A/N: Thank yous to my contest team which includes my daughter, NKubie, and Midnight Cougar.
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Dibs,” Kelsea Ballerini
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
In the days following the pumpkin carving party, Edward texts, including his name in the first one so I know it’s him. I add him to my contacts so I can monitor his persistence, hoping it will fade with time. Without a response to his text messages, he eventually calls, but I let those go straight to voicemail. Part of me worries there could be something wrong with his teeth, but he never leaves a voice message, and I reason that if he had an emergency, his team dentist would step up.
I do my best to ignore the hockey game when I pass through the channels late on Tuesday night, but ultimately, I return and leave it on mute, thinking Garrett and Al may have the right idea. When the camera zooms in on a focused Edward in goal, I notice his goalie mask features a special spider and web design, bringing a smile to my face.
I’m nodding off when all of a sudden Edward fills the television screen. He’s being interviewed. I scramble for the remote, but by the time I unmute the volume, it’s over. While I could rewind and listen to his thoughts I missed, I stare in awe at the screen—never missing his lopsided grin or his wink for the camera. I’m relieved his teeth are still in place. He’s so captivating, but that wink was for his legions of fans.
Like his girlfriend.
Which is not me.
Although, there was one wink at the party that was for me. Even if I’m reluctant to admit it, I’m still a fan with a crush.
With a heavy heart, I turn off the television, giving up on the game and going upstairs to shower then collapse after a long day. I toss and turn all night, never sleeping more than a few hours with my restless thoughts. When morning arrives, I hit the snooze button three times. So unlike me, but I can’t bring myself to care. I go through the motions, putting together the first suitable outfit I find. I’m barely able to keep my eyes open while pouring my first cup of coffee and make a mess on the kitchen counter when I miss my mug.
I’m on edge all morning, running on fumes. Keeping chitchat to a minimum, I grind through normal checkups and cavity fillings, but my levels of fatigue and frustration are rising. Paul is also here seeing patients until he suddenly announces he’s leaving. Surprise, surprise. He dumps his remaining appointments in my lap and takes off. Typical Paul.
I do my best not to snap at him in front of everyone and shut my door during our lunch break, needing time alone. I stretch out on the couch in my office, basking in the peace. With a chance to think, I conclude it’s time to take Edward’s advice and put some real thought into moving my career forward while advocating for myself. Between bites of lunch, I start a brief list of what I’ll need to stay and hope Sam will be open to my ideas and timeline. The rest of the day goes smoothly despite the extra patients. During the late drive home, I call Sam, but it goes straight to voicemail. I leave a message, asking for an opportunity to meet.
It’s dark as I’m pulling into my driveway, and while I’m waiting for the garage door to rise, my eye catches three glowing jack-o’-lanterns on my front steps. I’m positive they weren’t there when I left for work this morning.
After pulling into the garage and grabbing my bags, I walk back outside to investigate. I recognize the jack-o’-lanterns immediately, holding my hand over my mouth and trying to suppress the butterflies in my stomach. Both my classic and smiling pumpkins are there, along with Edward’s spider web jack-o’-lantern. All three are burning brightly, and I notice a Halloween gift bag sitting behind them. Peeking inside the bag, I find a note addressed to “Dr. Bella” sitting on top. I can barely read the note but make out the words, “It’s my turn to give you a goodie bag,” in the dim porch light.
For a moment, I wonder if I should be concerned he knows where I live, but he probably got my address from Rose. Before I can consider what it all means, I nab the bag, return to the garage, and lower the door. After walking inside, I move straight for the kitchen, kicking off my shoes and turning on the lights as I go.
I’m more eager than I should be to see what’s inside, but can’t keep the stupid smile off my face when I see the words “Trick or Treat” on the gift bag. Edward modified them to read, “No Tricks, only Treats,” with a small hand-drawn web and spider below the words. My smile widens as I remove a packaged pair of cupcakes—one chocolate and one vanilla—topped with orange buttercream icing swirls and black plastic spider rings. I set them to the side and find the rest of the bag filled with Halloween candy. I realize it’s not just random candy but everything I ate while carving pumpkins at the party. My breath catches that he paid attention to such an insignificant detail.
Before I let my heart get ahead of my brain, I remind myself he has a girlfriend—confirmed by his sister. Maybe Rose asked him to take his pumpkin and drop off mine, but since he wouldn’t be in Dallas on Halloween, he decided to . . . what? Leave his jack-o’-lantern here? Odd. It makes no sense. Maybe the cupcakes and candy are a simple thank you for fixing his teeth, since we were joking about my eating candy.
I snort at the absurdity of it all, but I’m too hungry, and my leftovers in the refrigerator will have to wait. Opening the cupcake box, I lick the icing from the spider ring, slide it on my finger, and take a large bite of the chocolate one. It’s a dessert first kind of night.
After debating for a few hours, I eventually cave, sending him a brief thank you text for dropping off the jack-o’-lanterns with the bag of treats. I know he is flying to Colorado, so I don’t expect a reply, but a small part of me is relieved when he gives my message a thumbs up. Edward doesn’t strike up any other conversation after that, confirming his interest to be purely platonic. As it should be for someone with a girlfriend.
Without Paul in the office on Thursday, the day goes smoothly and my mood is a little brighter. In the evening, I happily pass out stickers, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss to all who ring my doorbell for Halloween. My smile widens each time I open the front door, seeing our jack-o’-lanterns together and greeting the neighborhood kids. I’m thrilled when Rose stops by with Katie and the boys, but after about fifty trick-or-treaters, I turn off my porch light and call it a night.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
On Friday night, I camp out in front of the television with the sound on this time, a glass of wine and a plate of reheated lasagna, watching as Dallas plays Colorado. Edward isn’t the starter and Ben Cheney is in goal. I get brief glimpses of Edward whenever the camera pans to the bench, but I’m positive they aren’t enough for any fangirl, including me.
As if she senses I’m peeping on her brother, Rose texts during the game. But instead of texting back, I call and she answers on the first ring. I ask about Katie, the boys, and Emmett, but Rose is quieter than normal as we struggle through small talk. I check my phone several times to make sure we haven’t been disconnected, but her voice is hesitant after a long pause.
“Hang on, the kids are watching the hockey game with Em.” I hear a door close, and it gets quieter on her end. “Bella, I need to tell you something and set the record straight.”
“What? Is something wrong?”
She inhales. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know, but Edward . . . he doesn’t have a girlfriend and hasn’t for months.”
I sigh heavily, relieved he’s not a liar like I thought, and feel a little better about his flirting. And mine.
“He didn’t tell me they broke up. So last week at the party when I told you he had one, I was wrong and I’m sorry. He kept me out of the loop this time.”
“Why are you telling me this, Rose?”
“Because he likes you, Bella. He said you hit it off and he asked to drop off your jack-o’-lanterns before he left. So, I gave him your address. Please don’t be mad at me.”
“I’m not. But Rose, I’m not someone who chases after a professional athlete—that’s just not me.”
“What if he’s the one to chase after you?”
A warm flush fills my cheeks as if we’re teens passing notes back and forth. “He likes me?”
“Yes. I know it’s only been a week since you met, but maybe you’ll give him a chance. He’ll be back tomorrow because they have a home game with Montréal and another with Colorado on Tuesday before he leaves for a four-game road trip.”
“Rose, I don’t know if I . . .” I hesitate, thinking about Edward and his life. “He has such a high profile and you know I like my privacy. Then there’s his schedule and the women. I would feel too insecure and have no idea how to juggle that successfully.”
“Remember when I said no man or relationship is perfect? Well, that includes my brother too. He’s going to screw up. Trust me. At least consider a few dates. And make him work for it.”
I chuckle at her persistence, but have another growing concern. “What if it screws up our friendship?”
“We won’t let it.”
“You have my promise, Bella.”
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
The next morning, a freshly showered Edward is on my doorstep holding a cloth bag filled with groceries peeking from the top. His grin is huge when he realizes the doorbell pulled me from bed. He’s wide-awake despite flying home last night after the game.
“Good morning, Bella.”
He’s a morning person like Rose. Go figure.
Through squinted eyes, I can see he’s dressed in a baseball cap concealing his recognizable hair, a long-sleeved shirt pushed to his elbows revealing his tattoos, a worn pair of blue jeans with the cuffs rolled up, and flip-flops. I wave him inside from behind my front door then hold up a finger.
“Hey.” I attempt to clear my throat, stunned he’s here. My voice is raspy with sleep, and I wrap my arms across my braless chest, hiding it from his view and noticing the clock in the hallway says it’s just after eight. “You’re here?”
“Rose left a message last night saying she talked with you. I think she’s a better wingman than Garrett or Al,” he says with a smirk. “Maybe you should fire them.”
“You think so, huh?”
Edward sets down the bag and reaches out, guiding me closer in all my rumpled glory. I can’t resist, skimming my fingers along his tatts and over his shoulders until my fingers link behind his neck. His arms wrap around my waist naturally, pressing our chests together.
“Is this okay?” he whispers near my ear, hugging me tightly.
“I’m sorry for the early hour, but I couldn’t wait to see you.”
With my head nuzzled in the crook of his neck, I breathe deeply, filling my lungs with his intoxicating scent and melting deeper into his warm embrace. “Aren’t you tired?”
“I slept on the plane,” he says, loosening his hold slightly. “Bella, I would like to give you more than a hug, provided my dentist says it’s okay for me to resume kissing.”
I grin at his words, tilting my chin and catching his playful gaze.
“I’m going to need a minute.” To brush my teeth and pull myself together. “And coffee.”
He nods, but makes no move to release me. “I’ll fix you coffee and breakfast for a kiss. Right here, right now.”
“That sounds like a sweet deal, but what about my morning breath? I have a reputation to uphold.”
“I won’t tell a soul,” he whispers, turning his cap backwards and cupping my cheek.
Leaning close, his lips part and tongue peeks out, wetting them slightly before he presses a delicate kiss against my lips. Edward’s kisses are tentative at first but grow more confident with each one.
After a last careful peck and his crooked grin firmly in place, he returns his hand to my waist. “Rose told me you have concerns about dating, but I want you to know at thirty-four I won’t be playing hockey much longer. I don’t want you to doubt me or my intentions. I’ve decided to stay here in Dallas near my parents, Rose, and her family—even if that means never winning the Cup. I’ve missed out on too much of their lives, chasing a dream that may never be realized. And if you’re willing, I want to give us a chance too.”
When I ended my call with Rose last night, I knew then that despite the challenges dating him could present, I’m willing to give him a chance. Taking her advice, I’m going to ease into a relationship and enjoy every moment of these early days, hoping to build something that lasts.
I never imagined he would show up on my doorstep first thing this morning, and I could use a little time to process that my fangirl crush is actually here . . . with me, sharing kisses and offering to make me breakfast.
“A chance, huh?” My stomach flutters with butterflies I’ve only felt around him, especially when he focuses his beautiful green eyes on me. I hope once we get to know each other those flutters never fade.
A brief flash of uncertainty passes over his confident expression. “Yeah.”
I nod as if there’s anything to consider while doing a poor job of tamping down the happiness bubbling inside of me as a slow grin spreads across my face. “So, what’s for breakfast?”
He smirks, releasing me and reaching for his bag of groceries. “Since I’m under strict orders from my dentist to only eat a soft diet . . .”
An unexpected rush from his words fills me with excitement that in this sense, I’m his and he’s been following my advice for the past week.
“. . . oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and a green protein shake I think you’ll love.”
Doubtful on the green shake, but I’m hopeful about the guy preparing it.
A/N: We have one more short chapter next week that will wrap up the contest one shot, then the expansion will begin in the new year with Chapter 6 from Edward’s POV. I hope you’re as excited as I am to get to the new stuff. Lol Happy Holidays! Thanks for reading. xx