him. Whoa. The feeling of his large hands just inches away from my ass is alien and I feel all flustered; I have no idea what to do. "Put one hand on my shoulder," he orders softly, and I put my left on his broad shoulder. He takes it off and replaces it with my right instead, taking my left hand in his right while his other still rests on my waist. We aren't dancing yet. Our faces are just inches apart (my heels make me a little taller) and he starts to waltz but I don't know how. "You can't dance," he says, but it sounds like a question. I try to form coherent words but it's hard. His touching me is too much of a distraction. "No," I say, and I try to make my voice deeper so he won't know it's me. I sound stupid. Prince Edward smirks in amusement. Asshole. "Just follow my feet, but do the opposite," he instructs. "We'll make a square." I look down at his shiny dress shoes and start mirroring his movements. When he moves back, I move forward. When he moves forward, I move back. When he moves to the left or right, I do the same. It's not that hard and before I know it I can look at his face and waltz at the same time. It's easier to face him when he's wearing a mask, but the eyes that peer out at me are no help. The mask is black and covers the top half of his face; there is gold embroidery on the left side and then a little on the bottom right. It sort of matches mine. "Where is it that you're from?" he asks casually. "I don't believe we've met." I clear my throat, remembering to alter my voice. "Alaska."
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He raises a brow. "Oh? What family?" I wrack my brain. "The Ducks." Ducks? Nice substitute for Swans, you moron. This time both his brows go up. "I don't believe I've heard of your family." "Yes, we're quite small." My fake deep voice is starting to make me sound like a drag queen. Prince Edward smiles again and then, slowly, he leans in so that his lips are at my ear. Holy shit, I should have worn panties. "You can't fool me," he whispers, and I shudder as his breath caresses the side of my face. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit shit shit! I am so dead. He pulls away from me and looks very seriously into my eyes as we continue to dance. I swallow, and my saliva has a hard time going down. My heart is about to burst out of my chest and I can tell I'm beet red in the face. He knows it's me and that can't be good. "How did you know?" I ask quietly. "I can tell." "How?" "You walk around here looking like a lost fawn. You almost fell flat on your face about three times. Your preference for the alcohol. How you evade any questions about yourself and your so-called family in Alaska. I think I've become quite familiar with your height and hair color as well." Sweet Jesus Stalker much? "You've been following me around this whole time."
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He half shrugs. "Following, observing Call it what you will." I'm a little freaked out and whenever he talks I can't look away from his lips. They look so soft "Are you going to tell on me?" I ask hesitantly. He stares at me and I move my gaze from his intense eyes to his gold silk tie. It's crooked, and I try hard not to reach out and fix it. "I don't think so," he mumbles, and my eyes flash towards his face again. "Thanks." I don't know what else to say. He doesn't respond and the waltz comes to a close. I try to pull away but his grip on my waist tightens. "Wait. There's something I want to say." Another dance starts and my feet are killing me but we keep on waltzing. "I want to apologize," he says quietly. "About the letters." I'm surprised, and I don't hide that fact. "Oh, yeah?" "I didn't mean to be so rude the other day," he says. "I just felt like things were getting a little out of hand and inappropriate." I snort. "Inappropriate? We were discussing the education of the workers, not exchanging our sexual history." Ugh, word vomit The prince surprises me by laughing. It's a beautiful sound, deep and melodious. "I don't think I'll ever get used to your bluntness," he says. "You intend to get used to me, then?" His smile fades and I want to smack myself. I wish I had a verbal filter so I wouldn't say stupid shit that ruins the perfection of the moment.
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"I don't know," he surprises me by answering my question. "I really don't know." I can tell by his eyes and the furrow of his brows that he's answering other questions as well, questions I haven't asked. Questions that I don't know the answer to myself. We dance quietly for a while and my palms are sweaty, which is a little gross. I try not to be too embarrassed about it, and secretly hope that he doesn't notice. His closeness is putting me on edge, and my entire body feels heated. His hand on my waist is enough to make me break out into a hot sweat, and the scent of his sexy man cologne is no help. I want his body. The dance ends and he lets go of me, taking a step back. He bows, peering up at my from under his lashes. My breath stops short in my throat. "Thank you for the dances, Marie Duck of Alaska." He smiles crookedly at me and I try to suppress laughter. I do a very awkward curtsy. "My pleasure, Your Highness." I turn to walk away, but he grabs my wrist. My skin heats up and when I turn to see what he wants, he lets go. "Your mask," he says. "That was also how I knew it was you. Stella, right?" I blink at him. "Yeah" He nods and smiles. "She made mine, too." Wow Someone else comes to steal his attention and I am ignored, so I walk off the dance floor. Then I realize that I'm actually not ignored, because many, many people are staring at me.
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The blood rushes to my face as I hurriedly walk towards the hallway I came from. I think I'm done for the night. I didn't do what I came here for. Instead of getting details on the prince, I danced with him. Twice. I'm not gonna lie, it was fun, but now I'm all flustered and just a little bit giddy on the inside. I'm still determined to get deets on the prince, but I need a moment to compose myself. The SS guys just nod at me this time as I pass them and head back into the hallway that leads to the bathroom. Of course the manor has bathrooms like in a hotel, with stalls and everything. The stalls just happen to be shiny and gold. The public bathroom on the first floor is quiet, empty, and glossy. Seriously, everything sparkles. I look into the mirror, which takes up an entire wall, and I am not surprised to find that my cheeks are still pink from excitement. I am panting. Why am I panting? I stare at the girl in the mirror, who is not me, and wonder what I'm doing with myself. Am I chasing after the prince? I don't like chasing after men. It's just not me. No, I decide, I'm not chasing him. He's an enigma and I want to know more. It's curiosity that makes me thirst for knowledge about him, not a romantic interest. So he's gorgeous, so what? Since when does that matter? I still don't know much about him, so what's with the silly crush, if it even is a crush? I'm fucking confused, that's what. And I don't like to be confused. The door opens and a woman walks in, blinding me with her insanely sparkly dress. Seriously, the thing is covered in what is that? They look like sequins, and they're silver, absolutely covering about ninety percent of the dress. Her mask is equally sparkly, glittering silver with tassels on the sides. I wash my hands for appearance's sake and she starts to do something with her hair, which is in an elaborate up-do. She seems familiar, but of course I can't tell with the mask.
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"I don't believe we've met," she says. Ugh, if I had a nickel "No," I respond as I hastily turn the tap off and pull out a paper towel. "I'm Tanya Denali," she says with authority, holding her left hand out. Holy shit And there's the sparkly ring on her finger. I clear my throat and hesitantly take her hand. "Marie," I say in my pretend deep voice. He grip is tight as we shake hands. "Marie?" she says, smirking. "Or should I say Bella?" What! My jaw drops and she cackles like a witch, letting go of my hand. "Seriously, girl, who are you trying to fool?" she asks, a malicious glint in her eyes. She takes a step toward me and I take a step back. It reminds me of petty high school bullies and I swear if this bitch thinks she can bully me, I'll snap her neck. Maybe. "Yeah, I know who you are," she says. "Bella Swan, the maid. Nice dress, did you make it yourself? And that mask Stella made it, didn't she? Very clever." My heart is thudding and she's getting in my personal bubble so I sidestep her so that my back is towards the door and hers is towards the wall. "I don't know what you're trying to accomplish," she sneers in my face. "But it better have absolutely nothing to do with Edward." I blink at her and she continues her bitching. "You think I didn't see you with your hands all over him? You think I don't know about those little letters?" She gets in my face and my fists clench. "Remember your place. I can have you out of this manor and on the street so fast, you don't even know"
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She narrows her eyes at me and shoves herself into my shoulder before leaving the bathroom. Once she leaves, I stand there in shock. I can't believe that she's just bullied me, and I did nothing about it. What the hell stopped me? Maybe it's because she just came out of nowhere with her verbal attack. Shit, that was really unexpected. I place a hand on my beating heart as the anger in me swells. I do not like to be stepped on. I know I'm a fucking maid, but don't treat me like shit. I'm so mad at myself for not doing anything about her. I don't give a fuck that she's got power; I've got two fists and a don't-fuck-with-me attitude. Stay out of trouble. Don't start anything that'll reveal your identity. Fuck I debate on whether or not to go back to the ball. It's not even close to being over, and I didn't get to do what I set out to do. Then again, if I go back Tanya might corner me again and I might be forced to gouge her eyeballs out. Or worse, she'd rat me out. Still torn, I leave the bathroom to find Alice waiting for me in the dim hallway. "Bella!" she whispers. "What happened in there? I just saw Tanya leave." "She knows, Alice," I hiss. "She knows about me and the letters." Alice's eyes go wide. "You're kidding." I sigh, resigned. "I should probably go back up and turn into Bella again, right?" Alice looks guilty as she fidgets with a corner of her blazer. "What is it?" "Well, Prince Edward was looking for you."
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My heart skips a beat. "When? Why?" "I don't know, but he asked me if I had seen you, but I lied and said I didn't. He looked worried." Christ "Should I go talk to him?" The idea excites me more than it should. "I don't know" The words are barely out of her mouth before I am heading back towards the main hall. The ball is still going on in full swing and I search for the bronze head of hair. I see him across the room, arm in arm with Tanya, and he is talking to an elderly man. Silently cursing to myself, I keep against the wall and edge my way around the room and people until I'm somewhere he can see me. I momentarily lose sight of him amongst the crowd, but when I'm standing across the room from him, in plain view, he is alone. Um, where the hell did Tanya go? The fact that she isn't anywhere I can see her scares me. I grab a glass of wine, just so I don't look like an idiot standing there, and sip silently as I wait to catch the prince's eye. I watch as his eyes roam the room, and my arm twitches as I resist the urge to throw it in the air and start waving at him. Finally his gaze lands on me, and I raise a brow. You wanted to see me? His lips stop moving and his brows furrow as it looks like he excuses himself. He starts to make his way across the room and my eyes wander his tall, lean body. Suddenly there is the screeching of a microphone at a bad angle, and all heads turn to the stage where the orchestra has abruptly stopped playing. It's Tanya, and I am filled with dread. "Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention, please," she says. Her voice
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is loud and it echoes throughout the room. "I have something very important to bring to your attention." Oh God, no Her head turns in my direction and she points at me from halfway across the room. "That woman is an imposter!" FUCK. I don't know why, but I try to make a run for it. I have only gone a few steps, wine glass still in hand, before my mask is ripped off of me. I'm screwed. Big time.

A/N: Oh, the drama. Sometimes it's exactly what you need to move forward. I'm just gonna leave it at that. ;) Polyvore: Edward, Bella, and Tanya's masquerade ball outfits are all on my profile. Next Chapter: Tuesday, March 1st

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Chapter 8
Thank you all for the wonderful response after every chapter! You all make it worth it. Thank you to Pinkaquaclouds for making sure my chapters make sense, in more ways than one!

Chapter 8- Changes Suddenly there is the screeching of a microphone at a bad angle, and all heads turn to the stage where the orchestra has abruptly stopped playing. It's Tanya, and I am filled with dread. "Ladies and gentlemen, if I could have your attention, please," she says. Her voice is loud and it echoes throughout the room. "I have something very important to bring to your attention." Oh God, no Her head turns in my direction and she points at me from halfway across the room. "That woman is an imposter!" FUCK. I don't know why, but I try to make a run for it. I have only gone a few steps, wine glass still in hand, before my mask is ripped off of me. I'm screwed. Big time. Literally every single person in the room is looking at me. I want to melt into the floor, never to resurface. My heart is thudding frantically and I am shaking.
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My face is beet red and I just stand there like a deer in headlights, scared out of my damn mind. I've just lost my job. The excruciatingly long silence turns into curious murmuring and the entire room turns into a blur of color as my eyes start to water. Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry. Not in front of everyone. I blink and my vision is cleared a little. From one side of the room, two Secret Service guards are heading my way. On the other side of the room, Prince Edward is watching me. It's almost impossible to tell with the mask, but I am familiar with that particular furrow of the brow and that scowl. He's angry. He stares at me for another second, shakes his head in disbelief, and then turns and makes his way towards the stage. The look on his face as he approaches Tanya is one of controlled fury, and I wouldn't be surprised if he went and punched her. Before I can see what happens next, I am grabbed by two SS guys. I don't fight them as they drag me out of the room.

Peter Thorn gazes at me disapprovingly, his hands forming a steeple in front of his face. His eyes are narrowed as he eyes my now mask-less face. The only other people in the room are Kate and three Secret Service men. I know I'm supposed to be worried about losing my job now, but for some reason I just feel numb. I'm going to own up to my mistake, although I wouldn't really call crashing the masked ball a mistake. It wasn't an accident, either. It was a deliberate rebellion against the rules, and it was done for fun. I wasn't going to lie. Ever since I was dragged into this office, Peter and Kate have been staring at me. Their gazes don't make me nervous, because I know I may never see them again
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once I'm booted out onto the street. I'm wondering if Angela or Jessica will let me live with them for a while when Peter finally speaks up. "Your reasons, Miss Swan?" I stare at him impassively. "They're not even worth mentioning." "No?" "No." "Isabella," Kate's stern voice pulls my gaze towards her. I know that look. She wants me to answer the question. I try not to stare at Kate too long because I come to the sad realization that I'll miss her when I'm fired. She was like a strict mother who secretly had a loving, caring side that she showed every once in a while. Peter and Kate have matching expressions of severity. They could be twins. I decide to just answer the question. "Fun." They stare at me some more. I shrug sheepishly. "I did it for fun?" It comes out sounding like a question. Also, there's no way I'm telling them about my ulterior motive. Kate's mouth is open and Peter's brows are raised so high they almost disappear into his receding hairline. "Fun?" Kate echoes in disbelief. She looks pissed, like the idea was absurd. Well, it kinda was absurd "Let me get this straight, Miss Swan," Peter says, folding his hands on top of his desk. "You snuck into the masquerade ball, without an invitation or call to service, for fun?"
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"Yep." Kate is shaking her head in incredulity. "Of all the idiotic things, Isabella This is precisely why you weren't invited to serve- you can't help but cause drama." "I don't cause drama, Kate." "Intentionally, no, but it's your lack of coordination and the absence of a verbal filter that hinders the smooth running of the events in this manor. Your blunt personality is the reason for trouble." I can't help but take offense. "Well, I'm sorry that I tell it like it is." "There's a time and place for 'telling it like it is'." She makes air quotes. "In the presence of the royal family is not one of those places." "I didn't even do anything wrong," I say exasperatedly. "Nothing wrong?" Peter intercedes. "You crashed a prestigious Cullen event!" "Yeah, and?" I'm not even bothering to keep my tone polite, seeing as I've lost my job. Peter runs a frustrated hand through his hair, and I am reminded of someone else with a similar habit. "And that's against the rules," he says irritably. "If you are not invited, you don't go. It's as simple as that. You crashed it uninvited, you snuck in." "I didn't sneak in; two of the SS let me in." "We will deal with that, but it is also because they thought you were elite." "That's their problem, not mine." Peter glares at me and slams his hand down on the table. "Miss Swan, I am not going to argue about this with you. The fact of the matter is that you crashed the ball, pretending to be someone of importance, lied to everyone there about your identity, and drank wine when you are under the age of twenty-one. That is all kinds of irresponsible, and the king and queen are now forced to reestablish the ease that you have broken."
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"Just do it already," I say, staring at the floor. He makes me feel like shit. "Just fire me." The silence in the room makes me look up again. "Isabella, you aren't losing your job," Kate says gently. It's the gentlest I've ever heard her. "Yet," Peter adds, and I want to take the silver nameplate on his desk and hit him over the head with it. "Here's what we'll do," Peter says, leaning back in his chair. "We'll hold you in the manor's prison for an indefinite amount of time until we can determine what to do with you. It hasn't been determined that you will lose your position, but we need to consult with someone of the royal family about this. After all, it was their ball. They can decide what to do with you." "You're locking me up?" I ask, and my voice is higher in pitch. I look to Kate for help but she only gives me a sympathetic look. "Out of my hands, Isabella," she says. "But I've never been in jail before!" "First time for everything," Peter says. "Boys." "Wait, don't," I protest as two SS guards grab me by the arms. "I'm sorry, okay?" "Miss Swan, you broke the rules," Peter says stoically. "An apology won't do." I dig my heels into the carpet to stall the men from carrying me out. "How long are you putting me in there for?" I ask. "Until the Cullens decide what to do with you," Peter replies slowly, like I'm an unintelligent child. "But that could be days!" "Possibly." I lose my strength as the SS half-carry me out of the room.
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I'm so used to being dragged around by them that I'm sure my arms have dents from their fingers.

The manor's prison is not what I was expecting. I was expecting stone walls, chains, and rusting metal bars on the cells from which dirty, half-insane men would be reaching out and crying for help. I was expecting a dungeon. Instead I am taken down to what is probably the lowest floor in the manor, though I can never assume these things. It's dark and quiet, and it's also freezing. I am led down a dimly lit hallway with paneled walls lit by gas lamps. It seems to go on forever, but at the end we turn a corner and walk a few feet until we reach another one of those large metal doors. It looks like the door of a massive vault, but one of the SS opens it by swiping a card. I want one of those. The vault-like door opens to reveal a wider, shorter hallway at the end of which is a large, rectangular entryway guarded by two men. One of them smirks at me as we pass through. The room is brightly lit by fluorescents and it looks sort of like an office, with a man behind a desk and several chairs lining the walls. To the left is a very long hallway with prison cells, and to say that I am surprised is an understatement. It's clean. The man at the desk looks up with a smirk, like he's been expecting me. Of course he has. He's a heavyset man with dark, beady eyes and thin lips. The nametag on his blazer reads 'Kevin Gambton Chief of Police'. He eyes me up and down and I wish I wasn't still wearing the dress. I also wish I wasn't going commando under it. "This is her?" he asks the two SS, and they tell him yes as I glare at him. I hate being stared at like a piece of meat.

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"She's only temporary," one of the SS tells him. "Only being held here until they decide what to do with her." Kevin nods and stares at me some more, and he's almost as bad as the Creeper. "Will you just lock me up already?" I ask impatiently, and they all snicker at me. Kevin shakes his head and stands up, walking over to the back wall where several sets of keys hang. He pulls one ring down and then nods towards the hallway with the cells. "Thank you, boys," he says. "I'll take it from here." They finally let go of me and Kevin takes my arm this time, causing me to stiffen up. "I want you somewhere close," he says. "I hear you're trouble." You have no idea. The hallway with the cells is dark compared to the office I just came from, and it's also dead quiet. Shit, are there even any prisoners? Kevin stops outside a cell only about two cells away from the one nearest the office, and unlocks it. The inside of it is carpeted. Not only that, but there's a curtain in the back for what I assume is a toilet, and the cot looks fairly comfortable. I snort internally. Some prison. Kevin pulls the cell door open and nods, telling me to go in. "Am I the only one here?" I ask hesitantly. He shuts the gate and locks me in. "Nah, there's also Benny Marks, down the hall there. He stole. Then there's Eric Yorkie three cells down. He punched Sir Jasper in the face a few weeks ago." "No way." "Yep."
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"Why don't they just fire people?" I ask curiously. Kevin shrugs one shoulder and puts his hands on his hips. "The Cullens are nicer than they need to be. They don't like to put people on the street, especially in this economy." He stares at me before chuckling and walking away. I'm left alone and I turn to look at my temporary home for God knows how long. It could have been worse. It's dark, and the carpet looks old and dusty, as does the cot. I pull the curtain aside and see that there's a sink and a toilet. They're fairly clean. I sit down on the cot and it squeaks. It smells funny, too. Being off my feet reminds me of how badly my feet ache. I pull my high heels off and am not surprised to find that my toes as well as the sides of my feet are sore and a little swollen. Still, it feels good to free them. I rub my feet against the carpet and wince as the rough carpet chafes against my skin. I wish it was softer, but it feels coarse and uncomfortable. I shiver slightly, feeling naked in the cold cell. The thoughts that I had been pushing away since I spoke to Peter and Kate are slowly starting to seep back into the center of my mind, thanks to the eerie silence of this strange prison. I can console myself with the thought that I won't necessarily lose my job. If the Cullens are willing to spare someone who steals and punches royalty in the face, then there's no reason why they would fire a girl who crashed a ball "for fun". I take a deep breath, and it comes out as just a little shaky. I'm surprisingly calm for someone who is locked up in a prison cell, as nice as it is. I guess it's because I know it's only temporary. Still, it could be a while before I'm released. I don't like not knowing for how long I'll be subjected to anything. I shiver again, rubbing my arms for some warmth. Shouldn't they give me something else to wear? I'm in a goddamn dress for fuck's sake! They could be a little more considerate. I'm a fucking lady.
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I prop my feet up on the cot and lean against the wall behind me, resting my chin on my knees. The shivering has gotten worse, and it could be nerves. This whole ordeal has been messing with my stomach and my mind. Despite the jail cell, I don't regret crashing the ball. The only thing I regret is not getting any information on the prince. That's why I crashed it in the first place. My thoughts suddenly shift to my dad. I wonder if he knows, and my guess is that he was, with the exception of the people at the ball, one of the first to find out. Word spreads pretty damn fast in the manor. My dad must be so disappointed in me. It's not like I haven't done crazy shit like this before; he knows how I am. He knows that once I'm done working hard I like to party even harder. It's how I let loose. I wonder what he'd say to me the next time I see him. Would he be disapproving, or would he laugh and tell me I'm insane? There's really no knowing. My dad is just unpredictable like that. If I did something I didn't think he'd care about, he'd end up getting mad. If I did something I thought he'd be pissed off about, he'd end up laughing. I start to wonder if my actions would affect him in any way. I don't see why they would. Our spheres of work are pretty distant from one another. He's a cook, and I'm a maid. Our worlds don't collide too often. If I do something stupid, he won't be involved, and I am comforted by that fact. I hate being alone. It makes me a victim to my pessimism, and that leads me to get worked up or depressed over stupid things. I take the blanket off the cot and wrap it around my bare shoulders. My nipples are hard, but not in a pleasurable way. I lean my head back against the wall and close my eyes, knowing there is only one excruciating thing left to do. Wait.

I don't think I necessarily doze off, but I am brought back from the recesses of my mind when I hear angry voices.
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At first I brush it off and go back into whatever meditative zone I was in. Then I realize that I recognize one of the voices. He's arguing with someone, I just don't know who. His angry voice carries down to the cells, and I can hear his words clearly since I'm not far from the office area. " completely ridiculous," he is saying. "I don't understand why you care so much," another voice retorts, and it's female. I'm pretty sure it's Tanya. "This doesn't concern you," he tells her at the same time Kevin says something. Kevin and Prince Edward go back and forth about something in lowered voices and then the prince says something so forcefully that it gives me chills. "Release her." The following silence seems to go on for ages, and the only thing I hear is the rhythm of my frantic heart. Then there are footsteps and Kevin appears outside my cell, unlocking it. "You're out," he says. "Luckily for you, the Cullens or the prince, rather, is showing mercy." My heart is still thudding as I pick my shoes up off the floor, not even bothering to put them on again. Barefoot, I walk out of the cell and follow Kevin to the front office. Prince Edward and Tanya are both there without their masks. Both of them look pissed, and I know it's for two very different reasons. The prince eyeballs my body and it makes me self conscious. It's like he's looking to see if I have any visible injuries. His hair looks worse than usual, and I wonder how many strands he managed to pull out. Tanya narrows her eyes at me. "Got lucky this time." "Tanya," Prince Edward admonishes, and she glares at him. "This wasn't up to you to decide," she argues, and he turns to face her, a look of
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pure vexation on his chiseled features. "It absolutely was." "It's your parents' ball." "They don't have the time to deal with things like this." "And you do?" "I'm not going to argue about this with you, Tanya. I think you've been dramatic enough for one night." Burn. I stand there feeling awkward, not sure what I should do. Am I allowed to just leave? Do I wait for someone to tell me what to do? Prince Edward turns to me. "You're free to go." Hallelujah! "Thanks," I tell him, and he nods before two SS escort me out of the room. What is up with those two? Are they going through a rough patch? Obviously she wanted me in prison for longer. Hmmm. "Yes sir, she's out," one of the SS is pressing something against his ear, and I realize he's talking into one of those Bluetooth things. "Yes sir," he says again, and they continue to pull me away. "You know, you really don't have to drag me everywhere," I tell them irritably. "I'm not going to run off or attack you or anything." The two men look at each other and then simultaneously loosen their grips on me before letting go altogether. "Thanks," I mutter appreciatively, rubbing my arms. "Mr. Thorn wants to see you again," one tells me. "We're going there now."
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"Ugh, what does that fucker want now?" Both of them burst out laughing but they don't respond as I'm led up to Peter's office again.

When I enter Peter's office, which is actually starting to feel like my own damn room, Kate is still there. "Well, Miss Swan," Peter wastes no time. "Luckily for you, Prince Edward took the matter out of his parents' hands and into his own. He seems to be the one to get you out of trouble lately." Very true I cross my arms over my chest. "I guess so." "Here's the thing, Isabella," Kate begins. "We don't know if we can continue on keeping you as one of the maids." I feel the blood drain from my face. Oh God, I'm getting fired "So we've decided that in order to keep you out of trouble, and to keep everything in the manor running smoothly" Say it. Just say it. You're firing me. I'm going to be homeless and living out of my Chevy. "You're going to be one of Lady Rosalie Hale's personal maids." Huh? "You mean I'll be waiting on her?" I'm not so sure I like this idea. "Precisely." I let that sink in for a moment and once it does I want to bang my head against the wall.

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Housework and cooking I can do without a problem. But actually having someone boss me around and treat me like their bitch is something I am not okay with. Granted, I don't exactly know Lady Rosalie. I've never interacted with her before. I hadn't even seen her at the ball. The night that I spilt soup on the prince's crotch was the only time I even saw her, and she had been staring at me. "You will report to Miss Hale and serve her breakfast at exactly 8am sharp, and you will do as she tells you, starting tomorrow." Shit. I sigh, resigned to my fate. "Okay. Fine." Not like I have a choice, anyway This is either going to work out just fine, or it's going to be an epic disaster. I'm betting on the latter.

When I return to my room, the ball is still going on. I myself feel like I have been dancing all night. My feet are killing me and my entire body feels fifty pounds heavier. I look at the clock and see that it is only 9pm. The ball isn't supposed to end until midnight. I'm pretty sure it continued right on after I left. I wonder if the prince and his witch of a fianc went back. The first thing I do is climb out of the dress. I check it for damages, fully aware that I have to return it. It looks good so I hang it on a peg on the bathroom door. Completely naked, I collapse on my bed. I don't care that anyone can walk in and see me in my birthday suit. After a few moments of lying, tired and nude, against my cool sheets, I finally muster up enough energy to change into pajamas. My thoughts drift over to the prince and how he's been getting me out of shit ever since I got here. He seemed to decrease the severity of the hit-and-run, the soup on his groin, the talking-about-cutting-off-his-balls, and now he bailed me out after I
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crashed a masquerade ball. Was he generally a nice person, or was there something more to it? No, he does not care about you. He is just nice because he's been raised with manners. I talk myself out of thinking that he has feelings for me in any way. After all, he doesn't know me and I don't know him He plays piano. He rides horses. He likes Austen. He wears t-shirts and sweatpants when he's alone in his room. He cares about the education of the workers. He doesn't have much power. He has terrible taste in women. He's a good dancer. He has something important hidden in the bottom drawer of his desk. He's pretty forgiving. He's bossy. He has a temper. Well, well, well. Looks like I know more about him than I thought. Shit. I get in bed without brushing my teeth, because I don't give a fuck and because I'm too emotionally and physically worn out to walk to the bathroom. A part of me wants to stay up until Alice gets back, so that I can talk to her. As though she has some weird psychic ability, I get a text from her. My phone buzzes loudly against my side table; I hadn't taken it to the ball with me. Where are you? What happened? Are you okay?-A You'll get fired if you're texting and serving wine at the same time. But throw some in Tanya's face for me. -B Bella! Alice! You need to tell me if you're okay, like, now. What did they do to you? They put me on the rack. Bella!
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I'm perfectly fine. They locked me in the prison for a while and then His Royal Mysteriousness bailed me out of trouble. Again. No way. Yep. Oh, and Kate demoted me to one of Rosalie's bitches. . Tell me you're joking. :( That is terrible. I don't reply to her. I know it sucks, but once again the cards are out of my hands. His Royal Hotness is once again the sole thing on my mind. I realize that I haven't actually thanked him for getting me out of trouble all the time. I hunt down my purple pen. Dear Prince Edward, Don't feel obligated to reply to this. I just wanted to say thank you. I feel kind of like a coward for not doing this in person, but I barely ever get the opportunity. You know, since you're a prince and all, and I but a lowly commoner. Anyway, I just want you to know that I am sincerely grateful for the fact that you keep getting me out of some deep shit. Such as: 1) The hit-and-run. I'm so, so sorry about that Volvo. I hope it's okay. I know I could have gotten in major trouble for hitting it and then driving off, and I know you had something to do with the fact that I didn't get arrested for it. 2) The soup on your you know. That was a total accident, by the way. I don't tend to go around spilling hot dishes on peoples' privates. I swear. I'm sure you had to keep that on the down low as well. 3) The whole cutting-off-your-balls business. I wasn't actually going to do that. Just so you know. I'm incapable of kidnapping people and cutting off their outer organs. It's totally not me. Peter Thorn was being an ass, and I'm glad you got him
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to leave me alone. It really was a joke, and I'm sorry if I offended you with my ranting. I was just pissed. 4) I know we haven't really talked about this topic, but That time you caught me looking in that desk drawer? Thanks for not getting me in trouble for that. You could have reported me or something, but you didn't and I appreciate that. Thanks for not holding it against me, either. You know I wasn't snooping 5) Especially thanks for bailing me out tonight. I could have lost my job, and I really, really, really need it. I won't survive on my own, not in this economy. I know Thorn wanted to be hard on me, and I could've been in that cell for who knows how long, so thank you, from the bottom of my cold little heart. Sincerely, Bella.

Right before I climb into bed, I check my phone. 2 Missed Calls: Charlie Oh, fuck. I sit cross-legged on my bed, taking a deep breath before I press the call button over my Dad's name. "Bella," he answers, sounding relieved. Crap, that means he was worried. "Hey, Dad," I say cautiously. I don't know if he's pissed or not. "Where the hell were you? I've been worried sick over here- almost messed up some orders because of the stress!" Yep, definitely pissed "Uh, see, about that" "Save it, Bells. I can't even comprehend why you would do something like that! Are you trying to lose your job? And what is this I'm hearing about you getting arrested and put in the prison? I know you've done some pretty crazy stuff, but this?
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This is just ridiculous, this is reckless!" I bite my tongue and let him finish his ranting. It's the only way he'll be sane enough to hear me out. "This isn't some high school party crashing, Bella. This is a prestigious event of the royal family! The President was there! Have you grasped that yet?" My jaw drops. "The President?" "Yes, Bella, the President. He's always there." "Oh, I didn't know that" "Why did you do this? There has to be some logical reasoning behind this foolishness. You're a bright girl, now why would you go and do something like this?" I squeeze my eyes shut. "Fun?" There's a pause on the other end and pull the phone away from my ear. "Tell me you're joking," Charlie says, his voice low. Oh yeah. If he's not yelling, he's beyond mad. "It was just a onetime thing," I assure him quickly. "It was stupid, yes, but it was fun until I got caughtI promise I won't do anything that level of stupid again." I hear voices behind Charlie and he sighs. "Don't do anything any level of stupid, young lady." He sounds relatively calmer. "Look, I need to get back to work. Break's over. Stay out of trouble, got it?" "Got it, Daddy." That "Daddy" should butter him up a little. He sighs again. "All right. I love you. Be good." He doesn't let me reply before he hangs up. I let out a long breath and fall back onto my pillow. After that verbal lashing, it's not hard to fall asleep.
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What wakes me up is Alice coming into the room, trying a little too hard to be quiet. Light sleeper that I am, my eyes pop open the second the door swings wide. I sleepily squint at Alice; her silhouette stands out against the dim light from the hallway and I notice how the edges of her expertly messy hair are more chaotic than usual. And she's panting. "Hey," I say, my voice thick with sleep. A glance at the clock tells me it's three in the morning. She jumps and squeals at the sound of my voice and I give her a funny look. "You scared me," she giggles nervously, closing the door behind her. "Didn't the ball end at midnight?" I ask, rubbing my tired eyes and only half caring. "Um yeah," Alice still sounds nervous as she rushes to her bed and starts stripping. "Everything, okay?" I am half asleep at this point. "Yeah, yeah, everything's just awesome." The last thing I hear before I fall back asleep is the sound of her sigh of contentment.

The morning brings with it a shitload of sunshine. When I clamber out of bed, not only my feet but my legs are aching. Alice is snoring like a baby, and I'm jealous that she gets to sleep in. I'm supposed to report to Lady Rosalie, and I'm a little annoyed that what would usually result in a nice Sunday off is now a day sitting at the feet of royalty. The only thing that brightens my day is the envelope lying on the floor by the door. My heart skips a beat as I fight through the vertigo to make it to the letter.
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Dear Bella, You're welcome. 1) The Volvo wasn't a big deal. It was just a little dent that I got repaired immediately. No worries. It was one of my favorite cars, but It doesn't matter. I wouldn't have given you a hard time over it, even if you had stayed to talk about it instead of driving off. 2) I assure you, my privates are fine. Hot soup doesn't stand a chance. ;) 3) Those empty threats were merely a young girl venting to her friend. I knew that from the start. Peter can be a little harsher than he needs to be toward the staff. He was going to try and punish you for voicing your opinion, and that's just not right. Freedom of speech, you know? I just think it's that ego of his. You're welcome. 4) I shouldn't have been angry at you for being near my desk. It was my own carelessness for leaving my things lying around I know you weren't snooping; I just saw where you were, what you were doing, and snapped. So, forgive me. 5) As for tonight's, well, yesterday's ball (since it's almost four in the morning now), I'm not so sure why I didn't reveal your identity. I hate to admit it, but had it been anyone else I probably would have done or said something. Not in the manner that Tanya did, of course, but I just don't know. I knew it was wrong but I couldn't find it in me to tell anyone that you didn't belong. After all, you certainly looked like you did I bailed you out because I felt like Peter was going on a power trip by putting you in the prison. That was completely and utterly uncalled for. I might need to do something about him However, in all seriousness, I need you to know that I can't keep getting you out of trouble. It's getting to the point where my fianc is threatening to get you fired. You've seen how dramatic she can be. Don't worry, I won't let her do anything to hurt you. I won't stand for it. I don't want you to come under the line of fire of Tanya's stupid assumptions. The power and fame is getting to her head, unfortunately. I apologize for her behavior, by the way. She can be I don't know. You fill in the
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blank. I honestly can't think of a polite word to describe her actions at this point. No hard feelings, okay? :) Edward I giggle at his silly little smiley face, feeling something different about this situation. Firstly, he signed it "Edward". Last time I replied to a letter he signed like that, he didn't reply. Secondly, he makes it clear that he doesn't like Tanya very much. Thirdly, he has a winky face after he mentions his privates. Take all of that and throw in our dances at the ball and him bailing me out. and you get something very, very interesting. I can't say that things between the prince and I are the same, because they aren't. Something's changed between us, and it's started with this letter.

Next Chapter: Sunday, March 6th - You guys are going to like that one ;)

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Chapter 9
You are all fantastic- thanks for all the feedback and love! :) Thanks to the lovely Pinkaquaclouds for the honesty and help!

Chapter 9- Sparks Fly It is with a disabling amount of trepidation that I make my way to Lady Rosalie's room. I have tripped twice on the way there, and I already hate her because of how nervous she makes me. The only memory I have of her is of her cold, calculating expression the night I served dinner to the royal family. It is not a pleasant image. Rosalie's room is way up on the fifth floor, and when I get off the elevator I lose my sense of direction. I am not given a little blue schedule anymore, since Rosalie decides what I do and when I get off, so I am just going by what Kate told me: "Fifth floor, the ebony doors." She had sounded very distracted, mumbling a hurried goodbye and then hanging up on me. "Ebony, what the heck does ebony look like?" I mumble to myself as I wander the fifth floor. It's a little like a maze, with a few dead ends and many, many doors. At least the hallways are wide; otherwise I'd feel claustrophobic. I run two hands through my hair and stop in the middle of a hallway, glaring at the doors around me. They all look the same. How the hell does Kate expect me to know what ebony looks like? It's either brown wood, or it's not. Rosalie is going to have my ass, and it's going to be Kate's fault. Fuck my life sideways. I stop my frantic search and lean back against the wall, breathing heavily. I have worked myself up over this and my head is spinning from looking for doors that may stand out from the others. They're all the same color and texture.
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"Lost?" The voice makes me jump and hold a hand to my heart as I turn to see who has spoken. Prince Edward smiles shyly as he approaches me from the corner he has just turned. He's in his standard button down and trousers again; black on top and gray on the bottom. His hands are stuffed into his pockets as he languidly strolls over to me. Sweet baby Jesus in a cradle on a haystack, he looks so damn good in black I'm frozen for a second, warring with the emotions inside of me. The surprise has worn off and it's replaced by excitement. "I am lost, actually," I mumble with a nervous laugh. He stops just about a foot away from me and my God, I can smell him. Its shower gel and expensive cologne and manliness. It's intoxicating. I can feel the change in the air between us. It's not tense anymore; it's relaxed, like we've known each other for a while. "Where are you headed?" he asks, cocking his head to the side. "Didn't you get a schedule with directions?" For a second I'm reminded of a teacher asking an errant student for their hall pass after catching them wandering the halls. "Oh, I got demoted," I say, fidgeting a little. "I'm not a maid anymore. I'm one of Rosalie's bitches now." Once the words leave my mouth, I am only horrified for a second before remembering that I have said much worse in my letters. Edward doesn't seem surprised. He just smirks at my comment. Oh, how I want to bite that bottom lip "Rosalie's bedroom is down that way," he says, turning to the direction he came from. "Come on, I'll show you."
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We keep a slow pace as we walk, and the hairs on the back of my arm stand up from his close proximity. His sleeves are rolled up, as usual, and if I move a little more to the left our arms would brush "Did you get my letter?" he suddenly asks. There is still a smile on his face, and it's breathtaking. "Yeah," I reply shyly. "I didn't get a chance to reply, though. Sorry." He chuckles. "Don't apologize. You're not obligated to reply." I nod and smile at him, reveling in the change of atmosphere. The masked ball and his letter definitely changed things between us, big time. I kind of love it. "Here we are," he says, stopping at the end of a hallway. At the back of my mind I know that we have turned a few corners, but every other part of my body was unaware. We are in front of a pair of double doors with delicate carvings in the wood. The wood is darker than the other doors on the floor; it's the color of dark chocolate. "This is ebony?" I ask, pointing to the door. He looks at me funny. "I believe so." "The only thing Kate told me over the phone was 'fifth floor, ebony doors', and then she hung up. So I was like, how the hell am I supposed to know what ebony looks like? Wood is wood to me, you know? It all looks the same to me, and it's all brown. Dark brown, light brown, medium brown But ebony? That's a stupid fancy way of saying 'dark chocolate brown'. Seriously." His Royal Cuteness grins down at me, and for a second he looks like just another twenty-something guy. Wow, he's in a great mood today "Well, here you have it," he says, nodding to the door with his chin. Sweet Jesus, that lickable jaw "Ebony. It's just much darker in color than other types of wood like mahogany, oak, elm"
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I chuckle. "Well aren't you the expert on wood." I hear the innuendo right away. He rolls his eyes. "You have no idea." The ebony doors in question choose that moment to swing open, and we are greeted by the piercing blue eyes of Rosalie Hale. She cocks an eyebrow at me. "There you are." "She was lost," Prince Edward tells her, but she ignores him and nods inside, telling me to get in. I mumble a hurried "sorry" before entering, avoiding her sharp gaze. Jeez, her eyes are like fucking lasers. Lady Rosalie and Edward talk for a while, but I'm not sure about what because I'm too busy looking around her bedroom. It's gorgeous. The bed has silky sheets that remind me of a peacock because they're shades of teal and brown and beautifully embroidered. The curtains match and they're wide open, letting a lot of sunshine in. To my right is where the bedroom tapers off into the living area, and I see that I am not alone. Another worker, a really tall girl with curly red hair and glasses, is pouring juice into a glass that rests on the coffee table. The plasma screen television is on. Shit, breakfast I was supposed to do that. "You don't play by the rules, do you?" Rosalie's voice behind me causes me to whirl around. I peek over her shoulder to see that she has closed the door, and Edward is gone. Rosalie's hair is pulled up into a tight ponytail, and I end up looking up to her because holy crap, she is tall. She wears a baby pink silk robe that hangs open over her simple white tank top and shorts. She's hot. "I really did get lost," I tell her. "Kate gave me cryptic directions and-" Rosalie shuts me up by holding a hand up. "Don't make excuses. I'm not
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interested." I press my lips together, trying not to say anything stupid. Her presence is a little daunting, but it's mostly because she screams power. The way she holds herself is with strength and confidence and I don't know how easily I can speak my mind around her. "You see that closet over there?" She points to a massive wardrobe in one corner. It's dark enough to be ebony and the doors are elaborately carved with designs of vines and leaves. "Holy shit, is Narnia through there?" I blurt. I feel my cheeks heat up as I eye her warily. She watches me with one hand resting on her hip, the expression on her face bemused. After a moment the corner of her mouth pulls up just a little. Is that a smile? Well I'll be damned "I'm visiting a friend in Oregon for dinner tonight," she says, ignoring my word vomit. "I need something to wear. Find me something." She turns and walks into the living room, leaving me to gape at her back. Not only do I not know anything about fashion, but she hasn't given me any details. Where is the dinner? What kind of outfit would be appropriate? Does she seriously expect me to know right off the bat what her sense of style is? She'll probably bitch at me if I throw something together that she doesn't like, and it won't be my fault because she didn't give me any details! What the hell I stand in the bedroom, irritated, with my eyes trained on the doorway that leads into the living area. Should I ask? Would that piss her off? Fuck it. I'm not going to risk looking like an idiot if she gets mad at me for doing something without enough info. She's royalty; you'd think she'd have a stylist for this type of stuff. I stomp over to the living area and pause to collect myself. Rosalie has her back to me as she sits on the couch with her eyes on the TV.
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Holy crap, she's watching reruns of Bad Girls Club. Ha! That's hilarious. The redheaded girl is now clearing away the breakfast things and she catches my eye. She offers me a timid smile and goes on with her work. I hesitantly approach Rosalie from behind, not sure how to proceed. I finally suck it up and stand a little to her side, but not in the way of the television. The only sounds are that of the redhead girl clearing away the dishes and of scantily dressed women screaming and cussing at each other on TV. I know Rosalie sees me from her peripheral; it's impossible not to spot me. When she doesn't acknowledge me, I decide to speak. "Um, ma'am?" Rosalie makes a disgusted sound and waves a hand in the air. "Don't call me that. Do I look old to you?" "Miss Hale?" "What?" Her eyes are still glued to the television. "I don't know what to do." She finally looks up at me. "No?" Duh, that's why I asked. "No. You didn't tell me anything about this dinner, like where it's at and who it'll be with, so I have nothing to go by." A look of satisfaction crosses her features and she nods to herself before slowly standing up and brushing past me. Hmm, was that a test? The redheaded girl watches Rosalie walk away with surprise, like it's so odd for her to be on her feet. I follow Rosalie into her bedroom and she walks to the wardrobe, pulling it open. "This is where all the dresses and gowns are," she explains, watching me stoically. "They go by size, the shortest on the left and the longest on the right. That's how I like them, and that's how they'll stay. Their corresponding jewelry is in these drawers, in the same order as the dresses, left to right. With me so far?" I nod and she continues. "Theses drawers are locked. If you want the key, you ask me. Tonight I'm visiting
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Alicia Franklin of Oregon. I don't particularly like her, but I need to go because she knows how I feel about her and she thinks I won't come. I won't give her the satisfaction." Oh wow "The dinner is at her house?" I ask. "Yes, it's a lake house." "So something not too formal?" "Probably." I sigh. "I'm going to be honest I don't know much about fashion." Rosalie raises a brow. "I loved your dress last night." I feel the blood rush up to my cheeks. "Thanks." She smirks at me, and it's friendly. "You know, you've got some nerve for that stunt you pulled. It could have ended disastrously for you." I shuffle my feet. "Why did you do it?" she asks, curiosity laced in her tone. I look at her and she seems to be genuinely interested. To stalk the prince and get information on him "For the hell of it," I reply with a sheepish shrug. She surprises me by laughing and I find myself thinking that I'd go gay for her. "I respect that," she says softly. "I can tell you don't take bullshit from anyone. I just wish other girls were like that." "I've worked too hard to put up with people stepping on me." Rosalie appraises me. "I can tell. Although, it looks like you let the rich and famous mess with you."
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I'm confused. "What?" "Tanya Denali." My stomach twists nervously. How much does Rosalie know? "What about her?" I ask. "You let her bully you." It's an accusation. "How do you know that?" "It doesn't matter," Rosalie shakes her head. "But I should warn you Tanya is ruthless. I've known her for as long as Edward has, and she's power hungry and cruel. She looks down on people, namely servants, and she does it shamelessly." I squirm under her intense gaze. "I know that, but why are you telling me this?" "I just want you to be careful. Since she's engaged to Edward, she'll be around here often and it's pretty obvious she doesn't like you. She has more power than any of us want her to have, so watch out." "Watch out?" It's all so ominous and it makes me anxious. Rosalie searches my face, like she's not sure if she should tell me. When she speaks it is with a cautionary glance towards the living area and a lowered voice. "Tanya will do anything to be queen. Anything. Especially if it means getting rid of people she thinks are a threat." She gives me a pointed look and I blink at her. "How the hell am I a threat?" She cocks an eyebrow at me. "Really?" Oh God, she's talking about Edward How does she know? What do I do? Do I deny it? It's not like I'm having an affair "It's not like I'm having an affair," I whisper.
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Rosalie snorts bitterly. "Just the fact that you danced with him is enough for Tanya to add you to her shit list." My head is reeling. Why is Rosalie telling me all this, and how does she know? Why is she being so nice, anyway? "Another word of advice," she suddenly says. "Keep it on the down low. Word spreads fast around here about things like this; I know that better than anyone. Still, I don't think Tanya will be around for much longer." Her eyes twinkle and she says it like she knows something I don't. Rosalie Hale has certainly thrown me for a loop. But I decide that I like her.

The rest of Sunday goes by fairly uneventfully. I am with Rosalie almost all day, until she has to leave for Oregon. It's actually not that hard working for her. I definitely misjudged her, seeing as she's nowhere near as bitchy as I thought. In fact, she's not a bitch at all. Yeah, so she's a little bossy, but I think that just comes with the territory of being royalty. Monday, however, is a different story. Rosalie doesn't need me much; she's going out again. I am left to my own devices. Normally, on a Monday, I'd be in the library for a tutoring session with the Creeper. However, I'm pretty sure I don't have to do that anymore. It's like Edward and I came to an unspoken agreement that it was a stupid idea that failed epically. So I am on my way back to my bedroom when I freeze at the sight of a figure standing at the end of my hallway. He leans against the wall with one shoulder, his head cocked to the side as he observes me. He's right next to my bedroom door, practically blocking my path. My heart stops for a moment when I realize that it's James. Oh fuck. He stares at me, and I can't tell what his expression is because it is shadowed. There's only one window, and the light coming from it is dull because it's a cloudy
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day. I stand a good two yards away from him, my entire body tense. I'm scared. The Creeper just stares at me, and every nerve in my body wants me to turn and run in the other direction. "What are you doing here?" I finally ask, shuddering slightly. James stares at me some more and then stands up straight. He's smirking, and it gives me chills. Bad chills. "You're not interested," he drawls. His voice is husky. I'm not sure if he's talking about the tutoring or himself. He's right on all accounts. I don't respond and he starts to walk towards me, a predator hunting his prey. "You can't just quit," he slurs angrily. "You think that man is putty in your hands You're not good enough for him." What the hell I take a voluntary step back, ready to bolt. "I can change your mind," he whispers, getting closer. He doesn't smell so good and this kind of behavior is a little too creepy, even for him. He reaches out to touch my hair and I flinch away so badly that I stumble backward and trip over something, landing on my ass. "What the hell are you doing?" I ask. My heart is palpitating and I don't like the way he is standing above me. I scramble to my feet and then turn on my heel, but suddenly there is a cold hand holding on to my elbow. "No, no, no. We should talk."
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I turn at glare at him, trying to wrench my arm out of his grip but he holds fast. "Get the fuck off me!" I snap, but his grip is tight and his eyes have a maniacal quality to them. Oh my God. Is there no one around right now? "Don't fight," he whispers, reaching up to run his finger across my jaw. "Let's just talk." "I'm not talking to you, you son of a bitch-" He cuts me off by shoving me against the wall, hard. "None of that," he growls in my face, and his breath is rancid. "Why don't you just listen, huh? Why won't you just give me a chance, huh? You're so smart, so pretty" He grabs my chin. When I can't push him off me I knee him in the crotch and he grunts, falling on his knees. He grabs my leg, and I kick him in the face with my other. I hear something crack, followed by a gush of blood that seeps out of his nose. He's fucking crazy! "Help!" he screams, holding his face in his hands. "Somebody help me!" Everything is so fucking crazy and confusing and I can't do anything but run towards the stairs to find someone. I don't even make it halfway down when two SS come running up. One of them stops me from going any further. "He tried to- he tried to" I am panting hard and I can barely say anything because James is screaming. "She attacked me, she attacked me!" "He tried to make a move!" I tell one of the SS. He is holding me away from James as he speaks into his Bluetooth to who I assume is Peter Thorn. The other SS is at James' side. Everything happens faster than I can keep up. James is still screaming some bullshit about how I attacked him, the SS guy won't let go of me as he keeps talking to Peter, and then I am led away.
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I assume we are going to Peter's office so I'm a little surprised when I'm taken back down to where I was just two nights before- the underground prison. "Wait, wait, what am I doing down here?" I ask the SS. "Mr. Thorn has ordered you straight down here," he replies emotionlessly. "But that's not fair!" I cry, fighting against him. "I didn't do anything wrong- he tried to make a move on me." The SS sighs and I wonder if he's had to deal with me before. They all look the same in those suits and sunglasses. "He'll hear you out, but for now he wants you locked up." "That's bullshit!" He ignores me and takes me back into the prison's little office, where Kevin is surprised to see me. I am still trying to furiously fight the SS off, which has actually become a habit, when I am briefly let go of and then pinned against the wall, hard. The side of my face hits the wall and I cry out. "Listen," Kevin says in my ear. He smells like cigarettes. "None of this funny business. You're a troublemaker and we don't like troublemakers." What the fuck. My left cheek is aching and once they loosen their grip I glare at Kevin. He has the most irritating sneer on his face and I am insanely tempted to smack it off. I can see he takes pleasure in roughhousing prisoners. "This is just some ego trip for you, isn't it?" I snarl at him. The smirk on Kevin's face slips off as he pushes me over to the prison cell. Once I am shoved inside, he locks the gate and peers in at me. Kevin stares at me with his hands on his hips. "You made a huge mistake, girlie." "Don't call me girlie."
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"I don't think you understand the severity of what you did. James Sullivan has to be one of the most prestigious-" "I don't give a fuck if he was the king himself, the fact of the matter is that he tried to make a move and I kicked him in the crotch. I don't care how important he is." "He tried to make a move?" Kevin raises a brow and then appraises me. "Huh. Don't blame him." "You're disgusting." Kevin laughs and then starts to walk away. "I don't think Prince Charming is going to come and save you today." Those words reverberate off the cell walls and I realize with horror that he's right. I remember the prince's words from his last letter: "However, in all seriousness, I need you to know that I can't keep getting you out of trouble." As that sinks in, it's like a heavy weight has been put on me. I sink down onto the cot and put my face in my hands. Things are getting so out of control. I realize how corrupt the manor really is, with its ego maniac security and pervy tutors. I wonder what else goes on that no one knows about. I try not to think about the fact that I am locked up again, with no inkling as to when I'll be let out. The longer I'm left alone with my thoughts, the angrier I become. This is Edward's fault, that's for sure. If he hadn't even started this tutoring thing in the first place, I wouldn't be behind bars right now. Knowing that he might not come and get me the fuck out of here is unnerving and quite frankly, it scares me. He makes me feel like a goddamn damsel in distress, and I hate that. I also hate the fact that that's exactly what I feel like every single time. It's so hard to stand up for myself around here, and no one wants to hear me out. It's so fucking unfair. I don't want to need saving, but that's just how it is.
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I bang my forehead against my palms a few times. I'd be lying to myself if I didn't wish that Edward or anyone for that matter would come and bail me out. I refuse to sit here for something that I had every right to do. Hours pass, or it feels like it. Kevin was right. No one comes to get me.

I'm tired, but I can't sleep. My mind won't shut up. I'm also pretty damn hungry, and I wonder if they even feed the prisoners. Not that I intend to eat. I plan on starving myself until they let me out with the knowledge that it was self defense. My emotions are like a roller coaster, and I realize that I might be PMS'ing. It's really no help. I start to get impatient. "Hey!" I call. "Anybody there? I'd like to get a fucking word in edgewise!" I hear a laugh, but it comes from the right, from another cell. "Who's that?" I call. The male laughter rings out again. "Eric Yorkie. Nice to meet you." I hesitate briefly. "Are you the one that stole, or the one that punched Sir Jasper?" "I punched that asshole." I pause for a second. "Why?" Eric hesitates and I wonder what he looks like. "He treated me like shit," he finally responds, sounding nonchalant. I blink, finding it a little hard to believe. The one time I talked to Jasper he had seemed so nice. "What did you do, exactly?" I ask

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"What did you do?" he counters. I shrug, even though I know he can't see me. "I kicked my tutor in the balls and then broke his nose." Eric laughs and then pauses. "What tutor?" I wonder if I can trust this stranger, but then I give in and tell him about how I'm being forced to be tutored. Eric is puzzled as to why the prince would do that for me, and I tell him about how I was supposed to be an "experiment". I find out that Eric is twenty-three and that he's been locked up for a month, awaiting "trial". He tells me that the prisoners (all two of them) do get fed twice a day, three times if they're lucky. They get let out once a day, but only to stretch their legs. It all sounds pretty miserable and I start to feel sorry for him. Our little chat is interrupted when my stomach grumbles a little too loudly. "You get used to the hunger after a while," Eric says mildly. I am deeply disturbed by that comment. "When was the last time you ate?" I ask him. "Last night." "What?" "Eh, it's not so bad. I was pretty chubby a month ago." I shake my head in disbelief and disgust. "That's that's just wrong. I can't believe they get away with this stuff." "I don't think anyone knows." "They will once I get out of here." "Yeah, I had the same plan a month ago." We fall into a heavy silence and I find it a little difficult to wrap my mind around. There's so much unfairness and injustice that goes on in the manor, and it bothers me a lot more than anything else ever has.
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I rub my face with my hands but then wince as I feel the bruise on my face. "Fuck," I hiss. "They're all a bunch of egomaniacs and power hungry assholes," I say angrily. "They don't give a fuck if we live or die; they're in it for the power. Assholes." I direct my voice towards the office, where Kevin may or may not be sitting. "You get off on watching us rot with starvation, don't you? Sick bastard!" Eric chuckles. "You've got balls." "I wish others around here would grow a pair." Suddenly I hear footsteps and I warily wait for Kevin to appear. "Bella?" Prince Edward pauses outside my cell, surprised to see me sitting on the other side of the bars. "Um, hi," I say. "How's it goin'?" He blinks at me. "What on earth are you doing in there?" I snort bitterly. "I'd like the answer to that myself." "Hang on, I'll be right back," he tells me, walking away. "Was that the prince?" Eric whispers. "Yep." The loud footsteps return, along with the jingle of keys, and then Edward is unlocking the cell. "Mind telling me what you're in for?" he asks, pulling the gate open. "I came down here to see Gambton, and I heard your voice" I step outside of the cell and face him. He's wearing a gray blazer over a navy blue shirt. "You just let me out of a prison cell without knowing why I was there in the first
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place," I tell him. "I could have murdered someone for all you know." He searches my face. "I highly doubt-" He breaks off, his eyes on my left cheek. "What the hell happened there?" He sounds pissed off and before I can reply, he slowly lifts his fingers to my face. Ever so gently, he runs his fingertips across the bruise. My skin tingles and aches, a mixture of pleasure and pain. He doesn't look into my eyes but I look into his, and there's something brewing in their green depths. His jaw clenches and unclenches, and when he finally looks at me he does not look happy. "Who did this?" "Kevin Gambton," I mutter. His eyes blaze and I'm completely entranced by them. "Tell me what happened," he demands. "I broke the tutor's nose after kneeing him in the crotch." Prince Edward raises both his brows. "James Sullivan?" "Yep." "How, when, why?" I don't know if he realizes it, but he's still touching my face. I don't know if he realizes it, but he's standing much closer to me than he usually does. I don't know if he realizes it, but my body is practically convulsing as I resist the urge to throw my arms around his neck, push him against the wall, and do dirty, dirty things to every inch of his body. His nearness makes my skin tingle and causes the muscles deep in my belly to express their need. I clear my throat and swallow.
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Get it together! "He tried to make a move on me," I explain with a shrug. "He must have been high or something, and he was waiting for me outside my room." Edward's eyes narrow into slits. "Oh?" He's trying to reign in the anger, I can tell. "Yeah It pissed me off so I reacted and the next thing I knew I was being dragged down here." "Wait, you didn't get to see Thorn? You got whisked down here, no questions asked? No one heard you out?" "That's some bullshit, right? I mean, it was self defense! Why isn't James Sullivan the one locked in a goddamn prison cell?" Edward drops his hand from my face so that he can run it through his hair. He shakes his head. "I let him go just yesterday; he shouldn't even have been on the property. I'm sorry this happened and I'm sorry that SS and Kevin treated you like that. I'll deal with them" He reaches out his hand and brushes his fingers over my bruise again. The anger is still brewing in his eyes, but it's softer than before. I close my eyes, my face heating under his touch. I open my eyes when he isn't touching me anymore. He holds out his hand. "Come on. We need to fix this." I don't even hesitate as I put my hand in his. It's a little rough and it's large; it completely envelopes mine. Look at those fingers. I look up at him to see him staring down at me, an odd look in his eyes. He looks afraid? Or is that longing I see? Whatever the emotion is in his eyes, it burns.
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It's intense and it holds my gaze like a magnet. It's impossible to look away until he does it first. My heart is palpitating and I watch as he glances down to my lips. I can't keep my own eyes away from his mouth, his full lips parted just slightly. I don't know what makes me do it. Maybe it's the whirlwind of emotions from the day, or the way he smells, or my own horniness. Maybe it's the look in his eyes, this man that I know so much yet so little about. Maybe it's the way that he makes my heart beat irregularly with just a look, or how he's like no one else I've ever met. Whatever the reason, it makes me grab him by the lapels of his blazer, pull him towards me, and crush my mouth to his. Time stops. I'm holding my breath, and so is he. Our lips aren't moving at all for the first five seconds and then, slowly but surely, he exhales into my mouth and takes my upper lip between his. He puts the slightest of pressure on my lip and his breath tastes minty. My tongue twitches, wanting to shove itself into his mouth, but I refrain. I don't breathe until he pulls away, a look of shock on his face. I am suddenly panting and my fingers slowly uncurl, one by one, as I let go of his blazer. Oh fuck oh my god oh shit, did I just do that? I can feel my pulse against my neck, fast and furious. The only sound I hear is my heartbeat and my lips feel like they're burning from the inside out. I'm starting to feel just a little bit lightheaded but god, I want him. "Your Highness?" We both jump a foot in the air and then suddenly Kevin is there, confusedly glancing between us. Edward and I stare at Kevin in surprise, and Edward is able to compose himself faster than I am. "Where the hell have you been?" he asks, and the tone of his voice makes me cringe.
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"I, uh, I was just-" Kevin stutters. "Have Miss Swan taken to Thorn immediately. I need to have a word with you." Kevin knows better than to argue. "Uh, yes sir." He nods to two SS, who have apparently materialized out of nowhere, and they lead me away, without grabbing me in their vice grips. When I glance over my shoulder at Edward, he's watching me go.

A/N: Yes. It's time. ;) Next Chapter: Saturday, March 12th

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Chapter 10
As always, I'm blown away by all the response to the last chapter! You all seriously make my tedious days THAT much more awesome! :) And much love to my babes Pinkaquaclouds for putting up with all the wordiness! ;)

Chapter 10- Secrets and Stables My lips are tingling and my feet are on automatic as I am taken to my second home in the manor, Peter Thorn's office. What happens next happens while I am still in a post-kiss daze. I recall the events from the Creeper in the hallway and Thorn listens to me intently. It doesn't escape my notice that he's being a lot nicer than he usually is to me. I have the feeling that it has something to do with the fact that His Royal Sexiness is not pleased with him, and he knows it. There's also video footage of the whole thing with me and James, so there's honestly know way I can get in trouble for it. Peter lets me off the hook, and tells me that James Sullivan has been taken in for questioning away from the manor. You know, somewhere they actually practice the law the right way. I make sure to let Peter know about what Eric told me, and he seems deeply disturbed. He's not happy about how Kevin's been running things, and he thanks me for telling him and assures me that he'll take care of it. Edward's already taking care of it, I think. Tired and still a little woozy, I go back to my bedroom. I assume that Alice is still working, so I take that opportunity to lie down on my bed and ponder everything. I put a finger to my lips. They have stopped tingling. I lick them and they burn just a little. It's really strange because I've never felt anything like this. There are still butterflies in my stomach, but it isn't nerves. It's a strange kind of happiness, but also excitement for things new and unheard of.
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I wonder what this means for me and Edward. Calling him Prince Edward in my head just doesn't cut it anymore. It sounds weird and even a little silly. Edward. I test his name out in my mind before saying it out loud. "Edward." It sounds sexy. "Edward. Edward." I say it in a singsong voice. "Edwaaaard." I snort at my stupidity and shake my head. What the hell is going on with me? I'm getting all giddy over some royal prince that probably doesn't even return the feelings. Then again, he did kiss me back. Does he expect me to forget the feeling of both his lips wrapping around my upper? No. Not gonna be forgetting that anytime soon. Not at all. I suddenly remember that holy crap, he's engaged! The thought disturbs me only for a short second but then I decide to just screw it. I honestly don't know what he sees in Tanya, and even if he really did have genuine feelings of love for her, why would he be responding to my letters and then kissing me back? It makes me wonder if he's been forced into the engagement. That would make sense. Then again, knowing Edward, he wouldn't have done something he didn't want to. His personality just seems so demanding. He knows what he wants. So does he really want Tanya, and is he just messing around with me for kicks? I sigh and roll over onto my stomach, burying my face in the pillows. I briefly wonder if I should write him a letter, but push the thought aside. I don't know if it's a good idea at this point. My thoughts and emotions are all over the place again and I have no idea what this means for me. I'm not used to not knowing the path that my life is going down. I'm so accustomed to having a plan that when life throws something random at me- 174 -

like handsome princes with wicked fiancs- my head spins. After a moment I go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. The bruise is about the size of a quarter and rests right along my cheekbone. It looks awful and I develop a renewed hatred for Kevin. My other cheek is flushed a little more than usual. My hair is a mess and I've looked better. My head turns to the bathroom door when I hear someone enter the bedroom. Knowing it's Alice, I walk out. Alice squeals when she sees me and she covers her mouth with one hand, her eyes wide with fright. "Whoa, chill out, Al," I tell her. "Does this bruise make me hideous?" She puts a hand to her heart. "You scared me. What happened to your face?" I'm about to answer her, but I'm distracted by her appearance. She looks disheveled. "Alice? Why is your shirt on backwards?" Her eyes widen even further and she's frozen before she runs over to the mirror that hangs on the bathroom door. "Oh my God!" she shrieks, and right before my eyes she pulls her shirt off and fixes it. Huh. This is fishy Very fishy Once she looks presentable, she turns to me and grins so widely she almost looks crazy. Her cheeks are pink and she's glowing. She totally got laid! I put my hands on my hips and smirk at her. "Spill." Alice's grin falls and she starts to look sheepish. She starts pacing back and forth and wringing her wrists in anxiety. "I wish I could," she says in despair. "I just"
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"Alice, come on," I say, grabbing her arm. I'm burning with curiosity. "Tell me. Who is he?" "He? Who he? What makes you think there's a he?" Oh, Alice. You open book. I raise a brow at her; she's crazy if she thinks I'm buying it. Alice sighs in defeat and plops down onto my bed, sprawling out like a starfish. "I'm going to be in so much shit if this gets out," she mumbles. "Why?" I ask, trying to contain my curiosity. I sit down on the edge of the bed. "What's the big deal if you slept with someone?" Alice closes her eyes and groans. "He's not just anyone. That's the thing. He's a someone, a really, really important someone. I'm the no one, I'm the nobody." "Okay, you've lost me." She starts to rub her eyes with the heels of her hands. "I shouldn't do this, I shouldn't do this, I shouldn't do this" "Hey, if you don't want to tell me, that's cool," I say, getting up and taking my shoes off. I have to quash my disappointment. Alice bites her lip and stares at me, conflict clearly written on her face. I resist the urge to smirk, because I know Alice pretty well by now and I'm sure that she can't keep a secret when someone finds out she has one. A look of defeat crosses her face and then she covers her face with both hands. "Isepitterapper," she squeaks. "In standard American English, please?" Alice peeks at me from in between her fingers and when she speaks it's muffled. "I slept with herapper." "A rapper?"
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"I slept with Sir Jasper!" she cries. My jaw drops and all the air leaves my body. Alice's face gets bright red and she eyes me warily. No. Way. "No. Way." My jaw is still open like a damn fish and I sit next to her on the bed as she moves into a sitting position. "Alice! You did not!" I cannot wipe the grin off of my face and I am extremely excited by this news. "I did," Alice says in despair. "How what when what?" "I know, I know," she nods grimly and then grabs both of my hands, holding them so tightly that it hurts. "Bella, you can't tell anyone. I'll be in so much trouble, Bella, please." "I won't say a word," I promise her. "But tell me everything." Alice starts to tell me how she's been secretly seeing Sir Jasper for two months now- two months! She had to put his laundry away one day and they hit it off. They would see each other almost every single day, unless he wasn't at the manor, and they'd only just recently started sleeping together. According to Alice, he is the "sweetest, most gentlemanly, kindest, most ravishing man" she has ever met. He has a passion for horses but a love for all animals in general. He has a heart of "shiny gold", eyes of "the deepest sea blue", and an ass of "the roundest hills". I start giggling so bad that my stomach hurts. "Oh my God, Alice, the roundest hills?" She blushes furiously and hits me with a pillow. "Stop, it's true!" Her happy expression is suddenly replaced with worry and my giggles start to taper off. "I'm just really, really scared," Alice mumbles. "This type of thing, this affair it'll cost me my job if anyone finds out. Bella, I really, really, really care about him. And
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he feels the same way about me, I just I don't see it lasting." Her depressed expression is too much to take. "Why not?" Alice laughs bitterly and tears spring to her eyes. That's an Alice first. "I'm a fucking servant, Bella," she says it like it's the most obvious thing in the world, because it is. "He's part of the royal family. Servants and royalty don't mix, ever. Not unless it's some fairytale shit. I thought I was living a fairytale but now I realize that it's reality and it's not going to last." Alice, the pessimist? That's another first. "Hey, he cares about you, right?" I ask gently. She nods and wipes away a tear. "He'll make it work. He'll do something about it." "He doesn't have that much power, Bella," Alice says, and for a moment I think of Edward. "He may be royalty, but it's not like he's the king or the prince. If we get caught, I'm screwed. This type of thing is strongly against the rules and we're going to be forced apart, one way or another." My heart skips a beat and I selfishly start thinking about me and Edward. What does this mean for us? Yes, I kissed him, but he kissed me back. That means something, doesn't it? How far would we be able to go through with this? I grab a Kleenex from the side table and hand it to her. Seeing Alice cry breaks my heart. "Babes, it's not against the rules to be in love," I tell her, squeezing her hands. "It is if you're a servant in this manor and you're in love with someone superior," she retorts. "If you two are happy, that's all that matters. I honestly don't think they'd fire you for some love affair. It's not even an affair! The man is single!" Alice lets out an exasperated huff. "I don't know what to do." "Don't dwell on the negatives. Just take things in stride." Alice smiles a little and nods, and I can see my little pep talk is working.
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I put on my best gossip face. "Also, you wanna know a little secret?" Her eyes widen and she scoots closer to me. "I kissed Edward," I whisper. "What!" Alice screeches and then covers her mouth with her hand. I quickly tell her everything that happened between me and Edward, and Alice is ecstatic that she isn't the only one breaking the rules. She doesn't say it in those exact words, but I know she's thinking it and I'm cool with that. Internally, I feel proud of Alice for going after what she wants, despite the stupid rules. Alice and Bella, rebels of the manor. I like the sound of that.

I don't see Edward again for three days. For three days, whenever I leave the bedroom, I'm a little skittish. Rosalie notices this as I serve her breakfast or when I put her laundry away, and she is not pleased. I'm not too happy with myself, either. One kiss and I stop acting like myself. Word in the manor is that Edward has gone to New York with Tanya. Fucking Tanya The fact that he goes to New York with her so soon after our kiss bugs me a little more than it should. I start to doubt whether or not he actually has feelings for her, but maybe the trip across the country is so he can reassure himself? Whatever the reason, it baffles me. I find my mood going downhill every day that I don't see him. I feel oddly annoyed by the empty feeling in me when I think about him. It's the middle of the week and I'm in the break room during lunchtime. The TV is on some celebrity gossip channel, as usual, and I'm shoveling a spoonful of mac n'
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cheese into my mouth when my ears perk up. "And it's Prince Edward, looking absolutely trashed coming out of Amnesia Nightclub in New York City" My head snaps to the television and sure enough there are paparazzi pictures of a very, very drunk man leaving a club. His hair is a mess, his mouth hangs open like he's yelling at someone, and his jeans and dress shirt are tousled. He is being held up by a large, bulky man. "Hey, that's Emmett!" Alice says, and upon closer inspection I see that she's right. It's Emmett in a t-shirt and jeans, without the SS suit or sunglasses. He looks concerned as he helps Edward over to a car. The gossip reporter starts talking about how Prince Edward was the last person they'd expect to get trashed, in a nightclub of all places. They start analyzing his reasons for drinking so much, and once they start talking about fianc drama I look away from the screen. My own curiosity is piqued. Why was he drinking so much? Was it really because of problems with Tanya? God, I hope so. "Well that's a first," Jacob saunters over to us and sits down in between me and Alice. "You never see the prince doing things like that. He's always so clean-cut and perfect. Must be a shock to his parents." "I wonder what made him get wasted," Alice muses, and she glances at me for only a second. In one second of her eyes meeting mine, her question is clear. Do you think it's because of you? Alice might have a point. Is Edward conflicted about his emotions right now? Was his kissing me back more than just a testosterone fuelled reflex? I get my answer that same night.

Bzzz. I'm in a dreamless sleep and my subconscious tells me that someone is deciding to remember me at an ungodly hour. I decide to ignore it.
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Bzzz. Whatever Bzzz. I can't ignore it anymore so I pull myself out of my precious slumber and glance at my phone. I have three new text messages from an unknown number. Y U do thi me? I dkw hy I want ui We shllud takj I stare at the messages, unsure if my disoriented state is making the words look like gibberish or if the person who is texting me is a prankster. I contemplate whether or not I should reply. Honestly, I'm pissed this person has awoken me with their nonsense. I decide to reply and see if the idiot responds. Who is this? I don't get a reply for almost ten minutes, and just when I'm about to fall asleep again, my phone lights up. Sorry. I cock an eyebrow at my phone. All of a sudden he/she knows how to spell? Still, I'm curious to know who they are. Who is this and how did you get my number? The reply is almost instantaneous. U dnt wanna knpow Yes, I do want to know.
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E E? That's it, I get one letter? Then, it clicks. Edward! Edward? Wait what? I sit up in bed and blink at my phone. Could Edward really be texting me all the way from New York? Holy shit, he must be drunk again. But how did he get my number? All this and more is going through my head. Uh... Hi You okay? I wait three hours for a reply but don't get one.

I am cranky from lack of sleep but I try to reign in the sleep deprivation induced bitchiness before I head over to Rosalie. It's really easy working for her. I can tell she doesn't even want people waiting on her; she's just used to it. Today I actually get to leave her bedroom to do something for her. She loves flowers, and the ones that she usually has sitting on her coffee table and on her balcony are dying. It's my job to go chat with the gardeners and pick new ones. She wants two bouquets of some very specific flowers and I had to write them down because there was no way in hell that I'd remember. "Okay, so that's Gerb-eera Gerbay-ra? And daisy poms, button poms, solidago and salal Is that even English?"

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Eleazer gives me a lopsided grin. He's in his late sixties, with suntanned, wrinkly skin and a hunchback. We are in the Garfield, in one of the massive gardens, and he's pulling the appropriate flowers as I read him Rosalie's "order". "Solidago is just another word for goldenrod," he tells me in a rough voice. He stoops down to pull out said flowers and I marvel at how bouquets are made the old fashioned way at the manor. "Salal is Gaultheria in Britain or just shallon." Um, okay Sure I nod and let him do his thing, asking him if he needs help every now and then. I feel bad watching him working out in the sun, especially since he's pretty much in retirement age. When I ask him why he doesn't retire, he says it's because he loves his job and would rather be here than in a nursing home. Once he has gathered the flowers for one bouquet, which is a combo of yellow and white, he hands them to me to hold while I tell him what flowers the other bouquet should contain. My left hand holds the flowers, which are getting dirt on my hands, and my right is holding the piece of paper so when I feel my phone buzz in my pocket, I'm unable to check it. When Eleazar has picked the flowers for the second bouquet, which is a mix of pink, lavender, and white flowers with complicated names, we head over to the greenhouse, where the bouquets are made. The greenhouse is massive and it smells strongly of plants and some sort of chemical, and by the time we reach the back room where a worker named Siobhan will make the bouquets, I smell like the earth. Once my hands are empty, except for the dirt on my left palm, I ask how long the bouquets will take (an hour) before going for a walk. I am halfway across the Garfield when I remember the text I got. It's almost a half hour old now. Stables. Last stall on the left. I stare at it quizzically, especially since I don't know the number. A quick check at my old texts tells me that it's the same number as last night. It's Edward again.
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After adding the number to my contacts as His Royal Mysteriousness, I type a quick reply. Are you still there? Yes. He is so articulate. My stomach flip-flops as I turn to my left and head towards the stables, which are past the gardens and right by the dirt road used for horseback riding. There are more stables than horses, and the last stall on the left happens to be home to a pretty gray horse. All the horses at the manor are pretty. I start to wonder if they're specially bred to be beautiful. I cautiously look around before walking towards the stall. There's no one around except for a few gardeners way outdoors, and even if anyone saw me they'd think I was working. I peek into the stall and don't see him until he stands. His face is in shadow but the little light that filters in shows the way his full lips turn up just a little on one side. I involuntary lick my lips before opening the door to the stall. The horse neighs angrily at me and I eye it warily. Edward puts his hand on the horse and it calms down a little. I close the stall door behind me. "How long have you been waiting?" I ask. Edward shrugs, his shadowed face impassive. The stall is fairly large; there's just enough room to stand and even sit. He smells different today; the scent of cologne and shower gel isn't as prominent as it usually is. I blame the horse next to us. "I didn't think you'd come," he says quietly. The air between us is charged. At first it feels like tension, but the longer I stand in front of him the sooner I realize that it's something else. It's some kind of relief We missed each other. There's a warmth in me, a feeling of odd wholeness and happiness. I can't help but smile at him.
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"I was working," I explain. "My hands were full and then I forgot." He nods and then it's quiet. Why did he call me in here? Ugh, I smell like dirt and now I smell like horse. He licks his lips and my eyes are immediately drawn to them. His brows furrow and he looks at the ground with his hands in his pockets, like he's trying to figure out how to say something. I take a step towards him, my hands tingling with the urge to touch him, and his head snaps up. His gaze is intense, and I freeze. Judging by his eyes, he either wants to fuck me or choke me. Or both. In that order. "I'm sorry," he says urgently and I blink at him. "For?" He lets out a frustrated huff and runs both hands through his hair. "The text messages. I was drunk and" He exhales angrily one more time. "It's okay," I assure him. "I knew you weren't exactly sober. How did you get my number?" He looks uncomfortable. "Emmett." "How did Emmett get my number?" "Rosalie." "Oh" He shakes his head, clenching and unclenching his jaw. "I'm such an idiot," he says. Jeez, he's really worked up about this. "Really, don't worry about it, it's-" "No, it's not okay," he snaps. I raise my brow at his tone and he tries to pace but then stops when he remembers there's no room.
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"I'm ruining everything," he shakes his head again and then rests his forehead on the horse. To see him in despair over something like drunk text messages is unnerving and pretty strange. I take a few more steps toward him and put my hand on his shoulder. He stiffens, but then relaxes under my touch. Shit, his shoulder is broadand firm and hard "This is a big deal for you, isn't it?" I ask. My voice is almost a whisper. He turns his head so that he's gazing at me. "It is," he mumbles, and I almost don't hear him. "Why?" He stares at me and then stands up straight; my hand slips off his shoulder and falls limply to my side. He takes a deep breath and absentmindedly strokes the horse. "I'm not used to not being in control of any given situation," he says quietly. I notice for the first time how his face looks tired and sunken. Like he's lost a little weight and didn't sleep. That lickable jaw of his is very prominent. "I can't control how I feel about you," he adds. His tone is almost regretful and I'm too afraid to meet his gaze so I look away. "How do you feel about me?" I stare at the hay on the floor as I ask my question. He chuckles, but it's short. "I think you know." I glance up at him and he's smiling shyly. Fucking god, he is so adorable. I shrug and return his sheepish look. "I could be wrong." We stare at each other and I wonder if he wants to kiss me as much as I want to
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kiss him. His eyes move down to my mouth and that's all the answer I need. One step later his hand is at the back of my neck and the skin there immediately heats up. He lowers his head and the look on his face is one of intense concentration, like it takes him a lot of effort to kiss me. He glances at me, almost like he's asking me if it's okay, and when I don't respond he takes that as a yes. Once his lips softly press against mine, all is lost. My hands slide over his chest, up his neck, and into his hair and his tongue tentatively pushes its way into my mouth. I welcome it with a moan and that's when he groans and then pulls away. Edward rests his forehead against mine, breathing a little heavily. "This isn't going to work." "Don't say that." He lets go of me and steps back, watching me like he's watching me leave. "There's something about you" he says it like it's something he can't put his finger on. "There's something about you too," I respond calmly. His face goes blank. "What are we doing?" "I wish I knew." We stare at each other some more and it has to be one of the strangest, most awkward experiences I have ever had with him. We both have feelings for each other, that's a fact. The problem is that we don't know what to do with them. "Why are you meeting me in a horse's stall?" I ask randomly, cocking my head to one side.
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The corner of his mouth lifts up again and he raises a brow. "No cameras." I blink at him. "Really?" "Really." I giggle and his little smirk gets wider. "What other places lack cameras?" I ask curiously. "That's something I'd like to know." "The bedrooms don't." "I figured as much." "There are blind spots all over the manor, such as the library. There are no cameras in the prison either, other than the front office." "Do you know where all the blind spots are?" "Most of them." My mind goes to all the different places we could make out without getting caught. There is an elephant- well, a horse, actually - in the room that we aren't discussing, that elephant being this thing between us. I'm not so sure what it is, but whatever it is, it's strong and it's going to get us knee deep in shit. I decide to broach the topic. No time like the present, and all that. "So" I rock back and forth on my heels. "What are we going to do aboutthis?" I wave a hand between our bodies. He stares at me with a solemn expression and his gaze holds mine like a magnet to steel. He has the most expressive eyes- I see worry and guilt and hey, is that lust? "I'm trying really hard not to think ahead," he says grimly. He's frowning. "Why?"
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He looks away and stares at the horse. "I don't know if I should continue to pursue you." I start to fidget uncomfortably. "Why not?" "Because I won't be able to keep you." Hear that sound? It's the sound of my heart breaking just a little. I bite my lip and try not to throw my arms around him. "Don't Don't say that." My voice comes out as a whisper. He huffs and runs a hand through his glorious hair. "What else am I supposed to say?" "Say that you don't care. Say that it doesn't matter. You're clearly making no effort to stay away from me. You're sending me drunk texts and meeting me secretly in the stables You know what you feel. Iknow what you feel. There's no point in trying to fight it. It is what it is." The last part comes out in a whisper as well and he blinks at me. I can tell he's absorbing everything. "You're right," he breathes, and the look he gives me makes me all tingly on the inside. "You make me tingly," I tell him without thinking. Both his brows go up. "Tingly?" "Yeah" "Tingly how?" "I don't know, just My skin and my insides" Oh my fucking god, what the hell am I saying? He laughs loudly, throwing his head back, and the sound is loud in the enclosed space. It makes me giggle in return and I start to laugh along with him, mainly because I sounded like an idiot.
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Tingly? Really? You sound so intelligent, Bella. We both stop laughing and I wipe away a tear. Edward is grinning at me and my god, he's beautiful. He looks unearthly in the little stall and it's almost too much to bear. The horse that accompanies us chooses that moment to fart. Edward takes a huge step back, glaring at the horse, and I burst out laughing all over again. "You just got farted on!" I cry through tears of laughter. I'm tingling on the inside again, and I feel giddy. Edward sniffs himself and gives me a look of disapproval. "I don't see how that's funny." "Shut up, you know it's hilarious." He smirks at me. "I think you're the only person who's been able to tell me to shut up and get away with it." "Why is that?" He hesitates and then searches my face, briefly lifting his hand to push a lock of hair behind my ear. His fingertips against my temple send chills all the way down my spine and deep into my core, and a warm ache that I haven't felt in a while makes itself known. Fuck, if he can do that by touching my hair Edward licks his lips, still thinking about how to answer my question. "You're genuine," he finally says. "You're not afraid to say what you want or how you feel. You don't pretend to be someone you're not, just because of the status I was born into. You're not fake." I smile at him. "You have to deal with a lot of fakeness, don't you?" He frowns. "All the damn time." "It's 'cause you're scary," I tell him matter-of-factly.
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He snorts. "I'm sure I'm very frightening." "Maybe intimidating is a better word," I muse. "Yeah, definitely intimidating." "Do you find me intimidating?" he asks, pure curiosity laced in his tone. I shrug and lean against the wall. "I did, at first. You being the prince and all and you come off as intense sometimes." He eyes me contemplatively for a while. "That's the first time I've heard that." I shrug again and smile, kind of like silently saying "I just tell it like it is". He lets out a short laugh and stares at me in disbelief, like he can't believe who I am. "Come here," he says quietly. I know what he wants. I can't get enough of his taste. So when he chastely presses his lips against mine, I hold on for dear life. He tastes like mint and... vanilla? It's appealing. Very, very appealing. Tentatively, I bite against his lower lip and he growls, pinning me to the wall with his hips. Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit I'm holding my breath as his lips grow urgent and his hands slide down to my hips. My hands clutch his hair and I can feel the heat from our mouths traveling all the way down my body, like slow, burning fire. I want this man way more than I should. In this moment, we're not a prince and his maid. We're man and woman. We're two human beings that feel something for each other. It's new. Something vibrates against my thigh.
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"What the fu" I pull away from Edward and look down. It's my phone. Oh. When I see that it's Rosalie calling, the panic wells up. Fuck, I'm screwed. "Hello?" I grimace at Edward, letting him know that I'm in trouble. "Where on earth are you?" Rosalie sounds highly irritated. "My interior designer is here, I need the flowers. You've been gone over half an hour." I clench my eyes shut. "I'm so sorry I'll get the flowers and be there in five minutes." "Get here. Fast." She hangs up on me and I sigh, giving Edward a rueful look. "Rosalie?" he asks knowingly. "Yeah, she's gonna have my ass." Edward frowns. "It's my fault. I shouldn't have kept you." "No, it's fine," I tell him. "I'm glad you did." It's awkward for a second and I don't know how I should say goodbye. I opt for a little wave and I give him one last smile before edging my way towards the stall door. "Bella?" I turn around again. "That's me." "Library. Tonight. Nine. Where you crashed into me that one time and I gave you that Austen compilation." I wink at him. "I'll see you there."

A/N: Hey, guess what? I'm going make a separate "story" called 'Royal
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Encounters', which will basically be the EPOV of Princeward's encounters with Maidella. It's not going to be RR in EPOV form, it's just going to be sort of like a collection of outtakes, starting from the night she ends up in his bed. They'll be fairly short, and so far I have their very first encounter written. It should be up this week, so throw me on those alerts if you're interested. :) Oh, and just in case anyone is wondering, yes there will be a full chapter in EPOV in this story at some point. I just don't know when. Next Chapter: Friday, March 18th

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Chapter 11
Chapter 11- Answers Rosalie doesn't give me too much of a hard time when I get back to the manor, but I'd still want to avoid her death glare. I do a few more things for her, but all the while my thoughts are on nine at night and the library. I wonder what we'll do and what we'll talk about. There are a few things I want to ask him and I'm sure he has some questions for me. Unless he just wants to make out against the bookshelves. That would be cool, too. Rosalie has more planned for me, and I end up working with her almost the entire day. With the exception of a lunch break, I find myself assisting in the rearrangement of her living space with an interior designer, putting together a total of four outfits for the weekend, helping Victoria (the redheaded girl that also works for Rosalie) clean the room, and serving food. By the time I'm done for the day, I'm exhausted and want nothing more than to crawl into bed. Then I remember that I'm meeting someone in secret in the library, and I'm wide awake again. When I go down to the break room for dinner, there aren't many people there. I find Jacob on a couch, stuffing his face and talking to another worker named Jared. Alice is nowhere in sight. I grab a sandwich wrapped in paper and head on over to where they sit. I plop down on the arm of the couch next to Jacob. "Hey, losers. Where's the midget?" "Haven't seen her," Jacob says with his mouth full. "Dude, she's totally getting laid," Jared says. He's a tall guy with skin almost as pale as mine and hair as black as tar. I stare at him with wide eyes, taking a big bite out of my sandwich.
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He can't possibly know about Jasper can he? I chuckle nervously. "Why do you say that?" Jared shrugs, nonchalant. "I can tell. It's almost obvious when a girl is gettin' some. I wonder who the lucky guy is; I bet Alice gets freaky in bed." "Shut up, she's like my little sister," Jacob mumbles. "Even if she was getting laid, it wouldn't be any of your business," I pointedly tell Jared. The last thing I need is Jared trying to find out who Alice's man is. He seems like the kind of douchebag that gossips. "Whatever," he says. "It's just interesting info in a mundane place like this." I quickly change the topic as I shovel down the rest of my food, but my mind is elsewhere. I am also wondering where Alice is, and once I decide that she's probably with Jasper, I let it go.

When 9pm rolls around, I'm no longer in the uniform. I have changed into a pair of jeans, Chucks, and an old blue sweatshirt that says L.O.V.E across the front. It's a little ironic, but I don't care what kind of message it sends. The library is dead quiet, and empty. This is the time when the manor is fairly empty, since dinner is over and everyone has retired to their rooms for the night. One of the double doors is propped open and when I step in, the lighting is dimmer than usual. Why does Edward keep choosing dark places to meet me? Clearly he wants some obscurity but hey, that's cool with me. He probably just wants to get gropey. He told me to meet him where I crashed into him that one time and he let me borrow that Austen book I almost stole. It takes me a while to remember where exactly that was, but I find it in good time. Edward is sitting on the floor in between bookcases, a thick book propped up on his lap. He looks only vaguely interested as he flips through the pages. I notice that he's simply wearing jeans and a gray sweatshirt.

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He looks fuck hot. I don't hesitate in sitting directly across from him, and he looks up, startled, when I do. "Hi," I say shyly. "Hello," he whispers. In the dim light, his pale skin stands out and his eyes look dark, though dark in more than just one way. "You came," he says, sounding relieved. He closes the book with a thud. "Why do you keep doubting me?" I ask with a laugh. I feel warm and fuzzy inside. "You're unpredictable," he replies with a small smirk. I nod towards the book in his lap. "Anything interesting?" He frowns and shakes his head, reaching up and putting the book back where he got it from. That happens to be right next to my head, and his hand brushes my hair. He leans back and then looks horrified about something. "Christ, I am so sorry," he says, sounding remorseful. "Do you want to go sit somewhere more comfortable?" "The floor is fine," I assure him quickly. "It's casual it's nice." If anyone saw us, they wouldn't see royalty with a "peasant". They'd see two young people sitting in between bookcases and just chatting. They'd see two jean-clad, sweatshirt-clad, college-aged kids hiding away from the rest of the world for just a little while. They're not rich or poor; they're just human. I bring my knees up and rest my chin on them. Edward's legs are too long to stretch out in front of him, so his sneakered feet touch the bookcase I'm leaning against while his knees are drawn up a little. It's an adorable moment that I wish I could freeze in time. "So" I trail off a little awkwardly. "Here we are." "Here we are," he echoes softly.
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"Why these bookshelves?" I ask. "Blind spot." I look around and sure enough I don't see any of those little half-sphere cameras. "How long are we going to hide?" I ask. I'm not so sure how long I want to keep our relationship- if that's what it's called a secret. "As long as we have to," he says. "But not forever." "Not forever." Then I remember something. "You're engaged." He looks away and then stares at his hands. "Yes." I search his face, and he looks upset. I don't know if he's upset at me pointing out his engagement, the fact that he's engaged, or our situation in general. "Are you going to do something about that?" I ask. "Because I don't think that's something I can ignore." "I'll take care of it," he says, and there's conviction in his voice. I also get the sense that he's not going to talk about his engagement anymore. Still, I need to know he's sure about what he's doing. "Why haven't you already done it?" I ask. He glances at me briefly and his brows furrow. "It's more complicated than it seems." "Do you care about her?" An annoyed expression crosses his face and when he speaks his tone is curt. "I never have." "So why did you get engaged to her?"
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"I'm not here to talk about Tanya," he says irritably. Ah, yes, There's that temper. I shrug. "What do you want to talk about?" "You." I raise a brow. "Moi? I'm no one interesting." "I think you're enchanting." He says it like his opinion is fact. I snort. "Oh yeah, I'm so interesting." My voice is thick with sarcasm. "There should be a movie about me." Edward grins and my breath catches. "I'd watch it." "You're crazy." "Quite possibly." We sit there grinning at each other like fools and I realize that had he been any other guy, like at school or something, it would be just like this. His stature didn't matter; I wasn't even thinking about it anymore. In this moment, he's just a guy I like. A guy I like a whole lot. "You lived with your father before coming here, right?" he asks suddenly. "Yep." "Tell me about it." It's a command and I stare at him. "Tell you about living with my dad?" He has the strangest look of interest on his face as he nods. "Um, it was unexciting," I tell him honestly. "I went to school, went to work, and came home. That's how it was for years." "And your mother?"
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"Dead." He blinks. "I'm-" "Yeah, you're sorry. I know. She had ovarian cancer. I was three." "That must have been hard." "I don't remember her." He nods again, and the silence is grim. "How did you end up here, in the manor?" he asks. The look of interest is back. "Your father ate at my dad's restaurant and loved the food so much that he asked us to move in Well, he asked my dad to move in. I didn't have a choice in the matter. " Edward looks confused. "Where was this restaurant? Seattle?" "Forks." Both his brows shoot up. "Forks? I don't think I've heard of Forks" I laugh. "Mr. Ivy League Graduate doesn't know about Forks? Alert the press, you have got to be kidding." The prince does not look pleased. "I'm sorry, would you happen to know the name of every single small town in the country?" My smug grin falls. "Maybe." "Prove it." "Fine, I don't. I just thought" "Thought that I'd know everything simply because I went to both the University of Cambridge and Harvard?" "I read that Cambridge is the best university in the world; you're supposed to be a genius being taught by more geniuses." I'm only kidding, but I don't know if he knows it.
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"That's a ridiculous assumption." "It's ridiculous that you don't know the name of every town in the country. You should also know the exact number of stars in the universe, who built Stonehenge and why, and when the world will end." Edward laughs and I wish I could record the sound. "Oh, and don't forget the meaning of life," I add seriously. "You should definitely have learned that at Cambridge." He shakes his head at me but the grin never leaves his face. His eyes are crinkled up in the corners, and it's the most adorable thing. "You really are something," he says fondly. "I know." He laughs again and then sighs. His smile starts to fade very slowly. "What's up?" I ask. He shakes his head and stares down at his lap. "I've always gone for what I want." Um, okay. "This shouldn't be an exception," he says it almost angrily. Um, okay "Since when have I worried about what people think?" He's totally scolding himself. "That's just it, I never have. So why now? It's absurd. It's absolutely ridiculous. I know what I want and that's the end of it. Period. Case closed." "Totally agree," I say, just because. He looks up at me like he just remembered he's not alone. "Do you, really?" "Uh, yeah" He huffs and runs a hand through his hair. He's working himself up with his thoughts.
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Just like I always do He leans his head back against the bookshelf and closes his eyes. Mmm, I'd like to lick that Adam's apple and that jaw "Distract me," Edward says. "Now." Okay, Mr. Bossy I wrack my brain and think of something random to blurt. "I like your jaw...?" Yeah not exactly random Edward's brows furrow but he doesn't open his eyes. "My jaw?" When I speak my voice can't get above a whisper. "Yeah It's very chiseled, very strong Like it belongs on a statue or a runway model " I stop talking, realizing that I sound like an idiot. Edward's lips have turned up a little in one corner. "No one has ever told me about my jaw." I shrug and hug my knees. "Now you know." He opens his eyes and looks at me, smiling. God, he's so bipolar. He's laughing one second, muttering angrily to himself another second, and then he's perfectly fine again. "Tell me about Forks," he says. I hesitate. "I would, if there was anything to tell" "There has to be something." "Um It's boring. It's wet. It rains eighty-five percent of the time. The sun is afraid to show itself." "Where did you work?"
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"Newton's Outfitters. It was this store that sold camping gear and all that shit." "Your dad had a restaurant?" "Yeah, a small Italian one called Bella Italia." Edward smiles. "Named after you?" I smile back and I want to kiss him. "That's the story." "How was high school?" What a strange question "Uh, it was stupid. I was so glad to graduate. Everyone in high school is just so petty. Or maybe I'm just an old soul Whatever. It's over." He stares at me with an intense gaze, like I'm telling him the most amazing story. He's absolutely riveted listening to me talk about my life in Forks. "Why the 20 questions?" I ask. He shrugs half-heartedly. "I'm just curious about what it's like to have a normal life" He looks wistful and my heart goes out to him. "Having a normal life isn't exactly the most interesting thing. That's why it's normal." "It's normal to you, but to me it's extraordinary." I gape at him. "What planet are you living on? My life sounds extraordinary to you?" He nods. "I'd trade with you, any day." That one sentence shows me that he may not actually be cool with being a prince. Then again, since when is anyone happy with their life? I start to think about how hard it must be for him- the fame, the press, the
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unwanted attention just for existing. He has a lot on his shoulders, despite the fact that he doesn't have entirely too much power over the country. Just the fact that he is Prince Edward, heir to the metaphoric throne, must be pretty hard. "You must have had a tough childhood," I say. He snorts bitterly. "If you can call it a childhood, sure. Although, I don't believe it was tough. More like artificial." I give him a confused look. "How can one's childhood be artificial?" He looks irritated again. Bipolar. "It's artificial when there's a schedule for you, starting from the day you're born. I knew where I was going to be and what I would be doing every single day of my life, up until I went to college." "Every day of your life was scheduled?" I say in disbelief. Edward nods, his eyes far-off. "My nanny, Roberta, was more of a mother to me than Esme was. Don't get me wrong, Esme and I have a wonderful relationship, but it's very" He trails off and licks his lips. " Catered. The time I spent with my parents was always a part of the schedule, planned activities every other day" "All until you were eighteen?" "Yes." I shake my head at being a child and having every single aspect of my life controlled. "So you never got to have any fun? That must have been suckish." He smiles. "Suckish?" "Major suckage." Edward laughs. "No, I did have fun sometimes, but it was planned fun and as a kid you think that it's normal to be towed from activity to activity day by day. There was no spontaneity in my life." "At least if you screwed something up it wasn't your fault," I try to make light of things, but Edward remains serious.
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He shakes his head. "Making mistakes is how kids learn, it's how they grow. I didn't make too many major errors, so now every time something doesn't go how it's supposed to, I stress out more than I should." "Is that why you have a temper?" He makes a "psh" sound. "I don't have a temper." I raise a brow at him and he backtracks. "All right, so perhaps I do get irritated easily," he says in annoyance. "I've always dealt with this; it may have to do with the war between what I can and can't control in my life." "Do you have control now?" He has to think about it. "For the most part, yes." "Is that also why you're so bossy?" Edward gives me a funny look. "I am not bossy." "Yes, you are." "We're not talking about this anymore. Change the topic." "I rest my case." He sighs and shakes his head. "You know me so well already." I stretch my legs out so that my feet touch the bookcase he's leaning against. "Tell me something," I say quietly. I feel the blush creep into my cheeks and hesitate. "What?" I shake my head. "Never mind." "Tell me." "Nah"
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"Come on, please?" He unleashes the power of his eyes and I sigh. He is too good. "What were you thinking that night I accidentally got into your bed?" I whisper. Edward grins and I glare at him. "I didn't know what to think," he replies with a smile. "I had just come back from a week in London and I was exhausted. I'm pretty sure I passed out the second my head hit the pillow and it felt like only minutes later that you screamed and scared the hell out of me. All I saw was this pretty brown haired girl crawling across my floor and trying to run away." My face gets even redder at the memory. "I was half asleep and it was my first night at the manor. I had to pee really bad but my toilet was out of order so I went searching for a new one. On my way back I thought your room was mine." Edward chuckles. "How does something like that even happen?" "It happens to me all the damn time," I tell him grimly. "My favorite part was when you told me that you just wanted to pee," he snickers. "I had absolutely no idea what you were talking about." He chuckles some more and it's embarrassing. "You know it's really not funny," I tell him defensively. "And why the hell wasn't your door locked, anyway? It's totally your fault." Edward cocks his head to one side. "You're right." "Damn straight I am." "I don't usually have to worry about being attacked in my own home, though." "Except by young women with full bladders and a bad sense of direction." "You're right again; that is dangerous." "Completely reckless." He grins at me. "Can I ask you something now?" "Shoot."
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"My Volvo. Did you really hit it by accident?" "Of course! Like I said, it was parked very, very stupidly." Edward narrows his eyes at me. "You're saying I'm stupid." "No, I'm saying you parked stupidly." "I parked fine." "You parked fine in a stupid spot." "It's not my fault you don't know how to pull out." My jaw drops and I swat his arm with the back of my hand. "Hey! I know how to pull out! Besides, I was there first. You should have known your car would get hit since you squeezed in a tiny space." "There actually wasn't a car in front of me when I parked." I purse my lips at him, speculating. "Okay. How about we blame it on the person that parked in front of you and call a truce?" Edward holds his hand out. "Done." I hold his hand and shake it once; it's warm and his grip is firm. It makes me feel tingly again and neither of us lets go of the other's hand. Edward smiles, eyes warm, and intertwines his fingers with mine. We let our hands fall limp against the carpet. "What were you thinking when I spilled hot soup on you?" I ask quietly. I almost don't want to hear his answer. Edward grimaces, but his eyes glint with amusement. "You really want me to relive that?" "It was that bad?" "You spilled scalding hot soup on my crotch. Do you think it would feel great if someone did that to you?" I giggle. "I guess not. I hope your, uh. crotch is okay" I can feel myself blush and I hope it's too dark for him to see.
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Edward smirks, and it's pretty damn seductive. "My crotch is fine." Oh my God, I bet it is. I bet it is. "I bet is," I whisper. His smirk falls, but that seductive quality that was on his mouth just a second ago has suddenly transferred to his eyes. His eyes, those two emerald orbs, now hold a dark, provocative gleam that make the muscles in my body contract in a way I haven't felt in a long time. And he hasn't even touched me. "I couldn't forget your face," he says quietly. His voice is like velvet, soft and husky. It gives me good chills. "That night when you crawled into my bed and then ran out I may have dreamt about you." I gasp. "You dreamt about me that night?" "I'm not sure. Either I saw you in a dream or I couldn't get your face off my mind. All of your emotions show so clearly on your face It's easy to tell when you're thinking a sarcastic thought, or a rebellious one for that matter." "Yikes. Maybe I should work on that." Edward shakes his head. "No, that's what I like about you. You don't pretend, you let yourself feel. You're not one of those girls that lies and says 'I'm fine' when you're dying inside. You're honest and beautiful, inside and out."' Holy shit, he's right about the honesty part, anyway. His words make me feel all warm and fuzzy. "You're still a mystery to me," I admit. "I don't know anything about you." Edward looks down at our fingers. He strokes a circle on the back of my hand with his thumb. "There isn't anything you need to know about me." "Liar."
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He glances up at me, and he almost glares. "I mean it." "I don't believe that." He sighs and lets go of my hand, reaching up to rub both his hands over his face. "There isn't anything that matters. Trust me when I say that I am probably one of the least interesting people you will ever meet." "I don't believe that either." "Believe it." "You fascinate me." He stares at me. "Why?" I shrug. "You just do. There's something about you, something I can't put my finger on" He snorts. "Let me know when you find out what that is." I shake my head at him. "Are you always this cynical?" "Yes." Suddenly, the sound of a vacuum coming on makes the both of us jump. We look at each other in a "Who the hell is vacuuming at this time of night?" kind of way. The loud whirring comes closer to where we're sitting, so Edward hops onto his feet and holds his hand out for me. He pulls me up and then peeks around the corner to see if the coast is clear. "This way," he whispers, and he leads me by the hand and pulls me in the opposite direction of the sound. Edward expertly weaves through the maze of bookcases, all the while being absolutely silent on his feet. I, on the other hand, can't help but thump along loudly. Even my tip-toeing is loud. Eventually we make it into the main part of the library, and instead of taking me out the front, Edward takes me through another doorway all the way on the other
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side of the room. The door is almost hidden amongst the paneling of the wall, and it leads out into a hallway I have never been in before. "Where does this lead to?" I ask Edward in a whisper. "Nowhere in particular," he replies, smiling down at me. "It's just a shortcut to my floor. I used to sneak out of homeschooling this way when I was a boy." "You were homeschooled?" I ask in surprise. "Yes," Edward frowns. "I had never really been around other kids, other than my family and friends that is, until high school." "You went to some fancy academy didn't you?" Edward sighs. "Yep." He takes me out another doorway that opens onto his floor and just when we're approaching his door, my phone buzzes against my ass. "Sorry," I mumble to Edward, and I raise my brow at the screen when I see that it's Jacob calling. "Jake?" I answer. "You gotta come down to the break room," he says, and it sounds like he's in pain. "What happened?" I ask. I don't like the worried clench in my belly. "Just hurry," he says, and before he hangs up I hear crying in the background.

The break room is crowded and the loudest sound is of someone's heart-wrenching sobs. It's a girl, definitely, and everyone is huddled around her. Some even have tears falling down their cheeks. I swallow nervously as I push my way through them, only to freeze when I see that the crying girl is Alice. She is in Kate's arms and Kate is trying to console her.

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Kate has tears in her eyes and that's what scares the shit out of me. "What's wrong?" I ask in a shaky voice. Alice turns and sees me, and her face is red and splotchy from crying. She crashes into my arms and then she's sobbing on my shoulder, so hard that my body is shaking with hers. "Alice," I say a little firmly. "Damn, girl What the hell happened? Tell me. Come on babes, you're scaring me." "I got fired," she chokes out. My heart stops and I am in absolute disbelief. It can't be. No. It can't be. I look at Kate and the grim expression on her face tells all. "No!" I yell at Kate. "No, you can't do this to her!" "Isabella, please," Kate says, and she's all stern again. "This wasn't my decision." "But why?" I cry in despair. I hold Alice to me, as if I can protect her somehow, keep her with me. "What the hell did she do to get fired?" Alice pulls away from me and wipes her nose on her sleeve. "They found out," she whispers. "Found out...?" "Jasper." My jaw drops and I look from Alice to Jacob to Kate. They all wear expressions of sadness, but there's awe there as well. Holy fuck, it's true.
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I look at my best friend's face, and her tears are too much for me. She's being punished for following her heart, and that is just not fair. Luckily for her, I have connections.

I knock on Edward's door, loudly. He opens it and the look on his face is absolutely emotionless. It's strange, but I don't dwell on it. "I need your help," I tell him. He doesn't let me in, he just blinks. "I know about your friend." I stare at him. "You heard about Alice?" "Emmett told me a few minutes ago." I let out a relieved breath. "You can help her, right?" "No." His voice is flat and I furrow my brows at him. What the hell is wrong with him? "Why not?" I ask incredulously. "I take it you know about her and Jasper too?" "Yes." "Right, so don't you see how unfair it is? It's like you and me" Edward shakes his head and looks at my feet. "Bella" Oh no "What?" He sighs and looks me dead in the eyes. "Tell me," I say. He pauses before saying five words that, after everything, feel like a slap in the
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face: "We should just be friends."

EPOV Outtakes: The EPOV outtake "story", Royal Encounters, went up a few days ago. Check it out if you haven't already. :) Updates: We're going to have to wait a little longer for updates, because the schoolwork is piling up and I'm running out of pre-written chapters. I don't want to run out of chapters and then make you all wait for me to write another one. That could take a while and that would be suckish. Next Chapter: Sunday, March 27th

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Chapter 12
Thanks for all the lovely reviews! I know I'm epically fail at replying, but just know that I read ever single one... more than once. It's good motivation! Much love to Pinkaquaclouds for keeping my wordy butt in line.

Chapter 12- The Woes of Friendship "We should just be friends." Edward's eyes look dead and almost bored as he says it, and I can't do anything but stare at him. It's like he's just slapped me in the face, or punched me in the gut. He might as well have told me that he doesn't want to see me at all. He has just thrown the entire day out the window. All the talking and getting to know each other down the drain. "You want to tell me what brought this on?" I ask, and I'm trying really hard not to scream at him. "I don't have to," he says. "Yeah, you kinda do," I say angrily. "You can't just ask me twenty questions about my life, tell me to meet you in secret, kiss me, and then tell me you just want to be friends. There's a reason, and I deserve to know what it is." "Lower your voice." He throws a wary glance down the hallway. "Don't fucking tell me to lower my voice, Edward. I'm pissed because you're screwing around with me here." "And they say I'm the one with the temper," he says sarcastically. I clench my teeth and narrow my eyes at him. My hands are set on my hips, my fingers curled into fists, and the anger is the only thing that keeps me from crying at his stupidity. Edward's expression is still blank, but through the angry haze in front of my eyes I
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see something else in his. Unfortunately, I'm too pissed to care what it is. "Tell me why," I say again, and I'm calmer this time. Edward blinks and looks away. "It's late. You should go to bed." What the fuck "Are you serious right now?" I ask incredulously. A look of irritation crosses his face. "Goodnight, Bella. We'll talk later." And then he shuts the door in my face. I am seething. Who does he think he is? He can't just mess around with my emotions and then just blow me off. It doesn't make any sense. I know he wasn't faking how he feels about me, so why in the hell would he want to just stop seeing me? I stand outside his door for a while, just thinking things through. I don't feel like crying anymore, I'm just angry. I want to punch something, something hard, but I know that wouldn't be very good for my hand. I opt to take deep breaths and pace until I'm calm enough to talk to him. There's no way I'm going to let him pull that shit; it's not fair. I don't care if he's the prince; he's just another guy to me. Another special guy that thinks it's okay to use me and then throw me away. I am not okay with that. I pace for a long time but the more I think about Edward's words, the worse I feel. The only time I stop pacing is when Emmett steps out of the elevator and sees me. "What are you doing?" he asks stoically, walking over and standing in front of me. He's not cornering me in any way, but his posture is still authoritative. I wonder how much Emmett knows and then decide that since he's Edward's best friend, he knows enough. I don't think I need to be paranoid around him.
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"Pacing," I reply, monotone. "Well, not anymore, since you're obstructing my path." "Shouldn't you be with your friend?" he asks. "Why?" I'm suddenly on high alert. "Is she leaving already?" Alice is not supposed to leave until the morning. Emmett shakes his head. "No, but I'd think you'd be with her right now" I let out an exhausted breath and lean against the wall. "There's too much drama going on right now I'm not used to it and it's getting fucking ridiculous." Emmett raises a brow and slightly inclines his head towards Edward's door. "Drama?" I snort. "Everyone in this manor loves gossip." The corner of Emmett's mouth twitches up. "I don't need gossip, I need information. I am his bodyguard, after all. If he's done something that would make you want to hurt him, that's something I need to know." "For his protection?" "Precisely." "Well then, you might want to guard his door before I barge in and strangle him." Emmett's expression remains entirely serious. "You don't mean that." "Fine, I don't mean it. Still, I think he's being a complete douche." "Why?" Emmett only sounds mildly interested. I observe him for a second. "How much do you know?" Emmett's expression is completely impassive. "Everything." "You're kidding." The grim line of his mouth turns up into a small smile. "I know you've been seeing each other."
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"Not anymore." Both his brows shoot up. "No?" "No. He was fine today, meeting me in secret and shit, and now he just wants to be friends. Some bullshit, right?" Emmett purses his lips. "He didn't give you a reason?" "Why do you think I'm standing here?" "Huh. That is odd." "I'm waiting until I'm sure I won't smack him to try and talk to him again." Emmett shakes his head, almost in pity. "It's not going to work, kid. Not tonight. Edward's stubborn." "In case you haven't noticed, so am I." Emmett sighs. "Look, his personal life is none of my business so I can't promise to talk to him about this. But I can promise that if you wait around and he doesn't want you here, I'll have to drag you back to your room." I roll my eyes. "So what else is new?" "Go to your friend, Bella," Emmett says, but it's not an order. He says it as a casual suggestion. "She needs you more than Edward does."

Alice is sitting on her bed with her knees drawn up, staring at her packed suitcases. Silent tears run down her face and I am still not used to the sight. I immediately go and sit next to her, putting my arm over her shoulder and pulling her to me. Her silent tears become full-on, wracking sobs and it's all I can do to not start crying with her. I rest my chin on the top of her head. "Don't worry babes, we'll fix this somehow." "No," Alice sniffles. My shirt is getting wet with her tears. "Don't get into trouble for me."
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"It's not the end of the world," I tactfully evade the topic of my probable rebelliousness. "You can always get another job." "It's so hard to find a job out there. This one paid so, so well. It was almost easy for my mom to feed my younger brothers and sisters. I mean she barely gets paid anything as a waitress, and without me she might not be able to scrape by. Even with both of us working at the diner." "You're going to be fine," I try and reassure her, but my own words sound false to my ears. Deep down, I'm angry. They can't fire her for falling in love, it's complete bullshit. If Edward can't do anything, then maybe I can convince Kate to do something "Hey, Alice? Who fired you, exactly? If it wasn't Kate" Alice wipes her nose on her sleeve. "Kate's the one that gave me the news, but she said her boss- whoever her boss is- was told by some anonymous person that I was seen with Jasper. Kate called me in and I just couldn't lie to her. They brought Jasper in and just the look on his face it gave everything away." "Jasper didn't get them to keep you?" I ask her. Jasper is an ass if he didn't defend her. "No, he did! He tried, he tried so hard. He was practically yelling at Kate and then he went and talked to whoever Kate works for, but it didn't work. It didn't work, Bella." She says the last sentence in a sob and all I can do is hold her. "This isn't over, Alice. This isn't over."

I pound on Kate's door until I hear her voice telling me to come in. When I enter her little office, I see that she is on the phone. She doesn't even look at me. "Yes, she is, but Yes sir, always. But why can't we? All right. Yes sir. Thank you." She hangs the phone up with a slam and puts her face in her hands. I stand there awkwardly but she doesn't acknowledge me at all. Finally, with a sigh, she drops her hands and looks up at me tiredly. I know Kate must be in her late thirties, but in this moment she looks much, much older.
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"I'm trying," she tells me quietly. Her voice is the softest I've ever heard it. "I don't exactly have the power to un-fire someone. I don't think it's possible for me to do." I cross my arms over my chest. "Who's your boss?" "I was hired by Aro Volturi. He, along with his brother, is in charge of the entire staff at the manor." "Does he live here?" "No." "So there's absolutely nothing we can do for Alice?" I'm clinging to just a little piece of hope, hope that's starting to slip from in between my fingers. Kate sighs heavily. "At the moment, no." "Kate, they can't do this to her. They just can't. It's not fair. She's in love- big goddamn deal! It doesn't affect her job!" "It's against the rules," Kate replies tiredly. "Screw the rules! It's fucking bullshit, Kate. What if their relationship doesn't work out? She would be losing her job for nothing. She's got a family to help take care of." "I am well aware of the circumstances, Bella." It's the first time Kate's used my nickname, and I'm momentarily surprised. "I have tried everything in my power to do what I can, but they won't hear excuses." The despair is starting to creep up my chest. "There has to be something. There has to be a court system of some kind, they have to hear her out. Did this Aro guy even talk to her?" Kate shakes her head and the anger in me swells again. "Give me Aro's number, I'll tell him exactly what to shove up his ass," I hiss. "Seriously, what are his digits?" Kate gives me a look like I'm insane. "Absolutely not. I appreciate your concern but there's nothing you can do. There's nothing more I can do, either."
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"Who, then? Who can make a difference? Who does Aro answer to?" Kate shakes her head like she's trying to remember. "The king, I suppose, but" "But what? Does he know what's going on here?" "I'm not sure." I sigh in frustration and sit in the seat on the other side of Kate's desk. I feel completely and utterly helpless, and I hate feeling this way. I'm not used to it. "Don't they realize it's not the middle ages?" I ask, more to myself than to Kate. "We're living in the 21st century." I put my face in my hands. "Why are they still thinking like it's back in the day?" "Tradition," is Kate's monotone reply. I shake my head. "Fuck tradition. It's about to break."

When I go back to my bedroom, Alice is lying in her bed. She stares straight up at the ceiling, eyes blank. I pull my shoes off and climb under the covers with her, still in my jeans and sweatshirt. It's not like it matters. Alice puts her head on my shoulder and I wrap my arms around her until there isn't a part of my body that isn't touching hers. Had it been any other night, I would have made some perverted joke about our position. But now, nothing is funny. Everything is just dark. "Bella." Alice's voice is quiet but that one word is filled with so much emotion that I know what she really wants to say but can't. I'm going to miss you. Thanks for being a great friend. I love you.

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"I love you too, babes," I whisper, and she snuggles in closer. It's like I'm holding my little sister, even though Alice is older than me. I hold her until three in the morning, when she finally falls asleep.

I awake with a start in the morning. My hand goes to my left but the bed is cold. I lift my head up and look around the room. My own bed is just as I left it the night before- untouched. Alice's suitcases are gone. I start to panic just a little bit and I only spend another five minutes in my room, mainly to brush my teeth and change out of the jeans. I opt for sweatpants and another gray sweatshirt, not really caring because it's a Sunday and it's a day off. I leave my bedroom and head straight for the basement. I enter the break room and ask random people if they've seen Alice. The answer is always no. I sit down on one of the couches and wonder if she really just left without saying goodbye. Then again, our little moment the night before was probably enough of a goodbye for the both of us. Still, I can't help the depression that I feel. Alice was such a good friend; she made life in the manor not so bad. Most of the other workers adored her, too. She was the light in my life in this place. Now it's like I have no light at all.

I don't know what to do with the rest of my day off. I mostly just hang out with Jacob. We take comfort in the presence of each other, both of us depressed over the loss of the third part of our trio. The weather seems to be mocking us; it's too sunny to match our moods. After lunch we stretch out across one of the fields in the Garfield. The sun is warm on our faces but there's a nice breeze. It's almost too easy to fall asleep. "Do you plan on spending the rest of your life here?" Jacob asks. He lies next to me, his arms bent behind his head.
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I have to think about his question before answering, and Edward comes to mind. I honestly don't know where I'm going with him. Our "relationship" is all over the place. He's so bipolar that it drives me crazy. Do I care about him? I might. Does he care about me? Seems like it. Can I live without him? I believe that I can, but it'll be a boring, miserable life. "I'm not sure," I answer Jacob's question. "I can't wait to haul ass," he replies. "This isn't how I wanted my life to go." "Where did you want your life to go?" Jacob sits up and peers down at me, shrugging. "Anywhere but here. I like playing with cars, putting them together and taking them apart. I wanted to have my own auto shop, and then expand into my own business. That was the plan, anyway, until my dad got into the accident. He couldn't work anymore, and I had to help out." "Dropped out of school?" "Yeah. I'm not smart enough for a scholarship and we couldn't pay otherwise So I had to work." "Why didn't you go to work somewhere else?" "No one pays like the manor does. You know that." He's right. The pay at the manor is pretty generous, but no one knows that unless they start working here. I have a decent amount of money in my bank account now, especially since I don't have to pay bills or anything, but it still isn't enough to get me an apartment and put me in school. If something does end up happening between me and Edward, I still don't know if I'd want to stay in the manor. It would complicate a lot of things. Hell, who am I kidding? Things are already complicated.
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"Run away with me." Jacob's voice is so quiet I can barely hear it over the wind. My eyes, which were closed against the sun, spring open and then squint when I'm blinded. I sit up and face him. "What?" He shrugs. "We could work out, the two of us." I blink at him, knowing that my expression is one of incredulity. "Jake" His expression becomes earnest and he scoots closer. "Think about it." He gestures emphatically with his hands. "With your money and my money, we could get somewhere. Get our own apartment or something, be roommates. We don't have to play by anyone's rules but our own." "Where is this coming from?" "I've just been thinking I'm sick and tired of being told what to do all the time, I don't feel like an adult. I don't feel like an independent person, and I always have been." "Jake, you're always going to be told what to do. Especially if you're working at a minimum wage job. Even if you're the owner of some big auto shop, you're always going to have to answer to someone." Jacob's shoulders slump and he looks at me like I've just crushed his dreams. Hell, I probably have. "It's just reality," I tell him apologetically. Jacob sighs. "Still. I'm kind of sick of this place. I want to be around my dad. I worry about him." His expression becomes sad and it's my natural inclination to lean over and hug him. He doesn't hesitate in wrapping his arms around me. He holds me tight and the hug feels nice. We're not just hugging because of Jacob's woes. We're hugging because it's the only way to express that we're here for each other in shitty times. I glance across the Garfield over Jake's shoulder and see a figure watching us from the stables. He leans against the wall of the stables, hands in the pockets of his pants, head leaned back. His expression is somber and I wonder why he's standing
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there. Edward doesn't move at all. He's still as a statue. I don't know how long he's been standing there, watching us. The thought gives me goose bumps. I am so busy staring at Edward stare at me that I don't realize I have been holding Jake for longer than would be appropriate. He doesn't seem to care though, seeing as he presses a kiss to the top of my head and starts rocking us back and forth. That's when Edward finally moves. He straightens up and walks back toward the manor. Even from the distance I can tell that his posture is a little tense, his steps robotic, back rigid. His hands are curled into fists. Oh boy, did I just make him jealous? The thought amuses me. Serves him right. I pull away from Jake and he smiles down at me, radiant. Oh God, I hope I'm not giving him the wrong impression I push back and stand up, brushing my sweats with my hands. I probably have grass strains. Jacob stands up and holds his hand out to me but I just squeeze it before letting go. Yeah, definitely gave him the wrong idea Jake shrugs it off and we start walking to the manor together. Of course my thoughts are on Edward the entire way there. When we reach the back entrance that goes into the basement, I turn to Jacob. "I'm gonna go crash for a bit. See you around, right?" Jake can tell that I just want to get away from him for a while, but he doesn't complain. He hugs me again- he's so touchy today- and then walks away. I sigh and head towards the kitchens, deciding to pay my dad a visit. I only ever get to see him on Sundays. They don't let me into the kitchen any other day because it's too busy and everyone in the manor knows how I'm a klutz.
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The kitchen is fairly empty on Sundays, but it's always in action. Charlie is explaining something to a young chef, probably teaching him how to do something, so I wait patiently. Once he's done he gives the young man a pat on the shoulder and then turns to me. His entire face lights up and I can't help but return the grin. "Dear father of mine," I say, giving him a hug. "How's it goin'?" "Same as always," he sighs, and he looks tired. I have to admit though, he looks a lot healthier than he did before we moved in to the manor. "I heard about Alice. You doin' okay?" I shrug half-heartedly and stare at a shiny pot hanging above the counter. "I'm okay. I'll miss her, but" "I can't believe she'd be so irresponsible," he mutters, and my eyes snap to him. He has a disapproving frown on his face. "Irresponsible?" I echo. "Alice is a sweetheart, but going after royalty? Not exactly the smartest thing to do." His words rub me the wrong way, especially since Edward flits to my mind again. "Dad, you can't help who you fall in love with." Charlie snorts, hands on his hips. He looks impressive in his chef's uniform. "Love? That wasn't love, that was just a crush. I don't blame here, either. Sir Jasper is a wealthy, handsome young man. What girl wouldn't want to go after that?" I'm shaking my head. "Dad, it wasn't just some silly crush, okay? It was more than that and it cost Alice her job, which wasn't fair." "I don't see how it's not fair. It was an affair, Bella." I huff, starting to get irritated. My dad is not getting it. What would he say if he knew about me and Edward? Would he tell me I'm stupid, too? "It's not an affair if he's single," I point out. Holy crap, I'm having an affair with the prince! Well was.
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"Regardless," Charlie says, and his voice is stern all of a sudden. "Just because she had feelings for him, doesn't mean she should have tried anything. She forgot her place, and that's the problem." My jaw drops. "Have you been brainwashed?" He gives me a disapproving look. "Don't be ridiculous." "Sure sounds like it." "Look, the people in this manor work too hard to mess around. Once you lose track of your responsibilities, you find yourself unemployed. That's exactly what happened." "She didn't lose track of her responsibilities. She still did an awesome job. The problem is that she got caught." Charlie makes a "humph" sound, an indication that I have won the argument. "I'll see you later, okay?" I decide to leave him sooner than I usually would, mainly because arguing with him about the Alice thing is wearing me out. I know I feel extremely defensive, but it's because Alice is my bestie and because I'm doing the same thing she did. The only difference is that I didn't get caught and that Edward ended our shenanigans. When I leave the kitchen I take my sweet time going up to my room. There's still a good deal of the day left, but I don't know what to do with it. Truth is, I don't want to do anything with it. Just for the sake of walking, I take the long way to my room. Instead of just taking the elevator up to my floor, I walk up the stairs and onto the first floor, which is practically abandoned at this point in the afternoon and because of what day it is. The front hall, where the masquerade ball took place, is empty and cold again. I don't bother trying to admire the pillars or windows. I walk up the grand staircase to the second floor, and it reminds me of the last time Edward blew me off. It was after we wrote all those letters to each other, and I ran into him and he told me that they meant nothing.
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Asshole. Once I reach my floor, I run my fingers along the wall as I walk. The paneled wood is smooth beneath my fingers. I freeze when I find that my door is ajar. I'm pretty sure I shut it all the way; I always do. I peek in and am surprised to find Edward standing at my window, gazing out. His hands are in his pockets (as usual), his sleeves are rolled up (as usual), and his hair is a tousled mess (as usual). I watch him silently for a few moments before deciding to make my presence known. I step in and shut the door behind me. "You know, just cause you're a prince, doesn't mean you can just trespass into other peoples' rooms." He jumps slightly when I speak and then whirls around, his lean body relaxing when he sees that it's just me. He composes his features to look indifferent. He's good at it. "You shouldn't leave your door unlocked," he says, monotone. "The door doesn't even have a lock." He blinks at me and then glances at the doorknob. "I'll do something about that." I cross my arms over my chest. "You don't need to do anything for me, Edward." He looks at my face, but his expression is still blank. "I know." I run a hand through my hair, a habit I undoubtedly picked up from him. "What do you want?" He leans against the wall across from me, and it's amazing how the smallest things he does can make me stop and stare. "To talk," he replies. I laugh bitterly. "Oh, now you want to talk? I thought you just wanted to be
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friends." He raises his brows. "Friends talk." "I know you don't want to talk about being friends." "You're right." "Then what do you want from me? You can't just screw around with me for a few days, tell me you like me, fucking kiss me, and then tell me you want to be friends, only to come back and tell me you want to 'talk'. What the hell are you doing?" His jaw clenches. "I don't know." "Look, I'll admit that I don't exactly know what I'm doing, either. But I do know that, for some crazy reason, I've developed feelings for you. I'm not going to lie to myself. I thought you felt the same, but you keep giving me all these mixed signals" I trail off and give him an exasperated look. Edward's expression is intense, his eyes focused on my face. He pushes himself off the wall and walks over to me, slowly. "I didn't mean to give you mixed signals," he says. "I'm just torn." "Between what?" "Right and wrong." "Am I the wrong?" "Yes, but in all the right ways." He's standing inches away from me now, towering over me so I have to look up. Hmm wrong in all the right ways I think I like that. "You're really bipolar," I whisper. His jaw is so close, I can almost lick it. The ghost of a smile crosses his lips. "Bipolar?" "Yeah, like two seconds ago you were all intense and now you're trying not to laugh."
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His smirk falls. "And now you're expressionless again." He snorts and shakes his head. "You're really something." I look away from his face before I give in to the urge to kiss him. I remind myself that I'm mad at him for screwing around with my emotions. "You said you wanted to talk," I say. "So talk." He lets out a breath and it caresses my face. I close my eyes. "Well, I wanted to apologize, first of all," he says. "I know that I shouldn't have strung you along with me like that, only to shut the door in your face. Literally. It was rude of me." "Damn straight." "Secondly, I need you to tell me something." I glance up at him, curious. He's looking in my eyes like he's searching for something. Then, he reaches up and runs his finger up and down my jaw. It sends the most delicious shivers down my entire body. I can feel the tingles again, starting at my face and ending right at the pit of my stomach. "You feel that, don't you?" he whispers. "I feel it, too. In my fingers." "It's weird," I mumble. "But you like it." "Yeah. It's different." "Like nothing we've felt." "Exactly." He drops his hand. "It scared me, when Alice lost her job. I didn't want that to happen to you, too, if anyone found out." "So you panicked and decided to just be friends? Why didn't you just say you
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didn't want to see me anymore?" His still-intense gaze holds mine. "Because that would be a lie, and because I need to have some link to you. I can't just let you go altogether. Pretend like nothing ever happened. I tried and failed." "So you settled for friends?" "Yes." "But wouldn't that hurt more?" "I'd rather feel pain than nothing at all." I stare at him, thinking how much I agree. He's such a mystery, but then again he's not. "You changed your mind then?" I ask. "About being friends?" "I want more." He says it like he's hungry. "More" "More. "More?" He sighs, frustrated. "More. Extra. Beyond what we already have." "We don't have much." "Then let's make more." Lets' make love No, dammit. I take a step back, taking a deep breath. "Okay. You say you want more, but what if you change your mind again? What if you blow me off again? I don't know if I can trust you." He takes both my hands in his. "Trust me. Please."
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I eye him skeptically. "Why should I?" "Because I always mean what I say." "You said you just wanted to be friends. Clearly you don't." "I meant that. I really did mean that we should be friends. We should, doesn't mean we will." "Clever." He leans his head down so that he's eye level with me. "Give me another chance. I want to go somewhere with this, even though I know I'm being selfish. If it's what you want, then tell me." "It is what I want," I say honestly. "So you'll give me another shot?" I smile. "Why the hell not?" He grins and once again I am reminded of a normal twenty-something year old guy. Still, I'm caught off guard when he takes my face in his hands and crushes our mouths together. His lips are pressed so hard against my mouth that I can barely feel my lips. His own are aggressive, hungry, and I can't help but return it. Both of us jump apart when there is a loud gasp, followed by a thud. I push away from Edward and whirl towards the door. Jacob. He watches us with his mouth agape, my phone at his feet. What is it doing there? I realize that I must have left it somewhere, but that's not my concern. Oh crap, we just got caught! "Jake," I gasp his name and he looks between me and Edward. Edward is eying Jacob warily, like he's afraid he might run off and tell our secret.
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Hell, I'm scared of the same thing. "Hoooly fuck," Jake says. "Holy, holy, holy fuck." "You saw nothing," Edward's voice is firm as he looks at Jacob. Jacob nods before backing away and then turning on his heel and scurrying away. Holy fuck is right.

EPOV: The second EPOV outtake went up recently. It's about the soup on Princeward's crotch. ;) Next Chapter: Thursday, April 7th

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Chapter 13
Thank you all for being so patient. I appreciate it a hell of a lot! Thanks for all the reviews as well; you're all too awesome! :) Thanks to Pinkaquaclouds for getting me out of my writer's block and for making sure my chapters are coherent.

Chapter 13 - Crushed That same day, I know I have to talk to Jacob about what he saw. I need to make it absolutely clear that he not say a word about me and Edward. Jacob's room is in the basement, in a hallway of rooms that looks like part of an apartment building. I knock on his door, which he shares with that gossipy douche, Jared. The door opens and Jacob barely looks at me before he grabs my arm and pulls me inside, shutting the door with a slam. "Ow, what the hell, Jake?" I say, rubbing where he had grabbed my arm. "You and the prince?" he says incredulously, his back to the door. "I mean what how what? Bella!" I let out a long breath and sit down on his messy bed with my elbows on my knees. "It's actually a really, really long story." Jake starts pacing. "I swear, every girl in this manor is going insane. First Alice, now you Are you trying to lose your job?" "I'm not going to lose my job," I say firmly. "Not over this." Jacob laughs bitterly and stops pacing. "Oh, right. You won't lose your job because you're seeing the prince. He's more important than his cousin, after all." "Oh, stop." I'm starting to get irritated. "That's not why." "Then why, Bells? Why would you want to risk it?"
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I don't know how to explain to Jacob how I feel about Edward. I don't know how to explain how a little crush on a prince has turned into something stronger. How the initial intrigue about this mysterious person has turned into a fascination with who he really is. "You care about him?" Jake asks when I don't respond. "Of course," my answer is automatic. "I don't fuck around with guys for the fun of it." "Is it even worth it? Especially after the whole Alice thing?" "Yes, it's worth it," I say angrily. I hate the judgmental looks I'm getting. "He is worth it. What happened to Alice is not going to happen to me because I won't let them fire me over liking someone." "I don't think you have that kind of power, Bella." "Well, I'm not going to leave without a fight, and I know Edward's going to have my back." Jacob laughs again, but it's still a sound laced with resentment. "Oh, so he's Edward now? That's just awesome. How long have you two been screwing each other?" I'm on my feet, ready to leave. "Stop being such an ass, Jacob. I didn't come here to be interrogated. And for the record, we haven't been screwing. What the fuck kind of person do you think I am?" Jake shakes his head. "I really don't know anymore." "Why are you so pissed off?" "Because you're risking everything!" he whisper-yells. "This is stupid, Bella. It's stupid. What if people find out? Not only will you lose your job, but you'll be all over the news." Yikes. I didn't think about that. "I'm not worrying about later, Jake. I'm focused on right now." "Now is going to screw you over; have you even thought about what you're
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doing?" Not really "Of course I have! I haven't gone into this blindly, okay? I know what I'm doing." "Yeah, you're doing what every girl in the country wants to do. Lucky you." "This isn't just some lusty crush, Jacob! What part of that don't you get?" "I don't get why you'd want to be so damn reckless!" I take a deep breath, reigning in the anger. "Listen," I say quietly. "I came here to tell you to keep your mouth shut about this, okay?" Jake shrugs without looking at me. I feel the panic well up. "Jacob, you can't. You can't." His expression is stoic. "I won't." I don't believe him for some reason. "Promise me." He hesitates. "I promise." "Let me see your fingers." "What?" "Hold up your hands and swear that you won't tell a soul." I want to make sure he doesn't cross his fingers. Jake gives me a funny look but holds his hands up and says, "I swear." I relax just a little. "Okay. Good." Jacob is shaking his head at me. "What?" "He's engaged."
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I cross my arms and look away. "I know." "The engagement party is this weekend." Fuck, so soon? "I know." "You do realize you're having an affair" "Yeah, I do!" I snap. "I'm well aware, thanks." Jake sighs, exasperated. "Then why are you doing it?" I shake my head. "You wouldn't understand." He takes a step towards me. "Then explain it to me." "I can't." "Why?" "I don't know how." "So try." "I'd rather not." "Bella," Jake whispers my name and the look in his eyes is sad, forlorn. Before I even know what he's doing, he's taken my face in his hands and kissed me. I am so stunned that I don't move, but he mistakes my lack of resistance for interest so he tries to slide his tongue in between my lips. I push him away and wipe my mouth. "Jacob! What the hell!" He looks absolutely humiliated and I almost feel bad for him. "Sorry," he mumbles.
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"What was that?" Jacob looks at the floor. "Never mind, just Forget I did that." I'm still a little bit in shock so it takes me a moment to react when he walks over to the door and holds it open. Without a word, I leave.

My mind is spinning when I get back to my room, and I want to see Edward again. It's almost dinnertime, but I don't have an appetite in the slightest. I sit on my bed and toy with my phone, wondering if I should call him. Not long after I left, he got a phone call and left me with a kiss that left me reeling. I lick my lips, but I don't like how they taste. They taste like Jacob. I want them to taste like Edward. I look over at Alice's bed. It looks so cold and empty; it doesn't belong in the rest of the room. The more I look at it, the sadder I feel. I wish she was here so that we could talk about the Jacob situation. I had a feeling that Jacob liked me as more than just a friend, it was pretty obvious, but I didn't think he'd go so far as to kiss me. Then again, it was my fault for leading him on, especially in the Garfield. "Ugh, shit is getting too complicated," I mumble to myself, putting my head in my hands. I want to talk to Edward about everything; I want to spend more time with him. I've lost Alice and now my friendship with Jacob can't be the same anymore. My dad has been getting on my nerves lately, too. Edward is the only person that I can turn to, and even he is off doing prince things. He doesn't have too much time on his hands. Jacob's comment about the engagement party coming up next weekend scares me
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a little. Why hasn't Edward called it off yet? We need to talk very, very soon. You want to meet up somewhere whenever you're free? Wanna talk to you. B I sigh and set my phone down, deciding to just change into my PJs for the night. Twenty minutes pass, and I get no reply. I reach under my bed and pull out the book of Austen compilations that Edward had let me borrow all those weeks ago. It feels like ages ago that I was a blubbering servant around him. Now I'm What am I, anyway? Girlfriend? For now I'm the Other Woman, and that shouldn't be the case. I pick up my phone and glance at it. No new messages. I wonder what Edward's doing, and why he hasn't replied. I don't let it bother me, though. I flip through the book some more, trying to calm my impatient self. The more I'm left alone, the more I think and the more I think, the more I worry about the small, insignificant things. I get restless so I stand up and start pacing with the phone in my hand. Once my legs get tired I lie down again. I'm starting to wonder if Edward even got my text at all. I don't think he'd ignore me on purpose. He's probably just busy with stuff. He is the prince after all, and even though he doesn't have any political responsibilities (as of yet), he's got important things to do. I don't even know what those important things are. I end up going to bed and turning the lights out, giving up on the day. Edward will reply if he wants to, or when he's available.
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I'm half asleep when my phone buzzes, and it makes me jump. It's a phone call from Edward. "Hey, you." My voice is thick with disuse. "Bella," Edward sounds like he's smiling. "Where are you?" "In bed" Care to join me, you sexy beast? "Sorry I couldn't reply earlier. I was, uh, taking care of something" My mind flits to Tanya, and I wonder if he's broken the engagement off. If it's a royal wedding, it might be a longer process. "So the engagement's off?" Edward doesn't respond for a while and I think he's hung up on me. Before I can ask if he's still there, he speaks. "No," he says quietly. "Oh" We fall into a silence and I wonder why this is an awkward topic for us. It shouldn't even be a topic. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about, actually." "Oh yeah?" "Yeah" "Are you sure you want to talk about it tonight?" My brows furrow."What's wrong with tonight?" "Well" He trails off and it's quiet again. "What?" I ask again, highly curious. "I don't want us talking about something like the engagement when you find out what I've been taking care of tonight."
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"Tell me." "It's a surprise." "I don't like surprises." Edward chuckles. "Who doesn't like surprises?" "Me." "Of course." SLAM! "Shitfuck!" I shout, and I'm suddenly attacked by someone. "Bella? What is it?" Edward is freaking out. The person on top of me is squealing and OHMYFUCKINGGOD. "Alice?" I say in disbelief. She straddles me and I see her face dimly illuminated by the light coming from the hallway outside my open door. Edward laughs on the other side of the phone. "I'll talk you to tomorrow, Bella. You girls have a good night." "What- how- what- what- fuck" I'm sputtering, in absolute shock, and if anyone saw Alice bouncing up and down on me like this, they'd get the wrong idea. "It's really you!" I shriek, sitting up and hugging her tightly. Alice starts talking in high speed. "I was being taken to the train station for the ride home but then the driver got a call to bring me back. By that time we were like halfway through Washington already and they didn't take me to the manor, they took me somewhere else, another mansion type of building, only much smaller and Kate was there with some man named Aro and they sat me down and asked me stuff about Jasper and then we all came back to the manor and went in through a secret doorway or something and then Edward was there, and so was the king!"
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Alice takes a big deep breath as I desperately try to process all that information. "I got my job back, Bella!" I blink at her. "No way." She nods enthusiastically and clambers off of me. I reach over and turn the lamp on. "It was thanks to Edward," she says, smiling softly. "He fought hard for me. Apparently he went to the king, who knew nothing about me and Jasper, and they both agreed that it was unfair. They then sent Kate to talk to Aro in person while I was brought back and when he wouldn't give in they brought me to his house instead of the manor. He interrogated me and when Kate called the king and told him that Aro wasn't giving in, he made us all come back to the manor, which is where I found out that it was Edward's demands that were being met." Alice lets out a phew sound and collapses next to me. "Wow," is all I'm able to say. "It just took twenty-four hours." "Amazing, right? When Edward really wants something, people listen." I nudge her shoulder. "He's Edward to you now, huh?" Alice smiles at me. "He told me to call him that. It was weird at first, but I don't know I think we're like friends now." I grin at her. "I'm glad. And I'm glad you're back; I missed you." Alice sighs. "I missed you, too." Her smile fades and a wrinkle appears in between her brows. "What's up?" "There was a condition," she mumbles, playing with a loose string in my comforter. "For getting your job back?" She nods silently, and I immediately know what the condition is.
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"Oh, crap They want you to stay away from Jasper, don't they?" Alice nods again, staring at the ceiling. The joyful atmosphere of the room has faded and died as quickly as it came. "That's such bull," I say irritably. "It completely contradicts the reason you've been brought back- unfairness." "I know," Alice says quietly. "And neither Edward nor Jasper could do anything about that?" Alice shakes her head. "There's only so much they could do. Getting them to bring me back and meet Aro in person, along with the king God, that was huge." I reach over and give Alice a hug. "Well, who says you can't still see Jasper in secret?" Alice bites her lip. "Oh Bella, I don't think I should." I raise a brow at her. "You did it before." "Yeah, and I got caught and it was a pain in the ass to get me back. If I see Jasper in person it would completely throw away all that he and Edward did to rehire me. I don't want to risk it." I think for a moment. "Alice, do you know who ratted you out?" She shrugs. "Obviously they're going to keep it anonymous. I can't help but think there's a spy in the manor, watching us to make sure we know our place." A spy in the manor? The thought makes me very, very uncomfortable. "There are cameras all over the place," I point out. "Are you sure you weren't caught by one?" Alice shakes her head. "Jasper knows blind spots." He ain't the only one "We were super careful. When Kate fired me she told me that someone came forward" "That makes me nervous."
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"How are things between you and Edward, by the way?" Alice changes the subject with a soft smile. "You guys are being careful, right?" For a second I think she's talking about sex. Damn that dirty mind of mine. "We're actually really good," I tell her. "Complicated, but good." "It was easy as breathing with Jasper," Alice whispers. "Effortless I miss him." Her eyes glaze over with tears but I quickly hold her. "Alice, no more tears," I say softly. "I think you're going to dehydrate yourself." "It's so hard being away from him," her voice cracks. "So, so hard" I sigh and hold her tighter. "I know." I decide to distract her with my latest piece of gossip. "Dude, guess what," I say. "Jacob kissed me!" Alice's jaw drops. "No way!" "Way!" "Tell me everything." The rest of the night feels just like old times.

Time seems to fly by the closer the weekend gets. I see less and less of Edward every day, and I don't know where he goes or what he's doing. My biggest fear is that he's helping out with the preparations for the engagement party, which shouldn't even be happening in the first place. The upcoming engagement party also means more work at the manor, and it means I have to spend more time with Rosalie. On Monday, I end up cleaning Rosalie's entire suite with Victoria. Once we come back from lunch, she wants us to reorganize all the damn clothes in her closet, this time putting all the fancier clothes nearer because of the party. That alone takes
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hours and by the time we're done it's dinnertime. I call Edward but it goes straight to voicemail. I really want to talk to him about this stupid engagement. "Hey," I say in my message. I'm lying in bed. "I haven't seen you since yesterday morning. I know you're busy, but we really need to talk about this weekend. You're not going through with the engagement, are you? Well if you can't come see me or if you're too busy or whatever, just call or text me. This is important. Um, bye." An hour later, I am still lying awake when I get his text: I'm working on it, I promise. E Well, that's reassuring.

On Tuesday, I still haven't seen him. Kate tells me that he isn't even in Washington State. Bastard didn't tell me he was leaving! I leave him another message: "Hi. So, you're not in Washington anymore? You could have told me you were leaving I don't mean to sound like a clingy girlfriend or whatever, but it's kind of scary that Saturday is coming and you're about to make this engagement official in front of, what? Hundreds? So call me or something? Okay bye." I am scrubbing a toilet in a guest bedroom when he calls. "Hey!" I say a little too enthusiastically. "Bella, hey," he says, and he sounds exhausted. I can hear the sound of cars honking behind him and the wind blowing. "Where are you?" I ask, glancing towards the door. I'm not supposed to use my phone while working but fuck if I care. I missed the sound of his voice. "Vermont," he replies, monotone. Shit that's where Tanya's from. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was leaving," he continues, sounding stressed. "Everything's just been so hectic, and I was dragged to Vermont at the last minute."
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"Do you think we can talk about it now?" I ask. Edward hesitates. "Not now; I just wanted to give you a call." I huff impatiently. "Edward, the days are flying by." "I know that," he says, matching my irritated tone with his own. "I'm working on it." "That's what you told me yesterday." "It can't be changed in twenty-four hours." "Yes, it can," I argue. "Just say, 'I don't like you, Tanya, the engagement is over' and we'll be fine." "Bella, it doesn't work like that." "Then explain it to me." He's quiet again. "It's complicated." I snort. "Please, complicated is my middle name now." He doesn't respond and I hear him say something to someone. "No," I hear him snap to whomever. "I tried that already and it didn't work. Think of something better." A few seconds later he's talking to me again, "Listen, Bella, I have to go. I promise I'll do something about this weekend and I'll talk to you soon." "Okay," I say quietly. "When will you be back?" "I'm not sure, tomorrow night or Thursday at the latest." My shoulders slump."Gotcha." "I miss you." My heart melts. "I miss you, too."
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I hear Emmett's voice and then Edward says, "Don't be inappropriate." It makes me giggle. "Bye, Bella," Edward says softly, and he hangs up before I can say anything else.

Edward doesn't come back on Wednesday. The engagement party is three days away and they have started decorating the front hall again. I'm supposed to help and it pisses me off to hang fucking vines from the ceiling, knowing that it's for an engagement party in which my man is involved- without me. Alice shares my distress, and her mood has not been any better than the night she came back. She hasn't seen Jasper in a while, but she's always glued to her phone so I know she still talks to him. I'd be texting Edward all the time too, if I didn't know he was busy. Wednesday night, the panic is starting to set in. The Denalis are coming over for dinner tomorrow night, and I'm supposed to be serving. If the dinner actually happens, that means that things with the engagement must be pretty damn final. I'm hoping that Edward will pull through the day of the dinner, before the chefs start cooking. Because once the chefs get cooking, a dinner must happen.

I am on edge on Thursday. Edward hasn't replied to any of my texts and when I called it went straight to voicemail both times. I'm nervous as hell, and I hate feeling so worried. If Edward actually goes through with the engagement, I'll doubt his feelings for me. What can possibly be so difficult that he can't just call it off? I'm assuming that the problem is trying to find a good excuse without revealing our relationship, but why can't he just say that he's fallen out of love with Tanya, or never loved her at all? That, at least, would be something of the truth. I expect to see Edward at some point before the dinner, but he's still a no-show.

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I can barely eat breakfast or lunch, and when 5pm rolls around, the Denalis arrive. I am not there to see them, but I can hear Tanya's obnoxious hyena laugh from the kitchen, which is just off the parlor. That's where they all sit and chat before going into the dining room for dinner. Once we servants start lining up to head into the dining room, I am feeling the same nervous butterflies I felt the first time I had to serve Edward. This time, it's worse. We have practiced the serving, and I know for a fact that I am serving Mrs. Denali. At first I was glad that I wouldn't have to serve Edward or Tanya, but that means that I will have to stand directly across from them. If I was serving either of them, I wouldn't be in sight. I am handed a dish and the doors to the dining room open. I feel like throwing up. We enter and my eyes fall on Edward for the first time in days. His green eyes meet mine immediately and he has shadows under them. The corner of his mouth twitches up just a little bit, and it's a silent greeting. I return my own little twitch. Tanya is watching me as well, her eyes cold and narrowed. She glances at Edward, who is right next to her, but thankfully he has directed his gaze elsewhere. I place my dish right in front of Mrs. Denali, who sits across from Tanya and next to Queen Esme. The other people at the table- the king, Tanya's father, brother, Jasper and Rosalie fade into the background for me. I step back with the lid of the dish in my hands, still feeling uneasy. Tanya isn't watching me anymore. She looks bored and is poking at her food with her nose wrinkled. It's so childish. Edward is speaking to his father and Mrs. Denali, but his eyes glance over to me every few seconds. I can't keep my eyes off him for too long, either. Edward seems tense. His movements are very stiff and robotic, and when he eats he chews slowly, methodically. It's almost automatic, and I can only imagine the numbers of tedious dinners he's had to attend. I glance over at Tanya and she catches me staring. I immediately blush but I don't lose eye contact with her. Her eyes narrow again and she gives me a slight sneer before flipping her hair over her shoulder and saying something to Rosalie, who sits
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next to her. Rosalie looks at me, expressionless, and then says something to Tanya, who rolls her eyes. I feel highly uncomfortable. It's like I'm being talked about in a high school classroom and it's a feeling I despise. I focus my attention elsewhere, like on the other people at the table. Jasper is deep in discussion with Mr. Denali and Tanya's brother, whose name I don't know. He's fairly handsome, but he has a bad case of acne. I get the signal from the lead server that we should take the dishes away and go get the next course. I keep my eyes down as I cover Mrs. Denali's dish and pick it up, but I can tell Edward's watching me. When I glance up, he looks away and Tanya whispers something in his ear to which his jaw clenches. He smiles stiffly at her and that's all I can see before I head into the kitchen. When I'm out of the dining room, I take a deep breath. Some of the chefs replace the empty plates with new ones and before I know it I am heading back into the dining room. When I approach Mrs. Denali, I almost trip on the rug, but regain my balance just in time. The only people that notice are Edward, Tanya, and King Carlisle. The king raises his brows at me and appraises me as though he's checking for visible injuries. Edward looks tense, his jaw taut, and Tanya snorts unattractively. I step back and wait again, dying to get out of here. Of course my eyes are on Edward a lot of the time, so I don't miss it when I see Tanya's right hand go under the table and then her arm bend to the right. Edward immediately sits up straight in his chair, his body rigid and his jaw clenched. Oh my god, is she touching his dick at the dinner table? Fucking whore. I watch as Tanya smirks and Edward reaches under the table as well. I can tell that he removes her hand because she immediately frowns and looks at him irritably. He gives her another stiff smile and then whispers in her ear, and I hope he's telling her to fuck off. By the looks of it, he is, and Tanya gives him one last glare before Rosalie steals
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her attention again. By the time dessert comes around, I'm starting to feel relieved. That is, until we pour the wine and Edward clears his throat. Edward takes a deep breath and stands with his glass of wine in his hand. He's making a toast But to what? I'm scared. Silence falls across the room and all eyes turn to Edward. He's visibly nervous and he won't look at me. He clears his throat again and swallows. "First of all, I'd like to thank the Denalis for having dinner with us this evening" he says, smiling at Tanya's parents and brother. His voice sounds very polite, businesslike and professional- it's his Prince voice. "This is a big year for all of us," he continues, and he glances around the table. "A lot important decisions will be made, new lives will begin I cannot thank the Denalis enough for their companionship all these years. They've been like family, and I can't think of a better way to describe our relationship." He stops and takes another deep breath. Where is he going with this? "I have a few words for my soon-to-be fianc, Tanya," he says quietly. Oh god, no "Tanya," he says, looking down at her. There is a small smile on his face, though his eyes are dead. "I've known you my whole life. You're my confidant, my best friend, the one person that that makes me happy. You've been in my life for almost twenty-three years, and it's difficult for me to picture another twenty-three without you. I'm looking forward to this weekend. I I" I feel sick. Don't say it.
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Don't say those three words to her. "I care about you," he mutters. Why don't I feel relieved? Edward raises his glass. "Here's to our engagement." Everyone raises their glasses and then takes a sip from their wine. Edward sits and Tanya leans in to kiss him; he gives her his cheek. He absolutely downs his wine. My heart is pounding and my eyes are burning with tears I don't let fall. This cannot be happening to me. I hate him. Why is he doing this? He said he would work on it. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I hate him. I'm so, so, so angry. He swore he wouldn't let me down, he fucking swore it. I guess he lied. When I finally look up, Edward is staring at me. There is no expression on his face, but that doesn't matter. It's all in his eyes. Pain. Everyone at the table has gotten loud after Edward's little toast. They're all chatty and distracted. Edward mouths two words to me: "I'm sorry."
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I mouth two words back: "Fuck you."

A/N: *cringe* Okay, wait, hold on to your tomatoes before you throw them at me. Two sides to every story, remember? Things are just starting to get interesting. Yes, I'm talking about what the hell Edward was hiding in that goddamn drawer of his. It's related to this catastrophe, and it's time to tell the world. Next Chapter: Saturday, April 16th

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Chapter 14
Chapter 14- The Prince's Tale I am absolutely fuming and I'm trying not to make it obvious, but it's hard. The tears are still stinging my eyes and I'm avoiding eye contact with any and everyone. I keep my gaze trained on the floor, my hands clenched in fists at my sides. I can tell I'm being watched, I just don't know by whom. I really don't care to know. If I meet anyone's eyes, the tears might boil over and then I'll be asked why the hell I'm crying. So I just stand with my teeth clenched together and my eyes on the thick carpet. When I hear the last signal, to pick up the dessert dishes and call it a night, I'm hasty. I all but snatch the plate from in front of Mrs. Denali and whirl on my heel to hurry back into the kitchen. When I get into the kitchen I shove the dish into the hands of the nearest person and bolt out of the closest exit. This exit takes me into a back hallway that I have never been in before, but I go through door after door until I'm greeted by the cool gusts of night air. I am in the Garfield, and I am panting. The angry tears are pouring and I feel so fucking hurt. Why does he keep screwing around with my emotions? Why, why, why, why? Fuck him. I don't need him around. It was fun while it lasted but he clearly doesn't give a fuck anymore. I aimlessly stomp through the gardens, pushing myself through random bushes and trees, until I come across a water fountain. I've never seen it before. Looking around me, I see that I've wandered farther than I thought. The fountain is practically hidden between bushes, and it glows as it pours water from its two tiers. It's pretty, elaborately carved and possibly six feet tall.
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I take solace in the sound of the running water as I sit at its edge. I furiously use my sleeve to wipe snot from my nose and contemplate what to do. I hate that I have a habit of crying when I'm really pissed off. Make me sad and I'll be fine, but piss me off and I'll start bawling. It's stupid. I feel like an idiot. I feel like an absolute fool for believing, even for one second, that he'd actually stick with me. Did I really think he was going to break the engagement off? Did I really believe that he cared about me enough to let go of that whore? Yes, I did, and that's why I feel like a moron. I wish I could talk to my dad. He'd only flip out on me, but I feel like I need words of advice from someone older, wiser. I know what my dad would say if I told him about me and Edward. He'd tell me I'm too young to fall for a guy. I'm not ready. I'm too nave, too easily smitten by young men. Hell, he'd probably be right. I'm a little over a months shy of nineteen, and I'm already letting myself hurt over a guy. Because I really am hurting, and I hate that it's my fault. It's my fault for falling for him, and falling hard. "Bella." I jump at the sound of my name and turn my head to my left, blinking back the blurriness in front of my eyes. Edward materializes from in between some bushes, his paleness standing out in the darkness around us. He is the last person I want to see because it hurts to look at him. "Don't," I say through clenched teeth. "Don't even bother." "Just listen to me," he says, and I don't understand why he sounds angry.
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"Why should I?" I snap. "So you can screw around with me some more? So you can make promises you won't even bother to keep?" "Calm down," he says, and I am in no goddamn mood for his bossiness. I stand up and shove at his chest so he stumbles back a little. "Don't fucking tell me to calm down! You lied to me. You swore you would do something about this, about her. I hate not knowing if you actually give a fuck about me." "I do," he says emphatically. "Bullshit." Edward takes a deep breath and turns away from me with his hands on his hips. He starts pacing a little before he stands in front of me again. "I can explain this to you, but you have to promise not to start yelling at me without hearing me out first." I cross my arms and glare at him. "Why should I promise you anything when you can't keep your own word?" Edward's jaw flexes and he steps closer to me, a pleading look in his eyes. "Because you need to put yourself in my shoes, you need to try to understand where I'm coming from." "I'm not going to put myself in your shoes before you've put yourself in mine." "Believe me, I have. I know you're feeling hurt and betrayed and downright used right now. But can you, for two seconds, put yourself in the shoes of a prince? Just for two seconds?" Even in the darkness, illuminated only slightly by the glow from the fountain, I can see the emotion in his eyes, the passion about something. "This isn't some every day engagement ceremony," he continues, encouraged by my silence. "I told you, I can't just call it off out of the blue. There is a lot riding on this, there's a lot riding on me. Do you get that? This is a royal wedding, Bella. There is so much involved in this, so much more than you could possibly know." He runs both hands through his hair, crossing his fingers and leaving his hands on top of his head.
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"I've got an entire country to answer to," he adds quietly. His voice is bleak, tired, completely and utterly hopeless. He has successfully silenced me in so few words. I suddenly feel selfish. I feel like a whiny, clingy, annoying girlfriend. The kind that says, "Do this for me, Edward, do that for me, Edward" without really taking into consideration what he's going through. Then again, some warning from him would have been nice. "That's it?" I ask. "You couldn't break it off because it's a royal wedding? It's just that impossible?" He shakes his head, slowly. "No. It's possible, despite everything else. God, how I want to be free of it all." He licks his lips, opening his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. He looks torn, and I can see how he's weighing pros and cons in his head. "How much more is there to it?" I ask. Edward snorts bitterly. "Hell of a lot more than I'd like." I nod at him. "Go on, then. Explain. Because if you're going to toy with my feelings, I'm not going to be okay with it unless you have a damn good reason." I sit down at the edge of the fountain again, my arms crossed over my stomach. A chilly wind blows and I shiver. Edward takes his blazer off and drops it over my shoulders. I silently nod in thanks at the sweet gesture. Had it been another time, I'd be giggling internally at the cuteness of it all. Edward sits down next to me, but keeps some distance. He looks nervous and uncomfortable, though I can't place why. "I'm risking so much," he murmurs
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"With what?" "Telling you this." "You haven't told me shit." "I'm getting to it." He rests his elbows on his knees and rubs his face with both hands. "Bella." "Yes?" "I'm telling you this because I trust you." "Okay." "I know you'll keep your word if I were to ask you not to tell a soul." "Okay." Edward takes a deep breath. "Tanya blackmailed me." It's silent, except for the sound of running water. I blink at him. "Blackmailed you? How?" Edward stares at the grass beneath our feet, his brows furrowed. "She knows something about me that could perpetually ruin this entire family." "Edward," I whisper. "Can you stop being vague?" "I'm getting to it," he repeats frustratedly. "It's not easy to admit, because even saying it out loud is risky." He glances at the trees and bushes around us, as though they have ears. "There's no one but us," I assure him. I'm silently resisting the urge to shake him and demand answers. He shakes his head, distracted. "Bella I'm" I bite my tongue, trying not to burst something out from impatience.
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"I'm not the prince," he whispers. My jaw drops. Brows furrow. Head cocks to one side, in confusion. "That didn't come out right," he says. "What do you mean you're not the prince?" I ask quietly. Shit, even I'm afraid the trees will hear this. "Well, I am, I'm just not supposed to be. Do you remember that day I caught you looking in that drawer in my bedroom?" he asks. "How could I forget? You nearly took my head off." He smiles, but it's only for a second and I could have been imagining it. "You were about to find something I had recently discovered." Both my brows go up. "Really?" He nods. "I had just come across documentation about my actual birth. I had left the room for what I thought would be a little while, but I got caught up and when I came back you were dangerously close to finding out." "So you're not their biological son; why is that a big deal?" "Because I won't be able to take the throne." I stare at him, and he has his head turned towards the running water of the fountain. His face is illuminated by its glow; his chiseled features making him look angelic. My breath catches in my throat and I can't speak until he looks at me, his intense green eyes snapping me out of my stupor. I clear my throat. Get it together! What were we talking about? Oh yeah "So you won't be able to take the throne because you're not blood-related to Carlisle and Esme?"
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"Pretty much." "That's absurd. He shrugs. "I know. It's all kinds of stupid, but it is what it is. I'm not their son; technically I'm not supposed to be next in line. I shouldn't even be here, in this manor." I turn my body towards him and sit cross-legged on the edge of the fountain. "What's your story?" I ask, cocking my head to one side. "My story is a lie," he says sadly. "All of it." "Are you saying you're not who I think you are?" "I've always been real with you." "But fake with everyone else?" He frowns. "I guess you could say that." I scoot closer and put my elbow on my knee with my chin in my hand. It's the image of attentiveness. "Do tell, do tell." He cracks a small smile, but it doesn't last very long. "My life hasn't been exciting, you know that, right?" "No, but I do want to know where you came from and how you came to be the prince and how your whore of a fianc found her way into your arms and your pants." I feel myself blush, but I'm not going to take it back. It's true. Edward leans in close to my face and for a second I think he's going to kiss me. "Tanya hasn't gotten into my pants," he whispers. He stares into my eyes, the side of his face glowing from the fountain, and I squirm. Why do I feel relieved and a little horny after hearing that?
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"So," he says abruptly, sitting up straight. "My story. You want to hear it?" "I'm still sitting here." Edward takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. He leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees, his head up and staring at the bush that sits two feet away from us. "They didn't tell me I wasn't their son until I was eighteen," he says, absentmindedly cracking his knuckles. The sound echoes in the night and it's a pet peeve of mine but I don't mention it. "I thought you just recently found documentation?" He looks at me, but only briefly. "Yes, I found the material proof recently, but they told me about it right before I went off to college." "Why then?" "Not sure." He sighs before continuing. "Anyway, they told me about my mothermy biological mother, Elizabeth. She was a 'commoner'." He smirks at me and my eyes widen. "Get out," I say in whispered disbelief. Edward smiles "She was Esme's best friend when they were younger; they went to school together. Even though Esme was the daughter of the mayor of Illinois, and Elizabeth, well, wasn't They were inseparable, like sisters." Edward's voice takes on a somber tone. "Elizabeth looked up to Esme, the mayor's daughter who got to go to all the fancy events and meet the famous people. When Esme got engaged to Carlisle, Elizabeth's life took a downward spiral. She saw less and less of Esme, and more of men that her parents didn't approve her. Eventually, she got pregnant out of wedlock and was disowned." My jaw drops. "She got disowned? For real?" Edward nods grimly. "Yes. Elizabeth's family was highly conservative, and her father was a well-known pastor amongst the elite. When word spread of their daughter's pregnancy, they refused to have anything to do with her. They were ashamed. She wouldn't say who the father was, either." His brows furrow. "Elizabeth found out she was pregnant on Esme's wedding day. Esme was eighteen,
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Elizabeth was seventeen." I gasp. "Holy crap, you left that detail out. They were teenagers?" Edward nods. "Elizabeth was a year younger." I am baffled. "How Why did Esme get married so young? This wasn't more than twenty-five years ago, I'm assuming? That's crazy." "Esme wanted to get married young," Edward says in her defense. "She loved Carlisle." "Didn't she have hopes and dreams?" "Her only hopes and dreams were to help those less fortunate. What better way to get as far as possible with that than by being queen? The fact that she was actually in love with Carlisle was the icing on the cake." We sit there in silence as I absorb this information. Edward's mom was seventeen when she had him and then she got disowned! And Esme got married at eighteen. I'm eighteen, and I can't imagine tying the knot until I'm thirty. Shit. "So how did you end up with the Cullens?" I ask. "Elizabeth panicked," Edward says quietly. "Esme was able to get her a job as a maid in the manor, but it wasn't easy for her because everyone knew who she was. Her life here was hell, and then when I was born she gave me to Esme before passing away." I blink at him. "How did she pass away?" "Childbirth. She just wasn't strong enough." "Wow." My voice comes out in a whisper. "So how did everyone come to think that you were Esme's?" "Esme got pregnant sooner than expected as well," Edward says, running a hand through his hair. "The pregnancy was announced, but unfortunately she miscarried and got very sick. The miscarriage wasn't announced. Elizabeth had her baby in the manor. When she felt herself going into labor, she locked herself away in a room and just gave birth. When they found her, she had lost most of her life. She lived long enough to tell Esme to make me her own."
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I can picture it all in my head, like some dramatic, tragic film. "What did they think happened to Elizabeth?" "Well, Esme hadn't been in the public view for months. Like I said, she'd gotten very sick after her miscarriage and the public thought that she was having a difficult pregnancy that required bed rest. The next time they saw her was after I was born. "As for Elizabeth, it was believed that she had an accident and lost both her life and her baby's. No one that actually knew the truth tried to dispute that." "Gosh," I whisper, taking everything in. "It's all so scandalous." Edward nods. I think back to how this conversation started, and remember that Edward was supposed to do something about Tanya and their engagement. I clear my throat, knowing that we're going to have to talk about the present issues now. "So, Tanya" I say, broaching the topic. Edward lets out a breath. "She's a nosy bitch." I smirk. "Wow, did the prince just call his fianc something not-so-very-nice?" He laughs, but it's short and bitter. "I'm being polite by calling her a bitch." "Edward, how much can Tanya really do?" I ask. "So maybe she'll tell the world that you aren't blood related to the Cullens. What's the worst that can happen?" "I'll be kicked out," he says stoically. "Your parents wouldn't do that to you." "Bella, you don't know the gist of it," he says, and he's angry but I know it's not towards me. "Legally, I won't be able to take the throne. Legally, I'll be kicked out with nowhere to go. My money isn't even my money. Outside of this manor, I am no one. I'm Edward Anthony Masen, and I have nothing." "Don't you think you're overreacting?"
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He abruptly stands up and starts pacing again. "I am not overreacting." He pauses and gestures towards the manor. Only half of it is visible behind the bushes and trees. "This life- this life in the manor and in this society- is all I know. What am I supposed to do out there, in the normal world? I'm not normal." Awww I stand up and walk over to him, putting a hand on his arm. He's tense. "Edward, there's no such thing as normal. You think it's normal out there? It's fucking crazy, and you're in a position to make it better." "This position will be gone if Tanya goes through with her blackmailing." "Edward, why the hell do you think you'll be kicked out by your own parents?" "My parents aren't the problem," he says loudly, and then he takes a deep breath, keeping his temper in check. "The problem the problem is Aro Volturi." "That name sounds familiar" Edward nods. "Alice had to get through him to keep her job." "Who is he?" "He's in charge of most of the things in the manor, sort of like my father's boss. He controls almost everything- who is hired to work, what events take place and when He even has his hands on the finances." "You're kidding. Why does he have so much power?" Edward shakes his head. "Beats me. The Volturis have been doing that since the early days of this government, sort of like advisors for the royal family." "So what the hell does the royal family do?" It's a question everyone in the country has wanted an answer to for a while now. Edward's voice is monotone when he speaks. "We live extravagantly for no reason at all." I can't help but chuckle. "Yes, I've noticed."
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"All jokes aside Aro Volturi has too much power in his hands. I know my father wants to lessen that power, even it out a bit, but he won't be able to do so with his peaceful, compassionate personality. He likes to keep the peace, at all times." "There needs to be someone demanding and headstrong to take some power from Aro, huh?" "Yes." "Someone who won't take no for an answer." "Right." "Someone like you." Edward's eyes flash towards my face and his smile is brief. "It's not that easy." I sigh and run my fingers through my hair. "Okay, let's sum this up. You have no royal blood in you, none at all. This is a problem because according to what some stupid tradition? You can't take the throne?" "It's a written law." "That's crazy! It's the fucking 21st century." "I know." "So, it's a written law that you can't be king unless you have royal blood in you. You don't, and this is a secret. Tanya knows this secret, and if she tells the world, you're screwed and will probably end up on the street, because of Aro Volturi, who is your family's advisor and controls everything." "He's also Tanya's uncle." My eyes widen. "He's what? Tanya's uncle?" "Did I leave that part out?" I let out a laugh of disbelief. "Um, yeah, you do. All she has to do is run to her uncle and you're gone?" "Precisely."
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"Holy crap." I shake my head. "Okay, so Tanya knows this and if she tells Aro, you're out." "You're out as well." "Oh that's right, she'll probably get me fired." "Then we'll both be on the street." I stare at him, chewing on my lip. He has his hands in his pockets and he stares into the distance. "Why didn't you just tell me, Edward?" I can't hide the disappointment in my voice. "Why didn't you let me know that she blackmailed you? You know, so I didn't almost combust in there just now." Edward is shaking his head before I'm even done. "There wasn't time. She knew about this before I even knew that she knew. She waited for the perfect time to blackmail me, and that was just a few hours before the dinner. I spent hours thinking about what I should do. I know what I want, but I also know the consequences of wanting you." A little piece of my heart feels like it's broken off. Then, something occurs to me. "You know, maybe it wouldn't be so bad" I trail off quietly. "If we were out there together..." Edward smiles softly and reaches up to tuck my hair behind my ear. It's the first time he's touched me in a while, and it feels amazing. My skin seems to inflame under his touch. "You don't want to be out there with me," he says. "Everyone knows this face. Do you honestly think I'll be able to survive out there without people recognizing me and giving me hell for it?" "I've stuck around this far; do you think us getting kicked out of the manor is going to keep me away?" Unexpectedly, he pulls me into his arms. Surprised, I don't hug him back until a second later.
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He holds me tight, almost like he's afraid to let me go. God, he smells so good I bury my face in his neck, my entire body melting into his. For some reason I feel like crying; this hug is exactly what I need. It hits home. I feel something press into the side of my head. "God, I am so sorry," he says. His voice is muffled against my hair, but I hear him loud and clear. I just absentmindedly finger the hair at the nape of his neck. It's soft. "I don't know how you're still with me," he says. "You deserve so much better. You deserve someone who isn't going to string you along all these complications. You deserve some certainty." I inhale, taking in his clean, manly, wealthy cologne scent. "I don't know I think you're worth keeping" He hums against my hair and squeezes me tight. "As are you." We just stand there in each others' arms for a moment, and all the shit that's been happening with Tanya disappears. We're just holding on tight, sharing the same pain. "I need to get rid of Tanya," Edward mumbles, and the moment is ruined. "So that we can just move on with our lives." I pull away from him and look up into his eyes. "Want some help?" His brows furrow. "Help?" I nod enthusiastically. "Bella That's not necessary. I'll find a way myself." "The ceremony is in two days." He closes his eyes. "Shit." "Should I do something to stall the preparations? Or do you want me to do some digging on Tanya? That way we can air her dirty laundry and she can be humiliated and postpone the engagement so that you'll have more time to deal with her."
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Edward is shaking his head before I'm done speaking. "You're not getting involved." I raise a brow at him. "You and me, we're something special, right?" He smiles a little, wondering where I'm going with this. "Right" "So if there is a skank bitch in your life that doesn't deserve to be there, I am automatically involved." "Bella, you getting yourself into trouble is just not necessary. Please, for the love of all that is holy, stay out of this Okay?" "Edward" "I'm serious. Leave Tanya to me." "I've left Tanya with you for like a week and you ended up going through with this engagement party thing anyway." "I tried, I told you I tried, and I also told you why." "You can't handle her on your own; even you know that." "Bella, it is not your help I need." "Who else is there?" I know I've caught him with that one by the way he glares at me. I don't like arguing with him, but if he's having a hard time telling Tanya to fuck off, then I can help him somehow. "You're staying out of this," he says adamantly. I roll my eyes. Edward's bossiness is a defense mechanism. When he's not getting his way, he starts ordering people around because he knows that'll work. Well, not with me. I put my hands on my hips. "What, are you gonna make me?" He clenches his jaw and narrows his eyes at me. Fuck, he is sexy
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He turns away to rub his face and when he turns around again he takes my face in his hands. "Please. I'm asking you to please stay out of this. I know you want to help, but there's nothing you can do without getting yourself in trouble. Tanya isn't easy to get rid of." His green eyes are pleading, and I almost give in. "I'm tired of waiting and wondering," I tell him. "Sick and tired of it, Edward." He rests his forehead against mine. "I know, and I'm sorry. I just I want to protect you." "I don't need protecting." He laughs and runs his lips along my right eyebrow. Is he trying to distract me? "It's just my instinct," he says. "To make sure nothing and no one hurts you" "I'll be fine." He huffs and raises his head, shaking his head down at me. "Fine," he says. "If I can't get rid of Tanya by tomorrow afternoon, you can help." "Really?" "Yes. But before that I want you to stay out of it, okay?" "Okay." "Promise me." "I promise." He searches my eyes and then lets go of my face, nodding slightly to himself. He trusts me. I don't know if I trust myself. I don't know if I can keep my promise.
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But I do know what I'm going to do if I get tired of waiting.

A/N: There you have it, folks. There were actually some interesting theories about the drawer- everything from porn to info on Bella. You guys pretty much blew me away with your reviews and theories and rants. Makes my day every time! :) A few of you also guessed right about Tanya and the blackmail. I'm so relieved to finally get all this info out there! It's going to be fairly important throughout the rest of the story. Pictures: There's a pic of the fountain on my profile. It's too pretty not to share. Next Chapter: Friday, April 22nd at the latest. It might go up a little bit earlier.

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Chapter 15
Chapter 15- Plans I go back to the manor before Edward does, to prevent assumptions if someone were to see us going in together. I was supposed to help out in the kitchen after serving, so now I have to explain myself for storming out. Once I get back to the kitchen, I try to enter inconspicuously. "Bella!" someone barks. So much for that I turn and smile stiffly at Michael, the chef in charge tonight. "Where have you been?" he asks irritably. "You were supposed to-" "I'm sorry," I cut him off. "I was just-" "No time for excuses," he takes me by the arm and pulls me over to one of the shiny counters, where cleanup is in progress. Out of nowhere, I am handed a rag and directed to get wiping. Sighing, I get down to business. Working distracts me from everything else for a while, but not for long. Victoria, the other girl that works for Rosalie, comes stumbling in. Her freckled face is pink and she looks humiliated. "Lady Tanya is staying the night," she announces. "She wants two cranberry white chocolate parfaits delivered to her room in the next twenty minutes." An irritated moan is emitted from more than half the workers, and I try to control my expression. Tanya is staying the night? I do not like the sound of that. "Uh, Victoria?" I reach out and stop her from leaving as the kitchen around me
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starts to bustle with renewed activity. Victoria stops, looking at me quizzically. "Why is Lady Tanya spending the night?" I try very hard to keep my tone curious at most. Victoria shrugs and shakes her head. "I don't know. They were all just sitting there in the parlor, and the topic of the engagement came up and then Lady Tanya asked if she could just stay here until after the engagement party was over. The queen said it was okay." Oh you have got to be kidding me "Was Ed- I mean, was the prince there?" Victoria nods and then gives me a look of despair. "I have to go back there out there, Bella. I'm her personal maid until Saturday." Bless you, you poor girl. I let her go and she hurries out of the kitchen, leaving me to think. What gives? Why is she deciding to spend the night all of a sudden? I hope this doesn't change anything. There's no reason for Edward to not try and get rid of her. What room is she staying in, anyway? Surely it can't be Edward's. I should have asked Victoria. Damn. "She wants parfaits this time of the day?" One of our Italian chefs is complaining as he whips something in a bowl. His Italian accent makes him sound twice as annoyed. "Why? She craving or something? She pregnant?" A few people chuckle and I stand there, my thoughts still on Tanya. I make myself look busy while wiping a counter that's already shiny. "If she's making all these demands now, imagine when she's the princess," the chef is still ranting. I snort bitterly at the thought of Princess Tanya.
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If she becomes the princess, all hell will break loose. Once I'm done wiping every shiny surface until it sparkles, I haul ass. After signing out for the day, I decide to pay Edward a visit. Hopefully he's sulking in his room and we can talk some more. The kitchen is practically cleared out when I leave, so that must mean that the Denalis have left. Well, all the Denalis except for their demon spawn. The knowledge that Tanya is lurking somewhere in the manor right now makes me uncomfortable. I feel like she's going to round a corner and attack me or something. At least I'll be ready this time.

Edward's floor is quiet. It's fairly late at night and I feel like my footsteps are too loud as I tiptoe towards his bedroom. The silence presses against me from all sides, and I can feel the paranoia starting to creep up my spine. I'm not even by Edward's door before I start to hear loud, angry voices from the other side. I can hear his voice clearly as I approach the door, which has been left slightly ajar. "I'm giving you one last chance," Edward's voice is low and dangerous. "You're leaving. Tonight. You're going to go home and tell your parents that this engagement is off, that we don't get along anymore and that you don't love me." I hear Tanya's laughter before he's done speaking. "Oh, Edward," I hear her say condescendingly. "Don't you realize that you're not in charge of this anymore? You can't tell me what to do. I'm here because I want to be, and it's here I'll stay. You can't get rid of me."
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"Watch me." Tanya laughs again, and the sound grates on my nerves. "What're you gonna do? Expose me like I'll expose you? Please. You've got nothing on me." There's momentary silence and I hold my breath before peeking in. All I see is the back of Edward. His entire body is tense, like he's ready to pounce, and I know he's probably towering over Tanya. "Don't underestimate me," he says quietly. His voice gives me chills. "You think you've got this whole thing under your control Think again. You're not the only one that can play games." "Truth is, I honestly don't care anymore," Edward continues. "You can do whatever the hell you want because, quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of your bullshit. Go ahead, Tanya. Go ahead and tell the world that I'm not supposed to be the prince. Because you know what? Not only will I lose the throne, but so will you." I gasp quietly. Why the fuck didn't I see it before? If Tanya tells everyone that Edward's not of royal blood, she won't be able to become princess, or queen for that matter. Holy crap. He's found a loophole in her plan. Edward turns his back on her and I quickly move away before he can catch me eavesdropping. Someone starts to applause, slow and sarcastic. It's undoubtedly Tanya. She claps her hands together three times. "Bravo, Edward. You've finally figured it out. Good job. Did it ever occur to you what would happen if you ended up on the street? You'd be all alone, and everyone will know who you are. Good luck making it in the real world." Edward chuckles, but it's scornful and unkind. "I'd go through hell in the real world if it means getting the hell away from you."
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Ouch. "You don't sound like yourself, Eddie. Who is this talking? Is it Bella?" My heart skips a beat and I shrink farther away from the door. "Don't even go there," Edward warns her. "I'm not stupid, Edward. Don't think I don't know that majority of this is about her. Did you really expect me to believe that those little letters you wrote to each other were just you being your gentlemanly self? And that dancing with her was nothing, too? That you want to break off this engagement because you just don't like me anymore? You're a liar, Edward. You turned into a liar the day you met that bitch!" Tanya's voice rises with every word. "You know nothing about her." Edward's voice is husky with anger. "You know what I do know? I know that if word gets out about this little scandal, she'll be on the street, too. The money she's making here? Gone." What? "You stay away from her, you hear me?" Edward hisses. "Do whatever the hell you want to me, but if you so much as look at her I swear to God" I peek in just in time to see Tanya shove at Edward's chest. "You're helpless, Edward," Tanya snaps. "Just admit it. You can pretend like you've got everything under control, but just admit that you don't. You. Can't. Do. Anything. You've got your father to answer to and my uncle to answer to, and there's going to come a point where you'll have no choice but to reveal what you're doing with that low class whore." Edward looks like he's about to murder her and suddenly he whirls around and walks toward the door. Startled, I quickly move to the side and press myself against the wall just around the corner. I'm hidden in the dark, but light from Edward's open door brightens part of the hallway. "Get the fuck out of my room," I hear him snarl.
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Silence. "Leave before I drag you out myself," Edward says. A second later, I hear Tanya's voice from the hallway. "This isn't over," she states menacingly. Edward slams his door shut, hard, and the wall I'm leaning against vibrates with the force. I hear Tanya's footsteps get closer to me and my heart is beating erratically as I press myself impossibly harder into the wall. She passes right by me, her blonde hair flying behind her, and I get a whiff of her perfume. When Tanya disappears around the corner, a loud crash emanates from Edward's room. I hurry toward the door and push it open, immediately noticing the shards of a broken porcelain lamp on the floor. Edward stares down at the pieces, panting, and it's like it angers him further, adding fuel to the fire. He targets his dresser next, knocking down anything that rests on top of it, and once he's done with that he storms to his desk and furiously swipes its contents onto the floor. He throws the chair down and once it's on the floor he kicks it. Hard. Everything is so loud and Edward's anger is so startling that I'm frozen in shock. What gets me to move is when he pushes his entire desk down and starts kicking it. "Edward," I say, rushing inside. He has his back to me, still aiming kicks at the desk, and I'm actually afraid he might accidentally hit me in the face. "Edward," I speak louder, reaching out and touching his arm, and I'm surprised when he wrenches it out of my reach. He's panting, still facing away from me, but at least he's stopped flailing and
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throwing shit. He moves his head to the side, but doesn't turn around. "She's right," he says, voice dripping with disdain. "She's absolutely right." "Don't say th-" "Did you hear her?" he cuts me off angrily and whirls around to look at me. I take a reflexive step back. "Everything she said about me was absolutely, one hundred percent correct. I'm helpless, Bella. I'm not in control of this, I can't do anything. Fuck." He turns away from me and starts pacing with both his hands clutching his hair. The look on his face is distraught and angry and I don't know what to do for him. I bite my lip and cross my arms over my chest, thinking real hard about this situation. In a way, Tanya was right. This is a lose/lose situation for Edward. If Tanya were to go tell her uncle about Edward's true birth parents, he'd be kicked out. If he went to his parents and tried to get out of the engagement, Tanya would use her blackmail. There was no way he'd be able to blackmail her, because he doesn't have anything on her. If push comes to shove, he'd have to end up confessing about our little affair. Then we'd both be kicked out "Let's just elope" I trail off hesitantly. Edward stares at me, and I can see that he's thinking about it, thinking about it hard. I've already brought this up, and right now the only thing in our way is Edward's tendency to try and be logical about things. "It wouldn't be so bad," I add with a shrug. "I suppose not," he says quietly. He folds his left arm over his chest and contemplatively runs a finger across his jaw. "If you're not really the prince, I'm sure they won't care if you move out. We could
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find other jobs, get a place to live" Edward slowly walks toward me, a speculative look on his face. "But we'll be penniless." "Would they really take all your money?" "Yes." "Mine, too? My earned money, they'd take it all?" Edward's brows furrow. "I actually don't know if she was right about that" I shrug. "We can risk it. The money I make here isn't the only money I have. If they took it all away, I'd have some more left from before we moved here. It's not much, but it's something" Edward is nodding slowly, still thinking about it. "Where would we go?" he asks. "We can crash at one of my friends' place for a bit I choose Angela. She's less likely to spill our whereabouts." Edward frowns. "We'd have to keep moving. As soon as people look at me they'll know who I am and then word will spread Shit." I fidget uncomfortably. "Yeah, that face of yours might be a problem if we want to elope." Edward smiles just a little bit and steps closer to me, taking my hands. In a very old-fashioned gesture, he lifts my left hand and kisses my knuckles. "I like this plan," he says quietly, and he's so much calmer than he was a second ago. "But it'll have to be plan B." "What's plan A?"

Edward has me by the hand as he tows me through the manor. Everything is dead quiet as he expertly leads me through the dark hallways that have now become
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familiar to me. We're quiet on our feet and luckily there's no one around. When we reach the fifth floor, we head straight to Rosalie's room. "You think she'll be awake?" I ask in a whisper. Edward snorts. "Rosalie is nocturnal." When we reach the ebony doors that had once given me a hard time, he only has to knock once. Rosalie pulls the door open and glances between us, one perfectly plucked eyebrow raised in amusement. "Well, well, well," she says. "Edward and Bella, in the flesh." She glances toward our entwined hands. "We need your help," Edward says, and it doesn't really sound like he's asking. Rosalie has her hip resting against the open door. "Tanya?" "Yes." She smiles the biggest smile I've ever seen on her face. She pulls the door open wider and steps aside to let us pass. "I thought you'd never ask." Rosalie leads us into her living room and immediately plops down into a cushiony armchair. She gazes at us as we sit on the couch to her right. I feel nervous and on edge for some reason. She keeps staring in between us with complete awe and fascination, like she can't quite believe her eyes. I guess it makes sense, in a way. She's never actually seen us together before. She's known there was something going on, but it's never been obvious. "I want her gone, Rosalie," Edward says, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. "Tonight." Rosalie purses her lips. "I don't know about tonight. Tonight ends in two hours."
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"We're running out of time," he says, frustrated. "They're going to start making a big deal out of it by tomorrow afternoon. It's needs to be now." "Look, Tanya isn't going to leave without being forced," Rosalie states firmly. The wheels in my head are spinning. "What if I provoke her?" I ask. "I can get her to like hit me or something, and then she can get in trouble?" Rosalie is eying me speculatively, but the look on Edward's face screams "absolutely not". "Actually, that could work," Rosalie says. "I don't think so," Edward is adamant. "There's no reason for you to throw yourself in the line of fire, Bella." "Well, I have to do something," I tell him. "I'm not going to sit here, waiting for you guys to come up with some genius plan. We're in this together." "She has a point," Rosalie says. "Besides, if we try and do this on our own, she's going to get herself involved, and that will only be worse." I nod in agreement, impressed by her insight. Edward does not look pleased. Not in the slightest. I start to feel the excitement build up. "So, where do we start?" I ask, sitting up straighter in my seat. "How do we get rid of her? Should we give her a taste of her own medicine, blackmail her with her own dirty little secret?" "As far as I know, Tanya doesn't have any," Edward says slowly. "She tells me everything- well, used to" "Everyone has secrets," Rosalie says. Her gaze is on the coffee table as she thinks. "There has to be something she doesn't want anyone to know." The room falls silent as Edward and Rosalie try to think up anything scandalous about Tanya, while I sit there feeling useless. They know her better than I do, but I
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do feel like she's vile enough to have at least some kind of secret. Maybe she likes to torture animals or maybe she's a drug dealer at night. She might even be a porn star or something. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if any of that were true. The wheels in my head are still turning fast, determined to do something about this. "Let's start from the basics," I suggest. "Who is Tanya closest to? Does she have anyone who knows any and everything about her?" Rosalie cocks her head to one side. "Possibly Bree Archibald. They're very much attached at the hip, always have been I always got the vibe that they were best friends, although that doesn't necessarily mean she would know any of Tanya's dark secrets." "And it's not like she'd be willing to give them away, either," Edward adds. Rosalie chuckles. "Then again, she might crack under pressure, especially if that pressure is coming from me." "It could work," I say, looking at Edward. "Rosalie knows how to be intimidating." That gets a smile out of him and we start to come up with other plans in case the first doesn't work. By midnight, we have it all planned out. Tanya Denali is going down in the next 24 hours.

A/N: Shorter than usual, I know, but the next one is definitely going to be a little longer and more... eventful. ) Next Chapter: No later than a week, Thursday the 28th at the earliest.

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Chapter 16
Chapter 16- Operation Get-Rid-Of-Demon-Queen I can't sleep on Thursday night, and on Friday morning I am anxious but determined at the same time. I keep replaying our plan in my head, and I hope that it all goes perfectly. Knowing my luck, something is bound to go wrong. That's exactly why Edward insisted on a Plan C and even a Plan D. After a shower, I gaze at my pale complexion in the mirror. I practice my game face, my poker face, and my "oops, that was totally an accident" face. That one isn't hard. There's a knock on the bathroom door. "Bella, can you hurry, please?" Alice says from the other side. "Gotta pee!" I quickly wrap my towel around myself and open the door. Alice pushes her way in and I go to get dressed in the uniform. By the time Alice comes out, I'm dry, dressed, and pulling my hair up into a tight ponytail that won't come loose very easily. I'm ready for this. "Good luck hanging out with the Bitch Squad today," Alice says as she pulls her shoes on. "Don't let them give you a hard time." I keep my poker face in check and distract myself by hunting down some socks. "Thanks." Alice is quiet for a moment and when I look at her, she's just sitting there and staring at me. "What is it?" She can't tell something is off, can she?
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"Is Edward really going through with the engagement party tomorrow?" she asks. "I'm worrying." Yep, poker face needs to go back on. I wipe my face blank. "No. " Keep the words at a minimal. Alice shakes her head, confused. "So then what's going on?" I bite my lip, contemplating whether or not I should let Alice in on the secret. Rosalie told me not to tell a soul what we were up to, but I can't resist. After glancing at the door to make sure it's closed, I look at Alice and give her a pleading look. "You can't tell anyone, okay?" I say quietly, and Alice's eyes immediately go wide. "Me, Rosalie and Edward are going to get rid of Tanya today. I can't tell you the details, but all I'm gonna say is that there won't be a ceremony tomorrow." Alice's wide gray eyes stare at me in wonder. "Oh god, you're not going to kill her, are you?" I snort. "Please. Where would we put her body? No, we're just going to be sneaky and devious and give her a taste of her own medicine." "I don't get it, though. Why doesn't Edward just call it off? He should have done it a long time ago." "It's complicated," I tell her. "Royal wedding, remember? Way, way more complicated than any other engagement." "Nothing you can tell me?" I smile sadly at her. "Not yet." Alice smiles and nods in understanding, standing up to look in the mirror one last time.
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"Okay," she says. "I get it. Let me know if this devious plan of yours works out." And that is why Alice Brandon is my best friend.

Apparently, the manor has a "tearoom". I was not aware of this. Actually, I'm not so sure that I even knew what a tearoom was until today. The fancy parlor just off the kitchen has a pair of French doors that lead into a smaller, even fancier room. It's tiny and frilly and pink. It has to be the girliest room I have ever seen. Pink and peach wallpaper with metallic designs covers the walls, along with several portraits of women in Victorian gowns. The curtains that cover the windows are frilly and delicate, and the chandelier that hangs above the small, lace-covered table looks like it has pink gems hanging from its chains. I wonder if they're real. Hell, they probably are. Every single one of them. This room looks like it belongs to Dolores Umbridge, and this is where Plan A will take place. I adjust a crooked fork on the table before stepping back and admiring my handiwork. Victoria, who has been helping me, nods in approval. "That looks about right," she says. "Everything in order?" Rosalie walks in and observes the table setting. I reply with the affirmative and she dismisses Victoria with a simple wave of her hand. Once the door to the tearoom is closed, Rose glances around the room until her eyes land on the camera stuck to the wall in one particular corner. "Emmett is making sure there's a glitch in that one," she mumbles appreciatively. "Just in case." Her phone buzzes and she glances down at it, sighing. "They're on their way," she tells me. "And quit worrying."
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I blink at her, unaware that my nerves are evident on my face. "I'm not worrying," I mumble defensively. "You can't lie, either." I take a deep breath. "There are so many things that can go wrong. What if we fail?" Rosalie raises a brow at me. "I don't fail." Fine. Gosh. "Has Edward called yet?" I ask, changing the subject. Not even a second after I ask the question, Rosalie's phone starts ringing. "Yes, he has," she mumbles. "Edward," Rosalie answers the cell, her tone of voice completely nonchalant. "You still have her? Good Nope, not yet. They should be here soon. Give us an hour Is she really? Ugh. Just stall Fine. Bye." She hangs up and places her phone on the table next to her place card before smoothing her skirt down. "Remember," she says. "Stay in the corner and stay invisible. Don't speak unless spoken to. You know the cues." I nod after everything she says, determined to get this right. "I know." She settles down into her seat and has me hold a mirror for her so that she can make some adjustments to her hair and lip gloss. "Tanya is going to be glaring daggers at me," I tell her quietly. "I've got her covered." I can't reply because the door opens and someone cries, "Rosalie, darling!" Two young women stroll in with wide grins plastered on their faces. The brunette has sparkling sapphires for eyes while the other has blonde curls that reach her ass.
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What surprises me is Rosalie, how she goes from looking bored one second to being absolutely excited to see these girls the next. "Bree!" she says, pulling the brunette into a hug. She looks absolutely ecstatic and I've never seen Rosalie this way. "It's so good to see you! And you, Margie!" The girls giggle together while I try and blend into the pink all around me, all the while marveling at what an amazing actress Rosalie is. The blending in doesn't work, because the brunette is staring at me a minute later. "Your personal maid is here?" she asks Rose in confusion. Rosalie waves her question off. "I might need her for one thing or another. She's more reliable than most of the staff. Come on; let's catch up while we wait for Tanya." After about fifteen minutes of chatting about nonsense, Rosalie clears her throat. The girls fall silent and widen their eyes, extremely attentive. You can tell they really look up to Rose. "So, Bree" Rosalie trails off sheepishly. "Oh, never mind." "What is it?" Bree asks curiously. "Tell me." "Oh, forget it. It's none of my business." "What isn't your business?" Bree presses. Rosalie bites her lip as though she's contemplating something. She then glances down at the table and peeks up innocently from under her eyelashes. Damn, she's good. "Well, Tanya said something that had me thinking" She trails off again and Bree and Margie both lean forward in eagerness. Shit, even I'm leaning forward and I already know what Rosalie is about to say. "Tanya and I were talking last night," Rosalie begins in a gossipy whisper. "Just chatting aimlessly We started talking about how hard it is to have a private life, what with the fame and all. Tanya said something like, 'Yeah, it's so hard to keep a
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secret'. When I asked her what she was talking about, she started acting all weird. She stuttered and everything. It was so strange" The look on Bree's face is kind if priceless. Her mouth hangs open just a little and she blinks her eyes like she's got something in them. Margie looks mildly surprised. "She looked really freaked out," Rosalie continues. "I told her that she could tell me anything, but she wouldn't say a word. I honestly didn't know what the big deal was. She was so upset, and that's why I decided to throw together this little brunch for her." Bree has her bottom lip held under her teeth, and she won't make eye contact. Margie is gazing curiously at Rosalie. "What are you trying to say?" Margie asks. "Tanya's hiding something?" Rosalie shrugs like she doesn't give a shit. "Not really. I just thought you guys should know the premise behind this little, last-minute get together. Let's try and really cheer her up. Obviously something is really, really bothering her." Bree looks like she's going to be sick. Bingo. She knows something. "Something wrong?" Rosalie's voice is the epitome of concern as she looks at Bree. "No, no," Bree says quickly. "Just feeling a little under the weather." "Tanya wasn't feeling well this morning, either," Rosalie says. She sounds bored as she examines her perfect fingernails. "I really do hope this helps her get out of her little rut. You know, a part of me wonders if she's not into this engagement anymore." Both Bree and Margie gasp in unison and I take in a sharp breath. This was not part of the plan. Rosalie is really pushing it.
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Margie narrows her eyes. "You seem awfully interested in Tanya today, Rose." She's catching on, her tone suspicious. Rosalie's expression is blank as she raises her brows at Margie. "Just making observations. Edward is my cousin, practically my brother. He's bummed out when she's bummed out, and I can't stand it." Bree is thoughtfully eying Rosalie as well. "Maybe she's just getting cold feet." "It's an engagement party, not a wedding," Rose says with a roll of her eyes. "She's had weeks to get used to the ring on her finger. There's nothing to be nervous about. She's been so excited. I wonder if what we talked about could have changed her mood so dramatically" She drifts off into a thoughtful silence before glancing in between the two girls. "Any theories?" she asks casually. "If we know what's bothering her, we might be able to help." Bree looks guilty and opens her mouth once, but then snaps it shut. "Bree?" Rosalie asks quietly. "You think we can help her somehow?" Bree bites her lip as Rosalie's piercing blue eyes bore into her. I can tell Rose is using intimidation to get her to speak. When Rosalie Hale wants something from you, it's hard not to give in. "What is it?" Margie asks, nudging Bree with her elbow. "I don't know if" Bree trails off and I clench my teeth together, dying to get this info. It would be awesome if Plan A works. Plan A is the hardest. I do not want to have to resort to Plan D, that's for sure. "Well," Bree begins nervously. "I did tell Tanya that she should be care-" "Ladies," Tanya's sharp voice cuts through the room.
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Fuck! "Tanya!" Rosalie says excitedly, and all three girls stand. "Finally!" Tanya smiles a little as her gaze wanders around the room. "Sorry I'm late. Edward was." She falters when her eyes fall on me and they narrow into slits. "What's she doing here?" she asks. She hasn't seen me since the dinner last night, and her voice is venomous. Rosalie shakes her head. "Forget her, this is about you! Come sit. We all need to talk about tomorrow." Tanya glances at me only one more time before she greets all the girls with air kisses and smiles. Bree doesn't look so nervous anymore. Ugh, we were so close. Time for Plan B. "Drinks, Bella," Rosalie says, and I head into the kitchen after taking their orders. I impatiently wait for the chefs to place the drinks onto the trays. Victoria appears at my side and then goes into the tearoom with me. Once we've served all the girls, Victoria leaves and I settle into my seat again. All is going smoothly, but soon I know it's time to get down to business. Rosalie knows it, too. "Oh, I love that bag," Rosalie says to Tanya. She holds her hand out for it. " Fabiacci, right?" "Straight from the man himself," Tanya gushes. Tanya hands the bag over and Rosalie runs her fingers over the leather as the other girls 'ooh' and 'ah' over it.
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I don't see the appeal in designer handbags or shoes or clothes. "It's lovely," Rosalie sets the bag down on the floor in between her seat and Tanya's. Then, she takes a sip of her lemonade and grimaces. "Ugh!" she cries. "What is this? Bella, take this thing back to the kitchen and tell them to make it the way I like. You know how I mean." This is where Plan B gets put into action. I quickly step up to Rosalie, who holds the glass out for me. Two seconds before I grab a hold of it, Rosalie slackens her grip and lets it slip. It crashes down Directly onto Tanya's handbag. There's a loud shriek in my ear and then I'm shoved backwards while expletives are shouted at me. Tanya is freaking out over her wet bag and Rosalie is telling her to calm the fuck down. "It's just lemonade," Rosalie says, taking the damp leather out of Tanya's hands. "Calm down, this leather won't stain. Bella, go clean this bag up and make sure everything inside is bone dry. Get me my drink while you're at it, and hurry." I know her "hurry" has a double meaning, so I rush out of the tearoom and into the kitchen. The chefs in the kitchen stare at me as I enter. "Someone needs to refill this with more lemonade," I announce as I set the glass on the counter. "As for this bag I've got it covered." I ask for some paper towels and then head for the nearest bathroom. Thankfully, the door has a lock so I snap it in place before heading over to the counter. Quickly, I unzip the bag and pour all of its contents out.
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There's less than I thought. A small makeup bag a mirror tampons wallet iPod keys BlackBerry Hmm I pick her phone up and press a button, grateful that she doesn't have it locked. She has a picture of herself as a background. No surprise there. Not sure where to search, I end up going through her contacts first. Damn, she knows a lot of people. Mostly girls Hmmm. Okay, wait, more guys now. Whoa, a lot more than I thought. Hmmm Eddie? Ugh.. Rosabitch? Ha! Totally gonna tell Rose about that one Tanya's address book provides nothing of interest for me, so I look through her texts. She has several different conversations yet to be deleted- one with Rosalie, two with girls I don't know, one with Edward, and another with some guy called Benjamin. Benjamin: Did you find it? Yeah Benjamin: It's gone? Not yet. Benjamin: What the hell are you waiting for? I want it gone. Look, I don't even have it with me. I'm not at the manor. Benjamin: ARE YOU FUCING KIDDING ME? I stare at the conversation, baffled. It's all very suspicious, and my heart is pounding at the revelation. This could be very, very useful.
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Thinking quick, I forward the entire conversation to Edward and Rosalie. I'm super glad that nothing in the bag has gotten wet. Designer leather seems to be pretty durable. I quickly make sure I delete the conversation that indicates that I forwarded anyone a message, and then throw everything back into the bag. Once that's done, I head out of the bathroom and into the tearoom where the ladies await. I am careful to keep my expression guilt-free as I silently hand Tanya her bag. She snatches it away from me with a glare and then examines it, inside and out. She keeps looking through her belongings, undoubtedly concerned that I stole something. "Bella," Rosalie says. "Go into the kitchen and see what's taking them so long. Make sure they get my eggs benedict made the way I like. Oh, and make sure they don't screw up our scones." Once in the kitchen, I shoot Rose a quick text. Found something interesting in her phone. Forwarded it to you and E. We might be on to something. -B Just saw it. This should be over soon enough. -R Once the food is served, I sit back in my little seat in the tearoom and wait. Twenty minutes later, the girls are done with their brunch and Rosalie orders me to clean up. She then insists on going for a walk through the gardens, which is a very un-Rosalie kind of thing to suggest. However, because she's Rosalie, the girls cave. Tanya is sure to give me an unnecessary glare as she walks out, and I am soon joined by Victoria again, who helps me clean up. I am in a rush, and once we're done bringing dishes to the kitchen, I scurry upstairs. I encounter some workers on the third floor, but I just nod at them and try to look as nonchalant as possible. Once they're gone, I head straight for Edward's room.
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I don't bother to knock as I push the door open and shut it behind me. He's not in his bedroom; he's pacing in the living area. He stares at his phone as he paces, his left arm crossed while his right hand holds the phone up. "Hey you," I say, and he freezes and looks up in surprise. His tense posture relaxes and he walks over to me, pulling me into a hug. I'm taken aback but find no problem with wrapping my arms around him. He holds me tightly, like he missed me. "Spending all morning with that wretch takes a toll on me," he says into my hair. I laugh and pull away to look up at him. "Wretch?" He nods, a completely innocent expression on his face. "Wretch." "Are you trying not to use harsher terms like 'bitch' or 'skank' or 'demon queen from hell'?" Edward raises a brow and smirks. "Not if I can help it." I roll my eyes. "You don't always have to be a gentleman, you know." He just shrugs and changes the topic. "How did it go down there?" He sounds nervous. "Bree was this close-" I hold my thumb and index finger a centimeter apart"- to caving in and revealing something about Tanya before the skank whore herself walked in. Rosalie spilled lemonade on her bag and made me clean it up, which is how I found her phone." Edward starts pacing again. He does that a lot, mostly when he's deep in thought. "I'm wondering which Benjamin this could be," he says. "Most of all, what does he want her to get rid of? He asks her if she's found something, and she says yes but then she says she doesn't have it. It makes absolutely no sense." He sits down on his couch and I take a seat next to him, looking over his shoulder
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at the conversation. Benjamin: Did you find it? Yeah Benjamin: It's gone? Not yet. Benjamin: What the hell are you waiting for? I want it gone. Look, I don't even have it with me. I'm not at the manor. Benjamin: ARE YOU FUCING KIDDING ME? "Why didn't she reply to him toward the end?" I muse. "Why doesn't it make sense?" Edward asks again, angry and frustrated. He's right, though. The entire conversation is just backwards. I rest my head on Edward's shoulder as we stare at the screen. I start thinking out loud. "She found something, but it's not gone 'yet'? That means he wants something gone, except she didn't have it with her at the time, wherever she was" "She was with me all morning," Edward says. His brows are furrowed in concentration. "She was texting every now and then" "Do you think that's what she meant by 'I'm not at the manor'?" Edward's brows shoot up as he stares at me. "That would mean she has something here" My mouth opens as the pieces, slowly but surely, start to click together. The pieces are blurry and my mind tries really hard to make sense of them before they can fall out of my reach. "What he wants her to get rid of is here," I whisper excitedly.
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A slow grin spreads across Edward's face and I'm trying really hard not to start bouncing up and down in my seat. I know what we're going to have to do next.

Sometimes, being a worker at the manor has its perks. Edward and I try to go to Tanya's room together, but when we see that there are workers milling about, going in and out of her room, he has to stay back. Tanya's room, which is typically a grand guest room, is being cleaned. The carpet is being vacuumed, the sheets are being changed, and the bathroom is being scrubbed. I nervously contemplate if I even have time to dig; I obviously can't start snooping with all these workers here, and Tanya can be up here any second if Rosalie doesn't stall long enough. I need to be absolutely positive that I have the time to dig. Found a connection, searching her room. How much longer can you stall? B She's getting restless and wants to come up to relax before helping with the preparations. The other girls are gone. You have twenty minutes AT MOST. R Twenty minutes! Crap. How am I supposed to get all these workers out in less than that? Pocketing my phone, I move farther into the room. "Anyone need help?" I ask timidly. The maid making the bed gives me a funny look. "Were you assigned here?" she asks. "No, but Ro- I mean, Lady Rosalie- dismissed me for now. I have nothing to do. Need an extra pair of hands?" The maid eyes me suspiciously before shrugging it off and nodding.
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I'm a quick worker. Once I'm done helping out with the bed, I do what I can in the bathroom. Working in the guest bedroom also gives me a good idea of where Tanya has placed her things. Her suitcase rests against the wall by the bed and personal items sit on the vanity. I observe the rest of the room and decide that nothing really seems out of place. When the workers are done in the room, I leave with them, making sure to be the last one out. I make small talk so that they see that I'm with them and not still in the room. Just in case. I say goodbye as I go into my bedroom, but the second they're out of sight I run back to Tanya's room. I open the door and slip in quietly, shutting and locking it behind me. I head for the vanity first. She has a few makeup things, along with some hair accessories lying around. Nothing catches my eye. I check the little drawer of the vanity as well, but it's completely empty. After all, she's only been here for one night. I hurry towards the closet. She only has a few things hanging from the hangers. I check the pockets, if there are any. I check the shelf on top of the closet, but there's nothing there, either. I even check in the bathroom cabinets and under the bed and in the drawers of the side tables. Nothing. I saved the best for last. Her tiny, pink designer suitcase. To my surprise, there isn't much in it. She has a few clothes, folded neatly. I carefully run my hands in between them, just in case she's hidden anything in their folds. Nothing. I pat the pockets down and feel a bulge in one of the outer pouches.
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It's just a little purple camera. Cute. Expensive. Tiny. My curiosity is instantly piqued. I press the power button and the camera whirs on, the lens popping out and the screen lighting up. I hold it in front of me cautiously, like it'll blow up any second. I'm a little worried I might find naked pictures or something. That would definitely scar me for life. I press the little button that'll show me the pictures and viola! Tanya's face stares back at me. She has a lot of pictures of herself. Like, a lot. She's got the whole pucker-up, camera aimed above the head thing. She's got the half naked picture in the bathroom mirror thing. She's got the lying-in-bed-with-the-camera-raised-above-her thing. My phone buzzes in my pocket and I jump, squealing in surprise. Cursing myself, I pull the phone out and see a text from Rose. We're on our way now. If you're still in there- GET OUT. R "Shit," I hiss, and I frantically start pressing the arrow faster. I am desperate, so completely desperate to find anything in this camera that could be used against her. The pictures click by on the screen, appearing for one second before they're replaced by another one. Suddenly, something is different. While clicking quickly through the thumbnails, one of them stands out from the others. It's blurry and dark.
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No, it's grainy. No, it's not a picture. It's a video? A little movie icon appears on the bottom right of the screen, indicating that it's a video and that I need to press the little triangle to play it. My heart is beating a frantic rhythm and my finger practically fucking twitches of its own accord, successfully pressing the play button. There is a blur of movement and the sound of giggling, and then the image shows the side view of a bed. There's a male voice, "Get back here, what the fuck are you doing?" Then a female voice, "Hang on a sec." Tanya. I watch with wide eyes as the blurry image changes to a clearer one. Tanya looks into the camera as she places it somewhere. She moves away and the image turns into one of a blonde haired guy lying in the bed. The camera must be on a side table. She hovers over him, her long hair cascading down so that it forms a curtain in front of his face. I can't see him. There's moaning and groaning and humping and thrusting. I am so horribly consumed by what I'm seeing and my heartbeat is so loud in my ears, that the reality of the situation doesn't hit me until Tanya moans out, "Ben!" Holy motherfucking shit. Tanya Denali has a sex tape.

A/N: Oh, yes. I'm ready to say buh-bye to the demon queen.
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The Sunflower Awards: So, this story was nominated for 7 different categories in the Sunflower Awards. I don't know who rec'd it, but whoever you are, THANK YOU! It means a hell of a lot to me and I may or may not have squee'd a little bit... out loud... in public... You guys are all just too awesome for me to handle. Next Chapter: Thursday, May 5th (at the latest). I might post earlier like I did with this one. See you all next week! :)

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Chapter 17
As always, thank you for all the love this story has received over the past few weeks. It's a little bit overwhelming but, if anything, it makes me smile and keeps me motivated! I have endless love for all of you awesome readers/reviewers out there! :) Thanks to my lover-ly beta Pinkaquaclouds, who does a hell of a lot more for this story than she thinks. Now let us move forward in the tale of Princeward and Maidella...

Chapter 17- The Wicked Witch Is Dead This new revelation is exciting. It's exactly what we need. The video starts to get a little disturbing, especially when Tanya's co-star, Ben, starts twisting their limbs together in an unusual way. Oh god That does not look comfortable. Need. Eye. Bleach. Now. When I discover that Tanya is a screamer, I know it's time to turn the camera off. I shove it into my pocket and zip up the suitcase, making sure that it's placed exactly how it was before I searched it. I get on my feet and look around the room, mentally checking for anything that looks out of place. When all looks well, I open the door to leave. " and my feet are starting to ache, thanks to you," Tanya's voice filters in from down the hallway. Fuck. Panicking, I silently shut the door and hurry toward the nearest possible hiding
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place: the closet. It's not as big as Edward's. It's about the size of the closet I had at home, back in Forks. Too small to stand in, and only slightly uncomfortable to sit in. I find myself squatting on the floor of the closet just as I hear the girls enter. "Jesus," Tanya groans, and I can hear her shoes fall off her feet. "What was with the tour? These shoes were not made for walking in dirt. Mr. Choo would freak if he knew I wore them near horse shit." I push the door open just a little and it squeaks. Shit. Thankfully, Tanya doesn't hear it. She has her back to me as she sits on the edge of the bed, rubbing her foot. Rosalie, however, looks in my direction right away. Her eyes narrow briefly and then she wipes her face blank, her shoulders moving as she sighs. "Where's that girl Violet?" Tanya asks. "I need a foot massage." "Victoria?" "Whatever." "Victoria isn't paid to give you a foot massage, Tanya." Rosalie's eyes keep darting toward my hideout. I'm practically holding my breath, my heart pounding so hard that I'm scared Tanya will be able to hear it. When my phone buzzes in my pocket, I jump so bad that my elbow knocks into the door. It makes a loud thump and the door opens a little further. Goddamnit! Tanya turns her head and glances around the room, her gaze lingering on the closet for two of the scariest seconds of my life.
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"What was that?" she asks, but she only sounds vaguely interested. Rose shrugs. "I didn't hear anything." I glance at my stupid phone, unsurprised to see a text from Edward. Where are you? E Stuck in a closet. T and R are here. B You want me to come and distract them so you can get out? E NO. Rose is working on it. Stay where you are. I found exactly what we need. B When I peek through the crack in the door, I see that Rose has led Tanya into the bathroom. I think she's started a conversation about Tanya's makeup or something. She glances over her shoulder and gives the closet door a pointed look. That's my cue. Rosalie has her back to the open bathroom door, effectively blocking Tanya's view. Quickly but quietly, I push the closet door open and crawl halfway across the room before getting to my feet once I reach the door. Silently shutting it behind me, I all but run down the hallway, thankful that no one is around. When I reach Edward's room, I burst in through the suite door, panting. Edward stands up from the couch, looking worried. "Sex tape," I pant, resting a hand on my hammering heart. His brows go up. "Excuse me?" I stumble over to him and hand him the camera. "Tanya has a sex tape." He stares down at the camera in surprise, his gaze bouncing between my face and the shiny purple device. "You're kidding," he gasps, but his eyes are alight with excitement.
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The camera whirs on and he's quick to find the video and play it. The now familiar sounds of Tanya and Ben's voices filter through the room and Edward's eyes go wide. He doesn't watch the entire video. He turns the camera off after the first moan. Then, a huge grin breaks out across his face and he does a fist pump. "Yes, this is exactly what we need!" he exclaims, and he looks so much like a little boy that just got the best Christmas present ever. The sight is so surprising and unlike him that I can't help but laugh. Suddenly, he grabs me around the waist and lifts me up, spinning me around. I brace myself on his arms when he sets me on my feet, giggling like crazy, and he takes my face in his hands and gives me one big, sloppy kiss on the mouth. "Wow, I don't think I've ever seen you this happy," I laugh, reaching out and poking his cheek. "You have dimples!" He gives me a funny look. "You didn't know that?" "Well, I've never seen you smile this wide," I admit with a shrug. "Get used to it," he tells me with a smirk. "With Tanya out of my life and with you in it, there are a million more reasons to smile." I feel myself blush and playfully swat at his chest. "Oh, you." "I have a camera similar to this," his tone is back to business as he searches the room. "Never really used it, but hopefully the same USB cable will work. We can plug it into the TV to show it to her." "For dramatic affect?" Edward smirks at me over his shoulder. "Exactly. She loves the dramatics, after all." I perch on the arm of the couch and watch as he hunts down the wire that he needs. He eventually finds it in a drawer on the fancy TV stand. "Hey, Edward?"
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He hums in response, completely distracted by trying to plug the cable into the massive flat screen. "The documentation about your biological parents" That gets his attention. "Are they still in that desk drawer?" Edward shakes his head and goes back to working on the TV. "No. They're somewhere safer now." I nod and watch him as he turns the TV on and presses a bunch of buttons on the remote so that files show up on the screen, kind of like on a computer. "Call Rosalie and tell her to bring Tanya," he murmurs. He presses a button and the video comes on, ten times larger than it was on the camera. It's a little frightening. Rosalie answers her phone after the first ring, "Yes?" "We're ready." "Good." She hangs up on me and when I glance at Edward, he's watching me with concern. "You sure you want to stay here for this?" he asks. I snort in a very unladylike manner. "Are you kidding? I wanna see her face when she finds out that she is completely and utterly screwed." Edward smiles, walking over to me and taking my hand just as the door flies open. Both of our heads whip toward the door, but it's Rosalie and she's alone. "Tanya decided that she needed to change after taking a half hour stroll outdoors," she informs us with a roll of her eyes. "I told her to come here when she's done." Her gaze falls on the television, on Tanya's paused face, and her eyes go wide. "Is Is that what I think it is?" she asks.
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I chuckle at her astounded expression. "You mean is it evidence that not only is Tanya a cheating skank-bag, but that she also likes to videotape her tromps? Yes." Rosalie smiles at me, a smile that I've never been on the receiving end of. "Nice job," she praises. "It's about damn time, too." Edward makes sure that the doors to his suite are locked so that Tanya won't come barging in. She'll have to knock like a civilized human being for once. When that rapid knock on the door does come We take our places. Edward stands by the TV, which has temporarily been shut off. I stand next to him, my arms crossed over my stomach. Rosalie stands by the door, because she wants to make sure Tanya doesn't make a run for it, which wouldn't be very smart but would nonetheless be her impulse. "She's here," I sing, just like that creepy little girl from Poltergeist. Rosalie opens the door for Tanya and then slams it shut and locks it the second Demon Queen is inside. Tanya startles at the sound and then glances around the room in confusion. Her eyes land on Edward first and then her gaze zeroes in on me. Her expression contorts into disbelief, followed by anger. "What is this?" she demands sharply. I can't help myself. "Your farewell party, bitch." Edward puts a hand on my arm at the same time that Tanya takes a step toward me. Rosalie grabs her arm to stop her. Maybe it's better if I just keep my mouth shut. You know, being the bigger person
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and all that jazz. Come on, Bella, let's be mature about this. Or try to be, anyway "What the hell is this, Edward?" she shouts at him. "I'm just going to cut to the chase," he says. His face is the epitome of seriousness, and his eyes are hard as steel. Tanya's gaze is bouncing between me and Edward, and the anger in her sharp features is slowly melting into worry. "I'll give you one last chance," Edward tells hers. "One last chance to leave here within the next half hour, without turning back. One last chance to take that ring off your finger, call your parents, and tell them that the engagement is off. One last chance to spread the word that we're not getting married and we will never get married." Tanya raises a brow and snorts. "Are you kidding me?" Edward slowly shakes his head, his gaze never leaving hers. "Do I look like I'm kidding?" You can tell he means business. He's emanating the prince in him, and it's both sexy and unsettling at the same time. "What is this about?" she snaps, and it's so clear that she's losing control of herself, of her emotions. "This is about you and your blackmail," Edward tells her, and his entire posture screams anger. "Unless you want us to sink down to your level and expose you for what you really are, I suggest you take our advice and leave without a fight." "Expose me?" she repeats incredulously. She whirls around, looking at each of us one by one like a madwoman. "Seriously? Rose?" Rosalie shakes her head in pity, but doesn't say a word in response. Tanya turns toward Edward again, her eyes flashing. "So you're just going to blackmail me into breaking off this engagement, huh? What could you possibly have
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on me?" Edward raises his brows. "You sure you want to find out? You can leave, you know. In fact, I highly recommend it. Promise to keep your mouth shut about me and we won't hurt your precious reputation at all." Tanya looks genuinely scared, but she doesn't even know what we have on her yet. God, she must have more than one dirty little secret "So what will it be?" Edward asks. "Are you going to leave quietly, or do we have to hang something over your head?" "Whatever it is you have on me No one's going to believe it," Tanya suddenly says. Edward, Rose, and I all exchange a glance. She must not be talking about the tape. "Why is that?" Edward's voice is curious as he plays along. "I can get away with anything," she mutters. "You sure about that?" Tanya nods, but you can tell that she doubts herself. Edward smirks, but there's no humor behind it. He lifts the remote and aims it at the TV. "Can you get away with this?" The screen flashes on and for the third time today I experience how Tanya is in bed. However, none of us are looking at the screen. None of us except Tanya, of course. The second the video comes on, she blanches.
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The color just drains from her face and her eyes go so wide I'm afraid her eyeballs are going to pop out. Her hand flutters to her mouth and she covers it with a squeak. Moans and groans and grunts fill the room as Tanya's eyes start to swim with tears. She watches for a good minute, absolutely pale, and when she speaks we can barely hear her. "How did you get this?" she whispers. "I did what you did with Edward," I speak up, my voice unexpectedly confident. "I became nosy and stuck my nose where it didn't belong." Tanya's watery eyes stare at me in hatred. "You?" "That's right. Me. The commoner. The servant girl. Me, Bella Swan." I'm laying it on pretty thick, but I can't help myself. I'm getting some kind of sadistic pleasure out of watching her fall apart in front of me. Tanya looks at the screen again, and then looks at Edward, who is standing as still as a statue. His stony gaze hasn't left her for a second. "You wouldn't," she says quietly, and her entire persona is suddenly vulnerable. "I don't want to," Edward says. His tone is a little gentler. "But honestly, Tanya, you've gone too far with the blackmail thing. Are you really so desperate to be queen one day? You won't gain anything you don't already have." Tanya lifts her chin a little, a sign of defiance. "There's a lot I don't have." That rubs me the wrong way. "Yeah, because you're filthy rich so you have absolutely nothing, right?" "This is all your fault you know," Tanya spits at me. "Tanya," Edward warns, but it's like she doesn't hear him. "If you hadn't come here, if you hadn't stolen him away from me" She's
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practically yelling and the shrill sound of her voice grates on my nerves. For fuck's sake Grow the hell up, woman. "It's you, it's all you!" Tanya is pointing a sharp fingernail at me and I'm afraid she's going to pounce on me like a wild cat. "Stop it, Tanya," Edward is glowering at her, but she just shakes her head at him. "You know it's true," she growls at him. She looks like a madwoman, the tears running down her cheeks. "If she hadn't come here, you'd still be marrying me. Everything would be just perfect." "No, it wouldn't," Edward argues calmly. "It wouldn't be perfect. It would all be a lie. Neither of us would be happy." "We don't get to be happy, Edward." Tanya sounds bitter. "That's not in the job description. We do what others expect us to do, and that's it." "Not anymore." Tanya wipes a tear away with the back of her shaky hand. "So this is it, huh? You're going to put this on the internet or something?" "There's a lot we can do," Edward says quietly. "We can put it on the internet, but there's also the matter of sending it to Aro." Tanya's lips part as she inhales sharply. "You'd do that to me?" Her voice is small, timid, and this is not the Tanya we're used to. This is an insecure young woman. Edward blinks, impassive. "What, do you think that's a little too cruel? As cruel as exposing my birth history and having me thrown on the street? Not just me, but Bella, too? That's not as bad?" "This-" Tanya points at the screen. "Is personal." "What does it matter?" Edward raises his voice. "They're both things that neither of us wants anyone else to know. I will lose everything, and you will lose nothing but your reputation."
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"And you," she whispers. "Cut the crap, Tanya," Rosalie speaks up for the first time. "We all know you don't give two shits about Edward. You just like the idea of having him on your arm, don't you?" Tanya whirls around like she forgot that Rose was there. Her brows furrow and she blinks a few times. "We don't need anyone who doesn't care," Rosalie tells her coldly. "You don't care about anyone but yourself, and someone like that can't be queen one day." "I still want an answer," Edward reminds her. "What will it be? Will you leave quietly, or will you run to your uncle with my little secret?" "And what if I do?" she bites back. "Do you really think you'd be able to make it out there? The fallen prince? Please. You're screwed if I tell anyone." "Honestly, Tanya, I don't care if I'm out there," Edward declares. "That's where I was supposed to be in the first place, so why not? It won't be easy, what with people recognizing me, but I'll be fine. I can figure out how to survive outside of the world we grew up in." "So go ahead," Rosalie says. "Go ahead and tell Aro about Edward's real mother. This tape is just a perfect reason for Edward to break up this engagement. Unless you want to call your parents and do it yourself" Tanya has no way out. She's completely helpless in this situation and I have to admit that I feel just a teeny bit sorry for her. Just a teeny bit. She had it coming, though. Tanya's eyes fill up with tears again and her nostrils flare as she tries to control herself. Her breathing is shallow and she pulls her phone out of the pocket of her back pocket. Her hand is shaky as she looks at it, and you can tell she really doesn't want to do this. "I hate you all so much," she whispers as teardrops fall on her phone. "You're
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ruining my life." Drama queen. "It's for the best, Tanya," Rosalie says gently. "You're so young. Find someone that actually cares about you. Don't get stuck in this place, regardless of what others want you to do." She gives Tanya a meaningful look and the two exchange a glance. Wonder what that's about Tanya looks back down at her phone and sniffs. "So this is it, huh?" She glances up at Edward who nods just slightly. "This is it." Tanya yanks the diamond off her ring finger and tosses it on the coffee table. It clanks against the glass and then falls to the floor, rolling and stopping by the leg of the couch. I grimace, not liking how she treats an actual diamond. There's no doubt that that thing is real. When I look at her, she's staring at me. The stare isn't mean, it's just despondent, resigned. "I hope you survive," she whispers, but her expression becomes cold. I get chills. Bad chills. A second later, Tanya holds her phone to her ear and turns away from all of us. "Mom?" she says in a shaky voice. "I'm breaking the engagement off."

Edward and I gaze out the window of his bedroom, me leaning against his side with the comfortable weight of his arm draped over my shoulder. The sight below us is definitely a sight I won't forget.
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Valets are putting luggage into the trunk of a car as a suddenly humbled Tanya Denali is escorted toward it. The driver opens the door for her, and before she climbs in she turns to give the manor one last look. Her eyes seem to skim over the walls and windows, her gaze lingering over Edward's window for a little longer. I resist the urge to shrink back. Yep, I'm staying for good. Tanya shakes her head just a little and then ducks into the car. Once the vehicle pulls away, I let out a sigh. "Am I the only one that feels like a massive weight has been lifted from my shoulders?" I look up at Edward, who grins down at me. "Definitely not," he replies. "I feel freer. Lighter. Happier." I can see it in his eyes, the happiness. The diming sunlight from outside is reflected in their depths. "You have blue in your eyes," I point out with a smile. "You have red in your hair." He fingers a strand and I get that warm and fuzzy feeling again. I tighten the arm I have wrapped around his firm waist and bury my face in his chest. Inhaling deeply, I revel in the scent that is all manly cologne and all Edward. All mine. He wraps both arms around me and puts his chin on my head. "What does this mean for us?" I ask him. I feel him shrug against me. "I'm not sure, but I think I'm beginning to become addicted to a little spontaneity." "So we just go with the flow for a while?"
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He hesitates for a second. "Yeah, we should go with the flow. We should date." I pull my head away from his chest and look up at him. "Date?" Edward looks sheepish, shy. "Yeah, like Yeah." A giggle escapes me. "You're so articulate." He glances away from me for a moment, a little embarrassed about something. "I just want us to try and be as normal as possible," he mutters. Ah. Normal. "Define 'normal'" "Like how you were with other boyfriends you may have had," he says a little impatiently. He doesn't like to openly admit certain insecurities. "I've only had one other boyfriend, and we lasted for like two weeks. I don't know if that counts." Edward looks at me like he doesn't believe me. "Really? A beautiful girl like you has never been in a serious relationship?" I can feel my cheeks grow pink as I shake my head. "Well" Edward trails off. "I guess we can go on this little adventure together, then." "I like the sound of that." It's scary, really. Neither of us knows where this is going. We know there will come a day where our relationship wouldn't be able to be kept a secret any longer. Whenever that day comes, I guess I'll be ready for it. But for now a new chapter in this twisted little fairytale of ours is beginning.
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A/N: I am just getting started with these two. After all, just because the Wicked Witch is dead, doesn't mean the fairytale has to end. ;) Updates: I know they're not as frequent as they used to be, but I'm spacing them out more because, thanks to school, I've had less time to write. We're still a chapter or two ahead, but I promise I'm not doing this to torture y'all. As soon as finals are over (about three weeks from now), I'll be free to write more and we can speed up the updates. Same goes for the EPOV outtakes. Next Chapter: Sunday, May 15th :)

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Chapter 18
Chapter 18- New Beginnings It's been three weeks since Tanya Denali walked out of our life. After that day, everything fell into a fairly normal pattern. I woke up, worked for Rose for a little while, and then ended my day hanging out with Edward, if he was available. He'd been forced to accompany his father on various dinners and meetings a lot more often than either of us would have liked. The king and queen, as expected, had been less than pleased when they found out about the engagement being broken off. Apparently there were tears involved, along with arguing and long, bullshit lectures about what is expected of a prince. According to Edward, he ended up throwing all his manners down the drain when he raised his voice at his parents and then stormed out like an angry teenager. After that, there's been a strain between them, but a strain that they choose to ignore. Not exactly the best way to handle things, but I guess that's how it's done in the royal family Still, we're as happy as a Prince/Maid couple could possibly be. The sneaking around, though stressful at times, is part of the excitement of things. Especially because Edward and I have been well getting closer. The fact that we can get caught at any second is part of the thrill, and even though there are times we wish we could just be out in the open, the adrenaline is a little addicting. It's a Monday now, and if that isn't bad enough, it's a day where I won't be seeing too much of Edward. His father has stolen him away from me again. I think they're attending a luncheon in Seattle or something. Edward said that they're meeting with the prime minister of some place, for social rather than political reasons.
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My thoughts linger on Edward and what he could be doing as I make my way across the Garfield with a fresh bouquet of flowers. It's that time of the month where Rosalie demands that the flowers in her suite be changed. It's a chilly, slightly windy day and I glance up at the sky. Sure enough, telltale gray clouds announce the impending arrival of rain. I can't help but scowl. Lately, the weather has been pretty nice for Washington State. I notice that a cloud is shaped like a fat monkey, and that makes me chuckle as I keep walking with my head tilted up toward the sky. Just when I'm starting to get dizzy, I feel myself collide against someone. "Oh, shit, sorry," my apology is automatic, and I don't realize that I've dropped Rosalie's bouquets until the guy bends down to pick it up for me. "It's no problem," Sir Jasper drawls, and I can feel the warmth creep into my cheeks. Oh, crap. He holds the bouquets out to me and I take it with a shy smile. It's so weird seeing him in the flesh. My only other memory of him is from one of my first days at the manor, when I had to groom the horses and, like an idiot, named a horse that already had a name. Other than that, the closest I've come to talking to Jasper is through Alice when she was on the phone with him all night and I shouted "Let her sleep!" across the room. His reply, according to Alice, had been, "Plug your ears!" "Bella, right?" Jasper questions with a small smirk. "Yeah," I reply shyly, and I can see why Alice fell for him. The man reeks of kindness and sociability, not to mention the fact that I forgot how handsome he is. "Alice told me a hell of a lot about you," he tells me. "Didn't you throw up on Edward at some point?" My jaw drops and I can feel myself blush even darker. I glance around, but there aren't many people working out in the Garfield on a day like this.
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"Um, I, uh I beg your pardon?" I stutter. Jasper laughs. "Don't be embarrassed. I think it's hilarious." My mouth is still agape and I don't realize it until he reaches a hand out and pokes my chin. I snap my mouth shut. "How much has that little pixie told you?" Jasper grins. "Enough to make me feel like I've known her best friend for a very long time. You've got spunk." That unsettles me just a little, but not for long because Jasper's smile has the power to calm. I glance down at the bouquets in my hands. "I should get back to work. Rosalie's expecting me and, well, you know" Jasper nods knowingly. "My big sister's not the patient type, I know." I smile at him. "Sorry about crashing into you, by the way. The cloud, there was a fat monkey Uh, never mind." Jasper's looking at me like I'm the biggest weirdo on the planet, which I probably am at this point, but he lets me go with a chuckle and a polite nod. I'm glad that he and Alice are still together, even though they have to be on the down low a lot more carefully than Edward and I. They're taking a huge risk, but that speaks volumes about how they feel about each other. "Oh, and Bella?" Jasper calls when I've already walked away. I turn and his smile is a little sadder. "You're good for him," he says. "For this family, too. Stay strong." Without another word, he turns and strolls away.

Jasper's words are still ringing in my head when I reach Rosalie's room on the fifth floor.
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Should I be surprised that he knows about me and Edward? Probably not. Still, it's so unsettling to find out that our little secret isn't that much of a secret anymore. It feels a little dangerous to have more than just one or two people know, and I'm half expecting the word to spread to every single person in the manor. I enter Rosalie's room through the door of her living area, but she's not there. There's an empty vase on the windowsill, so I grab it and head toward her bedroom. When I reach the door, I freeze. Giggling? Yes, the sound of giggling is coming from the other side. Then, a deep male voice. A familiar deep male voice. Rosalie has a guy in there? What? I don't know what to do. Should I knock first and then go in there, or should I just leave the flowers in the empty vase and bolt? Should I just wait for her to come out? Really though, who does she have in there? I know that voice. More giggling, then laughing. A moan. Oh jeez. I'm scared to interrupt, but I feel wrong standing out here and listening. The room has great acoustics. I don't need to be on the other side of that door to hear a majority of what's going on. Torn, I place the vase on the coffee table and contemplate leaving for a bit. Then maybe I can come back and knock on the door
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The door to Rosalie's bedroom flies open and I jump, whirling around to see her standing in the doorway in surprise. Right behind her is an astonished. Emmett? Emmett. Oh my. "Bella," Rosalie voice is soft but I can clearly hear the edge behind it. "Hey," I mutter, standing there awkwardly. I hold up the bouquets. "I have your flowers." "How long have you been out here?" "Not too long," I lie through my teeth. "Just got here." Rosalie knows I'm bullshitting, but she doesn't have a chance to speak before Emmett interferes. "Hey Bella," he says, and I notice for the first time that he's not wearing those sunglasses, or that serious frown. He has hazel eyes! "Hi, Emmett," I smile at him. "Shouldn't you be protecting Edward or something?" He laughs and I swear he looks like a completely different person. "Don't worry," he says, walking into the room and perching on the arm of the couch. "Edward doesn't need protecting from the prime minister of Spain." Rosalie glances between us warily before walking over to me and taking the bouquets out of my hands. She observes them, murmurs a "perfect", and then grabs the vase before heading in the direction of her bedroom. Oh. She's doing it herself. Huh. Emmett and I stay in an awkward silence, and with further inspection I see that he's in jeans and a dress shirt. It's the most casual I've ever seen him.
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"Day off?" I ask him. He nods. "More or less." I glance toward Rosalie's bedroom before asking him my next question. "It's none of my business, but" I pointedly look at the bedroom and Emmett chuckles. "Yes, Bella, we're together." Aww. My brows shoot up and I can't help the grin that spreads across my face. "Wow," I whisper. "Don't look so surprised," Rosalie says as she strolls back in. "Did you really think I've been turning down potential suitors for so long, just because I'm 'frigid'?" "You're not frigid," Emmett argues. "Didn't say I was," Rosalie states gently. "It's what everyone thinks." "I don't think that," I tell her. Rosalie rolls her eyes. "You're Bella, you don't count." Ouch. Emmett gives her a disapproving look. "Rosie" "That's not what I meant," she says quickly. "I just meant that Bella is, well, special. She's a friend, and she knows me better than most other workers." "Thanks," I mutter, a little taken aback and embarrassed. That's as close to a compliment as I'm ever going to get from her. "In fact, I'll miss her," she adds. I cock my head in confusion. "Miss me? Where am I going?"
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She dismissively waves a hand in the air. "It's not you; I'm going on vacation for a few weeks." "Oh" "Cancun. I'm sick of this weather. Emmett's coming, too." I look at Emmett and he nods with the affirmative, a huge smile on his face. "Does anyone know about"I trail off and pointedly look between them. Emmett shakes his head, frowning slightly. "No, it's really just the people closest to us. Edward, you, Jasper, Alice Felix from our SS unit knows, too, but that's only because he's had to cover for me a few times." The revelation that Emmett and Rosalie are together makes me wonder how many other secret relationships there are in the manor. Suddenly, an amusing thought occurs to me and it makes me giggle. "Isn't it funny that every single one of the 'kids' in the royal family is in a relationship with someone who's you know not royal?" Rosalie smiles at that. "Ironic, isn't it?" "Just curious" I trail off and bite my lip. "How much are you risking? I mean, I know that Edward is risking pretty much everything by going out with me, but You and Emmett are safe, right? Emmett's in the SS; that counts for something, doesn't it?" Emmett sighs. "It doesn't matter that I'm SS, Bella. My parents are dairy farmers in Oklahoma." I blink at him. "Oh. So ancestry matters, huh?" Rosalie rolls her eyes. "I am so over this ancient bullshit. One of these days I'm just going to announce it to the world. How I'd love to just run away." She falls into a silence, her eyes glazed over and distant. "So why don't you?" I ask her. "That's what me and Edward are going to do." Rosalie's gaze snaps to me. "What?"
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Was that supposed to be a secret? "Um we might elope" I shuffle my feet uncomfortably as Emmett gazes at me in awe. "Balls," he says quietly. "You've got 'em." I blush at the compliment and shrug halfheartedly. "We're both going to have nothing. It's the only other option." "Good luck with that plan," Rosalie's voice is quiet and I can't quite place the emotion on her face. It's almost like she's daydreaming again. The sudden vibes I'm getting from Rose aren't exactly positive, so I decide to change the topic. "So, uh, this vacation I don't get to go, do I?" Rosalie smiles at my joking tone, but it doesn't touch her eyes. "Sorry. You'll be working for Kate again, while I'm gone." I nod, satisfied by that answer. But the far-off, slightly cold look Rosalie is giving me bothers me a hell of a lot.

The break room of the manor is bustling with activity as I push my way through all the workers to grab a sandwich. I pick one up at random and saunter over to where Alice sits, atop a counter with her legs swinging. She has her phone in one hand and her sandwich in the other. I hop up next to her. "Hey, short stuff." She mumbles a hello around a mouthful of food and doesn't even look at me. Her eyes are only for her phone and I don't think I've ever seen her thumb move so fast. "Jasper again?" I whisper. She smirks at me and swallows. "Do you even have to ask?"

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"You know, he needs to learn how to share you," I tease. "He tells me he saw you today," she says matter-of-factly. "Oh yeah, I kinda crashed into him." I blush at the memory. "Classic Bella," Alice laughs, actually putting her phone away. "I wish I saw him more often," I admit. "Get to know my best friend's boyfriend a bit more, ya know?" Alice smiles and nudges me with her elbow. "He wishes that, too. He's always so busy, though. Always off doing one political thing or another. He's really into it." "You, not so much?" Alice shrugs. "I've never been into politics. Boring." "Agreed." "Hey, guys," Jacob comes out of nowhere and hovers awkwardly, a bottle of iced tea in his hand. Ever since he kissed me, things have been pretty uncomfortable. We haven't really had a normal conversation since then, and when we talk it's always polite. I try to avoid being alone with him as often as possible, but it's better when Alice is around. She knows how to deviate any kind of social discomfort. "Hey Jake," Alice trills. I just smile and nod, taking a huge bite out of my sandwich as an excuse to not talk. We kinda just sit there in silence for a while before Jake clears his throat. "So, uh Did you guys here about Uncle Rick? He's coming back for a bit." Alice's eyes go wide. "You're kidding! When?" "Next week, apparently. I heard Kate talking to someone about preparing the room he usually sleeps in." "That's so exciting!" Alice says, and once again I am totally out of the loop.
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"Totally exciting," I pretend that I know what they're talking about. "Uncle Rick is the king's younger brother," Alice immediately starts filling me in. "He's so hilarious and so handsome. He travels the world so he's not around a lot, but when he is the whole atmosphere in the manor is just different." "It's happier, less serious," Jacob adds. "Uncle Rick is the bomb." "And everyone calls him Uncle?" I ask with a laugh. Alice nods and takes a small bite of her sandwich. "Mmm-hmm. Don't tell Jasper, but I think Rick is my favorite member of the royal family. He's just awesome." She sighs dreamily. "Will I get to meet him?" "I hope so," Alice says. "You'll love him. He's totally unlike all the others. He knows how to live." I nod, intrigued by this Rick character. It's hard to believe that a member of the Cullen family could be even remotely exciting. Jacob downs his bottle of iced tea and waves a silent goodbye to us as he walks away. The second he's gone I feel relieved, but I feel a little bad for the relief. Jacob was such a good friend My phone buzzes and I whip it out quickly, almost hitting Alice in the face with my hand. I mutter an apology before flipping it open. I'm deathly bored. E I giggle. The prime minister of Spain not interesting enough for you? B Definitely not. However, I find that his facial expressions are far more entertaining than the words that come out of his mouth. E Haha. Isn't it a little rude to be texting at the table, though, Your Highness? I would not have thought that someone such as yourself could do such a thing. B Well it just so happens, my fair maiden, that both my father and the prime
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minister are smoking cigars. I have escaped to the restroom. E Texting in the restroom? You must be excruciatingly bored. B I just wanted to talk to you for a brief moment. E :) Alas, we have spoken. B I can't wait to come home and see you. You keep my mundane existence exciting. E Right back at ya, babe. :) B Okay, I've been in here too long. I should go -E Yeah, don't want them to think that you're constipated or something. B -_- E What is that? B That is my not-amused face. -E It looks like your constipated face. -B You're such a lady. E I know, I know. B I'll see you tonight, okay? E My room or yours? -B Mine of course. ;) -E I sigh in contentment as I stow my phone away. Tonight. I'm looking forward to tonight.

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For the past few weeks, I've been visiting Edward's bedroom every night. I know that sounds completely wrong, but it's actually pretty innocent. His room is just the safest place to be. Sure, there are blind spots all over the manor, but there's always a greater chance of being caught elsewhere. Besides, I love his bedroom. The smell, the cozy atmosphere, the warm, inviting colors The bed. The fuckawesome bed. God, how I love that bed of his. So far, we've only used it for cuddling. Cuddling and talking and making out. Lots of making out. We haven't gone too far in that area. I guess you could say we're still kind of exploring each others' boundaries. I actually don't know if I even have boundaries. All I know is that I want him. Badly. My thoughts are on this as I make my way to his room. I love this time of the night, when the manor is dead quiet. Yeah, it's eerie, but it's just exciting to know that Edward and I are the only few who are actually awake. It's the time of night where I am completely comfortable. I get to throw on a t-shirt and sweatpants and scurry on over to his master suite, straight into his arms. As usual, I tiptoe myself across the third floor. My gaze falls on the camera in the corner, but I know it's been manipulated. That's Emmett's fault. Edward told me that I don't ever have to knock, so when I reach his bedroom I just silently push the door open.
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I wonder when I'm ever going to catch him undressing or naked His bedroom is empty, but I hear music coming from the main suite. I smile to myself. He's playing the piano again. I open the door that leads into the living area and my eyes fall on him right away. He has his back to me as he plays. His fingers move lithely over the keys and his head dips and sways at the appropriate times. The melody is soft, flowing, kind of like a river. It's a nice change from the sadder, more melancholy pieces that he tends to play. I decide it's time to announce myself, so I slowly walk over to him and stand beside the bench. I know he sees me from his peripheral because he smiles slightly, but keeps playing. I sit down next to him and put my head on his shoulder as he plays. The melody gets softer and slower until it trails off and then just stops with one final note. "Hi," Edward whispers. "Hi yourself." He puts an arm over my shoulder and I immediately cuddle into his side. It's one of my favorite places to be and the familiar weight of his arm around me is something I can never get tired of. I wrap my arm around his waist and bury my head into his neck, inhaling him. He's still dressed in his clothes from the luncheon, minus the blazer. The royal blue, pinstriped dress shirt fits him beautifully. "You smell like cigar smoke," I tell him. I pull my head back to look up at him and see that he's grimacing down at me. "Sorry," he mutters. I shrug indifferently. "Doesn't matter to me." "I can change" He starts to move but I hold on to him tightly.
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"I don't think so. I haven't seen you all day. You can undress later..." In front of mein slow motion. Edward smiles crookedly and plants a kiss on my forehead. "Suit yourself." My forehead is tingling from where he kissed me, but the tingling resonates to other places. He's holding back and I want more. I bring my hand to the back of his neck and run my fingers through his soft hair, gently pushing his head toward me. I know he wants this too, since he doesn't fight it, and before long his lips are firmly wrapped around mine. It's starts out slow, as usual. Sweet, tender, warm and wet with a little bit of tongue. It's quiet except for our breathing and the soft smacking of our mouths. Then, it becomes more urgent. His lips press against mine even harder and then it's a war of tongues with my hand tangled in his hair and his hand cupping the back of my neck. I take his lower lip into my mouth and nibble it a little because I know it drives him crazy. As expected, he groans and my god, the sound makes me shiver all over. My breathing has become erratic and I may be getting a little lightheaded, but fuck if I care because I am just so completely greedy for his taste. As for my thoughts, well, they're completely incoherent. "Bella," the hoarseness of his voice makes me throb in all the right places, but it's like I just can't stop. I'm running on pure primal need for his mouth, for his everything. Sweet, sweet heat is taking over my entire body and I'm aching in all the right places, just from kissing him. "Bella," he says again, but I'm only vaguely aware of his voice.
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I ignore him and pull him closer so hard that our teeth bang together. Painfully. I pull my head back and cover my mouth. "Ow." He runs his thumb across my lower lip and I realize that I'm also panting. "You okay?" Edward asks, smirking, but I can tell he's still concerned. "I'm fine," I mumble, embarrassed. I can't believe I'm making it so obvious how horny I am. Goddamnit. My lips feel swollen and a glance at Edward shows me that his are, too. "I got carried away," I mutter abashedly. Edward chuckles. "So did I, but is that why you're so shy all of a sudden?" I shrug and try to distract him by pressing random keys on the piano. It doesn't work. "Bella, it's perfectly okay," he assures me. "You can get as carried away as you want." I turn to look at him with a raised eyebrow and he gives me a sheepish smile that I could picture perfectly on a little boy. Grinning in return is completely inevitable. "Is that an invitation?" I ask with a giggle. Edward smirks and scoots closer to me so that our hips are touching. "Think of it what you will" His cryptic remark makes me wonder how far he's willing to go. Hell, why not just ask the man? I clear my throat. "Uh How far are you willing to go?"
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Edward looks at me and I swear his eyes darken almost imperceptibly. He searches my face before answering. "Honestly." "Honestly." Slowly, he leans forward and presses a tiny kiss at the corner of my mouth. It tingles. "I'll go as far as you want," he whispers. Oh sweet baby Jesus, I think my ovaries just exploded. I blink at him as he leans away, smiling shyly again. He's bipolar again, but it's a different kind of bipolar. It's not the hot to cold kind of bipolar, it's like a sexy to shy bipolar. With those seven words, he's opened up the floodgates of all the dirty parts of my mind. I start thinking of all the possibilities, and though it's just a little scary, it's more exciting than anything. The things I would do with this man This isn't really something we've talked about before, but there's no time like the present, right? Edward has started playing again, and this time the tune is more upbeat, happier. I link my arm with his and tilt my head as I look at him. "Would you really?" I ask hesitantly. He doesn't stop playing, but he glances down at me. "Yes." "Anything?" He hesitates, but only for two seconds. "If you're sure you want to do it, one hundred percent sure, then who am I to deny you?"
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Awww. My mind is suddenly bombarded with questions. How much sexual experience does he have? Is he a virgin? What is he into? How many people has he slept with? I'm too embarrassed to ask, so I leave the questions hanging around in the dirty part of my brain. I'm insanely curious, though. Maybe I can inadvertently get him to confess Hmmm. "When are you willing to go as far as I want?" I can't get my voice above a whisper. The corner of Edward's mouth twitches up as he continues to play. "Any time you want, love." Love. It's the first time he's used any term of endearment with me. I think I like it. "So if I wanted to jump your bones right now, on this piano bench, you wouldn't stop me?" The music stops abruptly and Edward's head whips down to look at me, surprised. He stares. And stares.
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And stares some more. God, I must sound like such a whore. "This piano bench?" he asks quietly, and he sounds both amused and disturbed at the same time. "Hypothetically speaking" Once again, the traitor blush is ever apparent on my face. "That would be uncomfortable" Edward looks like he's deep in thought about something. "But you wouldn't say no?" It's his turn to bite his lip. "It doesn't mean a lot to you?" I'm confused. "What doesn't mean a lot to me?" "Sex." Oh. Does it mean a lot to him? How do I answer this question? "It does mean a lot, I guess" I trail off, trying to figure out how to word things the right way. "It used to mean a lot more when I was, you know, still a virgin" Edward brows shoot up. "You're not a virgin?" He doesn't sound surprised or disappointed, just mildly interested. I shake my head. "Mike Newton. I was fifteen. It was terrible. Really, really, awkward and painful, too." I grimace at the memory. "That was the only time you slept with someone?" Edward asks I shake my head. "Then, when I was sixteen, there was Vladimir Fisher. He was probably the cutest boy at school, and so, so, sweet. Probably the nicest guy I've ever met. He was too nice, though. The sex was a one-time thing and it was okay, but that's it"
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Edward nods, his eyes never leaving my face. "What about you?" I nudge him with my elbow and try to seem very nonchalant. He looks away and starts playing again, a somewhat somber melody. "I'm not as experienced as you," he says with a shrug. "So you've slept with one person?" "More like none." His eyes are closed as his fingers move smoothly over the keys. I can't deny that I'm just a little surprised. "You're a virgin?" He stops playing and frowns down at me. "Yes." I nod. "Okay. That's cool." He smiles slightly and runs a finger across my jaw, touching my lips gently. "I've just never met anyone I've really wanted like that," he murmurs. "Not until now, anyway." "I find that hard to believe," I whisper. "You've never found anyone attractive enough to sleep with?" Edward sighs, dropping his hand. "I've come across many pretty girls in my life, Bella. Many of them have approached me with certain desires but I just couldn't. I didn't want to, despite their beauty." "Why? Any other guy would have been like 'hell yeah' and gone for it." "I didn't want to use them for my own pleasure," he says matter-of-factly. "Sex and feelings are one in the same for me. It's kind of how I was raised." I'm actually impressed by his self control. "Wow, that's really noble of you."
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"What can I say? I'm nobility." He grins at his own joke and I laugh. "Let's change the topic," he suggests. He starts playing the tune of Happy Birthday on the piano. "You're going to be nineteen in a few days." I feel myself blanch. "How do you know that? Was it Alice? Damn that little-" "It was Rosalie, actually." My eyes widen. "How does she know that?" He shrugs indifferently and keeps playing the tune. "What do you want to do for your nineteenth?" I put my hand on his to stop him from playing that song. "I'm not a birthday person, never have been." Edward frowns. "So you don't want to do anything at all?" "Nope." He raises a brow. "Too bad. We're going out." I blink at him. "Excuse me?" "You heard me," he goes back to playing again. "Where are we going?" "You'll see." I am mortified. "So you've already planned something?" "Yep." I groan. "Edward" "You'll like this one, I promise. Besides, think of it as a date."
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"Okay, that doesn't sound so bad" He leans down and kisses my nose. "It's not. We need a break from this place." "Edward, please don't do anything big and grand for me. We're supposed to be inconspicuous, remember?" "We'll be fine," he chuckles. "Don't worry about it." I can't help it. I'm worrying.

A/N: Thank you guys for being so patient! I don't know about you, but I needed the fluff! Next Chapter: It's going to be the birthday chapter and it's going to be fun and fluffy and citrusy and long. You guys like long chapters... right? See you on Tuesday, May 24th :)

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Chapter 19
Chapter 19- Birthday Retreat The darkness is comforting. Really, really comforting. It wraps me up like a warm blanket, all cozy and warm, and cradles me. I like this darkness. It's a good kind of darkness. I feel relaxed, at ease, not a care in the world. Then, something changes. I'm moving a little bit and there's something rustling. Wind? No, not wind. Whispering voices? Yes. "Bella" Someone's singsong voice is breaking through my beautiful darkness. "Bella, wake up, sleepy head." My brain is just breaking the surface of consciousness and my head feels heavy from sleep deprivation. "What time is it?" I groan, rolling over onto my back. "Midnight," a deep voice says. My eyes spring open and I lift my head to see a mob standing at the foot of my bed. There is a glow of orange light hovering in front of them, illuminating Alice's face. "Am I dreaming?" I ask out loud, and they all laugh. "Happy Birthday, Bella," Edward says.
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Edward! "I am dreaming" "You're not dreaming, silly," Alice replies. "We brought you a cake!" Oh my goodness. I sit up, still in a daze, and let my eyes adjust to the darkness and the glowing candles of the cake. As my vision gets clearer, I make out the familiar faces. Edward, Alice, Rosalie, Emmett Stella! Someone snaps a picture and I groan, covering my face. "You guys," I whine. "I'm a mess. You didn't have to do this." They all chuckle and then Alice carefully places the cake on the bed. "We wanted to surprise you at midnight on the dot. It's your first birthday at the manor. Now, make a wish and blow out the candles." I lift my eyes and my gaze falls on Edward. He stands by the corner of the bed and smiles down at me, his eyes sparkling from the glow of the cake. I don't normally believe in this type of thing, but I close my eyes. I wish that I'll get my happily ever after with Edward. Doesn't hurt to try, right? I open my eyes and blow. Every single candle goes out, leaving trails of smoke in their wake.

It's a little hard to fall asleep once everyone leaves. For one thing, sleep doesn't come easy when you've eaten cake at midnight.

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Also, I can't stop smiling. Alice gave me a dress. No, scratch that, she made me a dress. It's a sundress, white, knee-length and spaghetti strapped with an empire waist. I'm not a dress person, but it's adorable. Stella, who I hadn't really had a chance to talk to other than a hello or goodbye around the manor, had made me a headband. It's blue and sparkly and, according to Alice, looks "exquisite" with my hair. Rosalie and Emmett gave me a gift card to some fancy bookstore in Seattle, which I thought was completely unnecessary but extremely thoughtful of them. Edward said that I'd have to wait until our "date" for my present. That worried me a little. Now, ten hours later, I am sitting on my bed and glaring at the duffel bag that is sitting by the dresser. I'm not allowed to touch it. I'm not allowed to open it. Yet it belongs to me. Apparently, Edward assigned Alice the role of stylist. He asked her to pack a bag for me but to not let me open it. The idea is that if I know what I'm supposed to wear to this location I'll spoil it for myself. "How do I know there isn't some slutty, pink bunny costume in there?" I ask Alice as she gets ready for work. She rolls her eyes. "He's not taking you to the Playboy mansion for your birthday, Bella." "Is there a dress in there? Painfully high heels? Oh my God, there's a super fancy gown in it, right? He's taking me to some restaurant where the food costs more than my annual salary." "Quit guessing," Alice says sternly. "You're wrong about most of that, anyway." "Most of that?"
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Alice winks at me and I groan. This can't be good. Sighing, I look down at my lap and play with my phone. I'm waiting for Edward's text to meet him somewhere. Everything is still kind of a mystery to me. Since today is a Friday and I'd normally be working, Rose is covering for me. She's going out for the day, and everyone is supposed to think that I went with her. "I am so fucking confused," I mutter. Alice slips on her shoes and smiles at me. "You'll have fun, I promise." She gives me a tight hug, tells me to enjoy myself, warns me not to look in the bag, and then leaves. The mystery duffel back just sits there, begging me to peek inside. It's tempting, really tempting. But honestly, I'd feel bad for looking if Edward wanted to keep it a surprise. I sit there in silence for another few minutes, repeatedly checking my phone and mentally hating on surprises in general. It's not that I'm not appreciative of Edward's plan to surprise me with the location of this thing. I'm just scared. I don't like not knowing what to expect; it makes me nervous. I'm afraid that I won't exactly be okay with wherever he's taking me, and I really don't want to hurt his feelings. Just the fact that he's doing something so special for my birthday means a lot to me, even if I don't know how to show it. I'm just not used to grand gestures, especially when those gestures are for me. Having the prince try to surprise me on my birthday with a secret location and a secret outfit is a little overwhelming.
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Okay, it's a lot overwhelming. A part of me knows that I might have to get used to it, but I don't know why I'm rebelling against it. My thoughts are interrupted by the buzzing of my phone. Meet Felix at the elevator on your floor. Bring the bag. E As I pick up the bag, which is heavier than I would like, I feel like I'm part of some kind of drug smuggling operation. I need to get around the place without being caught and it kind of puts me on edge. My floor is empty but I still feel like I'm being watched as I practically run toward the elevator. Felix waits for me there, and he takes my bag two seconds before the elevator doors open. Once inside, we go down a couple of floors before we stop at a level where the walls and floor are cement. I'm pretty sure we're deep underground, but I don't get a chance to look around too much because Felix instructs me to follow him. Three doors, two flights of stairs, and one elevator ride later, we finally make it outdoors. "How many secret passageways are there in this place?" I ask Felix. We just came out of the back of the manor, where the ground is untouched. It's a mess of dirt and rocks and weeds, and I'm guessing no one uses this door. "More than we can count," Felix mutters, as serious as ever. I try not to trip over rocks as we walk, and I'm burning with curiosity. Finally, we come to a golf cart? I stop and stare as Felix gets behind the wheel. He stares at me expectantly, one eyebrow raised, and before I know it, I'm climbing in next to him. It is so freakin' weird. Felix takes us through the thin forest that lines the property, and there's already been a road paved through it. The trees fly by me as we go farther away from the
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manor. Apparently, the property is ten times larger than I thought. I come to this realization when Felix stops the cart in an open field so far from the manor that it's only a square the size of my thumb in the distance. The manor, however, is not what my eyes are on. It's the jet, and the man standing in front of it. Oh dear god, that's not my present, is it? Edward stands a few feet away from the jet, facing me with his hands in the pockets of his jeans and a huge grin on his face. His appearance vies for my attention against the jet. He's dressed casually in loosely fitting dark blue jeans and a blue t-shirt under a leather jacket. Holy crap, he looks incredible and so amazingly badass. Is he really mine? "Did you sleep well?" Edward asks after thanking Felix, who disappears inside the jet. He pulls me into a hug. "Mmm," is my only reply. I love his smell, and the feel of his arms around me. "I'll take that as a yes," he chuckles. I pull back and give the jet a nervous look. "That's not my you know is it?" Edward smiles. "Not unless you want it to be." "No!" I say quickly. "No, no jets. I'm okay without one." He nods toward it. "Come on, let's take a look inside." The second we step inside, my eyes go wide. It's much, much bigger than it looks from the outside. Granted, the word "jet" is small enough to make me think of small things.
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This, however, is not small. Everything is in different tones of beige, with a smattering of gold here and there. There are two very large recliners, along with two couches that sit on opposite sides. It's bright, thanks to all the windows and my eyes are able to take in a large television, a sound system, laptop, and even a little aquarium in the wall. "There's a bedroom back there," Edward says, nodding behind us. "There's also a bathroom in the other direction." My mouth is agape as I absorb everything and I am unable to form words. "Uh" Edward smirks. "Speechless?" "Uh, yeah." He shakes his head. "This isn't even the family's jet. It's half the size." My eyes widen even further and Edward chuckles. "Come on, let's get settled in. We should take off soon." "How long are we going to be in here?" I ask. "Just a few hours," he replies, shrugging his jacket off. I love how the fabric of his t-shirt clings to him. He sits down on one of the couches and opens his arms for me until I fall onto his lap. "How does it feel to be nineteen?" he asks. "It feels like eighteen, and seventeen" "You're so young," he murmurs, and I have to look at his face. There's stubble across his jaw, one of my favorite things, and slight shadows under his eyes. His brows are furrowed just a little bit, and his lips form a pout. "What?" he asks.
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"You always talk about how young I am. You're not forty, you know. Twenty-two is still pretty damn young." "I feel like I've been alive forever," he mutters. "I don't know why, I just I feel old. Is that bad?" I sigh and rest my forehead against his. "Maybe it's because of this whole prince thing. You were expected to grow up pretty fast, huh?" He nods and then smiles against my lips. "You make me feel young, though." I hum in contentment and wrap my arms around his neck, capturing his mouth with mine. His hands are on my hips, holding on to them tightly. It's almost like he's afraid I'll either a) get away or b) jump his bones. The second option is more likely. His tongue peeks out to run across my lower lip and I whimper, squirming on his lap. He groans and sticks his tongue further in as one of his hands moves to the hem of my shirt and slides up my lower back. It's like the skin he touches catches fire and the heat radiates every-fucking-where. Slowly, his fingers wander along my lower back, not too far from the waistband of my jeans, but not too close, either. He starts pressing little kisses along my jaw, and then his warm lips trail down my neck. My hands have his hair in a death grip and my thoughts slowly begin to get all jumbled up. A throat clears and I instantly try to pull away and get off Edward's lap, but he holds onto my hips tightly. "Your Highness? Are we ready to take off, sir?" "Yes," Edward replies, his eyes still on me. "Thank you, Felix." I'm too embarrassed to look up, but I hear a door shut and then there's silence. "Are you sure we can trust him?" I whisper. Edward doesn't look like he has a care in the world. "Yes, he can be trusted. Quit worrying, it's your birthday."
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That's the last time he lets me stress out about anything. The jet ride to our mystery destination is actually really, really relaxing. I lose track of time, because Edward and I really just, well. fool around. Technically, I'm still a pretty hormonal teen, so I have absolutely no problem with just staying on these cushiony couches and making out. The only time we break apart is to eat, and that's also the only time we stop touching. The recliners are across from each other and there's a glass table in between. "Look outside," Edward says as he takes a sip of apple cider. I peek out the window and my breath is instantly taken away. What were previously just clouds have suddenly morphed into the ocean. Crystal blue and sparkling, it is absolutely stunning and seems to stretch on forever. There's also some green and brown here and there, signs of land. "Wow," I gasp. "Amazing, isn't it?" Edward says. "It's almost surreal." I nod in agreement and keep staring, absentmindedly nibbling on a chocolate covered strawberry. "We should get changed now," Edward informs me, glancing at his watch. "We're almost there." "Do we have to?" I ask with a slight whine. I am still scared about the contents of the mysterious duffel bag. Edward shrugs. "We don't have to, but I'd rather you be comfortable, especially with where we're going." "I'm perfectly comfortable in these jeans and this t-shirt," I argue. Edward frowns a little. "Okay" I can tell he's a little disappointed, so I sigh and stand up, ruffling his hair. "Fine, I'll change, but mostly because I can't say no to that face."
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Edward smiles and kisses my hand. "You won't regret it." The duffel bag rests on the floor and the curiosity inside of me can't stay silent anymore. The first thing I pull out is Alice's birthday present- the white sundress. I blink at it, surprised, before pulling out the next few items. A pair of oversized sunglasses. A big, white, floppy sun hat with a removable orange scarf wrapped around it. A pair of white sandals with crystals on the strap. Sunscreen. Lastly, a coral pink bikini. Whoa I blink at all the items and then it dawns on me. We're going to the beach! I don't know what I was expecting, but immense relief is definitely washing through me. Quickly, I change into the bikini and the dress, loving how both feel against my skin. My body has room to breathe and I honestly can't remember the last time my feet touched the ocean. Suddenly excited, I open the bedroom door at the same time that Edward opens the bathroom door on the other side of the jet. We blink at each other, both of us smiling. Prince Edward dressed for the beach is certainly a sight to behold. He's wearing the same dull blue t-shirt but he's changed into cargo shorts. On his feet are a pair of sporty looking flip flops and dark sunglasses cover his eyes.
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"You look lovely," he says, walking over to me with a crooked smile. Although I can't see his eyes, I can practically feel them burning a hole into my body. "Alice did an amazing job with that dress." Blushing, I look down at his feet. "Is it just me or is the prince wearing flip flops?" Edward throws his head back and laughs. "The prince is indeed wearing flip flops. Royalty does go to the beach every now and then, you know." "We've just landed, sir," Felix's voice comes out from an intercom I didn't know existed. "I didn't even feel us land," I say in surprise. Edward wraps an arm around my waist and leans down to kiss my head. "The joys of a private jet." He looks down at me and then frowns. "Wasn't there a hat in the bag?" "Um, yeah" He raises a brow. "You're not gonna wear it?" "It looks ridiculous. It's huge and floppy and wholly unnecessary." "Do you sunburn easily?" he asks. "Alice packed sunscreen, so it's all good." Edward's lips press together but he nods curtly just before the door of the jet opens and I'm greeted by a breeze that brings with it the scent of the ocean. I waste no time in running down the ramp, and the second my sandaled feet step onto the sand, I know there's no point in wearing them. I quickly unbuckle them and let my feet sink into the hot sand. I wiggle my toes and listen to the rough sound of the sand against my skin partnered with the rush of the ocean and the cawing of seagulls. This has to be the cleanest sand I've ever seen in my life. There isn't even the slightest hint of a cigarette stub or a piece of a broken glass bottle. It's tan, smooth, sparkly, and absolutely wonderful.
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The ocean is just a few yards away, glimmering in the sun and almost blinding me. Without thinking, I start running. Heat, warm and pleasurable, is all over my body as my feet race toward the blue. My dress and my hair is billowing behind me and I can't get the stupid grin off my face. My legs keep going and going and going until, finally, they hit the waves. I stop abruptly, swaying with the sea, and try to maintain my balance as the waves wash over my feet. Suddenly, the world is spinning and it feels like the ocean is carrying me away with it. The water is cold but it feels amazing so I just close my eyes and tilt my head up toward the sun. My sense of gravity is diminishing with the wet sand under my toes, but I honestly can't find it in myself to care. For the first time in a long time, I feel free. I don't know how long I stand there, but when I open my eyes I have to squint against the sudden burst of light. I look around me at the beach, and realize for the first time that there are no other people. All I see are trees in the distance, but the ocean itself seems to go on forever. Turning around fully, I see that Edward is watching me. He's taken the plaid shirt off, so he's just in the blue t-shirt. His shoes are gone too, and a glance behind him shows a blanket laid out in the distance, along with a massive umbrella for shade and what looks like a picnic basket. I walk over to him, which is difficult because of the wet sand, and throw myself at him, wrapping my legs around his waist. He laughs and stumbles back before holding onto me tightly. "Thank you," I whisper in his ear. "This is the best birthday present ever." He kisses my cheek and smiles against my skin. "You're welcome. I know you needed this. We both needed this."
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I pull away from him with my legs still wrapped around his waist, and pepper his mouth with little kisses. He grins so I end up kissing his teeth. Because I kiss his teeth, he starts laughing and because he ends up laughing, I end up sticking my tongue in his mouth. After a few moments of just kissing in the sun, Edward pulls back and smiles softly at me. "Are you hungry?" he asks. For your body? I nod in answer to both his question and mine, and swiftly and suddenly, he flips me over so that he's holding me bridal style. I squeal and laugh as he sprints toward the blanket with my arms wrapped tightly around his neck. "Am I too heavy for you?" I giggle. Edward rolls his eyes, his hair blowing back as he runs. "Pfft. Please. You'd fly away if I tied you to a balloon." He slows down to a walk as we approach the large blanket that's been laid out. The big purple umbrella provides an adequate amount of shade and when Edward sets me down, my butt sinks down very comfortably. He plops down next to me and pulls over the basket and cooler as I glance around the beach. "Where are we, exactly?" I ask. "I feel like we're on an unchartered island." Edward smiles as he pops open a bottle of iced tea and hands it to me. "Close enough. This is a private beach just off the coast of California." I pause mid-sip. "We're in California?" Edward shrugs. "More or less." "Do you own this beach?" He shakes his head. "I'm borrowing it from someone who owes me a favor. It's
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ours for as long as we want, though." "Wow" I watch as he pulls out more food and then gawk as I realize that it's all stuff I've had before. It's all made by my dad. Edward notices my expression and grins. "I had your dad make some of the popular foods from his restaurant. I knew you'd like it all." I stare at Edward nervously. "He doesn't know, does he?" "No, but I did tell him that it was food for a very special picnic. He made sure it was all portable. I know you don't get to see him often." I nod sadly and pick up a panini. "I don't, but I guess his food is the next best thing." We eat in comfortable silence for a while, enjoying the view. It really is spectacular, like something out of a movie. It's moments like this, in nature so beautiful, that make me feel like the world isn't really a bad place to be. "This is amazing," Edward groans, and he takes a big bite out of his food. The way he chews, his full lips pressed together and moving up and down, is so incredibly sexy that I just have to sit and stare for a good few minutes. He swallows and I watch as his Adam's apple bobs with the motion. Unf. I involuntary lick my lips, and Edward's eyes drop to look at my mouth. His eyes darken almost imperceptibly and my breathing hitches when his eyes meet mine. Oh my Just like that, my appetite is gone. I no longer need food in my stomach, because the butterflies have taken over. These aren't the nervous kind of butterflies, the ones that make you anxious and nauseous.
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These are the crazy butterflies, the ones that wildly flutter their wings, accelerating your heartbeat and pushing the adrenaline through your veins. They make it impossible to sit still, heat up your insides and make you squirm. Okay, so maybe they aren't butterflies. Maybe they're hummingbirds or something. "Are you done eating?" Edward asks, and the roughness of his voice makes my belly clench. My answer gets stuck in my throat, so I just nod. At the same time that Edward swiftly pushes the food away from in between us, I sit up on my knees and reach for him. Animals. We're complete animals in the way we kiss. One of his hands tangles itself in my hair while the other wraps around my waist, pulling me closer. We're chest to chest, my fingers gripping the front of his t-shirt and my tongue furiously fighting with his. His mouth tastes like tomatoes and mozzarella cheese and I just can't. Get. Enough. Our breathing is hot and heavy and I'm starting to get lightheaded as his fingers dig into my hips. Warm, wet lips press kisses down my throat and across my collarbone, and I can feel my skin heat up at the contact. I can't suppress a moan, and suddenly his words from a few nights prior ring through my head. "I'll go as far as you want" "I'll go as far as you want" "I'll go as far as you" Fuck, yes.
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Spurred on by his unintentional encouragement, I shove him so he falls backwards. He braces himself on one arm and grunts, his green eyes staring at me in surprise. I bite my lip before straddling his waist with my bare knees digging into the towel beneath us. "As far as I want?" I ask in a whisper. He swallows and nods. His eyes are blazing, lustful, and his chest is heaving as I push my hands under his shirt. His chest is hard and toned under my fingertips and he throws his head back and just groans as I feel him. There's a smattering of chest hair, and everything else is firm under my touch. My own heart is pounding but just the fact that my lady bits are pressed up against his abs is enough to make the throbbing feel like full on aching. "Clothes," I breathe. "Too many clothes. We're on the beach." He chuckles, and the sound is dark, seductive. It makes my abdominal muscles clench in all the right ways. He takes my forearms and pushes my arms away from him, gripping the hem of his shirt before lifting his hips to pull the back of it from under his ass. When he lifts his hips, I feel him Right there. We both gasp at the same time and Edward freezes, his hands still gripping his shirt. His lips are parted and he lets out a shaky breath, eyes wide and dark and hungry. Yeah, he totally felt that, too. I am throbbing. I am literally throbbing everywhere that it matters, and I feel like I'm going to go insane if I don't get to feel every single part of him. I pull on his shirt and he's snapped out of his stupor, taking it off and revealing
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the chest that I've only yet dreamed about. Leaning down, I take his lower lip in between my teeth and press down until I hear the groan that he's trying to suppress. His right hand finds its way under the hem of my dress and up my thigh. Slowly, it crawls higher and higher and then stops. His other hand is sliding from my hip to my ribcage to the side of my right breast. No, don't hold back. Taking the initiative, I grind myself against him. Immediately, he drops his hands. "Shit," he hisses, clenching his eyes shut. "Shit, shit, shit." The roughness of his voice is almost too much for me and my thoughts are in a jumble as I grind myself against him one more time. Again, the bulge in his shorts hits me exactly where I need it, and I bite my lip and whimper at the sensation. Edward's hands are back, this time not hesitating as they explore my body. One hand grips my thigh and half my butt cheek while the other is back at my right breast. His thumb grazes over it, but it's not enough because of the stupid dress. Suddenly feeling overheated, I reach back to try and unzip it. I can't reach. "Let me," Edward says, and I climb off of him and turn around so that I'm facing the ocean. Smoothly, I hear the sound of the zipper opening and feel the fabric part. I stand up and push the straps off my shoulders before shaking my hips and letting the dress fall off of me completely. I look over my shoulder at Edward, who's still on the ground, and see that he's bracing himself on his elbows as he watches me. His gaze goes from my back to my waist to my ass, down my legs, and then all the way up to my lips. The look in his eyes, the dark, needy, sexy look is back and my god, how I want
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him. "Let's go for a swim," I say, holding out my hand. Edward doesn't even hesitate before he takes it, and once he's up he reaches down toward the fly of his shorts. Say what? He unzips his cargo shorts and I'm just a little disappointed to see swim trunks underneath. However, what doesn't disappoint me is the bulge that looks double the size it did a minute ago. I want. Edward takes my hand, and we reach a mutual understanding by just our eyes. We start running. He lets go at some point, and then it turns into a race. He's too fast for me, of course, but I just enjoy watching his ass he runs. Once he's in the ocean, he dives down and disappears. My feet touch the waves once more and I start to get a little panicky when Edward doesn't resurface. I'm butt-deep in water when I feel something grab my leg and pull me under. I squeal and start thrashing against the waves, but I'm taken in a pair of strong arms that lift me up and out into the sun once more. Edward is laughing, but I am not. I push at him until he lets go. "That was so uncalled for!" I complain, smacking his bare chest. It makes a sharp sound because of his wet skin. Edward shakes his head so that his wet hair splashes on me and I can't help but
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laugh. I splash water at him and he covers his face with his arm before splashing back with two arms. I don't think I've had this much fun since ever. A particularly large wave chooses that moment to crash against us, and I clutch Edward for balance as the sand beneath my feet starts to sift towards the water. He snakes his arms around my waist and I splay my fingers against his shoulder blades. His wet hair hangs down over his forehead and I want to lick every single water drop off of every inch of his body. He pulls me closer until our bodies are flush against each other, and once again I can feel him. "That's a nice color on you," he says, glancing at my bikini-clad boobs. I raise a brow. "Oh, yeah?" He nods, smirking devilishly. "Pink suits you." He runs a finger across my cheeks, which I know have been warmed by the blood. "Actually, it's coral," I correct him in my usual smartass way. Edward rolls his eyes. "Coral, pink, whatever. It's nice on you" He trails off and I can pretty much sense what he wants to say. "It'll look even better off you." I look down at his crotch. "I like your trunks. The blue looks good on you." Edward grins. "Does it?" I nod, licking my lips and watch as his pupils dilate a little. "You're too beautiful for your own good; you know that, don't you?" His voice is husky again and the sound speaks to the blood in my veins. "So are you," I whisper, and I move my hands from his back to his hips to the waistband of his trunks. He unexpectedly crashes his lips to mine, and our teeth clash before our tongues
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start their dance. I tilt my head to the side for a better angle and the kiss deepens. I don't know what to hold on to. At first my fingers dig into his biceps, but then they grab his hair and then his shoulders and then his waist. Ugh, screw it. Catching him off guard, I jump up and wrap my legs around his waist. He stumbles just a little but it's not long before his strong arms are holding me up. I press kisses into his neck, sucking on the skin right below his earlobe. He lets out a guttural groan and pulls me tighter against him. He's not hiding the situation in his trunks, not hiding it at all. Just the feel of it makes me want to jump his bones right here in the ocean. I remember the fact that he's a virgin and for some reason that makes me feel hot and bothered in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with the sun. I shift a little, and that's when, for the second time, it hits me. Right there. Fuuuck. Edward stares into my eyes but before he can second guess anything, I attack his mouth. Just like that, all his forgotten. I don't even remember when he thrusts against me the first time. All I know is that I want him to do it again and again and again and again. Edward's hands are digging into my ass, almost painfully, but that only makes me grind against him in pure, unadulterated need. He thrusts once, twice, thrice and oh my fucking god, I should be embarrassed with how loud I'm moaning. It should be absolutely humiliating, but when you've got the prince dry humping you in the ocean with nothing but two layers of fabric in between you, any kind of
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self-consciousness just dies. I have a tight grip on his hair and his teeth sink into my neck, though not painfully. He lets out a throaty moan and with one last thrust, we start stumbling back. My legs drop from around Edward and he rests his forehead on my shoulder, panting. With his hands on my hips, he leads me backwards before pulling me down onto the wet sand. "You're kind of amazing," he whispers hoarsely. I run my hands through his wet hair. "Mmmm, that makes the two of us."

We stay on the sand for a little while longer, but decide that it's time to go back when the waves threaten to take us under. Hand in hand, we walk back to our blanket to dry off. It's getting a little darker and the temperature is dropping, but not unpleasantly so. "So," Edward says, grinning down at me. "Presents." I grimace and he laughs, kissing my nose. "Don't worry, I think you'll like this one. I didn't want to get you something too obvious, but" Edward looks over my shoulder at the jet and nods at someone. Felix? I don't know. I'm too busy staring at that jaw. A moment later I hear a small bark and then something that looks white streaks past me and attacks Edward. "Holy crap!" I cry out in surprise and my hand flutters to my racing heart. There's a little golden puppy bouncing all over Edward as he laughs and takes a tennis ball that was in the dog's mouth. He tosses the ball at me so it lands in my lap and the puppy flies at me. I squeal as it starts licking my face. I'm both disgusted and absolutely thrilled at
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the same time. "Oh my God," I laugh. "Edward, what the?" "Say hello to your birthday present," he says, smirking. My eyes widen in disbelief and my mouth hangs open just in time for the puppy to get a lick straight on my mouth. I start sputtering. "Ew! You're lucky you're cute!" Edward shrugs, eyes sparkling mischievously. "That does tend to help me get my way" I roll my eyes. "I'm not talking about you, Your Royal Pretentiousness. I'm talking about this cutie over here." I run my hand over the puppy's head, his golden fur soft against my skin. I pick up the tennis ball and toss it toward the ocean, knowing it won't roll far in the sand. Immediately, the puppy runs to fetch it. "Do you like him?" Edward asks softly. He looks worried. I shake my head in disbelief, the idea of a puppy not quite sinking in. "I can't believe you got me a dog," I say quietly. "Just say you'll accept him," Edward says nervously. "I knew you wouldn't want me to give you anything fancy, and I remember how you said you love animals, dogs in particular, so I thought why not? I mean, you don't have to keep him if you don't want to, but he's still going to be in the manor, soBefore he can finish his anxious rambling, I tackle him so he's on his back. He grunts under my weight and I press a kiss to his mouth. "The words 'thank you' just don't feel like enough. I don't even" I let out a breath. "Jesus, Edward." I kiss his nose. "You're incredible." I kiss his cheek. "And kind." I kiss his forehead. "And thoughtful." I kiss his mouth again. "And there isn't a perfect word to describe you." Edward gives me a soft smile and puts his palm against my cheek. He runs his thumb over my lower lip and I take it in between my teeth as he chuckles.
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His expression turns serious and he holds me to his chest. I close my eyes and nuzzle into his neck. I'm happy. I'm really, completely, earth-shatteringly happy. There's still some doubt and fear about our situation at the back of my mind, but you know what? It's got absolutely nothing on the happiness I'm feeling right now. Nothing. Our little moment is interrupted by a little thump and then a loud bark in my ear. "Gah!" My hand flies to my ear as I mockingly glare at the adorable puppy that has returned. He's wagging his little tail and I climb off Edward to pull the mutt onto my lap and scratch him behind his ear. Edward leans up on his elbows and watches us with a smile. "What should we name you?" I coo to the little puppy. He's the cutest thing I've ever seen. Then, something occurs to me. My wary eyes meet Edward's. "He doesn't already have a name, does he? I have a habit of naming animals that have already been named." He grins. "Like Stevie Snowflake, formerly just Stevie?" I blush. "Yeah, Jasper told you about that, didn't he?" "He might have mentioned it." Edward glances at the puppy and takes over in the scratching department. "He doesn't have a name, though. He's yours- you can name him whatever you want. He was just Golden Retriever 109 at the shelter." I purse my lips and watch as the puppy rolls over onto his back so Edward can get his stomach. He's laughing and the sight of him leaning over the puppy, his still-damp hair hanging over his forehead and his dimples standing out, is enough to distract me. You beautiful, beautiful man, you.
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I try to etch every detail of this image into my head, but that all goes to waste when Edward looks at me. "Moose," I say automatically. Edward furrows his brows at me. "I'm not following." I look at the puppy and run my hand through his fur. "I want to call him Moose." Edward gives me a perplexed look before nodding. "Moose it is. Can I ask why?" "I don't know; it's the first thing that popped into my head when I looked at him." He smiles down at the puppy- Moose- and then picks up the tennis ball before tossing it again. "It's perfect," he says.

Edward wants to get a bonfire started, and he tells Felix to bring out some wood. By the time the fire is lit, the sun is setting. The sunset looks absolutely stunning. We stare at the oranges, pinks, and purples of the sky behind the descending sun. It looks like its disappearing right into the ocean. I'm back in my sundress and my head rests on Edward's shoulder while both my arms are linked around his left. Our legs are stretched out in front of us as Moose sleeps on a blanket at our side. Poor thing conked out after being fed and running around the beach all afternoon. "What are your parents going to say about bringing a dog to the manor?" I ask. "It's not the first time we've had a family pet," he answers, putting his chin on my head. "We used to have a cat but she got old and then passed away. Her name was Cleocatra, but we called her Cleo." A less than ladylike snort escapes me. "Cleocatra? Jeez, whose idea was that?" "Let's just say that Jasper has loved naming animals since he was a boy."
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"So he can name a horse something simple like Stevie, but when it comes to a cat, he goes all out?" Edward chuckles. "Apparently so." We fall into a comfortable silence, wishing that this day wouldn't end. Tomorrow, we're going to go back to being Prince Edward and maid Bella. Back to falling into the mundane pattern of our lives, me serving Rosalie and him following his father everywhere. "I don't want to leave," I whisper against the skin of his bicep. He presses his lips into my hair. "Neither do I." "Can't we just live here forever?" I feel, rather than see, him smile. "I can't tell you how much I want to say yes." "Seriously, let's just live here with Moose. No one's going to miss us." "This beach is borrowed, love." "Pay the guy for it; I'm sure you can." "He'll know our whereabouts, though." "So pay him to keep quiet." "There will be a search party sent out for me." "Must you always be so logical?" Edward puts his arms around me and hugs me tight. "Being logical is in my job description." I look up at his chiseled face and notice the sudden stress in his eyes. "Is it a job you want?" I ask him. He shrugs, frowning. "It's everything I know."
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"What will you have to do once you become king?" Edward huffs, suddenly irritated. "I don't want to talk about this, Bella. This whole day has been absolutely perfect" "Okay," I acquiesce, not liking the sudden shift in his mood. "We won't talk about it. Let's just watch the sun go down." The sun is sinking lower still, and the view is as striking as ever. It's another moment that I want to etch into my brain forever, so that I can think about it on days when I feel like shit. "Thanks for this," I whisper. "I don't feel like I can say it enough. I owe you big time." Suddenly he's pulling my chin so that it's tilted upward and he's looking me dead in the eyes. "You owe me nothing," he says sternly. "Absolutely nothing. This was a birthday gift and you don't 'owe' someone for giving you a present." "This wasn't just a present," I say, pulling away from him. I feel uncomfortable. "This was more than that. As amazing as it all is, I can't help feeling like I don't deserve it." "Isabella," Edward's tone is firm and I raise a brow at him. "Don't look at me like that. I knew you would end up feeling like this, and I hate it. I don't want you to feel like you don't deserve anything I do for you. I don't do this type of thing for anyone, and I did it for you because I" He trails off and runs two hands through his hair, interlocking his fingers at the back of his head while he stares at the sunset. "Because you what?" I ask. He takes a deep breath and drops his arms, his eyes still on the setting sun and the dark waves. He opens his mouth but nothing comes out. Still, I know what he's going to say.
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I can feel it. Oh god Am I ready for this? Edward looks at me, and his entire face is dimly glowing from the reflection of the setting sun. His eyes are intense as he searches my face for something. When he speaks, I almost don't hear him over the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. "Because I've fallen in love with you."

A/N: *wipes tear* Someone's gotta be the first to say it, right? The birthday stuff is on my profile. Next Chapter: Thursday, June 2nd See you on the day that I turn a year older myself. :)

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Chapter 20
As usual, I can't thank you enough for reading and/or reviewing! You make me all excited to post quicker and write more. Massive hug attack for you all! And of course, thanks to Pinkaquaclouds for everything she doesn't realize she does for me. Happy reading!

Chapter 20- The Other Cullen Edward looks at me, and his entire face is dimly glowing from the reflection of the setting sun. His eyes are intense as he searches my face for something. When he speaks, I almost don't hear him over the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. "Because I've fallen in love with you." Oh dear god I don't know what I'm feeling. It's almost like I'm in shock, a shock that brings an odd kind of numbness. Love. There's that word I avoid, because I only use it when I mean it, and I very rarely mean it. The only other people that have ever told me that they love me are Charlie and Alice, both in very different ways. This is a thousand times different, though. Edward watches me warily, but I can tell by the intensity of his gaze that he's dead serious. His declaration isn't half-assed or playful or fake, like I've heard so many times before.
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Slowly, it starts to sink in. He loves me. He loves me. Holy shit, he loves me! Then, giddiness. It's building up. My lips twitch. I smile. I grin. I let out a laugh. Edward looks a little wounded, but that makes me laugh even harder. Now he looks really insulted. He frowns and looks away, but before he can get too upset, I'm on my knees in front of him. I hold his chiseled face in my hands until he meets my gaze. I'm swelling on the inside. Not physically, but spiritually. It's like I'm floating, like I'm being filled up with helium and am about to soar away like a balloon. Not exactly the most romantic way to describe it, but when I finally realize that the feelings are mutual, it feels Wonderful. Exciting. Amazing. Incredible. Frightening. Is this it, then? I wonder internally. Is this what falling in love feels like? This fluttery, light-as-air, he-means-so-much-to-me feeling?
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It's new. "Wow," I whisper. Edward's brows furrow in confusion. "Wow?" he echoes. I bite my lip, hard, and try to figure out a way to say it without sounding a) stupid b) stupid or c) stupid. "I think I've fallen in love with you too," I manage to whisper. "Actually, I think I fell for you a while ago Can't remember exactly when, but Hell, it's happened." Edward's eyes seem to light up at my words, and I suddenly feel shy. I drop my hands from his face and fold them in my lap, looking anywhere but at him. Still, I can't get the smile off my face. Edward pulls my chin toward him like he does when he wants me to look at him, but instead of meeting my gaze he meets my lips with his own. His kiss is soft, gentle, loving. The passion from before is being subdued, but it just feels like there's so much more meaning in this kiss. He's caressing my cheek with his thumb and I can feel it heat under his touch. I try not to shove my tongue into his mouth, because that would ruin the sweet moment, so I just let him do his thing. By the time he stops kissing me, my lips feel all swollen. The look on his face can only be described as being one of complete adoration. "This changes things, doesn't it?" I ask. I can feel it in the air, how it's changed after we admitted that we've both been tumbling into this strange abyss for a while now. "Yeah," he whispers. "It changes a lot."

The beach starts to get a little chilly with the setting of the sun, and Edward has to call it a day. Both of us are reluctant to leave, but we've got stupid freakin' obligations at the manor.
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I'm worn out. I'm really, really worn out. All of the dry humping, making out, swimming, and playing with Moose has taken a toll on my body. When it's time to go, Edward has to carry me back to the jet. I'm half asleep when he puts me in bed and already asleep when he climbs in next to me.

I awake with a start, glancing around me. I can't tell if the jet is still in the air or if we've landed. Edward isn't in the bed next to me, but Moose is. The puppy is sleeping soundly, and I groggily run my hand through his fur. Edward walks in a second later, my jeans and t-shirt in his hands. "Hey," he says, sounding surprised. "You're up right on time. We land in a few minutes." I groan and tiredly rub my face. "Goddamnit." Edward sits on the edge of the bed, softly petting Moose's head. "What's wrong?" I frown up at him. "First time in a bed with you and I wasn't even awake for it." Edward chuckles and shakes his head. "I don't know if it counted, really. It seems like I barely closed my eyes before Felix announced that we're almost home." Home. Why does that almost sound right? "I'm surprised you didn't wake up after Felix's announcement," he adds. "It was pretty loud." I smile sheepishly. "It's the exhaustion. I only sleep heavily if I'm really tired, otherwise a pin dropping could wake me up."

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"Light sleeper, huh?" "You have no idea." Edward smiles softly and I don't realize that my lips are forming a pout until he reaches over and presses a finger against them. "Don't worry," he says, grinning. "There will be plenty of more opportunities to be in bed together." His smirk is seductive, mischievous, and it speaks to my nether regions. Oh, I'm definitely looking forward to that.

I'm still exhausted, so I end up dozing off once we leave the jet. I am vaguely aware of Edward's arms around me, but I'm not sure if he's carrying me to the little golf cart, or holding me in the little golf cart. Once we reach the manor, Edward makes sure I'm conscious enough to understand him. "Felix is going to take you back inside now, okay?" he says, looking into my tired eyes. "I'll see you soon." I mumble something that doesn't sound even remotely like English. Edward chuckles and then kisses my forehead. "Goodnight, Bella." "Mmmnight," is all I can mumble before I'm being led away through that secret passage again. "I'll leave you here," Felix says at one point. "Just take the elevator up to your floor. Are you awake enough to handle that?" I rub my eyes until they're not as heavy and glance around me. I'm on the first floor, by the elevator. It's dark and quiet- no one's around. "I'm good," I mumble lazily, and he tells me goodnight before leaving. The lights in the elevator are bright enough to awaken me further. I have no idea
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what time it is, but it must be pretty late. It was pitch dark outside. The elevator doors open on my floor, and I stumble out. I'm still in the sundress, having been too tired to change into my jeans. Edward protested, saying that I'd get a cold, but I was half asleep so he gave up. You can't really argue with a zombie. The darkness of the hallway doesn't help my sleepy state. I trudge along, slowly, eager to get into bed and sleep properly. When I turn the corner to get to my room, a scream gets caught in my throat. A lady in white suddenly comes out of the fucking wall, but freezes when she sees me. I can't help it. I shriek and cover my mouth, my eyes widening in fear. Oh my fucking God, it's a ghost! Holy shit! "Oh dear," the ghost lady says in slight surprise. "Did I frighten you?" Oh my fucking God, the ghost is talking to me! She steps closer to me, and her face morphs into a familiar one. "Are you all right?" she asks in concern. Blue eyes. Caramel colored hair. Heart-shaped face. Oh my God. It's the queen. I gasp. "I uh I'm uh" I'm stuttering, completely at a loss for words.
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Even in the darkness, she's absolutely stunning. Queen Esme raises her brows expectantly. "I'm fine ma'am," I somehow manage to choke out. She eyes me up and down, taking in my appearance. Shit, I'm in the dress. "Night out?" she asks, and I can't quite place the tone of her voice. Fuck. My heart is beating. I'm panicking. Servants aren't supposed to have "nights out" on days that aren't Sundays. It's not a written rule, but "Um" "Your Highness?" I could kiss the SS guy for interrupting. I don't know where he came from, but he's down the hallway behind Esme and she turns to look at him. "Steven," the queen says. "There you are! I've been wandering around like a fool, looking for you. Where on earth have you been?" She sounds like a disapproving mother whose child has just broken curfew. "I was-" "Whatever the reason, you're here now," she doesn't even wait for an explanation. "Come along now, dear, I've got to show you those locks. The code just doesn't want to work" She's completely forgotten about my existence as she leads him away, but the SS guy gives me a funny look before following her. I stand there in a stunned silence before my feet are able to move.
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Holy crap. I just ran into the queen and she talked to me.

I can barely wake up the next morning. It takes all the energy I have to drag myself out of bed. I only have one foot on the ground when Alice starts bombarding me with questions about my birthday. I grumble at her until she pipes down, and then I go into the bathroom to shower. I'm a lot less cranky when I come out, so I willingly inform Alice of our day at the beach. I also fill her in on Moose and running into Queen Esme. "I've never spoken to her," Alice says in awe. "What was she like?" "I don't even know," I say, pulling my hair up. "It was all so fast. She asked me if she scared me, you know, since I almost pissed myself thinking she was a ghost, but then some SS guy came to get her. She noticed me in the dress and asked if I had a night out, which makes me nervous. Do you think I could get in trouble for that?" Alice presses her lips together, thinking. "I don't think so. I mean, it's out of the norm, but I don't think it's a big deal." I nod and then Alice sits up straighter, remembering something. "Speaking of big deals," she says excitedly. "Uncle Rick is coming today! If I'm lucky I'll get to serve them all at dinner. He's a riot." I recall the day when Alice and Jacob were talking about King Carlisle's younger brother. According to them, this guy is "fuckawesome." "How long is he staying, by the way?" I ask, sitting on the bed to put my shoes on. "No idea," she replies, standing up to run a brush through her hair. "He usually stays for as long as he likes. This is his home, too. Usually Rick shows up spontaneously, but he actually let us know in advance this time." I'm already intrigued by this Rick character. I wonder if I'll get to meet this mysterious uncle.
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Since Rosalie has gone off on her vacation, I'm back to working for Kate. I have to admit, I missed this. I missed getting the little blue card and glancing at it in slight anticipation, wondering what jobs I'll be doing all day. I missed the bustling of the break room, the chatter of workers as they ate. Working for Rosalie is great and all, but it's a little isolated. Still, the change is nice. "Hola, Kate," I grin at her as I walk into the break room. She gives me a genuine smile while handing a little blue card to another worker. "How are you, Bella?" she asks. "It's been a while." "It has," I agree. "You've got one of those schedules for me too, right?" "Of course," she says. She shuffles through them before handing me one. "There you go. It's a fairly simple schedule." I thank her and walk toward the breakfast food while I look at my card. Vacuuming the fourth floor Yawn. Mopping the front hall Yawn. A little help in the Garfield. That's cool. Serving diner Oh! I smile at my card, pleased that I get to see the mystery uncle. Alice skips over to me and we compare cards. It reminds me of the beginning of school, when you compare your schedule with that of your friends. "Yay, you get to meet Rick!" she says. "This is going to be fun."

Mopping the front hall really isn't that bad. I've only ever really been in here twice: the night I wandered around the manor and the night of the masked ball. It
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seems like forever ago. The front hall is historic looking and pretty enough to actually keep me interested as I mop. The rhythmic, mechanical movement, however, causes me to start daydreaming. About Edward, of course. I miss him already. My arms start to ache so I pause to shoot Edward a quick text. What're you up to today, Your Royal Gorgeousness? B Well, my fair maiden, I am going on more horribly tedious outings with my father, but I believe we'll be back in time for dinner. E Good. I'm serving. :) B I can't wait to see you. E Likewise, baby cakes. B Oh, and I'm sure you've heard about Rick by now? E You mean your super cool uncle? Might have heard a thing or two. B Don't take what he says seriously, okay? He likes to joke. E Good joking or bad joking? B Um Well, it depends on the joke and how you take it. E I can take a joke. -B I know. I'm just warning you so that you won't be unpleasantly surprised. E "Texting on the job?" The unexpected voice makes me shriek and my phone clatters to the floor, sliding across the marble and stopping at the stranger's feet.
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Fuck, fuck, fuck no! The stranger, a tall, lean, brown haired man in a rumpled brown suit, leans down to pick my phone up before I can get a good look at his face. No, not my phone! I'm starting to panic as the stranger straightens up, but we're interrupted by running footsteps. Two workers carrying a suitcase each come stumbling in, like they've been chasing him. "Your Highness, where do you want your-" a short, plump maid begins. "Oh for Christ's sake," the stranger groans. "Every time. Every single time. How many times have I said that I don't want to hear any of this 'your highness' nonsense, eh?" The maid looks contrite. "Sorry, sir." The stranger waves her off. "It's fine, it's fine." He hands me my phone. "Here. You should be more careful. The cameras watch you like spies and you don't wanna be sacked in this economy, kid." He offers me a wide, friendly smile and I blink at him, stunned. For someone who looks to be in his early forties, he's really handsome. In a male cougar kind of way, that is. His gray-blue eyes twinkle with hidden mischief and he's got a little more than stubble against his jaw. I silently take my phone from him and watch him walk away with the workers trailing behind him. He walks with confidence and grace, and just a little bit of swagger. It's kinda badass. Um did I just run into Uncle Rick? I glance down at my phone and see that my messages with Edward are still open. Crap.

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Considering that every other time I've served dinner to the Cullens has been an epic disaster, I'm actually looking forward to it this time. It's just the prospect of something new in the manor, someone new, actually. As usual, we line up in the kitchen and are handed our dishes. I'm serving Jasper today, and I want to trade dishes with Alice, but that would be a dead giveaway. Once we enter the dining room, I catch Edward's eye. He always looks exhausted after a day with his father, but he never fails to look heart-stoppingly attractive. The dark green dress shirt looks amazing on him. He gives me a small smile, but it passes as politeness. He smiles at Alice, too. Rick sits where the king usually does, at the head of the table, with Edward on his left and the king on his right. The queen is at the other end of the table, with Jasper next to Edward on her right. Jasper smiles when I serve him. "Thanks, Bella." I smile back and step away. Rick, the stranger I kinda-sorta met that same morning, is in the middle of telling a story. Apparently, he's been in India for a while, but not before spending six months in Brazil, two months in Iceland, and four months in Ireland. " couldn't find a damn rickshaw," he's saying animatedly. "Had to walk until I figured out where the hell I was, only to find out that, hey! I'm almost in Bangladesh! I guess that trip was over, eh?" The queen giggles, covering her mouth daintily as Edward and Jasper chuckle. The king just looks mildly amused. "Did you stay in Bangladesh, then?" Jasper asks. "Not that easy, kid," Rick says, taking a huge forkful of his pasta. "Got confronted by some officials, couldn't speak a word of Bengali, tried out my Hindi, but that didn't go over too well, either." He takes another forkful and then talks with his mouth full. "Long story short, I found myself in Sri Lanka a few days later. Ha!" "Rick, please," Esme says in a chiding tone.
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Rick swallows and gives the queen a sheepish grin. "Sorry, Es," he says. "Talking with your mouth full is good manners in some of the places I've been. You'll have to forgive me." She shakes her head at him, but you can tell she's quite fond of her brother-in-law. As for me, I don't know what to think. I guess you can say I'm really, really surprised. It's a little hard to believe that someone in the royal family could be so cool. He just seems so laid back, not to mention the fact that his table manners are off. I'm fascinated. "Enough about me!" Rick exclaims loudly. Half the people in the room jump. "What have you suckers been up to while I was away? How many balls have you thrown, and how many snobby young men have you tried to hook Rosie up with? Good to know the poor girl's on vacation." Silence. He's made it a little bit awkward. He makes it sound like all the royal family does is throw parties and play matchmaker to Rosalie. No one looks offended, though. It's like they're used to Rick's lack of verbal filter. "We've only recently had the masked ball," Esme tells him. "We thought you'd be back in time for that, actually." Rick takes a big gulp of wine and then shrugs. "Meh. Forgot." We get the signal to change courses and I step forward to retrieve Jasper's plate. I resist the urge to touch Edward- he's so close. I want to run my fingers through his hair or touch his shoulder or his cheek or something. My fingers itch and twitch for him. Once we come back with the second course, Rick is watching me. I feel myself blush, wondering if he remembers the cell phone incident.
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"You guys certainly upped the staff since I was last here," he says, nudging the king with his elbow. "I don't think I've been served by such pretty faces since my three week stay in Morocco." Aw, jeez. Handsome Uncle is a flirt, too. We servers giggle and Edward smirks at me without holding my gaze for more than a second. I catch Jasper wink at Alice, and she blushes, giving him a wide eyed look of warning. It's so sweet, and my heart aches for them. "Yes, we're very lucky," the king says, smiling softly. "But it's their hard work that makes them the best." Rick shrugs a shoulder. "Whatever you say, big brother." I can see the resemblance between them, though not by much. They have the same color eyes, that piercing blue-gray, and the same straight nose. Rick's features are stronger though, his cheekbones and jaw more pronounced. "So, tell me, Edward," Rick begins casually. "Last I heard you were engaged. Haven't heard you say anything about your fianc at all. Tanya Denali, eh? You sure about that choice?" Ohhhh, shit. The atmosphere in the room changes drastically, a 180 degree change. Everyone goes quiet and Edward visibly tenses, as does the king and queen. Jasper looks highly uncomfortable, and Alice and I exchange a glance. My heartbeat increases and my stomach churns. Rick notices the discomfort that's fallen across the room, and his brows shoot up. "Did I say something wrong?" he asks. Instead of sounding concerned, he sounds a little excited.
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The king is giving Rick a highly irritated look. "Well, Richard, perhaps if you weren't always so preoccupied with the going-ons of countries across the world, maybe you'd know more about what's going on in your nephew's life." Oh snap. The tension in the room is palpable. "Dad," Edward says chidingly. "It's fine." "No, it's not fine," King Carlisle says sternly. "There's no fianc, Rick," Edward calmly informs his uncle. "We broke the engagement off recently." Rick looks mildly surprised. "Oh?" Edward nods. "Why is that?" Ugh, drop it, Rick! Edward shrugs, nonchalant. "We just discovered that we didn't love each other like we thought we did. That's all." More uncomfortable silence. Forks tap against plates. Someone coughs. Edward takes a sip of wine just as Rick says, "Are you sure it wasn't because of someone else?" Ohmyfuckinggod! Edward chokes on his wine, but quickly recovers, while Rick chortles. "A joke, my boy, a joke!" he says cheerily. Edward laughs nervously, wiping his mouth on a napkin.
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"Just when I thought I was getting used to your sense of humor," Edward laughs. He glances at me, but it's quick and imperceptible. It's time to bring out the dessert and I don't realize my hands are a little shaky until I pick Jasper's plate up. When I bring in his plate with the chocolate mousse cake and place it in front of him, I feel Edward's knuckles brush against my right leg. It's so soft, just a gentle rub of skin over fabric, but I can tell it's his way of telling me to relax. He probably saw my quivering hands. As I step back, I brush the back of my hand against his. There. That's better. The next few minutes are uneventful. That is, until a bratty little canine interrupts. There's a little bark and then a familiar blur of gold rushes in, right at me. "Shit!" I hiss as Moose runs around my feet. "Down, Moose!" "Oh, who's that?" I hear Rick say. Before I know it, he's on his feet and heading toward me. He picks Moose up and my puppy squirms a little. "Moose, you said his name was?" Rick asks me, raising a brow. I nod silently. Am I giving anything away by telling him this? "Nobody told me we got a pet," Rick says, going back to his seat. "Rick, no, not at the table!" the queen scolds. "Oh, it's fine," Rick says, placing the puppy in his lap. "Edward thought it would be a good idea to get a dog," Jasper laughs.
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"Good idea, indeed," Rick says, grinning as Moose licks his face. "Something's got to keep things interesting around here." A maid comes running into the room, looking panicked. "I'm so sorry, he got away from me!" she cries exasperatedly. "No big deal," Rick says, putting Moose on the floor. He scurries toward the maid, who quickly picks him up and leaves. I'm starting to get a headache, so ready to get out of here. When the final signal gives, I let out a relieved breath. Jesus Christ, what a dinner.

Later that night, I quietly slip into Edward's bedroom, surprised to find it empty. Walking into the living area, I catch him messing around with the fancy stereo. I try to be sneaky but my heavy ass feet step on a creaky floorboard and he looks over his shoulder and smiles. "Trying to sneak up on me?" he asks, turning back to the sound system. "Noooo," I say, smiling slyly. A song comes on and Edward turns to me again. I recognize the strums of the guitar, but I can't remember the song right away. "I know this song," I say as Edward takes my hands. "But I can't remember what it's called." Edward puts one of my hands on his shoulder and holds the other up, like we're about to dance. "Something in the way she moves," Edward stars singing along in my ear. "Something!" I exclaim. "It's called Something! Beatles, right?"
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"Attracts me like no other lover," he ignores me. "I didn't know you had other lovers. I thought you were a virgin." "Something in the way she woos me" "I wasn't aware that I do, Your Highness." "I don't want to leave her now "Say what?" Edward laughs and lifts me up until my socked feet are planted on top of his bare ones. "You have cute feet," I tell him. He smiles and starts singing along again, "Somewhere in her smile she knows, that I don't need no other lover." "Seriously, Edward, I need to know about these other lovers." He walks us toward the couch, me backwards and he forwards. I'm trying not to slip off his feet, because hell, this is fun. He pushes me so that we're lying horizontal on the couch, with him hovering over me. This time, he lets the music play as he trails his lips across my jaw. "Hmmm," I hum in contentment. "Someone missed me." Edward leans his forehead against mine and lets out a breath. "You have no idea. I'm no longer used to having you so close and not being able to touch you." "Likewise," I whisper, playing with the hair at the nape of his neck. "Your Uncle Rick is pretty, uh, interesting." Edward snorts against my neck. "Yeah, he's just fascinating isn't he?" "No, he really is," I admit, and Edward lifts his head to look down at me. "He doesn't seem like royalty, and that's what's so interesting." "There's a long story behind Rick," Edward says, his eyes suddenly far off. "A long,
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interesting story. Admittedly, he's probably my favorite person in the family." My curiosity is peaked. Edward has a favorite family member? "Tell me more." Edward shakes his head. "No." "Why not?" "Firstly, because I don't have all day to tell you about Rick's life and secondly because I really just want to make out with you like a hormonal adolescent boy." "I'm cool with that," I say, grinning. "Good," Edward practically growls before all but shoving his tongue down my throat. Not gonna lie, I like this side of him. He's uninhibited, no longer holding back. After our tryst on the beach, he's proven that he really is willing to go as far as possible before I stop him. Sneaky devil knows I'll never be able to stop him. Edward lowers himself over me so that we're chest to chest, but he isn't crushing me. Even if he was, I don't think I'd notice because of the way he's nibbling on my neck. I moan softly and lift my hips against his groin, desperate for friction. It should be illegal the way his hands slide under my shirt. He's so fucking wicked, groping my boobies like there's no tomorrow. Also, what the hell kind of gentlemanly prince runs his thumbs over my nipple like this? Sinful bastard. Not that I'm complaining I'm in the middle of a particularly whorish moan when I hear the door fly open. "Edward, tell me how- Oh! Christ, I didn't know you had company!"
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Edward falls on top of me and knocks the breath out of me, all the while putting a hand over my face and turning my head away from the door behind him. FUCK. "Damn it, Rick!" Edward yells. "I'm sorry," I hear Rick say, but he sounds nothing like it. His voice fades as he walks out, "That's what the lock is for, my boy. Also, ladies belong on that bed of yours. Have I taught you nothing?" The door closes with a click. Edward pushes himself off me and I stare at him with wide eyes. Oh dear god. Did we just get busted?

A/N: Oh, dear. Things are going to start heating up in several different ways. *nods* Next Chapter: Thursday, June 9th See you next week! :)

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Chapter 21
Chapter 21- Complications Edward and I stare at each other, frozen. Did we really just get walked in on by Uncle Rick? Slowly, Edward climbs off of me and walks toward the door. He locks it, and the clicking sound rings throughout the room. He turns to give me a look of disbelief that I can only return. "Did he see me?" I ask, afraid. Edward had all but shoved my face into the couch, but I still have my worries. "I doubt it," he responds, hands on his hips. "He was behind me, he probably only saw your legs and feet" I sit up, patting my hair in place. "So, now he knows you're seeing someone. He won't, like, tell on you, will he?" Edward is deep in thought. "No, Rick's not like that. He probably realized that I don't want anyone to know. Shit. I need to talk to him" "Wait," I stop him before he can touch the doorknob. "Don't you think you'll make it a bigger deal than it is if you go to him and try to explain yourself?" Edward's face is completely serious when he says, "I knew there was a reason I kept you around." A brief smile flits across my lips before I fill my cheeks up with air and let it out slowly. Complications I wasn't expecting them to come around so soon. "You need to make a habit of locking that goddamn door," I point out.
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He nods, frowning, before tiredly sinking down next to me. He pulls me over to him until my head his resting against his strong shoulder and my arm is around his chest. In my head, I'm counting the amount of people that know about our relationship. Alice, Jasper, Jacob, Rosalie, Emmett, Felix, Stella, and now Rick. Shit, that is a dangerous number. "It's starting," Edward mumbles, and I glance up at him in time to catch the glazed over, distant look in his eyes. His voice is low, monotone, almost robotic. "What's starting?" "Too many people know about us," he says, brows furrowing. "I didn't think it would happen this soon, the infiltration of our secret through the manor. Christ." "I was thinking the same thing," I mumble ruefully. "How much longer do you think we'll be able to go before this reaches your parents or Aro?" Edward grimaces. "I don't like to think about that." "Are you sure your uncle can be trusted?" Edward doesn't hesitate. "Yes." A dreadful thought occurs to me. "Edward, he must know I'm a servant. Who else would I be? He doesn't just know you're getting it on with someone, he knows you're getting in on with a servant. Or an employee, at least." Edward's shaking his head before I'm done. "Bella, Bella, listen," he says, taking my face in his hands. "This is Rick we're talking about. The black sheep of the family, the prince that gave up being a prince before he was old enough to even know what a prince was. He'd rather travel the world than be stuck in this place. Don't you see? He's completely unconventional. This-" Edward gestures between us. "-wouldn't bother him in the slightest." I eye hum dubiously, not as comforted by his words as I want to be. Yeah, I get
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that Rick has probably rejected the royal way of life, but I feel like I need proof that he won't tell anyone. I feel like I need to hear him say it, or sign a contract in his blood or something. "In fact, I think he'd be quite proud," Edward adds. The more I think about it, the better I feel. Okay, so maybe Rick won't be a snitch. Still, I don't want to let my guard down for anyone.

The following day, I'm glad that Edward doesn't have any 'princey' duties. However, he's working out in the manor's gym and then having lunch with his mother, so he'll still be scarce. According to my schedule, I'm supposed to be serving lunch to Rick. After the dinner the night before, this wouldn't be awkward, right?

Rick's room is on the fourth floor, a room that I've never been to before. I don't know why, but I'm feeling nervous. Hopefully I won't have to talk to him. I knock on Rick's door and hear him yell, "It's open". Taking a deep breath, I turn the knob and push the door so that it's open wide enough for me to push the cart through. Rick sits on the couch of his suite, wearing nothing but lounge pants and a wifebeater, his legs stretched out on the coffee table in front of him. The place is a mess. "Hello," he says cheerfully, pulling his eyes away from the TV. "That for me?" No, it's for me.
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"Uh, yes sir," I reply, and he immediately waves a hand in the air. "None of that," he says just a little irritably. He gets up and comes over to the cart, lifting the lids off the dishes. "I don't understand why you workers are so formal all the damn time. Do they beat you if you aren't polite?" I snort so hard that I almost choke, and I end up coughing a little. I feel myself blush crimson as I clamp a hand over my mouth. How very classy and ladylike of you, Bella. Idiot. Rick looks at me, surprised, and then flashes a big, toothy grin. There's something about his smile "You're not still texting on the job, are ya?" he asks with a smirk. He pulls the cart away from me and brings it over to the couch, already eating with his hands. I stand there awkwardly, kind of wanting to leave, but wanting to stay at the same time. "Um, no" I trail off, eying the cluttered living area. There's shit all over the place. He's got clothes lying here and there, mostly clothes that look foreign. There are little trinkets that I've never seen before, along with books, pipes, CDs, hats, scarves, sparkly things, shiny things, colorful things It's crazy. It's like a store that sells nonsense blew up in here. "I just unpacked my suitcases," Rick says with a shrug. "Unpacked or blew up?" I blurt. Rick raises a brow at me, surprised by my little outburst. I flush. Then, he laughs.
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He throws his head back and laughs boisterously, a loud, booming sound that reverberates off the walls. I can't help but smile and he looks at me fondly. "This is a pigsty," he says. "Point taken." I glance around at all the random objects and I have the sudden urge to examine every single thing and then put them away somewhere nice and neat. Working at this place has turned me into a clean freak. "The only reason I come back to this place is for storage," Rick explains. "If I don't give a kid in Kenya something from Wales and an old lady in China something from Greece, I bring the rest here and just give it to people. Edward has a bunch of my junk." I look away at the mention of Edward and glance around the rest of the room. Urge to clean is back. "Do you mind if I clean up a little?" I ask tentativevly. "Yes," he replies curtly. I hover confusedly. "Yes as in I can, or? "No, you can't." "Why?" Maybe I shouldn't question him "I like my clutter," he states with a shrug. "Fine," I mutter. "God, this place makes me OCD." I'm talking to myself and turning to leave, but he stops me. "What's your name?" he asks, sounding curious. "Bella"
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"Bella," he repeats, like he's testing the name out. "Have a nice day," I tell him politely, but he stops me once again. "Wait!" he yells, and it makes me jump. Rick is sitting up straight, his gaze practically boring a hole into my head. "I think I know you" he says, tilting his head and narrowing his eyes. Um.. what? I swallow and blink at him, furrowing my brows and feigning confusion. I can't find it in myself to speak, though. "You were the girl that crashed the masked ball, right?" he asks, a slow smile spreading across his lips. Oh I blush again, chuckling nervously. "That's me" Rick gets on his feet and claps his hands together once before reaching one hand out to me. "I've always wanted to meet you!" he says excitedly. Taken aback by his enthusiasm, I shake his hand incredulously. "I thought you didn't go to the ball," I say, remembering what he said to the queen at dinner. "I didn't need to go," he says exuberantly. "Thomas, the guy I usually travel with, was at the ball before he caught up with me in Iceland. Balls, my dear. You've got em'." Aw, jeez. I chuckle and look away. "If I had a nickel for every time someone's said that to me, I wouldn't have to work here."
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"You should be doing something else, kid," Rick says, walking back over to the cart of food. He grabs something that looks like shrimp and shoves it in his mouth. "What are you? Eighteen? Nineteen?" "Nineteen," I mumble, shuffling my feet. He nods in understanding. "There's so much to see out there, so much beauty and life and ridiculousness. This ain't no place for a kid." I don't quite know what to say to that. He's right, I know he's right, and everything he has cluttered in his suite only emphasizes that fact. Still, I know I'm stuck here for the time being. "Rick" Edward's voice makes me whirl toward the doorway, and I need to resist the urge to throw myself at him. For one thing, he's really sweaty. His damp hair sticks to his forehead and the neck of his dark gray tank top is dark with perspiration. He's wearing basketball shorts and a towel rests at the back of his neck, hanging over his shoulders. Are you trying to kill me, Your Royal Sexiness? I look away from Edward's delicious self and stare at my feet. He wasn't even looking at me, his eyes only for Rick. "Oh hey, Edward," Rick says, picking his teeth with his fingernail. "Good workout?" "Yeah," Edward responds smoothly, completely calm. "Garrett was wondering if you wanted to grab a quick lunch but, uh" Rick looks around at the plates on his cart. "I could go for more." A quick glance at Edward shows him raise a brow and then shrug. "All right, I'll let him know. He wanted to see you." "Why, so he can tell me how out of shape I am?" Rick laughs, walking over to the bar area of his suite. "Okay."
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I feel awkward, knowing I should probably leave. "Um, I'm gonna go," I mumble to Rick. "Enjoy the rest of your afternoon, sir." I grimace, catching myself. "Sorry. I meant Rick." Rick takes a big gulp out of a bottle of something alcoholic, and gives me the thumbs up. I guess that's good-bye. I glance at Edward and he doesn't acknowledge me other than stepping aside to let me pass. Damn, he's better at this than I am. As I walk away, I hear Edward tell Rick that he needs to invest in a cell phone. It's hard being around Edward in front of others and not being able to touch him. He is, unlike me, skilled at hiding his true emotions. I use the stairs to get to my floor, wanting to take a short break in my room before I have to help out with the horses. I'm just a few steps away from my door when I'm attacked. I'm shoved against a wall, hard, and my scream gets stuck in my throat when a sweaty someone covers my mouth with his hand. "Shhh," Edward says. "It's just me." I shove at his arm and he lets go of my mouth. "Jerk!" I hiss. "You scared the shit out of me!" Edward's only reply is to kiss me hard, his soft lips working furiously against mine. His mouth his warm and wet and he tastes like something fruity. Cherry? Strawberry, maybe? He must have had candy or something. He pulls away. "I'm sorry for scaring you, but I wanted to do that really badly over the past few minutes."
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Oh, my heart. I wrinkle my nose and shove him a little. "You're sweaty and gross." Edward leans closer. "Does that bother you?" he teases. "Yes. Go shower." "Can I borrow yours?" he asks, smirking. Hell yeah! "You know I'm not gonna say no, but are you teasing me?" He frowns, but it's exaggerated, complete with pouty lower lip. "Yeah. Maybe some other day, then. I have lunch with my mother." I grab the front of his tank top and pull him towards me so I can kiss his pout away. "You should work out more," I tell him. "Hey, what are you trying to say?" He pretends to be offended. "That it obviously puts you in a good mood." "Stress reliever," he says, smiling. He kisses me one more time, chastely, and gropes my butt in the process. "See you later, beautiful," he whispers, and he turns to walk away. I smack his ass and he freezes, looking over his shoulder at me with a smirk and a raised brow. "Oh yeah?" he says. "Yeah, dude." He nods and bites his lip. "I see." With that, he turns and walks away.
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I have no idea what the hell that was, but I don't care. His Royal Sexiness will be the death of me.

Three days later, I'm having the worst fucking day ever. First, I get my period and can't find any ibuprofen to ease the pain. Second, I get a fucked up schedule that involves horse shit that I may or may not have slipped and fell in. Third, I lose my cell phone and run around the manor like a crazy person, panicked out of my mind. A worker ends up finding it before I do and gives it back to me when she finds me. On top of that, Edward doesn't reply to any of my texts. He's spending the day out with Rick, and I'm worried for some reason. I know I'm overreacting but it's not like Edward to just ignore me. It reminds me of when the engagement was looming and Edward was trying to get rid of Tanya without my help. Just thinking about Tanya makes me even more annoyed, and my whole day has just gone to shit. All of that, however, is not the best part. I leak. I leak, and everyone sees. Okay, not everyone, but enough people. Because of my shitty luck, I'm wearing the gardening khakis and not the black pants that I usually wear. Someone is kind enough to tell me and I all but trip on my way out, pulling my shirt down over my ass in the process. So. Fucking. Humiliating.
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When I discover that we're out of tampons and I'm stuck with giant pads that might as well be diapers, I want to cry in frustration. It's too early for bed, since it's only half past five, but I change out of the uniform and crawl under the covers anyway. This day needs to end now. My head is buried under the covers and I force sleep to come to me. No such luck. Then my phone buzzes and lights up my cozy little cave. It's a call from Edward. Yay. "Hello," my voice sounds dull and emotionless. "I'm so sorry, Bella, my phone died," Edward is apologetic, and I don't know why, but just hearing his voice makes me tear up. "The battery was low while we were talking last night," he continues to explain. "I forgot to put it on charger and this morning I was running late so I just grabbed it and left." "It's okay," my voice comes out as a shaky squeak as I try not to cry. Get it together, woman! Stop being such a goddamn baby. I can't help it, this day has been terrible and I'm humiliated as hell! Damn hormones, making me irrationally emotional. "Bella?" Edward distracts me from berating myself. "Are you okay?" No. "Yes." "Bella." Edward is not buying it.
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I take a deep breath. "This day has been absolutely awful," I tell him, glad that my voice is stable. "It's just been fail after fail after fail after fail" "I'm listening." Do I really want to tell him the whole story, cramps and leaks included? Yes. I need someone to listen and make me feel better. "It all started when Mother Nature paid me an unwelcome visit" Everything just comes spilling out. I have no control over my words, and it's like the rant was just clogged up inside of me, waiting to be released. I don't even care that I'm talking to him about my period, even though it might gross him out. Once it's out, there's no going back. After I'm done, I feel extremely relieved. I'll admit, I have shed a few tears, but it's not like I started bawling. "Wow," Edward says softly. "You've had quite the day." "Tell me about it," I mutter. "I'm just in bed, ready for today to officially end." "It's not even six yet," Edward sounds surprised "Needs to end." "Did you eat?" "No." "You should eat." "I'm fine, Edward. I just want to sleep." He's silent for a moment, and I can picture the thoughtful furrow of his brow. "I'll see you soon," he says, and the next thing I know there's silence on the other end.
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I stare at my phone, a little surprised. Um okay Did I scare him away with my period talk? I'm just the tiniest bit offended, but I try and shrug it off, choosing to disappear into the darkness of my covers again. A little while later, I'm still under the covers when I hear my door open. "We need tampons," I grumble, thinking that it's Alice. My mattress sinks down and I hear a deep, throaty chuckle. "Well I don't know if I can help you with that," Edward says. I whip the covers off of my face and blink up at him as he smiles down at me. "I brought you something," he says, brushing my bangs out of my eyes. "You didn't have to-" "Shhh," he cuts off my protests by putting a finger to my lips. I bite it and he pretends to scowl. He picks up a little bag from the floor and then starts taking out its contents one by one, placing them on my bedside table. A little bottle of Midol, a giant Hershey's bar, a bottle of water, and one single, bright yellow daisy. My mouth sort of hangs open and I pull myself into a sitting position. "You" Edward's smiling shyly. "Uh Growing up, Rosalie used to demand those two things every once in a while, and she was downright bitchy until she got them. Once she did, she was ten times calmer and nicer. I just figured that they'd make you feel better, too. I had Felix go out and find the pills" "That is the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me," I whisper.
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"The daisy is from the garden, of course," Edward adds. "I just picked it on my way over here, you know, since it's yellow and cheery I thought you needed cheering up." The stupid hormones make my eyes tear up again and Edward looks horrified until I grin and launch myself at him, tightly wrapping my arms around his neck. He grunts at the impact and I plant one giant, wet kiss on his mouth. "Thank you. You're too sweet for me to handle." Edward smiles bashfully, resting his hands on my hips. "I try." I have to kiss him again, I just have to. This time I do it softly and his grip on my hips tightens. Edward practically pouts at me as I pull away, but all I have to do is grimace at him to get him to understand. I reach for the Midol and quickly swallow two pills as Edward sits up and watches me with a small smile. "You wanna get out of here?" he asks. "Go somewhere else for dinner? You seem like you need it." Oh, Edward. "It's not like we can just leave and go find a nice little Chinese restaurant to feast in," I whisper sadly. He smiles at me. "I know something we can do."

Sometimes, Edward takes sneaking around to a whole other level. Sometimes he goes Mission Impossible with this shit. It's late in the evening, but not late enough for the manor halls to be empty. There's a lot of hiding behind corners involved, along with going through door after mysterious door. Soon, we're exiting out the same back door that I once escaped through after that
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horrendous dinner with the Demonic Denalis. We're alone now and Edward pulls me away from the manor and into the bushes. "Are we going to the fountain?" I whisper. "Nope," he replies, and he pulls me further along. It's like we're in a forest now, and I try not to trip over anything. I'm carrying the bag with our food in it in one hand while the other clutches Edward's tightly. The forest isn't dense, but it's still got enough trees to make it dark and creepy. Edward seems to know exactly where he's going, though. Soon we come to an opening and for a second I thought the ground was glimmering. Turns out, there's a pond. A garden pond, lined with stones, shining in the moonlight. Lily pads float on top of it and flowers grow around it. "Wow," I gasp. "Edward this is beautiful." He smiles crookedly. "I thought you would like it. The property has a bunch of these ponds here and there, but I like this one because it glows just perfectly in the moonlight. It's the biggest one, too." His voice takes on a nostalgic turn as he continues to talk, "When I was in high school, I was going through a hard time. I guess you could call it my rebellious stage. My relationship with my parents was a little rocky and then every single time we'd argue, I'd come out here to calm down. So yeah. This is my pond." I grin at him and lean into his side. "Your pond. I love it." Edward kisses my head and then takes the bag out of my hand. "Sit. Eat." I roll my eyes at his bossiness. Some things never change, but if that thing involves Edward, I don't mind so much.
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Dinner by the pond is really sweet. Everything from Edward's quiet laughter echoing against the trees to the sound of the crickets to the moonlight reflecting off the pond is exactly what I need at the moment. My shitty day has been forgotten, my cramps are gone, my belly is full, and Edward is beautiful under the moon. His smile, breathtaking. His eyes, sparkling. His jaw, lickable. He's so fucking sweet to me, and me? I don't know. I don't dwell on what I'm lacking and instead enjoy his company while we sit and stare at the pretty little pond. It's pretty dark out here, but the night is as beautiful as the sunset can be. Edward and I sit with our legs stretched out in front of us while my arms are wrapped around his torso. The weight of his arm feels good over my shoulder and the damp grass smell mixes well with the scent that is all Edward. "Thanks for this," I whisper, reaching up to kiss his chiseled jaw. "You do too much for me." "Nonsense," he says, sounding twice his age. "You deserve more than this after the day you had." I bite my lip, thinking about something. I need to repay him somehow, and it needs to be good. Hmmm. Then, the door to the dirty part of my brain opens up a little and an idea pops out. "What are you thinking?" Edward asks, searching my face. I answer his question by getting on my knees and then straddling him so that I'm on his lap. He doesn't fight me when I kiss him or when I stroke the stubble on his jaw or when I run my tongue across his lips. His hand wanders under my shirt, his fingers gently roaming my sides. "That tickles," I giggle, and he smiles against my lips.
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He moves his mouth from my lips to my jaw to my ear and then to my neck, and I swear it's like the crickets have gone silent. All I can hear is the sound of our breathing, the pounding in my chest, and the tiny whimpers and moans that escape me. Edward skims his nose across my collarbone while his hand crawls up to my left boob. Gently, his thumb grazes over my nipple and I'm desperate for friction, grinding my hips into him. Oh yeah. He's so ready. I bite my lip and stand up, holding my hand out to him. He gives me a confused look before taking my hand and climbing up. What I wouldn't give to just fuck him already, but no. Not here and not now. Not for him. Instead, I push him backwards while he watches. His back comes into contact with a tree and he stares at me, lips parted, eyes dark. I'll admit, I don't exactly know how to be seductive, but the bulge in the front of his pants tells me that I'm doing okay so far. "Let me thank you the right way," I whisper. I give him one last deep kiss, complete with tongue, and he groans against my mouth, both his hands squeezing my ass. Gently, I take his hands off my behind and sink to my knees. All I can hear is my heartbeat, loud and proud. All I can feel is the heat inside of me, my warm blood rushing through my veins. I look up at Edward and he clearly looks shocked. His hands hover in the air above my head, like he wants to stop me, but I know something is holding him back. He wants this.
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Of course he wants this. What guy doesn't get turned on by the sight of a girl on her knees in front of him? The only reason Edward would want to stop me is because of the pesky gentleman inside of him. "As far as I want," I whisper the reminder and he nods almost imperceptibly. I watch him swallow, his Adam's apple bobbing. I smirk up at him and watch his eyes as I undo the buckle on his belt. His chest rises and falls and when I carefully pull his zipper down, his jaw clenches and his fingers twitch. I pull his pants down, my eyes now on the bulge in front of his boxers, and I'm just a little nervous. It's not that I've never done this before; it's just that I want to make this good. I'll admit, I've half assed blow jobs before. It's not like the guy would know, because a mouth is still a mouth. But when it comes to Edward, I refuse to half-ass anything. It's going to be fun playing around with the Virgin Prince. I reach up and grab the waistband of his boxers, slowly lowering it as I watch him. "Bella," Edward's voice is husky. "You don't have-" "I want to," I cut him off. "I was going to say that you don't have to go so slow," his rough voice makes my belly clench and my god, I want him. "Eager to fuck my mouth, huh?" I say, grinning. Well, hello there, Dirty Bella. Long time no see. Edward's eyes widen at first and then he clenches them shut. Wasting no time, I pull his boxers down so that his cock springs free. Am I drooling? I might be drooling. He's thick and hard and I take him in my hand, watching his face.
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"Shit," he hisses through clenched teeth. He leans his head back against the tree, jaw taut, hands clenched into fists. He doesn't know what to do with his hands, so he kind of moves them around, no place to put them. He'll know exactly what to do once I start. I stroke him up and down for a few seconds and he starts panting a little. His eyes are closed and the muscles of his jaw are standing out. He's warm and throbbing in my hand, and it only takes on lick to the head for him to give in to his urges. "Shit," he gasps again, and he grabs a hold of my hair with his right hand. Fuck, yes! Slowly, I start taking his length into my mouth, inch my inch. I choke just a little at first, since I haven't done this in a while, but as soon as I remember to breathe through my nose and relax my throat, it's a lot easier. The feeling of his cock against my tongue and throat intensifies my need for him. My panties are probably evidence of that. The deeper I take him in, the tighter his grip on my hair gets. His grip is so tight that it's on the verge of being painful, but that just turns me on even more. I pull my head back, releasing his cock and sucking on it as I pull it out. "Fuck," Edward says, and he bangs his head back into the tree once. That's gotta hurt. I wrap my lips around his length again and reach up to grab the rest of it. My other hand goes up to his balls and Edward is about to lose it. "Goddamnit," he says, but his voice is low, guttural. He groans when I massage his balls and instinctively thrusts his hips forward. Breathe, Bella!
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I take deep breaths through my nose and I swear he's going to pull my hair out but fuck if I care. I need this, I want this, and so does he. Edward is making some kind of growling noises as he keeps thrusting a little, but I grab onto the hand he has on my hair because he's going on pure primal instinct and I need to guide him just a little. "Fuck, Bella," Edward rasps as I suck him harder, and he's so close to the edge, I can tell. "Shit, shit, shit, shit," he says, and it's a rant I recognize. I take him in deep and suck harder, hollowing out my cheeks. He warns me with an, "I'm gonna-", before I feel the warmth of his seed start spilling down my throat. He groans loudly and I immediately start swallowing, feeling him soften in my mouth. He drops his hand from my hair and I let go of him, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. He's gazing down at me, but I can't tell what his expression is. I giggle nervously. "Yum." He reaches down and pulls me up by the arm, my sore knees protesting against the sudden movement. Okay, ow Edward grabs my face in his hands and kisses me hard, not just once but four times. "You. Are. Fucking. Amazing." He kisses me after every word and I feel my heart swell. Edward chuckles shyly and tucks himself back into his pants. "I need to find a better way of saying 'you're welcome'."

A few minutes later, we're making our way back to the manor. We're giggling and tripping over our own feet, trying to be as quiet as possible and failing miserably.
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We stay close to the trees, avoiding the main part of the Garfield. There isn't anyone around, but we need to look out for the cameras that are focused on some of the main gardens. "Shhh," Edward suddenly says. He stops walking and I almost collide into him. He sticks his arm out and then steps to the side so that he's in front of me. "What?" I ask, a little panicked. "I think I saw someone," he whispers. Those five words make my heart skip a beat and my entire body tenses up. I look around us in the darkness, but I don't see anything other than the empty field, trees, and the windows of the manor glowing in the darkness. "Maybe I'm just paranoid," Edward mumbles, and we keep on walking. That's when I hear it. A click, click, click sound is echoing through the trees. I know that sound, it's familiar, I just can't quite place what it is "Fuck," Edward hisses angrily, and I'm suddenly being pushed back into the forest. "What's going on?" I ask as Edward pulls his phone out. He presses a few things on the screen before he acknowledges me. "Paparazzo," he spits in disgust. My heart skips a beat and my eyes widen. "Here?" Edward nods grimly, his expression tight with fury. My heart starts beating a little faster, the fear crawling its way up my spine. There's a paparazzo.
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Here, at the manor. No, no, no Fuck.

A/N: Uh-oh. I think Shit really wants to become best buds with Fan at this point. Yikes. Most of the next chapter is going to be in Edward's POV. I promise I won't be alternating POV's from now on, but there's some pivotal stuff in the next chapter that Bella won't be around for. Next Chapter: Wednesday, June 15th (at the latest) Until next time! :)

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Chapter 22
Thanks for all the lovely reviews! I loved all your comments about Princeward's first beej. *giggle* Mucho love for Pinkaquaclouds for being an awesome beta and for constantly kicking the annoying ass of my writer's block. Let's make things a little more interesting, shall we? ;)

Chapter 22- Bye-Bye, Bubble A paparazzo. Here, at the manor. No, no, no Fuck. I can't quite wrap my mind around this. How did a paparazzo get on the property, what with its tight security and numerous cameras? Oh god, did they catch the blow job? Us holding hands? Fuck, fuck, fuck. Edward must see my panic because he quickly comes over and cups my face in his hands. "I'll take care of this," he says emphatically. I can tell he means it; the fire in his eyes makes it obvious. I nod, trying to calm my nerves, but this is bad. Really, really, bad. Everything would be out in the open in the worst possible way.
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Then, we hear it again. That clicking sound. Edward's head whips up and he gazes around at the trees. It's dark, but not too dark. Our eyes are fairly adjusted to the blackness, but it might be hard to catch movement. Suddenly, Edward bolts. One second he's in front of me and the next thing I know he's charging into the trees. I stumble after him in time to watch as he tackles someone to the ground. There's the sound of scuffling, a clatter, more running footsteps, and then there are suddenly four shadows. Edward's tall silhouette stands up while holding onto the shorter, plumper shadow who I assume is the asshole paparazzo. Edward pushes him toward one of the SS. "Take him to Thorn's office." The paparazzo is being led away, but one hulking shadow stays by Edward's side. "Thorn's not in," I hear Felix say. "I don't' care," Edward sounds royally pissed. "I want to know how the hell that paparazzo got on the property in the first place and why I'm the one that had to tackle him to the ground. Make sure he doesn't get away again and I want someone to review the footage." "Yes sir." Edward comes toward me, a disturbed look on his face. He takes my hand and starts pulling me away, so fast that I'm practically tripping over my own two feet. "Where are we going?" I ask, trying hard to keep up without falling on my ass. "Back inside," he replies shortly. "You need to be out of the way of this right now." We reach the manor and he starts taking me through door after door once again.
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"What's going to happen to the paparazzo?" Edward sighs and presses the number three in the elevator. It's gotten pretty late and we don't have to be as discreet as before. "I don't know, but I might press charges," he mutters. His brows are furrowed over his eyes, his jaw clenched. We get off on my floor and once we reach my door, I look up at him, biting my lip. "Edward, I'm scared." He looks forlorn as he tucks some hair behind my ear and then rubs his thumb over my cheek. "Don't," he whispers. "I'll handle this." I bite my tongue, further training myself to watch what I say. I'm resisting the urge to bring up what happened the last time he said he was going to 'handle' something. "What if he caught something?" I ask instead. I don't want him to tell me that everything's going to be okay, because I know it's not. Not after this. "He can't use it," Edward says with confidence. "Not if I destroy the evidence." I gawk at him. "But isn't that illegal? Destroying someone else's belongings? He can press charges on you, too." Edward laughs without humor. "Trespassing on private property is illegal as well. Also, those pictures were taken without our consent. Technically, I can get rid of them if I wanted to." I know I should be comforted by his words, but I'm not. Edward leans down and kisses my forehead. Breathing in his scent, I miss him already. "You should go to bed," he says quietly. "It's late. I'll talk to you in the morning, okay?"
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I nod and wrap my arms around him one last time, burying my face in the crook between his neck and shoulder. I fit perfectly in this spot; it's where I feel safest. I pull away and kiss his cheek, catching his soft smile before I turn away and go into my bedroom. Alice is already curled up in bed, fast asleep, and I wonder if she knows. I wonder if she can feel it. I wonder if she can feel that the shit is about to hit the fan.

Prince Edward As I take the elevator down to the basement level, I try to clear my mind and calm my thoughts. I think of Bella, of the fear in her eyes, the apprehension in her voice. "Edward, I'm scared," she had said. Instead of calming me, the memory of her whispered words only angers me further. The doors slide open and it is with determined steps that I stride down to Thorn's office. The paparazzo has his back to me from where he sits on the opposite side of Thorn's desk. I can tell by his posture that he's tense, and the fidgeting of his fingers on the arms of the chair reveals his nerves. Good. Felix is standing next to him, probably to make sure he stays where he is, and Henry is looking at the footage on the right hand wall's security screens. He uses a little remote to rewind and forward as needed. I walk around the desk and face the paparazzo, who jumps in surprise when I enter his line of vision.

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He's a short man with olive skin and hair that reaches his shoulders. He'd worn a hat, but it's off now and his dark eyes are wide. His weapon of a camera lies in the middle of the desk. I don't know if he's star struck or what, but just the sight of him makes my blood boil all over again. I lean forward, bracing my hands on the desk in between us and leveling him with a glare. "Who are you and who do you work for?" I ask. My voice comes out harsher than I intended, but at least it shows that I'm not messing around. "Aaron Gail," he answers, his nervous gaze flitting around the room. "Starlight Magazine." I raise my brows, surprised. Starlight Magazine is one of the country's biggest gossip magazines, infamous for the paparazzi photos that it publishes. They're very good at making images look like something they're not. I've only been in it once myself, that night I drank too much in New York and ended up drunk-texting Bella. It's not my proudest moment. "Did someone send you?" I question. He looks away and squirms under my gaze, uncomfortable. "Not really," he mutters. "What does that mean?" I snap. I want answers and I want them now. I need to know how much of a danger he is to us. He doesn't answer, choosing to press his lips together and stare at me with defiant eyes. I wonder if it would be wrong of me to throw him in the manor's prison and leave him there for the rest of his miserable life. Yes, it probably would. "He asked you a question," Felix intimidatingly towers over the paparazzo.
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It works; he cracks. "No one really sent me," he says quickly, looking at me. He keeps fidgeting with one thing or another, not holding my gaze for more than two seconds at a time. "Elaborate," I order, and he huffs like a petulant child. I clench my jaw, resisting the urge to shake him and demand answers. "I had 24 hours to keep my job, okay?" he admits, raising his voice a little. "They were gonna lay me off unless I got something good. That's all there is to it." I cock my head to the side and eye him dubiously. I don't know if I believe him. My eyes narrow as I observe him speculatively. "What did you expect to find, exactly?" He shrugs, but his lips pull up in a smirk. "Not much, until I got into the forest." I don't like that smirk on his face. I want to wipe it off. "What did you see?" My voice is quiet, but I'm only barely containing myself. Briefly, his eyes flit to the camera on the desk in between us. He quickly lunges forward to grab it, but I'm quicker. I grab the camera and turn away just as Felix holds his arms back. "You can't do anything with that!" he yells as the camera whirs on. "It's mine!" "Yes, well it's got something of mine in it," I mutter. I immediately start flipping through the images, but they're all dark and grainy. Still, you can see enough. Even though it's dark, you can make out my figure, my pale face standing out. My hand is clearly intertwined with Bella's, and you can just barely make out the shape of her slender nose, her pale features obvious as well. Most of the images are from our walk back to the manor. Thankfully, there are no pictures of what we did by the pond.
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I swallow thickly, knowing that this is something that can't get out. Not like this. I observe the camera until I can figure out where the memory card lies. This causes the paparazzo to fight a little harder, making both Felix and Henry hold him back. "This is against the law!" he says angrily, but he's given up fighting. He slumps in his seat, his arms limp at his sides. I can't help but chuckle at him. "Right, because trespassing on private property is perfectly okay?" He looks away, brows furrowed over dark eyes. "That's what I thought," I mumble, pulling the memory card out. I beckon Henry over and hand him the memory card. "I want this gone," I tell him. "Do whatever you can to get rid of it- break it into pieces, burn it, melt it, eat it, whatever. I want it destroyed." I know I can trust Henry with it. He's the least of my worries. He takes the card from me, nodding in determination. "Yes sir." The paparazzo glares at Henry until he's gone, but his expression when he looks back at me can only be described as smug. Felix and I exchange a glance. Something isn't right. What are you up to, Aaron Gail? "Did you search him?" I ask Felix. Felix nods. "He wasn't holding onto anything of concern." I observe the man in question, feeling a strong sense of mistrust. Though his face has gone blank, his eyes deceive him. There's something there, some glint of rebelliousness.
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I stare at his face, trying to pinpoint exactly what it is about him that I don't like. Other than what he's done, he isn't showing signs of deviance. He's been fairly cooperative, and we've gotten rid of the only evidence he'd had. Suddenly, a thought occurs to me. "His phone," I say to Felix. "Did you check his phone?" "Yes sir," Felix says immediately. "Nothing we need to worry about." The uneasy feeling won't go away, but I chalk it off to paranoia. After all, I have every reason to be paranoid. Besides, I can't trust him to keep his mouth shut. Unless I bribe him Then again, he has no evidence. How is anyone going to believe what he says? It'll be just another rumor, swirling and changing through the magazines until some other celebrity takes the attention away. I nod to myself, finally satisfied that we're safe in this situation. I'm not so sure I want to press charges anymore, especially not after I destroyed his property. The less drama, the better. Once again, I lean forward with my hands braced on the desk until I'm eye to eye with Aaron Gail. "I don't ever want to see on this premises every again, understood?" "Understood, Your Highness," he says, but he's mocking me. Son of a bitch. "Let him go," I say, standing up straight. Felix leads the paparazzo out, but the discomfort doesn't disappear with his retreating form. Wanting to distract myself, I turn to the security screens and start reviewing the footage of how the pap even got on the property in the first place.
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The way the property is built, you wouldn't be able to get here by foot. Not only are we mostly isolated from most towns and cities, but you can't get to the manor without going through a gate with an intercom. Even then, you'd have to drive. So how did he get on the property? Once I review all the footage, I see that the pap was in fact on foot. The security videos clearly show him expertly climbing the gate and sneaking through the front gardens, keeping his head down and even crouching at several points. He can be seen snapping a few photos of the manor and even approaching a couple of windows. The thing that angers me is that everything he does is visible by security camera. So why didn't anyone stop him? Felix and Henry have returned and are explaining to me how the pap ended up in the forest. But there's really only one thing I want to know. "Who was on duty at the gate?" I ask, turning to face the two men. "Uh, Mitchell and Carl, sir," Henry replies. "I believe they're still there." I turn back to the screen and rewind to where the camera focuses on the front of the manor. There was no one guarding the front doors when the pap passed right by. I take a deep breath through my nose, really wanting to rip these SS guys a new one. "Who was supposed to be at the front?" I ask without turning back. I get no reply so I turn around just in time to see them exchange a glance. "Well?" I hedge impatiently. "It was supposed to be Ryan and Wesley, sir," Felix says.
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I raise a brow. "But?" "But they weren't there" "I can see that," I snap, finally losing my temper. "I can see that they weren't there, but the question is why. You know what? Call them here. Every single one of them. I need to get to the bottom of this." A few minutes later, the SS guys in question arrive and the second I see them it all just comes out of me. All the worry, the anger, the frustration the fear. It's all in my tangent, and they listen quietly because they know it's all on them. "Tell me gentlemen, what is your job? Do you even know? Perhaps you've all forgotten that the rules are still the same. You're still supposed to be at a certain place at a certain time, looking out for certain things. That paparazzo could have been anyone, do you get that? He could have had a weapon or he could have had some other malicious intent. Normally, I wouldn't emphasize a 'should have, would have, could have' situation, but this time I have to because you all slacked on your job and let a stranger on the property. Peoples' safety was at stake, and if you don't believe that that's something you four need to take responsibility for, then maybe you shouldn't be wearing those suits." A part of me wonders if I'm overreacting, if I'm being too harsh, but another part of me shuts the first part down. No, I'm not overreacting. I'm not being too harsh. They failed to do their jobs, slacked off and decided that other things were more important. They know this, because they all look contrite. They keep apologizing and promise not to slack off again, and that's all I can ask. Besides, they'd rather deal with me than deal with my father. Once they leave, chagrined, I feel worn out. I keep an eye on the security screens, satisfied when I see them return to their posts as vigilant as ever. Still, the uneasiness hasn't passed. Even with the paparazzo gone and the evidence destroyed, it's still dangerous. Someone from the outside knows, and that's what concerns me.
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I can feel it, creeping up on us like an invisible but dense fog. It's going to hit us. Very, very soon.

The next morning, I sense a change in the manor's atmosphere. I don't know what the change is exactly; it just feels different. It's like something is amiss, some shift in the way people appear. It all starts when my breakfast is served by a maid that I only know by face. She pushes the cart in, all the while staring at me. "Thank you," I say, pulling the cart toward the couch. She's a small, mousey girl with a heavily freckled face and dark curls. Even after I've dismissed her, she just stands and stares. I look at her expectantly, thinking that she has something to say. Apparently not, because she just keeps staring at me. I know she's not star struck, because she's worked for me before without gawking. Finally, she stops staring at me, only to stare around the room. Her gaze flits from the couch to the bar, to the floor, to my bedroom door It's unnerving and slightly irritating. What on earth is she looking for? "Is there something you need?" I ask, and she jumps at the sharpness of my tone. I can't quite control it. It's like the only person that can bring me calm is Bella. She shakes her head and I raise a brow, silently asking why she's still standing there and gazing speculatively around the room. She stares some more, her gaze drifting to my bedroom again, and I've had just about enough. "You can go," I say dismissively. My tone is successfully polite, but the implication
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that I want her to leave is strong. She nods and turns to leave, but not without looking around my suite one more time. I glance around the room as well, puzzled. What in the hell was she looking for? Was there something planted here that I should know about? Highly irritated, I grab the remote and sink down into the couch, ready to shovel my food down and distract myself from my thoughts. I flip through the thousands of channels, stopping on one at random. It happens to be a show where they show video clips of college kids pulling obscene pranks on each other. It's disturbing enough for me to get my mind off things. However, my deep discomfort with the manor's atmosphere comes back the second I step foot out of my suite. It's the workers. The way they look at me is different. Usually they're shy, polite, respectful, but now Now they look at me with interest, curiosity, something along the lines of disbelief. I don't understand. In fact, I don't understand until I'm back in my room after a nice, long jog around the property. I get a call from Bella, and I don't even get a chance to say hello before she starts talking. "I thought you took care of it," she says, sounding hysterical. My heart skips a beat at her panicked tone. There's only one thing she could be talking about. "The paparazzo?" I ask, the panic welling up in my chest. "I did." "Channel 20, Edward."
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My hand fumbles around for the remote and I immediately click to the channel. Instantly, my eyes land on the image of me and Bella. I can feel the blood drain from my face as my chest constricts. This is not happening. "Fuck," I gasp. "Fuck!" "I know," Bella says, and she sounds like she's in pain. "At least they didn't get my face, right?" She's right. The image is grainy, taken from a cell phone, and you can only see my profile as I pull Bella into the forest by the hand. Her own face is shrouded in darkness- you can only see the left side of her body, from the shoulder down. My eyes are drawn to her hand, which is clasped in mine. It gives everything away. "That son of a bitch," I growl. "I destroyed the memory card of his camera, but he must have taken this picture and then sent it to the magazine. Felix checked his phone, but he must have deleted it before we got to it. Goddamnit." I feel like ramming my fist into something, over and over again. I swear, if I ever see his face again "Edward, what do we do?" Bella asks. "The whole fucking country knows you're sneaking around with someone now. The shit-" "Is about to hit the fan," I finish for her, clenching my eyes shut and pinching the bridge of my nose. My phone beeps, signaling another call, and I'm afraid to answer. "Crap," Bella suddenly says. "I have to hang up, I'm still working. Kate's giving me the death glare. I'll call you back as soon as I can, okay? We need to talk about this." "Yeah," I reply, wanting to hold her in my arms.
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"Bye," she whispers, and the second she hangs up, I hang my head. My phone goes off again, and I see that it's a call from my father. Shit. He must have seen. Feeling like a teenager that's out past curfew, I answer. "Dad." "We need to have a word with you. Now." Fuck.

My parents' suite is on the sixth floor of the manor, the highest floor. It's the biggest suite in the building and has belonged to the king and queen ever since the manor was first built. My father is on the balcony when I enter, and my mother is in front of the television, watching that damn gossip channel with a hand covering her mouth. Since when do they watch television? Esme looks up when I enter, her eyes wide with questions. I shut the door behind me and the sound causes Carlisle to turn. Seeing me, he sighs and steps back into the room. "Edward," Esme says. She looks pointedly at the TV and then back at me. "What have you been up to?" The look on her face is almost too much. It's like a cross between disappointment and disbelief, but I can see the underlining fear in her soft features. My father is stoic. He waits for an answer with his hands tucked into the pockets of his trousers, his brows furrowed. The intense blue of his eyes bores through me, but I'm used to maintaining eye contact.

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I take a deep breath, not sure what to say. I don't want to tell them that it's Bella. Not yet. I'm sure they've already assumed she's a worker. It's definitely not someone from their massive social circle; that much is obvious. "Edward," Carlisle says. "We're waiting." Her name is Bella Swan, and I'm in love with her. She's funny, smart, brave, beautiful, strong, sexy, selfless, hardworking, and just absolutely amazing. She deserves the world, she's far too good for me, and I'd give up everything just to have her by my side. That's what I want to say, that's what I'm itching to say. "She's special," is what I say instead. "That doesn't answer our questions," Carlisle says, irritation laced in his tone. If I didn't know that he wasn't my biological father, I'd think my lack of patience came from him. "Who is she?" Esme asks, her own voice patient and soft. It doesn't fool me, though. She's still upset. "She's the help, isn't she?" my father asks. The way he says "the help" rubs me the wrong way. He says it degradingly, his voice filled with distaste. In reality, Carlisle is not a bad man. He has nothing against the workers, or anyone else that works beneath him. He's always treated them courteously, kindly, and with respect. He taught me everything about being a gentleman. However, one thing I've learned about Carlisle is that, in moments of stress, he often says things that he doesn't mean, in ways he doesn't mean them. Even though I already know this, my anger flares up. I don't like him talking about her with anything less than kindness in his voice.
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He doesn't even know her. I bite back my sharp retort just as my mother says, "Why didn't you tell us?" I glance at her and catch the displeasure in her face. It makes me feel like crap, but I regret nothing. I shake my head. "What would I say, exactly? How would you expect me to break something like this to you? I'm not going to lie- what you see is true. I am seeing someone, and she is a worker. That's it. I've just confirmed it, if that's what you wanted me here for." They stare at me, two pairs of blue eyes, both different shades, both equally questioning. "Don't you understand the severity of this, son?" Carlisle asks. "Didn't you learn from what happened with Jasper?" Yes, but I didn't care. "I was seeing her at the same time Jasper was seeing Alice," I informed them. "It worried me, but in the end it didn't matter." "Didn't matter?" Carlisle echoes in disbelief. He takes a step toward me. "Didn't matter? Did you even think about what the consequences might be? The entire country knows about this now- Aro isn't going to let it slide." "I don't care," I finally snap. "I care more about her than I do about Aro-" "More than your responsibilities?" he retorts. "Yes." I don't even hesitate. My father blinks at me, stunned and infuriated. He turns to look at Esme. "This boy has lost his mind." My mother is watching me, reading my face, searching for something. "No, Carlisle," she says softly. "He's not losing his mind, he's just in love." My heart skips a beat and when my eyes meet hers, I see that they are wet.
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Carlisle looks at my face and I meet his eyes so that maybe, just maybe he'll see it, too. His face goes blank. Oh, yes. He's seen it. Suddenly he's sitting down on the couch, rubbing his face with both hands. A habit I picked up from him. "You children are being reckless," he says without looking at me. "You're letting your feelings get in the way of far more important things, things that you're going to be needing to take care of for the rest of your life. You're throwing your lives away." "We are not throwing our lives away," I argue. "We're merely choosing to live them with someone we care about by our side." "You could have had both things with Tanya," he says, all but glaring at me. "Carlisle," my mother chides, but it's too late. He's chosen to open the floodgates. "Tanya didn't give a shit about me, Dad," I say angrily. The tone of my voice makes shock cross both of their faces, but once I've started I won't stop until I'm done. "Did you think we broke the engagement off for no goddamn reason? No. Not only did I meet someone that I actually love, but Tanya didn't care about anyone but herself. What, did you think she would make a good queen twenty, thirty years from now? Of course not. Were you two so blind to see how immature, how selfish, how vain she was? She comes from a wealthy family, is that all you care about? Goddamnit." I turn away from them, frustratedly running a hand through my hair. I start to pace, willing my boiling blood to simmer down. When I glance at my parents, they aren't looking at me. They're looking at each other, having a silent conversation. "I want her name," my father finally says, standing up. I don't trust him.
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"No." He raises his brows. "I want her name, Edward." I shake my head and anger crosses his features before he says, "What do you think I'll do, exactly?" "I don't want to expose her," I tell him. "Not like this. Not because of some paparazzi picture." "How long will you wait?" my mother asks. "Until the media gets their hands on her face, as well? Until everyone knows who she is and it'll be too late to protect her?" Esme. Always on my side. "I still think he's making a mistake," Carlisle adds adamantly. "Just like Jasper did." "Mistake or not, we're not going to change anything," Esme reminds him firmly. "He's going to do what he pleases, don't you see that?" Carlisle shakes his head, but he knows she's right. They can't stop me. "Edward," my mother says, a slightly airy quality to her voice. To others, she'd sound merely curious. But I know better. I know the look in her eyes. That glint. What does she want?

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The stress is overwhelming. It's lunchtime and I can't swallow a bite of food. The workers in the break room have that stupid gossip channel on and I swear I want to punch the screen until it breaks and then tell them to get the fuck over it. The rumors are swirling, all of them a result of the endless speculative questions. Who could the prince possibly be seeing in secret? Do we know her? What does she look like? Is she the reason he broke the engagement off? What did he see in her? Apparently, I must be a redhead. No, a blonde, because the prince likes blondes. I'm probably really young, or maybe I just look like it. I must be in it for the money, seeing Edward because he's hot and because he's the prince. He must be in it for the sex, or to try something new. The rumors get crazier and crazier, and I want to scream at all of them. I want to scream that it's none of their goddamn business, and to stop making so many fucking assumptions. Get. Over. It. I'm not kidding anyone, though. I know they won't get over it, not until they find out who I am. My world is starting to crumble around me. Our little bubble is floating closer and closer to the edges of something sharp. There's only a matter of time before it pops. My apprehensive thoughts are disturbed when Edward calls me. "Hey," I mumble, disappearing into a corner of the room. "Bella?" Edward sounds just a little nervous. "What's wrong?" He hesitates.
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"Edward" "What would you say to meeting my parents?" Um. What?

A/N: Yeah... I wouldn't know what to say to that, either. Next Chapter: Tuesday, June 21st :)

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Chapter 23
Chapter 23- Shit Meets Fan "What would you say to meeting my parents?" Edward asks. Um. What? "Are you for real?" I ask in a whisper. I hear Edward let out a breath, and I can imagine him grabbing a handful of his hair. "Unsurprisingly, my parents saw the picture on TV. My dad pretty much gave me the verbal smackdown, but Esme was more understanding" I hold my breath until he's done. "So they decide that they want to meet me?" This is pretty hard for me to digest and, quite frankly, it scares me just a little. "It was my mother's idea," Edward states ruefully. "I told her it was out of the blue and that it wasn't fair to you, but Bella, it's happening. It's happening fast. We can't keep this a secret for that much longer, and my parents, well, my mother actually, thought that this would be the best way to protect you." I lean back against the wall, afraid that I'm going to pass out or something. "How is that supposed to protect me?" I ask, casting a nervous glance around the room. No one pays me any attention; they're all too hooked on the gossip reporter's assumptions about what mystery me's motives might be. "If they know you, they'll better be able to vouch for you once Aro finds out," Edward explains. "They barely knew Alice, but Aro was feeling generous then. My parents want to be able to say that they know you, that it's fine." His voice is getting harder to hear because of all the gossipy chatter of the workers, so I tell him to hang on before finding the bathroom. I lock the door and sit down on the closed toilet lid. Elbows on my knees, I drag my hand through my hair, clutching it tightly.
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I feel so, so, so overwhelmed. I knew this would happen, just not so damn soon. We were supposed to be ready. We were going to come out and declare it when we realized that our bubble was floating back down to earth. The problem lies in the fact that we didn't know our bubble had already started floating down a long time ago. We were completely oblivious to our environment, completely careless, and now we're suffering for it. "Bella?" I suddenly remember the phone I have pressed to my ear, and I let out a shuddery breath. "You okay? Where are you?" "Um, the bathroom in the basement. Down the hall from the break room." "Give me two minutes, okay?" "Hurry." I end the call and bend over with my arms crossed over my stomach. I feel sick. My mind is running fast, thinking negative thought after negative thought. I feel like my head is about to explode, and I may not say it out loud, but I am terrified. I'm terrified and I feel weak. Vulnerable. The revelation of our secret has revealed another side of me, a side that needs Edward. A side that craves his touch, his comfort, his words.
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I just know that I need him before I lose my mind. I try to distract myself by picking at my fingernails, but then I realize that my hands are shaking. Fuck, why are my hands shaking? Why am I so fucking scared? I hate this. Suck it up. You had this coming. You were asking for this. You can't change anything. I jump when there's a light knock on the door, but a second later I'm throwing the door open and Edward is sliding in. The second the door is shut, I'm in his arms. My entire body relaxes when he wraps his arms around me. The fear and the apprehension, though still present, has lessened considerably. We're in this together, and without him I don't think I'd be able to handle it. "Hey," he says softly, stroking my head. "It's okay." No, it's not. I nod, but I don't let go. I can't. Not yet. I'm not used to feeling so needy, but I'm scared about what this means for us. A moment later, I'm being carried. I end up on Edward's lap as he sits on the toilet
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lid, and I finally loosen my grip. "What have we done?" I ask, burying my face in his neck. Edward holds me tighter and sighs. "I was so goddamn careless." I shake my head and pull away so I can look him in the eyes. "We were careless." "We," he corrects himself quietly. "How do we fix this, Edward?" He lets out a breath that caresses my face and rests his forehead against mine. "I don't think it's something that can be fixed; I think it's something that just has to be accepted." Those few words make me feel better, and I just need him to keep talking. "Where do we go from here?" "Well, since you're not up for having lunch with my parents" He trails off, giving me a chance to say yes. But I can't. "No," I say. "Not like this, not because of this. This isn't a typical meet-the-parents situation. If I officially meet them, I want it to be because we feel like it's time. Not because we're desperate." I can tell by the look on Edward's face that he disagrees. "I want to show you to the world," he says, sounding borderline angry. "I don't care what people think. I don't care if I have Aro halfway up my ass about it. You're mine." Oh my. His display of emotion has caught me off guard. "I don't want to hide anymore, Bella," he says adamantly. "I'm tired of it. Now that that picture came out, I just say we bring it out in the open. Once and for all."
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"That thought pretty much scares the shit out of me," I admit softly. He nods in understanding, leaning down to press his lisp to my brow. "I get that, but you know it's inevitable, right? We can't avoid it. It was going to happen." He's right. I know he's right, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Everything is just moving way too fast. My world is spinning on its axis, way too rapidly for me to get a good, firm grasp on things. "We'll figure something out," Edward reassures me. "We always do." Something vibrates against my leg and Edward reaches inside his pocket to pull his phone out. He glances at the ID before rolling his eyes. "Looks like Rick knows now, too," he mumbles. "He probably wants all the details." With a sigh, Edward answers, "Say what you need to, Rick." I hear his uncle's gruffly attractive voice respond, followed by a somewhat disbelieving look crossing Edward's face. Rick keeps talking and Edward starts staring at me, his gaze intense. I furrow my brows in question, but he only reacts to Rick. "You know it's up to her, don't you?" Edward says very seriously. He's still looking at me, but I'm not the one he's talking to. "Yeah, Rick, I get that Yeah Yeah Fine, I'll see That's not funny. Bye." Edward ends the call and then gives me the look he always give me when he's about to ask me something I probably won't agree to. "Considering the fact that no one really knows it's you I'm seeing, you're quite popular." I tilt my head to one side. "I don't understand what you mean" "Rick wants to meet you, too."
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My eyes widen. "He already has." "Yeah, but he doesn't know it's you." Somehow, the prospect of Rick knowing that I'm the mystery girlfriend isn't as scary as the king and queen knowing. Maybe it's because I know him better, and know that he's cool and not at all as conservative as Edward's parents. It would be a first step. "He's already accepted you," Edwards murmurs. That's all I need to hear to agree.

Edward leaves the bathroom before I do, and I sneak out shortly after. There's still a few minutes left in my lunch break, but I seriously feel like I'll throw up anything I'm given to eat. I'm supposed to meet Edward in his bedroom, and Rick is to join us a few minutes later. Nervous, I make my way on up to Edward's room. When I get there, I'm late. Rick and Edward are already in the living room, talking in hushed tones. "- won't do that to her," Edward is saying angrily. I hover near the door that leads into the suite, hiding in the bedroom. I don't know why I'm scared to go in there, to face this. "She seems much stronger than you give her credit for, Edward," Rick is saying. "I know exactly how strong she is," Edward says defensively. I decide to just waltz in, not wanting to eavesdrop. If they're talking about me, they can talk about me in front of me. I bite my lip, hard, and shuffle into the room. Literally, my feet are dragging
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across the hardwood and my shoes make an embarrassing squeaking sound. That alerts the two handsome men standing in the middle of the room, and they simultaneously turn to look at me. The movement makes them look like twins for a moment. "Ah, there she is!" Rick says cheerfully. "Come on in!" Edward does not look amused, but I manage a small smile. He holds his hand for me and I don't even care about Rick's presence. Edward's fingers intertwine with mine and he gives me a reassuring smile. Glancing at Rick, I see that he's got a full blown grin across his face, sparkly white teeth showing and everything. Ricks claps his hands together, like he's overcome with emotion. He blinks his eyes rapidly to add to the effect. "Now would you look at that," he says, pretending to wipe a tear. "The sweetest thing I ever did see" "Now's not the time, Rick," Edward chides. "By God, I am so glad it's you," Rick ignores Edward and turns to me. "I can't say I'm surprised, but you won't believe how relieved I am to know that I was right." Huh? Edward and I exchange a confused look. "What do you mean you're not surprised?" Edward asks slowly. Rick shrugs, nonchalant, and moves to an armchair. He slouches down with his arms folded behind his head. "I knew you had found someone else when you broke off your engagement with that gold digging wretch," Rick states matter-of-factly. "Come on, my boy, since when have you cared about not being in love with the girl you marry? I know you well enough to know that you've always fulfilled your expectations as a prince before your own wants and desires. So when I heard you broke the engagement off because you wanted to, I knew something was up"
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He pauses, waiting for any other kind of reaction, but we just sort of stare at him in shock. Rick is no idiot. "Then I met this young lady on my day back," Rick nods at me. "She was mopping the front hall well, she was supposed to be" Rick chuckles and I feel myself blush. "But she was texting at the same time, this silly smile on her face. I startled her and her phone all but flew out of her hands, landing at my feet. I picked it up for her, but not before I saw that she was texting someone called Edward." I sit down on the couch and put my face in my palms. "I knew it." I feel Edward sit next to me as Rick continues. "Then when we had dinner, I noticed the little things. How you smiled at her when she walked in, how you two kept glancing at each other. Now don't get me wrong, it was by no means obvious, but it was noticeable to someone who's always been perceptive. Like me. Ha!" My face heats up, but that doesn't stop Rick. "Anyway, another clue was when the little puppy, what was his name? Monkey?" "Moose," I mumble. "Ah yes, Moose. Moose headed straight for Bella like they were old friends. Then Jasper mentioned that Edward was the one that got the dog, so that got me thinking as well. Fast forward to a few days later, when I walked in on you two, and I see a flash of brown hair before I realized what was going on." Edward and I are both face-palming at this point. "There was no doubt that you were a worker," Rick tells me. "No doubt at all. He wouldn't tell me which worker you were, but I could care less. The facts were overshadowed by the immense pride I felt." Rick looks at Edward, expression completely serious. "I really am proud of you for finally breaking some rules and getting what you want. It's always been in your nature, you just need to exercise some of that power and stop second guessing your decisions- you feel me?"
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Edward chuckles and nods. "I feel you, Rick." "Don't back down now," Rick adds firmly. "Now is not the time." He shifts forward in his seat and stares at the both of us, a sudden intensity to his eyes. "I need the both of you to promise me somethin'," he states grimly. "No matter what they say, and no matter what they threaten you with, you stick together. None of that, 'I'll sacrifice this to protect you from that' nonsense, okay? No one and I mean no one should be able to come between you two. Not the king, not the queen, not that asshole Aro Volturi. Not your morals or your fears. Nothing. Got it?" We stare at Rick in stunned silence, surprised by the fervor with which he speaks. He really, really means this and we're taken aback by his passion on the subject. Jesus, he must really hate the conformity of this place. "We get you," Edward finally answers. I can tell by the look on his face that Rick's little pep talk has had an effect on his thoughts. The determined set of his law and the grim line of his lips is evidence of that. "What about you, sweetheart?" Rick asks me. The term of endearment surprises me, but it sounds nice coming from him. It sounds fatherly. "I totally get you," I tell him with a nod. And I do. I understand what he's saying. After all, Edward and I both agree that the rules of this family are really stupid. Alice and Jasper didn't get a second chance, and it's up to us to fix the unfairness of that. Not just for them, but for Rosalie and Emmett as well. There's going to be no more hiding.

The day after Rick's sound advice, I'm in my room with Alice. We're lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling and musing over this latest conundrum. Alice hopes that it all just blows over.

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"Some celebrity will get knocked up soon," she says reassuringly. "Or some couple will break up." '"That's nowhere near as exciting as the prince's mystery girlfriend," I disagree. "Yeah, but there's always something crazy going on in Hollywood. Let's hope someone gets a drug overdose." "Alice! That's a terrible thing to say." "Okay. Let me rephrase. Let's hope that someone has a drug overdose and survives." "Much better." My phone buzzes from the bedside table, and I snatch it up, thinking that it's Edward with bad news. Surprisingly, it's Rosalie. "Hey, Rose," I answer, not bothering to hide my astonishment. "Why the hell didn't you tell us?" she hisses angrily. I blink, taken aback by the anger in her voice. "A paparazzo gets on the property, catches you and Edward holding hands, sends the picture to a magazine that puts it all over TV, and you didn't even call us to let us know? We're almost in the middle of nowhere, ya know!" Alice can hear every word, so we exchange a wary glance. "Um, sorry?" It comes out like a question. "It didn't really cross our minds, it was just yesterday" "Regardless," Rose says irately. "This is something we need to know. We're on our way back, by the way. Give us another hour or two." "What? Rose, you can't cut your vacation time short because of us!" "I can and I will," she argues. "We had our fun here, and now it's time to go back. There's only a matter of time before Aro finds out, and then he'll be on everyone's
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ass, trying to figure out who you are. I want to be there so that I can tell him to fuck off." I start sputtering, temporarily unable to form words. "Rosalie That's completely unnecessary." "Telling Aro to fuck off?" "No, coming back for us." Rose is silent on the other end for a moment, and when she speaks her voice is softer. "Listen, Bella. It's completely wrong for me and Emmett to be lying here in Cancun, completely enjoying ourselves, while you and Edward are suffering the scrutiny of the entire country and every single person in that manor. Now, I know they don't know it's you just yet, but when they do, I want to be there for you." Rosalie's words bring tears to my eyes. She really has become like an older sister to me. "Oh, and Emmett says, 'Give em' hell'," she adds, That makes me laugh but it comes out funny becomes of my advancing sobs. "Oh no, you're not crying are you?" Rose asks. "I didn't mean to make you cry, kid, I just Well We'll be there soon, okay? You're not getting out of this without a fight." I sniff and nod, even though she can't see me. "Yeah." "Bye. Keep your chin up." The line goes dead and I sigh, wiping a tear with the back of my hand. Alice has her arms around me, her head resting on my shoulder. "I'm angry," I tell her. She looks up at me, surprised. "Why?" "Because I hate these fucking rules! We're all human, and they go around treating us like shit, restricting us from dating whoever the hell we want! I've said it before
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and I'll say it again- it's such bullshit." Alice has nothing but sympathy in her eyes. "I know how you feel." Of course she does. Alice is the only other person that can truly get what it feels like to be forced apart from someone because they're of a different status. "I'm sorry," I say softly. "I shouldn't be complaining. Not after what you went through." She shakes her head. "Complain all you want. I've had my fair share of tears. Besides, there's still hope for you. They don't know it's you yet." The second those words leave her mouth, there's a loud knock on the door. Dread. Absolute dread lands at the pit of my stomach, heavily spreading throughout the rest of my body. My gut tells me that I do not want to know who is on the other side of that door. I look at Alice and she shrugs, an anxious look on her face. Slowly, I step off the bed and shuffle over to the door. Two Secret Service guards, tall and imposing, are standing on the other side. They wear matching expressions of severity, dark sunglasses covering their eyes. "Isabella Swan?" one of them says. I nod mutely. "You're under arrest." I'm frozen. I've heard these words before, but it was for a completely different reason then. Now, I know I'm doomed. "Wait, you can't just take her like that!" Alice is protesting, but one of the guards
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gives her a stern look. I hear, rather than see, her tiny feet walking toward us. "This is wrong and you know it!" she snaps at them. They completely ignore her and one takes me by the arm and pulls me away. Alice is calling after me, saying something that I can't hear. I just feel numb. The SS lead me down the hallway. There are workers mingling about, staring. They're whispering amongst themselves, and I can feel that they know. Once we reach the first floor, things are worse. There are more of them here, and it's almost like they gathered just to watch me get arrested. I see a few familiar faces, all people I've worked with, all people I've spoken to. None of them look so friendly now. While I am led through the front hall, my eyes land on Jacob. He stands with his arms crossed over his chest, his expression serious. I meet his eyes and he shakes his head in pity. He might as well yell, "I told you so!" across the room. The SS lead me down the hallway that I once walked on my way to crash the masked ball. That feels like forever ago. Standing in the doorway to the kitchens is my father. I abruptly stop walking, my eyes trained on my dad. He has his hands limp at his sides, the front of his white chef's shirt is stained and he's frowning. He's not angry, though, not like I expected him to be. He just looks hurt, disappointed, sad. "Why didn't you tell me, Bells?" he asks, his voice cracking. I have to blink back tears, and I don't even get a chance to respond before I'm
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being dragged away again. His face will haunt me forever. The hurt in Charlie's expression stirs something in me, something fierce. Because of these stupid rules and regulations, they're not just hurting me and Edwardthey're hurting my dad, Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, Emmett, and every other worker that has dreams. It angers me. "Keep your chin up." Rosalie's words from her phone call ring through me and I do exactly what she says, literally. I lift my chin and let them lead me wherever the hell they want. We end up somewhere in the basement, where all the security stuff is. Once again, I'm being led through that big room with all the TV screens displaying the view of every security camera in the manor. I am horrified to see that they're not all watching what's going on now. They're watching what's already happened. Everything between me and Edward. I see flashes of our times together, being rewinded and forwarded. Edward kissing me outside my bedroom door, me going to Edward's room, Edward leading me across the Garfield I see myself standing outside Edward's door when he told me he just wanted to be friends, me running into the kitchen after he toasted Tanya at dinner. There's Edward showing me the way to Rosalie's room the first day I had to work for her, and there's Edward letting me borrow that Austen book from the library. There's my drunken rant after the night out with Alice, complete with vomit on the prince's shoes. There's footage of me slipping notes under Edward's door, and Edward slipping
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notes under mine. Our entire relationship, with the exception of the blind spots, is on display. Edward was right. We were careless. I'm suddenly pushed into a room, and what I see freezes me in my tracks. It's a conference room. There's a long, mahogany table and several people sit around it. Aside from the SS guards that I've never seen before, there's only one stranger. He's a tall, thin, pale man, with shoulder-length black hair. Everything other than his skin tone is dark. His hair, his eyes, his sharp suit. He smiles at me when I stumble in, but I only glance at him before my eyes land on everyone else. King Carlisle, Queen Esme, and Edward are the other people in the room, all sitting on different sides of this man. Edward's expression is pained but angry when he sees me, and I immediately want to run to him. But I can't. "Isabella," the pale man says, standing up. "Please, have a seat." I know who he is. He's Aro. And I know what this is. This is my trial.

A/N: It was going to happen eventually, ya know. :(

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A trial type of thing is quite a strange way to meet the parents, huh? I know I made it seem like it would happen before Asshole Aro showed up in the picture, but... I guess not. My mind had other plans. Claws will come out next chapter! Are you ready? ;) Next Chapter: Sunday, June 26th (at the earliest)

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Chapter 24
Thank you for the reviews! I know, I know, cliffhangers are terrible. My chapters just happen to end that way. Really. ;) Much love to Pinkaquaclouds for being awesomely insightful and honest with the beta-ing. I'm nervous about this chapter. Enjoy! (as much as you possibly can under the circumstances)

Chapter 24- The Decision "Isabella," the pale man says, standing up. "Please, have a seat." I know who he is. He's Aro. And I know what this is. This is my trial. I don't move until one of the SS shoves me forward. Edward glares daggers at him and I do the same before shuffling over to the seat next to Edward. His parents sit across from us, and to say that it is intimidating to be sitting at the same table as the king and queen is an understatement. It's terrifying. The familiar scent of Edward calms my nerves and the second my butt it on the seat, he puts a hand on my knee, squeezing. His expression is completely grim, but his eyes, his insanely expressive eyes, speak volumes. The green is blazing, fiery, angry, but underlying it is the softness of concern and love. I don't know what he sees in my eyes, and whether it's good or bad, he doesn't react.
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When I turn away from him, my eyes land on the queen. She's staring. I mean, they're all staring at me, but she's staring. It's an intense, searching stare, like she's trying to memorize my every feature. Like she's scared I'm going to disappear right before her eyes, like I'm not real. It makes me uncomfortable so I look away and look at the king instead. His eyes, however, are on Edward. They're calculating, curious, observant. The room is silent for what feels like ages. Mostly they all just look at me. Most of them are seeing me for the first time. Others may be seeing me for their last time, and they already know this. "So, Miss Swan," Aro says, capturing my attention. "It's finally good to meet you." His eyes are twinkling, like he's actually happy. I give him my best are-you-fucking-kidding-me look. Because, really. Is he fucking kidding me right now? He had me arrested, and now he's striking up a conversation like he wants us to be friends. It pisses me off. I'm not sure how I want to handle this until I remember the words of my friends. "Keep your chin up." "Give em' hell." "No matter what they say, and no matter what they threaten you with, you stick together. None of that, 'I'll sacrifice this to protect you from that' nonsense, okay? No one and I mean no one should be able to come between you two. Not the king, not the queen, not that asshole Aro Volturi. Not your morals or your fears. Nothing." I think of Alice and Jasper, and just like that my purpose is renewed.
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After all, I knew I'd have to deal with this someday. I never expected it to be easy for us when people found out, and I never saw myself accepting it like Alice did. These bullshit rules need to change, and if I get fired for speaking my mind, then so be it. You might lose Edward along with your job That unwelcome thought occurs to me from the back of my head, and a wave of anxiety rushes through me. I can't dwell on it, though, because Edward is talking. "We know why we're here, Aro," Edward says coldly. "Just say what you want to say and we'll go from there." His grip on my knee is unnaturally and almost painfully tight, but I don't think he knows it. I don't mind, though. Somehow, it keeps me focused. "I want to say something before we start this," King Carlisle says. He's very pointedly looking at Aro, his expression slightly stern. Yeah, Aro may be the royal family's advisor, but the king is still the king. He's making that clear. Aro glides his hand through the air in a "go-ahead" gesture and the king clears his throat "I've said this with the issue with Ms. Brandon and Jasper as well," he says. "We need to keep an open mind." "Of course," Aro says, but I really don't trust him. "You're absolutely right, Your Highness. We're all about the open mind, right?" He grins at me and I am utterly creeped out. I just narrow my eyes at him and grit my teeth, biting back my sharp retort. "I mean it, Aro," the king says. He's not fooled by his advisor's fakeness. "Of course, of course," Aro acquiesces before leaning back in his seat. He forms a steeple with his thin fingers, elbows resting on the arms of the chair. "Now, we've all seen the footage. There's no doubt that this has gone way past standard royalty and
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servant protocol. Honestly, I wasn't expecting it. Especially not after what happened with Jasper. I thought you'd know better, Edward." Edward clenches his jaw, glaring at Aro. "Of course I knew better," Edward replies icily. "Did you really think I'd care?" Aro's brows shoot up at Edward's tone of voice, and I hold on to the hand that rests on my knee, hoping to calm him. He squeezes back, but his grip is hard, like he's trying to control himself. "You know, Edward, I've seen quite the change in you," Aro states quietly. He glances at the king and queen. "I'm sure your parents have seen it as well." "People change, Aro," Edward says, monotone. "Indeed," Aro agrees cheerfully. "But I'm afraid you've changed for the worst, no?" He looks at Edward's parents for confirmation, but they don't react. "How?" Edward asks. "It's your attitude, that's all," Aro states casually. "This rudeness, this disregard for the rules, this rebellious behavior It's unsettling." Edward rolls his eyes. "We're not here to talk about my behavior. Go ahead. Tell me I shouldn't be with Bella, tell me I need to put my royal duties first. Tell me what I'm risking, tell me what I should be doing and who I should be seeing. Trust me, I've heard it all and I don't care." Edward is not going to back down, and his attitude gives me confidence. Aro doesn't look so intimidating anymore. He just looks like a bitter old man who's trying to seem cool and kind on the outside, all the while planning new ways to tear us apart. "Can we please just get back to the matter at hand?" the queen speaks up, giving Aro a slightly irritated look. "Yes, please," the king agrees. "Oh, but we are discussing the matter at hand," Aro says, gesturing toward me.
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"Clearly, Miss Swan here would know about the change in Edward's demeanor, wouldn't you, Miss Swan?" I swallow, trying to find my voice. "What exactly are you accusing me of?" I ask. My own voice sounds alien to me. "Now, well, accusing is a harsh word-" Aro begins. "But that's what you're doing," I interject. He narrows his eyes at me, but I'm not afraid of him. The more I speak, the quicker the anxiety fades. It's replaced by a quiet anger and a burning determination to stand up for myself, Edward, and any other relationship that would be deemed inappropriate. "You're saying I've changed him for the worst," I say, looking Aro in the eye. "Aren't you?" His brows are raised, and it's clear that he's taken aback at my having called him out. I'm gonna call you out on a lot of stuff tonight, Aro. "I don't see how me finally standing up for myself is changing for the worst," Edward says. He looks from his parents to Aro, and then looks down at me. "For once, I'm going after what I want. Does that scare you?" He looks right at Aro when he says the last part, and Aro meets his gaze unwaveringly. "Edward, there's nothing wrong with going after what you want," Queen Esme says gently. "Haven't you always?" "No," Edward replies He's watching his mother impassively. "Although, I can see why you'd think that, considering I thought I wanted what you did." "Didn't you?" the king asks. Edward shakes his head slowly, his eyes on his father now. "Not until now." Once again, all eyes are on me. Edward squeezes my hand and I squeeze back, wondering when this whole thing will end.
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They haven't told us we shouldn't be together. Also, I don't know whose side the king and queen are on. "Let me just cut to the chase here," Aro says, placing his hands on the table. My heart skips a beat. Is this it? "I am this family's advisor, correct?" Aro asks, glancing at the three members of the royal family. "It's my job to do what I believe is best for this family and this country. When I make a decision, it is for the benefit of, not only every Cullen and Hale, but for the people that look up to this family." As I watch Aro speak, I come to wonder how this man ended up with so much power. I remember how Edward told me that the Volturis have been the royal family's advisors since the beginning of the country. They've always helped make the big decisions, but now I can't quite see the sense behind it. I guess it all comes right back down to tradition. Stupid fucking tradition. "How is being opposed to this relationship benefitting this family?" I can't help but ask. Aro shakes his head. "I wouldn't expect you to understand, Miss Swan." "Well then, explain it to me." "Me as well," Edward adds. "Because, quite frankly, I don't see how your narrow-mindedness is beneficial to anyone." Ouch. Edward's claws have come out to fight. Aro's brows shoot up and he looks at the king and queen in an are-you-going-to-let-him-talk-to-me-that-way kind of way. The elegant couple doesn't respond to Aro. They're too busy watching Edward with intense, speculative gazes.
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Maybe they are seeing a change in his behavior. It makes me wonder how he used to behave before he met me. Edward just shakes his head and rolls his eyes at the whole thing. He doesn't give a fuck today, and for that I am glad. "You were there when we spoke to Jasper and Ms. Brandon," Aro says to Edward. "So you must remember what I told him about the kind of women this family needs." "Bella is that woman," Edward says emphatically. "If you would just-" "She just may be," Aro cuts him off. "But I must admit that I have my doubts. No offense to you, Miss Swan, but when I look at you, I don't see the future princess or queen." Are you fucking kidding me? "Aro, be reasonable," the queen says, seemingly distressed. Edward's grip on my hand gets tighter and a vein sticks out in his forehead. "Is that what it's come down to?" Edward snaps. "Looks?" "You misunderstand me," Aro says calmly. "I am merely referring to the visual aspect of how this family symbolizes this country. Now, look at your mother. She's radiant. She exudes class and elegance. She's everything a queen should be." Is this guy for real? Esme blushes, but doesn't smile. "Aro, please," she says sternly. "We're not here to discuss me." "Let's talk about what we're here to talk about," King Carlisle says firmly. "Miss Swan's appearance is the least of our worries, and it doesn't even matter. You know this, Aro." "Here's my main concern," Aro abruptly changes the topic. He forms a tent with his hands again and contemplatively places his fingers to his thin mouth. "I'm not sure that a young woman who isn't familiar with our lifestyle would be fit to represent this nation."
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"Your lifestyle?" I blurt unthinkingly. "What are you, Amish? It's not like you have some kind of strict rules that I need to follow." "Here's my second point," Aro continues. "The way you speak, the way you behave, your lack of coordination What kind of impression does that make?" "I'm not going to sit here and listen to you attack Bella," Edward says angrily. "Do you think I'm with her because I want a goddamn queen? Do you honestly believe I care whether or not she's queen material?" "You should," Aro snaps, and his calm exterior is finally starting to crack. "When are you finally going to understand that you're not like every other college graduate in the country, Edward? You are a prince. You have responsibilities to uphold, expectations to fulfill. Your time to be frivolous has ended." What. An. Asshole. Edward's jaw tightens and the hand he has on my knee curls into a fist. "The fact of the matter is that you can't do this," Aro says bluntly. "It's wrong." "You have a weak argument, Aro," Edward says, voice husky with anger. "Very, very weak. You're saying I can't be with her because she doesn't look or act like queen material yet you never complained about Tanya." There's a sharp intake of breath from half the people in the room, including me. You can tell by the clenching of Aro's jaw and the narrowing of his eyes that his niece is a low blow for him. He probably resents Edward for the breaking off of the engagement. "I fail to see what this has to do with my niece, Edward," Aro's voice is eerily calm, but his eyes tell a different story. "Let's not bring Tanya into this," the king gives Edward a pointed look, but his son ignores him. "Tanya was the most vain, self absorbed person I've ever met," Edward says, monotone. "She cared about no one but herself, and she had her eyes on the throne for only power hungry reasons. Yet you insisted that I meet her all those years ago, insisted that we get to know each other, insisted that we get engaged. Why? Because she'd look good on my arm. Because she's your niece. Because it would give
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you and your family more power. My needs be damned, it's all about a power trip for you people, isn't it?" I'm holding my breath. I think we all are. Edward's voice got a little louder with every word, and you can just tell he's wanted to say that for a very, very long time. Aro's face is perfectly impassive, but his eyes are scorching. "I wasn't aware you felt that way," he says softly, and his voice gives me chills. Edward snorts and shakes his head. "You know absolutely nothing about Bella. You pretend to be all about fairness, yet you're prejudiced against someone for not being in the same class as you. Well done, Aro." The king and queen are sitting there, stunned by the venom in Edward's voice. His hatred for the family advisor is finally making itself known, and I feel so, so uncomfortable. I take Edward's fisted hand from my knee and slowly uncurl his fingers so I can entwine mine with his. I rub my thumb across the back of his hand in soothing circles, and he slowly starts to calm. His breathing gets slower and he sits back in his seat, squeezing my hand while still glaring at the man in black. The tension in the room is palpable, the silence deafening. The SS guys stand stiff, poised, ready to pounce just in case Edward decides to finally punch Aro in the face. Not likely, but I'm pretty sure he's tempted. Aro clears his throat, his eyes landing on me. I sit very still, bracing myself for whatever he wants to say. "Well, Miss Swan," he says quietly. "Anything you'd like to add to that display of emotion?" I bite my lip as I fall under the spotlight once again. Edward squeezes my hand reassuringly and I glance at him. The second I look at his face, the man I'd do anything for, I feel braver. There's no reason to be scared of Aro.
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He's just a man. I clear my throat, my heart pounding. I don't want to say the wrong thing, but I still want to be as honest as possible. I'm not ready for this, but there's nothing I can do except deal. "I agree with Edward," I say, silently sending thanks to the heavens that my voice doesn't quaver. Aro snorts, unsurprised, and I continue before he can speak. "You don't know me," I state. "You have no idea who I am. You know my name, not my story, so I don't see how you can judge me at all. Since when does it take money or class to determine what a person can do?" From my periphery, I see the queen nod in agreement. "Well said, Miss Swan," Aro says, leaning forward with his elbows on the table. His hands are folded as if in prayer, and he places them under his chin. "But tell me What exactly are your intentions?" I give him a confused look. "Excuse me?" "What are you trying to insinuate?" Edward asks him irritably. "I know what he's insinuating," I reply to Edward, though my eyes remain on Aro. "He thinks that I have ulterior motives in this relationship. Right?" Aro doesn't agree or disagree; he just raises that sharp brow. I feel my temper start to flare. "For the record, the reason I'm with Edward has nothing to do with him being a prince," I say brusquely. "I'm not your niece. I'm not a gold-digger. If I had met Edward outside of this manor, I would have fallen for him just as hard. I don't give a fuck about who he is or how much money he has. I wouldn't give a shit if he was piss poor. So don't sit there and act like your assumptions about me are correct because, you know what? You're wrong." With a huff, I sit back in my seat and I glare daggers at the creepy man on my left. Once again, the entire room has fallen silent.
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Edward is smiling at me, pride and love in his eyes, but I can only twitch my lips in return. I'm still pissed. "Be that as it may, we need to take other things into account," Aro speaks loudly, making most of us jump. "Now, like I said before, I'm merely looking out for this family. It wouldn't be fair of me to allow this relationship to continue, especially after my having separated Jasper and Ms. Brandon." "You are not in control of this relationship, Aro," Edward says severely. His grip on my hand tightens a lot, like he's afraid I'm going to be dragged away from him. "It would be in your best interest to comply," Aro warns. "Hang on a moment," the king speaks up, abruptly attracting our attention. "Let's think about this for a moment. While it was wrong of Edward to hide this from us for so long, the girl has a valid point. We don't know what she's capable of. While that may not necessarily be the best thing, either, I find that I can trust her." His blue eyes meet mine and I want to hug the man. Aro, obviously, disagrees. "How will that look for your nephew, Your Highness? How unfair would that be, if we let Edward continue his perusal of Miss Swan while we separated him from Miss Brandon? It would be playing favorites." The king falls silent and observes us quietly. "Just stop it already," Edward says harshly. "Stop acting like our relationships are objects that you can play with. You don't decide whether or not we stay together." The vein in his temple is back, and I can tell he's getting worked up again. I try rubbing soothing circles into his hand again, but he wrenches his hand away from me. I stare at him, surprised, but he's not looking at me. He's looking at his father. "Edward, this isn't just any relationship," the king says. "Yes it is!" Edward yells, finally snapping. "It is like any other relationship! Love is not defined by your position, goddamnit! It isn't going to change if I was penniless, so stop treating it like it's something you can manage like a fucking business!" "Edward, calm down, please," the queen says softly.
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Instead, Edward stands up, knocking the chair to the side. Immediately, two SS guards are at his side, though I don't know if it's to restrain him or what. "I'm done," he says. "This whole thing is ridiculous." "We need to finish this," Aro says emphatically, but Edward doesn't budge. His hands are curled into fists at his sides, his chest heaving with angry pants. "I'm not going to let you berate Bella like she's a criminal or scum under your shoe. I'm going to go public if I have to, and I don't care if you try and stop me. I dare you." The glare he locks on Aro is murderous, but Aro looks unaffected. "Edward," the king says. "Step outside and cool down, please. We need to handle this like adults and getting angry and knocking things down is not going to help." Edward's nostrils flare and his fingers curl and uncurl, like he's trying not to wring necks With a huff and one last pained look toward me, he strides out of the room, slamming the door shut so hard that the deafening bang makes my ears ring. Sighing, I turn back to the people around the table. The queen is leaning back in her chair, her eyes closed and a delicate hand against her mouth. Both Aro and the king are eying me, and I squirm uncomfortably. "Do you have any idea what you're getting yourself into, girl?" Aro asks me. I swallow thickly and bite my lip. "No, not really." "And that doesn't worry you?" "No, not really." Aro shakes his head like I'm the stupidest girl he's come across. Hell, maybe I am. The wheels in my head are spinning fast, thought after thought after thought moving quickly. I know exactly what I want to say.
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I keep my eyes trained on the shiny wooden table, afraid that if I make eye contact, I'll lose my train of thought. "Look, I'm not a liar," I tell them calmly. "I'm not here for the money or the title. I know about your rules and ancient traditions. Not gonna lie, I think that all the rules about having to have a well-known family name to marry into the family is a bit ridiculous. I mean, we're living in the 21st century and I know I'm not the only one that feels this way" I trail off, and everyone's gaze is on me. Taking a deep breath, I continue. "I honestly don't think these old traditions are fair anymore. They're only hurting people and causing complications. We're living in a time where it's okay to love whoever the hell you want, but I don't know why this family is holding back." My glance falls on the king, who's watching me intently. His eyes are boring a hole into me, but what I say next is directed toward him. "You're the king," I say quietly. "Not him." I nod toward Aro and the king blinks at me, surprised. "An advisor gives advice, right? Since when is giving advice the same as making decisions for you?" "Miss Swan," Aro says sharply. "I don't believe you're in any position to discuss the way this family runs." "Neither are you," I snap at him. "She's right, Aro," the king says firmly, and Aro looks like he's choking on something. "Your Highness, she-" King Carlisle holds his hand up, abruptly shutting Aro up. "Let me finish. While I do value your advice, I do not think that it is up to you to decide whether or not my son stays in this relationship with Miss Swan." "Bella," I can't help but correct him. "Just Bella." I trail off, embarrassed, but he gives me a small smile.
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Aro huffs, undoubtedly angry now. "We can't just change everything now. Not because some young woman says so. Think about this, Your Highness. Think about the consequences. How would this look to your nephew? Surely it isn't fair." He's right, in a way. It wouldn't be fair to Alice and Jasper if Edward and I stayed in our relationship, but they didn't get to. "Alice and Jasper should be allowed to be together, too," I interject. "You do not make the decisions," Aro says harshly. "Aro, please," the queen says disapprovingly. She has a hand on her temple. "Don't raise your voice at the young lady; you're giving me a migraine." I stifle a giggle and Aro stands up, beginning to pace. "We can't change the rules abruptly," he says. "We just can't. This is something we need to think about, but we must also take into account that Miss Swan broke many rules, the same as Miss Brandon, if not more severe. We can't just let this go." The room is silent again, and I can feel it. I'm losing this battle. The king sighs and rubs his temples. "We should give her a chance, and Miss Brandon as well," the queen says. I could kiss her. "Your Highness," Aro says slowly, like he's losing his patience. "I understand that, but we have written documentation about what is and is not okay for something like this. While I don't agree that we should change it, I do think that we need to take this into account, without Miss Swan's help. We already know where she stands." "And you know where we stand," Queen Esme says sternly. She briefly makes eye contact with her husband, a silent conversation passing between them, before she meets Aro's gaze again. "We are going to take what Bella said into consideration." Aro clenches his jaw, glaring at me.
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"We're going to need time then," Aro says. "Until then, I believe there needs to be some new rules set in place." My heart drops. I don't like the sound of that. "Miss Swan, if you could please step out a moment?" Aro says, but he gestures to one of the SS. Standing up, I'm led out of the room. I don't even know why I'm being led out, and it makes me very, very suspicious. Why can't they come to a conclusion with me there? At first I think I'm being taken out to Edward, but I'm led through another doorway. It opens into a small hallway and there I stand, waiting. My heart is pounding and I don't know what to expect. I really want to see Edward, and I wonder why he hasn't come back in the room. Is it really taking him that long to calm down, or are they holding him back? I start pacing as the two SS guys watch. I chew at my thumbnail, a bad habit I got rid of a long time ago but that happens to be resurfacing under all the stress. After what feels like hours, I'm led in again. The king and queen are gone, and that scares me. "Where-" I start to ask, but Aro cuts me off. "Sit, please." He does not sound friendly. I choose to sit at the other end of the table, as far from him as possible. "Here's the deal," Aro says, hands folded on the tabletop. "Despite your logic that our rules are too ancient for today's society, the fact remains that they are still
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withstanding rules. Rules that you broke. And for that, there must be consequences. "While the king and queen review these rules, we have come to the agreement that, just like in the case with Miss Brandon, you refrain from communicating with Prince Edward in any form whatsoever-" "You can't do that," I hiss. "It's not going to work." "Well, you best hope it does, Miss Swan," he slams his hand down on the table. "If you're lucky, this will be temporary, but if you don't cooperate you might as well pack your bags and leave. Take your father with you, while you're at it." My stomach flips and I feel sick. "My dad has nothing to do with this!" I snap. "Oh no?" Aro's voice is sarcastic. "Then why has he been trying to get in here for the past two hours?" What? Charlie, what are you doing? "Leave my dad out of this, okay?" "We'd love to, but he just wants to drag himself into it. So what will it be, Miss Swan? Either you can cooperate for the indefinite amount of time, or you can leave without turning back." I look into Aro's cruel, cold eyes and finally realize what he's doing. Cooperate for an indefinite amount of time? That could be weeks, months, years. That's what Aro wants. He wants me to think that I'll be able to be with Edward eventually. He wants me, and the king and queen as well, to think that he's actually considering changing the rules.
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But I know better. 'Eventually' isn't an option for me. 'Eventually' can turn into forever. I know that he's lying to me. "No." I barely recognize my voice. Aro raises a brow. "You're refusing to cooperate?" I slowly nod my head, my stomach clenching almost painfully. Aro shakes his head, but he smiles smugly. "May I ask why?" he asks softly. I really only have two words to say. "I quit."

I watch as one of the valets puts the last of my luggage into the back of my Chevy. "Thanks," I mumble softly. He gives me a long look, and I raise a brow at him until he looks away. Climbing behind the wheel of my truck feels familiar and alien at the same time. I run my hands over the leather bound wheel, inhaling the scent of the cab. I try not to look. I try really hard. But I can't resist. The manor looks beautiful.
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Its windows glow against the starry night sky, and it looks magical, straight out of a fairytale. It's been my home for the past three months. Three crazy months. I swallow thickly, blinking back tears. I can't cry over this. I chose this. I vaguely wonder what's going on behind the manor walls. I wonder if they've told Edward yet. He's going to flip his shit. I wonder if they told my dad. He's going to flip his shit, too. But it's okay. I can call them, or they can call me. We'll keep in touch. I didn't have a choice. Aro was trying to con me into believing that I won, but I refused to be scammed. Threatening to fire my dad was a low blow, too. He's not involved in this. I think it's best if I just leave. I'm better off outside of the manor's society, anyway. As I start driving, I try not to think about the piece of me that I'm leaving behind. We'll see each other again soon, I'm sure of it. But now I feel like I need to distance myself. To protect him, and my dad.
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I need to go back to where I was safer. Back to Forks.

A/N: *avoids meeting the eyes of readers* I'll be honest, I can never predict your reactions. I'm usually wrong. So, give it to me. I'll try not to run and hide. Unless I should...? Next Chapter: Saturday, July 2nd at the latest. :)

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Chapter 25
Well, there was certainly a strong response to the last chapter. I got everything from sadness to anger to shock to OMG-what-the-fuck-I-don't-even-know-what-to-say. Thanks for weighing in! I appreciate every word. :) My beta Pinkaquaclouds exudes awesomeness. Thanks for the help, babes. Let us move onward...

Chapter 25- Attempting to Cope I drive to Forks nonstop. The drive is only a couple of hours, and I only let myself stop once, for gas. Other than that, I charge on ahead. I keep my thoughts from drifting to the one person that it's going to kill me to think about. Instead, I spend the car ride planning ahead and thinking about where I'll go, who I'll stay with, and what I'll say. I can't go back to my old house. We had sold it to a young couple with a baby. I don't have any other family in Forks, but I do have friends. Jessica moved into an apartment in Port Angeles, so that's out, and that leaves Angela. She was really the only one I periodically kept in contact with over these past few months. I know that Angela still lives in Forks, in a small apartment complex downtown. Downtown Forks is a little shady, but it's still a roof over her head and it's affordable. All I need to know is the exact address. When I pass the "Welcome to Forks" sign, a wave of nostalgia washes through me.
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After three hours of emotionless driving, the tears start to pool. I don't know if I want to be here. I didn't have much of a cell phone signal on the way here, but now that I'm in Forks I'll be able to call Angela. Pulling up to the side of the road, I glance at my phone. I had turned it off as soon as I left, knowing that I wouldn't be able to handle hearing the voices of my loved ones. I'd probably break down and lose all my dignity, only to run back to the manor and tell Aro that I changed my mind. When I turn it on I see that I have a few missed calls and text messages. Rosalie, Alice, Charlie, Alice, Charlie, Charlie, Alice. I didn't say goodbye to my dad. I was told I had fifteen minutes to pack my things, and Alice wasn't in my room when I packed. No missed calls or messages from Edward, though. Does he even know? I decide to give them all a call in the morning, but I send them all the same textI'm okay. The irony is not lost on me. I shoot Edward an extra text- We'll talk tomorrow and I'll explain everything. Don't be mad. I love you. xox Before I turn my phone off for the night, I call Angela. Glancing at the dashboard, I see that it's almost midnight. Guiltily, I stare out the windshield and listen to Angie's phone ring three times. "Hello?" Angela's soft voice is thick with sleep, and I immediately feel like shit for waking her up. "Um, hey Angie"
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There's a pause and then, "Bella?" I chuckle nervously. "Yeah. I'm really sorry I woke you." "Is everything okay? You sound tense." I take a deep breath, really glad that it's Angela I need to rely on. She's always been perceptive to others and genuinely cares about people. "Well, it's kind of an emergency. See, I may or may not have quit my job and I'm back in Forks, without any knowledge of where the motel is" "Stay with me," she says immediately. "It's absolutely no problem, Bella." "Are you sure?" "You can't see me, but I'm rolling my eyes so far back that you can see the whites. Of course I'm sure! Get your butt over here. How far away are you?" "I'm guesstimating about half an hour away from downtown Forks. I just need your address." A few minutes later, I'm pushing my truck into drive and entering the city limits. The roads and buildings are hauntingly familiar, and they cause an ache in my chest. I don't even have to pay attention to where I'm going. I subconsciously know in which direction to drive, so I let my mind and my hands take me there. I can tell when I reach downtown Forks. There's less greenery and more brownery. The little apartment complex that Angela lives in is at the end of a block that consists mostly of convenient stores. It's deserted and creepy at this time of night, so once I park my truck and check that it's locked, I all but run into the small lobby. I look around for an elevator, lugging my two tiny suitcases behind me, and press the 'up' button. Angela's room is on the third floor, room 310 she said. Once I reach the third floor, I drag my luggage to her door. I only knock once before the door flies open.
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Angela is insanely tall, almost as tall as Edward. Her curly brown hair is pulled up into a haphazard ponytail and dark rimmed glasses sit on her freckled nose. "Get in here, you!" she says, yanking me in by the arm. She pulls me into a fierce hug and knocks the breath out of me. I squeeze her back, smiling at the familiarity of her arms. "You look so tired," she says once she pulls back. I smile sheepishly and smooth my hair back. "You can tell me I look like shit; you know I'm the last of anyone to get offended." "You look like shit." "I concur." She helps me bring my luggage in and then gives me a ten second tour of the apartment. It's tiny. There's a small living area with a couch, TV, bookshelf, and coffee table. A small counter separates this area from the tiny kitchen. To the left is a small hallway with three doors, one of which I'm assuming is a bathroom. "I've been looking for a roommate for months," Angela explains as she leads me into a small bedroom. It's only big enough for a twin size bed, a bedside table, and a dresser. I feel claustrophobic. "I promise I'll pull some of the weight around here," I tell her as I deposit a suitcase onto the bed. "I'm gonna go job hunting first thing tomorrow." "Take it easy for a while," she insists. She pauses to stare at me, and I can practically see the questions hovering in the air between us. "I promise we'll catch up tomorrow," I say, and she smiles sadly at me. "Are you sure everything's okay?" I hate that question. It makes me think about things I'm currently trying to
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repress. Instead of saying anything, I shrug one shoulder and grimace. She nods understandingly before making her way to the door. "Feel free to use anything you want," she says, pausing with her hand on the doorknob. "What's mine is yours, okay?" "Thanks, Angie," I say sincerely. "I can't tell you how much this-" She holds a hand up, abruptly silencing me. "I don't want to hear you thank me. You know you're more than welcome." As if it's a last minute thought, she walks over to me and hugs me again, tightly. It almost causes the tears to return, but I fight them back. I'm not going to let them win. "Night, Bells," she whispers, and I give her a tiny wave before she leaves. With the shutting of the door comes the silence, and with the silence comes the loneliness. My back and feet are sore from the long drive, and I quickly busy myself with changing. When I open one of my suitcases, the first thing my handed touches are the Rugrats pajamas. The ones I wore when I climbed into Edward's bed that first night. It's hard to breathe for a second, so I take a couple deep breaths before pulling out a simple pair of sweatpants and a tank top. These will have to do. Once I'm changed, I go back into the little hallway and to the door that Angela told me was the bathroom. Unsurprised by the lack of space, I quickly brush my teeth and wash my face. I avoid looking at myself in the mirror.
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Back in the bedroom, I climb under the covers and try to keep my thoughts as blank as possible. It doesn't work, not that I expected it to. I can't take the silence of this room, and I can't take the loneliness. It's suffocating, black and thick as tar. Flashes of color pass before my eyelids, too many sights and sounds and smells. Too many memories, too many happy ones. It's overwhelming and it makes me feel. For the past few hours, I've been trying not to. With every thought, a different emotion is forcing itself back into my chest, unwanted but too strong for me to push back any longer. Too many thoughts, all flooding back at once. He dominates them. His eyes, his smile, his hands... The way his soft lips feel against my forehead, my cheek, my neck, my mouth. How his arms feel around me, firm and protective. How his hands feel as they roam my body, soft caresses and firm touches. I growl in frustration and cover my face with my pillow, the tears finally escaping. I chose to leave. I shouldn't be crying, especially since I saw him just a couple hours ago. I plan on calling him tomorrow, anyway. We can sort this out. The tears and frustration remind me of the last time I cried like this. That was in a different place, but the reason was similar. Being somewhere new, feeling lonely. Except this time, the loneliness is a million times worse. I'm not aware of whether or not I actually fall asleep. As time goes by, there are points where I'm aware of everything around me, and points where I'm not. I'm constantly stuck in that phase where you're asleep enough to jump awake at a sound, yet you're still awake enough to be aware of your surroundings. Deep sleep never really comes.
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By the time the sun starts seeping through the curtains on the two small windows, I'm already up and dressed. For someone who has barely slept, I'm alert enough to not pass out. I foresee a nap in my future. It's only about six in the morning, and I'm up before Angela. I shuffle into her kitchen and my eyes land on a coffee machine. I'm not a coffee person, but it's my best bud when it needs to be. As soon as I have myself a steaming cup, I sit on a stool at the counter and get lost in my thoughts again. I'm going to have to find another job today. I don't want to mooch off Angela. The sooner I find a new place to work, the better. It's gonna be tough. I've drained my cup and I start pouring another when Angela stumbles in. She's dressed in her PJs and she gives me a sleepy smile as she heads for the fridge. I hold up the coffee and she nods so I pour her some. We eat our cereal in silence. I guess neither of us is morning people, and I kind of love that. Angela's silence in the morning is a stark comparison to Alice's only-annoying-first-thing-in-the-morning energy. Alice. My heart aches at the thought of her. I need to make a few calls. "Gonna go shower," Angela mumbles, and she gives me a small smile before shuffling out of the room. Taking a deep breath, I toy with my phone. I'm scared to turn it on, but it has to be done. The phone whirs on and there are a few more missed calls, along with a couple replies to my 'I'm okay' text. Before I can change my mind, I go through my contacts and find Edward's name.
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His phone doesn't even ring. "The number you have dialed cannot be reached" I glare down at the phone. "Excuse me?" I try again, but I get the same message. Does Edward have his phone off? No, it would have sent me to voicemail. Feeling anxiety churn in my stomach, I dial my dad next. He picks up after two rings. "Bella?" "Hi, Dad" I hear him let out a whoosh of air and brace myself, not sure what to expect. "Are you okay?" he asks. "I'm fine," I reply quietly. "I'm at Angela's; she had a spare room. I guess I'm her roomie now, and I'm gonna go job hunting today so I can start pulling my weight around here since I don't want to live off her stuff" It all just comes rushing out. "Slow down, honey." "Sorry" Charlie's silent, and I wish he'd keep talking so that I don't start getting emotional. "You could have told me," he says, and his voice is so quiet that I wonder if he's spoken at all. I clench my eyes shut, not wanting to have this conversation yet. "I couldn't tell anyone, Dad." "Alice knew. Both of the prince's cousins knew. Jacob Black knew, for Christ's sake. Now, I've never been one to care about gossip, but when it involves my
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daughter going out with the prince That's something I'd like to know." Sighing, I rest my forehead against the edge of the counter. "I saw how you reacted when we talked about Alice and Jasper. You practically called her stupid." "I did not, Bells." "Yeah, Dad, you did," I insist. "I also recall words like 'irresponsible' and 'silly'." "I never called her silly" "Dad" Charlie sighs. "Okay, I did think that the whole thing was ridiculous. Were you seeing the prince at that time?" "You know you can call him Edward, right?" "No, I can't. I still work for him." I bite my lip, afraid to ask the next question. I can't hold it in, though. "Um, how is everything? At the manor?" Charlie's silent, and I expect the worst. "It's to