A/N: Many thanks to Midnight Cougar for her help in improving my words and always catching those little things I miss. She’s amazing! xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Thinking Out Loud,” Ed Sheeran
“And, darling, I will be loving you ’til we’re 70
And, baby, my heart could still fall as hard at 23
And I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Well, me I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am”
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond own the adorable little mouse whose needs inspired this very adult version of their story. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
Recap from the end of chapter 12:
She looks behind her to see a man approaching our table. “Hey, Brady.”
“Gee said you were here. How’s my girl tonight?” He tugs Bella from her seat, wraps his arms around her, and moves to kiss her lips, but she turns her head so he misses, kissing her cheek instead.
It’s subtle, but Bella seems surprised and uncomfortable with his greeting. While her smile is polite and I know her to be friendly with everyone, something is off here and warning bells are ringing in my head.
I don’t know Brady, but my first impression, based on her reaction, is that he needs to get his hands off my girl and keep his lips to himself.
“I’m great,” Bella replies. She pulls away from Brady’s hug, takes her seat, and scoots closer to me.
I lace our fingers together, setting them on the table for him to see.
Get an eyeful, buddy. I don’t care about your past. She’s with me now.
His eyes shift from mine to our hands, then back to Bella’s. “No Angela tonight?
“Nope. I’m on a hot date.” She grins at me.
My God, I want to kiss her right now as she wraps her free hand around my bicep.
“You’re going to break my heart, Bee. I thought you came to see me.” He holds his chest dramatically. “Well, somebody has great taste to bring you here.”
“Edward’s with me. Doesn’t that say it all?”
“True. There’s no one like you, Bee,” he says, but there’s something wistful in his tone.
Her face flushes at his words. “Brady, this is my boyfriend, Edward Cullen.”
“Hey, Edward. Nice to meet you. Brady Fuller.”
I squeeze his offered hand a little harder than necessary. “Likewise.”
And she’s not your girl. If it isn’t clear, I’ll make it.
Brady focuses back on Bella. “Are you planning on singing for me tonight? We could break out one of our favorites for old time’s sake and sing together. I’m game, if you are.”
“Oh, I’ll be singing, but for tonight’s song, I’m dedicating it to Edward. I think he’ll like it.”
I can barely contain my delight over her words.
Sorry, buddy. No trip down memory lane for you.
“I’m sure he will. Lucky guy.” Brady’s smile fades. “I better get back to the office, but I wanted to say hello. Enjoy your evening, Bee. Edward.”
“Brady.” I nod and watch him move past the other tables, greeting a few other patrons before disappearing. “He seems like a nice guy.” I may be stretching the truth, but it’s the best I can come up with without stating I think he’s a jerk without physical limits.
I knew it was bound to happen in a town as small as Forks that some part of her past would pop up. While I haven’t had any issues with anyone I’ve met, I’m hoping Brady won’t be an issue either.
“He is,” Bella agrees, then puckers her lips for another kiss.
I press my lips to hers, and when I pull away, I look around for Rachel, thinking I’m going to need another shot for this next line of questioning. When I see her at a nearby table, I point to our empty shot glasses and she gives me a thumbs up.
“Ready for another, huh?” Bella teases.
“I think so.”
After a sip of my beer, I can’t contain my curiosity as my questions build. “Is Brady older than you and Angela?”
“Yeah, by a year.”
“So, is he an older brother type of friend?” My hunch says he isn’t.
“No. We dated for a while.”
That’s what I thought.
“In high school?” I question with my own suspicions growing about how close they were or still are.
My gut says he may have been her first in many ways and that’s a tough thing to accept or compete with, but they aren’t together now and I have to remember that.
“Yeah, we tried again while I was still in college, but it didn’t work out.” She scrunches up her face, shaking her head. “Same issues. We’re better off as friends.”
I think she’s the only one with that thought between them. I have no idea their issues, but after two chances, I’m glad there isn’t anything lingering on her part, which is all that matters.
“Have you ever worked here?” I wonder if it was part of his plan to buy this place and include her.
“No, but I could probably pick up some hours, if I needed them. Brady is always trying to lure me away from the diner.”
I bet he is.
“You’ve worked as a bartender, though, haven’t you?”
“Yeah, for about a year during college. The money was great, but I couldn’t keep the hours. They wanted me to work late, and with my classes, it was too much of a struggle. I was never sleeping, needing more time than I was getting to study.”
“Well, that explains what seems to be your extensive knowledge of alcohol,” I tease.
Rachel arrives with our next flaming shots. “Your nachos should be ready soon.”
“Thanks,” I tell her, and steal another kiss from Bella. “What’s this one? The layers are kind of cool.”
Bella sits a little taller and grins. “You’re liking this, aren’t you?”
“Maybe, but I like getting to know you too.”
“This is a Flaming B-52 shot with layers of coffee liqueur, Irish cream, triple sec, and a bit of rum because the triple sec on top won’t burn.”
“We know I like coffee.” I wink.
“It’s my least favorite of the shots, but it’s a popular one.”
We blow out our flames and down our second shot. Mine goes down easy, but Bella makes a face.
“Ugh.” She sticks out her tongue, then takes a long sip of her beer. “That one’s difficult for me.”
“I kind of like this one.”
“Of course you did.”
“How many shots do you normally need?”
“Three with a beer or glass of wine over the course of an evening. You may need more because of your size. Are you feeling any sort of buzz?”
“A bit,” I admit, feeling the warmth of the latest shot burning in my chest and the earlier one putting me more at ease.
“You’re smiling a lot and seem more relaxed,” she notes.
It helps that I’ve deemed Brady not a threat, but I don’t tell her that.
“I think that’s because of you. You make me happy. What song are you going to sing?”
“It’s a secret.”
“I thought you were sharing your secrets with me.”
“Not that one. You’ll find out soon enough. I’ll tell you another, though.”
She leans close, whispering in my ear, and her hand rubs along my inner thigh, stopping just short. “I’m not wearing a bra.”
I groan when my suspicions from earlier are confirmed. “You like torturing me.”
She giggles. “Maybe a little. Now, you tell me a secret.”
“A secret, huh?”
“Yeah, it can be anything.”
I have several that I should probably keep to myself, but it may not be possible with the course of alcohol we’re on this evening. Before I can offer one, Rachel interrupts with the arrival of our food, leaving two small plates, forks, and a pile of napkins on the table.
“Can I get you anything else?” she asks.
“Nope, we’re set.” I shake my head.
“All right. I’ll be back to check on you in a little while.”
Bella asks, “Do you want a plate or fork?”
“You’re not going to feed me?”
“I’m teasing. I think I’ll use my hands until I need a fork.”
“Sounds like a good plan. Okay, come on, give me a secret—a good one,” Bella encourages, grabbing a loaded chip.
I nod, finishing the bite in my mouth and washing it down with a sip of beer. “Do you remember that day in the Post Office over a year ago when I introduced myself to you?”
She pauses, thinking about my words, and wipes her mouth with a napkin. “Yeah, when we first met.”
I shake my head. “That’s not when we first met, but that’s a different secret.”
“It isn’t?” She furrows her brow in confusion.
“No. I’ll come back to that one, but do you remember a little boy handed you a note? You gave him a reindeer candy cane.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“Well… I wrote it. I wrote the note he handed you.”
Her face fills with surprise. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“You? Nervous?” She eyes me as if she can’t believe it.
“Yeah.” I shrug.
Bella finishes a sip of her beer, choosing another chip. “Well, I still have it in my bedroom at home.”
“Did you know it was from me?” I wonder.
“Not then, but after you left me the note with the candy cane in my truck and my Christmas card, I may have done a little handwriting analysis and had my suspicions.”
Shaking my head, I wipe my hands and grab my beer. “Then that’s not a very good secret.”
“But it is. I loved your notes and have kept all of them.”
“Yes, and to have it confirmed that the original was from you too is the best.” She bumps her shoulder with mine playfully. “I love that it’s you who turned out to be my secret admirer.”
I peck her lips at her sweet words. “Okay, your turn.”
“Hmmm, I think you’ll like this one, but I don’t want to make anything weird,” she hedges. “Especially since you’ve met Brady and you know we’ve dated.”
“Have there been other guys?”
“Yes, a few in Phoenix before I moved to Forks, but most were casual while I was in Seattle going to college.”
“Brady was the only one in Forks?”
“Yes, and really, he’s the only serious one that lasted for over a year. The others at college didn’t last past a handful of dates, and I was too young to know what I was doing with the guys in Phoenix.”
I’m nodding, but I’m sure I’m not going to like hearing anything about her past with Brady or anyone else. “Okay, what’s your secret?”
“Are you sure you’re ready?”
She leans closer to my ear and lowers her voice. “You’re bigger than him.” Bella waits, giving me a chance for her words to register.
When they do, I can’t keep the smile off my face. I mean it isn’t easy to hear that she has this knowledge, but in comparison, I’ll take every advantage I can get.
“Bella, if I remember nothing else about this evening in the morning, I hope I’ll remember that.”
I join her nonstop giggles, then take out my phone, call my number, and ask her to leave me that information in a voicemail message.
“Come on, Bella,” I plead, snickering at the thought until she finally takes my phone. “Use a low sexy voice too.”
“You want my phone sex operator voice?” she asks, holding my phone to her ear.
“Yes.” I had no idea she had one, but now that it’s on the table, I want it too.
Bella nods and in a breathy voice leaves me a message. “Hey, Edward. It’s me. I just wanted to let you know that you’re the biggest and the best I’ve ever had. I’ll be doing more than talking with you and your fire hose soon.” She makes a kissing sound, then ends the recording.
I pause, reaching for a cheese-covered chip. “Ever?”
She giggles as she closes my phone app and holds out my phone. “Yes. Ever.”
“You didn’t say that. You only said in reference to Brady.” I pocket my phone while my chest fills with pride at her words.
“Well, I’m saying it now.” She shrugs. “He’s part of my past.”
“The best, huh?”
“Hands down. It’s not even close.”
I look around at the mostly filled tables around us, ready to abandon ours. “Why are we here again and not at my apartment?”
She lets out a very unladylike snort. “And you think I have a one-track mind? We’re staying because you’re going to sing for me, and I’m going to sing for you. It’ll be great.”
My shoulders sag at the reminder, but there’s no bailing on this one. I need to do this one way or another. For her. And not because it’s something she used to do with Brady. In his basement.
“How are you feeling about singing later?”
With two shots, almost a full glass of beer, and more than half of our nachos coursing through my system, I’m warming to the idea at this point and don’t want to dash her hopes. “Maybe I’ll look through the song catalogue in a bit and see if anything stands out.”
“Awesome. Okay, your turn to share a secret. You have to admit that mine was probably the best.”
“It’s going to be difficult to top, but I’ll try.”
“Oh, you like being on top,” she teases.
“As do you.”
“Okay. Back to the one I mentioned earlier.” I release a deep breath. Courage. I need courage at revealing the truth. “The first time I saw you was at the Post Office, but it was weeks before I introduced myself.”
I wait to see if she remembers the time I’m talking about, but she shakes her head.
“There was a line, and you were called to the front to help. Your customer was a sweet elderly man who filled me with jealousy at having your attention and I was at the other end of the counter getting my passport renewed.”
“I don’t remember that so I’m not sure how it’s a secret?”
“The secret is… because of that moment, I believe in love at first sight.”
I hesitate at going down this road, but there’s probably no turning back. “You’re going to think I’m some sort of a pathetic weirdo.”
Her voice softens. “Impossible. Go on.”
“I wrote you the note, but it was challenging figuring out when you would be working the counter to give it to you. Then I lost the note, and that kid found it somehow and gave it to you, but the next time I went back to the Post Office after I introduced myself to you, I found out you weren’t working there any longer.”
“I was temporary night help, but sometimes I worked in the evenings—that was like… more than a year ago. So, what did you do then?”
“Uh… my job took up most of my time, but Emmett and I volunteered with building a home in Port Angeles and remodeling others with a group there. We also got our SCUBA certifications and joined the swift water rescue team. I kept busy and… I waited—hoped that you would show up in Forks again. I probably could have asked your father for your number, but he’s well—intimidating, especially when you’re involved. At least to me. I never had the courage to ask, then you were suddenly at the diner that morning when I was there with Emmett and it blew my mind. It’s like all the waiting and patience paid off that you had finally returned.”
“That doesn’t make you a pathetic weirdo. It’s…” Her breath catches, and the realization sinks in of my earlier words. “Wait… you love me?”
I nod, watching her closely. My heart feels like it’s about to beat out of my chest waiting for her reaction.
“Oh my goodness, Alice was right.” She puts her hand over her mouth, releases a muffled squeal, then removes it. “Okay. Say it.”
A smile tugs at the corners of my lips and I say something that I’ve never been surer of in my life. “I love you.”
“Holy fucking… this is… this is—”
Bella lunges toward me, pushing off her seat, wrapping her arms around my shoulders while planting a passionate kiss on my lips. I turn on my stool, settling her between my legs and holding her tightly against me.
She pulls back for a moment. “You may change your mind after you hear me sing.”
I chuckle. “Not a chance.”
“I love you too.” Her grin widens, undoubtedly matching mine at her words. “I thought it’s too soon to be feeling this way, but Alice said it isn’t.”
My heart warms at the idea of her talking to Alice about us, or maybe it’s the alcohol taking over. The last shot may have been filled with truth serum for all I know.
“I love you,” I repeat, pecking her smiling lips gently.
“Wow, I guess that’s sort of been a secret for both of us,” she says after returning to sit on her stool. “We should have chosen a table with regular chairs and I could be sitting on your lap right now.”
“I promise, we’ll make up for this terrible transgression later.” I wink. “When we’re finished here, we’ll go to my place and see if we can drown out one of my neighbors.”
She laughs. “Sounds like my kind of challenge.”
“You’ll see. We share a bedroom wall, and I think Jane runs a one-woman brothel.”
Bella lets out a snort. “I didn’t know Forks had a red-light district and you’re living right next door—kinky. Do you ever hear her call out your name? Fuck, I would. What do you think would happen if I knocked on her door and asked to borrow some sugar?”
“No, and I think she’s sharing the sugar with anyone who can afford it.”
“Holy shit. That sounds like more fun than karaoke. I can’t wait.”
“Hey, you said ‘surprise me.'”
“And you have delivered.”
“How are you doing?” Rachel asks in passing. “Two more shots and another beer, Edward?”
“I’ll be right back with those.”
“Thanks.” Feeling a bit more of a buzz from the alcohol as the evening continues, I take out my phone from my pocket and look through my contacts. “I’m going to text Emmett and see if he can pick us in a little while.”
“Okay. I’m going to the bathroom. I’ll be right back.” Bella kisses my lips before she departs.
I need a flavor when your shit ends.
Fuck. I can’t type for shit.
I mean favor and shift.
I need to ride Bella at Brady’s.
Sorry, I can’t drive or text.
We’re at Brady’s and need a ride.
You got it. I’m finished at ten.
Perfect. Thanks, Em.
See you soon.
After pocketing my phone, I down the rest of my beer and use a fork to finish what’s left of our brisket nachos while browsing the catalogue of songs wondering what I could possibly sing for Bella. Rachel returns, dropping off a fresh beer for me and our next flaming shots. Bella catches my eye while talking with Gianna then a group of women sitting near the stage before making her way back to our table from her trip to the bathroom.
She’s swinging her hips and shoulders in time with the background music I’ve barely noticed playing since I’ve been so caught up in her.
“It’s almost nine. Karaoke time. Are you excited?”
“Ready to sing?”
“Getting there. Rachel dropped off our next shots. What’s this one?”
“The Flaming Jesus shot. It’s Angela’s favorite.”
I look over the pink liquid and burning flame. “What’s in it?”
“Vodka, lime juice, and grenadine with a little rum to burn on top.”
“Sounds interesting. You want to blow mine?” I wink, knowing she won’t be able to resist an offer like that.
“Always, but I’ll blow out your flame too.” She giggles.
With our flames extinguished by a more than willing Bella, we down our shots easily.
“Kind of fruity.” I lick my lips, setting my empty glass out of the way.
“Grenadine syrup was originally made from pomegranates and sugar, but it tastes more like a tart cherry now with the versions available.”
I shrug. “This one is okay, but not my favorite.”
“Did you pick a song?”
“I have something in mind.”
“Great. I added us both to the list and gave Gee my selection. You can just tell her your choice when it’s your turn.”
“I saw you talking with the group of women near the stage. Do you know them?”
“No. Well, I guess I do now. I met two of the women from their group in the bathroom.”
“One of them looks familiar.”
“Oh? Which one?”
“The woman with the long blonde hair looks like Jess’s nurse from the hospital.”
“Yeah, I think that was her name. She was working when I met Natalie. Emmett couldn’t make it past the nurses’ station for a while. I suspect Rose was the reason.”
“Well, they are celebrating someone’s break up, so get ready for some girl power anthems as I heard Carrie Underwood’s ‘Before He Cheats’ being added to their selections.”
Bella and I declare the Flaming Jesus shots our last, and I plan to sip my second beer for the rest of the night while Bella still nurses her first. When the lights dim at nine, I hold her close and nuzzle her neck, leaving a kiss near her ear.
“This is going to be great.” She giggles and squirms when my fingers graze a ticklish spot.
“It already is.” I press my lips against her temple as she settles against me.
If you give a postal worker a love note, she’ll wonder about the identity of the author when it’s delivered by an unintended mail carrier.
After a visit from a sexy firefighter, the mystery surrounding the note will add to her curiosity, but it won’t be solved any time soon, when she has no choice and accepts another job far from home.
Her secret admirer will hold on to hope for their paths to cross again, and when they do, he will find that being near her again is better than he ever anticipated.
Visiting her during his breaks and getting to know each other will be the best parts of their days, until one day she unknowingly makes his favorite childhood cookies, giving him the sign he needs to move forward.
She’ll hold back nothing as she tempts and teases him when they’re alone, testing his resolve, until a few adorable photos of him with a friend’s new baby causes an unexpected shift in her world.
As they grow closer, they’ll understand that the intimacy between lovers isn’t only about a physical connection, but the everyday interactions through the simplest moments and sharing of new experiences.
Through private conversations, their relationship deepens with the reveal of a variety of secrets…